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Today’s energy bottleneck may bring down major governments

Today’s energy bottleneck may bring down major governments

Recently, I explained the key role played by diesel and jet fuel. In this post, I try to explain the energy bottleneck the world is facing because of an inadequate supply of these types of fuels, and the effects such a bottleneck may have. The world’s self-organizing economy tends to squeeze out what it considers non-essential parts when bottlenecks are hit. Strangely, it appears to me that some central governments may be squeezed out. Countries that are rich enough to have big pension programs for their citizens seem to be especially vulnerable to having their governments collapse.

Figure 1. World supply of diesel and jet fuel per person, based on Middle Distillate data of the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, produced by the Energy Institute. Notes added by Gail Tverberg.

This squeezing out of non-essential parts of the economy can happen by war, but it can also happen because of financial problems brought about by “not sufficient actual goods and services to go around.” An underlying problem is that governments can print money, but they cannot print the actual resources needed to produce finished goods and services. I think that in the current situation, a squeezing out for financial reasons, or because legislators can’t agree, is at least as likely as another world war.

For example, the US is having trouble electing a Speaker of the House of Representatives because legislators disagree about funding plans. I can imagine a long shutdown occurring because of this impasse. Perhaps not this time around, but sometime in the next few years, such a disagreement may lead to a permanent shutdown of the US central government, leaving the individual states on their own. Programs of the US central government, such as Social Security and Medicare, would likely disappear. It would be up to the individual states to sponsor whatever replacement programs they are able to afford.

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