Gail Tverberg on what to expect…

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Gail Tverberg is one of my favorite thinkers and has been writing about our overshoot predicament for years. In today’s essay she makes the most specific predictions I’ve seen on the probable outcomes of the economic deceleration caused by the Wuhan virus.

I suspect most of her predictions will happen, but I’m not confident on the timeline. It’s possible money printing will buy us a few more years, or maybe not.

I think we should hope for the best, and plan for the worst.

Regardless, time is running out to make preparations.

Here are a few excerpts from her full essay.

COVID-19 and oil at $1: Is there a way forward?

Our basic problem is a finite world problem. World population has outgrown its resource base.

In this post, I suggest the possibility that some core parts of the world economy might temporarily be saved if they can be made to operate fairly independently of each other.

The COVID-19 actions taken to date, together with the poor condition the economy was in previously, lead me to believe that the world economy is headed for a major reset.

A reset world economy will likely end up with “pieces” of today’s economy surviving, but within a very different framework.

There are clearly parts of the world economy that are not working:

  • The financial system is way too large. There is too much debt, and asset prices are inflated based on very low interest rates.
  • World population is way too high, relative to resources.
  • Wage and wealth disparity is too great.
  • Too much of income is going to the financial system, healthcare, education, entertainment, and travel.
  • All of the connectivity of today’s world is leading to epidemics of many kinds traveling around the world.

Even with these problems, there may still be some core parts of the world economy that perhaps can be made to work. Each would have a smaller population than today. They would function much more independently than today, like mostly separate economic pumps. The nature of these economies will be different in different parts of the world.

In a less connected world, what we think of today as assets will likely have much less value. High rise buildings will be worth next to nothing, for example, because of their ability to transfer pathogens around. Public transportation will lose value for the same reason. Manufacturing that depends upon supply lines around the world will no longer work either. This means that manufacturing of computers, phones and today’s cars will likely no longer be possible. Products built locally will need to depend almost exclusively on local resources.

Pretty much everything that is debt today can be expected to default. Shares of stock will have little value. To try to save parts of the system, governments will need to take over assets that seem to have value such as farm land, mines, oil and gas wells, and electricity transmission lines. They will also likely need to take over banks, insurance companies and pension plans.

If oil products are available, governments may also need to make certain that farms, trucking companies and other essential users are able to get the fuel they need so that people can be fed. Water and sanitation are other systems that may need assistance so that they can continue to operate.

I expect that eventually, each separate economy will have its own currency. In nearly all cases, the currency will not be the same as today’s currency. The currency will be paid only to current workers in the economy, and it will only be usable for purchasing a limited range of goods made by the local economy.

These are a few of my ideas regarding what might be ahead:

(a) There will be a shake-out of governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations. Most intergovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations and European Union, will disappear. Many governments of countries may disappear, as well. Some may be overthrown. Others may collapse, in a manner similar to the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991. Governmental organizations take energy; if energy is scarce, they are dispensable.

(b) Some countries seem to have a sufficient range of resources that at least the core portion of them may be able to go forward, for a while, in a fairly modern state:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Russia
  • China
  • Iran

Big cities will likely become problematic in each of these locations, and populations will fall. Alaska and other very cold places may not be able to continue as part of the core, either.

(c) Countries, or even smaller units, will want to continue to limit trade and travel to other areas, for fear of contracting illnesses.

(d) Europe, especially, looks ripe for a big step back. Its fossil fuel resources tend to be depleted. There may be parts that can continue with the use of animal labor, if such animal labor can be found. Big protests and failing debt are likely by this summer in some areas, including Italy.

(e) Governments of the Middle Eastern countries and of Venezuela cannot continue long with very low oil prices. These countries are likely to see their governments overthrown, with a concurrent reduction in exports. Population will also fall, perhaps to the level before oil exploration.

(f) The making of physical goods will experience a major setback, starting immediately. Many supply chains are already broken. Medicines made in India and China are likely to start disappearing. Automobile manufacturing will depend on individual countries setting up their own manufacturing supply chains if the making of automobiles is to continue.

(g) The medical system will suffer a major setback from COVID-19 because no one will want to come to see their regular physician any more, for fear of catching the disease. Education will likely become primarily the responsibility of families, with television or the internet perhaps providing some support. Universities will wither away. Music may continue, but drama (on television or elsewhere) will tend to disappear. Restaurants will never regain their popularity.

(h) It is possible that Quantitative Easing by many countries can temporarily prop up the prices of shares of stock and homes for several months, but eventually physical shortages of many goods can be expected. Food in particular is likely to be in short supply by spring a year from now. India and Africa may start seeing starvation much sooner, perhaps within weeks.

(i) History shows that when energy resources are not growing rapidly (see discussion of Figure 3), there tend to be wars and other conflicts. We should not be surprised if this happens again.


We seem to be reaching the limit of making our current global economic system work any longer. The only hope of partial salvation would seem to be if core parts of the world economy can be made to work in a more separate fashion for at least a few more years. In fact, oil and other fossil fuel production may continue, but for each country’s own use, with very limited trade.

There are likely to be big differences among economies around the world. For example, hunter-gathering may work for a few people, with the right skills, in some parts of the world. At the same time, more modern economies may exist elsewhere.

The new economy will have far fewer people and far less complexity. Each country can be expected to have its own currency, but this currency will likely be used only on a limited range of locally produced goods. Speculation in asset prices will no longer be a source of wealth.

It will be a very different world!

133 thoughts on “Gail Tverberg on what to expect…”

  1. Hi Rob, I just watched planet of the humans. Good doco if you haven’t seen it. If you go to roughly the 50 minute mark there is a section on denial. They just don’t quite connect the dots…..


    1. Thanks for the tip! I’ll watch it all.

      Sheldon Solomon’s Terror Management Theory (TMT) is to Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition theory (MORT) as Newtonian physics is to general relativity. The latter is a newer more accurate and complete model of reality, but the former is still useful for making predictions.


      1. “Terror Management Theory (TMT) is to Varki’s Mind Over Reality Transition theory (MORT) as Newtonian physics is to general relativity.”

        Sheldon Solomon,according to Varki, acknowledges that MORT must be correct but seems more interested in the practical and experimentally provable results of denial rather than in Brower’s brilliantly original and simple but profound question – why did we go this way and why are we the only species to go this way?

        Lucky for us he posed it to someone like Varki who had the intellectual ability and open-mindedness (quite rare it seems in an academic) to go of his career piste , or it may have died in the Arizona sands after Brower’s untimely death. Thanks also to Sharon Brower of course.


          1. From the book Denial. Varki writes in the Chapter “An Improbable but True Story” – “In his letter to me,Solomon wrote: “We agree with your argument that the benefits of consciousness and self-awareness could only be reaped if they were accompanied by simultaneous mechanisms to deny death””

            I discovered Brower and Varki’s work through your blog so many thanks.


            1. Thank you! I read the book several times and missed that passage. My few experiences with fans of TMT have been unpleasant. They did not see anything new or significant in MORT. For me this was more confirmation that MORT must be true.


    2. Very well done, if not perfect. The topic needs someone of Moore’s stature to shake up liberals/progressives stuck on “bright green” tech-heavy environmentalism. Get them out of their coffee shops and onto mountaintops removed by things beyond coal, which they automatically cast as the Devil in energy debates.

      I assume Moore offers it for free to maintain the anti-commerce theme, but of course he’ll get some revenue. Ozzie Zehner is also heavily featured, deservedly so for his 2012 book.


      1. I just finished watching it. Brilliant!

        You’re correct that given Moore’s stature with the environmental movement you might expect this to shift their focus to population and consumption reduction.

        On the other hand, MORT predicts that beliefs will not change because humans evolved to deny unpleasant realities, and nothing is more unpleasant for our genes than something that constrains them from executing the Maximum Power Principal that governs all life.

        Let’s watch what happens over the next few months. I predict MORT will prevail and beliefs will not change.


    3. Just finished Moore’s documentary.

      Just as the virus probably escaped a Wuhan lab run by scientists with good intentions trying to save humanity from dangerous diseases, I think environmentalists criticized by Moore’s documentary for contributing to the planet’s destruction probably have good intentions.

      Many environmentalists understand the peril we face from climate change and are desperate for a solution, any solution. I can see how biomass could be sold as a green solution to an eager audience not well grounded in thermodynamics and the scale of our energy footprint. Burning wood sounds renewable, works with and without the sun, with and without wind, and is embraced by people with money.

      The problem, as usual, is scale. The documentary pointed out that powering the US for one year on only biomass would burn all of the forests. I expect this estimate is wildly optimistic if you also include the liquid forms of fossil energy we use like diesel, kerosene, and gasoline.

      Energy is a complex topic and no one should be permitted to influence policy unless they have a solid understanding of the physics and engineering associated with it’s generation and use.

      Not all opinions have equal weight. Priority must be given to people with deep understanding of the topic. Unfortunately, that’s not how our democracy and economy works.


      1. You know burning wood is just a continuum of burning carbon from current to ancient, back to current. Calling wood “renewable” minus regrowth context is the same loggers’ propaganda that never explains why old growth is still demanded. Their latest utilitarian spin is that young tree farms are better carbon sinks, so old growth is “bad” for us.

        Wood chips are a convenient way to merge “scrap” with primary wood and skew percentages, not just burn it better. Once you’ve got chips moving around the world, their origin gets vague. This was the film’s biggest revelation for me. The ending scene with apes stranded in a lone tree was powerful stuff.

        Some footage must have been gathered years ago. Too bad the Lowell Mountain scene wasn’t done in better weather, as it only showed a foggy glimpse of the razing. See and some eco-denial on that project: (“Simpleton” comment well done!)


        1. The wise saying “tell me how a man makes his living and I will tell you what he believes” applies in spades to loggers. I had friends who were loggers and I had summer jobs logging when young so I have some first hand knowledge.

          I think some countries, like Germany, really have made an honest effort to do something meaningful about climate change. The fact that the best they could come up with is burning woods chips imported from other countries via ships burning diesel is very telling about the intractability of the problem.

          Nothing will mitigate climate change, or any of our other overshoot problems, except rapid population reduction, and even this solution is probably too late given how much damage we’ve done to the ecosystem, and the debt we’ve built up denying there is no problem.


          1. That’s interesting context. You probably know the story of the Golden Spruce and conscientious logger Grant Hadwin. If he’d been a milder sort he could have started a eco-blog in 1997 (same year “weblog” was coined) but how many people would it have reached?

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m wondering if tptb are approaching the point where they think they must attempt an economic “restart” damn the torpedoes? One thing I do not hear discussion of is what if govs lift their bans, but employers don’t because they believe the virus will quickly spread through the ranks and/or they fear potential employee lawsuits? Will the retard american armed protesters take their guns & demands to he corporate head office if their employer chooses to remain shut down until the worst of the pandemic is over?

    My brother got laid off. He has a big mortgage, major consumer debt & two kids. His wife is a high school teacher & I think they are still getting paid & doing some non class room work. Teachers are not eligible for EI during the summer holidays unless their contracts were not renewed.

    What happens if the lock down drags on? What happens when mortgages & car loans are not paid for months? Evictions & repossessions? First off, it costs money to evict & repossess. Secondly, what will they do with all the cars & homes & no buyers? Banks don’t want empty houses. Regardless of who owns the house all up-keeping bylaws still apply. Lawns must be mowed. Interesting times.


