When will we ever stop running out of resources?

earth-emptyThis is a shout-out to  Tim Worstall’s latest “Weekend Worstall” column on The Register

Limits to Growth is a pile of steaming doggy-doo based on total cobblers

The Guardian praised it? Right, now we know for sure

 

Keeping a technologically based civilisation on the road isn’t all that easy. There must be stuff available to make stuff from and there’s got to be energy to do the transforming of that stuff. If we posited something like The Culture by Iain M. Banks, where there’s a universe of stuff to transform and an entire universe’s worth of energy, then there’s no real limit to either how rich that society can get nor how long it can last.

Similarly, if all the stuff runs out in a few years’ time, as does all the energy, then humanity will go back to being a couple of million hunter gatherers pretty sharpish.

What we’d really like to know, of course, is which version of the universe do we inhabit: one where Paul Ehrlich is right and we all starved in the 1980s, or one in which, around 2300 or so, the Jetsons finally get their flying cars?

Fortunately we’ve had people trying to work this out for us. One example was the Club of Rome which got together to create a report called Limits to Growth.

This was very much more optimistic than Paul Ehrlich was: this report said that we should all start dying around about now as all the stuff ran out. It’s not, as we can see around us, happening quite yet. Yes, people are dying in Ukraine and Syria and so on, but that’s from an excess of high explosive being sent their way, not from a lack of it. Never mind, though, the Guardian tells us it’s about to start happening real soon now:

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse. Four decades after the book was published, Limit to Growth’s forecasts have been vindicated by new Australian research. Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon

Well, yes, real soon now, no doubt. And the guy who has checked this research must be believed: Graham Turner is a physicist who used to work for CSIRO in Oz. And CSIRO are just great guys: they actually cited me in one of their academic papers so they must be. So, obviously, we should all just curl up and die right now, right?

Read on at The Register

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227 thoughts on “When will we ever stop running out of resources?

  1. The only reason to run out of resources is if there are people willing to use the strong arm of the government to stop others from finding and producing resources.

      • Where would they all have gone? What proportion of the Earth’s crust would they represent? Have they really gone or just harder to get?
        For all practical purposes our resources are infinite and I stand to be corrected but i am unaware of a single instance of a resource running out and stopping man’s continued progress.

      • As George Reisman said, the entire earth from the outer fringes of its atmosphere to the center of its core, is a densely packed ball of nothing but natural resources; it’s up to us to discover how to make use of them.

      • 1- With enough energy we can recycle previously-extracted materials.
        2- There’s a LOT more resources in our solar system than just this planet.
        Conclusion: yes, we are not “running out” of resources.

      • I’m going to right a book and call it ‘The Limits of Methane Hydrates’. / sarc

        16 April 2014
        …..And the deposits of these compounds are enormous. “Estimates suggest that there is about the same amount of carbon in methane hydrates as there is in every other organic carbon store on the planet,” says Chris Rochelle of the British Geological Survey.
        In other words, there is more energy in methane hydrates than in all the world’s oil, coal and gas put together….
        http://www.bbc.com/news/business-27021610

      • This is never going to be the case. One of society’s problems is dumping things before their time is up and that means there are resource mines called land fill sites. I once talked to a mining engineer who proved that no actual mine had as high a percentage of any mineral as a typical land fill site. The only problem with using it was we are not geared to small scale operations as long as there are big ones that are cheaper to run.

  2. The only way to ensure that happens is if the uber rich that make up the Club of Rome use their vast wealth to ensure it. Given how misanthropic they seem to be, it wouldn’t supprise me if they do.

    • My thought as well. I suspect when the NWO is fully implemented one of the first official acts will be to outlaw all religions. A fair reading of history shows this must happen as does current news. Crusades, wars, molestation, beheadings, terrorism, coverups, division, on and on. Freedom of thought will still be a protected human right, but it will not include insane ideations and anti-social thoughts. Naturally the nation-state nonsense must go as well. At least one generation must be raised by the Order to keep their minds uncontaminated

      • A fairer reading of history would imply you would have to kill billions to accomplish that, and have the darkest reign that humanity has yet witnessed.

      • “Crusades, wars, molestation, beheadings, terrorism, coverups, division, on and on. Freedom of thought will still be a protected human right, but it will not include insane ideations and anti-social thoughts.”
        And that was just the atheistic communists in the 20th Century!

    • Maybe, but the degradation of morality that goes with chucking it is proving to be pretty bad – its a toss up. Pragmatically, the majority seems to need the discipline that they can’t find within themselves. They need to be scared into good neighborliness, honesty, caring and the like. The decline in western world religion has had a deteriorating effect on our culture and civilization. Everyone knows their rights but is happy to jettison their obligations. I personally don’t need a strong police force to keep me from harming my fellow citizens but I’m glad they are around in numbers.

      • Islam is fairly clear in its understanding that Islam will only survive if it kills everyone else.
        The West’s mistake is in not understanding that.

    • People worry me. Especially statist of all flavors, religious or otherwise. The last 100 years of human history with 100s of millions in genocide from non religious should have taught us that.

      • Excuse me, but I believe that nearly all Western politicians consider themselves “Christians” of one variety or another and almost all attend “church” on a regular basis. Religion or the lack of it doesn’t really matter when it comes to morality/ethics or the lack as any regular interested observer of the human race can readily see. Using religious beliefs as a basis for selection of any Western government politician or indeed other government ruling office is a major psychological error.

    • How about socialism? Socialists – Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc., etc., have killed more people and destroyed more property than adherents to all religions combined.

      • “How about socialism? Socialists … have killed more people and destroyed more property than adherents to all religions combined.” more soylent green!
        A distinction without a difference. Humans need a worldview to function it seems. A worldview is a system of beliefs. People act consistent with their beliefs, right or wrong. Today, and for the past five hundred years or so, the most wide spread belief system is Statism. Only a few stone age tribes are the exception. Both socialists and religionist are statists. Statism includes a belief in an all powerful, supreme entity called the state. Pretty much anything can be done in the name of the state. We must all submit to the power of the state in the person of the police, judges and so on. If you resist they are authorized to use force, including deadly force. The USSR was one of those states. Where is it now? Prior to statism there were other belief systems that held sway over the minds of men. (and women). ISIS is setting up what? A state. Religious officials are statists first and Christians or whatever, second.

      • Robert says… “Both socialists and religionist are statists”.
        Sorry but B.S; the founding Father’s of the US were religious, and wrote documents specifically designed to prevent statist society from developing. Are their Religious statist? Of course. But no, religion and statist are not the same thing.

  3. Matter is energy. Matter cannot be destroyed. Matter is nearly infinite, thus energy is also nearly infinite. As long as the sun shines, there will be enough resources on earth for a nearly infinite amount of people. The population bomb is just another Marxist Myth.
    The Myth of Overpopulation
    I want to debunk a popular myth and that is overpopulation. The doomsayers will tell you that overpopulation is a crisis and some groups suggest reducing world population in order to “save the planet.” Some even suggest a world population of only 500 million but that would mean that 11 of every 13 people in the world would need to die.
    So, let’s look at the facts. Here is the current world population. 6,920,463,095
    http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html
    Here is the area of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in square miles.
    Texas: 268,601 sq. mi
    New Mexico: 121,593 sq. mi.
    Arizona: 114,006 sq. mi
    For a total area of 504,200 sq. mi
    http://www.50states.com/texas.htm
    Then divide the world population by the combined area and you get 13,726 people per sq. mi
    Then we compare that population density with known high density areas.
    San Francisco County, CA has 17,462 per sq. mi.
    http://www.city-data.com/county/San_Francisco_County-CA.html
    New York City, NY has 27,532 per sq. mi.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City#Demographics
    Hong Kong, China has 16,444 per sq. mi.
    Singapore has 18,513 per sq. mi.
    Monaco has 43,830 per sq. mi.
    And Macau, China has 48,003 per sq. mi.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_population_density
    The Earth’s total land mass is 57,511,026.002 square miles
    The entire world population can fit into just 0.009 percent of the land mass with a population density smaller than any of these other areas.
    The facts prove that the world is not overpopulated. And we have not even considered the possibility of humans living underground, on the water, under water, or even the possibility of living “George Jetson” style in floating condominiums.
    The problem with overpopulation doomsayers is that they project current population growth to infinity (a straight line which never happens in nature) while stopping all technological advancement. They say that while populations grow exponentially, that no human being will ever again invent one single thing. This is of course absurd. Humans have been inventing since humans have existed. And since “necessity is the mother of invention” humans will find ways to deal with population growth. They will invent new procedures, new machines, new techniques, and make new scientific discoveries. I believe that the population capacity of earth is nearly infinite scientifically. And since I believe in God and that he is Omniscient, I also believe that God created this earth to meet all our needs, including population growth.
    On the other hand I would ask those who believe that starving children are due to overpopulation, “Just exactly when were starving children due to overpopulation?” Starving children and people have always existed. So, when was the cause of starvation due to overpopulation? 10,000 years ago? 5,000 years ago? 100 years ago? Last week? Yesterday?
    What about all the vast uninhabited billions of acres all over the world, could they not be inhabited? Reason says that of course they could.
    Since the industrial revolution the world population has gone from being 87% rural (living on farms) to now being mostly urban. As people have migrated to the city, their perception changed to think that the world is becoming overpopulated. But that is just because all they see is the city. However perception is not reality.

    • My own calculation to get a grip on the magnitude of the population “worry” was that the world’s pop could jump into Lake Superior and have 15sq m to tread water in. I also did a calc of how much they would heat up the lake using a generous ~100Btu an hour/person but I can’t remember it and can’t be bothered to redo. The foregoing also means that 90 billion people could be chumily enclosed in the lake with 1sq m to tread (I guess the pop was 6B when I did it).

    • Check the UN Population Survey spreadsheet. Note the Low Fertility page, the only one ever close to accurate. Projects a peak in 2045-ish of 8bn. Declining indefinitely long thereafter, back below current levels by 2100. Depop will be the big buzz then, unless androids are perfected!

      • The timing is pretty good, if the solar physicists are correct that it’s all downhill after the next 2-400(?) year solar cycle.

    • The very point I have been making for twenty years….just as the climate is self regulating, so is the population. The problem is more the distribution of food and medicine, not the number of people. We need to build better infrastructure in needy countries.

    • It’s not a question of whether people can be warehoused in stifling spaces and fed soylent, it’s whether there is enough resources, industry, and arable land to support people in the lifestyles to which they want to become accustomed. Ted Turner does not want to share his 2+ million acres with indigent riff-raff.
      However, there certainly is a lot of habitable space being wasted. For example, why not make wind turbine towers fatter and use them for low-income housing? It would be a win-win-win. Residents could have a diet rich in fresh birds, and researchers could determine unequivocally what kinds of insanity are induced by a constant “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh…”

    • Good comment. Thank you. Just remember the world will need energy to produce and deliver sufficient food for the present population especially as growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are reducing.

    • “Matter is energy. Matter cannot be destroyed. Matter is nearly infinite, thus energy is also nearly infinite. As long as the sun shines, there will be enough resources on earth for a nearly infinite amount of people. The population bomb is just another Marxist Myth.”
      Well at that point, having seen every single statement you made, run counter to everything that physics teaches us, I gave up.
      Perhaps you should, too.

  4. As a 72 yr old registered Profesional Chemical Engineer, I have wrestled with this question frequently. The answers lie our conquering entropy, the power of decay. Scientists (well, at least physical chemists…) understand that our incredible rate of production of entropy can only be countered by an even greater application of energy. The Greens haven’t a clue. The Solution to Pollution is….Energy!.
    The earth has plenty of energy, and someday we will be able to harness the energy of the Sun without entropy racing faster in the other direction, like it does now.

    • Well yes, exactly except rather than harnessing the power of an unshielded dangerous natural reactor whose radiation kills more people in the West than die of road accidents*…why not build a proper set of reactors here on earth where we can control the radiation and get rid of the deaths?
      *skin cancer kills more than road accidents in the UK. 90% of all skin cancers are related to over exposure to UV from strong sunlight.

    • Take just a minute and think about your comment. It’s fairly short-sighted. The sun is also subject to entropy, as is the entire universe. The energy will run out and all be travelling through space in the future.
      To answer the question of “When will we ever stop running out of resources?”, the answer is in 2-4 billion years the Earth will be uninhabitable, so then it won’t matter anyway.

  5. Taking deterministic pessimism to a new low where not only is the glass half empty, but the bar is closed and you’ve missed last call.

  6. This is silly.
    Julian Simon pointed out back in the 1970s and 1980s that resources are NOT items like oil and coal.
    Oil and coal are RAW MATERIALS. If you take raw materials and add HUMAN INGENUITY you get resources. That is why, for instance, we have composites and plastics nowadays while they did not have these in the 1600s – although they had the raw materials then. They just did not count rock oil and sand as useful raw materials because human ingenuity had not developed them at that time.
    Various raw materials will run out at various times. But human ingenuity is probably infinite. Meaning that resources will never run out…

    • Dodgy Geezer
      September 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm
      “This is silly.
      Julian Simon pointed out back in the 1970s and 1980s that resources are NOT items like oil and coal.”
      Read the Register piece, he explains substitutability very well.

    • It’s always good to see a citation of Julian Simon. Another old timer, Buckminster Fuller opined that there is not a problem of exhausting minerals. Everything we use, we eventually dump, and it remains available here, with the trifling exception of the mass that we send into space. Retrieving and reusing minerals is simply a matter of energy, and that is the most challenging problem, but it seems to be solvable.

  7. What seems to be unlimited is mankind’s imagination and resourcefulness. We inhabit a solar system which, for all intents and purposes, has unlimited resources of materials and energy.
    We are simultaneously plumbing the limits of mankind’s willingness to close one eye and open the other, with the intent to be willfully blind to the whole picture. This occurs on both sides of the quite unnecessary divide that has adherents clinging to silly ideologies, one of immediate limits and the other of wild abandon. With both eyes open we can see a future in which we care for the planet, its population and its future civilization while sensibly sharing resources on the basis that all people are created equal and have rights of access. You do not have to be a left or right wing fanatic to see this truth.
    The future is very bright. We have surpassed the advances (that we know of) of all previous societies and have reached the level of being able to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization that will not succumb to climate conditions, not even an ice age. I have throughout my life witnessed a string of bearded prophets announcing that the “End is Near!” Well, it is not near at all. It is very, very far from near.
    We can all start by resisting the climate eschatology so popular as a substitute for having a real plan.

    • What seems to be infinite is humanities capacity for self delusion.
      A ,man arrives in a country full of potential farmland, mineral resources and food just waiting to be eaten. He builds a great nation and say ‘its because I am clever, my religion is the best, and my system of government is the way of the future’
      Idiot. Any Fule kno that if you break into someone else’s larder you can stuff your face.

      • Likewise every successful organism knows that to be true. Your point seems to be that we should all stay in our place and accept the status quo of the least successful group. We would then be the least likely to survive out of all living things and what is the point of that?

  8. A few days ago, I was looking for a link to a video or transcript from James Burke’s Connections, Episode 10 Yesterday, Tomorrow, and You.” (1978), one of the best hour of thought ever put on TV. In his closing (and I paraphrase) he examines the question of

    “Why can’t we control change in our lives better? Pick what you want to improve and put your resources on that.” Well, if you’ve seen any of this show, think of the number of advances we’d have to do with out he we done that. Take fertilizer, which was found by people trying to create artificial diamonds.
    Another problem with the idea of limiting what you well research will be what will you think when someday someone comes up to you and say, “That’s enough. No more.” ? How long will you put up with that? How long will you vote for the person who says “No”?

