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Why we have low Commodity prices

By Gail Tverberg

Australia’s economy would be in a lot better shape if commodity prices were higher. Its mineral exports would rise, as would its exports of coal and natural gas.

Why are commodity prices lagging? Ultimately, the question comes back to the question, “Why isn’t the world economy making very many of the end products that use these commodities?” If every poor person in Africa could suddenly afford a car, we would see a lot of demand for products that go into making and operating automobiles. Of if governments around the world were expanding their road systems and their public housing systems, there would be a high demand for the products that go into paving roads and building public housing. Obviously this isn’t happening. If the world economy were growing rapidly, we expect a lot of demand for commodities.

Ultimately, what is happening is that the world economy isn’t growing very much. Because of this, there is little demand for the commodities, so the prices of commodities lag. Many people who work for commodity companies lose their jobs, leading to the type of economic slowdown Australia is now experiencing. The issue that is behind this problem is what I call “our growing inefficiency problem.” Let me explain how this happens.

Suppose we want to make a product. The product could be a barrel of oil, or an ingot of steel, or a college education for a young person. We use inputs of various kinds, these inputs are transformed during some sort of process, and we get an output.


In the case of a barrel of oil, the inputs would hours of workers time, plus fuels of various types used to operate machinery of various types to extract the oil, plus various inputs for refining the oil and shipping the oil to its final location. In the case of a college education, from the person of view of the person buying the college education, the input is the cost of the education. This cost of the education really buys a lot of things: professors’ time, time of administrators, cost of heating and lighting buildings, and many other things.

Our economists would like us to think that the economy is getting more and more efficient. I would represent this situation as the following:


In this case, the same inputs are producing more and more outputs. If this were happening from oil, the same dollar amount of inputs, which buy a quantity of worker hours plus other resources, would be producing more and more oil. We would find that more and more oil could be extracted for the same inputs, making the finished product cheaper.

If the same situation were happening for a college education, we would find that universities would be finding ways to make their tuition dollars go farther. Perhaps they would be getting rid of administrators, so that tuition could be lowered, and the university could sell the same product more cheaply.

Clearly, if a factory develops a more efficient machine for producing a product, say shoelaces, then it may be possible to produce the shoelaces with fewer inputs. Most likely, the saving would be in worker hours, while the amount of other materials would stay close to the same. The result would be cheaper shoelaces, and more shoelaces produced per worker hour. This would be considered increased efficiency.

The opposite situation, however, is what we have been seeing recently. We have been seeing a lot of what I call “Growing Inefficiency.” This situation leads to more and more inputs being used to produce the same output. Clearly, we wouldn’t do this on purpose, but sometimes nature gives us a push in this direction.

Growing Inefficiency

In the case of oil, the situation may be that the inexpensive to extract oil has already been taken. There is still a lot of oil available, but it is deep under the sea, or it requires fracking, or it requires an expensive refining process not used in the past. With respect to iron and other ores, the situation is likely to be that the quality of the ores becomes lower, so that the metal must be separated from more waste material. More workers are needed to extract the larger amount of ore and separate out the waste material. In the case of the university, the situation may be that the school wants its professors to write more academic papers. The university cuts back on the teaching load of each professor, to enable this process, resulting in the need for more faculty. The new emphasis on research this adds costs, but the education received by the student doesn’t really change very much, except that it becomes more expensive.

In recent years, the world has been finding itself in an increasing number of situations where inefficiency is creeping in. For example, we are becoming increasingly aware that pollution is a problem. There are often higher-cost workarounds, such as substituting a different fuel or adding special filters. These changes add costs to producing the end product, say electricity. Admittedly, we are getting more healthful air, or better quality water, but most consumers find that they need to cut back on buying other goods, if they are to have enough money left to buy the now more healthful electricity.

As the economy becomes less efficient, it tends to grow more and more slowly. Essentially, we are not getting as much output for the same amount of input. Economic growth tends to slow. It is this slowdown in economic growth that is pulling down the prices of commodities and leading to lay-offs among those who work in commodity sectors. Clearly, the solution to our problem with growing inefficiency is increasing efficiency, but this difficult to obtain when nature is conspiring against us. Deeper wells, lower quality ores, and increased problems with pollution all lead to higher costs of producing close to the same end product. Ultimately the economy gets squeezed. Workers, on average, find that they are producing less, and the economy begins to contract. Lower commodity prices are a sign of the headwinds the economy is now reaching.

About the author:

Gail Tverberg has an M. S. from the University of Illinois, Chicago in Mathematics, and is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

More of Gail’s work can be found on her blog Our Infinite World.



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  1. Harquebus

    “As the economy becomes less efficient, it tends to grow more and more slowly. Essentially, we are not getting as much output for the same amount of input.”

    aka. The law of diminishing (energy) returns.
    Alternatively, we are using more input to get the same output.

    The decline in productivity will continue along with the subsequent economic decay. Governments are having a hard time replacing that diminishing energy and their foolish attempt to replace it is making matters worse.

  2. Andreas Bimba

    I primarily blame the fraudulent economic mantra of neo-liberalism for declining (or at least suppressing) world productive output and lowering economic efficiency in general.

    Take the example of eliminating tariffs and free trade agreements for relatively high labour cost countries like the US and Australia. Generally only the tradable goods sector face really tough competition from low labour cost and high tech competitors like China or Korea while most of the economy such as education, health and aged care, other government services, banking and finance, construction and retail are largely untouched. Some tradable goods sectors such as mineral resources in the case of Australia or passenger aircraft and weapons for the US are still able to compete but the vast bulk of the manufacturing and associated services industry will inevitably disappear under these conditions leading to the net loss of millions of jobs.

    The manufacturing and associated service industries are generally the most productive sectors of the economy but it is this sector that is being eliminated. In addition the associated employment and tax paying capacity is lost and the total national market demand for goods and services is reduced.

    A more balanced approach which maintained moderate tariff protection so that highly automated and knowledge intensive manufacturers could still compete with the highly competitive East Asian nations, and also Germany which uses the PIIGS to keep the euro artificially low, would have avoided the associated economic contraction in countries like the US and Australia. These highly automated manufacturers would still employ many more people in total than the mineral resources industry for example and are true value adding and dynamic industries with a promising future.

    The new sustainable economy will require better forms of transport, renewable electricity, renewable fuels, energy efficient housing and appliances, healthy and humanely produced food and fibre and so forth but much of this will inevitably be sourced from foreign suppliers under total free trade neo-liberal economics.

    Neo-liberalism has also brought the deliberate and fraudulent deregulation of the banking and finance sector which has resulted in hugely destructive speculative bubbles, market collapses and taxpayer bailouts such as the Savings and Loans Banking fraud under Reagan, the GFC and the current financial crisis in Europe and China. The banking and finance sectors receive huge effective subsidies by having the right to create or issue new money and charge interest and through the extremely lucrative state mandated superannuation system. This sector comprises an ever larger percentage of GDP, charges huge mostly hidden fees, contributes very little to living standards and suppresses the productive sector of the economy that it feeds from.

    Neo-liberalism has brought the privatisation of many government and semi government organisations that on the whole have led to increased costs to consumers and big profits for the new owners. An example is the privatisation of electricity generation and distribution in Australia.

    Neo-liberalism has worsened the housing price bubble where speculative investment is encouraged by subsidies such as negative gearing, by non enforcement of local residency requirements for buyers and the large reduction in public housing construction. The banking industry is the main beneficiary of this neo-liberal policy.

    Neo-liberalism has led to the merciless pressure to cut government services to the most disadvantaged at the same time that this economic philosophy has greatly increased unemployment, disadvantage and wealth disparity.

    Tax evasion by corporations and the wealthy has become chronic as taxation laws are deliberately written to create loop holes and taxation enforcement is reduced by cutting ATO staff numbers. Similarly corporate law and corporate regulators have been weakened so that most fraudulent activity remains undiscovered and unpunished.

    The MMT economists on the other hand have proven that it is possible to have near to full employment with moderate and sustainable government deficit spending.

    Neo-liberalism has demonised labour unions and mercilessly cut workers rights and conditions. Now local workers are forced to compete with grossly underpaid workers from the developing world coming in under special visas like the 457 visa.

    Finally neo-liberalism has been associated with turning much of the mass media into propagandists for this economic ideology, for lobbying (bribing) our political representatives so that the best interests of citizens are barely considered any more, for strengthening the state control apparatus, for creating a climate of fear, insecurity and selfishness and and for undermining our fragile democracies.

    In time neo-liberalism will probably degenerate into plutocratic or corporate fascism.

  3. Harquebus

    Andreas Bimba
    Did you write this off the cuff. It is worthy of being an article in itself.

  4. Andreas Bimba

    @Harquebus Off the cuff but probably an amalgamation of a few previous posts.

  5. mark delmege

    I thought the low prices were a result of commodity manipulations by the megalopolises. BHP and RIO (and Vale) over producing to cut out the small producers – already most small and middle are underwater and no new mines will be opened at this price. Same same with oil. Saudi and the others produce heaps and kill off fracking and slow down renewables.

  6. mark delmege

    Andreas is right spot on with this ‘The manufacturing and associated service industries are generally the most productive sectors of the economy but it is this sector that is being eliminated. In addition the associated employment and tax paying capacity is lost and the total national market demand for goods and services is reduced. ‘ It’s why so much of Europe is in a slump and so too with the USofA. Manufacturing has been decimated – jobs gone and tax revenues with them – Meanwhile the corporate mafia still make quids but it is from off shore production which they can still sell here at good profit while they tax dodge – and we learnt last year that 75% of the big companies have offshore tax accounts. All the while demanding that governments reduce corporate taxation – meanwhile the government deficit grows and they don’t know what to do – cos it doesn’t fit their illogical economic model.
    It’s why youth unemployement is so high – all over the western world. Its also partly why Greece is buggered. No jobs no industries no future. This is, as has been said the art of Neoliberalism – and why it is the philosophy of the Multi-Nationals with the TPP, the TTI and earlier NAFTA. It is a social disaster. And criminals who close down our industries like the Auto sector should be run out of town.
    Quite simply if you don’t have jobs you can’t buy stuff and if the government doesn’t have tax paying individuals and companies it doesn’t have revenue to do stuff or even to grow the economy. And I’m sure if you looked at the employment figures the growth will be in part time and low paid workers – as it is in the USofA. I’m repeating much of the above – sorry bout that.

  7. Andreas Bimba

    @mark delmege
    I was one of the engineering team that designed, built and operated the state of the art Toyota Altona car manufacturing plant and can’t see the sense in putting the bull dozers through a modern and highly automated production facility so that some property developers can build some more McMansions some time after 2017.

    This plant had a vehicle build cost less than 10% more than the equivalent Toyota plant in Thailand that also made the Camry when the Australian dollar was about the same as the US dollar.

    The mass media bleeted about high car industry subsidies but these were near the lowest in the world. I have now learnt the vast bulk of subsidies go to the banking and finance sector and the mining industry but the media remains silent on this. Hence my personal crusade against neo-liberalism and the fossil fuel industry in regard to global warming.

  8. mark delmege

    give’m heaps, Andreas

  9. mikestasse

    What seems to escape some of the commenters here is that, yes, jobs are being offshored to prop up profits, but the reason for the drop in profits that initially sparked the offshoring is that resources are getting less and less profitable to extract.

    Regardless, the end result is economic collapse……..

    Global Economic Red Alert

  10. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I’m with you, Andreas on the crusade against neo-liberalism and the fossil fuel industry and their combined catastrophic affects.

  11. mikestasse

    The fossil fuel industry is DOOMED…….!

    Australia is almost out of oil. We already import 91% of our liquid fuels, and 100% of our bitumen. Just think about it……. you are now driving on imported freeways!

