From The Independent: Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN secretary general. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources and the shift to less efficient energy sources.
Here are three leading observers on the world’s increasingly shaky energy situation. Minqui Li presents a through-going analysis of the global energy scenario from 2018-2050 based on the latest data, Kurt Cobb suggests that ‘peak oil’ maybe a process, rather than a event, while Chris Martenson issues a stark warning on the coming oil crash.
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.
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.
This review by Alice Friedmann of Nafeez Ahmed’s new book has 3 parts: 1) Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political 2) How Bio-Physical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria 3) Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle-East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America
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.
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.
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.
Monetary historian Mike Maloney says in this podcast: Within the next few years you’re going to see probably the greatest crash in history. I have often said that the crisis of 2008 was just a speed bump on the way to the main event. We are in the process right now of seeing this unwind.
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.
Kurt Cobb writes: It used to be that oil prices and economic growth were somewhat like distant cousins who disliked each other rather than a happily married couple always seen nuzzling together in public. Nowadays, as the oil price dips into the low $40 range again and global economic growth weakens simultaneously, we must re-evaluate.
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.
Sayantan Bera reports: Data from the ministry of water resources show that in end March, water levels in 91 major reservoirs in the country was at just 25% of capacity—30% lower than last year, and 25% less than the average storage in a decade. The situation is acute in the western parts of the country.
Nikhil Dey & Aruna Roy writes: The cynical attitude towards the MGNREGA is an example of how policymakers are deliberately — by squeezing funds and subverting the legal mandate of the law — causing immeasurable misery and suffering. Through the fund squeeze, the government has consciously crippled the MGNREGA’s ability to help people facing drought.