    1. Hi Apneaman, all good questions, and there are many more. My brain can’t grock how a reset will work. One person’s debt is another person’s asset. Your brother’s mortgage is someone else’s pension investment.

      The flow of food, energy, and other important items surely must also be at risk. I was shopping on Amazon yesterday and noticed that many durables are no longer being shipped to Canada. Not just delayed due to higher priority shipments as was the case a week ago, but simply not available.

      I noticed something else unusual. Items that are NEVER discounted, like good hiking boots, are being offered at steep discounts.

      Pro tip: AliExpress is still working and it seems the small Chinese vendors are working extra hard to ship quickly. I suspect they’re desperate for revenue. I won’t be surprised if AliExpress stops working soon. We may never have access to as many inexpensive items again.

      The hairs on my neck are tingling that that we are in the lull right before the storm. I suspect that if you’re not already well into preparations it may be too late.


      1. Thanks Rob. I rarely shop online, but I just ordered 2 pair of Rx eye glasses from Zenni optical 3 days ago.

        I have to admit that most of my prepping is purely psychological. I’ve been on the tools since I was 14 & can fix most things half a dozen different ways. I think that gives me a leg up on most of the competition eh? I’m getting old & not sure how much of a change I can tolerate. I already live kinda Spartan compared to my fellow consumer citizens & could give up more material goodies no problem. It’s the other stuff I’m unsure of. The authoritarianism & the herd. I trust neither. Folks already losing their shit & we’re just getting started. There’s more agendas than I can keep up with & most are using the pandemic to further their cause & wound their enemies. Nothing new, but jacked up. Another thing is the ten thousand “theories”. The level of anger & paranoia rises daily. If one of these morons walks in the kitchen a see’s a glass of split milk it’s because the Deep State sent Seal Team 6 to knock it over in the wee hours of the night. I think one of the better survival traits one could adopt is to simply keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on _______. I’ll leave the hysterics & marching in the street to those who “know” things with 100% certainty.


        1. Very good idea on Zenni. Too bad we can’t order dehydrated dentist. I’ll be putting my DIY hair equipment into service soon with a crew cut.

          I agree there’s way too many agendas and opinions. I’m probably in the top decile of reading on the virus and the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t understand it. Biology is much more complicated than our meager minds can comprehend.

          I’m allergic to conspiracies because monkeys mostly react rather than plan, and they’re not very good at keeping secrets.

          Unlike you I’m an amateur tool guy. Farm work tends to be rough and ready. Just finished this farm stand on wheels.


          1. Looks really good Rob. The more you do the better you get & after a time you spot the patterns in building & repairing various things (wood, metal, cars, computers, etc). All your trouble shooting skills for engineering are transferable. Problems is problems. I just have the one trade ticket for BoilerMaking which is heavy industrial construction & maintence (toxic). All the other stuff is pretty much self taught & stuff learned from dad, uncles & a few back yard mechanic buddies over the years. There is an amazing number of step by step DIY repair videos out there too.

            People can always learn. The culture kinda promotes helplessness. A certified “specialist” at one mundane job & useless at everything else. 1-2 generations ago at least 1/2 of these white collar corporate & government jobs, including CEO’s & upper management, were done by people who never went past grade 12. It was called on the job training. They had people, informal recruiters, who looked out for people with talent & potential. Now they won’t look at anyone without a degree. Some of the dumbest people I know have a degree – my family. Not impressed. There is no BA, MA, or PhD for curiosity is there? You can neither buy nor teach curiosity. Folks either have it or they watch TV/don’t. For those who have it their education only ends by dementia or death. I’m guessing necessity is going to motivate a whole bunch of people to learn a suite of new skills. No degree or permission required. I’ll wager many are going to find they are much more capable & resilient than they ever imagined & will like the feeling that goes with it.


            1. Well said. Let’s hope we give purpose and responsibility to the young people with things like local food production, rather than war.

              Last year I worked as a mason’s helper. Heavy work but I liked it. At the end of the day you had built something useful that would probably last a hundred years.


  3. Antonio Turiel on The Black Storm

    The simplest way to deal with the demand crisis, of course, is to reduce production now to adapt it to current demand in the hope of recovering growing production later. Undoubtedly, this strategy is what is progressively being done to ensure that the flow of oil runs properly. There are, however, two issues that are likely to cause oil production to decline in the coming years faster than one would wish and on top of it permanently.

    The first is that the extraction flow in many veteran oil wells cannot be easily regulated: if the extraction rate is lowered too much, due to the enormous pressure at these depths, the reservoir rock from which the black gold is extracted tends to consolidate and collapse the channels through which oil flows; and once recemented, it is practically impossible to recover the initial porosity and return to the previous productive rates – worse still, part of the oil in situ is no longer recoverable. That is why many producers are reluctant to lower their production too much, because later they will not be able to return to the previous production rates and could even lose oil reserves.

    But the other issue has even more perverse implications and that will make it very difficult to adapt to such a savage decrease in demand, especially if it is long-lasting enough, and that is that refineries have an impossible solution problem. Refineries are usually adapted to process certain types of oil (lighter or heavier, with more content of sulfur or certain hydrocarbons, etc.), and that implies that the percentages of the different fuels that they will obtain are also quite limited. To put representative numbers, a refinery can produce by default 40% of its refined in the form of gasoline, 25% in the form of diesel, 9% in the form of kerosene, and the remaining 26% as other products, including polymers for plastics, other medium distillates, motor oils, tars and coke. Without having to make large investments, making certain adjustments that refinery could change its production a little, and thus perhaps decrease gasoline to 35% of the total and increase diesel to 30%. But little else, it does not have an infinite margin to change the proportions either because it depends on the type of oil that it can process (which has a certain content of hydrocarbons of each type) and the cracking procedure itself. The fact is that, regardless of these adjustments, in any refining process, gasoline, a certain amount of diesel and a large percentage of other things will be produced mostly. However, The fact that there is a 30% drop in oil demand does not mean that the drop in demand for each of the petroleum products is also 30% for each of them. The product that has the most faithful demand is diesel, because it is the fuel used by all machinery, and although the activity of machinery in general has also greatly decreased, agricultural and repair machinery and trucks are still moving to transport goods; Furthermore, let’s not forget that cargo ships must now use a fuel with diesel characteristics. Therefore, it is being observed that the drop in demand for diesel is less than half that of other fuels. This poses a terrible problem: What should be done with gasoline and other products for which there is no demand? If less oil is refined so that nothing remains, the diesel needed for the machinery that is still running would be lacking, while if enough oil was refined to produce diesel, gasoline would be left over by truckloads. Gasoline is also very volatile and cannot be stored in any type of tank, and the warehouses would soon be full. This problem, that the fall in demand is not homogeneous in all categories, is a structural issue that will last for several years and that will pose complex dilemmas.


    The descent down the right side of the Hubbert curve, the descent from the peak oil, will ultimately be accelerated and terrifying. We are entering at full speed in a black storm, black like that oil that now we do not want to consume and that soon we will not be able to consume.


    1. When it’s low, demand-based pricing feeds the public impression that oil isn’t truly finite. When it’s high, low-minded people blame the government. There’s less total oil in the ground every second, yet they’ll call undiscovered fields “new” oil because people hadn’t named them.

      His point about not being able to restore untended wells was apparently a rare issue until now.

      Watch for denialists buying fat vehicles during today’s unreal prices. Another major irritant is engine-idling out of laziness or apathy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Widespread aggressive denial of modern civilization’s total dependence on oil, the depletion of low cost oil, and the resulting worldwide debt explosion, is the poster child for Varki’s MORT theory, surpassed only by belief in God and life after death.


  4. There’s something honestly spiritual about the elements combining into a self-replicating configuration that evolved to figure out the origin of the elements, and why the configuration had to deny unpleasant realities, like its own mortality, before it could do so.

    It’s sad that normal humans with functioning denial genes must worship false gods when reality is so magnificent.

    Thanks to James @ for the image.


  5. Today’s economic update by Panoticon provides a very good global perspective.

    This recession will rival The Great Depression:

    “First, there’s evidence that the main reason people are staying at home is not lockdowns but the threat of the virus itself.

    “Data from online restaurant-reservation websites shows that in major cities, most of the decline in restaurant attendance happened before stay-at-home orders were issued. And polls indicate that most Americans are very wary of returning to their normal activities. This means that unless virus suppression regimes give people confidence that coronavirus isn’t a threat to their personal safetyy’re unlikely to come out and shop even if the government says there’s no need to worry…

    Next, there’s the global nature of the downturn. Gross domestic product is set to decline in almost every country. Finally, there’s the possibility of long-term financial market turmoil… keeping banks on a government lifeline during years of business weakness, although better than the alternative of letting the financial system collapse, might still not equip the financial industry to do its traditional job of lending to productive enterprises. The threat of repeated coronavirus outbreaks, along with continued business failures, may make banks just as afraid to lend as they were as they were after 2008…


  6. By giving $2.26 trillion in 6 weeks to Wall Street instead of $17,000 to every household you cause asset inflation and avoid a system collapse (which most people like) instead of causing consumable inflation and depletion (which most people don’t like).

    The missing required piece of this strategy that no one discusses is an aggressive capital gains tax to prevent the wealth gap from increasing and destabilizing civil society. The rich are getting richer not because of their skill, but simply because the trillions of dollars we are printing are inflating the assets that the rich already own. Monkeys have an innate sense of fairness and become unruly when one monkey gets a grape and the other a cucumber.

    The other missing piece of the discussion is that this strategy simply kicks the can and makes much worse our eventual destination. Where are the people advocating that we live within our means so that the future is less bad?

    Denial of reality in full view once again.

    The Fed has printed $2.26 trillion since March 11 to inflate asset prices and bail out asset holders and Wall Street. If the Fed had spread that $2.26 trillion equally over the 130 million households in the US, each would have received $17,380. But this was helicopter money for Wall Street and the wealthy that were losing part their wealth in the sell-off. Those are the folks that matter to the Fed.


  7. Kunstler nails it today.

    The good thing about being a reclusive loner is that the lockdown has not changed my life other than I now go to the pantry instead of the grocery store. 🙂

    Two comments stood out for me:

    1) I agree Amazon’s days are numbered. As are AliExpress’s. They can’t and therefore won’t work in a lower complexity world with less energy. If there’s anything you really need that is not made and sold locally you should get it now.

    2) A farrier I met confirmed Kunstler’s mule transportation idea. Compared to horses mules are more fuel efficient and less fussy about their food, have much better temperaments for hauling freight in trains of animals, and their hooves need less maintenance. The only downside is that mules can’t self-replicate like horses, although they so self-repair many malfunctions just like horses.

    The plague didn’t cause the economic crash. But the lockdown response certainly accelerated, amplified, and ramified it. The crash happened because we built up a hyper-complex, over-scaled, just-in-time economic system with all its ecological redundancy edited out for the sake of efficiency, making it hyper-fragile. The system’s basic power module (fossil fuel) was failing on a cost-basis and we tried to compensate for that with debt. The debt got out of hand in both sheer quantity and from the dishonest games that bankers and politicians were playing with it. All of this happened for the reason that most things happen in history: it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    The old system is permanently broken now. We’re having a hard time recognizing that, plague or no plague. Many activities have flunked the scale challenge and will not come back to running the way they used to, generally anything organized at the giant scale: global supply chains, global corporations that depend on them, fracking for shale oil, big institutions like colleges and even public school systems, commercial aviation and tourism, the auto industry, show business (including the Disney empire and things like it), suburbia as a general proposition, skyscrapers and megastructures, shopping malls, pension funds, insurance companies, mega-banks, and, of course, medical conglomerates. We’re deceived by, which appears to be successful at the moment because it is filling a vacuum that Amazon will also eventually fall into. Amazon’s business model is a joke. The model is: every item purchased makes a separate journey by truck to the customer. That’s a “sell” signal to me.