    Well, I didn’t find a link to that 10th hour, but I found this thoughtful 12-minute video from a couple years ago. “James Burke on the End of Scarcity” He examine the societal issues of what we face when nanotechnology make it possible to make anything out of “air, water, and dirt.” from your personal ‘fabber’ nanofactory in the garage, which was build by another fabber in geometric progression. If scarce = value, what happens when nanotech production means the End of Scarcity? While everyone seems concerned about Malthusian futures, he was focused on what could happen if technology stays ahead of Malthus and the Club of Rome.
    Mind you, I don’t expect a nanofabber to be in my garage in my lifetime, nor my children’s lifetime. However when I was in high school in the early 1970s I though I would have a computer in my basement. My classmates thought it unlikely to have even a used one. Today, I’m wearing one, another on my lap, and I see in line of sight too many to count. I probably personally own more GB of RAM memory than existed in the world back then.
    I don’t agree with everything Burke says. I can find fault with a great many of his details. Even if we have garage-based nanofabbers from Wal-Mart inside of 50 years, there will be limits to the energy they can consume as they assemble endothermic compounds. His “After the Warming: A View From 2050” (1989) is pure CAGW alarmist claptrap, but it is worth watching and rewatching for its craftsmanship. I invariably find what he has to say well thought out, highly compact, and always worth digesting and reflecting.
    I thought his points about a possible End of Scarcity worth sharing in the context of this conversation. (the video is about 12 minutes. The plot thickens at 2:55 and the nanotech starts at 3:55.
    (Modified from a Linked-in post on Sept 5.)

    • I have a nanofabber, it’s called a potty plant. It fabricates more of itself, so it’s not too useful. But my mother has some that make tomatoes.

    • ‘The End Of Scarcity’ is like the Second Coming to Communists, but it’s still a silly idea.
      In the real world, if I can make anything I want from dirt, I can build a Giant Robot Army and steal all the dirt so I can keep making all the other things I want. The Commies say ‘but oh, no, that would be uncouth,’ but that’s because they’re completely clueless about real people.

  9. One thing we will NEVER run out of is the ingenuity of mankind to cope, adapt and thrive. This of course despite the sheeple, evangelists of every persuasion and doomsayers,
    It owes all progress to the productive folk and creative genius that lifts us upward and forward.

    • I believe…in human ingenuity!
      Sheesh. It took us what – 3 million years to work out how to smelt copper?
      Hubris.

  10. ¿Will any rational human run out of material means for achieving his reasonably feasible economic productivity goals?
    ¡No!
    Rational man acts using applied reasoning to accomplish his economic goals no matter what resource limitations are perceived by others. He reasonably seeks alternative ways to achieve his goals when confronted with all actual scarcity of means (resources).
    It is only irrational / non-economic man who whines in existential despair at his erroneous perception of a static zero-sum universe.
    John

    • I beg your pardon. The universe is as far as can be determined zero sum.
      Its finite in energy, and entropy is a one way street.
      We are just vultures, picking over the corpse of the big bang.
      And one day, there wont be anything left.

  11. One of the founders of the Club of Rome, Alexander N Christakis, resigned after CoR chose to push the modelling systems ‘hard’ science approach instead of his preferred soft science approach of changing beliefs. His Structured Design Dialogue is coming into classrooms all over the world under varying names and becoming the foundation for online MOOC courses to guide student beliefs to the desired global crises. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/framing-then-refining-lasting-webs-of-mutual-social-understanding-to-fulfill-aspiration-grounded-in-infamy/
    That means we have the bad modelling of Limits to Growth joining up with psychological research on how to create influential false perceptions that will guide future behavior. Now all this may not be on the typical person’s radar screen, but these papers and the broadcast media are aware because that it how media education works now globally. Media and education, per UNESCO, are the two prongs of the communication policy designed to alter the prevailing cultural belief system. They even call it the Zeitgist as well. Use education and the media to alter it and then use the altered beliefs to justify transformational political action.
    Social science theory in action can make the bad hard science models and lack of facts a moot point when it comes to policy making.

  12. ” Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon”.
    This is exactly what these clowns want, hence the fierce opposition to hydrofracking.

    • ” Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon”.
      For collapse is the only thing these people can engineer.
      The premature shut down of coal fired electric power plants will raise our risk of regional electric black-out during a polar vortex type of winter storm. If we don’t experience one of these “Barack-Outs” in the next four years, I will be surprised.

  13. The doomsayers have been saying we will run out of _________ (fill in the blank) since speech was invented. Ehrlich and his ilk are nothing new. In 1948 or so, experts at the UN predicted we would be out of the metals Zn and Pb and approaching the limits for Cu by the 1970-80’s. Oh so wrong. Here is a fact with respect to copper reserves…in 1900, copper reserves were 25 million metric tons; in 2013, copper reserves were 690 million metric tons. Pretty much the same metrics for other metals. Nothing scary there for the doomsayers, but that doesn’t stop them from trying.

    • I’m not disputing what you’ve written. And, for many materials substitutes are readily available or can be expected to be available. No doubt fiber optics have displaced significant amounts of copper in many applications. One thing I’m curious about, however, is the rampant theft of copper occurring in California. It’s gotten so bad that some people have actually been killed in the process of trying to steal copper wire from electrically live sources. Could that represent an increasing value to a resource that may be experiencing a shortage of supply to demand?

      • Wherever you import a very poor population (or open your borders for unchecked immigration) you will have metal thieves. Here in Germany it’s (South)Eastern Europeans of a certain tribe.
        Copper price is an indicator for economic activity and in a slump; 25% down from 2011. Still valuable enough for copper thieves though.
        More copper theft currently means just more copper thieves around doing their work.

      • In the US we can call them gypsies. Watch your wallet and your possessions when they are about. They are what they are. Being PC about it doesn’t change reality.

    • Resources are even broader than this. It isn’t copper we are demanding its electrical conductivity, alloying ingredients, and the like. It isnt’ Zn we are running out of – most of it is used in galvanizing iron sheet to make it non-corodable. We can make culverts and barn rooves out other things.

    • rocdoc-consistent with my earlier point Ehrlich and the UN have actively moved on to use K-12 education to limit what students are to know to what they experience. It is called Foresight Intelligence and is intricately linked to achieving their Sustainability visions of economic and social transformations. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/all-that-is-solid-melts-into-air-but-does-it-really/ lays it out using the actual 2005 conference report.
      I have also written about what the Ehrlich’s are now doing with the UN-affiliated MAGB-Millenium Assessment of Global Behavior. Ban Ki-Moon has said back in 2011 that no more treaties are needed because of what can be accomplished through their unappreciated influence on K-12 globally.
      I appreciate it and am playing Town Crier using the Internet.

  14. There is a certain, special class of human beings. They oftentimes own yachts. And they’re oftentimes assured to own private jet aircraft, and those that don’t own one (or five) simply don’t own one because they’ve made a financial calculation that it’s better to let the taxpayer own it since the taxpayer doesn’t have a prayer of ever being able to use it. And, the common denominator among these special people is that all of them own mansions. Not one mind you. They own multiple mansions and these are situated in different locations because it wouldn’t do to view duplicate scenes of scenic splendor from each mansion. Thus they have villas on lakes in Italy, Pacific Coast or Atlantic Coast beachfront homes in North America, serene mountain residences adequately endowed with picture windows, large ranches in Montana, and, of course, the obligatory mansions in the state capitals throughout the world – entertainment, you know.
    Now, none of these special people have ever invented anything, created anything, developed anything, made anything, built anything, designed anything, and so on, and so on, and so on. Yep, these special people are parasites. Not ordinary parasites, mind you. They are extra special almost godlike parasites. And unlike normal parasites which might just allow the host organism to survive albeit in a weakened state these parasites have appetites that are truly insatiable.
    All of the above should indicate that such people, such very special and accomplished people, are in no position to tolerate even a smidgen of competition, regardless of how fleeting it may be. Thus, any leveling of the playing field, or perception of a levelized playing field with the great unwashed and vulgar masses (who are so inferior they’re actually burdened with having to do something useful to survive) is not to be tolerated. So, from this all we get, yes, The Limits to Growth.

  15. Four years ago I looked into resource availability as part of a Government project. A reference I came across summarized the reality very nicely. Short answer: we are not now, and will not, run out of resources. This will be surprising to many, but let me ask a question. Do you know of any resource that has experienced a long term (or permanent) shortage for which there are no substitutes? Many will, until recently, have said “oil”, for which a 200 year supply is now available through fracking just in the USA alone.
    Do you know of any strategic or other significant resource that has gone up in price in real dollars over a 20 or more year period? You may have to think about this one. Again the real answer is, “no”. Technological innovation and development of alternatives or “substitutes” consistently cause the real cost of all resources to drop long term. Of course there are market fluctuations and new products that affect resource availability over the short term due to increased demand. But the suppliers relish the new business and find the resources. AND THIS HAS BEEN THE CASE SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION!
    Here’s what’s really happening. The companies engaged in finding, procuring and refining needed resources will prospect for future resources for up to about 40 years. That’s pretty much the case with all resources. With the possible exception of “oil” and a few other strategic minerals, IT WOULD BE IRRESPONSIBLE FOR A COMPANY TO LOOK BEYOND ABOUT 40 YEARS FOR FUTURE SUPPLIES! The reason is that they would almost certainly be waisting corporate funds to do so. As technology progresses material requirements change, demand changes, and substitutes are found that may become less expensive. So we hear an industry only has 40 years, or so, of a specific resource available. The popular interpretation of this in the press and by the general public is, “WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF EVERYTHING, AND VERY SOON”. At least until 10 years later when the mining companies go out and find more resources to extend their then 30 year supply out to 40 years again based on their new projection of future needs.

    • Dan, you apparently confuse tight oil resources with the technically recoverable reserve (at any price). The newest TRR for tight oil (correcting for the basic geology mistake made by EIA on 2013 and admitted and corrected by them in 2014) is at most 14Bbbl. That is (365*about 18.5mbpd) about 2 years, not 200. Even in the Bakken, the TRR is only 1.5%, and it has the most favorable geophysics.

      • You won’t give up will you? At the moment about a third of all US oil production is coming from tight oil (most of it from just two fields (Bakken and Eagle Ford), with another two just coming on line (Permian Basin and Niobrara)), but no there is only two years supply there….

      • W.
        Here you go. As footnotes from the forthcoming book. About two easy Google clicks away each.
        Regards on recent your sea voyage. Have also done some. Usually under sail rather than tow conditions…
        EIA, Review of Energy Resources: US Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays (2011). Revised 2013. (google and you will find at first click). In 2013 Monterey was revised down to 13.7Bbbl. And in 2014 to almost nothing, the point made in the comment.
        On May 21, 2014, almost a year after this next book essay was first written, the EIA revised the Monterey estimate down 97% to 0.6Bbbl. EIA Director Sieminski told the press, “The rock is there, the technology isn’t…”
        Just Google Sieminski, Monterey, 2014… My, how easy basic information retrieval now is.
        My deliberate reason for not posting your requested precise links is to ‘teach’ all to ‘think’ for yourselves. The internet is a big place. It contains enormous amounts of ‘crap’. And also of ‘truth’. Sort it out for yourselves. I gave search links, please do the searches. Then ignore the unreliable places. Pay attention to ‘reliable’ places like the US GOV. Then be very skeptical of those, as the next book also shows.
        BTW, W, if you want to critique this essay from the forthcoming book, figure out how to email me so I can send it to you as Marcel Crok got on full ‘Shell Games’. Perhaps Anthony can help you here off line.
        The draft is not yet to the publisher, and all critiques will still be gratefully considered.

      • TTY, please check your data. You really have no factual clue. There are presently about 2.5mpbd going to maybe 3-4 mbpd coming from all tight oil shales. See, for example EIA 2014. The US consumes about 18.5mbpd. Even the optimistic IEA (not the EIA) says US tight shale oil will peak at about 4mbpd in 2021. You know not of which you speak. And that is a polite restatement of your ignorance demonstrated here.

      • “TTY, please check your data. You really have no factual clue.”
        US oil production (excluding condensates) is currently about 8.5 million barrels per day. Of this something between 2.5 and 3 million barrels are tight oil. According to my mathematics that is a third. And the condensate proportion is higher.
        And about that EIA estimate: did you notice something? It does not include the Wolfcamp shale, nor most of the Niobrara shale, both of which are currently coming on line on a large scale. Personally I am more inclined to believe in actual oil production rather than estimates. Particularly from government agencies engaged in policy-based evidence making.
        I’m not sure you have mouch of a clue either.

      • Rud, Have you been in the Bakken? If you had you would be aware the Bakken is one of three oil formations it is the uppermost, the next is the three forks and the third I have not yet heard the name for. The Bakken is expected to play for the next forty years presently is producing 1 million barrels a day and only has a third of the project oil wells drilled have been drilled. Now that is the Bakken, Three Forks has had a few wells drilled in it and those are out producing the Bakken. as far as the formation below it not much has been done. So if the Bakken get all its well drilled and say we are looking say two million a day, ditto for three forks and the on bellow we are looking at six billion a day, that from one state and from know reserves. The nice thing is the way formations lay you can drill all three from the same pad and go all direction from that pad concevely you could have over sixteen well on one pad.
        Now the dirty little secret about North Dakota and the Williston Basin it there is a huge pool of oil miles below the surface in the bed rock it runs along a fail line. I assume that were all of the oil in the Williston basin has come from. Present we have no way to get to it. I assume some day they will and I am told it dwarfs anything they have drilled today. They are talking hundreds of billions barrels of oil That came from a land man who’s business is to know these thing, I have no reason to doubt him, I certain do have reason to doubt you.
        One last thing a geology professor from either UND or NDSU in the 1980s stated the estimated oil reserve in the Bakken was between 250 billion to 500 billion barrels of oil, at that time he was the most knowledgeable person about the Bakken, I have far more reason to believe him and any yahoo who works for the federal government. One last thing they were horizontal drilling the Bakken in the mid 1980, The reason they quit is oil prices collapsed and you need $45.00 a barrel to make it pay. At that time I was living in the Williston area, and have driven the Williston basin from one end to the other for over fifteen years. I still drive it three to four time a year and yes highway 85 is a bitch from Watford City to Williston. It has the traffic of a major interstate with only two lanes, all though half of it now has four and the Alexander bypass is about complete.

      • Mark, not that it matters on a dead thread, but to your specific question, yes, I have visited there. My grandfather was one of the original petroleum geologists to explore the Williston Basin. I drove him there in in 1967, part of a cross country venture. Spent most of July and August visitng exploratory well pads ( then vertical) in Montana and North Dakota. My family lost the better part of $1 million drilling along a slip fault fracture above the Bakken to try to capture a seismic signaled reservoir. He said we missed by about 10 feet onto the wrong sideof the fault, about 6000 feet down.
        Your assertion that I know not is without merit. Try again, with something better than an ad hom.

    • Another thing not factored in is all the metals we produced are still here, until recently rusting away in a ring around cities. We are now recycling this stuff. Its cheaper to melt old glass than to make new. Metals can be re-used ad infinitum and we will get better and better at it.
      The modem I bought a year ago is twice the size of the new one I had put in today! My dad’s 1956 Chrysler Windsor weighed over two tons. Probably today’s equivalents are half that. Our radio then took two men to lift!

