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Two Different Perspectives – Same Conclusion: Modern Lifestyles Will End Soon

Two Different Perspectives – Same Conclusion: Modern Lifestyles Will End Soon


Dr. Berndt Warm’s Perspective

Thanks to Marromai for finding this new paper by physicist Dr. Berndt Warm.

Dr. Warm uses 5 different methods, 4 relying on economics, and 1 on thermodynamics, to predict when the end of oil production and motor vehicle production will occur. All 5 methods roughly converge on 2030 as the year when modern lifestyles end.

The essay was written in German and translated to English which explains any awkward phrasing.

Warm’s conclusion agrees with my 15 years of study of many different sources which converge on oil production being down by about 50% in 2030. Because our current system requires growth not to collapse, it is plausible that predicting a 50% decline is the same as predicting a 100% decline.

Our world is of course far too complex to make precise predictions, and unexpected events like a pandemic or nuclear war can dramatically change the outcome, however for planning purposes it seems reasonable to assume we have about 5 years left to prepare for a new way of life.


Evaluation of five data sets concerning car production, oil prices converted in energy values gives lifespan approximations for the car industry and the oil industry. The result is that the car industry will last only until 2027 and the oil industry some years more.

Here are a few excerpts from the paper:

The author interprets the line of maxima as the oil price that the industrialized countries can afford to the maximum while maintaining their lifestyle. He interprets the line of minima as the price of oil that the producing countries need to keep their economies running. In mid-2019, the author noticed this crossroads and expected a crisis in 2020, although he was completely unclear what kind of crisis it would be. He didn’t expect Corona.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Just a hint from the mainstream that limits precipitate rising oil prices

Just a hint from the mainstream that limits precipitate rising oil prices

Last week a Bloomberg writer at the very end of an article explained that the “only solution” to high gasoline and diesel prices is recession. While I would not accuse the writer of advocating degrowth—this would be too radical for a mainstream business publication—his analysis points to a key and obvious cause of today’s high prices for oil and other commodities: There isn’t enough of them to go around.

There’s an old saying in the oil industry that the solution to high prices is high prices. The logic is that high prices will do two things: 1) Reduce demand as those who cannot afford oil products at high prices will cut back and 2) incentivize more exploration and production as companies seek to increase production to take advantage of high prices.

The big question today is whether the second mechanism can actually ramp up oil production enough to bring down prices. In a recent survey a large number of oil executives said their production plans do not depend on current prices. Many cited the desire of investors in publicly traded companies to receive larger dividends and benefit from the corporate buyback of shares (which tends to increase the stock prices as fewer shares are available for trading).

It’s instructive that 9 percent of those responding to the survey cited an oil price of $120 per barrel as the level at which they would consider raising production. And keep in mind that they are NOT talking about $120 per barrel for a few months, but as an average price over many years—since it can take many years to bring large projects into production and those projects can produce for many years after production begins…

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

The Mineral Supply Crisis That’s Rarely Talked About

The Mineral Supply Crisis That’s Rarely Talked About

Limitarians and Cornucopians: what Surprises from Technological Progress?

Limitarians and Cornucopians: what Surprises from Technological Progress?

Resource depletion, ecosystem disruption, population growth, and technological change are interacting with each other in a tsunami of changes that always take us by surprise. The surprises that technological progress may be bringing are among the most unpredictable drivers of change. Yet, it is not impossible to reason about how our society could be transformed by some disruptive technological innovations. Here, Luca Pardi discusses the most recent report by “RethinkX,” a group of remarkably sharp and creative people. They are hard to define as “pessimists” or “optimists,” but they surely understand that change is unavoidable. 


The debate among limitarians (Robeyns, 2017) and cornucopians is periodically morphing into that among doomsters and optimist-utopians. The limitarians have a generally gloomy view about the future availability of resources while the cornucopians tend to believe that shortages, always possible for many reasons in the short run, were proved not to be a problem in the past, so will not be in the future, at least in the long run. Doomsters-limitarians are also pessimistic about the environmental crisis and its paradigmatic representation: the climate change predicament. Optimists retort that the problem is amplified by anti-capitalistic ideological views and that a combination of technology and local and global policies will draw us, as has always been the case in history, out of dire straits. And the debate goes on forever!

There is a Think Tank named RethinkX that tries to be above or, better, ahead of this ideological deadlock. They are both: doomsters and optimists with a strong slant toward technological disruptive innovations. In a crescendo of techno-optimistic hypes they reach a climax in their last document Rethinking Humanity where they envisage that:

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

Could we be hitting natural gas limits already?

Could we be hitting natural gas limits already?

Many countries have assumed that natural gas imports will be available for balancing electricity produced by intermittent wind and solar, whenever they are needed. The high natural gas import prices recently being encountered in Europe, and especially in the UK, appear to be an indication of an underlying problem. Could the world already be hitting natural gas limits?