    The lockdown is making people crazy. It’s one thing to be stuck in the house with spouses and relatives you can barely stand under normal circumstances. But to see all your financial support systems melt down at the same time, along with the implications for your hopes-and-dreams, is a pretty big shock. Naturally so many want to bust out of the waking nightmare and get going, to return to action, to at least see whether what they were doing before all this happened might restart.

    I dunno about that. They might flock back to restaurants to spend some of that fresh-minted $1200, and then what? Where will the next $1200 come from? Modern Monetary Theory? A new Guaranteed Basic Income? From what? From taxes paid by which businesses generating what profits from people too broke to buy goods and services? I don’t think so. Times have changed and we’re going to have to get some new good ideas that fit the new times. But, the craziness out there is very likely to start expressing itself differently as we discover the urge to action does not produce the desired result of returning-to-normal. Instead, it produces more disorder in the foundering system, and then the question is: how much disorder do we have to slog through to get to those new ideas suited to the new times.

    I’ve got one of my own. The mule business! Seriously.


  8. One shale oil producer down, many more to follow, must print more money.

    In a stunning news release, Continental Resources, the largest shale producer in the Bakken, is shutting in most of its production in the region. That is one hell of a lot of output to shut-in as Continental Resources was producing over 200,000 barrels per day in the Bakken at the end of 2019.


  9. Went into the stores for the 2nd time since the lock-down today, again wearing a mask. I find a mask causes me to overheat and it makes me quite uncomfortable. Can’t imagine wearing one all day as our health care workers must.


  10. So here’s a serious question.

    How can the wealthiest most powerful country in the world with 300 million literate well educated people have as their elected leader a lying moron?

    Seriously, how is this possible?

    Is it possible that Varki’s denial theory is more powerful than even zeolots like myself can imagine?

    This week an out-of-control American president made remarks about using sunlight and disinfectants topically, an improvised medicine show that prompted frantic health warnings from multiple quarters. Since the revisionist right is furiously trying to deny that this ever happened, or happened the way that it happened, let’s reproduce Trump’s statements word for word here:

    “I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.”

    “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it [to Dr. Birx]. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body.”

    On Friday, Trump said he was speaking “sarcastically.” So sarcastically that his administration had to dampen repeated outrage, face calls from poison control agencies nationwide, and endure cautionary calls from Lysol and other manufacturers as they had to issue dont-take-this-stuff denials. No one was buying it, after the aggressive pushback from all quarters. Making one pine for good old days when people merely ate Tide pods.

    Responding to the criticism from public health officials around the country, the president said he was playing a trick on reporters.

    Vin Gupta, a global-health policy expert, told NBC News: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous. It’s a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves.”

    Lysol and Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser said Friday, “Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines.”

    These are not responses to sarcasm. By week’s end, amid leaked stories that aides and advisers were trying to get Trump to reel in his freewheeling, off-the-cuff self-indulgent-fests, Trump announced an end to his daily pressers. He blamed the media for being “fake news” and said they were a “waste of time.” Like dealing with an ex, Trump can reliably be counted upon to let you know that whatever happens is someone else’s fault. By week’s end, Dr. Deborah Birx sold off what remained of her own credibility in a Fox News interview. Asked if the media in this country had been fair during this pandemic, Birx replied,

    “I think the media is very slicey and dicey with the way they put together sentences in order to create headlines.”

    “Slicey and dicey.” We’ll just leave this here to ripen.


    1. They are not well educated at all & in spite of spending the most per capita on education. Last I checked the US was 31st in public education among OCED nations (Canada 7th). Money can’t fix stupid.

      Functional Illiteracy: The Hidden Crisis Facing America

      32 Million U.S. Adults are “Functionally Illiterate”… What Does That Even Mean?

      The innumeracy is even worse. The scientific illiteracy is so off the scale they might as well be classified as a different species. I lived in the US for 8 years. I can confirm the wide spread idiocracy. Even among many of the so called collage educated (eg: my in laws) the degree of uncritical thinking was astounding. Sure the US still produces some very brilliant people, but their numbers have fallen while an ever greater number of citizens are dumbed down beyond belief. A line was crossed some tine ago. The morons are just too numerous to be carried by the few.


      1. There’s this too.

        Looking The Other Way On Cheating In College


        “Cases like the much-publicized (and enduring) 2012 cheating scandal at high-achieving Stuyvesant High School in New York City confirm that academic dishonesty is rampant and touches even the most prestigious of schools. The data confirms this as well. A 2012 Josephson Institute’s Center for Youth Ethics report revealed that more than half of high school students admitted to cheating on a test, while 74 percent reported copying their friends’ homework. And a survey of 70,000 high school students across the United States between 2002 and 2015 found that 58 percent had plagiarized papers, while 95 percent admitted to cheating in some capacity.”


      2. Wow, I was not aware it’s that bad. On the other hand it must be, their leader can’t speak a coherent sentence, and the citizens don’t care. In fact he’ll be re-elected if the stock market doesn’t crash.


      3. One popularized solution was offered decades ago by C.M. Kornbluth. Maybe Elon Musk could provide the hardware, if not the gubmint, which is now full of what needs to ship.

        Then again, Musk isn’t doing Earth any favors with his massive space junk initiative (aka global satellite Internet) corrupting every square mile with Facebook feeds.


  11. View at

    Seems like some people have trouble accepting “Planet of the humans” message. I think this article is a classic case of denial. I think a lot of people will have trouble accepting that renewables are just a derivative of fossil fuels.


    1. Thanks. This article is a little better than others I’ve seen. At least it tries to address the facts raised in the documentary. Others I’ve seen simply attacked the messenger.

      I don’t think environmentalists will shift their focus to population reduction, which of course means they are not really environmentalists. They are consumers that want to feel good about consuming more.

      What will change is that Michael Moore will have fewer friends.


      1. Yes, climate denial is not the only denial out there. Alt energy dreaming is not the only science denial from the left & when confronted with facts they act just as enraged & hysterical as right wing nuts. This is the fate of ‘believers’.


      1. Count on Richard Heinberg to show restraint, even towards people I suspect he thinks are full of shit–too few like him. I venture that most of the people apoplectic about Planet of the Humans are innumerate-a common societal malady.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Mac10 shares my opinion of economists. Their profession is an embarrassment that should be banned from universities for not following the scientific method.

    Manipulation of markets is all central banks have left. If the sheeple knew the truth, they would panic out of Trump Casino…

    Crude oil is the best indicator we have for what is actually happening to the REAL economy outside of central bank controlled Disney markets.

    Total annihilation.

    …today’s economists are total fucking idiots. There is no other way to describe that profession. Over the past decade they have entirely sold out to central bank alchemy. Which is why they are constantly behind the curve on predicting what is happening to the real economy. Likewise, today’s central bank rigged markets in no way convey the demand collapse in the economy. The concept of true price discovery is a relic of a bygone era. Central banks don’t want anyone to really know what is going on beneath the surface of their well maintained fiction. Only the commodities market – which is, so far, outside the buying purview of central banks – gives an accurate depiction. And it’s not pretty.


    1. Economists serve the same purpose as the priestly classes have throughout history – legitimizers of the system & the elites who run/own it.

      Remember in 2008 when they said “who could have seen it coming?” That’s just the secular version of “God’s will” & God wills it”. They pull it out whenever they need to cover their failures.

      Scapegoating is another. In 2008 they tried to pin it on the sub prime mortgage failure, which was a trigger, like Covid, not the cause. They even tried a scapegoat double down by claiming it was stupid poor people taking out mortgages they did not understand. Those people were a drop in the bucket. Plenty of middle class people stupidly refinanced (for consumption) & there were house flippers & wanna be landlords who took stupid risks/over extended. They all bought into the hype at the time. I was still living there when it went down. I saw the carnage & the hype that preceded it.

      I think the only thing the ecnOpriests got right is the invisible hand. All plebs know it’s real because they can feel it reaching into their back pocket their entire lives & even beyond the grave. It’s may be invisible, but we all know who’s hand it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Very nice big picture perspective by Tim Watkins today. Copied in full here because every paragraph was good enough to be an excerpt.

    New Zealand has put a stop to community transmission of SARS-Cov-2; Yeah! It is a victory of sorts, and one which was hard won. As the BBC explain:

    “The country brought in some of the toughest restrictions in the world on travel and activity early on in the pandemic, when it only had a few dozen cases.

    “It closed its borders, started enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.”

    That’s the same BBC who called US President Donald Trump an idiot for banning flights from China into the USA at the same time. The difference, one suspects, is that while Jacinda Ardern is the current hero of the neoliberal establishment media (Justin Trudeau having blotted his copybook of late) Trump is anything but.

    New Zealand’s problem, though, is that it is among the most complex economies on Earth. As the Observatory of Economic Complexity explain:

    “The economy of New Zealand has an Economic Complexity Index (ECI) of 0.483 making it the 41st most complex country. New Zealand exports 179 products with revealed comparative advantage (meaning that its share of global exports is larger than what would be expected from the size of its export economy and from the size of a product’s global market).”

    In simple terms, New Zealand occupies several key nodes in the global network of supply chains, often importing products for re-export; leaving it exposed to a global economy which might not be faring quite as well as New Zealand just at the moment. It also means that, since the country cannot function as an isolated entity, as soon as it opens its (actually it’s part of the global) economy it risks importing SARS-Cov-2 once again.

    The same goes almost everywhere, of course. No matter how well or badly one state happens to respond to the spread of SARS-Cov-2, the moment economies open up once more, the virus will begin to spread again. And since, unchecked, SARS-Cov-2 has a doubling time of three days; reinfection will result in a similar peak to the first one in about six weeks.

    This brings us to the thorny question of how we should respond. At the macro level, we face just two alternatives. First, we can attempt to completely eradicate the virus. That is, we – all 7.5bn of us – could collectively agree to shut down the entire global economy (i.e., including everything currently considered essential) for around six weeks. This would allow the last spread of SARS-Cov-2 through prisons, barracks, care homes and other collective living settings. Once the spread had stopped, we could open everything up and hope that not too many jobs and businesses will have failed in the interim. Whether 7.5bn people would be able to survive without such things as food and clean drinking water for six weeks is another question.

    Since eradication is a non-starter, one or other variant of herd immunity will have to do. There are three broad versions of herd immunity. First, there is the policy being followed in Sweden and which was attempted and then dropped by the UK government. This is to allow the virus to spread through the population at a pace that, hopefully, does not overwhelm critical infrastructure. Ultimately this will result in the majority of the population developing antibodies against the virus, slowing its transmission and preventing all but a tiny minority from becoming seriously ill in future.

    The UK government was panicked into changing course. In part this was due to new – and contentious – modelling which suggested a death rate far higher than had been anticipated. In large part, though, the UK government was forced to respond to a public which generated severe harm to an already vulnerable economy by acting in its own perceived self-interest. So-called “panic buying” – in reality more people than usual adding a few extra items to their weekly shop – disrupted food supplies even before the official lockdown began. On the other side of the equation, the collapse in demand for air travel, public transport, cafes and restaurants and High Street non-food retail created a recession that the state had little choice other than to respond to.