    Half of our oil refineries have been closed in the past 5 years or so. Where do you think the stuff we need to make up the difference comes from? Overseas jobs that’s where…….. and you can’t blame Rabbott for this, it’s all down to Capitalism doing its darnedest to cope with LIMITS TO GROWTH. And if it means using overseas slave labour to do it, so be it……..

  12. Harquebus

    They can always print more money but, who gets to use it first and what do they use it for?
    The bankers and their friends get it first and then, they buy up all the good stuff, increasing the prices of same through demand and then sell it on to the gullible. The gullible are now broke and in debt up to the eyeballs.

    Have we not heard Joe Hockey tells us to borrow more and spend? This how they have kept their ponzi scheme going until now. The physical limitations of our finite world are now manifesting themselves as massive debt, economic migration, inequality, high unemployment, social decay and high energy prices etc.
    Compound this with growing populations and the results can be seen every evening at six o’clock on the telly.

    Never again will we enjoy the fossil fueled productivity gains that we have seen over the last half century. Productivity will decrease over time as resources continue to deplete or become scarce.

  13. jimhaz

    [In time neo-liberalism will probably degenerate into plutocratic or corporate fascism]

    Already here IMO.

    What I find quite sad, is that there is sufficient productivity and excess human resources for building homes that we could easily produce and sell for 200k. No homeless, no strugglers, increased internatonal competiveness as real wages could fall. Every householder would then have had 400k or more to invest in income producing activities or for collective provision – taxation and aid.

    We seem to “gift” about 1/3 of Australias overall individual income to overseas banks, for zero return, so to me the plutocracy has been here for decades already.

  14. Andreas Bimba

    Thanks Jennifer hopefully the electorate will see that there’s an alternative to neo-liberalism.

    Mikestasse, I don’t have any grievance against the Australian oil refiners, they are also victims of an excessively open market. I vehemently appose the coal miners and electricity generators that very effectively lobby both the government and Labor to do away with the carbon tax and minimise the development of renewable energy which is a promising new business opportunity. Global warming is particularly damaging and the task of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is REALLY URGENT. All of us should be aware of what Dr James Hansen is saying.

    Harquebus, at least there’s plenty of sunshine and wind and possibly better forms of nuclear power for nations that don’t have enough renewable sources of energy. Recycling, energy efficiency and living more frugally also helps. Take the example of the Danes or Dutch using bicycles or mopeds in comparison to LA’s or our car culture. Over population and destruction of the natural world are darn difficult problems but people like the Greens can make progress on these issues too.

    Jimhaz, the price of land in our big cities has risen astronomically which only benefits the banks, property investors and those that eventually sell and move to the country or to a retirement home. With large scale multi storey public housing it is even possible to get dwelling costs below $100,000. Partial deflation of the housing bubble is I think well worth doing, the Greens have proposed phasing out negative gearing, a large increase in public housing construction and more rental support for students and the disadvantaged. Urban consolidation and better design of urban fringe areas to avoid sterile dormitory suburbs devoid of infrastructure or jobs is also Greens policy.

  15. Harquebus

    I have to disagree with you on renewable energy generators. There is no such thing. Also, I am not in favor of coal nor nuclear.
    At the risk of upsetting Kaye Lee, again, I’ll repeat what is in my opinion, the only viable solution. Population reduction and control.
    Otherwise, go for it. Your posts are a great read.

  16. MaryG

    Stop worrying every thing is fine. Australia is great; I own 8 houses. We produce great housing here. We should be proud of the housing industry; soon we could have the highest house prices in the world. Now that is some achievement. This industry creates so many jobs also. We need coal mining here as it is the cheapest form of energy. We certainly live in a lucky country.

  17. Andreas Bimba

    Harquebus, many have already pointed out to you that photovoltaic and wind turbines are cost competitive and generate far more power than is used to manufacture them. Thanks for your comments.

    MaryG, many more people are disadvantaged by high dwelling prices as they need to pay a fortune in mortgage repayments or are forced to pay high rent. There is also an intergenerational injustice where many older existing owners bought cheap decades ago, while first home buyers, who also may have a HECS debt, pay excessive school fees for their children and so on, need to take on a huge mortgage,
    which then leaves them vulnerable to
    bankruptcy. On coal mining please Google Dr James Hansen and you may learn why coal use must be phased out ASAP for economic as well as environmental reasons.

  18. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    I don’t believe you’re for real. You would have to have a head full of fruit loops to truly believe the drivel you’ve written here.


    The gossip in the Pilbara is that the multinationals are flooding the market to force prices down. It may result in a short term dent in profits, but it will drive the minors out and allow them to buy tenements at bargain prices.

    Australia’s iron ore exports to China from Port Hedland rose 5.2 percent in May from a month earlier, while total shipments from the port hit a record high, figures released on Thursday showed. Port Hedland, which handles about a fifth of the world’s seaborne iron ore trade, is used by BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group to ship around 35 million tonnes a month, the lion’s share to Chinese steel mills. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/04/australia-iron-may-idUSL3N0YQ1SC20150604

    Rio Tinto said Tuesday iron ore production jumped 12 percent year on year in the last three months of 2014, adding to a global supply glut that has seen prices plunge and weaker demand from a slowing China. http://www.expatica.com/uk/news/country-news/Rio-Tinto-4Q-iron-ore-output-rises-despite-supply-glut_446349.html

  20. Harquebus

    Andreas Bimba

    As I have stated many times, using the economic argument to justify the manufacture of renewable generators is an instant fail. They are manufactured, constructed and maintained using fossil fuels. They do not return the total energy used during these processes. Those that say they can do not factor other requirements such as sustaining a workforce, maintaining infrastructure, providing services, vehicles, the transport of everything, smelting ores and silicon, equipment, machinery, consumables, electricity, etc. throughout the extensive supply chain.

    There is also the environmental impact from rare earth mining and toxic byproducts. Solar Pv is becoming “cost competitive” only because, China does not process these toxic byproducts. They dump them in the local communities.

    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with you.

    Mary G is fishing and looks like she’s caught a couple.

    It is my understanding that, China is not processing the ores but, is stockpiling them.

  21. Harquebus

    Oops. Apologies. My mistake.

    I hope she has a mortgage.


  22. Andreas Bimba

    FIFOFUM BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are good at squeezing out the competition. I think they did the same to most of Australia’s manufacturing industry as well. They funded most of the IPA, they lobbied (bribed and threatened) our political representatives, they lobbied the Productivity Commission, they lobbied for all the FTA’s and they used the corrupt mass media to bleet about all the subsidies for the car industry but conveniently ignored their own.

    Why did they do this? So that we import even more stuff which drives the dollar lower than it would otherwise be which makes marginal mines profitable and profitable mines even more profitable. Also not having to compete with manufacturers and other local industries for capital means lower interest rates for financing their infrastructure.

    What a pity that the nation overall loses hundred of thousands of jobs and our governments loses lots of tax revenue while also needing to spend more on social support, all because of our biggest ever resources boom? Thanks BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto for giving us a third world banana republic economy in exchange for digging up and selling our mineral resources.

  23. Gail Tverberg

    World developments continue to follow along the path I have expected. China’s problems seem to be leading to ever-lower commodity prices. Unless Greece’s problems can be straightened out quickly, they will add to the trend toward slowing world economic growth or out and out contraction.

  24. mikestasse

    Mikestasse, I don’t have any grievance against the Australian oil refiners, they are also victims of an excessively open market.

    NO they’re not……… they are the victims of GEOLOGY!

  25. mikestasse

    We produce great housing here.

    You have no idea MaryG. Australia produces some of the WORST housing in the world. And as we hit Peak Timber, most new dwellings are now built out of glued/laminated crap that probably won’t last even 30 years. We also build some of the most energy inefficient pieces of rubbish that almost always come with built in air conditioning and more bathrooms than anyone ever needs. I actually despair at the building industry….. they are primary planet destroyers.

    We don’t even need to build more houses. At the last census, it was discovered that at any one time there are 800,000 empty dwellings in this country, enough to house ALL the homeless and probably all the refugees too without spending a single dollar or MegaJoule…

  26. mikestasse

    removed. same article.

  27. Kaye Lee

    Imagine going off to visit doctor mike for a checkup.

    “I’m sorry….you are going to die.”

    “But I feel ok”

    “Doesn’t change the fact…you are going to die”

    “What if I give up smoking, drink less alcohol, eat better food and do more exercise?”

    “You’re still going to die”

    “But wouldn’t a healthier lifestyle delay my death and make me feel better and be more productive before I die?”

    “Pointless. You can’t avoid the inevitable.”

  28. mikestasse

    FFS Kaye Lee……… Collapse is NOT inevitable. That’s the whole point……… I’ve made my peace with death, but I will NEVER make my peace with collapse.

    Collapse will occur through sheer stupidity.

    I will die because I’m human. Even though I’m very smart. Even smarter than YOU obviously. What a ridiculously stupid post. Even from you.

  29. Kaye Lee

    Collapse is not inevitable is a good start. Having said that, what would you suggest as some positive steps the world can make now towards avoiding collapse. I know we have to drastically change but we have to start somewhere. You seem to be against renewable energy – what is your alternative? Do you agree that foreign aid targeted at educating and empowering women in developing countries will help reduce population increase? You always talk about the energy needed to manufacture, distribute and use products but surely the energy and materials required to install a water tank are worth it? As I have said before, we cannot start the journey at the destination. What are your suggestions on how we can practically begin?

  30. carlo

    is it right that we are focusing so much on reducing co2 emmissions when co2 will, forgive my ignorance, give chance to more flora and fauna growth as they breathe it while methane from agriculture and others are much more potent and don’t get talked about in regards to greenhouse gas reductions? (see cowspiracy for more)

  31. mikestasse

    Kaye Lee, watch the video………. because it encapsulates pretty well everything I think we should do, the main one being STOP DOING EVERYTHING WE ARE CURRENTLY DOING!

    You’ll be surprised he agrees with me re renewables, won’t fix anything…….. what needs to happen is degrowth and getting rid of capitalism, industry, and complexity.

    Carlo……. extra CO2 in the air does NOT improve growth, some plants actually become toxic in a high CO2 atmosphere!

  32. Harquebus

    Here is something for mikestasse and Kaye Lee.

    “Anti-preppers are often the kinds of social justice circus clowns that preach unerring tolerance and claim disdain for any form of discrimination, yet they are at the same time violently discriminatory against anyone who will not preach their particular collectivist gospel.”

    Humans have never existed with such high concentrations of CO2. It may affecting our own health.

    Population reduction and control is the only viable option for reducing consumption and pollution.

  33. Matthew

    A very narrow perspective of renewable energy posted way above a coal plant requires large amounts of rare earth minerals as well. Power loss through em radiation approaches fifty percent before it reaches some areas. Local electricity production doesnt have that radiative loss being so dramatic.

    On completion a coal plant still needs coal, same as a fossil fuel car still needs fossil fuel to run. Fair examples are justified but unfair examples just muddy important issues.

    Many internet trolls argue for nuclear, it would take at least a decade to get up and running here, they even push thorium reactors, that technology is still over a decade away at least. My state has one of the highest ownerships of solar panels to households in the world. We have something to build on we are better placed to introduce home storage of energy. There is research into using dams as mechanical batteries which is possible now, research into biological batteries, simply put our needs can be met by green energy. Our economy is being held back in many ways by government ideology.

  34. Matthew

    and as for the fox news argument that co2 is good for plants, just look at venus. There is such a thing as too much and we are there already.

  35. Kaye Lee


    I do not have a spare hour and a quarter to watch a video called destruction of life on earth. Can you not pass on the positive suggestions? Can you not answer the question of what is your alternative to renewable energy?

  36. mikestasse

    If you can’t spare the time, then I suggest you’re leading your life all wrong…….. as the speaker in this video says, change won’t happen because we are all locked in the system which we depend on. Typical dog chasing its tail. Like I keep saying, good luck, because you’ll need it.