      • From what I understand the modern soda pop aluminum can (or even more desirable beer can) weighs an amazing 50% less than a comparable can from the 1960s. I don’t think that was the result of NRDC lobbying. Also interesting is the arrangement Mercury Marine had with the Miller Brewing Co. in Milwaukee. Mercury had a plant in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin north of Milwaukee. Miller supplied them with recycled beer cans which Mercury melted down and recast as outboard motor engine blocks. Mercury favored the Miller cans which were alloyed with manganese. That aluminum alloy was more resistant to corrosion in its engines than the aluminum copper alloy used in other cans. I don’t think the NRDC had anything to do with this either.
        And, a classic example of recycling that is not considered as such, and is generally scorned, is an automotive junkyard. These facilities economically recycle auto parts, fluids, and materials; and provide opportunity and low cost transportation to people on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Plus they’re a good home for Doberman Pinchers.

    • Willis has requested citations. Unfortunately I don’t have the original reference anymore. But a very quick check on the internet brings up many good articles stressing the same points. Here are a few:
      “Are we running out of minerals?” by John Dobra, posted 6/14/2013 in Mining News
      http://www.miningfacts.org/Blog/Mining-News/Are-We-Running-out-of-Minerals-/
      What Will Apple Do When Indium Runs Out in 2017?
      Forbes 3/09/2012 Tim Worstall
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/03/09/what-will-apple-do-when-indium-runs-out-in-2017/
      Has the Earth Run Out of Any Natural Resources?
      There isn’t much cryolite anymore.
      By Brian Palmer
      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/10/has_the_earth_run_out_of_any_natural_resources.html
      Willis, contact me offline by email for more detail.

      • Thanks, Dan. Your third citation makes the point very neatly, if unintentionally. The headline is:

        Has the Earth Run Out of Any Natural Resources?

        There isn’t much cryolite anymore.

        Since I knew that cryolite is used to refine aluminum, this sounded quite worrying to me. However, as my Dad told me, “Son, the big print giveth, and the small print taketh away.” And as usual, he was right. When you read the article, the text says (emphasis mine):

        Extinct plant and animal species notwithstanding, has the Earth ever run out of a natural resource?
        Sort of. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, we have no remaining reserves of cryolite, a mineral that is used in the processing of aluminum. The last active cryolite mine, located in Greenland, closed in the 1980s, and manufacturers now rely on a synthetic alternative.

        This has been the story of “resources” since there’ve been resources. Resources are not inherent in the earth. They are inherent in the ability to use our energy, our imagination, and our work to convert raw materials into resources. When the raw material runs out, as all raw materials eventually must, we create “synthetic alternatives” just as we did with cryolite.
        As a result, TO DATE the forward march of technology has never been stopped or even slowed much by resource shortages. Will this continue to be the case?
        I think so, because a) humans are so damn ingenious, and b) necessity is the mother of invention, and c) neither Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, nor any other of the many failed “we’re running out of resources” serial doomcasters have ever made one successful prediction of such a resource-based catastrophe. There have been scads of such predictions—running out of magnesium, running out of space for our trash, running out of food, peak oil, the list goes on and on.
        But not one of their predictions have come true. SO … I gotta conclude that:

        Human Imagination > Challenges

        and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
        w.

      • Hey Willis, if you are monitoring dead threads, here is a possibly cogent remark. Cryolite ( which can be synthesized using energy) isnt a fossil fuel. Many respects for your posts. But not for some of your conclusions. Agreement on Tuvalu.

      • Hey, Rud, not sure why you think the thread is dead. In any case, you say:

        Cryolite ( which can be synthesized using energy) isnt a fossil fuel.

        I know that. Look at the thread title. It’s about resources, not just energy.
        All the best,
        w.

      • Rud Istvan says September 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm

        Many respects for your posts. But not for some of your conclusions.

        Thanks, Rud, but as you should know, I’m allergic to vague handwaving. If you disagree with my conclusions, please quote exactly what I said and let us in on the secret reason you disagree with whatever it was.
        Thanks,
        w.

  16. The tip of the Washington is a pyramid made of aluminum. Those who built it weren’t being cheap. At the time, aluminum was more precious than gold. Now we wrap leftovers in it.
    These guys need to define “resources” before they can say we’ll run out of them.

  17. What I always find interesting is the use of the phrase “New research…” or “A study…” as if this singular bit of information is the end all, be all of the subject at hand. We can point out “A study…” which says/said the Arctic Ice Sheet would be gone in 2013 (or so) and folks will decry, “It is but ONE study!”. They use ONE study and it is Good Night Irene! Geez.

    • I forget where I first this, maybe SEPP or JunkScience.com?, but such things are referred to as “One Study Wonders”.

    • Hate to reply to my own post, but there is one resource that “newspapers” like The Guardian will never run out of, and that is these “New Research…” doom and gloom papers!

  18. even there will be some kind of shortages of some kind of stuff…so what?
    even if is horrible for mankind…so what?
    what are this people saying but we are able to organize the shortage better ie sooner
    let us stop using oil because the time is coming when there will be no more oil….
    Hey i know something , we all are going to die…is it a reason to plan our life to organize a better death?
    this people want your money, they want you to buy their antishortage devices…that s all….but look at what they are doing?
    so they put their own money in their magical devices?

  19. “Limit to Growth’s forecasts have been vindicated by new Australian research.”
    Gee, ya know, something has got to be done about the universities down under. Since the government change and the panic over pinching off of funds for the Clime Syndicate (thanks to Mark Steyn for that one!), ever more dreadful and shrill offerings from Ozzie science is getting manufactured. I remember over 50 years ago boiling up swampy water for tea on geological survey field work in northern Canada and watching desperate swarms of swimming little bugs searching out the diminishing areas of cool water in the billy pail before giving out and receiving a quarter of a handful of tea to bury them. This image popped into my head on reading this awful drivel. I know the rest of the world’s universities are bad but the volume of sludge from this patch of the globe is astounding.

  20. Ingenuity will be needed. And the resource shoe will still definitely pinch by about 2050. One of the limits is food calories (constrained by arable land, irrigation, spread of best practices, yield improvement limits reached on some key crops already (eg limits to the drawing strategy for IR8 rice), and evolution of previously controlled pests like UG99 wheat rust (which Borlaug had previously conquered as part of his Green Revolution). The other is liquid transportation fuels, only partly substitutible by electricity and in the end only partly replaceable by renewable biofuels. Which in turn affects ‘virtual water’ (trade in agricultural commodities).
    Wrote an ebook about all this, Gaias Limits. Malthus was wrong. Erhlich was wrong. Club of Rome was wrong. Pimentalmis wrong.But that does not mean there are no human carrying capacity constraints. CSIRO critique is right, but his unbounded optimism is unwarranted. Read the inexpensive book for details. Factually based counter arguments welcome. (just make sure you have your facts straight.) Food is a soft carrying capacity constraint. Liquid fuel is at least semi hard. You just have to slog through all the technical details.
    Gaia’s Limits does not necessarily foresee catastrophe like all the previous neoMalthusian sensations.. There are a few fairly straightforward ‘easy’ policy changes that offer a global soft landing on a long glide path– if we would just get started. But those are not part of the main CAGW agenda like the US ‘war on coal’ or the EU prohibition of high wattage hair dryers and vacuum cleaners.

    • Talked with an acquaintance who is a farmer a couple of days ago. He was worried. He couldn’t harvest his wheat because he has nowhere to put it. Every grain elevator in the country (Sweden) is chock full. And everybody else in the World apparently had a bumper crop as well. Prices are dropping.
      So he decided to slaughter a number of sheep for cash. And was told that the slaughterhouse has a long waiting list….

  21. I am Robert of Ottawa and I approve of this post.
    Seriously, the AGW tack is just one of many misanthropic attacks by the Stalinist ecomentalists upon civilization. They must be resisted on all fronts.

  22. Who would want to live on a planet where the people are packed in like sardines, lets keep it at 7 billion ;0)

      • Of course I realise how empty the planet is, but people don’t move to the wide open spaces or at least most don’t, they live in heavily populated cities that are dirty and smell bad, I live in the country and use to work in the city and I can say for a fact that even a clean city smells bad, I can’t imagine what one of those blue tarp settlements smells like, and turn off the garbage service and it gets bad real quick, remember the garbage strike in NY? I just feel that the planet is at comfortable level now ;0)

      • Dirk, there are reasons that the Sahara, the Kalahari, the Gobi, and the Australian outback are empty. Even Nevada outside Reno and Las Vegas. Can you Imagine what those might be?

      • A few hundred liquid fueled thorium reactors, providing safe, efficient, clean, no CO2 emissions electricity, could make the Gobi, the Sahara, and the Nevada desert not only quite livable, but also fun with a few tens of thousand EV dune buggies.
        Water you say? Use a few of those LFTRs for coastal desal plants and pipe the pure clean water inland like the Saudis and Aussie’s already do. Again, zero emissions.

    • John ;0) on September 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm
      Who would want to live on a planet where the people are packed in like sardines, lets keep it at 7 billion ;0)

      – – – – – –
      John ;0),
      10 billion human beings packed like sardines would easily fit inside the state of Texas with lots of spare Texas space leftover. N’est ce pas?
      John

      • 10 billion human beings packed like sardines would easily fit inside the state of Texas with lots of spare Texas space leftover. N’est ce pas?
        ..and what an attractive target they would make for a nuclear option..

  23. @mikerestin 1:06 pm
    As the saying goes “We didn’t leave the stone age because we ran out of stones.
    I like that saying, but the truth of the matter is that we did leave the Bronze Age because we ran out of tin.
    This is a story from
    The Doomsday Myth: 10,000 Years of Economic Crisis(1984). It is a great rejoinder to the Club of Rome’s thesis. The authors, Texas A&M professors Charles Maurice and Charles Smithson, describe 10 episodes in human history where we were running out of a precious resource. Changes in “price” and “technology” quenched each crisis. Some chapters I remember:
    Flint for arrow heads.
    Bronze (my favorite, see below), we learn to work iron.
    Greeks changed ship construction because of a shortage of wood.
    We were running out of trees for heating. Enter coal.
    We were running out of trees for railroads. Enter better engineering and creosote.
    We were running out of oil (from whales). Come Pennsylvania.
    Rubber from trees.
    Running out of food. Green revolution.
    1970’s oil crisis. Let price rise. Drill in deeper waters, far away places, build tankers.
    The Fracking revolution and rebirth of US Onshore drilling and production should be an 11th Chapter.
    The Bronze story, as I said was my favorite. At the end of the Bronze Age, iron was a known metal, but it was quite expensive. Archeologist have found silver rings with iron wire as ornamentation, like we use diamonds. Bronze is a mix of copper and tin. Copper was local to Greece, but tin needed to be imported. The Phoenician pirates put a crimp in tin shipments for about 80 years. In that time the price of Bronze went up, Bronze recycling became common place, and metal smiths looked for alternatives. They found ways to smelt and work iron. In those 80 years, the price of iron relative to bronze dropped by a factor of 10,000. Thus began the Iron Age.

    • SR, better check your geophysics and TRR estimates for fracking.
      And pray tell, what renewable substitute for JP 1 jet fuel, or ordinary diesel to power agricultural and forest products equipment, do you foresee? Hydrogen? Not at all. Biofuels? Not enough. Methane hydrates? Not possible to sufficiently produce. Electricity? Not without physically impossible (per current physics) storage breakthroughs. All explained with pictures at a high school level in the forthcoming book. You could learn some stuff for just ten bucks.
      Please work the science out, rather than citing transitions from stone to metal, from low temp metals to high temp metals…all requiring increasing energy that might run short (not out).
      Oh, and please explain how the green revolution can be duplicated. How it was accomplished was explained in my inexpensive ebook Gaias Limits. Which by itself, without the further details therein, also explains why a second equivalent Green Revolution is beyond unlikely…Clue–Once you been there and done that, it is very hard to repeat same biologically.

      • After tonight, I wouldn’t read [your] book now if it was free.
        For the past couple of hours, by not supplying references and links, you have given every indication that it is not well researched.

      • Rud Istvan
        You ask

        And pray tell, what renewable substitute for JP 1 jet fuel, or ordinary diesel to power agricultural and forest products equipment, do you foresee? Hydrogen? Not at all. Biofuels? Not enough. Methane hydrates? Not possible to sufficiently produce. Electricity? Not without physically impossible (per current physics) storage breakthroughs. All explained with pictures at a high school level in the forthcoming book. You could learn some stuff for just ten bucks.

        The substitutes do not need to be “renewable”; they only need to be available, sufficient and affordable.
        Such substitutes can be be obtained from coal now.
        You could learn some stuff for nothing; search the web for the Liquid Solvent Extraction (LSE) process. I will not waste “ten bucks” on your picture book.
        Richard

    • Stephen, as you wish. Please do remain in ignorance devoid of the citations you seek. That does NOT mean they do not exist. Only that you do not know of them in the usual academic formats. How fitting.

  24. @Dan Harrison 1:16 pm, @Rud Istvan 1:56 pm , Willis Eschenbach 2:27 pm
    This talks about 3 Unconventional Resource Plays in the USA. One of them, the Sprayberry/Wolfcamp of the Permian Basin is believed by some to be ultimately the second largest oil field in the world. It will take a lot of wells, but each one is profitable.
    From: Wolfcamp shale graduates to ‘world class’ play 10/01/2013

    According to [Pioneer NRC CEO Scott] Sheffield, the company will test 13 zones within the next 3 years. Sheffield noted that recoverable reserves were based solely on the Wolfcamp A, B, and D shelves and the Jo Mill formation. The potential is enormous, and “more reserves are yet to be discovered,” Sheffield said.
    Pioneer combines its Spraberry/Wolfcamp acreage. It operates on the northern end of the play, which is said to contain an estimated 3,500-4,000 ft of shales, which translates to nearly 3 to 4 million acres when considered in 3D space as opposed to surface area. “Compare that to the Eagle Ford shale formation, which is about 300 ft thick and the Spraberry/Wolfcamp shale, with its 50 billion boe, begins to dwarf the Eagle Ford and the Bakken with 27 billion boe and 13 billion boe, respectively,” Sheffield said.
    The Wolfcamp’s variety of geological zones places it as a frontrunner among the world’s largest onshore plays. Based on recoverable reserves, the Wolfcamp is second only the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia. “We believe this field will reach 100 billion boe recoverable reserves at some point in time,” Sheffield said.

    Pioneer lists on its <a href=http://www.pxd.com/docs/default-document-library/profile.pdf?sfvrsn=26 Proven Reserves of 0.845 billion boe. Note, this is just this one company. The SEC definitions of “Proved” reserves is highly restrictive to including what is currently developed, or very near a developed location.
    The nature of the unconventional play is that you drill like manufacturing, continuous development. You cannot count your resources as reserves until you have drilled them or drilled next to them. “Two miles down, two miles horizontal, in twenty days. And repeat. – Continental Resources. “It’s like Groundhog Day — it is the same thing every day — you just get better at it.” – Dennis Degner, Range Resources (August 13, 2013 URTeC)

    • Tell you what. You invest your life saving in this PR and I will believe you are serious. That is called a Bayesian prior. What say?
      Or, you might do a little research on this formation, which isn’t even listed by over optimistic EIS among the top tight oil plays. And EIA did publish a full assessment (albeit wrong about the Monterey) last year.