    In March, this resulted in the first establishment media mood swing. After spending February telling us that banning flights from China was racist and that Covid-19 was just like flu and only killed old people, the media started accusing government of playing games with people’s lives by keeping schools open and by allowing large public events to go ahead. In part, the media were only reflecting what a large part of their audience was already doing. But in order to get ahead of the game, they began to hunt down examples of people failing to practice social distancing as evidence that the state would have to impose a legally-binding lockdown.

    Eventually, the government ordered a lockdown for the period around the Easter holidays. And since most of the metropolitan liberal types who work for establishment media were going to be off for Easter anyway, they helped to promote something close to a holiday atmosphere for those who weren’t too poor to avoid work or those cooped up in bedsits or tiny high-rise flats.

    Then the disrupted supply chains that some of us had been warning about for months began to bite. It became increasingly obvious that reopening the economy was going to be a damned sight harder than locking it down. Emergency government spending packages were going to have to be paid for in the aftermath. And it is blindingly obvious from the poor state of the services charged with responding to the pandemic that there is nothing left to cut in the public sector. That, in turn, means that those same metropolitan liberal types who work in the establishment media are likely to be first in line for redundancies, pay cuts and tax increases when the lockdown is over.

    It should come as no surprise that the latest mood swing in the establishment media is an increasingly shrill demand that government must begin the process of unlocking the economy. They are right to be concerned. More than a million people were forced to claim Universal Credit – the punitive benefit designed to force people into low-paid work – in April. Most will not have received a payment yet, since there is a five week waiting time for new claims. They will, however, have been living on the last pay packet before they were fired. Sadly, that pay packet is likely to have been considerably higher than the £92.00 per week they are about to receive. And so May is likely to be the first month when more than a million people wake up to the harsh reality of not having enough money to live on. Indeed, with various utility bills and subscriptions outstanding, many will be starting their new way of life in debt.

    The question is not so much if we will reopen the economy – the depth of the coming global recession will leave us with no choice. The question, then, is whether either of the remaining versions of herd immunity is possible.

    The ideal would be for clever people somewhere else to develop a vaccine. This has been the outcome preferred by the establishment media; which has routinely touted the narrative of “a vaccine in 18 months” which was, frankly, plucked out of someone’s backside. Indeed, it is hard not to believe that the various stories about the first human tests beginning together with the 18 month timescale as anything more than sugar coating for a highly unpleasant pill.

    The three key facts that the establishment media have gone out of their way to hide from a public that is just beginning to experience the negative psychological impact of six weeks in lockdown are:

    1. Nobody has ever produced a safe vaccine for a corona virus (a very unsafe one was developed for SARS-Cov-1 and was abandoned when it resulted in a life threatening cytokine storm in animals exposed to the virus after taking it)
    2. The fastest vaccine ever to be developed was the 1967 mumps vaccine which took four years from collecting samples to licencing
    3. The UK does not have any vaccine production facilities and will thus will have to wait (as it has done for ventilators and PPE) for any newly licenced vaccine to be produced in large quantities.

    Even if these could be overcome, there is simply no way in which the current lockdown could be maintained for 18 months; the economy will be a smouldering ruin long before that. This is because the underlying weaknesses which caused the 2008 crash were never addressed. Instead, central banks used quantitative easing and zero (when adjusted for inflation) interest rates to pump up an even bigger financial bubble while imposing austerity cuts which undermined the “real” economy. The pandemic is merely exacerbating what was already there. And, as financial commentator Alistair McLeod explains:

    “With the general public and virtually all the financial establishment ignorant of or blind to the inflationary situation, central banks have chosen this moment to announce unlimited monetary expansion to buy off the consequences of the coronavirus. They have committed to the virtual nationalisation of their economies, to be paid for by debauching their currencies. The process depends on public ignorance of the consequences. In all the announcements of government support for their economies and of their central banks’ monetary role, there has been virtually nothing said or written about the consequences of the monetary inflation involved.

    “Indeed, the only thing more astounding than the ignorance of the general public over monetary matters is the apparent ignorance of the politicians and central bankers charged with implementing monetary policy. But the brakes are now off, the chasm beckons, and the purchasing powers of fiat currencies are set to run downhill at a rapidly accelerating pace. We are now about to embark on Phase 2, when it dawns on the public that with respect to prices money is collapsing and will soon become worthless.”

    Whereas governments and central banks around the world were able to produce an international response in 2008, according to McLeod the logic of the current predicament will be a series of conflicting national responses:

    “To address their escalating liabilities at home, foreign governments and businesses will require financial resources currently invested in US securities to be repatriated. Foreign central banks have their own economies to rescue. Businesses everywhere are suddenly facing mounting losses and have no alternative but to reduce their dollar exposure. Foreign portfolio managers are being spooked by a developing worldwide bear market and seem certain to liquidate their US holdings and their dollar positions in the coming months.

    “Diminishing cross-border trade and the shock of the coronavirus have fundamentally undermined demand for dollars. This is not to be confused with demand for dollar liquidity, which some say will support the dollar. Liquidity is required in all currencies, which will be satisfied by liquidation of financial assets. The ensuing collapse of financial asset values and foreign liquidation of dollars is increasingly likely because all classes of foreign investors have, until now, enjoyed the security of investing in the world’s reserve currency, while Americans have generally avoided owning foreign currencies. It is only a matter of time before this imbalance begins to undermine the dollar, and then consequences will follow.”

    We have seen what happens when national currencies become worthless time and again throughout history. It always looks like some variant of the post war Soviet Union in which everyone has plenty of Roubles to spend, the shops are empty and the black market accounts for almost all of the economic activity that remains. What we may be about to witness is something almost unheard of – the complete collapse of the entire global monetary system. This happened to an extent in the early 1970s after Nixon ended the post-war Breton Woods monetary system. But that was at a time when the economy was still basking in the unprecedented and never to be repeated oil boom 1953-73. This time the global currency collapse is occurring after half a century of (non-financial sector) economic decline.

    Little wonder, then, that the establishment media is currently giving a good impersonation of manic depression; swing from excessive optimism about vaccines and opening up the economy to the depths of depression as it becomes clear that the economy is tanking and there is no acceptable way of opening the economy without risking a massive loss of life.

    “Acceptable,” that is, because the establishment media – along with the “big pharma” lobbyists – have ruled out the third version of herd immunity precisely because it is the one promoted by their arch enemy Donald Trump. The Trump option – and much as I dislike his persona and his politics, I hope he is right – is to trawl through the wide range of antiviral drugs which are already in use – meaning they do not need to be tested for safety and they will be inexpensive – to see whether a drug or combination of drugs can prevent or greatly reduce the deaths and hospitalisations from Covid-19. As pathologist Chris Martenson explains, much of the media hostility to Trump’s suggested treatment, hydroxychloroquine, is political rather than scientific and appears to be based in prejudice rather than data. After all, the one systematic review of the drug carried out for the World Health Organisation in 2016 concludes that:

    “Despite hundreds of millions of doses administered in the treatment of malaria, there have been no reports of sudden unexplained death associated with quinine, chloroquine or amodiaquine, although each drug causes QT/QTc interval prolongation…

    “Apart from halofantrine, antimalarial medicines that prolong the QT/QTc interval, such as quinine, chloroquine, artesunate-amodiaquine and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, have been associated with a low risk of cardiotoxicity. Out of ~200 000 people treated with close follow-up, the one reported case of sudden death considered to be possibly causally related to treatment with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine suggests that… cardiotoxicity may occur as a very rare event…”

    Current media concerns about the drug centre on instances of people taking the wrong substance – as in the case of the couple who poisoned themselves with fish tank cleaner – people with pre-existing heart conditions – who shouldn’t have been prescribed it anyway – or people given a far greater dose than is approved for malaria. Either way, as Martenson points out, if some combination of drugs including hydroxychloroquine proves to be an effective treatment for Covid-19, then the establishment media will have been responsible for at least some of the unnecessary deaths.

    That, though, is the choice before us. It is a choice that has no easy answers because at this stage there is so much that we don’t know. We think but do not know that exposure to Covid-19 will give us immunity in the same way as exposure to measles (or a measles vaccine) does. But not all viruses work that way. SARS-Cov-2 might prove to be like its cousin, the common cold, and just keep coming back year after year.

    We think but do not know that a relatively large number of us have already been exposed to Covid-19. This is because antibody tests are woefully inaccurate, leading to thousands of false positives; people who think it is safe to go back to work but are actually at risk to themselves and others. Tom Chivers at UnHerd explains the mathematics behind this:

    “Imagine that you have a test that is 95% accurate… So you are given the test, and it comes back positive. How likely is it that you’ve had the disease?

    “The answer, for the record, is not 95%. The answer is: you don’t know. Unless you know what percentage of people in the population have had it, then you simply don’t have enough information to answer the question.

    “Let’s look at why. Imagine that 3% of people in this country have had Covid-19, which probably towards the upper end of most reasonable estimates at the moment. Now let’s imagine that you test a million people, completely at random.

    “Of those million, about 30,000 will actually have had the disease. Your test will correctly identify 28,500 of them. And 970,000 people will not have had the disease. Your test will correctly identify 921,500 of them. So there will be about 1,500 people who are wrongly told that they haven’t had it, and who are forced to remain in unnecessary isolation. That’s bad. But it’s not the real problem.

    “The real problem is that 48,500 will be told they have had the disease and are now immune. That outnumbers the true positives by almost two to one. If you issue immunity passports on this basis, barely a third of the people you give them to will actually be immune.”

    We think but do not know that a vaccine or new treatment might save the day. But the timescale for this is far too long and the odds are stacked against it. And so for better or worse, our best hope is that Trump is right and there is an existing drug or combination of drugs that will significantly lower the hospitalisation and death rates. Because if that option doesn’t exist, then Boris Johnson’s and Dominic Cummings’ original version of herd immunity will be the only game in town… and even that depends on the as yet unproven belief that exposure confers immunity.

    As General Practitioner and Science writer Ben Goldacre wrote about a previous pandemic:

    “We are poorly equipped to think around issues involving risk, and infectious diseases epidemiology is a tricky business: the error margins on the models are wide, and it’s extremely hard to make clear predictions…

    “All people have done is raise the possibility of things really kicking off, and they are right to do so, but we don’t have brilliantly accurate information. Someone has said that up to 40% of the world could be infected. Is that scaremongering? Well it’s high, and I’m sure it’s a bit of a guess, but maybe up to 40% could be. Annoying, isn’t it, not to know.”

    Annoying it most certainly is. But not so annoying as an establishment media that is swinging back and forth between demands for an even tougher lockdown one day and an early opening of the economy the next; while blaming us for everything that goes wrong. Goldacre’s concluding remark then is likely to be writ large when this is all over:

    “I’m not showing off. I know I’m a D-list public intellectual, but I just think it’s interesting: because not only have the public lost all faith in the media; not only do so many people assume, now, that they are being misled; but more than that, the media themselves have lost all confidence in their own ability to give us the facts.”


    1. “not only have the public lost all faith in the media; not only do so many people assume, now, that they are being misled; but more than that, the media themselves have lost all confidence in their own ability to give us the facts.”

      Tis true. Thing is the humans have some deep seated need to know & in lieu of creditable explanations from the media, they start making up their own versions of truth.

      The two hardest things for most humans to admit are, “I was wrong” & “I don’t know”.


      1. The diversity of opinions on the nature of the virus and what to do about it is head-spinning. I’m firmly in the “I don’t know” camp, but am being cautious just in case the pessimistic people are right, and I’m expecting big economic “events” soon.


