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.
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.
From BBC: A recent episode of Newsnight, BBC’s programme on ideas, had a surprising guest: Anthropologist Jason Hickel, who went on to make a case against the lethal addiction to economic growth and in its place proposed “planned de-growth”. Hickel is the author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.
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.
From Journeyman Pictures: The financial storm of 2008 began brewing in when the US congress pushed the idea of home ownership for all. When it all went wrong, they opted for gargantuan bailouts for the big banks. This documentary offers fresh insight into the greatest economic crisis of our age: the one still awaiting us.
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.
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.
The physics of energy and the economy evokes some trepidation. An economy seems to be a dissipative system, but what does this really mean? Not many people understand dissipative systems, and very few understand how an economy operates. The combination leads to an awfully lot of false beliefs about the energy needs of an economy.
Gail Tverberg writes: We are experiencing a world economy that seems to be reaching limits, but the symptoms are not what peak oil groups warned about. Instead of high prices and lack of supply, we are facing indirect problems brought on by our high consumption of energy products. I have called it a double pump problem.
We have identified two different limits to globalization. One has to do with limits on the amount of goods and services that developed countries can absorb before those imports unduly disrupt local economies. The other occurs because of the sensitivity of many developing nations to low commodity prices, because they are exporters of these commodities.
Gail Tverberg writes: Economists have put together models of how an economy works, but these models were developed years ago, when the world economy was far from limits. These models may have been reasonably adequate when they were developed, but there is increasing evidence that they don’t work in an economy that is reaching limits.
We are hitting something similar to “Peak Oil” right now, but the major symptoms are unexpected. There is a glut of supply, and prices are far below the cost of production. Perhaps we should call it “Limits to Growth,” rather than “Peak Oil,” because it is a different type of problem than most people expected.
Gail Tverberg writes: We are about to see a substantial disruption to the economy, as oil limits, as well as other energy limits, cause the economic supercycle to contract. Whether its Peak Oil, the Limits to Growth, or the Debt Supercycle, the underlying problem is the same – we’re reaching the limits of a finite world.