  37. Kaye Lee

    I’ll take that as a no.

  38. Roswell

    If you can’t spare the time, then I suggest you’re leading your life all wrong…

    What a pathetic and disgusting thing to say. For all you know, Kaye Lee could be spending her time volunteering to help under-privileged children, she could be spending her time doing charity work, she could be spending her time looking after sick or elderly relatives.

    To suggest to her that she is leading her life all wrong because she hasn’t the time to watch a video (of your choice) is appalling.

    Perhaps I should say to you that if you don’t watch videos on alien conspiracies or DNA manipulation you are leading your life all wrong and because of this you’ll never know the truth about the origins of the human race. But no, I won’t stoop that low.

  39. Harquebus

    Perhaps we should all take a step back. It is all of our lives that most of us here are trying to save.
    It seems we all understand the problem, it is only the solution that is in dispute.
    Mine is population reduction and control. What’s yours?

    Convincing politicians could be a first step. How do we do that?
    I email many politicians and journalists every other week and am making some progress however, I could use some help.

  40. mikestasse

    Point taken Roswell…….. but I expect Kaye Lee is busy with a job and paying a motgage etc etc etc…….. but if I’m wrong, I’ll cop it on the chin.

    The way I see it, it’s all the things we do every day that matter. Driving to work (or driving anywhere actually – I particularly liked Richard Smith’s use of the term ‘love miles’), buying food in a supermarket, using a credit card, watching big screen TV, etc etc etc…….. none of those things seem particularly pernicious, but we all do them – to some extent – and they all add up and that’s what we have to put an end to. Consumption is the problem, whether it be consumption of industrial food, petrol, solar panels, iToys, or just going to the cinema. There are just too many of us doing it.

    I don’t expect anyone here watches videos about alien conspiracies…….. do you? I think you people just like to ignore anything I have to offer as a matter of principle, you just don’t like the solutions. I’ve found this while trying to sell our house. Everyone wants to live the green life, but when confronted with what it REALLY entails, they don’t like it.

    Harquebus, I’m with you re population control (I’ve been to the vet BTW…..), but there are no silver bullets, we have to alter the way we do EVERYTHING, and yes including reproduction. Our children (we were going to only have one, but had twins…….. ah the irony!) are well versed in this and have promised us no grandchildren. Hurray!

    You’ll never convince politicians……. they’ve been bought by capitalism, and they are more trapped than any of us, probably.

  41. Harquebus

    I do what can. Convincing others to do something, anything, is very difficult.
    They have their jobs, kids and mortgages to worry about.

    Kaye Lee, Roswell, mikestasse and others; Even though we may argue amongst ourselves, we are all fighting the good fight. Do not give up. That would mean succumbing to the inevitable.


  42. Roswell

    No worries, mikestasse. I was probably a bit harsh.

    Harquebus, yes, we are all on the same side but a bit of debate is still healthy. By the way, what the hell does Harquebus mean?

  43. totaram

    I thought MaryG was doing satire! And Carlo has just caught up with AGW-denialist talking points from a decade ago. Interesting to see.

  44. Harquebus

    harquebus: any of several small-caliber long guns operated by a matchlock or wheel-lock mechanism, dating from about 1400.


  45. Roswell

    Thank you. So you’re a gun.

  46. carlo

    totaram, gotta start somewhere! 🙂

  47. Kaye Lee


    skeptical science is a very good site to answer most of your questions


    I just wish one of the people who keep telling us that renewable energy is not viable would tell me what their alternative is.

    PS I never feel the need to justify myself to people I don’t know but thanks Roswell. It never ceases to amaze me the number of men who want to tell me about myself despite knowing nothing about me.

  48. Möbius Ecko


    Your simple statement actually leads to a complex answer.

    For a starter not all plants will do well with increased CO². For instance many of our staple food crops like wheat will produce more foliage at the cost of grain. The CSIRO have a set up a test bed examining this very matter. Most trees are another type of plant that will not do as well in an increased CO² atmosphere.

    As to methane. Yes it is a more potent greenhouse gas, far more potent. Indeed water vapour is more influential in warming than CO², so why the emphasis on CO²?

    Of all the greenhouse gases CO² is the most persistant in our atmosphere lasting far longer than methane, which breaks down fairly rapidly. So in the long term CO² is more damaging and accumulative. The other reason man made CO² is targetted for abatement because of all the greenhouse gases it is the easiest and most cost effective to target. Note I said easiest, not easy.

  49. Andreas Bimba

    Mikestasse Dr James Hansen’s book ‘Storms of my grandchildren’ that you recommend is an extremely important book that we should all read. It convinced me about the evidence and urgency of global warming and although quite old now, all the conclusions by and large are still valid.

    On the peripheral issue of oil refining, most of Australia’s oil refineries were closed due to excessive refined product imports from modern and huge refineries such as from Singapore. With some trade protection some of the local refineries could also have been upgraded in scale and used all the latest innovations but this was not accepted under the current ideology of neo-liberalism.

    Australia always imported the crude oil needed for the heavy fractions used for bitumen, lube oil and even diesel fuel. Australian crude oils are light crudes and were used for petrol and aviation kerosene. You are correct that Australian crude oil has largely all been depleted but imported sources are still currently plentiful and this in my opinion should be refined locally with a moderate tariff being in place. Note that tariff revenue allows other taxes to be reduced so consumers are not affected much.

    On renewable energy, yes electricity production is only part of the total problem. Many other areas must also be tackled but this is well understood by renewable energy and sustainability experts in the CSIRO and elsewhere that our current government choses to totally ignore for ideological reasons. For example transport liquid and gaseous fuels can be produced from algae and other biomass. Hydrogen may also be produced from biomass or future nuclear technologies.

    Other areas worth pursuing further are greater recycling and reuse, more public transport, more use of bicycles, mopeds and walking, better urban design, less meat consumption, birth control and so forth.

    More people transitioning to minimum energy and material consumption lifestyles will also help but there are plenty of good technical solutions to support something close to our current lifestyle as well.

    Your point about poor levels of energy efficiency of Australian homes is very important. For example in Europe the Passivhaus standard (well worth googling) adapted for the Australian climate needs extremely little energy for heating and cooling and only costs about 10% more than standard construction.

  50. mechandy

    Kaye, Your assertion that, ‘it never ceases to amaze me the number of men who want to tell me about myself despite knowing nothing about me’, suggests that you have not met many women who think more deeply than yourself. If you are open to the idea, I can introduce some to you….

    What we are facing is not a gender issue, despite your attempts to make it so. The protective patriarchal responses to your ‘plight’, are no doubt convenient, even though they are apparently, ‘not needed’.

    So let us get beyond the conveniences.

    As I have stated previously, you are a progressive reformist. You are not alone. This site and most of society, are identical. They may differ in minor ways, but most people are ‘wedded’ to the fictional realities that you and they were indoctrinated with, from birth. Objective reality therefore, is not on your or their radar screen. You want to ‘militantly beg’ politicians, to ‘make things right’. You want the fictional realities to be made right, just, fair, equal, and above all, you desire a ‘saviour’, someone or something, some externality, outside of yourself, to fix the problems that emerge. You want solutions and answers to the challenges ahead, hence your continual refrain, ‘ tell me what the alternative is’.

    I respect fully your choice and the choice of others to approach these matters in whatever way they wish. That does not mean that I will withdraw from challenging those perspectives.

    If you want to piss in my swimming pool, that’s fine, but don’t then complain to me that you’ve swallowed some water…..

  51. mikestasse

    @ Andreas…….

    On the peripheral issue of oil refining, most of Australia’s oil refineries were closed due to excessive refined product imports from modern and huge refineries such as from Singapore.

    That is NOT accurate. Australia NEVER produced enough oil to warrant building mega refineries. Australia was self sufficient in oil in only one year, and that was 1964 which also happens to be the year the most oil was ever discovered. So we’ve been importing oil since forever…….

    As less and less oil became available to refine (Australia’s Peak Oil moment was in 2000), of course we were never going to invest in new modern ones….. and as we scrape the bottom of the barrel (literally), the remaining refineries will all be closed, and before 2020 I expect, which is when we are on target to completely run out.

    Did you know Shell sold not just its refineries recently, but its entire infrastructure of petrol stations! All owned by a Swiss company now…. and do you know why they sold? Couln’t afford to pay shareholders’ dividends. They are all going broke.
    Going down…?

  52. Kaye Lee

    In 2010, Christopher Monckton and James Hansen both toured Australia. Maurice Newman was the chairman of the ABC at the time. He believed that climate sceptics and denialists didn’t get a run in the media. Monckton was given extensive national coverage on television, radio and online. Hansen did one interview with Philip Adams. Monckton was discussed 161 times on the ABC while Hansen was only mentioned nine times.

  53. Kaye Lee

    “‘it never ceases to amaze me the number of men who want to tell me about myself despite knowing nothing about me”

    and right on cue…..

    “Objective reality therefore, is not on your or their radar screen. You want to ‘militantly beg’ politicians, to ‘make things right’. You want the fictional realities to be made right, just, fair, equal, and above all, you desire a ‘saviour’, someone or something, some externality, outside of yourself, to fix the problems that emerge.”

    And still no answer to what is your alternative to renewable energy

    “What we are facing is not a gender issue”

    I have no idea what YOU are facing. I am speaking about MY personal experience, though no doubt you wish to tell me what my experience has been, just as you insist on telling me what I want.

  54. Andreas Bimba

    Kaye I really don’t know why you are subjected to this frequent unfair nit picking. Perhaps mechandy wasn’t aware of some of the background to your prior comment but I have read quite a few unfair remarks directed to yourself. I bet if I signed on as Andrea I would be cut down more often as well. Keep smiling.

  55. Kaye Lee

    Andreas, I know many very good men and I also appreciate the interaction with many I don’t know here. I say my piece…I don’t dwell. I have wonderful girlfriends too and our motto is “Just deal with it” 🙂

  56. mechandy

    Kaye, your ‘personal experience’ is writ large in every progressive reformist article you write. There is no projection here, you provide the evidence, and then you wish to conveniently argue against it……

  57. mechandy

    Andreas, no need to sign on as Andrea, you would both be the same…..

  58. Kaye Lee

    I apologise for derailing an important thread. I withdraw in the hope that people get back to talking about important things.

  59. Harquebus

    Just out of curiosity, how many have heard of Gail Tverberg before this piece?
    She is a woman that I have followed for some years and have a lot of respect for.

  60. W.M.A

    Kaye Lee and anyone else who wants a good perspective on a future powered by renewable energy i suggest you should take the time to read this article by Richard Heinberg (whilst over at post carbon, have a look around there are some excellent resources there) http://www.postcarbon.org/renewable-energy-will-not-support-economic-growth/

    its not that there is a better alternative to Solar, Wind et al, its that the way we live will not be supported by current RE sources in the long term once fossil fuel are removed from the equation. There needs to be a fundamental shift in how we live. We are reaching, if not already reached, the limits to growth.

  61. Kaye Lee

    I understand that we cannot keep growing on a finite planet but we have to start the change somewhere. We cannot immediately change the world so it seems to me that we must, in the mean time, as a first step, move to renewable energy while we get better at consuming less. I am open to ideas but they need to be achievable.

  62. Andreas Bimba

    Harquebus, I hadn’t heard of Gail Tverberg but I’m not an economist. The cat that just peered into my garage is more competent at economics than our current government so we all must do our bit to help.

    W.M.A. I haven’t read your link but my B S detector red lines when blanket statements like ‘we have reached the limits of growth’ are made.

    For a start economic growth or more precisely economic progress does not necessarily involve the consumption of more resources. For example a modern flat panel TV uses less energy and takes less energy to make than an old CRT TV. Similarly a modern car uses far less energy than a 1950’s gas guzzler. Entertainment and sport are big businesses that don’t consume much. Designing something can provide a big result for little material input. Recycling, reuse and better product durability can also greatly reduce material consumption. Energy efficiency of dwellings can be increased enormously by super insulating them and use of double glazing. The German Passivhaus Standard is an example. I could go on but you get the idea.