      1. What a difference 8 years makes. When you wrote that review co2 was 392 ppm. We’re now at 415ppm.
        Does economic collapse save us from a climate apocalypse or have we already passed the point of no return? What’s your take Rob?


        1. I’m not sure. If the economy contracts, say 50%, but the wheels stay on so people have food & shelter, as Nate Hagens predicts, then it should make our climate future (and other environmental problems) less bad. I say less bad because it’s too late for a good outcome. On the other hand, if we have a mad max crash, then everything will get worse as people burn the forests and eat anything that moves to survive. Of course a probable wild car that will wreck all predictions is a global nuclear war over scarce resources, as Jack Alpert, Jay Hansen, and all the history books predict.


  14. Nice find by Apneaman.

    In 2015, American researchers and Chinese Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers collaborated to transform an animal coronavirus into one that can attack humans. Scientists from prestigious American universities and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) worked directly with the two coauthor researchers from Wuhan Institute of Virology, Xing-Yi Ge and Zhengli-Li Shi. Funding was provided by the Chinese and US governments. The team succeeded in modifying a bat coronavirus to make it capable of infecting humans.

    A quick background check suggests to me this guy is legit and is not a whack job.


  15. Unlike many of my friends, I think Bill Gates is a good man with good intentions. I know he understands our energy and climate predicaments because I’ve heard him discuss the issues, and he’s investing in nuclear energy which is our only hope for maintaining our advanced technology lifestyles after the oil is gone.

    My main criticism of Gates is that I wish he had focused on population reduction (in all countries) rather than disease mortality reduction (in developing countries). Perhaps he’s wiser than me and knows that rapid population reduction policies will never be democratically supported because of the Maximum Power Principle that governs our gene’s behaviors. Instead, I’m guessing he hopes the birth rate will fall as disease mortality falls, as it did for us fortunate people in the developed world. The problem is that this solution is too slow given the magnitude of our overshoot and imminence of energy depletion.

    Here Gates discusses a vaccine for the Wuhan virus, says it’s possible to develop in 18 months, and is the only possible solution to the pandemic. He also says a vaccine has never before been developed in less than 5 years so he knows the risks. I don’t know if his optimism has any foundation, although I do know you can’t be a successful entrepreneur without extreme levels of optimism (aka denial). I also know he knows a lot more about vaccines than I do.


  16. When Art Berman speaks about oil, I listen.

    It’s game-over for most of the U.S. oil industry.

    Prices have collapsed and storage is nearly full. The only option for many producers is to shut in their wells. That means no income. Most have considerable debt so bankruptcy is next.

    Most people, policy makers and economists are energy blind and cannot, therefore, fully grasp the gravity or the consequences of what is happening.

    Energy is the economy and oil is the most important and productive portion of energy. U.S. oil consumption is at its lowest level since 1971 when production was only about 78% of what it was in 2019. As goes oil, so goes the economy…down.

    I doubt that there will be a demand recovery in the third quarter despite the re-opening of businesses in the second. That is because we are in a global depression. Unemployment will remain high and consumers will be damaged from lack of income over the months of quarantine. The truth is that I doubt that demand will ever recover.

    Economies will re-start slowly. A useful analogy is being at a traffic light behind 25 stopped cars. The light will change from green to red before your car begins to move. It may take several light changes before you get to the other side of the intersection.

    Those who see an opportunity for renewable energy in the demise of oil need to think again. The manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars depend on diesel all along the supply chain from extraction to distribution of finished products. A world in economic depression will default to the cheapest and most productive fuels. Oil will be cheap and abundant for a long time. There will be little money or appetite for the massive equipment changes that renewable sources require. Climate change will not be high in the consciousness of people struggling to survive.

    Large segments of the U.S. oil industry will have to be nationalized before the year is over. The price of oil is too low to justify the cost of extraction even if storage were available. The value of a barrel of oil, however, is 4.5 man-years of work and that productivity multiplier will be essential if the U.S. economy is to avoid collapse or for it to recover if collapse is unavoidable.

    The United States has engaged in the foolish practice of draining America first since the beginning of tight oil production a decade ago. There was value up to the point that domestic oil substituted for imported light oil but exporting more was dumb. That is true especially now that someone else’s oil will be cheap to buy for years.

    I hope that we learn to view what is happening as a chance to simplify and to learn to be satisfied with no more than what we need. It is unlikely that we will have much choice.


  17. Another nice find by Apneaman…

    Tom Lewis: We Are Not Going Back to Normal. Because Normal Isn’t There Anymore

    The low-information, low-IQ ICPs (Intellectually Challenged Persons — I have been told I should come up with a more graceful way of referring to them than “idiots,” which is my preference) who are taking to the streets demanding that someone somewhere throw a switch and start the economy running like it used to, have not looked over their shoulders. The economy they walked out of just a few weeks ago isn’t there any more.

    With nearly half of all American workers in serious trouble the first week of May — having severe difficulty paying rent, mortgages, credit-card and other debt, auto loans, health care and even food — the pain is only beginning. With the unemployment insurance systems overwhelmed, the first wave of a tsunami of state and local government layoffs is just now beginning.

    A large number of the small private businesses closed by the coronavirus lockdown will never be able to reopen, and many of those that do will not be able to stay open because their customers have been impoverished and will be greatly reduced in number by “social distancing.” Can you imagine any restaurant surviving at 25% capacity, which some states are planning on mandating?

    And it’s not just small businesses. The American oil industry has crashed, and is burning, and there is no way to put it back together. The automobile industry is just about finished. The American stock asylum, having overshot the cliff, has just about exhausted its Wile E. Coyote dance over thin air and will soon be a small grease spot on the canyon floor. The agriculture industry has gone from bad to unbelievable to “holy shit” in the past few years.

    Nor will state and local government services, just now beginning to go down, be restored anytime soon. It is not well appreciated that state and local governments are legally prohibited from running deficits. The money they have spent to meet the crisis of the pandemic, unless replenished by the federal government’s magic money wand (which is itself running out of magic), will come out of the government’s budget, and the people’s hide. Services such as law enforcement, garbage collection, road maintenance, water and sewage treatment, firefighting and the like are going to deteriorate drastically this summer and are not likely to recover for years.

    Nearly half of all Americans were living paycheck-to-paycheck before the coronavirus hit, and now many of them have missed two paychecks. The billionaire politicians and millionaire TV pundits have no clue about the level of misery that existed in the typical American home before the pandemic, and no clue that it has now gone from unbelievable to unbearable.

    One-time $1200 checks are the equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s portions of cake. Or of sending firefighters out to meet a wildfire with tablespoons of water. Tax breaks are the equivalent of giving a stage-four lung-cancer patient a bandaid. Where’s he going to put it?

    We are not going to bounce back. There may be a bounce, but it will be what students of stock market crashes call a “dead cat bounce” — a brief uptick before another plunge. Far from V-shaped, as the Trumpists and other ICPs insist, it will far more likely be staircase-shaped, and the bottom is a long way down.

    Brace for impact.


  18. My take away messages: 1) the virus wasn’t man-made because no one is smart enough to do that. It was Nature who did the trick. 2) The vaccine may never come, don’t buy the hype.


    1. I agree that a vaccine is far from being a done deal.

      I disagree with your first point. “Man-made” is a slippery term that the responsible scientists seem to be using to obscure the truth. It is not man-made in the sense that we designed the virus. There are however peer reviewed published papers suggesting the virus may have been collected from the wild and enhanced, which I suppose like breeding dogs, you might say is not “man-made” if you’re deliberately trying to be obtuse.

      I might agree with you if and when I see an expert discuss all of the published and circumstantial evidence before concluding that the virus arrived without laboratory involvement.

      This is a very good interview but he did not address the evidence.


      1. Perhaps it is okay if another sip I post his previous interview in this space. I’m too dumb to figure out the big picture of this ‘another fine mess’, as Laurel and Hardy put it. A smartvirus, a viral stealth fighter? A virus that thinks? But like it or not, it’s product development. Mutations. It’s getting better, as the Beatles put it.


  19. More unraveling of the story. Better hurry up and place your final AliExpress orders.

    China deliberately suppressed or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak in an “assault on international transparency’’ that cost tens of thousands of lives, according to a dossier prepared by concerned Western governments on the COVID-19 contagion.

    The 15-page research document, obtained by The Saturday Telegraph, lays the foundation for the case of negligence being mounted against China.

    It states that to the “endangerment of other countries” the Chinese government covered-up news of the virus by silencing or “disappearing” doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence of it in laboratories and refusing to provide live samples to international scientists who were working on a vaccine.


  20. Doug Noland does a nice job in his essay this week reminding us that in 10 short years we have come to accept monetary policies as normal that prior to 2008 were considered by wise experts to be unthinkable because of their consequences.

    I think about this all the time and am amazed that so few people care that we are trading off a much worse future for a little better present. We don’t even discuss and debate the issue.

    There is no better example of reality denial enabling the Maximum Power Principle that governs our behavior.

    Going Nuclear

    “Money printing” and fiscal borrowing/spending viewed as unconscionable prior to 2008 are these days easily justified. The “nuclear option” is readily accepted as a mainstream policy response. A Wall Street economist appearing on Bloomberg even posited the current crisis is worse than World War II.

    To challenge monetary and fiscal stimulus is almost tantamount to being unAmerican. After all, tens of millions of American citizens are hurting – millions of small businesses are near the breaking point. They are deserving of support in these circumstances. Yet I don’t want to lose focus on analyzing and chronicling ongoing catastrophic policy failure. COVID-19 greatly muddies the analytical waters.

    Federal Reserve Credit jumped another $146bn last week to $6.598 TN, pushing the eight-week gain to a staggering $2.453 TN. M2 “money supply” rose $365bn, with an eight-week rise of $1.727 TN. Institutional Money Fund Assets (not included in M2) rose another $76bn, boosting the eight-week expansion to $921bn.

    The Fed this week expanded its new “main street” lending facility, raising limits to include companies with up to 15,000 employees and $5.0 billion in revenues. Our central bank, as well, broadened terms for its state and local government financing vehicle to include counties as small as 500,000 (down from 2 million) and cities of 250,000 (reduced from 1 million).

    From the WSJ (Nick Timiraos and Jon Hilsenrath): “The Federal Reserve is redefining central banking. By lending widely to businesses, states and cities in its effort to insulate the U.S. economy from the coronavirus pandemic, it is breaking century-old taboos about who gets money from the central bank in a crisis, on what terms, and what risks it will take about getting that money back.” The article quoted Chairman Powell: “None of us has the luxury of choosing our challenges; fate and history provide them for us. Our job is to meet the tests we are presented.”

    There has traditionally been an unwritten agreement – an understanding borne from historical hardship – that central banks would never resort to flagrant monetary inflation. Risk to “innocent civilians” would be much too great. “Open letters” challenged the Fed’s foray into QE, including one from 2010 signed by a group of leading economists: “We believe the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchase plan (so-called ‘quantitative easing’) should be reconsidered and discontinued. We do not believe such a plan is necessary or advisable under current circumstances. The planned asset purchases risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.”

    QE was to be a temporary crisis-management tool, employed in response to “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” The initial Trillion from late-2008 was to be reversed, returning the Fed’s balance sheet back near the pre-crisis $1.0 Trillion level. Somehow, QE was employed in 2019, with stocks at record highs and unemployment at 60-year lows. Last year’s monetary fiasco foreshadowed Going Nuclear in 2020 – a couple Trillion in a couple months. At this point, it’s gone so far beyond anything thought possible with “helicopter money” or even MMT stimulus. Don’t hold your breath awaiting “open letters” of protest. A Fed balance sheet briskly on its way to $10 TN seems just fine to most.