      • Well, actually I did. You ignored them because not site formatted for your convenience.
        My deliberate intent. Do your own research, as I have done. Not he said, she said.
        Try EIA, Technically Recoverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: an assessment of 137 shale formations in 41 countries, release date June 10, 2013.
        Try On May 21, 2014, EIA revised the Monterey estimate down 97% to 0.6Bbbl. EIA Director Sieminski told the press, “The rock is there, the technology isn’t…”

      • @Rud Istvan 8:42 pm
        “The rock is there, the technology isn’t…”
        the technology isn’t ….TODAY!
        What do you think The Doomsday Myth and most of this post is talking about? How looming resource shortages prompts developments in technology to make more and alternative resources available for use – and to switch demands to make use of alternatives.
        As for the Monterrey Shale,

        “The Monterey is vastly more complex than the Marcellus or Eagle Ford,” Clarke told UOGR. The high degree of variability of the formation throughout the state and even within individual basins likely means that a variety of drilling and well stimulation techniques will be needed to exploit it. The Monterey comprises many different facies of rock requiring different approaches to oil extraction.
        Some areas are composed of calcareous material that is not amendable to hydraulic fracturing because cracks created in the rock can reseal relatively easily. “A little of the calcium carbonates dissolve and then [the fracture] fills back up,” Clarke said. Other areas have brittle dolomite, which fractures easily, making it an ideal candidate for fracing.
        Clarke said the shale formation needs more research. “We have all these different variations, and what we haven’t done yet as geologists is we have not gone in and mapped where those variations are and how they change,” Clarke said.

        Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said the US Geological Survey estimated in 1995 that the Bakken shale in North Dakota held just 151 million bbl of oil. Now, the agency figures the formation holds [ 7,400 million ] bbl of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, and production is approaching 1 million b/d.
        The EIA’s downward revision of Monterey reserves reflects only that the current state of technology [and changing regulation] is unable to unlock the full potential of the play. The amount of oil contained in the formation has not changed.

  25. We are still in the Iron Age. More abundant and more widely used than any other metal. The start of the Iron Age varies with geography…the discovery of iron smelting and metallurgy in the Middle East approximately 3-4000 years BP; in North America with the arrival of the Europeans.

    • Well many would argue that the iron age was replaced by the coal age, then the oil age, and we are just about to embark on the nuclear age.
      Or if you want to stick to materials rather than energy, we have had the aluminium age, and this is the carbon fibre and ceramics age..
      We called it the bronze age because that’s what the things we dug up out of the ground were made of.

      • The Silicon Age and the Lithium Age could be mixed in with the Carbon Fiber age. Yea, as you dig down the pile, the specific silicon chip would date a layer to a handful of years.

  26. Another mistake the Club of Rome makes is that it assumes that the demand for material will increase as the economy expands.

    In 1972, the Club of Rome in its report The Limits to Growth predicted a steadily increasing demand for material as both economies and populations grew. The report predicted that continually increasing resource demand would eventually lead to an abrupt economic collapse. Studies on material use and economic growth show instead that society is gaining the same economic growth with much less physical material required. Between 1977 and 2001, the amount of material required to meet all needs of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 million pounds, even thought the country’s population increased by 55 million people. Al Gore similarly noted in 1999 that since 1949, while the economy tripled, the weight of goods produced did not change.[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dematerialization_%28economics%29

    There is also evidence that we are now throwing out less stuff than we used to. That implies that we are actually using less resources than we used to and that dematerialization is actually accelerating. This was predicted by Buckminster Fuller who pointed out that there is no limit to such dematerialization.

    • You are correct. And the energy intensity of the overall economy also declines as services become more important. All also figurated in the book you obviously have not read.

      • I quote a wiki article on dematerialization. I cite information from a couple of papers I’m too lazy to look up. I quote Buckminster Fuller. You accuse me of not having read some book that you obviously think I should have read.
        I’m having difficulty seeing whatever point you are trying to make. Some people would tell me not to feed the trolls. I’m giving you the benefit of doubt.

    • You can criticise – and you are right to criticise – the club of Rome on the details. But not on the main thesis, which is that growth itself is unsustainable.
      Everything that grows in the Universe, does so by tapping into an entropy flow, and eventually that flow ceases, and it dies. Or it itself becomes a victim of its own growth.
      To date, we dont see any way to avoid that inescapable conclusion. Yes, some new quantum level effects may give us access to infinite energy and zero entropy, but until it does we had best stick with the physics we have got, take note, and adjust out thinking accordingly.

  27. Resources are not an issue, thanks to conservation laws. The only limiting factor is energy- as long as the government doesn’t butt in- that would be no problem.
    On to a more ridiculous topic. Despite the Jetsons, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, , I don’t think we’ll EVER have flying cars. They’re too dangerous. Imagine the catastrophic results of putting beer and teenage boys in a flying car environment.

    • Lightsabers. Seriously, it must be the most dangerous weapon to the user and those around him ever thought up. Can you imagine the ‘elf ‘n safety nightmare it would be to get something like that approved for use?
      Future tech might be exciting, and scifi has allready influenced our current tech, but the really exciting stuff like flying cars, lightsabers and laser guns will either never be invented or never accessible to us. But i do want a tardis and a sonic screwdriver.

    • As How about a car that fly itself. We are just about to that point with autos. All be it thirty years late, the futurist of the sixties say it would happen by the 1990s.

  28. I once read somewhere that there is no such thing as ‘over-population’ of anything. Simply because the surplus always die.

  29. The greens don’t want any development of any kind, like North Korea, so they would run out of stuff at the market, but not resources.
    They can then buy their own stuff from somewhere else which has a market, which is what North Korea does. So I suppose that as long as someone has a market, the greens will keep saying we are going to run out of resources.

  30. Energy Return on Energy Invested
    Objective evaluation requires evaluating understanding the energy required to recovery and convert energy into useful fuel for transport (or electricity to run electric vehicles), including a complete “Well to Wheel” analysis. EROI of oil has plummeted from > 100 to about 12 in the US.
    See Prof. Charles Hall
    Peak Oil, Declining EROI and the New Energy-Economic Reality with Dr. Charles A.S. Hall
    Publications especially on EROI.
    Hall, Charles A.S., Jessica G.Lambert, Stephen B. Balogh. 2014. EROI of different fuels
    And the implications for society Energy Policy Energy Policy. 64,: 141–152.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513003856?np=y
    http://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0301421513003856
    Lambert, Jessica, Jessica G. Lambert, Charles A.S. Hall, Stephen Balogh, Ajay Gupta,
    Michelle Arnold 2014 Energy, EROI and quality of life. Volume 64: 153-167
    http://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0301421513006447
    Hallock Jr., John L., Wei Wu, Charles A.S. Hall, Michael Jefferson. 2014
    Forecasting the limits to the availability and diversity of global conventional oil supply:
    Validation Energy 64: 130-153. (Article 12 in: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03605442/64/supp/C
    Scholar Energy Return on Energy Invested
    The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production
    David J. Murphy DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2013.0126Published 13 January 2014

    Declining production from conventional oil resources has initiated a global transition to unconventional oil, such as tar sands. Unconventional oil is generally harder to extract than conventional oil and is expected to have a (much) lower energy return on (energy) investment (EROI). Recently, there has been a surge in publications estimating the EROI of a number of different sources of oil, and others relating EROI to long-term economic growth, profitability and oil prices. The following points seem clear from a review of the literature: (i) the EROI of global oil production is roughly 17 and declining, while that for the USA is 11 and declining; (ii) the EROI of ultra-deep-water oil and oil sands is below 10; (iii) the relation between the EROI and the price of oil is inverse and exponential; (iv) as EROI declines below 10, a point is reached when the relation between EROI and price becomes highly nonlinear; and (v) the minimum oil price needed to increase the oil supply in the near term is at levels consistent with levels that have induced past economic recessions. From these points, I conclude that, as the EROI of the average barrel of oil declines, long-term economic growth will become harder to achieve and come at an increasingly higher financial, energetic and environmental cost.

    EROI of 3 is minimum for sustainability.
    EROI of 7 is probably practical.
    Ethanol only has EORI ~ 1.
    What will replace cheap oil for transport?

    • Decent stuff, David.
      But I don’t know where you get 3 as a minimum for sustainability.
      Sustainability of what? The oil is getting used up faster than nature is cooking it. Sustainable business? Maybe, maybe not.
      Kern River Oil Field, Bakersfield California, is a heavy oil steam flood. They burn at least 1 bbl for every 3 they pump, plus treat LOTS of water, at least 10 bbls water / bbl oil. And that knowledge is many years old. But they have been doing that for 34+ years.
      What will replace cheap oil for transport? And farming. Don’t forget farming.
      More expensive oil, naturally.
      And food prices will rise as a result.
      I worry more about irrigation, for we are not recharging our aquifers as quickly as we pump them.
      What will replace JP1 or JP4?
      Well, I suppose methanol, propanol, or some coal product out of a reformer.
      There are alternatives, it is just today it is equivalent to printing $5 bills with $10 bills.
      EROI is less important that the cost of the energy as input and the value of the fuel as output. Nothing stops us from using 10kJ of an intermediate, non-transportable energy source to create a 3kJ transportable form of energy. It’s EROI is decidedly less than 1, but we have transformed the energy into something more useful. Isn’t that what an electric vehicle is?

      • But EROI is exactly a measure of the cost of energy …and its sustainability.
        You are entirely correct that we could e.g. used 10KJ of nuclear power to make 3KJ of gasoline. But we have to have the intermediate, non-transportable energy source available CHEAPLY first. That means that its EROI has to be a lot higher – three times higher – than the gasoline extraction EROI. before its competitive.
        Fortunately the EROI of nuclear fuel is massive. And the economics of building the power stations are not bad at all. The real cost is in getting approvals to build it and to run it. Which is why nuclear power stations are three times cheaper to build in India or China, than in the West.

      • Leo Smith
        You assert

        But EROI is exactly a measure of the cost of energy …and its sustainability.

        Nonsense! EROI is NOT “a measure” of either.
        If it were then nobody would ever burn coal to make electricity; the EROI is pitifully small.
        People buy the energy they need in the form they need when they can afford it.
        EROI is an irrelevance cited by people wanting an excuse to present a false scare.
        Richard

      • A key point about Kern River oil field is that cogeneration is a significant part of it’s profitability. They use natural gas for running gas-turbine generators, sell the power to the grid and use the waste heat to generate steam for injection into the fields. They say they get 80% thermal efficiency. It also means the use less of the oil product for steam gen. Burn the cheap/clean gas, refine the oil for transpiration fuels.
        A good write-up in The Oil Drum: A Visit to Chevron’s Kern River Heavy Oil Facility Feb. 10, 2009.

    • Re Minimum EROI of 3
      Hall, C.A.S., Balogh, S., Murphy, D.J.R. 2009. What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have? Energies, 2: 25-47.

      In doing so we calculate herein a basic first attempt at the minimum EROI for current society and some of the consequences when that minimum is approached. The theory of the minimum EROI discussed here, which describes the somewhat obvious but nonetheless important idea that for any being or system to survive or grow it must gain substantially more energy than it uses in obtaining that energy, may be especially important. Thus any particular being or system must abide by a “Law of Minimum EROI”, which we calculate for both oil and corn-based ethanol as about 3:1 at the mine-mouth/farm-gate. Since most biofuels have EROI’s of less than 3:1 they must be subsidized by fossil fuels to be useful.

      See also special issue on EROI
      See below What Priority: Climate or Energy?
      for examples of consequences of depleting resources.

      • @David L. Hagen 9/8 7:52 am
        RE: Minimum EROI of 3
        I don’t disagree with the conclusion about biofuels in the blockquote, but I do with the line of reasoning and the minimum of 3.
        somewhat obvious but nonetheless important idea that for any being or system to survive or grow it must gain substantially more energy than it uses in obtaining that energy
        As written, it is a violation of the 1st law of Thermodynamics. The trick is neglecting some of the inputs. It is true a cheetah cannot spend more energy chasing down prey than the energy value of the prey. But we don’t count as inputs into the system the energy built up by the prey eating the grass grown in the sunlight.
        But the fundamental problem is — not all energy is equal . To take an extreme case, lasers have horrible EROI. Most of the energy input goes into heat. But the useful energy is highly refined and we do magic with it.
        I can even imagine a situation where the EROI of oil extraction could be slightly below 1 and still be profitable: Oil and the need for compact and safe – highly valued – transportation fuels make it profitable to extract provided that cheap coal is used to make the steel for casings. Again, not all energy is equal. It is entirely possible that someday 4 MJ of coal will be traded for 1 MJ of crude oil. (We may be long past that point already.)
        EROI is an important concept, but it is not a primary driver and 3 is not a magical threshold.

      • Stephen
        Reread the definition: ” to survive or grow it must gain substantially more energy than it uses”
        That addresses the availability of usable energy to a system, NOT a closed system.

      • David,
        If you don’t talk about a closed system, then where are the boundaries? What inputs to you count though the boundaries. It makes the discussion quite fuzzy. EROI only makes sense as a measurement if the input form of energy has the same value as the output form of energy. It doesn’t. Usually we use a low value form of energy to create a quantitatively smaller, but higher valued form of energy or work.
        As for growing systems, Life itself, the biosphere, has an EROI much less than 1 in you count the solar energy that gets through the atmosphere and clouds. And the chemical energy of H2S deep water smokers.
        Life is all about taking a waste or low value form of energy and turning into something another form of life finds more valuable. As do the fungi, insects, grazers, predators, carpenters, machinists, and engineers, (and nanofabbers) along the food chain.

    • Stephen
      Look at the boundaries of the applicable system. e.g. oil recovery.
      Look at the pragmatic uses of EROI. Costs go about as 1/EROI (adjusted for the relative prices of the energy used.) As oil EROI dropped from > 100 to ~ 12, price shot up 10 fold from dropping to ~ $10 in 1998 to > 100 recently.
      The more difficult and more energy needed to recover oil, and thus the lower the EROI, the higher the price needed to recover it.

      • Look at the hard realities of changes and increasing costs of oil recovery and of oil prices.
        Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth
        David J. Murphy and Charles A. S. Hall

        Economic growth over the past 40 years has used increasing quantities of fossil energy, and most importantly oil. Yet, our ability to increase the global supply of conventional crude oil much beyond current levels is doubtful, which may pose a problem for continued economic growth. Our research indicates that, due to the depletion of conventional, and hence cheap, crude oil supplies (i.e., peak oil), increasing the supply of oil in the future would require exploiting lower quality resources (i.e., expensive), and thus could occur only at high prices. This situation creates a system of feedbacks that can be aptly described as an economic growth paradox: increasing the oil supply to support economic growth will require high oil prices that will undermine that economic growth. From this we conclude that the economic growth of the past 40 years is unlikely to continue in the long term unless there is some remarkable change in how we manage our economy.

        David J. Murphy and Charles A. S. Hall. 2011. Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth in “Ecological Economics Reviews.” Robert Costanza, Karin Limburg & Ida Kubiszewski, Eds. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1219: 52–72.

  31. How “soon” is”soon”? Is it “soon” as in “climate change soon”, that is, next year, err, next decade, err, next three decades, err, next century, err…

  32. There is little doubt there will be a complete global economic collapse in the relatively near future (3~10 years), but this collapse will not result from a shortage of raw materials, it’ll be from an over abundance of government: spending, taxes, rules, regulations, mandates, money printing and insane monetary/fiscal/social policies….
    Gigantic governments have caused terrible misallocations of land/labor/capital giving us too much of some goods and services and too little of others, while greatly increasing the costs of everything. This misallocation of resources has bankrupted entire continents and destroyed their economies.
    The only solutions to this mess is a return to free-market economies and free people, with severely limited governments, which only waste a maximum of 10% of GDP along with a return to gold/silver backed currencies and market-determined interest rates.
    Until these solutions are implemented, economies will continue their boom/bust/collapse cycles and human and social advancement will be greatly curtailed.
    CAGW government policies are just one manifestation of excessive government control, which, like all government intervention, is unwarranted, unnecessary and unwise.