    Many materials are still plentiful such as iron, aluminium, zinc, copper, lead and so on. Fresh water could be a problem but even then desalination that uses renewable or nuclear generated electricity is an option.

    The quantity of solar energy reaching the earth is truly enormous and despite Harquebus, much less energy is needed to make photovoltaic cells and wind turbines than they later produce.

    Renewable energy is taking off now throughout the world, open your eyes. Thorium nuclear reactors can produce huge quantities of energy and are expected to be cheaper than current designs and fail safe. There is no shortage of thorium. Australia has so much renewable energy potential that we may be able to avoid the nuclear route.

    The huge world population and the desire of most to live a similar profligate lifestyle like us is however a BIG CHALLENGE but there are already many things we should be doing now, if we had competent government, and new better ways are constantly popping up.

  63. MaryG

    Stay positive whatever happens. Look at those wonderful musicians on The Titanic.Dutiful to the very end.

  64. Harquebus

    Andreas Bimba
    Neither is Gail.


    Richard Heinberg, the author in W.M.A.’s link, is another who I follow and also have a lot of respect for. Unfortunately, he also feels that renewable energy generators must be part of the solution. We can’t all be perfect.

    “In the end, this is an end-of-growth dilemma. If Greece’s economy were still expanding at its 1990s rate, there is at least a chance that the government could repay its debt. But that kind of growth is now unachievable. And as the whole global economy sputters, it is nations like Greece, which live largely from tourism and import all their oil, that will likely confront growth limits first.”
    “Greece offers an opportunity to study the challenges and opportunities of the end of economic growth for those in the “developed” world.” — Author: Richard Heinberg.

    Greece Diary

    Solar panels are manufactured cheaply in China because, they dump the unprocessed toxic byproducts in their local communities.
    There is not a single process in the mining and processing or rare earth minerals used in wind turbine magnets that is not toxic for or destructive to the environment.

    Links I have posted many times so, will do only on request.

    Kaye Lee.
    I do not want to upset you however, population reduction is practical, achievable and will help with most of the issues that are confronting us. Less people means less consumption and less pollution.
    BTW: Are my emails being forwarded on to you. I regularly email politicians and journalists and have another prepared to go. theAimn in on my list.


  65. mikestasse

    Kaye I really don’t know why you are subjected to this frequent unfair nit picking

    Because it’s true. Kaye keeps asking for alternatives to renewables. There are none. Been saying for as long as long as I’ve been visiting this site. Kaye simply does not like the answer and has her hands over her ears…….. Renewables are an extension of the FF industry.

    I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with renewables in a post collapse era when total lack of fossil fuels means you can’t make the things we currently use electricity for. Like fridges, power tools, TVs and computers.

    We could save the FFs that are left for truly essential things like running firefighting equipment, making essential drugs like aspirin, and a bunch of other stuff, but wasting them to replace the current electricity infrastructure with another that will only last one generation and cook the planet in the process is simply irrational and suicidal to boot.

    You want to avoid collapse? DON’T BUILD A RENEWABLE SYSTEM!! If it’s true we already have 10% solar penetration, then we already have enough to keep the lights on while industry shuts down.

  66. mikestasse

    We cannot immediately change the world

    That’s the clincher Kaye. And it’s why I know for a fact that we WILL COLLAPSE. Unless we DO change the world immediately – and I fear it’s already too late – then we will cook the planet.

    You just want to keep your cushy lifestyle, only solar powered.

    while we get better at consuming less

    Well that brought a smile to the dial………. how hard is consuming less? It’s a piece of piss. Take it from someone who’s been doing it for 20 years. All you have to do is stop shopping!

  67. mikestasse

    For a start economic growth or more precisely economic progress does not necessarily involve the consumption of more resources. For example a modern flat panel TV uses less energy and takes less energy to make than an old CRT TV. Similarly a modern car uses far less energy than a 1950’s gas guzzler.


    Modern flat panel TVs are way way bigger than the CRT types we used pre digital, and as a result they use just as much energy. Worse, old CRT TVs would last 30 years. The one we had to chuck out when digital came in worked just fine, until, well, digital came in. It was 30 years old. A friend of mine who had a quality Samsung 32″ flat screen recently had to replace it because it literally blew up, smoke coming out of it and all. The guy at Harvey Norman told him he as lucky he got 8 years out of it, most rarely last more than 6…….. probably due to the fact that like us, he watches less TV than your average Australian. So there you have it, in 30 years of watching TV, you’ll now have to buy/manufacture FIVE TVs instead of one. And all those screens contain rare earths mined in the Congo by starving kids working in muck. Have you watched that video I posted above yet……….? BTW, our TV is a 21″ device that consumes 40W. But every time we have visitors they can’t believe our TV is so tiny…….

    While it’s true we could all be driving 100 MPG cars today, the fact is everyone’s doing the same thing as for TVs, and going large. Most cars built today weigh two to three times as much as they did in the 50’s. My first car was a real clunker, a 1954 Renault with a 750cc engine that was hard put to reach 100km/h. It did 6L/100km. Our current car is a Korean device with a 1500cc engine that does…… 6L/100km! And that’s only because I almost never ever drive it over 90km/h to save fuel. Yes, the latest car has aircon and a radio which the Renault didn’t, and it’s a hell of a lot faster off the mark at the lights, and it has seat belts, and the brakes and handling cannot even be compared, but is it real progress?

    Three years ago, I hired a Suzuki Alto in Tasmania which has a 3 cylinder 1000cc engine. I squeezed 3.75L/100km from it. And every time I see one on the road it’s like “hey look, there’s an Alto!” For every Alto on the road, there’s 10,000 SUVs……

    And regarding cars, you have to realise that 60% of ALL THE EMISSIONS any car will cause are created when manufacturing the car, before you even turn the key and drive it from the showroom.

    Furthermore, ALL this stuff is imported from some country far away. We no longer make TVs in Australia, and it’s only a matter of time before we don’t make cars either. I found out the other day that the 15 largest ships plying our seas cause as much CO2 emissions as ALL THE CARS IN THE WORLD….. I shudder to think what all of the remaining ships combined do for our emissions.

    That’s why ALL CONSUMPTION HAS TO END, and we must dismantle capitalism and industry. It’s just not worth cooking the planet for.

  68. mikestasse

    Many materials are still plentiful such as iron, aluminium, zinc, copper, lead and so on.

    ONLY for as long as we have OIL to mine them with. We have almost certainly hit Peak Lead and Peak Copper. Aluminium requires HUGE amounts of electricity, Alcoa bought an entire coal fired power station in Gladstone Qld jut to power their Aluminium smelter…… in the trade, molten Aluminium flowing to its molds is called ‘liquid electricity’!

    About five years ago, car batteries suddenly doubled in price. I did some research and discovered we were hitting Peak Lead, and supply could not keep with demand. Luckily, old batteries can be recycled, bit it all requires fossil energy to do……. Copper pipes are now so expensive that plumbers now pretty well exclusively use plastic which won’t last as long and is 100% made with…. OIL!

  69. mechandy

    Mike, I’ve got to say that I think you have a lot of patience. I look at the assertions being made (like those that Andreas posted) and simply shake my head. Their comments merely confirm that the crash will indeed happen, because they are all working so hard, to achieve it……

  70. mikestasse

    Thanks for the kind words mechandy….. the problem really lies in the fact that most people still believe our predicaments are some time in the future, whereas in fact they are here NOW. Which is why I fear it’s too late….. nobody (except me, and a few hundred of my followers from all over the world) is willing to act now.

  71. mechandy

    Kaye, good to hear that you are open to suggestions. What’s achievable comes down to what I can achieve, through my daily actions. I cannot change or control the World, but I can change my daily actions. As such, I do not need to ‘appeal’ to someone else, ‘to do something’. I decided some 15 years ago that the ‘system’ and it’s destructive fictional realities, were being ‘sustained’ by my daily actions, and so I set about withdrawing that sustenance. Here is a list of just a few of the things I decided to do. (please note, I am not saying that this is what I think everyone ‘should’ do, simply that these are the things ‘I’ decided to do).

    I gave away my property (real estate) and most of my money.
    I do not have a bank account or any investments.
    I do not have a car or a drivers license. (I travel everywhere by bicycle)
    I do not vote, my name has been removed from the electoral role.
    I do not receive (nor do I want to receive) State welfare or a healthcare card.
    I do not have a TV.
    I have learnt to live quite comfortably on 1 Kwh of electricity per day.
    I earn, on average, $40 per day, repairing old bicycles, re-using and re-cycling parts from other old bicycles.
    Over the past 8 years I have travelled some 54,000 kms by bicycle, both daily commuting and riding around various parts of Australia, working as I go.
    On those rides around Australia, I have met a lot of different people. Last year alone, I met some 5,000 people over a 10 month period and got to talk to them about ‘why’ I live my life the way I do. (Most are shocked….)
    I frequently live in a tent.
    I also have a base, where I live part of the time, with a good friend.
    My daily actions have had a large impact on the thinking of numerous people, especially in the small community in which I sometimes reside, they are often inspired to do more themselves.

    Many people (especially those I meet whilst travelling) consider my life one of ‘hardship’ and that at age 54, I should be looking forward to retirement with a big wad of cash in my pocket.

    To me, I live very comfortably, much more comfortably than most people on this planet……

  72. Kaye Lee

    “FFS Kaye Lee……… Collapse is NOT inevitable.”

    “I know for a fact that we WILL COLLAPSE.”

    Oh well that sorts that out.

    “how hard is consuming less? It’s a piece of piss. Take it from someone who’s been doing it for 20 years. All you have to do is stop shopping!”

    And that’s the trouble with you and mechandy mike. You seem to think your lifestyle is applicable for all. I agree we must all contribute by personally consuming less but that doesn’t answer the question of where our power comes from. Am I to understand you are proposing no domestic power use and do you really think that is going to happen?

    “You just want to keep your cushy lifestyle, only solar powered”

    I would really appreciate it if you would STOP telling me what I want because you are invariably wrong. You know nothing about my lifestyle.

  73. Harquebus

    Collapse is not inevitable however, with business as usual and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, it is.
    Greece should be a wake up call for us all.

  74. mechandy

    Kaye, I think you need to re-read my post, especially the last sentence of the first paragraph. In addition, please do outline your lifestyle and state exactly what it is that you want……

  75. Roswell

    It beats me why people are so obsessed with picking on Kaye Lee.

    Nobody I know is trying to hold our government to account as much as she does. Nobody I know is more concerned for the future as she is. Yet people come in here with ridiculous claims that she isn’t doing enough or isn’t doing the right thing or is doing everything wrong.

    There are bigger ‘targets’ than Kaye Lee. The government, for example, is the major one.

  76. Harquebus

    Perhaps because Kaye Lee is such a prolific writer, there are more items for disagreement.
    I would love to change Kaye Lee’s mind on some things however, she is feisty and stubborn. (A compliment Kaye Lee, not meant as an offense.) She would be a great asset if I could.

  77. Roswell

    She is a great asset as it is, Harquebus.

    You might be obsessed with changing her, but I think you’ll find that 99% of the readers love her just the way she is.

  78. Kaye Lee

    I haven’t made up my mind about sustainability so it would be hard to change it. It is an ongoing research field with new developments every day.

    We agree we must stop using fossil fuels, or at least use them to best purpose where we must.

    We agree we must reduce our consumption.

    We agree we must slow population growth.

    We agree we must change.

    My problem comes when people judge the future on the present. I cannot see us all giving up using power entirely. If we accept that then we must look for the best way to produce energy. The lesser of the evils if you like. To just keep saying that civilisation will inevitably collapse does no good in my mind. We need constructive ideas to delay the inevitable and who knows what the future may bring.