    The Fed cut rates to zero (0-0.25%) in December 2008. The FOMC then waited a full seven years for a single little “baby step” 25 bps increase. Nine years from the slashing to zero, rates were still only 1.25% (to 1.5%), before peaking at a paltry 2.25% (to 2.50%) with the Powell Fed’s final 25 bps increase in December 2018. Going into the 2008 crisis at less than $900 billion, the Fed’s balance sheet was still at $3.7 TN as of August 2019 (down from peak $4.5TN).

    The Fed’s failure to retreat from aggressive monetary stimulus (aka “removing the punch bowl”) was a critical policy blunder that promoted destructive financial and economic excess. And in an unamusing Groundhogs Day dynamic, we are to believe that the current crisis will be resolved by only more egregious volumes of Fed liquidity and “loose money”. As master of the obvious, I will state categorically: “It’s not going to work.”


  21. Sam Mitchell interviewed today Sheldon Solomon, one of the originators of Terror Management Theory (TMT), which considers the human tendency to deny death, and which is a precursor to the more comprehensive Mind Over Reality Transition (MORT) theory developed by Ajit Varki, which is the reason this blog exists.

    Part 1 of 2


  22. Kurt Cobb compares the current economic downturn with the 2008 financial crisis.

    In 2008 oil consumption dropped by 1.5% over a 24 month period.

    Today oil consumption has dropped by 20% in only a few weeks.

    Given that GDP is proportional to energy consumption, I think we should expect problems an order of magnitude larger than 2008. It could even be worse than 10x because there is now much more debt at risk of defaulting which may amplify the effects.

    You can see why central banks have panicked and why they’re pretending not to be panicked.

    Energy is not just one commodity among many in the economy; it is the commodity. Without energy, nothing gets done. And, oil is not just one form of energy in the energy commodity complex; it is the energy source upon which our modern way of life depends. In fact, it is the main energy source running through the arteries of the global economy.

    Far from being a boon to the world, ultra-low oil prices signal that the global economy is flat on its back—even worse, flat on its back with two broken legs.


  23. Tim Morgan explains why so many can be so wrong for so long.

    Hint: Humans are a herd animal that denies reality.

    If you’ve worked in the City or on Wall St (or, as in my case, both), you’ll know how this works. The consensus is critical. Analysts tend not to stray too far from it. It provides cover if you get it wrong (“I was only following the consensus… was I to know…..?”)

    They also reference it (‘my forecast is X% above/below consensus’). Prices are consensus-based (the collective market opinion at any point in time).

    A variety of data sources is used, by economists, investors, governments, corporates and so on, but these sources form an inverted pyramid, with comparatively few sources at the base of the pyramid. The IMF is amongst the most important of these. (It’s almost the macro equivalent of what ‘the analyst consensus’ is to earnings forecasts).

    Thus understood, we can trace what we might call (with apologies) a ‘lineage to inflexion points’. A mistaken consensus generally changes slowly. Market participants, who are aware of how consensus influences other participants, change their thinking slowly with it. Ditching the consensus, when it happens, usually happens slowly, because of inertia. The really clever investor is one with the courage (or, they might fear, the foolhardiness) to depart from consensus. These are the ‘outliers’, who get things ‘spectacularly right’ (or wrong). Herd instinct reinforces grouping around the consensus.

    So “the consensus is wrong!” is an inflexion point, a comparatively rare one and VERY important. What I like about Warren Buffett’s latest move is his preparedness to admit he got it wrong previously. His previous stance seems clearly to have been based on ‘what’s fallen furthest will recover most’, in itself an acceptance of V.

    If someone as esteemed as him is prepared to ditch the V, that’s – for me – a lead indicator of an inflexion point.


    I find Mr Buffett’s decision illuminating, and it’s telling that he’s not afraid to admit to having changed his mind. What this seems to amount to is that, like others, he bought into ‘V-shaped recovery’, but is changing his mind about this (which is the theme of this article). If you believe in the V, things that have fallen the furthest will then increase by the most. That’s why, if you ‘bought the V’, you’d buy airlines. If you dismiss the ‘V’, on the other hand, you become open to the idea that things that have fallen a long way might not recover at all.


  24. The Treasury Department announced on Monday that it expects to borrow $3 trillion during the second quarter this year.

    The amount is five times greater than the amount the federal government borrowed at the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. It is also more than the $1.28 trillion the government borrowed in the bond market for all of 2019.

    h/t Panopticon


  25. It’s wonderful to see that someone in my local community gets it.

    Then along comes Michael Moore telling us what we don’t want to hear—there is a limit to growth on a finite planet. In our hearts we know he is right and therein lies the rub; if we let in even a little of the message of Planet of the Humans, a great river of unconscious wisdom may just come rushing out and we will have to admit, first of all to ourselves, that we are wrong, we have been deceived by our own greed as well as the more organized greeds of others—there really is limit to how much of the Earth we can pillage; there is a limit to how many humans Planet Earth can support.

    The thing about Planet of the Humans that is so terrifying is that it doesn’t just point to one group or one action, it, very blatantly, says there are limits to how much of us and our greedy ways that Planet Earth will take—no matter how you colour it–we need much less of it. We need to reenvision what we do, how we do AND how much can our beleaguered Earth endure without succumbing rather than just painting over the old ways with a thin green veneer.

    The problem isn’t that Bill McKibben once endorsed biomass for electrical generation. The Problem is that under the ruse of green growth we have lost sight of the fact that too much is too much no matter what colour you paint it. If Planet of the Humans can reignite that urgent discussion, it might just save us from becoming a Planet of Extinct Yahoos!


  26. A key point to observe is that debt was exploding before the virus. I respect the author Wolf Richter but he has a very shallow understanding of our predicament. Debt is a symptom of us denying the reality of limits to growth. Debt is now a proxy for human overshoot because it’s growing faster than the real economy.

    When the debt falls, so too will our population, but neither voluntarily.

    From March 11 through its balance sheet released last Thursday, the Fed added $1.39 trillion in Treasury securities to its assets. Over the same period, the Treasury Department added $1.54 trillion to the outstanding debt. In other words, the Fed has – indirectly, as is the iron rule in the US – monetized 90% of this additional debt. We’re living off printed money, pure and simple.


  27. Another example of reality denial in plain view.

    In the midst of the constant up-and-down of coronavirus news, both from science and the markets, it’s easy to lose sight of the scariest scenario of them all: the one where there’s no magic bullet. In this entirely plausible situation, there would be no effective Covid-19 vaccine or transformative therapy; the combination of testing and contact tracing wouldn’t successfully suppress the outbreak; and herd immunity would come, if at all, only after millions of deaths around the world.

    Since the end of February, I’ve conducted some 20 interviews with epidemiologists and virologists like Marc Lipsitch, Angela Rasmussen, and Carl Bergstrom; economists like Paul Romer, Stefanie Stantcheva and Larry Summers; and leaders at top hospitals and experts on government agencies whose names you may not know, but whose life’s work is preparing for moments like this one. Despite getting expert answers to dozens of my questions, the one question I haven’t been able to get an answer for is this: Who, exactly, is planning for the nightmare scenario in which we never get a vaccine or a breakthrough treatment?

    The fact that some 90 vaccines are being explored, with some clinical trials, is exciting and uplifting. It’s better than 80 vaccines or 40 or five or none. The sheer number tends to make us think that one or several will succeed. But the sum of many very low probability events doesn’t necessarily translate into a high probability that one will succeed.

    There has never been a successful mRNA vaccine, like those being tested by Moderna and others, brought to market after approval. Ditto for a viral vector vaccine like the one the Oxford University group is pursuing. And traditional vaccines classically take many years to get to patients.

    We’ve heard so many times that a vaccine will not be available for 18 months that we may have started to confuse that message for the very different idea that after 18 months, a vaccine will be available.

    Transformative therapies are similarly very far from guaranteed. In a preliminary study, Remdesivir lowered mortality in hospitalized Covid-19 patients from 11.6 % to 8%. That’s statistically meaningful and could save lives. But even if broadly replicated, it won’t mean a fundamental change in how we accept the risks of contracting the disease. And when was the last time you heard the word hydrochloroquine?

    Then there’s the little-discussed question of whether testing plus contact tracing can actually be used to suppress a disease that has achieved community spread on a massive scale like the novel coronavirus.

    h/t Panopticon


    1. Thank you for posting. I tried to post the link from the Nerd Has Power blog on James’ Megacancer blog, but his ISP blocked my message, with the notice that it “detected spam”. I figured that J.C. on a Bike would be doing a video right away on it…

      If these allegations are true, then the creation of a fictitious RaTG13 virus must have been a deliberate attempt by the Chinese to deflect attention away from the non-natural, laboratory origin of SARS-CoV-2, about the time that there were questions being raised about its origin. Would Zhengli Shi have willingly done something like this? Her reputation will be in tatters if this turns out to be correct. She may have been “asked” to do it, since after all, the PLA and CCP are in charge. We may never know.


        1. Oh, the USG has been funding this research for years, all right, through NIH and Dept. of Defense grants – the Harvard to the Big House blogger has documented that in great detail, in his January and March postings. The Chinese may have taken this research a bit further than we imagined, and have opened Pandora’s box. The clan of gain-of-function researchers has some explaining to do.


          1. Thanks. Lots of blame to go around. I expect the culprits will escape without consequences. Just as did all the people that committed blatant fraud which triggered the 2008 financial crash.


  28. For a good preview of what collapse looks like I recommend this recent episode of BBC Our World on life today in Venezuela.

    Previously well off middle class people now:
    – buy food every day with cash whose value declines rapidly due to inflation
    – grow food in their backyards
    – have intermittent electricity and cannot rely on refrigeration
    – burn diesel in oil lamps because kerosene is scarce
    – use motorcycles for transportation because they burn less gasoline which is scarce
    – no longer have access to drugs or health care


  29. J.C reviews a new paper on the Wuhan virus that posits the only way out is through herd immunity, because a vaccine is fantasy, and if we were to do everything right, which we are not, the best we can hope to achieve is to mitigate 10% of the deaths. “It’s biologically certain we’re going to lose people”.

    What we should have done is isolate the old people and kept the schools open to spread the virus, sacrificing a few school teachers in the process for the common good.

    I’m thinking we could optimize the common good by substituting teachers with economists.


  30. Kunstler explains why we haven’t yet seen the negative consequences of printing $2+ trillion in 2 months, other than rising stock prices, but we will.

    Well, one reason the markets may not keep chugging is that money is disappearing into the ol’ black hole of extinction even faster than the Fed can enter keystrokes that magically represent new money. The reason: if, in fact, money is loaned into existence, it is defaulted out of existence when the loans are not paid back. After all, that’s what a loan is: money advanced on a promise to be paid back, generally at interest, interest representing the time-value of money, that is, the duration of the loan. Do you have any idea how many loans are not being paid back, and may now never be paid back?

    Start with houses. 63 percent of homeowners pay a mortgage (a loan) every month. The national average outstanding mortgage debt is $148,000. Total mortgage debt is $10.3 trillion. Now cars: There are roughly 260 million passenger vehicles registered in America, with upward of 100 million of them bought on loans that are still active, amounting to $1.2 trillion, enough to buy 53 million Ford Fusions at $23,000 each. Now credit card debt: total for the US is $3.9 trillion with an average carried balance of $9,333. Meanwhile, 45 percent adult Americans have no savings.