One reason few people expect a problem with natural gas is because of the immense quantities reported as proven reserves. For all countries combined, these reserves at December 31, 2020 were equal to 48.8 times world natural gas production in 2020. Thus, in theory, the world could continue to produce natural gas at the current rate for almost 50 years, without even trying to to find more natural gas resources.

Ratios of natural gas reserves to production vary greatly by country, giving a hint that the indications may be unreliable. High reserves make an exporting country appear to be dependable for many years in the future, whether or not this is true.

Figure 1. Ratio of natural gas reserves at December 31, 2020, to natural gas production for the year 2020, based on trade data of BP’s 2021 Statistical Review of World Energy. Russia+ is the Commonwealth of Independent States. It includes Russia and the countries to the south of Russia that were included in the former Soviet Union.

As I see the issue, these reserves are unlikely to be produced unless world oil prices rise to a level close to double what they are today and stay at such a high level for several years. I say this because the health of the oil and gas industries are closely intertwined…

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

The Energy Transition Show: No Limits

The Energy Transition Show: No Limits

Are there fundamental limits to the energy transition that will slow it down, or prevent us from decarbonizing our energy systems? Critics and skeptics of the energy transition have pointed to issues like the problems of producing key minerals, or the costs of renewable energy, or path dependency in emerging economies. Some have questioned whether renewables resources even exist in sufficient quantities to displace the existing energy system, or whether there is enough land to site the requisite new wind and solar capacity.

In this show, we tackle these questions one by one, and explain why there are no fundamental limits that will bring the energy transition to a hard stop in the decades ahead. Quite the opposite, in fact. The safest assumption now is that renewables will continue to grow exponentially, and we should be thinking about the implications of that, rather than asking how the current system can struggle to persist. We’ll also explain why the transition will actually encourage economic growth, rather than restrict it.

Our guide for this discussion is Kingsmill Bond of the Carbon Tracker clean energy think tank based in London. We review several recent reports that he and his colleagues at Carbon Tracker have produced which specifically address these questions, and show how incredibly large our resources of renewable energy and key minerals really are. We’ll also discuss why emerging economies are more likely to leapfrog over the older conventional energy systems and go straight for the new technologies of the transition.

Finally, we share a number of exciting announcements about the future direction of this show and some new features we’re making available to annual subscribers!

Guest:Kingsmill Bond is the Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a London-based clean energy think tank. He believes that the energy transition is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era…

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

The century of the limits

The century of the limits


We know much better some slogans that sell us that everything is possible, than the laws of thermodynamics, which govern our own nature and the limits that bound it. And so it goes. This is our frame of thought and from it derives some of our worst contradictions.

There is a story that is very interesting to share in order to talk about all this and that hides many clues about where we are now. In 1972, shortly before the first oil crisis and while computers were living their own prehistory, the Club of Rome -a recently founded scientific and cultural avant-garde organisation, which later has been key in the advancement of science and political ecology- commissioned a report from MIT in Massachusetts on the state of resources and the key variables to sustain our civilisation. System dynamics methodology had just begun to take its first steps, and its founder, Jay Forrester, developed several modesl to analyse the enviornment, resources, economy and population.

Almost five decades later, the incredible accuracy of the forecasts of the World3 model – a computer simulation programme – are an unparalleled milestone in terms of scientific anticipation.

It must be kept in mind that in reality there are an infinite number of interrelated variables that are impossible to take into account – such as the cultural/anthropological variables of a civilisation – and a complexity that no model can calibrate. However, in one of the many reviews that have been made of the MIT work, such as Graham Turner’s review in 2014, it was confirmed that this is probably one of the most impressive scientific works in the history of mankind. A few months ago, another review has reaffirmed its predictions.

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

Fossil Fuel Production Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Way

Fossil Fuel Production Is Reaching Limits in a Strange Way

Strangely enough, the limit we seem to be reaching with respect to fossil fuel extraction comes from low prices. At low prices, the extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas becomes unprofitable. Producers go bankrupt, or they voluntarily cut back production in an attempt to force prices higher. As the result of these forces, production tends to fall. This limit comes long before the limit that many people imagine: the amount of fossil fuels in the ground that seems to be available with current extraction techniques.

The last time there was a similar problem was back in 1913, when coal was the predominant fossil fuel used and the United Kingdom was the largest coal producer in the world. The cost of production was rising due to depletion, but coal prices would not rise sufficiently to cover the higher cost of production. As a result, the United Kingdom’s coal production reached its highest level in 1913, the year before World War I started, and began to fall in 1914.