    • +1
      Government’s solution to ending the boom and bust cycles are to eliminate the booms.
      They haven’t worked much on eliminating the ‘busts’. Mark-to-Market is a bad idea still on the books.

      In response to the rapid developments of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the FASB is fast-tracking the issuance of the proposed FAS 157-d, Determining the Fair Value of a Financial Asset in a Market That Is Not Active.[11] – Wikipedia: Mark to Market accounting

      “Fast Track…” for going on six years.

      • Governments around the world are basically trying to artificially keep their stock market/real estate/bond/bank bubbles inflated through: massive deficit spending, increased taxes, money printing, zero-interest policies, bank guarantees, lax lending standards, wasteful “stimulus” spending programs, etc.
        The US Fed is planning to end QEternity next month, but will have to restart it again once bond yields start to rise, inflation increases and stock prices fall…
        As soon as bondholders realize the US will only pay off its bonds with devalued dollars, they’ll dump their bonds and the it’s off to the races….

  33. Interestingly enough, parasites will grow unchecked until they are limited by the health of the host.
    The current ranks of parasites are swollen and the drain on the host immense.
    So a certain limit to growth may have been reached.
    If the global economic system crumbles into chaos, then these parasites will starve.
    The cliche who brought us these concepts are fools.
    Yes they are rich,successful creatures, but fools all the same.
    They seem to fear most the idea of everyone else enjoying as affluent a lifestyle as they do.
    That everyone else is likely to act as they have.
    Pure projection, by ethically challenged creatures.
    As they seem to have attempted to create the very situation they claimed to be warning us of, I think perhaps the Club of Rome may be part of the problem.

  34. Rud Istvan September 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    My deliberate reason for not posting your requested precise links is to ‘teach’ all to ‘think’ for yourselves. The internet is a big place. It contains enormous amounts of ‘crap’. And also of ‘truth’. Sort it out for yourselves.

    Rud, I don’t have either time or interest to play your damn “you go look for yourself” games. Either post the exact links and I’ll read them, or don’t and I won’t read them. I don’t care, it’s your claim to support or not support, but I don’t go on a google snipe hunt for any man.
    w.

  35. We might reach peak population of 9.5 billion this century. That’s a limit to population growth. Not due to limit in natural resources. Population stops growing because women are having less babies. Lower fertility due to older average age.

  36. We have already reached some limits to growth, and if you dont recognise that people killing each other in the middle East is part of that, you haven’t thought it through.
    Now before I go on, I will say that I consider renewable energy to be complete pants, and climate change a convenient lie. And that whilst I care about the environment deeply. the last people I would trust to act as its custodians are Greens.
    But the earth is a finite place, and development based on the extraction of irreplaceable resources is not infinite.
    Which means at some point that poverty is directly related to population. Cheap fossil fuel no longer exists. Just about everywhere that can be put to agriculture has been. Sure you can add in energy, make fresh water and the deserts will bloom, but its expensive.
    Sure metals can be recycled, as can many other things, but again, it is expensive and it takes energy.
    Energy postpones the inevitable. Perhaps for a very long time. But we are – unless we bite the nuclear bullet, running out of cheap energy too.
    There are ways through all of this, but not if we shy away from nuclear power, try to maintain ‘sustainable growth’ and stick our heads in the sand. Today’s debt crisis is largely a symptom of faltering growth that cannot be sustained. We need to limit population somehow, and accept that less people means less poverty and a better life for fewer people.
    Without artificial energy, we go back to a feudal system of agriculture. And a miserable short and enslaved life for far less people.. With energy, and there is only one source left relatively untapped – nuclear energy – we have a post industrial future. What it might consist of I have sketched out in a document.
    http:///www.templar.co.uk/downloads/Beyond_Fossil_Fuels.pdf
    You may choose to believe it or not, but the real issues facing the planet are not climate change or pollution but the decline of the energy industry. Population levels are already unsustainable: without plenty of energy we will crash, with enough energy we can make a soft landing into a reasonably affluent future. For less people, true, but still a lot more than a ‘renewable future’ and a lot more affluent too. Humanity hasn’t been renewable or sustainable since it first chipped an irreplaceable flint.
    Do not make the great mistake of thinking that just because the Green tendency is to get everything 100% wrong, at some level they don’t accidentally get something right, once in a blue moon.
    Of course their solutions are, given that they have no idea about the real world, ludicrous and completely impractical, but the problem does exist.
    Wake up and smell the coffee. We HAVE run out of fresh water in many places. In Britain we ran out of cheap easy to extract coal some time around 1950. The USA has already run out of cheap easy to extract oil. Production is in decline. We have run out of – in Europe – farmland and places to build houses. Our economy is sustained on cheap middle eastern oil, which is also running out.
    In crowded urban living, more and more rules are necessary, so we see a rise in authoritarian centralised doctrinaire governments of the Left. With average per capita incomes falling, to match rising populations, we see that debts incurred not to invest in infrastructure that can generate wealth, but in cheap consumer credit, will never ever be repaid.
    This century will be a game of adjusting to a massive lack of resources and far far too many people, and developing a new economy based on zero growth in population, and exploiting what resources are not constrained – yet. And note the use of constrained. ‘running out’ is not the issue: economically exploitable is. WE never ran out of trees to build wooden ships out of, although we (UK) came very close. But they did become so rare and expensive that we couldn’t wait to build them out of steel. We never ran out of horses or places to graze them. but we did run out of economically viable horse transport.
    We wont ever run out of water or oil, but we will run out of cheap water and oil.
    We can in essence given a finite quantity of each element, construct any chemical compound and any structure we like molecular or macro, from the elements we infinitely recycle, but what we can’t recycle is energy – or strictly entropy. And we need that energy, to do the construction. Which is why the most important single factor in today’s world, is access to energy. And why the AGW scam and ‘renewable’ energy are the most dangerous delusions. We have, once the coal and oil and gas gets too expensive, only one high energy density source left – the atomic nucleus.
    It is already cheaper – ex of paranoid regulations – cheaper to obtain energy from nuclear power than from any other source except coal, which is, in the USA and many other parts of the world, cheap and plentiful.
    The contribution of the actual fuel raw mining costs itself is almost nothing. The fuel can get 100 times more expensive and hard to mine or extract, and the whole process is still economically viable. Breeder reactors can get around 100 times more energy out of uranium or thorium than is currently done. And from the waste too.
    By the end of the century there will be only nations who are nuclear powered. The rest will be insignificant vassals, or gone altogether.
    Judging by the idiocy of those who think renewable energy is the answer, or that conversely we aren’t running out of anything, the West will be long gone.

    • Let me put it this way, I can if I want move electricity with steel wires, I can if I want make electricity or intense heat from thorium, or maybe in the future even potassium or hydrogen from water using nuclear reactions. I can If I want make aluminium from clay. I can If I want make gasoline from cow poo. I can if I want, make diesel from vege oil (or whale blubber – ok, ok, we’ll farm the whales so we dont send them extinct). I can if I want mine stuff undersea. I can if I want make fresh water from salt water. We can heat things up to hotter than the sun. We can even transmute some elements (we can make helium from hydrogen). Who knows what we will be able to do in 1000 years time. Maybe we’ll be able to make copper from fusion of Silicon and Phosphorus
      The way our chemistry and physics is RIGHT now, there isn’t any intrinsic limit to human survival or population, the limits are purely economic, they are not technical limits. We don’t do these things because right now we don’t need to, however there does to some extent need to be a new way. Money slows down our advancement, if we could do away with money somehow, so that the cost of doing difficult things is no longer an impediment to doing them then we would be in a better place.

    • We have already reached some limits to growth, and if you dont recognise that people killing each other in the middle East is part of that, you haven’t thought it through.

      No, I simply don’t see the world through the same Malthusian-dystopian fantasy glasses you do.
      Ignorance of history is no excuse.

  37. Leo Smith, Rud Istvan, etc..
    You each assert in the words of Leo Smith

    You can criticise – and you are right to criticise – the club of Rome on the details. But not on the main thesis, which is that growth itself is unsustainable.

    Rubbish!
    The Club of Rome was plain wrong because its main thesis is plain wrong; potential growth is effectively infinite.
    I have repeatedly explained this – including on WUWT – several times. I again repeat it here.
    The fallacy of overpopulation derives from the disproved Malthusian idea which wrongly assumes that humans are constrained like bacteria in a Petri dish: i.e. population expands until available resources are consumed when population collapses. The assumption is wrong because humans do not suffer such constraint: humans find and/or create new and alternative resources when existing resources become scarce.
    The obvious example is food.
    In the 1970s the Club of Rome predicted that human population would have collapsed from starvation by now. But human population has continued to rise and there are fewer starving people now than in the 1970s; n.b. there are less starving people in total and not merely fewer in in percentage.
    Now, the most common Malthusian assertion is ‘peak oil’. But humans need energy supply and oil is only one source of energy supply. Adoption of natural gas displaces some requirement for oil, fracking increases available oil supply at acceptable cost; etc..
    In the real world, for all practical purposes there are no “physical” limits to natural resources so every natural resource can be considered to be infinite; i.e. the human ‘Petri dish’ can be considered as being unbounded. This a matter of basic economics which I explain as follows.
    Humans do not run out of anything although they can suffer local and/or temporary shortages of anything. The usage of a resource may “peak” then decline, but the usage does not peak because of exhaustion of the resource (e.g. flint, antler bone and bronze each “peaked” long ago but still exist in large amounts).
    A resource is cheap (in time, money and effort) to obtain when it is in abundant supply. But “low-hanging fruit are picked first”, so the cost of obtaining the resource increases with time. Nobody bothers to seek an alternative to a resource when it is cheap.
    But the cost of obtaining an adequate supply of a resource increases with time and, eventually, it becomes worthwhile to look for
    (a) alternative sources of the resource
    and
    (b) alternatives to the resource.
    And alternatives to the resource often prove to have advantages.
    For example, both (a) and (b) apply in the case of crude oil.
    Many alternative sources have been found. These include opening of new oil fields by use of new technologies (e.g. to obtain oil from beneath sea bed) and synthesising crude oil from other substances (e.g. tar sands, natural gas and coal). Indeed, since 1994 it has been possible to provide synthetic crude oil from coal at competitive cost with natural crude oil and this constrains the maximum true cost of crude.
    Alternatives to oil as a transport fuel are possible. Oil was the transport fuel of military submarines for decades but uranium is now their fuel of choice.
    There is sufficient coal to provide synthetic crude oil for at least the next 300 years. Hay to feed horses was the major transport fuel 300 years ago and ‘peak hay’ was feared in the nineteenth century, but availability of hay is not a significant consideration for transportation today. Nobody can know what – if any – demand for crude oil will exist 300 years in the future.
    Indeed, coal also demonstrates an ‘expanding Petri dish’.
    Spoil heaps from old coal mines contain much coal that could not be usefully extracted from the spoil when the mines were operational. Now, modern technology enables the extraction from the spoil at a cost which is economic now and would have been economic if it had been available when the spoil was dumped.
    These principles not only enable growing human population: they also increase human well-being.
    The ingenuity which increases availability of resources also provides additional usefulness to the resources. For example, abundant energy supply and technologies to use it have freed people from the constraints of ‘renewable’ energy and the need for the power of muscles provided by slaves and animals. Malthusians are blind to the obvious truth that human ingenuity has freed humans from the need for slaves to operate treadmills, the oars of galleys, etc..
    And these benefits also act to prevent overpopulation because population growth declines with affluence.
    There are several reasons for this. Of most importance is that poor people need large families as ‘insurance’ to care for them at times of illness and old age. Affluent people can pay for that ‘insurance’ so do not need the costs of large families.
    The result is that the indigenous populations of rich countries decline. But rich countries need to sustain population growth for economic growth so they need to import – and are importing – people from poor countries. Increased affluence in poor countries can be expected to reduce their population growth with resulting lack of people for import by rich countries.
    Hence, the real foreseeable problem is population decrease; n.b. not population increase.
    All projections and predictions indicate that human population will peak around the middle of this century and decline after that. So, we are confronted by the probability of ‘peak population’ resulting from growth of affluence around the world.
    The Malthusian idea is wrong because it ignores basic economics and applies a wrong model; human population is NOT constrained by resources like the population of bacteria in a Petri dish. There is no existing or probable problem of overpopulation of the world by humans.
    Richard

  38. The funny part of this enter conversation is we presently only think of earth as a source of material, hell we have a whole solar system. We know there is methane on Titan, how much deuterium is in Jupiter or Saturn, What are the metals in the asteroid belt? One we get out of the gravity well of earth moving around the solar system is not that expensive energy wise. We are only limited by our imagination, hell who knew that we would have person computers sixty years ago, ditto for cell phones, top that off with plastic jet liners.

  39. Leo Smith says:
    We have already reached some limits to growth, and if you dont recognise that people killing each other in the middle East is part of that, you haven’t thought it through.

    Let’s think it through: Hong Kong has more than fifty times the population density of the Middle East, yet the people there don’t go on bloodthirsty killing sprees, murdering each other 24/7/365 like they do in the Middle East.
    Growth has nothing to do with it. There is ample land and resources available. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I can see that ‘running out of resources’ is not the problem.
    People tend to think either/or. It’s not like that. Resources will become more expensive as they get scarcer. That’s all. They will not disappear, and as the price rises, substitutes will take their place.
    As usual always, the eco-lobby is wrong.

    • Hong Kong is a place where the vast resources of a particular hinterland are collected together.
      Hong Kong is not short of mainland chinese resources.
      The middle east is running out of its resources. China is not.
      QED.

    • Oh, and by the way, do not insult me by putting me in the eco-lobby.
      I am probably further from it than you are.
      All the green crap is based on twisting of stuff that is a little bit true.
      Carbon dioxide probably has an almost undetectable effect n climate, but it would be strange to claim it has none at all.
      We aren’t running out of resources, but we are running out of CHEAP resources, and in the case of energy, there are no available replacements except nuclear power, and the greens hate that.
      Everything is soluble with energy. Nothing is soluble without it,
      Given energy at zero cost, we could keep the lights on in mines and tower blocks and grow food in artificial light. Given energy at zero cost, we could turn nitrogen in the air into fertiliser. Given energy at zero cost, we could desalinate the oceans for unlimited fresh water. Given energy at zero cost we could recycle minerals almost indefinitely.
      The point is that energy at zero cost is what we no longer have, and renewables ain’t zero cost.
      The lowest cost energy right now is coal, then nuclear. Then gas, then oil. And then renewables. So called.
      Guess what the ranking is in the eco-lobbies. Almost the exact reverse.
      ALL of our problems COULD be solved with human ingenuity. Except one. Energy. However human ingenuity is not what is on display here. It is in fact human stupidity, and refusal to face facts. And I am afraid its just as evident in the ‘Cornucopian’ mentality as it is in the Green mentality.
      I note that those who glibly talk about human ingenuity are not themselves ingenueers. This who are, myself included, who have made a career and a livelihood out of being ingenious and constructing stuff that actually works, are derided.
      Human ingenuousness is the problem here.
      ,
      The same total lack of understanding of basic science is evidenced by Greens and those who deride Greens., alike. ‘we are running out of everything’ is stupid as is ‘we ain’t running out of anything’
      We are most definitely running out of many things. Cheap things we used to take for granted. That are no longer cheap.
      And refusal to face facts is what stops us applying ingenuity to solving them.