    As Senator Everett Dirksen (D-Ill) once quipped during a senate budget battle, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.” Consider that a trillion is thousand-billion (and a billion is a thousand million). In an ordinary reality, a reality-based reality, that is, with reality-based money, that would be a lot of money (and a lot of debt)! It’s hard to project an exact figure, but with over 20 percent of the US work-force idle, with no income, there’s liable to be a lot of debt that’s not being paid back, will never be paid back, and a lot of money headed into extinction. That will translate into a lot of people with no money. Until all that money they owed is finished not being paid back, and the new money that Fed is busy creating, with no relationship to the production of things of value, overcomes the old money that’s finished disappearing. Then Americans will have plenty of money. The catch is that the money will be worthless. Thus, the two ways of going broke: having no money; or having lots of money that’s too worthless to buy anything. So it goes.


  31. Nice big picture summary of the Wuhan virus by Tim Watkins.

    Not sure if I agree with the rest of his essay’s thesis about our leaders deliberately keeping us confused. I think our leaders are too stupid to have a strategy.

    The purpose of “flattening the curve” – which the lockdown is meant to achieve – was never about “saving lives” – at least, not directly. The idea was that more or less the same number of us would die. But if we all died at once, we would overwhelm critical infrastructure including – but not limited to – the National Health Service. By spreading the deaths over several months or possibly even several years, critical infrastructure could be maintained even if more frivolous economic activities like eating out or watching football had to be curtailed.

    The conceit has been that Big Pharma would ride to the rescue with a vaccine or a treatment that would save lives if only we could slow the spread for long enough. What they didn’t tell you – but they have known all along – is that:
    – The quickest development of a vaccine took four years – the 1967 mumps vaccine
    – Nobody has ever developed a safe vaccine for a corona virus – a seriously unsafe one was developed and quickly abandoned for SARS-CoV-1
    – SARS-CoV-2 is not the same as the flu – corona viruses mutate far faster than vaccines can be developed.

    A vaccine – Pandemrix – hurried to market in response to the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic caused brain damage in 1 in 16,000 of the people injected:

    “Among those affected are NHS medical staff, many of whom are now unable to do their jobs because of the symptoms brought on by the vaccine. They will be suing the government for millions in lost earnings.

    “However, the vast majority of patients affected – around 80% – are children.”

    This is precisely why we have to insist on prolonged safety trials for potential vaccines and should be extremely wary of self-interested pharmaceutical companies and desperate governments who want to cut corners to put an end to pandemics that expose their greed and incompetence.

    The hope of a treatment for Covid-19 is only marginally better. Blood plasma therapy – where blood is taken from someone who has recovered from the virus and given to someone who has contracted it – has some good preliminary results. But new drugs like Remdesivir have no noticeable impact on the number of deaths. Indeed, since the manufacturer, Gilead, has failed to make all of the trial data public, we would be foolish to take seriously even the claim that the drug might shorten the illness by a few days for those lucky enough to recover.

    Existing drugs – including Mr Trump’s hydroxychloroquine – have also showed some promise. But nobody is about to stump up the cash needed to run a randomised double-blind clinical trial into a drug that is already available at cents per pack – there’s not enough money to be made from selling old drugs even if they appear to cure or even prevent Covid-19. Unless a government or governments were to stump up the cash, trials of older drugs are not going to happen; and so they will never be approved as a treatment for Covid-19.

    All of which brings us back to herd immunity. The truth is – and governments have known this from the start – that herd immunity is – and was – the only game in town. From the moment SARS-CoV-2 found its way into a human cell and began to spread, the only question was how the impact could be managed so that the spread could be slowed, the numbers requiring hospital treatment minimised and the inevitable deaths spread out so as not to overwhelm the system. And, of course, all of this has to be achieved without crashing the economy to the point that recovery becomes impossible.


  32. Gail Tverberg is back with a follow up essay on the same topic.

    I would add that because our species evolved to deny unpleasant realities we will never acknowledge that overshoot was at the core of our unraveling. Our descendants will tell stories that without the Wuhan virus it would have been clear skies and economic growth forever.

    The world’s number one problem today is that the world’s population is too large for its resource base. Some people have called this situation overshoot. The world economy is ripe for a major change, such as the current pandemic, to bring the situation into balance. The change doesn’t necessarily come from the coronavirus itself. Instead, it is likely to come from a whole chain reaction that has been started by the coronavirus and the response of governments around the world to the coronavirus.

    Commodity prices, including oil prices, are now depressed because of low demand around the world. These low prices can be expected to gradually lead to closures of wells and mines extracting these commodities. Processing centers will also close, making these commodities less available even if demand temporarily rises.

    As one country is hit by illnesses and/or shutdowns, we can expect supply lines for manufacturing around the world to be disrupted. This will lead to yet more business closures, some of them permanent. Debt defaults tend to happen as businesses close and layoffs occur.

    With all of the layoffs, governments will find that their tax collections are lower. The resulting governmental funding issues can be expected to lead to new rounds of layoffs.

    Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and forest fires can be expected to continue to happen. Social distancing requirements, inadequate tax revenue and broken supply lines will make mitigation of all of these disasters more difficult. Electrical lines that fall down may stay down permanently; bridges that are damaged may never be repaired.

    Initially, rich countries can be expected to try to help as many laid-off workers as possible with loans and temporary stipends. But, after a few months, even with this approach, many individual citizens and businesses will likely not be able to pay their rent. Default rates on home mortgages and auto loans can be expected to rise for a similar reason.

    We can expect to see round after round of business failures and layoffs of employees. Financial systems will become more and more stressed. Pensions are likely to default. Death rates will rise, in part from epidemics of various kinds and in part from growing problems with starvation. In fact, in some poor countries, lower-income citizens are already having difficulty being able to afford adequate food. Eventually we can expect collapsing governments (similar to the collapse of central government of the Soviet Union) and overthrown governments.

    Longer-term, after this demolition ends, there may be some surviving pieces of economies. These new economies will be much smaller and less dependent upon each other, however. Currencies are likely to be less interchangeable. The remaining people will need to learn to make do with many fewer goods than are available today. It will be a very different world.


  33. As mainstream discussions on the economy go, this one’s very good. It’s an intelligent open-eyed analysis of what we should expect: deflation and a depression. What to do? Buy gold or bitcoin. As a bonus, if you differ and believe inflation is imminent due to money printing, then these investments will also protect you.

    They have no understanding, as usual, of the role energy is playing in this story, or the role climate will play in the future, which means they do not understand that this downturn is a permanent trend.


  34. This is absolutely fascinating.

    There is a chess game underway between two camps of really smart scientists. One side trying to prove the virus originated in nature and/or trying to hide their role in creating the virus, and the other side trying to unpick the truth. What actually happened may be profoundly important to the pandemic endgame. If it’s a natural occurrence we can expect eventual herd immunity. If it’s a man-made demon intended to thwart our defenses then all bets are off.


  35. Nobody rants about reality denial better than Mac10. His tirade today made me laugh. And he’s mostly right despite not understanding MORT and the other science behind what we observes.

    Nature Won. Thank God.

    The Trump carbon tax is due. Payable in denialistic dumbfucks. The ONLY thing I’ve enjoyed about this failed gambit over the past decade, is that the stakes kept getting raised. And now, it all makes perfect sense.

    There’s no audience for reality anymore. Because there never was one, in the history of humanity. Which is how we ended up with 8,000 religions but who’s counting. Everyone smoking their own brand of bullshit, while enjoying extreme conviction in what won’t happen.

    Now however these idiots have a right to be worried. Their entire way of life is circling the toilet, like a massive turd, while they watch, mesmerized.

    Fortunately, for us realists i.e. all five of us, the world is not ending – far from it, only a failed way of life is ending. And those who cling to it will go down with the ship. So it can come as no surprise that today’s geezers are living in fear – after all, this disaster that was supposed to blow up on future generations is blowing up on THEM.

    Just when you think everyone else is about to get fucked over, come to find out, you ARE everyone else.

    For her part, Mother Nature could not be happier. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the world is still turning. Everything else is a minor detail. A self-inflicted crisis fabricated by hairless monkeys.


  36. Rob, are you familiar with Pentti Linkola’s work? He was a Finnish fisherman, essayist and deep ecologist. Georg Henrik von Wright, the successor of Ludwig Wittgenstein, regarded him as the most profound Finnish philosopher. Linkola died in April. I hope these links work and are good enough, if not, maybe you can find better ones. His last book is available in English. He considered his previous book his magnum opus but it hasn’t been translated.—pentti-linkola-s-last-interview-was-published-on-thursday-on-kulttuuritoimitus—he-talked-about-the-coronavirus–%E2%80%9Cit-helps-something%E2%80%9D-.BJx6UCDPwU.html—pentti-linkola-snapped-hard-text-in-his-last-interview—and-praised-greta-thunberg-.Sye6BQEPDI.html


  37. I watched the new BBC Horizon episode on the virus.

    1) No mention of preventative measures like vitamin D etc.
    2) No mention that everyone should wear masks.
    3) No mention that we’ve never successfully created a vaccine for a similar virus.
    4) No mention of gain of function research in Wuhan that may have leaked.

    Quite sad. BBC used to be a news source you could trust.


    1. Negative interest – Negative growth – Negative emissions = Negative reality. I’m wondering just how comical (to me) theses expert ‘solutions’ can get? They’re like the keystone cops running around with a big box of magic band-aids trying to patch up a critically wounded & dying system.


      1. Negative interest rates are the quintessential example of how we lack free will and are governed by the Maximum Power Principle. The people in charge know negative rates are a bad idea but will implement them regardless rather than preparing for our inevitable smaller future.


        1. Promise the chimps more, throw in a touch of pseudo science razzel dazzel & they will follow you anywhere including over the cliff. Humans are a universal joke.

          The new astrology

          By fetishising mathematical models, economists turned economics into a highly paid pseudoscience

          “In 2000, USA Today quoted Robin Griffiths, the chief technical analyst at HSBC, the world’s third largest bank, saying that ‘most astrology stuff doesn’t check out, but some of it does’.”

          “The notion that an entire culture – not just a few eccentric financiers – could be bewitched by empty, extravagant theories might seem absurd. How could all those people, all that math, be mistaken? This was my own feeling as I began investigating mathiness and the shaky foundations of modern economic science. Yet, as a scholar of Chinese religion, it struck me that I’d seen this kind of mistake before, in ancient Chinese attitudes towards the astral sciences. Back then, governments invested incredible amounts of money in mathematical models of the stars. To evaluate those models, government officials had to rely on a small cadre of experts who actually understood the mathematics – experts riven by ideological differences, who couldn’t even agree on how to test their models. And, of course, despite collective faith that these models would improve the fate of the Chinese people, they did not.”


  38. Even with the highest unemployment rate in more than 80 years, the U.S. Stock Market continues higher regardless of the lousy economic data and fundamentals. However, without the massive money printing and liquidity injections by the Federal Reserve, the stock market indexes would be substantially lower.

    Unfortunately, the Fed is now forced to prop up the markets because stock markets have now become the economy, instead of the other way around. With the total U.S. Equity Market Cap to GDP Ratio now nearly 140%, it is more than double the 68% mean average for the past 70 years 1950. And, if we look at the markets back in the 1950s, it took 24 years for the Dow Jones Index to double from 500 to 1,000.

