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Heal the Planet for Profit – Redux


Giorgione The Tempest 1508
“Mankind’s only chance to not destroy its planet lies in diverging from all other species in that not all energy available to it, is used up as fast as possible. But that’s a big challenge. It would, speaking from a purely philosophical angle, truly separate us from nature for the first time ever, and we must wonder if that’s desirable.”

I wrote that 4 years and 2 months ago today, and I’m still thinking about it. It came to mind again, along with the article it comes from, see below, when I saw a few recent references to climate change, and to how any policy to halt it should be financed. It’s all painfully obvious.

Bill Gates, while on a virtual book tour, says governments should pay. In particular for the innovation needed. We’re going to solve it all with things we haven’t invented yet. That kind of thinking never fails to greatly boost my confidence in people and their ideas.

Overall, Gates’ words feel like a stale same old same old been there done that tone. But one thing is changing. Since Joe Biden became the most popular US president ever, according to his vote count, there is now a climate czar at the US Treasury, and a climate change team at the US Fed. Progress! At least for those seeking to use your money to solve their problems.

Bill Gates: Solving Covid Easy Compared With Climate

Mr Gates’s new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, is a guide to tackling global warming. [..] Net zero is where we need to get to. This means cutting emissions to a level where any remaining greenhouse gas releases are balanced out by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

un-Denial Manifesto: Energy and Denial

un-Denial Manifesto: Energy and Denial

Winners and Losers

Six years ago this essay launched and defined un-Denial.com. I’m featuring it on the home page to celebrate 500 posts.

This is the story of the two most important things that enabled the success and possible demise of humans: energy and denial.

Simple single cell (prokaryotic) life emerges as a gradual and predictable transition from geochemistry to biochemistry, in the presence of rock, water, CO2, and energy, all of which are found within alkaline hydrothermal vents on geologically active planets, of which there are 40 billion in our galaxy alone, and probably a similar number in each of the other 100 billion galaxies.

Simple life like bacteria and archaea is therefore probably common throughout the universe. Strong evidence for this is that prokaryotes appeared 4 billion years ago, as soon as the earth cooled down enough to support life, and never once winked out despite many calamities throughout geologic history.

LUCA (the Last Universal Common Ancestor), and all life that followed, is chemiosmotic meaning that it powers itself with an unintuitive mechanism that pumps protons across a membrane. This strange proton pump makes sense in the light of its hydrothermal vent origins. For a sense of the scale of life’s energy, consider that the human body pumps a staggering 10**21 protons per second of life.

The transition to, and existence of, complex multicellular life, like plants and animals, is much less predictable and certain. All of the complex life on earth has a common eukaryote ancestor, and it appears this ancestor emerged only once on Earth about 2 billion years ago. This is a vital but rarely acknowledged singularity in biology.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Rolling blackouts in California show how reliance on solar and wind power can backfire

Image: Rolling blackouts in California show how reliance on solar and wind power can backfire
(Natural News) California issued its first rolling blackouts in nearly 20 years last week as the state’s grid operator tried to keep the power system from complete collapse in the midst of a heat wave, and some are pointing out that the situation demonstrates the failures of green energy.

The rolling blackouts affected upwards of 2 million Californians. Many of the outages took place in the afternoon, when power demand peaked as people starting turning up their air conditioning at the same time that solar power supplies started slowing down as the sun set.

The state’s three biggest utilities – Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric – cut off power to homes and businesses for roughly an hour at a time until the close of an emergency declaration, and this was followed by a second outage.

On top of that, erratic output from the state’s wind farms failed to make up the gap. Around a third of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources thanks to state law mandates, and these alternatives proved incapable of keeping up during peak power usage. In the past, utilities and grid operators in the state bought extra electricity from other states when it fell short, but the vast size of the heat wave meant that other states were also reaching their limits and had none to spare.

Governor Gavin Newsom ordered an investigation into the outages seen in the state over the weekend, vowing to uncover the cause. However, Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno, who serves as the Committee on Utilities and Energy’s Vice Chair, said that the problem can be traced to California’s reduced dependence on natural gas.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy vs DNA

Energy vs DNA

Rembrandt van Rijn Landscape With the Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1647

Hmm, energy. Is it a good idea I be drawn back into the subject? We used to do so much on the topic, Nicole Foss and I, in the first years of The Automatic Earth, and before that at the brilliant Oil Drum, where we had all those equally brilliant oil professionals to guide us on. So why revisit it? Well, for one thing, because a friend asked.