Between 1913 and 1945, the world economy was very troubled. There were two world wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Great Depression. My concern is that we are again headed into another very troubled period that could last for many years.

The way the energy problems of the period between 1913 and 1945 were resolved was through the rapid ramp-up of oil production. Oil was, as that time, inexpensive to produce and could be sold for a very large multiple of the cost of production. If population is to remain at the current level or possibly grow, we need a similar “energy savior.” Unfortunately, none of the alternatives we are looking at now yield a high enough return relative to the required investment.

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

It’s the preppers who are laughing now

It’s the preppers who are laughing now

Since the crash of 2008 much has been made of the fact that the world did not end or the sky fall in on us – unless of course you are one of the people who have been touched by bankruptcy, homelessness, addiction or even suicide as a result of the crash. The truth is that, since the financial collapse, life has not improved, improved very little or even got worse for a huge number of individuals around the world.

Many political and financial pundits have highlighted the fact that the problems that caused the sub-prime crisis and subsequent bank collapses around the world are  in fact a systemic problem. However, it appears that very little has been done to remedy  the situation.  The basic problem is not complex at all – it is very simple in fact:

  1. All closed systems have limits and the economic and ecological world system is  nearing the limits of tolerance.
  2. The main beneficiaries of the current system are a tiny minority (often refered to as the 1%), which is in fact growing smaller, further exacerbating inbalance.
  3. No attempt has been made to address a flawed system that is ultimately unsustainable – papering of the crack is all that has occurred.

If you accept the 3 points above then it is easy to see that we are not in fact headed anywhere better in the short or medium term. If no attempts are made to deal with the distribution of capital, the availability of financially meaningful employment, the facilitation of resources and investment in genuinely productive and beneficial enterprises then circumstances will continue to deteriorate.

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

How the Economy Works as It Reaches Energy Limits — An Introduction for Actuaries and Others

How the Economy Works as It Reaches Energy Limits — An Introduction for Actuaries and Others

Why have long-term interest rates generally fallen since 1981? Why have asset prices risen? Can these trends be expected to continue? The standard evaluation approach by actuaries and economists seems to be to look at past patterns and assume that they will be repeated.

The catch is that energy consumption growth plays a hugely important role in GDP growth. It also plays an important role in interest rates that businesses and governments can afford to pay. Energy consumption growth has been slowing; it is hard to see how growth in energy consumption can ramp back up materially in the future.

Slowing growth in energy consumption puts the world on track for a future like the 1930s, or even worse. It is hard to see how GDP growth, interest rates, and inflation rates can ramp up in the future. More likely, asset price bubbles will pop, leading to significant financial distress. Derivatives may be affected by rapid changes in prices and currency relativities, as asset bubbles pop.

The article that follows is a partial write-up of a long talk I gave to a group of life and annuity actuaries. (I am a casualty actuary myself, which is a slightly different specialty.) A PDF of my presentation can be found at this link: Reaching Limits of a Finite World

Slide 1


Slide 4

After the audience had a chance to answer this question (mostly with yes), I gave my answer: “Yes, indeed, it is possible to build a model that gives misleading results, and not understand the situation.” For example, a flat map works as a perfectly adequate model in some situations. But when longer distances are involved, a globe is needed. A two-dimensional model works for some purposes, but not for others.

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

Life Without Limits: The Delusions of Technological Fundamentalism

Living in the United States, I’m tempted to focus on the delusion that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of the world — a claim repeated robotically by politicians of both parties.

In a mass-consumption capitalist society, there’s the delusion that if we only buy more, newer, better products we all will be happier — a claim repeated endlessly in commercial propaganda (commonly known as advertising and marketing).

I’m also white, and so it’s understandable to worry about the delusion that white people are superior to non-white people. And as a man, I reflect on the delusion that institutionalized male dominance is our fate, whether asserted to be divinely commanded or evolutionarily inevitable.

But all these delusions that rationalize hierarchies within the human family, and the resulting injustices that flow from those hierarchies, are less frightening to me than modern humans’ delusion that we are not bound by the laws of physics and chemistry, that humans can live beyond the biophysical limits of the ecosphere.

This delusion is not limited to one country, one group, or one political party, but rather is the unstated assumption of everyday life in the high-energy/high-technology industrial world. This is the delusion that we are — to borrow from the title of a particularly delusional recent book — the god species.

This ideology of human supremacy leads us to believe that our species’ cleverness allows us to ignore the limits placed on all life forms by the larger living world, of which we are but one component.

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

He’s told us not to blow it


He’s told us not to blow it


Hopefully you’ve seen the recent movie, The Martian, a film directed by Ridley Scott and adapted from the online book by Andy Weir. If you have not seen the movie or read the book, both of which I highly recommend, there will be some spoilers for the movie in this post. The movie is wonderful, featuring Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, an astronaut-botanist-mechanical engineer, “sciencing the shit” (literally) out of extreme survival in a hostile environment while accidentally left behind on Mars.