    Thus, from 1958 to 1982, the Dow Jones Index traded in that 500-1,000 range. So, the real driver of the economy before the 1990s was the “Physical economy,” not the stock market. Well, that’s all changed today because the Stock Market is now the most important part of the economy. Interestingly, it only took seven years for the Dow Jones Index to double from the 14,000’s to 29,500 (Oct 2019).

    Put another way, limits to growth, specifically net per capita energy, has forced us to rely on growth in paper assets rather than physical assets to keep our debt backed fraction reserve monetary system from collapsing on itself.


    1. 15 years ago the cocky chimps were gleefully chanting, “drill baby drill”. Today they are terrified & pleading, “print daddy print”.


    1. Some 3 billion people lost or had their jobs/income cut in the last few months, yet the stock market keeps rising. What better indicator is there that the stock market is disconnected from the real world & has little to no effect on most folks day to day lives? Let it crash & burn. The sooner the better. The system is beyond reform – it’s terminal. The sooner it dies, the sooner a new arrangement can be had. People fear change almost as much as death, which is funny because change is what the universe is all about.


  39. Oil production appears to have peaked just before the Wuhan virus arrived. I continue to believe we are experiencing a brief calm before the storm thanks to unprecedented ($5,000,000,000,000+) money printing and many citizens with hope that growth will resume. When the majority wake up and realize growth will not resume, hope will be replaced with fear and anger, and money printing will no longer work. Then all hell will break loose.

    Get prepared while it’s still possible to do so.

    We who have been suggesting that a peak in world oil production was nigh almost from the beginning of this century looked like we might be right when oil prices reached their all-time high in 2008. But since then, we have taken it on the chin for more than a decade as the U.S. shale oil boom kept adding to world supplies—even as production in the rest of the world mostly stagnated or declined.

    But then world oil production turned down—not when the recent coronavirus pandemic and associated economic shutdowns hit—but more than a year before while few people were noticing. Monthly fluctuations will make it difficult to pinpoint a peak until long after it occurs. But, let’s note the difference between world output in November 2018 which was 84.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) versus December 2019 which was 83.2 mbpd when the world economy was supposedly still in high gear. (These numbers are for crude plus lease condensate which is the definition of oil on major oil exchanges.) Between these two dates monthly oil production was occasionally lower than December 2019, but never higher than November 2018.

    Does this mean oil production has reached an all-time peak?

    Recent developments tend to suggest an affirmative answer. With the dramatic drop in both oil consumption and oil prices since the onset of the pandemic, the oil industry is now flat on its back. Capital spending on new projects has been slashed drastically in the wake of these developments. Revenues are dropping as oil production is being shut in awaiting higher prices and as many firms file for bankruptcy.


    1. Super informative and articulate podcast, Rob, thanks.

      I don’t comment enough on your posts, but I read, appreciate, and get something useful out of every one of them. And thanks for occasionally tossing in a bit of comedy to lighten things up!

      I’m really bummed today about how hostile so many people (particularly in the United States, where I live) are about wearing masks to reduce the spread of this disease. And I’m far from certain that common sense and scientific evidence will sway them. But this podcast gave me a few great tips to cope and manage the stress involved in our current predicament that I’ll put to use.


      1. Thank you for the kind words.

        I am very grateful that I had the good fortune to be born in Canada. We seem to be less polarized and hostile to each other than what I observe in the US. In the US most issues seem to have a red team and a blue team belief, and what the science says has no influence on those beliefs. Quite sad.


        1. I’ve visited Canada once, during March of 2015, when I drove from my home in the Midwest to Ottawa. The people I met and observed there were marvelously kind and reasonable, both to me and to one another. I noticed they had an ease of presence that I rarely experience in the United States anymore. I attribute much of that ease to a reduced overall stress burden as compared to US citizens. Upon my return home, I immediately sensed a heightened level of agitation and aggression from many members of my community as compared to my (admittedly brief) time in Canada.

          There’s long been a deep sickness within a significant portion of the collective American (US) mindset. A combination of individual/national narcissism, the belief that freedom doesn’t require responsibility, general paranoia, rugged individualism at all costs, a pathological disregard for the welfare of others, and (more recently) a contempt for science. I struggle to see how this country can mend its ways, and thereby stop terrorizing itself and others.


          1. Well said. I too see dark clouds over the US, and by extension due to its influence, everywhere else. It seems the only way to unite the American people is to go to war. Unfortunately the next war will have a bad outcome because we’ve already burned all the good booty so war will simply accelerate the depletion of key resources.


  40. I’ve visited Canada once, during March of 2015, when I drove from my home in the Midwest to Ottawa. The people I met and observed there were marvelously kind and reasonable, both to me and to one another. I noticed they had an ease of presence that I rarely experience in the United States anymore. I attribute much of that ease to a reduced overall stress burden as compared to US citizens. Upon my return home, I immediately sensed a heightened level of agitation and aggression from many members of my community as compared to my (admittedly brief) time in Canada.

    There’s long been a deep sickness within a significant portion of the collective American (US) mindset. A combination of individual/national narcissism, the belief that freedom doesn’t require responsibility, general paranoia, rugged individualism at all costs, a pathological disregard for the welfare of others, and (more recently) a contempt for science. I struggle to see how this country can mend its ways, and thereby stop terrorizing itself and others.


    1. Amazing. We’d have reason to question the validity of the MPP if just once we heard a leader say “we need to constrain growth and leave some oil in the ground so our grandchildren can at least enjoy a small fraction of the comforts we take for granted”.


  41. It Hit 80 Degrees in the Arctic This Week

    “This story will provide important context for the headline, and I encourage you to read it—but really, the headline tells you what you need to know: It was 80 degrees Fahrenheit above the Arctic Circle this week.

    A little farther south, in Siberia—you know, the region of world we reference when we want to connote something cold—it was 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Arctic sea ice in the neighboring Kara Sea took the deepest May nose dive ever recorded. Oh, and random swaths of the region are on fire. Things are extremely wrong.”


    1. We know from everyday life that bad things happen when the gradient between high and low energy is reduced. Doing it at the planetary scale and not making any changes whatsoever that might inconvenience our privileged lifestyles is insanity and more proof that we are governed by reality denial and the MPP.


  42. {From emergency ICU health-care worker Kristen Martins.}

    “My message to those protesting the stay-at-home orders in Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, California, Arizona, Montana, and any other state & to Trump:

    Come take a step into my daily hell.

    Come tell me to my face that “fear is worse than the virus!”

    Come walk into the trailer full of dead, rotting humans, and I will pick out a spot for your body, since it is “your body, your right”.

    If “Jesus is your vaccine”, tell me why I am taking the rosary off my patient’s lifeless body?

    Anyone protesting should forfeit their rights to receive any medical care. NONE. You are putting the lives of anyone you come into contact with because of your boredom and selfishness. You are putting every single healthcare worker’s life not only at an increased risk, but your disrespect for humankind because of your ignorance and stupidity is beyond appalling. You are a disgrace.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Apneaman. Heartbreaking, powerful stuff. It sickens me that anyone reading this, or a similar narrative, could minimize or deny the grimness of this disease and not engage ridiculously simple actions to help protect one another from it. But it’s a certainty that there are many who will do just that.


  43. Out of 8 billion reality denying fire apes there are less than a hundred that are capable of explaining in a few sentences what’s actually going on with the economy. Tim Watkins is one of them. I’m pretty sure his denial genes are defective. Seriously. Except when he whines about austerity which he avoids in this essay.

    The contradiction at the heart of this money trick is that the only “value” behind the central bank currency which has been used to purchase all of these bonds and to maintain artificially low interest rates is the state’s ability to tax the wealth of the future population sufficiently to repay the debt with interest. This, in turn, requires that we somehow learn how to have infinite growth on a finite planet.

    In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, few serious analysts would have believed that the global system would have survived more or less intact for more than a decade. Conventional oil extraction had peaked in 2005 – triggering the chain of events which brought the banks down three years later. What nobody could have foreseen was the way that central bank manipulation would force investors who were seeking higher yields to invest in a hydraulic fracturing industry which borrowed billions of dollars from investors to extract millions of dollars’ worth of oil from the source rock. As Nicole Foss once put it – if conventional oil was like drinking draught beer from a glass, fracking was the equivalent of sucking the spilled dregs from the carpet.

    Nevertheless, the spurt of oil from the US shale plays – which flooded the market and crashed the price – was just enough to prevent the western economies from collapsing while two Asian economies – India and especially China – turned to the last of the planet’s coal reserves to generate the final spurt of growth to an industrial economy that has now passed its peak.

    While many will eventually blame the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the actions taken to mitigate its impact for the collapse of the global economy, the warning signs had already been apparent in 2019. Consumer spending had slumped and most consumer-facing businesses were being engulfed by a retail apocalypse which had only spared essentials like food together with a handful of online outlets which used gig-economy labour to keep costs down. Meanwhile, parking lots around the planet have been steadily filling up with new cars which can neither be sold nor leased to businesses and consumers who are already loaded up with debt and see little prospect of income/profit growth anytime soon.

    The majority of economist and politicians – entirely ignorant of the role of energy in the economy – will assume that one or other means of reflating the currency supply in the aftermath of the pandemic – either through some equivalent of a long-term war bond to hold the pandemic debt or via government currency printing and public spending – will be sufficient to restore the economy to some version of “normal” (by which they usually mean the abnormal period of growth between 1953 and 1973). In the absence of an energy-dense alternative to depleting supplies of economically extractable oil, however, the trend away from automation toward manual labour which began after 2008 is likely to accelerate.

    As real terms wages decline in response to this process of simplification, it will eventually become apparent to all concerned that the debt we have been running up on the assumption that growth will last forever is, in fact, never going to be repaid. When that happens, there will likely be a huge crash in the value of any “asset” that exists as mere bits on a bank computer. Hard assets like land and precious metals may experience a big rise in prices as those who manage to sell financial assets before the crash seek somewhere safe to park their wealth. But even these may be of little value – in the short-term at least – in the event that the value of currency itself collapses.

    It has always been in the gift of governments to mitigate the coming downturn. A period of managed de-growth is far more preferable than a sudden anarchic collapse. Unfortunately, this would involve the ruling elite to acknowledge that a large part of its supposed wealth is going to disappear in any case. But no ruling elite has ever accepted this proposition at a point at which it might – just – save itself from its own folly. Instead, most failed civilisations spent their final years in a vain struggle to restore their fortunes long after the material bases had disappeared. The current media push for even more austerity and even more spending cuts at a time when both households and businesses are curbing their spending suggests that our civilisation will be no different.


    1. Yes I saw that. The correct response from environmentalists should have been to shift their focus from green energy to population reduction. Instead they attacked the messenger and denied the message. Genetic reality denial in plain view for all to see.


    2. It was a photographer who’d documented rare earth mining but apparently doesn’t mind its impact unless it’s for something not officially “green” or “clean.” See:

      One of the first images I found of Smith shows objects he seems to respect more than nature itself:

      It was a smug act but I think Moore will override it soon enough. One assumes all footage was obtained with permission. Eco-posers are just giving the film more publicity.


          1. FYI, I noticed Gibbs has kept a copy on Vimeo for 2 months; could have sworn it didn’t show up earlier. He may have just de-privatized it. I’ll leave the link to be found in a search.

            I’m thinking smug/flaky Google management is a big factor in censorship. YouTube allows all sorts of crass material like trophy hunting porn as educational or recreational. “Don’t Be Evil” is a joke.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s