And for another because things -may have – changed over the past 15 years or so. Not that I think the peak oil idea, which is that we reached the peak in 2005 or so, changed. Yeah, unconventional oil, shale, fracking etc., came about, but that has nothing to do with peak oil. Just look at the EROEI (energy return) you get from shale. You go from 100:1 to, if you’re lucky, 5:1. You can’t build a complex society on that.

It’s not an accident that shale oil firms are going broke all over; even ultra low interest rates can’t save them. But all that still doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of our energy -or oil, for that matter.- conundrum.

I’ve never understood what the idea behind the Extinction Rebellion is. Or, you know, that they know what they’re talking about. Do they know the physics?

The general idea, yeah, but not how they aim to reach their goals. Far as I can tell, it’s about less CO2 -and methane, supposedly- emissions, but I don’t get how they want to achieve that. I’ve read some but not all of their theories, and it’s not obvious. It feels like they want less of various things, only to replace them with something else. Like they think once oil is gone, you can put wind and solar in its staid, and off we go. Tell me how wrong I am. Please do.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Getting Real About Green Energy: An honest analysis of what it CAN’T promise

Getting Real About Green Energy: An honest analysis of what it CAN’T promise

I want to be optimistic about the future. I really do.

But there’s virtually no chance of the world transitioning gently to an alternative energy-powered future.

These Are The ‘Good Old Days’

I’m often asked where I stand on wind, solar and other alternative energy sources.

My answer is: I love them. But they’re incapable of enabling our society to smoothly slip over to powering itself by other means.

They’re not going to “save us”.

Some people are convinced otherwise. If we can just fight off the evil oil companies, get our act together, and install a national alternative energy system infrastructure, we’ll be just fine.  Meaning that we”ll be able to continue to live as we do today, but powered fully by clean renewable energy.

That’s just not going to happen. At least, not without a lot of painful disruption and sacrifice.

The top three reasons why are:

  1. Math
  2. Human behavior
  3. Time, scale, & cost

I walk through the detail below. I’m doing so to debunk the magical thinking behind the current “Green Revolution” because I fear it offers a false promise.

Look, I’m a huge fan of renewable energy. And I’m 1,000% in favor of weaning the world off of its toxic addiction to fossil fuels.

But we have to be eyes wide open about our future prospects. Deluding ourselves with “feel good” but unrealistic expectations about green energy will result in the same sort of poor decisions, malinvestment, and crushed dreams as fossil-based system has.

As we constantly repeat here at Peak Prosperity: Energy is everything.  

Without as much available, the future is going to be exceptionally difficult compared to the present. Which is why I call the time we’re living in now The Good Old Days.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Renewables Are Dead

Renewables Are Dead

Gustave Courbet The man made mad by fear 1844

If I’ve said once that those among us who tout renewable energy should pay more attention to the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, I must have said it a hundred times. But I hardly ever get the impression that people understand why. And it seems so obvious. A quote I often use from Herman Daly and Ken Townsend, when I talk about energy, really says it all:

“Erwin Schrodinger (1945) has described life as a system in steady-state thermodynamic disequilibrium that maintains its constant distance from equilibrium (death) by feeding on low entropy from its environment – that is, by exchanging high-entropy outputs for low-entropy inputs. The same statement would hold verbatium as a physical description of our economic process. A corollary of this statement is that an organism cannot live in a medium of its own waste products.”

Using energy produces waste. Using more energy produces more waste. It doesn’t matter -much- what kind of energy is used, or what kind of waste is produced. The energy WE use produces waste, in a medium of which WE cannot survive. The only way to escape this is to use less energy. And because we have used such an enormous amount of energy the past 100 years, we must use a whole lot less in the next 100.

We use about 100 times more energy per person, and a whole lot more in the west, than our own labor can produce. We use the equivalent of what 500 billion people can produce without the aid of fossil fuel-powered machines. We won’t solve this problem with wind turbines or solar panels. There really is one way only: cut down on energy use.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Living With Integrity

Living With Integrity

It’s time to choose a new direction.

Every so often, our work in the premium side of PeakProsperity.com is deemed so important that our paying subscribers request we share it with the general public. Last week’s ‘Off The Cuff’ podcast received so many of these requests that we are releasing it to all here.