  40. dbstealey
    You rightly say

    People tend to think either/or. It’s not like that. Resources will become more expensive as they get scarcer. That’s all. They will not disappear, and as the price rises, substitutes will take their place.

    Yes!
    I have a post which explains this and hopefully will be readable when it comes out of mederation.
    Richard

  41. Leo Smith: September 7, 2014 at 11:39 pm
    “Judging by the idiocy of those who think renewable energy is the answer, or that conversely we aren’t running out of anything, the West will be long gone.”
    Wow! so much pessimism on this thread, as evidenced by Leo’s comment and Rud Istvan’s various diatribes.
    It’s not government or other large NGO’s that will solve our ‘problems’. They are, and always have been, irrelevant regarding the break-through innovations we will need for future energy production.
    As history shows us, it is usually individual innovators and entrepreneurs who change the way we do things. Mankind moves forward in step changes, so trying to use linear trends to predict our future is a pointless and futile exercise.

    • You are right its not governments who will solve our problems.. Right now its governments that are standing in the way of the solution.
      Damn right I am pessimistic, when I read rubbish that’s being posted here by individuals. Because governments pander to the idiocies and prejudices of people who write on blogs like these.
      If people believe in stuff that simply ain’t true, then governments will act to get into power by pandering to those illusions, and the people will suffer.
      I’ll veer off topic and explain the reasoning that lies behind the way I think.
      There is, in a Western democracy, a system of social and psychological feedback: What people believe (right or wrong) becomes the basis on which products are marketed, and governments are elected. Profit and political power does not come from challenging peoples beliefs, but from reinforcing their prejudices.
      People who challenge beliefs such as myself, are universally derided and make no profits at all. Fortunately I don’t have to.
      To make the point still further, what we have in operation therefore, is a system of bigotry, prejudice and self deception that is self reinforcing.
      Once an Idea becomes fashionable, its is taken up and used to sell products and political power, and becomes ‘the way it is’ . Social stability is achieved when everyone believes in the same bullshit. E.g. . Christianity as a good example.
      The acid test is however whether the particular suite of bigotry prejudice and bullshit is in fact self sustaining not just within the sphere of societal beliefs, but in the sphere if the real world of physics and energy and so on.
      Let’s take the raison d’etre of this blog site. Climate change. Would we actually give a damn about climate change and renewable energy being thrust down our throats if it wasn’t actually costing us real money and a reduced quality of life to maintain the Green Faith?
      Nope. If 100 windmills did the job of one nuclear power station at the same cost – who cares ? If it makes the greens happy, its not worth worrying about. The problem is that they dont. 100,000 windmills still dont do the job that one nuclear power station does and they are far more expensive.
      So we have a situation on which widely held and cherished beliefs are not just wrong. Wrong doesn’t matter really. Humanity has survived believing in all manner of stuff that was ultimately shown to be wrong or illogical, because it was also irrelevant. It didn’t actually do any harm, and sometimes – religion is a case in point, it probably did some good, in the strict sense of ensuring a societies survival.
      But when its wrong AND relevant, we have a problem.
      Societies that cling to false gods when they should be directing their attention to realities go down, and they go down HARD. Where are the Aztecs and the Mayans now? serving food in Spanish restaurants in Meso America. Or creeping over the border into Texas to cut your grass.
      That’s what is facing us. Servants to the Chinese overlords, who happen to be a bit more ruthless and a bit more pragmatic and haven’t been infected with quite such stupidity?
      You say ‘the greens are always wrong’ As a bit of short handed bigotry and prejudice, its an effective rule of thumb. Mostly Greens are wrong. Mostly.
      However that does not mean they are always wrong, nor does it mean that anyone who takes a different point of view is right.
      Just because limits to growth hasn’t been proved right (yet) doesn’t mean there are no limits to growth, as any oak tree can tell any sapling.
      And in fact every civilisation that has collapsed did so because in some sense it reached a limit to its growth. Either because it failed to find an alternative to the resources it had exhausted (“the deserts of the middle east are the result of 10,000 years of organic farming”) or because another civilisation came along with something that trumped it (“Your god versus my rifles: No contest”).
      The longest lived civilisations are the most static. And the most authoritarian. China is the example. NO innovations please, we are Chinese. Until innovation was forced upon them.
      However I digress. The point is this. My enemy’s enemy is not always my friend, the world runs on stripped down ideas that are simple to grasp and inevitably too simplified to be right, but that doesn’t matter until and unless society faces an existential crisis.
      The question is, is Western society facing an existential crisis? My belief is that it is. If you think otherwise, good luck with that.
      The greens are vaguely aware that we are in a crisis – its the one thing they actually have got right, but have simply allowed themselves to be subverted into a global marketing and politics exercise which itself does not recognise that there is an existential crisis, and doesn’t actually care if there is, so long as they come out on top.
      However they got the WRONG crisis. And in any case are now bought body and soul by Big Marketing.
      The real crisis is exponential growth meets hard limits. And the financial near-collapse, and the debt crisis and al lot of nasty little wars are all symptoms of that. As is a generally falling standard of living in the West, and all the vicious infighting within it, and the general distrust of politics, corporations and authority in general.
      And the hardest limit we are reaching is energy cost. But fortunately its is the easiest one to solve. Technically. But politically we have a situation where at least 50% of the population dont realise that they need it far far more than they don’t want it. Nuclear power is the only game in town and we need it desperately. But we wont get it until and unless people realise they have no alternative.
      What will happen if we are to survive, is that we will learn that there is no such thing as sustainable growth, and that we came very very close to having unsustainable collapse, and that we cannot construct a society on the belief and the assumption that we will always have more next year than we had last year, At least not in gross material terms. And consumerism will die, because that is a symptom of exponential growth. At some point we will realise that actually you only need 3 or4 pairs of shoes. And you dont need a new hairdo every week. Or a new TV every 3 years.
      But you do need new energy every day, just to stay where you are.
      Almost everything (material) that we are short of or, is expensive can be solved technologically if we are not short of energy. ALMOST everything. We cannot manufacture elements (Yet) , but we can arrange the ones we have into any chemical compounds we like and construct anything we know how to.
      So in theory we can sustain a much larger population than we have now. But is that really all we want to do? Is a world living in a single super global city run on nuclear power with hydroponic farms and no ‘natural spaces’ actually a world we want to live in?
      I say that personally it isn’t, and that a world managed down to about 10% of its current human populations over a few generations is actually a better world to live in. I consider that urbanisation and its weird morality has made a very dangerous society, one in which we are so geared to meeting the artificial challenges of an artificial life, that if a real world event – like say an asteroid impact – comes along, we would be utterly unable to deal with it.
      The Kalahari bushman will survive without electricity. The urban Londoner would die.
      Which is why I say that we should manage down to less people, and be more aware of the non-human world.
      So no techno-cities for me.
      What we need is a lot of nuclear power, and a way to run everything we need off it, and less people and a better life and a lower population density life for those that remain. And stay close to nature, as well as being technically more sophisticated.
      There is no reason really to have cities and towns. With decent transport and communications, and a moving away from heavy industry, they have no economic value.
      Decentralised suburbs, or rural life beckons. The only reason to keep towns is simply to house a lot of people cheaply, and that takes massive amounts of energy. If energy prices rise much more, towns will die. They are already. Detroit.
      In the end you have to ask yourself ‘Can we go on as we are?’ and i think that if that question was put to the people of the West the answer would be for a hundred different reasons, ‘No’. Therefore we need a new future. The question is of course what should it be and how do we get to it?
      WE can reject the ‘Green’ vision as hopelessly impractical and in fact dangerously inhumane and stupid.
      But that doesn’t mean that any given other is the right one either.
      What I am peddling, because its seems to me to be as good as is practically achievable, is a post modern post industrial lower population nicer lifestyle run on nuclear power, in which things that we take for grantd now are more expensive, but still just about affordable, and we can afford to educate people properly, because there are less of them, and machines are doing the basic work.
      The Green vision is a neo feudalist society of slave labour and grinding poverty, In which probably some group like radical Islam will introduce a nasty repressive morality on us all and we will simply be the slaves of some warlord.
      Those who think there is no crisis at all, are in the end leading us to the same situation, just even nastier, as the position of a society that cannot feed itself or dispose of its waste, because suddenly there ain’t any power, is no different from the green one. Two weeks without ANY electricity or hydrocarbon fuel would see about half the population of the average modern city dead.
      Adapt or die. We need a new morality, a new set of prejudices and bigotry to survive the 21st century. So far all we have really established is that the Green vision is fatally flawed.
      We have yet to come up with an alternative beyond ‘business as usual’ though. And that isn’t working, either.
      And we better had come up with something, before the old bigotries and prejudices re-emerge and push us back to a new Dark Age. If you have a religion designed to adjust to driving camels across a desert, well what is more natural than to make the rest of the world a desert, and drive camels across it?

      • Leo Smith
        You write
        Just because limits to growth hasn’t been proved right (yet) doesn’t mean there are no limits to growth, as any oak tree can tell any sapling.
        Please don’t be silly. The idea of limits to to growth has been proven wrong repeatedly; e.g. every prediction of the Club of Rome failed to occur.
        I explained the reasons why in practical terms there are no resource constraints on growth in my above post here.
        Your long diatribe is a set of whining excuses for why predicted catastrophe has failed to happen. Similar whining is always provided when people are asked why they were wrong in their predictions of ‘The End Of The World’.
        Richard

      • I don’t know why the formatting went wrong. This is another try. Richard
        Leo Smith
        You write

        Just because limits to growth hasn’t been proved right (yet) doesn’t mean there are no limits to growth, as any oak tree can tell any sapling.

        Please don’t be silly. The idea of limits to to growth has been proven wrong repeatedly; e.g. every prediction of the Club of Rome failed to occur.
        I explained the reasons why in practical terms there are no resource constraints on growth in my above post here.
        Your long diatribe is a set of whining excuses for why predicted catastrophe has failed to happen. Similar whining is always provided when people are asked why they were wrong in their predictions of ‘The End Of The World’.
        Richard

      • “…a world managed down to about 10% of its current human populations…” Leo Smith
        Lots of arguable points and positions. That aside, if “managed down” is the way of the future, it seems there is a humane method available now: “RISUG” = reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance. A nontoxic viscous sperm-incapacitating polymer injected directly into the vas deferens where it coats the inner walls of the vas and incapacitates all sperm (100% effective) that pass though. Of course as always, beware the law of unintended consequences. Bound to be a can of worms.

  42. This was a silly, simplistic “article”, trying to paint resource economics/geology as a binary issue, (either we are all dead or then we are living in forever-lasting utopia with flying saucers and gold-plated toilet seats for 7 billion people around the corner). Even the Guardian article was more balanced.

  43. What is known is that know it alls, in the past [going back in history as long as history goes] have been predicting human will run out of resources.
    And though stupid history books will attempt to make the case that humans some place in the world have actually depleted resources, there has never been a time or place ever, that humans have run out of resources- and that includes Easter island and it include central America during the Maya civilization.
    Yes a gold mine can be mined out, yes coal mine can to be mine out. Forest can logged [clear cut] but this not the same as depleted all available resources. More mines are found, and the forest grows back.
    If want to think of the world as NATURE vs Man, nature has depleted hundreds of millions of years, far more “resources” than humans have. Right now the natural fires which burning coal the deposit, and this has been going on for hundreds of million of years. Or humans are burning more coal than nature does in humans brief existance as species, but you consider nature has been doing for hundred of times longer than modern humans have exist- nature wins in terms of burning coal, or wiping wiping out forests with fire, or with plate tectonic putting gold deep below the surface [making it not easily accessible- minable]. Or if it wasn’t used, evenually given enough time all resources, will be used up- by natural processes.
    So with human consumption of any resource, it may be at faster rate, but this faster rate only becomes vaguely significant if imagining timescale on order of centuries [or thousands of years]
    and in regard to predict what human will be doing and needing centuries or thousand of years in the future, is sheer madness.
    Or what happens in next 50 years is far more irreverent than what is going to happen in century.
    Or it is possible we could be travels to nearby stars within the next century. Or it’s it be rather odd, if we aren’t traveling to nearby stars within a 1000 years.
    Currently it makes no economic sense to go to different star system, but 500 year ago, it made no economic sense to fly in the air. Things could change that would make it have economic sense to go to different star system within 100 years or within 1000 years. It’s simply not knowable at this point is time.
    What is closer to realm of knowable or what could plausibly make economic sense is mining the Moon [or asteroids or settlements on Mars [mining and farming]. What is known is we must first explore the Moon, before one can possibly mine it. And related to star travel, we would also first explore star system with large telescopes and only within last few decades which by using telescopes we have found planets circling stars. Or we have barely begun exploring star systems with telescopes- and what find with telescopes over next few decades is not really particularly predictable.
    Now in terms of earth resources, there far more resources available within our solar system.
    One could reasonably predict that within 50 year after starting mining the moon, that this inevitably leads to harvest solar energy from the space environment on massive scale. Or satellites need have electrical power, and so currently we already harvesting solar power in space at in very minor degree. And basically with solar energy being available in space 24 hr a day in space- harvesting electrical power is utterly different in space as compared to on the earth surface.
    So electrical power [or any other type power generation] is needed for any kind of economy anywhere on Earth, and once one has generation occurring in space all kind things can be done- one have economic growth, manufacturing, and whatever. So put a hydro dam in some “third world country, and this allow more economic activity [economic growth]. And same applies with the space environment- have a MW power plant in space and one can do more things in space.
    So it starts by making what is needed immediately in space- which is rocket fuel. So mine moon for water and make rocket fuel from the water. But first need to find where are best locations to mine lunar water [need lunar exploration].
    So this we could do within a decade, and decade after this one will access to all kinds of resources in space- more gold than has ever been mined on Earth, more water than the oceans of Earth, more precious metals of all kinds, planets covered by of methane, and etc.
    All this can’t be done by some government program [it’s like thinking that socialism is workable idea] but government problem can start it by exploring the space environment to find resource which needed to open the space frontier.
    And we need to end this childish belief that space is some sort of sacred zone which should be devoid of “lowly commerce”, rather we should wish to fill the solar system with settlements and their commerce.

    • All well and good, but what energy are you going to tap to do all this?
      Who will bell the cat?*
      * “Long ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. “You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood.”
      This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: “That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?” The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:
      “It is easy to propose impossible remedies.”
      Other versions of this story have the old wise mouse saying:
      “It is one thing to propose, quite another to carry a proposal out”
      Neville Shute Norway, engineer and novelist, defined an engineer once as:
      “An engineer is a man who can make something for five bob that any bloody fool can make for a quid…”
      To which we might add:
      “..and environmental ideologists can make for £500 and it still bloody well won’t work.”
      But, being nice, we won’t.

      • –All well and good, but what energy are you going to tap to do all this?
        Who will bell the cat?*–
        Human owners of cats do bell cats- so they don’t kill birds.
        The mice simply need sent the human owner a flyer that explains the harms cats can do to song birds, and how putting bell on cat solves the problem.
        People of this world have spent over trillion dollars over the concern the Earth might warm up too much. And there plans of spending trillions more fighting this non-existence problem.
        If one includes nuclear power as a solution, then it won’t cost trillions of dollars- if governments are stupid, then it’s quite possible for nuclear power to lower costs. As in France gets a lot of electrical from nuclear energy, and France is a exporter of electrical power to rest of Europe [and French aren’t particularly brilliant- but one could have option of simply copying how the French did it].
        Another option is if one want to lower Earth’s temperature, one has the option of building a solar shade in space. And this could cost less than a trillion dollars- maybe as low as 100 billion dollars.
        So one could deploy such a space shade within a decade. So it’s a quick and cheap solution to the problem of Earth getting significantly warmer. So rather than spend a trillion dollar today, one could keep the solar shade as solution for the future. So that makes a solar shade solution cost nothing today and only cost something [and not very much compared to other things which cost trillions of dollars and don’t even reduce CO2 level by any significant amount] in a future when people may decide it’s needed [though I would say that is unlikely].