  79. Harquebus

    Four things that we agree and can build on. I feel my optimism returning.

    I am trying to change the minds of many and am having some success however, so far, it’s not enough.

  80. mechandy

    Ah Roswell, so you laud Kaye’s holding of the governement to account whilst simultaneously derdiding anyone who holds Kaye to account. Therefore, Kaye and you, are no different to Tony Abbott…..

    Your ‘power’, just like Tony Abbotts, lies in the populist ‘message’ for your demographic, as you have freely admitted by stating that Kaye has adoring fans, that ‘ love her just the way she is’. Just like Tony Abbotts fans would declare the same.

    And just like Tony Abbott, Kaye continues to run from the questions…..

  81. Roswell

    What a complete load if crap.

    Typical of someone who wants to shoot the messenger instead of worrying about the message.

  82. mikestasse

    “FFS Kaye Lee……… Collapse is NOT inevitable.”

    “I know for a fact that we WILL COLLAPSE.”

    Oh well that sorts that out.

    See Kaye……. you are so good at repeating stuff out of context.

    And mechandy……… apart from now knowing the meaning of your cybername, thanks for making me feel inadequate! But I am really impressed…..

  83. mechandy

    Hmmm Roswell, a totally predictable, populist, journalistic response. So banal…..

  84. Michael Taylor

    Roswell predictable and populist!!!! You don’t know much, do you?

    And I too have noticed that some some here are quite happy to attack people instead of debating the argument.

  85. mechandy

    So tell me what you think I don’t know Michael….

    And please tell me why Kaye continually avoids debating the scientific / engineering evidence that Mike Stasse links to, like Susan Krumdieck, apart from the fact that she doesn’t listen to them or read them, but still wishes to attack people instead of debating the argument on scientific / engineering grounds….

  86. Michael Taylor

    I think you don’t know Roswell.

  87. Michael Taylor

    And I really don’t care if Kaye is avoiding the debate re Mike’s links. Maybe she hasn’t got the time. It’s not an issue.

  88. Andreas Bimba

    Mechandy and Mikestasse, believe me I’m doing what I can to transition to a sustainable world but I am adamant that renewable energy is not as bad as you maintain. Our current government and most of the corporate elite is appalling and they shoud be the main target for attack.

    Most of your points I think are valid but some I disagree with but that is fine. Others can decide for themselves and we don’t need to agree on every detail.

  89. mechandy

    Dear reader, if you wish to understand why the ‘left’ has lost the plot as much as the ‘right’, there is no better tutorial than the responses above.

    Do not answer any questions directly posed to you.
    Evade debate.
    Pretend that you are being attacked (aka you are some kind of victim) when someone simply wishes to debate you.
    Have excuses at hand as to why you haven’t read the relevant literature that would enable a meaningful debate.
    Claim that you are merely the ‘messenger’ and therefore admit to your own ignorance whilst claiming to be an expert.

    I could go on….

    And most likely will need to……

  90. Roswell

    Oh dear.

  91. mechandy


  92. Michael Taylor

    Others can decide for themselves and we don’t need to agree on every detail.

    Thank you, Andreas. Great point.

  93. Harquebus

    I think that the price of commodities will go lower and will not benefit the consumer. They are already in debt up to the eyeballs and struggling to pay for the commodities that they have already purchased.
    Debt fueled consumerism spent today’s currency years ago.

    Is it possible to increase energy production, grow populations, grow the economy, build massive amounts of energy guzzling infrastructure and pay off debt all while trying to reduce greenhouse gasses and the budget deficit? I don’t think so. Most of these objectives sooner or later will have to be abandoned as reducing greenhouse gasses already has been and which, should have been the last. Growing populations should be the first to be abandoned.

    Why was today’s spending done in the years previous instead of saving it for today? Gail has given us the answer. The pursuit of growth in the face of diminishing energy resources.

  94. Michael Taylor

    Harquebus, you might want to sit down to hear this, but …



    …………………………. I agree with you. 😯

  95. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    My observations of the commentary – without making direct accusations:

    1) why can’t those with arguments for renewable energy and sustainable energy, form working alliances so that all technical arguments with their pros and cons, can be ironed out and an action plan formed?

    2) Yes I agree, why pick on Kaye? She’s highly regarded for her consistent, well-researched and argued perspectives on many political and socio-economic topics that deeply concern any sincere readers and contributors to this site.

    3) Why do trolls or otherwise dissatisfied commenters feel the need to undermine any discussion that might provide effective solutions that we can strongly advocate to the wankers in government or the beige alternative? We agree trolls are strange but why do other dissatisfied commenters prefer obstacles to debate as opposed to finding collaborated solutions?

  96. Harquebus

    Thankyou Michael Taylor.
    The law of averages says that it had to happen sooner or later.
    BTW: How does one insert one of those emoticon thingies?

    Is trolling for a worthy cause okay and who decides which is worthy?
    It is my opinion that society is following the examples set by our nations inglorious leaders.

  97. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Are you calling yourself a troll, Harquebus? Ooh…

    Speaking for myself, as part of this society, I don’t follow our nation’s inglorious leaders.

    It starts with each of us and groups of us, all collaborating on effective, working alternative solutions.

  98. Michael Taylor

    This link will give you a few tips, Harquebus.

    How To

  99. Harquebus

    Thanks for that M.T.

    I prefer to think of myself as an eWarrior.
    Apologies for any inference that you might be one of the sheeple. I know from your posts that you are not.


  100. Andreas Bimba

    A quote from the linked article below:

    “On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterday evening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%”.

    “Interconnectors allowed 80% of the power surplus to be shared equally between Germany and Norway, which can store it in hydropower systems for use later. Sweden took the remaining fifth of excess power”.


  101. Andreas Bimba

    Jennifer thanks for your wise comments. On your first point about coming up with an action plan on renewable energy this type of work has already been done by various experts in the renewable energy industry, academia and the CSIRO. All the roadblocks are political. If the masses would just vote for the Greens and the Australian Progressives the work could begin. Or the ALP could become rational again but this is unlikely with Shorty Pants and the repellent right faction running the show.

  102. mikestasse

    Andreas……….. well whoopy duck! One day hey…… and we’re all saved?

    Here’s another link;; http://www.worldwatch-europe.org/node/304

    MYTH 2: A large share of Denmark’s energy production comes from wind

    FACT 2: Only 5% energy production in Denmark comes from wind

    In Denmark, 39% of the wind power in total electricity consumed in 2014 was responsible for only 5% of total energy produced. Notice that the units are different: consumption vs production.

    Let’s go back to concepts to make some sense out of this information.

    Electricity consumption refers to the energy used in the form of electricity by the final users — such as your use of lighting and electronics at home. However, energy can be delivered to users in other forms that are not electricity, such as heating, gasoline at the gas station or fuel wood. All these different forms of energy delivered for final use are known as final energy consumption. Different actors such as industry, transport, households, services, agriculture, forestry and fisheries consume final energy.

    There is a significant mismatch between the share of a given primary energy source and the electricity generation because not all the primary energy produced is converted into electricity, and because there are many losses in the energy conversion and transportation. To clarify, look at the two graphs to the right (go to the link obviously…) about energy production and electricity in Denmark. These illustrations indicate this difference for the year of 2012, when wind power already represented only about 5% of all energy produced in Denmark.

    Graph A is about the total energy produced, in which the dark green area indicates the share of wind power in the energy mix. The line is thin because oil and natural gas were the main primary energy sources produced. Of all the primary energy produced shown in the graph, only 20% was used to generate electricity; the rest had other uses such as transportation and heating.

    Graph B is about electricity production indicates a much smaller presence of oil and natural gas, which means they were not used as much to produce electricity. The dark green shaded area represents the total amount of wind energy used for electricity production; which is thicker than the first graph since it represents almost 30% of electricity generated in 2012.

  103. mikestasse

    On the subject of collapse again, the Mayan, Inca, and Roman civilisations didn’t collapse from lack of electricity…….

    I don’t know why almost everyone here is hung up on renewable electricity, because you can’t eat it.

    Collapse is already underway because we use way too much energy. How anyone can think we can avoid collapse by using even more is gobsmacking…….

  104. mikestasse

    “Most people will do anything and everything to maintain our present personal level of energy use and the comfort it affords us.”
    We are the “civilised” and we are ENTITLED to live a high energy throughput, high consumptive life style…we are deeply afflicted by entitle-ism aka entitle-itis…we refuse to accept peak oil/peak water/peak soil/peak everything, and will chase hard every silver bullet that is thrown up as a techno-fix…and woo-betide anyone who gets in our way.

    “You really wanna see some hatred? You wanna see some violence? Thwart the civilized. Shut them down. Stop them from destroying the planet. The civilized will smile as they tear you limb from limb.”
    — Derrick Jensen, Endgame by Derrick Jensen

  105. mechandy

    Andreas, the link to the Guardian article that you have posted above, is a prime example of how the media ‘leads’ people whose creed is ‘hope’.

    Re-read the article, follow the links in it to the data, read them with a critical eye and then come back and tell us why the Guardian article is misleading.

    Following that, go to Professor Susan Kumdriecks University Home Page (mike stasse has posted numerous links to her work on this site) read through the vast list of her peer reviewed Engineering / Scientific papers, research that she has conducted into solar / wind / nuclear energy over some 30 years, and then let us begin the debate on this thread.

    If you and the numerous commentators on this site truly wish to debate the facts, great. If you wish to continue to evade the facts by restricting the discussion to your ‘hopes’, then you will be operating on the same level as those who exist in the Climate Change denial camp……

  106. mechandy

    Andreas is so lucky to have you around mike, to do his work for him! Nicely argued!!

  107. mechandy

    Mike, you no doubt also saw the time of day this miracle happened in Denmark, 10.44 pm…….

  108. mikestasse

    Indeed Andy, the media, even the progressive ones like the Guardian, are guilty of misleading people who know nothing about energy. Unlike most people, I am actually educated in energy. When I started learning about this stuff, I had never even heard of PRIMARY ENERGY……. nor did I know anything about SURPLUS ENERGY. Both are critical to the operation of ‘modern civilisation’, whatever that means.

    Here’s more DATA…… not hopium, not beliefs, but real data about how things actually work, data collected by engineers. But what would they know… right?

    The truth about the efficacy of Solar Power.

  109. mechandy

    Thanks for the link Mike, I also checked out this one whilst I was there,


    Yes, it’s incredibly frustrating to witness the continual denial of good quality Scientific / Engineering data. I fully expect it when I’m talking to neo-cons, but to see it denied by so called progressives, is astounding.

    The Jensen quote about ‘the civilized’, is a great explanation as to why it happens….

  110. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Ok, ok, I get it, mechandy and mikestasse!

    You both seem to be saying that the renewable technologies available now are not the total answer to our growing global warming realities and fears.

    So, instead of undermining our collective preparedness to argue for real and effective renewable energy solutions, PERSUADE us what acceptable mixes of energy consumption and human behaviour we can begin today to demonstrate to our peers and advocate to the numbskulls in parliament.

    If we ALL want solutions that will save our planet for ALL life on earth, then we need to work together, not at the bidding of the degenerate neo-conservatives, who don’t give a damn.

  111. Harquebus

    There are no real and effective renewable energy solutions. If there was, mikestasse, mechandy and myself would be all for them.
    Population reduction is the only solution.

  112. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Harquebus,

    for the response. Sorry I didn’t include you in my invitation!

    I don’t dispute population reduction, although that also is not an easy fix. In terms of what Australia can do, one suggestion on that front, which probably is not politically palatable for people on both sides of the fence, is significantly reduced economic migration into Australia because we can influence that.

    (NB I said economic migration. I continue to proactively advocate for humane, accessible and timely entry to ALL asylum seekers, so they may prove their refugee rights to gain asylum in our beautiful country.)