In last week’s Off The Cuff podcast, Chris delivered a very personal message about how we each decide to live our lives.

A growing number of people are watching the “prosperity” around them — record high asset prices, record-low unemployment, new technologies, etc — and yet feeling that we’re making the wrong trade-offs as a society. All that wealth is flowing into fewer and fewer pockets, ecosystems are faltering and an alarming number of species are dying off, depression rates (especially among the youth) are skyrocketing.

In short: there’s more money flowing around than ever, and yet we and the planet are becoming sicker and unhappier.

Why?

From Chris’ point of view, it comes down integrity. The modern human way of life lacks integrity as a guiding principle. For those of us who desire a better future, brining our actions into better alignment with our integrity is the path to true prosperity.

My ultimate diagnosis of what’s going on in the United States culture and a lot of Europe culture — probably in other cultures, but I can’t speak to them as well – it’s that they lack integrity. Now, integrity isn’t simply “Oh, I don’t lie”. Integrity means that your actions are for the greater good. Sometimes there are acts of integrity which actually are not optimal for you; they’re optimal for the larger society around you.

Integrity is thinking out seven generations. Integrity is saying that beauty matters in our life, and that when we take out a species, we’re taking away something extraordinarily beautiful.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

David Holmgren: A Baby Boomers’ Apology

David Holmgren: A Baby Boomers’ Apology

Raphael The miraculous draught of fishes 1515

There are days, though all too scarce, when very nice surprises come my way. Case in point: yesterday I received a mail from David Holmgren after a long period of radio silence. Australia’s David is one of the fathers of permaculture, along with Bill Mollison, for those few who don’t know him. They first started writing about the concept in the 1970s and never stopped.

Dave calls himself “permaculture co-originator” these days. Hmm. Someone says: “one of the pioneers of modern ecological thinking”. That’s better. No doubt there. These guys taught many many thousands of people how to be self-sufficient. Permaculture is a simple but intricate approach to making sure that the life in your garden or backyard, and thereby your own life, moves towards balance.

My face to face history with David is limited, we spent some time together on two occasions only, I think, in 2012 a day at his home (farm) in Australia and in 2015 -a week- in Penguin, Tasmania at a permaculture conference where the Automatic Earth’s Nicole Foss was one of the key speakers along with Dave. Still, despite the limited time together I see him as a good and dear friend, simply because he’s such a kind and gracious and wise man. 

In his mail, David asked if I would publish this article, which he originally posted on his own site just yesterday under the name “The Apology: From Baby Boomers To The Handicapped Generations”. I went for a shorter title (it’s just our format), but of course I will.

Dave has been an avid reader of the Automatic Earth for the past 11 years, we sort of keep his feet on the ground when they’re not planted and soaking in that same ground: “Reading TAE has helped me keep up to date..”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bethany McLean: Saudi America

Bethany McLean: Saudi America

The truth about fracking & how it’s changing the world by Adam TaggartFriday, March 1, 2019, 3:37 PM

For years now we’ve been covering the false promise of the American shale oil “miracle”.

Yes, it has extracted a lot more oil out of American soil that most thought possible. But at an economic loss. And at great environmental cost.

If the shale drilling companies can’t make any profit, either when oil prices are high or low — why are we still pursuing shale deposits so aggressively?

To shed further light on this paradox, this week we welcome journalist Bethany McLean to the program. McLean is editor-at-large at Fortune Magazine and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and Slate magazines. She is also author of the excellent book: Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking And How It’s Changing The World.

McLean warns that the hype, the hucksterism, and the geological shortcomings of the deposits themselves, are setting up both investors and American society for tremendous disappointment:

The real catalyst of the shale revolution was the Great Financial Crisis and the era of unprecedentedly-low interest rates that followed.

And that had two effects. One was that it made debt cheap. So these companies that are heavily dependent on being able to raise capital could raise debt at low prices. And without that, I’m not sure there would’ve been a shale revolution because they needed such immense amounts of capital to fund their drilling.