  44. The short answer to the question is NEVER as long as we have enough energy.
    Almost everything can be created, or suitable subsitute found or created, it is just a matter of how much energy is used in the creation process.
    What a technologically advanced society needs to master is producing copious amounts of energy at as low a cost as possible.

    • “What a technologically advanced society needs to master is producing copious amounts of energy at as low a cost as possible.”
      See above, for description of the ‘cat belling’ syndrome.
      Along with ” all we need to make renewable energy work is infinite energy storage at zero cost in zero volume and totally safe”
      When I point out that (replacing ‘infinite’ and ‘zero’ by very large and very small numbers) they are in fact describing a uranium nucleus, and furthermore they are in plentiful supply and ALREADY CHARGED UP they go rather quiet, or angry.

      • Leo Smith
        You admit that nuclear power is one solution to the need for growing energy supply.
        Another solution is coal. It can be converted to other fuels (both gas and liquid) and is sufficient in amount for it to power society for at least the next 300 years. Our ‘children and grandchildren’ will then be dead so their ‘children and grandchildren’ can worry about a possible end to coal if they want to.
        Personally, I suspect that our great-grandchildren’s children will be using energy sources that we cannot imagine.
        Richard

      • I agree with richardscourtney about coal, although I would suggest that his figure of at least 300 years is very conservative.
        I have.often suggested that we should return to exploiting coal (without carbon capture but with flue gas scrubbers and cleaning), and also to use it to produce oil and gas.
        The cost efficiency for conversion to oil, some years back, was about $100 per bbl, and this of course helps put a cap on the per bbl price of oil traded on the open market. Obviously there would need to be some plant investment, but if oil were to rise to $130 per bbl for a sustained period (as oposed to some short lived geo-political risk), I am sure that one would see a return to the technologies that South Africa exploited for so long.
        For those who are concerned about CO2 (and I have open mind on this but I have seen no evidence that suggests that CO2 is a problem), use coal and plant some forests (slow growing and long living variety of trees) on what is presently scrub land. By doing this a new carbon sink would be created, which is nature’s well proven form of carbon capture.

        • I should have thought that in-situ gasification of coal would have been the next big leap forward in energy generation from coal. Safer, cleaner, low to no impact on the environment all that needs to be done is to improve the technology and so drive down costs.

  45. Regarding Leo Smith says
    September 7, 2014 at 11:55 pm
    “You can criticise – and you are right to criticise – the club of Rome on the details. But not on the main thesis, which is that growth itself is unsustainable.
    Everything that grows in the Universe, does so by tapping into an entropy flow, and eventually that flow ceases, and it dies. Or it itself becomes a victim of its own growth.
    To date, we dont see any way to avoid that inescapable conclusion. Yes, some new quantum level effects may give us access to infinite energy and zero entropy, but until it does we had best stick with the physics we have got, take note, and adjust out thinking accordingly.’
    Reply
    David A
    September 8, 2014 at 6:55 am
    Your universal entropy timeline is meaningless, as it applies to time scales 100 percent irrelevant to civilization. Here are two posts from E.M. Smith, filled with both facts, and logical deductive reason on why we do not need to worry, if we are willing. Energy and resources are abundant and cheep for all meaningful time scales pertinent to social policy. The energy and resource shortage is mostly a political problem as science has done remarkable work in practical application to practically limitless resources.
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/
    Now be certain to read the comments as well, because your objections are well dealt with.

  46. What Priority: Climate or Energy?
    Egypt – the convergence of oil decline, political and socio-economic crisis

    Egyptian crude oil production peaked in 1995/96 and declined ever since while at the same time oil consumption increased steadily at around 3 % pa. These conflicting trends have now led to Egypt being a net oil importer with all the socio-economic consequences that entails. Higher oil prices since 2004 have increased 3-fold the cost of subsidies (mainly for petroleum and food) as a percentage of GDP, from 3% to 9%, putting pressure on the nation’s budget. No matter who forms the next government in Egypt, these problems will continue and unrealistic expectations for change could be disappointed.

    Egypt’s Blackout

    The long-awaited failure of Egypt’s electricity grid took place on Thursday when half the country’s power was shut and its economy ground to a halt. Although the immediate problem was fixed after six hours, the rolling blackouts brought on by fuel shortages continue. Egypt’s power problems stem from many years of inattention to an aging grid, insufficient oil and gas to fire the nations power plants, and, recently, reports that sub-standard fuel is leading to breakdowns in power plants. . . .

    Oil Companies failing

    Last July the EIA quietly revealed that 127 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies are running out of cash. They are now spending more than they are earning. Profits have lagged as expenditures have risen. (9/1)

    Peak Oil Review 8 Sept. 2014 ASPO-USA
    Will consumers be concerned over 0.7 C/century?
    Or being able to drive work?
    Or having work?
    US has imported $10 trillion since it’s production peaked in 1970.
    Debt & rising interest are being piled on our children.
    For how long before the US similarly collapses?
    Or develops replacement fuels?

  47. Where are the resources going? What is getting jettisoned off the planet?
    If it is all still here, then how can it have been used up?
    I don’t believe the materialistic dooms-dayers. The argument is that we are about to use everything up so quickly that civilization will crash. However, logically, it makes sense that we would run out of one thing first, or that there must be that one thing that would be most dear to lose.
    The arguments here seem to say the thing we must be most concerned about is energy. If so, I am not really scared. There are plenty of alternatives.
    Elsewhere, water has been noted as the limiting factor.
    Wow. If water is at such a premium, why can I let it fly full-force willy-nilly all over my yard? And barely notice the impact on my water bill that is in the range of what it costs a dinner for two at a chain restaurant?
    And what is all of that wet stuff over there? That ocean thingie?
    The Club of Rome / intellectual-elitist scare is just a ploy to get power over us. If there is a serious limit we are about to hit, then make the case. It obviously is not energy, space, land, water, copper, or lithium.

  48. Leo Smith: “We have already reached some limits to growth, and if you dont recognise that people killing each other in the middle East is part of that, you haven’t thought it through.”
    There just is not much to say about something this clueless.
    While the middle east political conflicts are complicated, and have been for a long time, it is bothersome to know that Bill Ayers and other communist agitators are taking full advantage of the opportunity to agitate.

    • Maybe you simply haven’t worked out that people whose expectations exceed what society can deliver, and who have no work left to do, are precisely the ones who join organisations like ISIS or Greenpeace…
      The devil they say, finds work for idle hands.
      There is a massive upheaval going on: youth unemployment is almost the norm in many parts of the world. Meanwhile they are bombarded with marketing for this or that product they simply cannot afford (unless they steal it) ..and that generalised discontent is being tapped into by cynical people who simply see it as a way to get rich, gain power and have a moire exciting life.
      When you are getting richer every day, and your life is full of novelty, you dont start revolutions.
      When you are young, buzzing with testosterone, not very rich, and no prospect of getting richer (unless you go into politics) the temptation to go for a walk on part in a war, rather than not even a lead role in a cage, is overwhelming.
      JIhad is a great adventure. In a socialist society that has eliminated every single risk and thrill as far to dangerous for mere citizens, that it can find a way to legislate against.
      When you look at the root causes of high unemployment and of the stiflingly rule bound existence,and indeed of the massive amount spent on marketing ‘shiny new thing, make everything better’ you see it is simply the end game of consumerism and exponential growth.
      High unemployment because machines and capital are cheaper than labour. Lots of capital invested in consumer goods because selling to dimly educated idiots is a lot easier than selling to peole who gave real product specifications. You just tell lies and use emotional cues – marketing. Rising populations means rising markets, and rising population means more social tension which means more rules. If your own people wont breed, import someone else’s. Capital Debt can only be serviced by a rising GDP.
      Result. Even more social tension.
      So more rules, more marketing to part people from money they actually haven’t got, so lend it to them with sub prime debt and credit cards, crash, get bailed out by governments, and go back to more shiny new thing.
      Wind turbines are consumer products. They dont have to work. They just have to make people feel good.
      A self reinforcing spiral of consumerism, consumer debt, government debt, and so on. All fuelled by exponential growth.
      Guess what. We haven’t HAD in the west, any economic growth for over a decade. LSE and the NYSE have not exceeded levels from 15 years ago.You cant make money out of people whose bank accounts you have raided, who are already so deep in debt that you dare not lend them any money any more.
      And the one thing we need to keep this ball rolling, is free energy*. Low entropy. The one thing you cannot recycle, With cheap free energy we can build and transform, replace one technology with another..if copper is scarce and expensive to mine, use aluminium or plastic instead, depending on whether its wires or plumbing… but they take ENERGY to manufacture as well. If the energy cost of smelting and refining aluminium exceeds the cost of copper mining and smelting, well copper will be used until it IS too expensive.
      Therefore the real issue today behind all that societal and economic upheaval, is in the end, the rising cost of energy, in energy and in human terms.
      And that is caused by governments who have taken the stance of ensuring energy scarcity by allying themselves with green causes, and oil interests in order to get the maximum profit out of diminishing cheap oil and gas reserves. Failing to see the damage that this selfishness causes.
      And THAT is why coal and nuclear power are dirty words. If coal is allowed to be burnt, gas prices would halve and half the gas businesses would go under. In nuclear replaced either at baseload generation, you can kiss some big industries goodbye.
      Green is no longer about the planet and its certainly not about the people. Its now entirely the marketing arm of big oil, big gas, and big government. Big oil is behind Jihad. Guess which oil nation started the Wahabbi movement, is profoundly and deeply Sunni, and controls the oil markets?
      Yes, the limits are artificial, and based in government and big corporate thinking. That doesn’t make them any the less real.
      You might say that as human beings we have reached in terms of our social structures and organisations, the limits to growth. It doesn’t really matter, continued expansion will always reach a limit, because the universe is a finite place.
      The Left are contriving to create a new species. Homo communensis. Anthill man, where the queen ant (Julia Gillard?) sends out all the little green (sexless) workers to do her bidding and metrosexual man gets one chance to boff her, and then becomes a useless male drone (Obarmy?)
      Might is Right doesn’t care one way or the other. The corporate alpha males run that pack, and if the world goes down in flames they firmly expect to be in charge at a better lifestyle than ever in a world free of surplus humanity. Let’s face it. machines are more reliable. Take the money off the poor and let them starve.
      End games. No one who is anyone actually cares about anything except themselves and their clique. Political systems of the left that dont take onto account human nature as it is, because they are busy trying to change it, fail. Political systems of the right that fail to take into account the force of the masses and of nature, fail because they think they can control it.
      Meanwhile they have both betrayed everybody.
      Maybe what we are really running out of, is common sense. Trust. Decency. Honour. The values that allow us to lend and borrow and vest power in individuals to act on our behalf, in our best interests. Not their own. The ability to make value judgements based on reality, not on marketing.
      Maybe the situation is that democracy is dead. Because no one needs the people when they have machines, and therefore no one actually gives a damn whether they live or die horribly. Or on the left, they can tell themselves that people themselves are evil planet destroying monsters and need to die. if they wont conform to the new austerity. Or the new religion.
      Except that one thing the Right and the Left share, apart from their utter contempt of ordinary little people, is a complete lack of understanding of the technological nature of the society they seek to control. They dont understand energy, and they dont understand machines – they just expect them to work and be there.
      The people with real power, that they don’t even realise, are the hackers and the geeks, Not only did the bible warn us that a great profit would arise in the land, but that ultimately that the geek would inherit the earth. There you are. Its in the bible. Only a bit less mistranslated than usual.
      That means in our post democratic society, the people with ultimate power are the people who keep the lights on and the water in the taps and the sewage treatment plants going. And above all, the electricity in the wires and the gas in the pipes. And of course these days, the internet running.
      Because that affects even the rich and powerful.
      It was not social conscience that built the great sewers and pumping stations of London, it was the cholera and the stink that even the rich could not escape.
      If you cant see that economics and technology and access to energy are what drives politics and social structures, the of course this is all meaningless nonsense.
      But what affected humanity more? a Greek philosopher, a Roman emperor or the wheel?
      CHEAP Oil energy built the 20th century, oil gave us exponential growth where iron steel and coal faltered.
      CHEAP oil is gone. Sure there is lots left, but none of it is cheap.
      Cheap uranium and thorium should be building the 21st century. But no one actually really wants to build the 21st century.
      The Left are broadly Luddite, and would prefer to go back a thousand years, along with the Jihadists. The right don’t see the point in a society that can manage current population levels, because they are already fed up with and despise, the people.
      As long as they hold all the capital, own all the banks governments and big businesses, as well as the Left, they consider they are safe.
      “Everything is fine, everything is OK, just pay some more taxes and we will see you right”.
      Yeah, right.
      Its not OK, Its disintegrating before our eyes. Debt is completely out of control. People are bored angry and resentful. Iraq, Libya, Gaza, Syria, Ukraine…it doesn’t matter where you look on the edges of Europe, people are in power plays, looking to grab land resources and commit effective genocide, or ethnic cleansing on their fellow men. THEY are not seeing exponential growth. THEY have woken up to the fact that its a zero sum game, now, and to the victor go the spoils, such as they are.
      I was out political canvassing at the weekend. Forget climate change. No one mentioned it.What concerns them is the destruction of a society and their way of life by forces that are beyond their wit to affect, the forces of big business and politics cosying up to one another to screw them one twice and again. All they know is that they are being taxed taxed and taxed, their savings are being raided, everything is expensive, and people who dont talk their language and who dont respect their laws are moving in to their towns. While their politicians treat them with the same contempt that the media and Big Marketing does.
      Maybe what we are really running out of, is patience.
      *Not cost free, free in the thermodynamic sense. I.e low entropy.

  49. Tom J: “One thing I’m curious about, however, is the rampant theft of copper occurring in California. It’s gotten so bad that some people have actually been killed in the process of trying to steal copper wire from electrically live sources. Could that represent an increasing value to a resource that may be experiencing a shortage of supply to demand?”
    No, Tom – it is just an easy way for drug addicts to make some easy money. They would prefer to steal and pawn your power tools and home electronics – does this mean our society is about to collapse because we are running out of appliances?

  50. There are a few resources so special that finding replacements is difficult if not impossible. I get into arguments with people about helium, which is an example of a very special substance for which there appears no replacement, and which is expensive to obtain recycled from the atmosphere. However, there are substitutes for almost everything, and as someone has already pointed out, one can recycle what one needs with sufficient energy.
    I have also learned over time that people often cause their own problems, but they also refuse to admit that they do so. Almost all instances of resource shortages turn out to be, on close inspection, self-inflicted and easy to solve. Price controls, import-export controls, and the like, lead to shortages without exception. But, of course, people more often point to the free-market as the source of their problems, rather than as the solution to problems, because it makes allocations that they deem “unfair”. Fairness seems like a religious idea to me.