  113. mikestasse

    MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) – Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

    The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

    “These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

    More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

    While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

    While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.


  114. mechandy

    Jennifer, firstly, thank you for engaging in the debate rather than simply dismissing what is being presented. It’s a vital first step.

    Your questions suggest that, perhaps, you still have not grasped the severity of the situation. Like Mike, I have been looking at this for a long time, in my case, 15 years and Mike’s 20. I think I can confidently say that both our journeys have been on a long road of gradual learning. We didn’t just wake up one morning and see everything clearly, and the truth is, I still don’t. No-one has a crystal ball, but good Scientific / Engineering Research does at least give us the ability to prepare for the challenges ahead, but only if we read and fully understand them. Unfortunately, the misleading populist ‘solutions’ presented in the media, attract more attention.

    It is important to state that neither Mike, Harquebus or myself are attempting to undermine anything. We are asking ‘why’ you would want to pursue the strategies you and the collective are. In pursuing those strategies, it will make the situation worse and perpetuate the mass sleepwalking.

    In his Scientific Paper entitled ‘ No way out? The double-bind in seeking global prosperity alongside mitigated climate change, T. J. Garrett states in his conclusion that,

    ‘Only a combination of extremely rapid decarbonization and civilization collapse will enable CO2 concentrations to be stabilized below the 450ppmv level that might be considered as “dangerous” (Hansen et al., 2007).’ (1)

    This means the absolute end of ALL economic growth, ALL profligate consumption, and as just ONE example in one of my previous posts above, the end of steel manufacture. As an aside, a level of 450 ppmv would mean a temperature rise of at least 3.8 deg C.

    If we do not collapse civilization voluntarily, it will be done for us.

    It is therefore obvious that Politicians are not part of the solution. They will never advocate zero economic growth, unless of course it enables them to gain even more power and control over us, a scenario that most people simply don’t think about….

    The ‘solution’, no doubt one that most will not want to hear, is preparing for and adapting to what will undoubtedly unfold. As Mr Turner suggests,

    ‘Another lesson is the importance of taking pre-emptive action well ahead of problems becoming entrenched. Regrettably, the alignment of data trends with the LTG (Limits to Growth) dynamics indicates that the early stages of collapse could occur within a decade, or might even be underway.This suggests, from a rational risk- based perspective, that we have squandered the past decades, and that preparing for a collapsing global system could be even more important than trying to avoid collapse.'(2)

    1) No way out? The double-bind in seeking global prosperity alongside mitigated climate change. T. J. Garrett Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

    2) Turner, G. (2014) ‘Is Global Collapse Imminent?’, MSSI Research Paper No. 4, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute,The University of Melbourne.

  115. Harquebus

    My wake up started in 2006 when petrol hit $1.00/ltr and I started researching crude oil. That is when I came across Hubbert and also Energy Returned on Energy Invested. EROEI.
    I could not believe what I was reading and thoroughly researched the crude oil industry for three months straight. Since then, I have been studying the relationships between energy, productivity and the economy. I have read hundreds of articles and reports and can say undeniably that, politicians and the media have no understanding of these relationships. The only thing they concern themselves with is economics, thinking that it alone can solve everything.

    It doesn’t look good and it can mostly be boiled down to unfettered growth and rampant consumerism all for the sake of profit.

    I now devote most of my time to collecting relevant facts and information and trying to spread the word as far and as wide as possible. Unfortunately, very few and Jennifer has mentioned them, understand the complexity of and the reliance that our society has with energy.
    I regularly email politicians and journalists, have been doing so for years and am finally starting to have some success. Harquebus is not unknown in political and journalistic circles.

    I am a computer and information scientist. My comprehensive skill set includes information systems analysis and engineering. You should see my library and this is not meant as a brag.

    It is heartening for me to see mikestasse and mechandy putting up the same material that I also read. It is not that crap from main stream media which, I also read. The information that I promote comes from scientists, geologist and such.

    Here is one of the greats. This video was made 20 years ago. We were warned.
    Dr Albert Bartlett (RIP): Arithmetic, Population and Energy
    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_VpyoAXpA8

  116. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Speaking for myself mechandy,

    I am not necessarily worried by your portrayal of what life, as we know it, has planned for us.

    I’m not a fan of global prosperity as we know it because I agree, that just means more consumerism and consumption.

    Keeping socio-economic exchanges as local, grassroots social enterprises would always be my preference.

    I envisage under-cover and lockable market places where micro-businesses can trade and provide consumers with home-grown Australian items that provide diversity and the opportunity for people to sustain themselves through their own hands and minds. That is one of my alternative views.

    Hence, my call for effective government backed Micro Finance Grants and Micro Credit Loans. The reality is that if government freed up accessible funding to such micro-businesses, there would be highly achievable self-sustenance through micro-enterprise and far less reliance on welfare, and far less reliance on the products of large corporates.

    And OMG! there would even be more tax revenue for distribution to other societal essentials like scientific research and invention that will provide the answers for combatting the fear of global warming.

    Any positive contribution to make to this, mikestasse?

  117. Harquebus

    A gold backed currency would do better. Our fiat currencies are borrowed into existence through fractional reserve banking. The greatest confidence trick in all of history.

  118. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    It’s probably obvious, I’m not a fully-fledged economist, Harquebus, so I’ll defer to your greater knowledge.

    I equate the essence of your comment to marginal lending for share trading and if there is a correlation, I understand your disgust at the economic system’s reliance on such gambling.

    Nonetheless, while again deferring to your knowledge, don’t dismiss my MFG’s and MCL’s, as essential supports to micro-business activities that will get Australia moving again in an environmental and socio-economic ways.

  119. Harquebus

    First: The more one knows, the more one realizes how much one doesn’t know. You can still teach me a lot and you have. You have put me in my place more than once and thanks for that.
    Fiat currencies are worthless. Creating more fiat is not a solution, it is the problem.

    I think you will enjoy this. It really is worth seeing. Others that I have shown were amazed and all wanted to see the other four episodes.

  120. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    (Y) Harquebus. I shall do as you suggest and learn from your link.

  121. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I meant a thumbs up, Harquebus. Darned modern technology doesn’t do everything one wants it to do!

  122. mikestasse

    Of course, if we still had a gold backed currency, gold would have to be worth at least $250,000 an ounce. Give or take an order of magnitude!

  123. Matters Not

    Fiat currencies are worthless

    Really? Worthless?

    That’s not my lived experience. Rather when I go to the ‘pub’ and order a beer or two, for example, and I pay with a ‘fiat’ currency, I find that the provider will continue to deliver same as long as I keep supplying him/her with the same (apparently worthless) ‘fiat’ dollars.

    It’s the same when I employ someone to paint my house. When the painting is done and I hand over my (apparently worthless) ‘fiat’ dollars, the painter seems delighted. When I fly to Thailand, Thai Airways always accepts my ‘worthless’ currency and when I arrive this ‘worthless’ currency is always exchangeable for the (worthless) ‘fiat’ Thai Baht.

    One could go on.

    Harquebus, I suggest you ‘get out more’. And at least try to understand what ‘fiat’ currencies are all about.

  124. Harquebus

    That is not so. In a gold standard, if gold was $20/oz as it once was in the U.S., it would always be $20/oz.

    Matters Not.
    Your purchasing power is continually being eroded through the expansion of the fiat currency supply. All is well until confidence in the currency is lost and then, all hell breaks loose. Because you can buy beer today with it, you will not always be able to do so.
    You won’t beat me on this one either. I suggest that you wait until a subject comes along that you know something about.

    Matters Not and mikestasse.
    I suggest you watch the video that I have posted. “Hidden Secrets of Money”. Really, even if you do not agree, this video is worth watching.


  125. Andreas Bimba

    Mechandy and Mikestasse, you both make statements, provide links and ask questions and this is fine but you both also make a lot of accusations about others who comment and appear to demand that others view your linked articles and provide an appraisal of all points made. I also detect a lot of frustration and anger. No one here owes you or anyone else anything apart from normal courtesy and patience. If someone doesn’t respond or disagrees, so be it.

    Harquebus apparently shares many of your conclusions but his comments are never hostile nor does he demand a response. I thought he was a troll until his comments started sounding half reasonable.

    I have not had the time to view your links nor to do a point by point appraisal of what you write. The smartphone I’m using is also far from ideal for this purpose.

    We agree on a hell of a lot but you both focus too much on any perceived differences (real or imagined). As I said before we don’t need to agree on everything and no belief or ideology will be able to achieve universality but we as a people have been able to take on challenges and make progress in the past. My focus is bringing about change at the government level so that we can rapidly shift to a sustainable society. Other countries especially in Europe, but also California have made substantial progress and we also need to do far better.

    You both apparently denigrate photovoltaic and wind power but these are cost effective and successful technologies and can and will be used much more. Yes electricity is only part of the energy used by society at present but a greater share of transport can transition to electricity for example electric trains, trolley buses, trams and electric vehicles. Electricity can replace natural gas for cooking, heating and most industrial uses. Hydrogen can be made from electricity and used in fuel cell vehicles or converted into methane for CNG powered vehicles. Steel can also be made by direct reduction using electricity. Alcohols and methane can be made from biomass and used as transport fuels. Biodiesel can be made from algae with sewage as a possible nutrient source. Thorium nuclear reactors which I mentioned before show potential to produce electricity relatively safely and cheaply, for the production of hydrogen and for desalination of sea water but they are at least 10 years away if and when this tecnology receives major funding. China is proceeding with this technology. I have already mentioned energy conservation and recycling and reuse. I have also endorsed the merit of a less consumerist and energy intensive lifestyle for us all.

    There are many silver bullets and this problem will be nibbled at from many directions at once. I also agree that global warming is upon us now and that many decades have been squandered and we must act ASAP.

  126. Matters Not

    purchasing power is continually being eroded through the expansion of the fiat currency supply

    Indeed it is. When I was in Thailand last year an Australian dollar bought me 30 Baht. This year it only bought me 26 Baht. (We’ll all be rooned I thought).

    You won’t beat me on this one either

    Who would try? Intellectual suicide is a matter of choice. Or haven’t you learnt that?

    All is well until confidence in the currency is lost and then, all hell breaks loose.

    Can only agree. Living is risky.

    Then there’s this.

    I suggest that you wait until a subject comes along that you know something about.

    Hilarious. And arrogant as always.

  127. Harquebus

    Matters Not.
    So glad you enjoyed it. You put a smile on my face as well.
    We’re both happy. Let’s leave it at that eh?

  128. Harquebus

    Andreas Bimba
    I was trolling for a worthy cause, well, at least I thought I was until it got me banned, twice.
    Now I consider myself an eWarrior and try to operate under some sort of an eWarrior code of conduct.
    The renewable energy thingy I disagree with you and will take it up with you another day. Tomorrow perhaps.

  129. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Gentlemen and Ladies (although I suspect only Gentlemen), please stop trying to outdo each other. You all make sense, in this instance.

    When you put your posts, my only suggestion is keep it user-friendly, so people such as myself whom have not had substantial science education, can understand the greater technicalities of your standpoints.

  130. Matters Not



    Have you given up?

    Or is this a ‘subject’ that I know something about?

    Perhaps in the near future we can discuss ‘facts’, the methodology used to generate same and then the meaning(s) that are then attributed and the problems with same. Then we might move on to ‘metaphysics’, ‘epistemology’, and ‘axiology’.

    But only when a subject comes along that you know something about. LOL.

    Not that I want to be patronising to a ‘computer and information scientist’ whose ‘comprehensive skill set includes information systems analysis and engineering’ and who has an extensive library.