But it had a second impact, which is that when pension funds were no longer able to earn a return in traditional fixed income markets, they’ve increasingly put their money into riskier assets like hedge funds that invest in credit and private equity firms. Those entities, in turn, have increasingly invested in shale.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Salvador Dali Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder 1933

Dr. D: 

Eat less meat to save the planet – report (1)
The new diet that could save the planet (2)
What to eat to save the planet: Report urges ‘radical changes’ to world’s diet – less meat, more veggies (3)

These headlines, likely sourced from a recent article from “The Lancet” (4) are a regular feature of our time, in diet, in environmentalism, and in global warming. They are well-researched, sourced by the world’s experts, and put forward with the highest intentions. However, they are also completely wrong – dangerously, ignorantly wrong. 

Like most industries, agriculture and food production is a specialty, with its own language and details. I don’t attempt to tell the Lancet how to perform heart surgery, for to do so would be ridiculous, dangerous, outside of my expertise. I wouldn’t tell a geologist how to interpret the magnetic layers of rock, or how oceanographers should properly interpret sea water samples to guide us on fishing or pollution. Yet this is what they do for farmers.

The primary drive of most such articles is that, with so many people, and so much hunger, we find that it takes “2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.” that “64% of US cropland produces livestock feed.” (5) That it takes “20 pounds corn [to make] 1 pound beef.” (6) Or that you can get 15lbs of beef per acre, but 263lbs of soybeans. (7) Also that cattle are the primary reason for deforestation, and a major cause of methane.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Art Berman: Exposing The False Promise Of Shale Oil

Art Berman: Exposing The False Promise Of Shale Oil

Estimates of recoverable oil are proving wildly wrong
Art Berman, geological consultant with over 37 years experience in petroleum exploration and production, returns to the podcast this week to debunk much of the hopium currently surrounding America’s shale oil output.

Because the US is pinning huge hopes on its shale oil “revolution”, so much depends on that story being right. Here’s the narrative right now:

  • The US, is the new Saudi Arabia
  • It’s the swing producer when it comes to influencing the price of oil
  • The US will be able to increase oil production for decades to come
  • New technology is unlocking more oil shale supply all the time

But what if there’s evidence that runs counter to all of that?

We’re going to be taking a little victory lap on this week’s podcast because The Wall Street Journal has finally admitted that shale oil wells are not producing as much as the companies operating them touted they would produce — which is what we’ve been saying for years here at PeakProsperity.com, largely because we closely follow Art’s work:

The Wall Street Journal did some research and they got the general point that the wells are not as good as advertised.

But what they missed is just how much farther off many of these reserves are than even the discounted reserves that they’ve reported.

Bottom line: if the understatement is only 10%, that’s a rounding error and it’s not that much of an issue to the average person. But I’ve been trying for a decade to get the number that I independently develop to get anywhere close to the published numbers. In most cases, I can only get near 60% or 70% of them. So, the gap, I think is much more substantial.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is The Long-Anticipated Crash Now Upon Us?

Shutterstock

Is The Long-Anticipated Crash Now Upon Us?

Is this the market’s breaking point?

I admit: I’m a permabear.

This is no surprise to those who know and have followed me over the years. But I’m publicly proclaiming my ‘bearishness’ because doing so might open up a needed and long overdue dialog.

Here’s my fundamental position:  Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. 

Cutting to the chase, this is why I predict a major crash/collapse across stocks, bonds and real estate is on the way.

The recent market weakness seen over the past two weeks is nothing compared to what’s in store.  As we’ve been carefully chronicling, bubbles burst from ‘the outside in’, starting at the weaker places at the periphery before progressing to the center.

Emerging market equities are now down -26% from their January highs and -18% year-to-date.  China’s stocks market is down -32%, even with substantial intervention by the government to prop things up.

The periphery has been weakening all year, and the contagion has now spead worldwide.

Taken as a whole, global equities have shed some $13 trillion of market capitalization for a -15% decline:

The rot has spread to the core with surprising speed. Now even the formerly bullet-proof US equity markets are stumbling.

The S&P 500 is now negative on the year:

It’s been obvious for a long time to those who have watched The Crash Course that endless growth is simply not possible. Not for a bacteria colony in a petrie dish, not for an economy, not for any species on the planet. Eventually, when finite resources are involved, limits matter.

But the vast majority of society pretends as if this isn’t true.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Delusional Economy Is Poised To Slam Into The Brick Wall Of Reality

dailyhaha

Our Delusional Economy Is Poised To Slam Into The Brick Wall Of Reality

Will you thrive, merely survive, or fail?

