When I first started this blog, just under a year ago, my aim was to try to help as many people as possible understand the issues that face humanity. As time passes, with still no meaningful changes to push human civilization onto a sustainable path, the objective of the blog becomes more and more urgent. It makes me very happy that it has now reached 100,000 page views in a single month (with over 10,000 unique visitors and 25,000 visits in that month). Thankyou for taking the time to read my work, and making it all worthwhile.
The average person in the United States has a nagging feeling that they have been getting poorer, relative to their parents at the same stage of life. This period of falling behind has been going on for decades, not just since the “Great Recession” that followed the financial crash. What they don’t know is that their government has been actively falsifying the inflation (CPI: Consumer Price Index) and growth (GDP: Growth Domestic Product) statistics to hide that reality. Things have been so bad since the Great Recession that not even that manipulation has been able to fully hide the reality of falling average incomes. This manipulation of economic statistics started as a device to cheat pensioners, and other recipients of government-provided incomes, by reducing the yearly “cost of living” increases below the actual rate of inflation. Continue reading
When I used to think of Iceland, thoughts of a plucky nation that fought off the curse of the bankers, and runs everything on renewable energy, would come to the fore. As usual, the reality is somewhat more mixed than the superficial appearance. The country has recovered better than many others from the 2008 financial collapse, but is still heavily indebted and requires capital controls to stop “trapped” investors from pulling their money out of the country. In addition, much of its recovery has been based on rapidly expanding a tourist industry heavily dependent upon cheap oil and the successful functioning of the global economy. Another major area of economic activity, aluminum smelting using Iceland’s cheap energy, is also tightly integrated with the global economy. It is also heavily dependent upon the Icelandic government socializing much of the exchange rate and aluminum price risks. Continue reading
Twenty five kilometres south west of Hamilton, Ontario, is the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Tuscarora) of the Grand River. It has over 25,000 band members, the largest First Nations population in Canada. There are also other Mohawk and Oneida settlements in Ontario, together with a Mohawk settlement in Quebec (site of the Oka confrontation between Mohawk and Canadian authorities). Continue reading
Sitting on a beach south of Valencia, 30 degrees and no clouds, with my iPad and a cold beer (and a ready supply from the bar 20 feet away from me). Only 30 minutes away is the city itself, with an excellent subway system and a walkable town centre. I could grow to enjoy such an existence! Unfortunately, the prognosis for Spain as a whole may not be so bright. Unless that is, the elites start focusing on future sustainability, rather than prostrating their country to stay part of the Euro club and pay off the debts run up by the financiers and speculators. Continue reading
The International Energy Authority (IEA) forecasts a yearly increase of 1.3% in global oil demand during the period 2013-2019. This contrasts with the assumption of global economic growth rising from 3.6% in 2014 to around 4% thereafter. How does a 1.3% increase in oil usage support economic growth of about three times that amount? Continue reading
I sit here in a Montreal coffee shop on a rainy day, looking through the window at people living their lives. I feel as if I am watching one of those movies where normality pervades, but the ominous soundtrack warns of the impending rupture of that reality. Perhaps this is what the “phoney war” was like, in the period between the invasion of Poland in World War 2 and the invasion of France? As people went about their daily lives the impending utter and rapid defeat of the British and French was unimaginable. Continue reading
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This is the fourth chapter to my book on Energy & The Financial System, which can be purchased from Amazon.
4.1.2. Limitations on Energy Availability
Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) provide about 87% of the energy utilized by humanity1 and modern societies are completely dependent upon this massive amount of energy to maintain and grow their size and complexity. Among the fossil fuels, oil takes a special place, not only providing about 33% of global energy1, but also being the predominant transport fuel given its energy density and liquid form at room temperature. Since the exploration, extraction, and transportation of the other fossil fuels are themselves heavily dependent upon the availability of oil, a shortage of oil could easily lead to constraints on the supply of all the other fossil fuels. Coal, gas, and even plants (such as corn and sugar cane) can be used to produce something like oil but much of the energy is used up in the conversion process. In the foreseeable future, these processes will not be able to significantly offset declines in oil production as there are severe limitations on the rate at which the required facilities could be put in place and the scale of production that they could support. Some transport sectors could be converted to use electricity, but the huge infrastructure and vehicle changes needed would require significant amounts of the declining net energy supplies available. History demonstrates that large scale energy use transformations have taken many decades to complete2. Thus, if global oil production falters, or even falls, within the next decade, economic growth will almost certainly grind to a halt. Continue reading
The Greek philosopher Plato used the Allegory of the Cave to illustrate deception of the mind by representations of reality, rather than true reality[i]. In this parable, inhabitants of a cave have been shackled since childhood, facing a wall, and unable to turn their heads. All they could see are shadows on the wall made by a fire behind them. When one of the inhabitants is freed and able to turn around, he sees the fire, but then rejects what his eyes are telling him as they contradict his most basic beliefs about what reality is. Only after being dragged to the cave opening and being able to behold the outside world does the freed individual start to accept that what he had treated as reality was, in fact just shadows on a wall. Plato proposes that the freed individual has a responsibility to return to his fellow prisoners in the cave and try to change their minds about what constitutes reality, even though they may react negatively to the invalidation of some of their most basic beliefs. In the present, those that truly understand the scale and urgency of the predicament that humanity faces, can see much of their own experiences in the story of the freed prisoner. Rich countries, and the rich within those countries, do not live in simple caves with mere shadows from a fire. Instead, they live in wonderful gilded cages with a seemingly unlimited number of media sources providing incredibly complex and distracting shadows. Continue reading