    Just sayin …


  131. mikestasse

    Harquebus……. when gold was $20 an ounce, there was a lot less money floating around. The amount of gold available has remained the same. Sure, there’s a bit more about now than in 1972, but not a lot, especially when compared to money. So with this much money (and of course let’s face it, we really mean DEBT!) then either the money’s worth nothing, or gold would be very very very expensive if it was still backing all that money. About 500 trillion dollars. About as round a figure as you could ever see unless you’re measuring distances between stars! We’ll probably agree that what this really means is that the money is worthless……..

  132. mikestasse

    Andreas, you are dead right I’m frustrated. Angry…? Maybe. Sometimes. If you were in the boot of a car that a bunch of idiots were going to drive off a cliff at 200km/h while you were yelling “let me out, let me out!!”…… I bet you’d be seriously pissed off too.

  133. mikestasse

    “My focus is bringing about change at the government level so that we can rapidly shift to a sustainable society”

    I know Andreas. That government is driving the car. You’re in the front trying to wrench the steering wheel off the dickhead in charge, when you should be helping me out of the boot so we can both get out!

    Governments won’t change until the crash happens. They all too busy counting that worthless fiat money…. bought by the corporations who now run the world. You are seriously deluding yourself if you think there’s a political solution to this. I used to (just like I used to believe in renewable energy), but then I saw the light….. I even stood for seven elections around 2000. How many have you stood for?

    The only way to a rapid change to a sustainable society is via a rapid crash. And believe me, right now as I’m selling my house and moving to Tasmania to start all over again, a rapid crash would be EXTREMELY inconvenient.

  134. mikestasse

    You both apparently denigrate photovoltaic and wind power but these are cost effective

    Yep Andreas. I even make $2000 a year out of ours! $2000 in that worthless fiat money! But that does not change the fact they are ENERGY INEFFECTIVE.

    I’ve posted this over and over and over……… to no avail it seems. But if you can get your brain around this one then you will finally see where we are coming from. And if you haven’t got the time, MAKE THE TIME! You may even understand why I don’t believe government can’t fix ANYTHING. They don’t even know there’s a lid.

  135. Harquebus

    Matters Not
    I am not giving up. I would prefer us to compete on friendly terms however, if you want to bring it on, I will oblige. Presently, I am in the middle of my reading list.
    Here is something that I have just read and I have just popped in to share it.

    “there is not enough surplus energy left over after construction of the generators and the storage system to power our present civilization.

    The problem is analysed in an important paper by Weißbach et al.1 in terms of energy returned on energy invested, or EROEI – the ratio of the energy produced over the life of a power plant to the energy that was required to build it. It takes energy to make a power plant – to manufacture its components, mine the fuel, and so on. The power plant needs to make at least this much energy to break even. A break-even powerplant has an EROEI of 1. But such a plant would pointless, as there is no energy surplus to do the useful things we use energy for.

    There is a minimum EROEI, greater than 1, that is required for an energy source to be able to run society. An energy system must produce a surplus large enough to sustain things like food production, hospitals, and universities to train the engineers to build the plant, transport, construction, and all the elements of the civilization in which it is embedded.”
    The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

    I’ll be back later to read the other comments.

  136. Andreas Bimba

    In regard to other sources of CO2 emissions, steel making is a big source of global CO2 emissions but alternative technologies such as molten oxide electrolysis (MOE) currently being researched at MIT and hydrogen flash smelting (HFS) currently being researched at the University of Utah offer the potential for very low CO2 emissions when the electricity used is from renewable or non CO2 emitting sources such as nuclear power.

    Even though costs are likely to be higher than conventional coke ovens, future needs for steel are likely to reduce due to higher levels of recycling and the necessity to increasingly adopt less energy and material consuming lifestyles.


    And a critical analysis looking at steel making alternatives for India:


  137. mechandy

    ‘The feasibility of MOE as a carbon-neutral process hinges on the identification of an inert anode material. Therefore, the scope of this study was to determine the criteria of an inert anode for MOE, identify candidate materials, and evaluate the performance of these materials. Previous studies of MOE at MIT found iridium, a platinum group metal, to be an excellent candidate for an inert anode. The high cost of iridium makes it an unlikely candidate for a commercial iron production process. However, iridium provides a likely candidate for lunar production of oxygen, or high-purity iron production.’

    Direct from a paper by the MIT

    Are you a venture capitalist Andreas?

  138. Andreas Bimba

    Apologies to Gail Tverberg for hijacking this discussion and for getting side tracked but moving to a low carbon sustainable economy which we must do urgently, will definitely influence commodity prices.

    Mechandy, also apologies as I originally wanted to post a more up to date article but I couldn’t find it. This article discussed research from the same MIT team that produced iron using the MOE process using much cheaper but still durable anodes. These links below also mention these better anodes. This research is being done now at the pilot plant scale so if successful would still probably be a decade away from industrial scale plants.

    Quotes from the attached article:

    “Researchers at MIT have identified inexpensive metal alloy materials that can serve as anodes for molten oxide electrolysis (MOE).”

    “Anodes comprising chromium-based alloys exhibit limited consumption during iron extraction and oxygen evolution by MOE. The anode stability is due to the formation of an electronically conductive solid solution of chromium(III) and aluminium oxides in the corundum structure.”



  139. Jonathan Maddox

    With Saudi Arabia and a few others still pumping very large quantities of oil (in excess of 75% of the current annual supply) at costs under $10/bbl, it’s premature to say that cheap oil is a thing of the past. There are also vast quantities of expensive oil (at say $150/bbl, affordable if required) in the form of bitumen sands and the like, and staggeringly enormous quantities of fossil energy in the forms of coal and gas.

    The limiting factor of the fossil energy industry at this stage is not geological supply of fossil fuels but the ability of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans to continue absorbing CO₂ pollution from their burning without devastating climate change. There are no globally consistent market forces reflecting that limit, so we are in ecological overshoot. Not supply constraints at all.

    It is *political* pressure, in the face of the ecological overshoot, which is containing demand and pushing down prices on the market well below the cost which energy consumers would be prepared to pay. It is being applied unevenly and inconsistently across countries, consumer classes, fuel types and fuel production and delivery technologies, but it is real. If that political pressure were applied in a more “economically efficient” fashion it would be visible as a clear price signal (ie. an emissions tax) and we’d have a much clearer picture of real fossil fuel supply and demand economics.

  140. Jonathan Maddox

    Some of the comments here regarding gold-backed currency are as bizarre as the petroleum geology premise is premature. In gold-denominated units, freshly baked bread and building heat are both available today at prices entirely comparable with those available to cashed-up citizens of Rome in the reign of Augustus. That doesn’t, and couldn’t, point to any sort of impending collapse — the price signal in gold, a mineral long past its peak production rate, is no more representative of real environmental constraints than any form of fiat money. The atmosphere isn’t giving us a price signal to say when it’s had enough CO₂ emissions, any more than the ozone hole was costing us money when we identified it as an issue and phased out chlorofluorocarbon spray can propellants.

    Money is just numbers in a ledger, pieces of paper and arbitrary metal tokens, but it can tell us (just a little) about the priorities of the people who have it and use it and tax it and regulate it. It’s not exclusively about geology.

  141. Andreas Bimba

    Really good comments Jonathan.

    The carbon tax that the ALP and the Greens introduced so smoothly during the previous government was the right policy. It uses the market to efficiently send a price signal to consumers and businesses so that they can make more appropriate purchasing decisions. Dr James Hansen one of the primary voices warning of the critical danger of global warming has always recommended national carbon taxes but he prefers a full refund of the tax revenue to citizens.

    To currently allow the fossil fuel industry to compete against renewable suppliers without factoring into its prices the huge economic burden of CO2 emissions is in reality a foolish distortion of the market. The ten billion dollars p.a. of subsidies that the Australian fossil fuel industry receives is another appalling market distortion.

    The carbon tax was simple and relatively easy to audit. Emissions trading on the other hand promises to be complex, expensive to administer and vulnerable to evasion and fraud.

  142. mechandy

    Andreas, firstly, thank you for posting a credible link to the Nature Scientific Journal. The ‘Industry’ links you’ve previously posted, are frequently full of ‘marketing’ and ‘financial’ hype, hence my question about Venture Capital.

    Unfortunately the MOE paper can only be obtained by purchase and given that I can not afford to buy all these papers, I am unable to read the full text. But, from the abstract, here are my observations.

    The MOE process requires Chromium (111) gained from Chromite and the Aluminium Oxides are gained from Bauxite, both of which need to be ‘mined’ using large quantities of fossil fuels. Australia has large deposits of Bauxite, the mining of which is heavily subsidised. There are other large deposits of these minerals across the Globe, some of the largest in Countries that experience considerable political and social unrest. Afghanistan is one such country (it has very large deposits of numerous kinds of sought after minerals) and it is therefore no surprise that America and Russia before them, have used their Military Industrial complex in an attempt to ‘secure’ access to these minerals. As George Bush is reputed to have said, ‘why is our oil under their sand’. The MI complex requires huge amounts of once again highly subsidised fossil fuels to operate. Meanwhile, in this mad rush to exploit the Globes resources to continue escalating economic growth, millions of people are displaced from their lands, killed in conflicts they have no desire to be involved in and their labour is frequently exploited.

    The question that is never asked is, ‘what is the cost of all this?’ On a human and environmental level the cost is enormous. But the question also has to be asked about the EROEI of these highly subsidised activities. For example, how much Energy is invested through the Military Industrial complex ALONE, in order to secure access globally to various resources, and what is the Energy return on that investment.

    To the best of my knowledge, these calculations are not done, and the human and environmental ‘costs’ are ignored or simply swept aside as little more than collateral damage.

    Meanwhile, the scientists at MIT who are working on the MOE process, have set up a company, no doubt to secure venture capital from ‘investors’ in order to exploit their discovery. The rich get richer and the poor, well you know the story.

    Getting back to MOE itself, I note that there is an important sentence missing from your cut and paste quote,

    ‘These findings make practicable larger-scale evaluation of MOE for the production of steel’. A cleverly constructed sentence, note the use of the word ‘evaluate’.

    I argue that it is precisely this desire for the ‘fix all technology’, combined with a head in the sand approach to EROEI, a desire to sweep the ‘costs’ we don’t want to see or admit to, under the carpet, that has got us into this mess.

    And whilst all these shenanigan’s (primarily in pursuit of profit and power) continue unabated, so does the atmospheric CO2 level.

    The clock is still ticking…….

  143. mikestasse

    Jonathan maddox, you are, unfortunately wrong about the cost of Saudi oil…….

    The cost that matters is the cost to buy and deliver the oil to a refinery. The Saudis are the lowest cost producers in the world, but it still costs them a little over $22/barrel to find, drill, pump, and load a barrel of oil on a tanker in the Persian Gulf.

    Kuwait and the Emirates are similar while Iran and Iraq are higher at about $28-32/barrel. BUT shipping is a huge cost today. It costs just under $20/barrel of oil to move it by super tanker to Houston or Philadelphia (two largest import hubs in the east) and $27/barrel to ship it to California and the west coast. That places the true cost of Saudi oil at $42-47/barrel before they make a cent……

    Iran and the others are much higher ranging from $48-59/barrel just to enter the US market. From the main tanker terminals, shipping costs now range from $1 to $8 per barrel to the final destination. Saudi crude therefore costs $43-55 per barrel depending on the refinery.

    Compare that to shale oil, the most expensive US oil. Most of the major shale producers need an average of $42/barrel to get a 10% return on investment. The average shipping cost varies depending on destination, but pipelines are about $4 and rail from North Dakota to Philadelphia is about $16 per barrel. So the true cost of a shale barrel is $46-58/barrel depending on destination. US conventional oil is cheaper as is deep water oil. $46-58/barrel is pretty competitive with $43-55/barrel Saudi and cheaper than Iran, Iraq, and Russia.

  144. mikestasse

    Money is just numbers in a ledger……… It’s not exclusively about geology.

    Really Jonathan….. let me tell you, when geology finally puts the squeeze on us, money printing in ledgers etc will end.