While life has always been uncertain, today our choices matter more than ever. The decisions each of us make today will determine if we thrive, merely survive, or fail during the future time of upheaval ahead.

The window of opportunity to change course for humanity is all but closed.  There’s simpply no more time to hope that somehow, magically, the world’s entire energy complex will suddently evolve to a bountiful and sustainable new plane — whether by market forces, by maverick billionaires like Elon Musk, or by happy accident.

As we hammer home constantly here at Peak Prosperity, energy is everything. Without it, our society simply can’t function.

And it’s critical to appreciate that it takes an investment of energy to migrate from energy solution to another.

Imagine you heat your house with wood, but want to switch to a forced air gas furnace.  Is there energy involved in doing so?  You bet there is.  Besides the obvious new need for natural gas, there’s a huge amount of embodied energy in the manufacture and installation of your new furnace, all the duct work, and the delivery lines that will bring the gas to the furnace.  Further, there will be electricity required to force the air from the furnace, through the ducts, and into your house.

The same is true when making transitions at the national level. What’s involved in the much larger projects of switching industrial agriculture away from the fossil fuel driven process of plowing, planting, fertilizing, irrigating, harvesting, drying or cooling, and then transporting food from the field to your table?

At each stage there’s an enormous amount of energy infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt and reconfigured to run on “something else.”  Let’s examine the current dream that we’ll switchover to powering all of our farming needs with electricity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Whole System Is Rigged

The Whole System Is Rigged

From elections to media to the markets, it’s all controlled

As the dog days of summer wind down, it’s hard not to notice how the climate is suffering brutally right now across many areas of the globe.

Crop failures have hit hard across Europe. Australia is under an intense drought. Warm water representing ‘archived heat’ has penetrated deep into the arctic.  Coral reefs are dying through mass bleachings. The stocks of ocean fisheries are in deep trouble. Insect and bird populations remain in a state of collapse.

It couldn’t be any more clear that our society’s demands for ever-more “growth” are taking an increasingly dangerous toll. “Growth” is now the enemy of life on the planet; yet there are precious few leaders willing to admit as much.

What we need is less pressure on vital ecological systems and precious remaining resources. But good luck finding a politician willing to admit that.

Though a refreshing exception is French environmental minister Nicolas Hulot who dramatically resigned his position last week, on live television, declaring “I don’t want to lie to myself anymore.”  His view is that the government is not addressing the major environmental issues properly and he didn’t want his presence to give the false appearance that it was.  Kudos to Nicolas, though I’m not sure that losing such a rare principled person in government is a step in the right direction.

Operating On Blind Faith

Most politicians appear to think that there are no big issues out there ecologically-speaking. Of course, very few of them spend any time outside or understand where their food even comes from. Most subsist on the blind faith that our planet will somehow always bounce back from the abuses we inflict on it, despite reams of mounting evidence that it’s hitting a mulitplying number of breaking and tipping points.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What If There Isn’t Enough Energy Going Forward?

Nuttapong/Shutterstock

What If There Isn’t Enough Energy Going Forward?

We’ll be forced to live with less. Maybe a LOT less.

Currently the media is breathlessly cheering the record amounts of US oil production. Stories like this one get top billing on major news websites:

Texas Gulf Coast exports more oil than it imports for the first time (CNN)

It’s a big achievement that highlights a surge in US oil exports, and that shows how the shale boom can make America less reliant on foreign oil.

“It’s a definite milestone. Nobody saw this coming 10 years ago,” said Bob McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Energy Group and a former energy official under President George W. Bush. “It’s an unambiguously good thing. It diversifies our dependence from the volatile Middle East.”

Texas is the epicenter of the shale revolution, with soaring production in the oil-rich Permian Basin leading the United States to record output. Rapid technological advances in fracking, the process of unlocking oil and gas deep underground, have dramatically reduced the cost to drill oil in the Permian Basin.

Texas is now on track to produce more oil than either Iran or Iraq. That would make Texas No. 3 in the world if it were a country.

Sounds pretty wonderful, right? Technology advances in the fracking process have enabled the “shale miracle”, resulting in the US producing over 10 million barrels per day for the first time since the 1970s. Think of all the incremental GDP growth that excess oil will power!

If these trends continue, CNN goes on to tell us, the US will become an net energy exporter soon:

US on track to become net energy exporter

The United States still relies on foreign oil — but not as much.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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