Gauld-just-jealousCultural memes in art, music, and literature indirectly reflect what’s happening in society before our conscious minds do. The explosion of zombie movies and science fiction about intrepid survivors either abandoning Earth for new planets or struggling to get back to Earth suggests that subconsciously, we know we are beyond our limits and headed in the wrong direction on this planet.

Tom Gauld cartoon
Tom Gauld cartoon

Mainstream cultural memes derived from this movie suggest the power of human technology and inventiveness through know-how and persistence. NASA may have used this movie as a rallying cry in support of more funding in general, and funding for longer-range space travel specifically. Good luck with that. It is no accident that space travel in the US peaked with the US oil peak in 1970. Viewed from my perspective of the world in descent, the movie represents something different that probably hasn’t already been said, at least in the US, where Americans’ manifest destiny still reigns supreme. I’m not sure what Andy Weir’s intentions were, beyond telling a ripping good survival yarn, but I see this movie as a symbol of what happens when we venture to the limit of what is sustainable, using extreme technology and energy.

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

The Club of Rome, almost half a century later

The Club of Rome, almost half a century later

The Club of Rome held its general assembly in Winterthur, Switzerland, on Oct 16-17 2015. In the image, you can see Ugo Bardi (center) together with the co-presidents of the Club, Anders Wijkman (right in the photo) and Ernst Von Weizsacker (left in the photo).

Almost half a century ago, in 1968, Aurelio Peccei convened for the first time the group that was later to be known as the “Club of Rome”. The aim of the group was not what the Club was to become known for, “The Limits to Growth”. At that time, the concept of limits was vague and scarcely understood and the interest of the members was, rather, in an equitable distribution of the resources of the Earth. What moved Aurelio Peccei was the attempt to fight hunger, poverty, and injustice.

That approach led the Club to commission a report on the world’s resources and their limits to a group of researchers of the MIT. The result was the study for which the Club of Rome became known ever since: “The Limits to Growth,” published in 1972.  From then on, the debate mostly moved on whether the scenarios of “The Limits to Growth” were correct and whether the study would really describe the possible trajectory of the world’s economy and its collapse as the result of the combination of persistent pollution and resource depletion. It soon degenerated into insults directed against “Cassandras” and “catastrophists.” Still today, it is widely believed that the study was “wrong”, even though it was not.

But world models were not so much what Peccei and the other founders had in mind. Their aim had remained the initial one: justice, social equality, freedom from want. The discovery of the world’s limits had made these objectives more difficult than they had seemed to be at the beginning, but not an impossible target. The “Limits” report, indeed, had sketched out how the world’s economy could be steered in such a way to avoid collapse and to maintain for a long time a reasonable level of production of goods and services per person.

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

Nicole Foss Podcast: The Age of Limits

Nicole Foss Podcast: The Age of Limits

The Automatic Earth’s Nicole Foss recorded a podcast yesterday with Jack Spirko at the Survival Podcast. I haven’t even had time to listen to it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be as lightheartedly entertaining as her appearances always tend to be ;-). One thing I did notice is that for the first 13 minutes or so, there is no Nicole, just talk about sponsors of the Survival podcast. So you might want to skip that. Enjoy!

 Episode-1660- Nicole Foss on Liquidity Crunch and Economic Depression [1:37:01]

Remarks by Jack at the Survival Podcast site:

Special Notice – In the interest of journalistic integrity I feel obligated to reveal something that occurred today. Skype screwed up and only Nicole’s side of the interview came out in the end. Luckily she is a talker and I didn’t say much in this interview. To make it functional for the audience I went though a re recorded my side and pieced the entire thing together. It came out really well but if anything seems missing this is why. Likely if I didn’t tell you you would never even know that my side wasn’t live…

Join Me Today to Hear Nicole Discuss…
• What is the Age of Limits
• The coming liquidity crunch and economic depression
• Some reasons taking out a mortgage may not be a good idea
• What this means for small farms in regard to debt
• How and why population will most likely be reduced
• Why we should not even focus on climate change as a problem
• What do you recommend for the average 9-5er should do
• How much longer can we kick the can down the road
• Nicole’s predictions for how the world wide economic crisis will play out
• Thought on a possible mass migration in the US

Limits on the Grid, Part 1

[Episode #2] – Limits on the Grid – Part 1


Mackay Miller, Senior Research Analyst at NREL. @mackaymiller


NREL: Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures) (2012)
NREL: Power Systems of the Future (May 2015)
Nelder: Designing the grid for renewables (2012) 
Nelder: Wind to Double and Solar to Triple in 6 Years, Says IEA (2013)

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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