    And money is only worth anything for as long as there’s confidence in it. Come the day supermarket shelves go empty, your money (and mine) will simply go ‘pooof’!

  145. Harquebus

    Saudi Arabia needs $100/bl to finance its social and other programs. It has just taken out a loan for $4billion.
    Gold and silver markets are corrupted. There is far more paper gold and silver than there is physical.
    A carbon tax hardly sends a price signal when, fiat currency can be created from the Earth’s atmosphere.

    mikestasse is correct. Fiat currencies are all about confidence as in “confidence trick”

  146. Andreas Bimba

    Mechandy after a quick scim, that linked article you gave on EROEI appears to be particularly good.

  147. mechandy

    Andreas, it is a very interesting paper. To me, the only ‘gap’ is the one I alluded to in my post before the article link, that being the ‘true cost’ and ‘return’ on energy, that no-one has yet been able to calculate, as the authors of the paper confirm,

    ‘Societal EROI is the overall EROI that might be derived for all of a nation’s or society’s fuels by summing all gains from fuels and all costs of obtaining them. To our knowledge this calculation remains theoretical because it is difficult, if not im- possible, to include all the variables neces- sary to generate an all-encompassing so- cietal EROI value.’

    The work on EROEI originally stemmed from the understanding that,

    ‘any species that expends more energy in obtaining it’s food than it does from consuming it, is bound for extinction.’

    Fossil Fuels have enabled us to ‘leverage’ beyond that limitation, and whilst the ‘party’ has lasted for a couple of hundred years, we have not found a suitable replacement for the dwindling EROEI of fossil fuels (or their escalating carbon emissions). The Laws of Thermodynamics and Entropy do not lie, we have not cracked them, yet we are living as if we had……..

  148. mechandy

    Ergo, ‘any species that expends more energy in maintaining its ‘lifestyle’, than the available energy needed to support it, is bound for extinction’…..

  149. mikestasse

    check out a recent report [PDF – http://www.teebforbusiness.org/js/plugins/filemanager/files/TEEB_Final_Report_v5.pdf%5D done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB asked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors. (“Natural capital” refers to ecological materials and services like, say, clean water or a stable atmosphere; “unpriced” means that businesses don’t pay to consume them.)

    It’s a huge task; obviously, doing it required a specific methodology that built in a series of assumptions. (Plenty of details in the report.) But it serves as an important signpost pointing the way to the truth about externalities.

    Here’s how those costs break down:

    The majority of unpriced natural capital costs are from greenhouse gas emissions (38%), followed by water use (25%), land use (24%), air pollution (7%), land and water pollution (5%), and waste (1%).

    So how much is that costing us? Trucost’s headline results are fairly stunning.

    First, the total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.

    @ http://grist.org/business-technology/none-of-the-worlds-top-industries-would-be-profitable-if-they-paid-for-the-natural-capital-they-use/

  150. mikestasse

    More results of low commodity prices……..

    As Alberta’s energy companies struggle through a prolonged bout of low prices, more and more are walking away from their oil and gas wells, leaving a little-known industry group to clean up the mess.

    Alberta’s Orphan Well Association is now responsible for 704 wells, up from 164 last year, according to Pat Payne, the association’s manager.

    “Industry is not doing as well, and it’s due to the low commodity prices, low price of oil, low price of gas and declining production,” Payne said. “Declining reservoirs [are] catching some of the companies and they’re not able to survive.”


  151. Harquebus

    Just letting you know that I am reading your posts and links even if not responding.
    Thanks and appreciated.

  152. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    isn’t that what we want, if looking from a clean energy perspective? This is the time for renewable and low-carbon cleaner and safer energy sources to slip in where the abandoned wells once reigned.

    Together with other alternative societal imperatives like promoting education and encouraging population reduction, then we don’t need to live under the yoke of hopeless doom and gloom for our planet.

  153. mikestasse

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith, yes it is what we want…….. but the trouble is, as the FF companies go belly up, the energy to make your ‘clean energy’ also disappears……. and that’s what people hoping for a 100% renewable energy transition cannot get their heads around.

  154. mikestasse

    I’m constantly asked what solutions are there for avoiding collapse……. well, here’s what some people I respect think….

    I’ve just published a new Simplicity Institute Report, co-authored with Paul Yacoumis, entitled “Low-Tech Living as a “Demand-Side” Response to Climate Change and Peak Oil”. I’ve posted the abstract and the introduction below and the full essay is freely available here.

    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
    Samuel Alexander and Paul Yacoumis

    Abstract: Energy is often called the ‘lifeblood’ of civilisation, yet the overconsumption of fossil energy lies at the heart of two of the greatest challenges facing humanity today: climate change and peak oil. While transitioning to renewable energy systems is an essential ‘supply side’ strategy in response to climate change and peak oil, the extent of the problems and the speed at which decarbonisation must occur means that there must also be a ‘demand side’ response. This means consuming much less energy not just ‘greening’ supply, at least in the most developed regions of the world. In that context, this paper provides an energy analysis of various ‘low tech’ options – such as solar shower bags, solar ovens, washing lines, and cycling – and considers the extent to which these types of ‘simple living’ practices could reduce energy consumption if widely embraced. We demonstrate that low-tech options provide a very promising means of significantly reducing energy (and water) consumption.

    Low-Tech Living as a ‘Demand-Side’ Response to Climate Change and Peak Oil

  155. mechandy

    Mike, firstly, I state categorically that I do like and respect Sam Alexander’s work, it is an essential component in ‘awakening’ the sleepwalkers. I also think that he is far from ‘walking the talk’.

    I met Sam in late 2013, when he came to look at the highly sustainable property my good friend was selling. I spent an afternoon talking with him about all things ‘sustainable’. He DROVE from Melbourne, and back again in an afternoon, some 300 plus km’s.

    He wasn’t overly interested in how we were living our lives, he was more interested (perhaps understandably) in whether or not the property would suit what he was looking for, and, in promoting his books. Back then, we were (and still are) living a life that not only fits the ‘radical’ category he refers to in the paper you have cited above, but goes far beyond it.

    We are doing this because we believe that nothing short of it, will halt what is about to unfold.

    Sam works at a University, one that consumes vast amounts of energy and no doubt he is paid a tidy and substantial sum for his efforts, along with revenue from his book sales. He also lives in inner city Melbourne, with good public transport, bike lanes, trendy ‘organic’ shops and a likeminded ‘green’ community.

    We earn less than $18,000 per year between us, and so living at the ‘radical’ energy saving end of his categorizations, is essential.

    My impression of Sam ( and I could be completely wrong) is that he really hasn’t tried a number of the suggestions that he puts forward. We’ve cooked with a solar cooker for about 8 years, I’ve built 3 in total. I know how necessary it is to re-structure one’s life around solar cooking. The lack of detail in Sam’s paper, on solar cooking, tells me a lot!

    As you have stated many times before, those who ‘wax’ the sustainability line, often find that when they try to ‘live’ it in reality, it becomes a vastly different prospect…..

  156. mikestasse

    Interesting indeed Andy. I’ve never met him. I agree it does make it hard for the likes of us when ‘gurus’ fail to walk the talk. I’ve made similar observations to yours while selling our highly sustainable property too. Everyone who inspected wanted to ‘live green’, but when confronted with the reality of what that means (like dealing with your own shit!!), they didn’t like it. Fortunately we’ve just sold to a couple who do ‘get it’, but honestly, really green people are very few and far between, we have all been so spoiled with hundreds of fossil fuel slaves for far too long…. the populace is in for a very rude shock when the brown stuff hits the fan.

    On the subject of driving, I’m doing my fair share as I resettle 2,700km away……. I’ve already done one trip in my ute, and now we’ve finally sold I’m almost certainly going to do it again with another vehicle for another load…. but once I’m ensconced in Tasmania I expect to drive perhaps no more than 40 or 50km a week…. likely less, because we’ll be within walking distance of town, and I’m seriously looking at an e bike. I’m no spring chicken, unfortunately.

    It’s interesting how we both live on very little money…….. recently, one of those ‘calculators’ turned up on facebook where you could enter your income (but not your assets), and we were in the bottom 4%! I wear that as a badge of honour…….

  157. mechandy

    I’ve been reading your posts re Tassie on DTM Mike. Hope everything goes smoothly on the Sale and you can get down there and begin your new adventure. Where you are headed is certainly a spectacular part of the World. We did a 1,000 km tour in Tassie a few years back and my good friend / travelling companion played at the Cygnet Festival.

    Re driving, cars are essential sometimes, especially when you are attempting a move like yours. In Sam’s case, he could have caught the train from Melbourne to within 7 km’s of the property and we would have met him with a spare bike!

    Totally agree about the e-bike. Last year we did 5,000 km’s from Central Victoria up to Brisbane and then down the East Coast to far East Gippsland on solar augmented e-bikes. I designed and manufactured the motor system for the bikes, as well as the trailers. The e-bike batteries, computer, mobile phone were all recharged by the solar panel on the trailer. I designed it specifically without mains power re-charging to see if we could do the full 10 month 5,000 km tour powered only by the Sun. It worked a treat!

    I can’t work out how to post a pic of the rigs here, so I’ll send one to you via email!

  158. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    if your design of the e-bike and its batteries, recharged by the solar panel on the trailer, is ready for advertising to a wider audience, give us the details and I’ll help distribute it on social media.

    These are the proactive, never-say-die ideas that we need to support and advocate for our common good.

  159. mechandy

    The issue is not promotion Jennifer, although you are welcome to share the links below.

    When we first started out on the long distance rides with the solar trailers, some 7 years ago, our intent was to make an impact, to demonstrate what could be achieved with a bicycle and how a radical change in the way one lived ones life, could help reverse the environmental destruction. What we have seen and experienced in that time however, is a society ‘besotted’ with the ‘novelty’ of what we are doing, whilst they continue their rampant consumerist fossil fuelled charge towards the cliff.

    As I stated in a previous post, on last years ride, we spoke to well over 5,000 people. The rigs are so impressive that we are mobbed wherever we go. Cars will slow down as they pass us on the road with passengers hanging out windows taking video’s. Our journeys have attracted media attention globally, large numbers of photo’s have appeared on social media sites, and I have lost count of the number of people I have personally spoken to over the 7 years.

    Out of all of those people, only 2 have asked about the energy efficiency of the bikes and why we are doing what we are doing. The remainder want to know ‘how fast they can go’, ‘how far they can go’ and ‘whether we have to pedal or not’. On the numerous occassions that we have steered the conversations towards Climate Change, CO2 emissions and why we are doing what we are doing, the conversation has rapidly died and they ‘run away’.

    We have met greeny after greeny stating ‘wow that’s the way of the future’ (er no, it’s now) and we’ve attended sustainability group meetings where the attendees spend 3 hours complaining about Tony Abbotts policies and that something should be done about him, whilst they’ve driven their cars less than 3 km’s to get to the meeting.

    In short, they are all waiting for someone else to do something about the problems ahead, whilst waxing lyrical about how ‘inspiring’ the things we are doing on our bikes, are….

    After a while one grows tired of the banality of it all. These days I bypass the polite conversations and inane questions and head straight for Climate Change, CO2 emissions and why I am doing what I am doing. This ensures that they run away quite quickly and stop wasting my time!

    Harsh? Not to me. I would rather spend my time talking to someone who is actually interested in taking action themselves, on a daily basis.

    On that note, if you are interested in more detail on the energy efficiency of the bikes, or their specifications, I am more than happy to post that info here.

    I hope you enjoy the pic’s and the video below. The pic’s are of the 2nd version of the trailers and were taken about a month before the start of last years vagabond journey. There were some finishing touches to be made to the wiring of the solar set up and a few other changes made before they hit the road. The video is of the Tassie tour, with the first version of the trailers I built.

    The Bike Rigs

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