    • +3. Full agreement on every point.
      Helium. Entire economic texts can be written on the subject and folly of regulation. Whenever I see a latex balloon filled with the stuff… Easter Island comes to mind as they cut down the trees.
      Helium has superconducting properties that even liquid hydrogen cannot match at much greater danger.
      But now Congress has decided to let the free market play a greater part [although still painfully slowly], we will likely see more helium extracted out of natural gas from fracked high gamma-ray shales.
      Helium weighs 10.54 lbs per 1000 cu ft and will cost somewhere between $75 and $150 per 1000 cu feet when the government stops selling at fixed sub-market prices. So He might be worth $15/pound or a buck and a quarter a troy oz. We go to a lot of effort to get gold and platinum at $1000 / troy oz. I think we can get all the helium we want if we raise the price enough. But that doesn’t mean we should waste what we have in the gas-bank.

  51. @Leo Smith at 11:48 pm
    But EROI is exactly a measure of the cost of energy …and its sustainability.
    No. It is neither.
    EROI is typically defined as [Energy_Out]/[Energy_In] Joules over Joules, BTU over BTU.
    Nothing about that formula addresses sustainability.
    Nor is the Dollar Cost of the [Energy_In] at issue. The units are of Energy, such as Joules.
    It is NOT $ over $. If that is what you desire, then try simple ROR, IROR, DCFROR,
    or PVI [=NPV(Net Cashflow) / NPV(Investment)]. Then you can address whether making $5 bills out of $10 bills makes sense or whether making $5 bills out of $1 bills makes sense.
    The [Energy_In] could be solar, it could be coal, it could be 40 gravity oil, it could be 100 octane Aviation Gasoline. Each with wildly different $/Joule because each source of energy has advantages and limitations. Sustainability is not addressed by the concept
    Any Tree takes in more Energy than it give back as useful energy. It’s EROI is well under 1.0. Does that mean we should burn down the forests? It does not. Trees take free (as in at no-cost) Joules in Solar Energy and create many useful things that are valued as stored energy (carbon compounds).

  52. What an interestingly short sighted piece. Look up! within our local solar system, space we have already sent our exploration vessels through, there are resources in massive quantities. China will apparently lead the way when it comes to space mining operations because apparently everyone else is too stupid to figure it out. To this point the only resources we have used on this planet that are not renewable by the natural processes of this world are the ones we have shot into space. The anti evolution crowd is on it’s soap box again but they keep forgetting that the key to expansion is MASS and then push. We are ready for the next step, a step that is needed for our continued existence lest a single big rock bash us out of existance.. however once we take it the puppet masters will lose their illusion of control and so they hold us back. They tell us how terrible everything will be and I believe, secretly wish for the good old days of stone knives and bear claws, as long of course as it is not them that have to live that way.

    • Course there are but it takes ENERGY to exploit them.
      And we dont hav eCHEAP ENERGY. We could, but we dont.

      • “Course there are but it takes ENERGY to exploit them.”
        The space environment has energy.
        Just look at our Moon vs Earth in terms of solar energy. And on average on the the Moon has 1/2 the solar energy as GEO [or L-points].
        With moon whenever sun is above the horizon [and mountains or regions in polar area can have more sun above the horizon then “average”] one can get about 1360 watts per square meter.
        Earth on clear day and in summer and when sun is near zenith, one can get just over 1000 watts per square meter. Or on earth in the morning and late afternoon there is much less than 1000 watts per square meter.
        This generally also mean anywhere on earth above 45 degree latitude is a poor location [almost regardless of how many cloudless day one gets [but cloudiness really degrades it further- or Germany is one of the worst locations to harvest solar energy because it cloudy and quite cloudy during summer. Around Seattle, Washington also very poor location. UK not quite as bad.
        The Sahara desert is pretty good location [other than occasional sandstorm], southwest US is pretty good, area in Australia are good good, and etc. Or desert like conditions are generally good. Though obviously a problem that not huge amount people live in deserts.
        But anyhow even best location on Earth are worst than the Moon.
        Anywhere on Earth or the Moon half the time is daylight, if in temperate zone, in summer one gets more daylight and less daylight in winter. And generally one earth of the average 12 hour day, one can can only about 6 hours of useful solar power. On the moon one get the full 12 hours of 24 period. So with moon one gets twice as time of useful sunlight and one get 360 more watts [and no clouds]. So 24 hrs at 1360 watts is 32.6 kW hour. And average place anywhere on the Moon get 1/2 of this 32.6 kW hour per day. So 16.3 Kw hours average per year. Germany gets about 2 kW hours per 24 day per year. And better locations on earth can get about 8 kW hours per average day.
        If you certain location of the Moon in polar region, places called Peaks of Eternal Lights, instead of 1/2 the time getting sunlight, one get 80% or more of the time in sunlight.
        So generally the problem with solar energy on Earth is one gets 6 hours of 24 hours on average from solar energy, and humans needs more the 6 hours of energy supply per day. Now if Human could pick and choose the 6 hours they get, this better than 6 hours average based upon the daylight [or whether if happens to be cloudy]. Or solar energy on earth would be far more valuable if one could get 12 hours instead of 6. The other part is one need more energy in winter than in summer.
        Another aspect of the Moon [and applies elsewhere in space] is it’s a good location to use nuclear energy. On the moon one live 4 blocks away from nuclear power plant that has none of the safety precautions used on Earth. Or nuclear power plant could have complete meltdown it not threat to person living 4 blocks away. It’s bad news for the power plant, but there is no atmosphere to containment nor any ground water, and to live on the Moon one has to sheilded from huge fusion reactor in the sky [the sun] and from GCR [the universe with it’s exploding supernovas]. Likewise one live 4 blocks from huge depository of nuclear waste. The Moon would be good location to put all of Earth nuclear waste- it’s close to being economical to ship it to the Moon, and if the cost to launch from earth was lowered by half- and we are lowering these costs- then it could make economic sense. So storing nuclear waste on the moon is obviously safe for people living on Earth [nowhere on Earth could possibly be safer] and it’s safe to anyone living on the moon.
        Now the point with Moon, is one would mine stuff on the Moon so one is not shipping everything from Earth. Iron is easily mined on the Moon for example. But most critical resource on the moon in the near term is water. And there is billions of tonnes of water on the Moon in polar region.
        But the location of minable water is not known to enough precision. Or there is billions of tons of water, but in terms of near terms what needed is location of first million tonnes of minable water. And in first decade of mining lunar water, one will only need somewhere around 100 to 1000 tonnes of water per year. So best location in which one could mine up to say 100,000 tonnes of water is something we would need to discover.
        Or if the lunar material has 10% of it’s volume which is recoverable water [moderately damp dirt on Earth has about 10%] and mine meter depth of 1 square km- that’s 100,000 tonnes of water.
        Or to start one is doing fairly scale mining- mining less than the surface of football field in a year’s time. After enough time, demand for amount water needed per year could increase, so the thousands of tonnes per year would mined. Or for entire Apollo program, one could used about 100 tons of lunar water.

  53. Rud Istvan,
    I have enjoyed your more than a dozen lead articles posted in the last several years on Judith Curry’s blog and enjoyed your several lead post articles posted here at WUWT in the last several years.
    I found that your comment stream here on this thread has expanded the discussion to an analysis of the possibility of ‘resource pinches’ versus the erroneous systemic doom and gloom of Mathusim / Erhich / Club of Rome. In your comment on this thread @ September 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm you said,

    {bold emphasis mine – JW}
    “Gaia’s Limits does not necessarily foresee catastrophe like all the previous neoMalthusian sensations.. There are a few fairly straightforward ‘easy’ policy changes that offer a global soft landing on a long glide path– if we would just get started. But those are not part of the main CAGW agenda like the US ‘war on coal’ or the EU prohibition of high wattage hair dryers and vacuum cleaners.”

    I can understand that our intellectuals (I include scientists as a small portion of valuable relevant intellectuals) can be in diverse areas (academia, government orgs, commercial industry, private research groups, in general cultural orgs and can be independent freelancers) will naturally be in a very competitive free market of ideas to literally provide all views and multiple solutions to any imaginable problem. But only if they are not interfered with by government intervention in both the economy and in restrictive processes determining what case studies, overviews and research will be done. That aspect was expressed by Ludwig von Mises,

    “The characteristic feature of a free society is that it can function in spite of the fact that its members disagree in many judgments of value.” Ludwig von Mises
    “The actual world is a world of permanent change. Population figures, tastes, and wants, the supply of factors of production and technological methods are in a ceaseless flux. In such a state of affairs there is need for a continuous adjustment of production to the change in conditions.” Ludwig von Mises
    “The creative spirit innovates necessarily. It must press forward. It must destroy the old and set the new in its place…. Progress cannot be organized.” Ludwig von Mises
    “If one rejects laissez faire [capitalism] on account of man’s fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.” Ludwig van Mises

    So, other than awareness, nothing in the realm of policy change is needed in a free society if ‘pinches’ in resources are seen by the free marketplace of ideas.
    NOTE: I would be willing to review a draft of your upcoming book. If you want to contact me just click on my name in the comment header and it will take you to my blog. At my blog you can use the ‘Contact Me’ tool in the side column to send me an email.
    PS – I effortlessly followed the references that you gave in your comment Rud Istvan on September 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm
    John

  54. As long as you have plentiful energy you can make / extract / concentrate any of the material goods.
    We have a near infinite supply of energy (for all practical purposes) at costs only slightly above present:
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/
    Japan created the technology of sea water U extraction. It’s about $30 / lb more than land based mining. By definition, not a ‘reserve’ at present, but a very recoverable and a very cheap ‘resource’ when prices rise just a tiny bit (or tech improves just a bit).
    The Club Of Rome and the Limits To Growth crowd are all daft Chicken Littles who can’t engineer their way to an assembled kit from Ikea…

    • Of course there is tons of energy in fissile and fertile materials., but no one is exploiting them
      For reasons of OTHER limits than the strictly material.
      There is a theory that comes originally from agriculture, whose correct name escapes me, that says ‘growth and productivity is limited by the one necessary thing that is in scarcity’
      Fertile soils that lack water…wetlands that lack minerals …a post industrial society that is now scared of technology…
      It doesn’t matter how abundant everything else is, it only takes one vital ingredient to be missing and the cake wont bake.

      • Leo Smith
        You say

        It doesn’t matter how abundant everything else is, it only takes one vital ingredient to be missing and the cake wont bake.

        No problem. Humans provide the missing ingredient.
        For example, here in the West Country in past centuries each coastal village had a lime kiln that ‘burned’ sand from the beaches. The sand includes fragments of sea shells that transformed to lime in the kilns, and the ‘burned’ sand was added to local agricultural land which otherwise produced little.
        Richard

      • Leo, is that an insincere comment to EM. Smith’s posts I linked, or just the one he linked. In either case the posts directly addresses the “other” reasons beside strictly material, and addresses many ways that if human will is engaged, those reasons can be overcome now.
        I am glad you admit that neither energy or materials are the problem. Indeed, economics, which Mr. Smith is formally trained in, and politics, even more then economics, are the primary problem. (I.E. Polotics is what makes the economics to steep.) We currently have the technological capacity to achieve relatively clean safe abundant energy at costs below what is current market rates, and this capacity exists for centuries to come.
        Please read the other two links I gave you.

      • @Leo:
        To quote a wise man: “You can’t fix stupid”. But some society will not be so stupid, so market Darwinism will assure they win… and human society moves on from the paranoia. That there is no shortage assures it.

  55. @John Whitman 9/8 at 2:30 pm
    PS – I effortlessly followed the references that you gave in your comment Rud Istvan on September 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm
    I would like to point out that Rud accused me of ignoring reference citations that did not yet exist.
    The timeline, by posted position
    Rud 1:56 “You confuse tight oil” with TTR
    __Willis: 2:27 “Cite?”
    __Rud: 8:17 “Here you go” “two google clicks away” “My deliberate reason for not posting your requested precise links …..:
    10 Level 1 posts ——————————————————————
    Rasey: 2:39: Doomsday Myth
    __Rud: 6:16 “check your geophysics and TRR”
    ____Rasey: 7::23 “by not supplying references”
    __Rud: 9:03 “ignorance devoid of the citations you seek”
    1 Level 1 posts ————————————————————————-
    Rasey: 3:27
    __Rud 5:46 “Invest your life savings…”
    ____Rasey: 6:45 Supply links. I did.
    ____Rud: 8:42 “Well, actually I did.” “You ignored them
    11 Level 1 ————————————————————————————–
    Willis: 10:03 RE Rud 8:17 “Snipe hunt”
    It is one thing to make a lengthy post far up the page in a Level 2 reply that few will find.
    It is quite another to accuse someone of ignoring an up page nested reply before it was written and available for reading (or ignoring).

    • Stephen Rasey on September 8, 2014 at 5:19 pm
      – – – – – – – – – –
      Stephen Rasey,
      I do not know of any accusations on this thread that involve me. So I do not understand why you addressed me with your comment that focuses on accusations.
      But, I am curious so I would like some clarification.
      PS – I personally do not like the nested comment format . . . .
      John

      • It was just in context of your note to him about the ease of following the references he posted way up thread and late in the day. He accused me of ignoring something he hadn’t yet posted much less putting it in a place it could be easily found.
        Nesting is something to be avoid for any long replay. Much better to put it in line to maintain some easy way to find new stuff. Use nested replies if you don’t care whether anyone but the parent author sees it.
        But nesting is great for directed replies and for corrections to the parent a comment.

      • Stephen Rasey on September 8, 2014 at 7:31 pm
        – – – – – – –
        Stephen Rasey,
        I appreciate your additional info. Yet the issue you have is not mine.
        On another thought, the nested commenting to me is a practically untrackable mess. I can read 3 or 4 of the strictly chronological un-nested format in the time it takes me to make sense of a single thread in the nested comment format. My time is my most valuable possession so I do not like the nested format.
        John

  56. Have we run out of “good” weather yet? There are hundreds of millions of morons asking that question daily, it seems… That’s the root of the “climate disruption” meme. And they don’t even need any evidence – they just FEEL it happening…

  57. Is the Shale Revolution a ‘Ponzi Scheme’ or the End of Peak Oil?
    reason.com | Ronald Bailey | September 19, 2014

    Back in 2000, the EIA Outlook report estimated that the U.S.’s technically recoverable petroleum resources were 124 billion barrels; it put natural gas resources at 1,111 trillion cubic feet (tcf). ….
    ….
    How time and technological progress make fools of all prognosticators! The 2014 EIA Outlook estimates that the U.S.’s technically recoverable oil resources are 238 billion barrels and natural gas resources are 2,266 tcf. Proved U.S. petroleum reserves have increased from their 2009 nadir of 19 billion barrels to over 30 billion barrels, and proved natural gas reserves are at 334 tcf now. In other words, estimates of technically recoverable U.S. resources of both oil and gas have nearly doubled in the past 15 years. Proved oil reserves have increased 50 percent, while proved gas reserves have also nearly doubled. Technically recoverable resources from shale and other tight rocks is now estimated to be 59 billion barrels of crude and 903 tcf of gas—a 30-fold and 18-fold increase, respectively, over the 2000 assessments.
    Take the figure of 2,266 tcf of natural gas. Last year, Americans burned through 26 tcf of natural gas. At that rate, the estimated resource would last 87 years. Not the 100 years claimed by the president, but close enough for government work.

    A good piece with lots of hyperlinks. It briefly sketches out the history of the technology an resource estimates.
    The answer to the title is “neither.” Shale oil and shale gas are not Ponzi schemes. Real work, real reserves, real value. But Shale oil production will not eliminate the day of peak oil. It will delay it a bit, but it will make the decline gradual in both volume and increases in price.

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