Reading about energy today, it’s easy to get the impression that our energy problem is a quality problem—some energy is polluting; other energy is hoped to be less polluting. There’s a different issue that we are not being told about. It’s the fact that having enough energy – quantity – is extremely important, as well.
Economics of oil
Most courses on energy deal with it in an instrumentalist manner, as if it were another substance that humans can tap and use for their benefit. Platform for Sustainability and Equity and Ecologise are pleased to announce an online course that places energy at the centre of all transformations— abiotic, biotic and in human society.
We know that economies need to grow, or they collapse. The wage disparity that high-wage countries have been experiencing in recent years is evidence that the world economy is already reaching energy limits. There are no longer enough jobs that pay well to go around. Any drop in energy supply will likely worsen the situation.
Gail Tverberg writes: World leaders manipulate the world economy like a giant video game. The object is to keep it growing, but what do they do when the economy hits limits? They could take their foot off the throttle operated by low interest-rates and more debt. Or they could “take the wings off” the economy.
Gail Tverberg writes: The Politically Correct (PC) worldview has been called the “religion of success”. In this post, I explain why many popular (or politically correct) understandings are just plain wrong. I cover many controversial topics, including environmentalism, peer-reviewed literature, climate change models, and yes, religion. I expect that the analysis will surprise almost everyone.
New scientific research is quietly rewriting the fundamentals of economics, showing decisively that the age of endlessly growing industrial capitalism, premised on abundant fossil fuel supplies, is over. The long-decline of capitalism-as-we-know-it, the new science conclusively shows, began some decades ago, and is on track to accelerate well before the end of the 21st century.
We should expect financial collapse quite soon – perhaps as soon as the next few months. Our problem is energy related, but not in the way most experts have claimed. It’s much more related to the election of President Trump and to the Brexit vote. Most people don’t understand how interconnected the world economy is.
Ecologise has consistently driven home that humanity needs to prepare for unprecedented environmental, economic and socio-political upheaval and uncertainty in the 21st century. In this new series, we showcase free short-duration online courses that focus on these various emerging crises and possible responses. Created by the world’s leading universities, they offer a good starting point to explore these complex challenges.
Globalization seems to be looked on as an unmitigated “good” by economists. Unfortunately, they miss the point that the world is finite. We don’t have infinite resources, or unlimited ability to handle excess pollution. So we’re setting up a “solution” that is at best temporary. Here’s why globalization is, in fact, a very major problem.
Somehow, most people seem to believe that our economy of 7.5 billion people can get along with a very short list of energy supplies. Given climate change, this short list cannot include fossil fuels, but we believe Wind and Solar can save us. Unfortunately, a transition to such alternative fuels can’t really work. Here’s why.
Nafeez Ahmed writes: A new research study by HSBC on global oil supply shows that the bulk of the world’s oil production has peaked and is now in decline. Welcome to a new age of permanent economic recession driven by our ongoing dependence on dirty, expensive, difficult oil — unless we choose a fundamentally different path.
The final stages of capitalism, Marx predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits at former levels. Capitalists would begin to consume the government along with the physical and social structures that sustained them. These assaults would destroy the host. This final stage of capitalism is what Trump represents.
Gail Tverberg writes: Underlying problems are sufficiently severe that we seem to be headed for a crisis far worse than 2008. Our fundamental problem is that neither high nor low energy prices are now able to keep the world economy operating as we’d like it to. Increased debt can’t seem to fix the problem either.
To try to solve the energy problem, we use approaches that involve increasing complexity, including new technology and globalization. As we add more and more complexity, these approaches tend to work less and less well. In fact, become problems themselves, tending to redistribute wealth toward the top, increasing “overhead” for the economy as a whole.
Instead of the scenario envisioned by many Peak Oilers, it’s likely that we will in the very near future hit a limit similar to the collapse scenarios that many early civilizations encountered when they hit resource limits. We don’t think about our situation as being similar, but we too are reaching decreasing resources per capita.
Gail Tverberg writes: Growth in energy consumption is dependent on the growth of debt. Both energy and debt have characteristics that are close to “magic” when it comes to economic growth, which can only take place when debt (or a close substitute, such as company stock) is available to enable the use of energy products.
The common assumption has been that the world will eventually “run out” of oil and other non-renewable resources. Instead, we seem to be running into energy surpluses and low prices. The real situation is that as prices rise, supply tends to rise as well, because new sources of production become available at the higher price.
It is a peculiar combination of technological, economic and geopolitical factors that has led to the present crash in oil prices, lulling many observers into dismissing peak oil. Through it all, the fact remains that the production of ‘conventional oil’, drawn mostly from established oil wells, has not gone up since its peak in 2008.
With the production of ‘conventional oil’ having reached a plateau and fossil fuels in general under attack for their impact on the climate and the environment, the global oil industry is undergoing an unprecedented upheaval. Oil being the very lifeblood of all industrial societies, the geopolitical and economic consequences of these changes are already being felt.
Nafeez Ahmed writes: An extensive new analysis says that proved conventional oil reserves as detailed in industry sources are likely “overstated” by half. According to standard sources, the world contains 1.7 trillion barrels of proved conventional reserves. However, according to the new study, this official figure is almost double the real size of world reserves.