A Blog by Ugo Bardi

Collapses are the way the universe gets rid of the old to leave space for the new. It was noted for the first time by the Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) and it is called today the "Seneca Effect."

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Europe: How to Become Poor Peasants Again

 


"Les Glaneuses"  (the gleaners). A painting by Francois Millet (1857). Is this the destiny of the people of Western Europe?


All wars are wars for resources and, in modern times, they have been mostly for the resources that make the very existence of our civilization possible: fossil fuels. We all know how during WWII the attempt of the Germans to subdue the Soviet Union failed when they could not take control of the oil resources of the Caucasus. More recently, after President Carter declared that the oil resources of the Middle East are a "vital interest" for the United States (the "Carter Doctrine"), no one was surprised by the numerous wars and bombing campaigns waged by the US in the region. 

Sometimes, though, the role of fossil fuels in wars is more subtle than just someone trying to steal someone else's resources. Wars may not be a question of scarcity but of abundance. That may be the case of the war in Ukraine that we can interpret as a direct result of the impact of "fracking" in the United States. During the past 10 years or so, the development of fracking led to a reversal of the static or declining production trend of fossil fuels that had been ongoing in the US for about 40 years. 


The result was that American producers could reappear in the global market as exporters of both oil and gas. A potentially lucrative area where to expand was Western Europe. The problem was that the European market was in the hands of Russian producers, who had established a network of pipelines that could export natural gas at low prices to Europe. "Liquefied natural gas" (LNG) from the US just could not be competitive with pipeline gas because of the costs of liquefaction, transport, and regasification. 

In the manuals of economics it is said that, in a free market, the cheaper product always wins against the more expensive one. In the real world, though, markets are far from being free. As any mafia boss can tell you, the cocaine market is not just a question of prices: you have to defend your turf. And not just that: sometimes, you can expand the area you control by friendly (or not-so-friendly) interactions with neighboring competitors. That's sometimes called "arm-twisting," but it may involve much more drastic and painful methods than just dislocating a shoulder. Similar considerations hold for fossil fuels, a market in which states normally behave exactly like mafia families. 

During the past few months, we saw a case of a not-so-friendly interaction aimed at expelling Russia from the natural gas market in Europe. The war in Ukraine is mostly a sideshow: the real thing is the market of natural gas, and the critical point was the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline. Whoever did it, sent a clear message to everybody, not unlike placing the severed head of a horse in someone's bed: the European gas market is now the turf of another mafia family. 

That does not mean that Russian exports of gas to Europe will immediately cease. Completely replacing the Russian gas would require increasing the exports from the US to Europe by about a factor of 10. Maybe not impossible, and other gas-supplying countries may step in to help. But it is not something that can be done in a short time. You can see the situation in the graphs, below. The EU states import some 150 billion m3 of gas from Russia and only about 15 from the US. The US has a total export of more than 100 billion m3, but most of it goes to Canada and Mexico via pipelines. 




(images courtesy of Giuseppina Ranalli)

Hopefully, Russia will not stop sending gas to Europe using the existing pipelines. Then, a strong push toward renewable energy may help Europeans a lot. But the market is likely to behave exactly the way they say it should in the textbooks: a situation of scarcity leads to higher prices. In other words, with Europe desperate to get enough gas, producers are going to have a great time. Don't expect them to be kind to the poor Europeans: why should they be? Mafias are not supposed to be charitable institutions. 

So, in the coming years, we are looking at a situation of both scarcity and high prices of gas in Europe. That will have consequences. Many European citizens, especially the poor, will have to stay in the dark and in the cold this winter, and for several winters in the future. And there will be no European leader who will declare that the European lifestyle is "not up for negotiations," as President Bush 1st said about the American lifestyle. Can you imagine Ms. von der Leyen, the never-elected president of the never-elected European Commission, saying something like that? So, the lifestyle of European citizens is going to go down the drain, and perhaps it was unavoidable that it would, one day or another. But the real question is: will the European industrial system survive the high prices of energy? 

That's not obvious at all, and the Americans may soon discover that they killed the hen whose eggs they wanted. With energy prices five to ten times higher than before, European products may not be competitive any longer in the global market. That implies the collapse of the European industrial system and the return of the continent to the agricultural economy of a couple of centuries ago. It would be a return of the old "Morgenthau Plan" that aimed at doing exactly that to Germany after that WWII was over: destroying Germany's industrial economy and starving to death a large fraction of the German population. If something similar were to happen in Europe nowadays, that would also imply a certain reduction in the European population but, hey, I already noted how mafias are not supposed to be charitable organizations! And, as Ms. Victoria Nuland clearly explained to us not long ago, who cares about Europeans? They were peasants, once, so let those who survive return to tilling fields. 



Below, an article that I recently published in the Italian newspaper "Il Fatto Quotidiano" 


From the "Fatto Quotidiano" of 29 September 2022 (slightly modified)

by Ugo Bardi

The convulsive events on the global geopolitical scene continue to take us by surprise. What is behind the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline? We can't say who did it, but one thing is certain: the conflict we are seeing is a war for resources much more than it is a warring war. To understand what is happening, we need to go back in time to find the roots of the current situation. 

In the book "Sea and Sardinia" (1921), DH Lawrence tells us how a favorite subject in the conversations among Italians was insulting the English. It was because English coal had become expensive, something that the Italians attributed to the wickedness of the English. The term "Perfidious Albion" had been invented a long time before but was beginning to become fashionable at that time. 

The history of English coal in Italy illustrates the factors still at play in the functioning of the Italian economy today. Italian industry needs energy, but there are not enough fossil energy resources in Italy to support a functioning industrial system. Thus, the industrial revolution arrived in Italy in the 19th century brought by English coal, imported by sea. But, with the end of the First World War, British coal had suddenly become much more expensive than before. It wasn't because the British were perfidious (maybe a little, but no worse than many others), it was because of depletion. As the British economist William Jevons predicted decades earlier, the costs of coal mining were rising and investments falling. As a consequence, the British coal production reached its peak in 1914, and then it began an irreversible decline. In the 1930s, coal shortages forced Italy into a deadly embrace with Germany - which could still produce it at low prices. We all know the results. 

Having emerged half-destroyed from the Second World War, the Italian industry was able to rebuild itself thanks to the US oil provided by the Marshall Plan. Even for oil, however, depletion had to be felt sooner or later. In 1970, the United States reached its production peak. The first major "oil crisis" followed, but the global market could offset the decline with other sources. Meanwhile, natural gas was rapidly becoming a low-cost alternative to oil. Gradually, Europe turned to import gas from Russia via pipelines. With this relatively low-cost gas, the Italian industrial system could survive.

In the last 10 years, however, things have changed dramatically. With the technology of "fracking", the United States has managed to reverse the decline in its production of both gas and oil. As a result, they have re-entered the world market as exporters. This explains many things: the oil and gas market is strategic in the great game of world domination and, in this game, there are no rules. Pushing Russia out of the Western European market makes it possible for the American industry to take back a market they had long lost. That's what's happening. The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline is a signal that Europe will have to live without Russian gas, one day or another. 

And now? In this global strategy game, everything is always changing. It is true that imports from the United States are now able to replace Russian gas in Europe, at least in part. But it is also true that importing natural gas from the US is only possible in the form of liquid natural gas and this involves high costs, as well as a heavy contribution to global warming due to the inevitable losses in the process. To this, we should add a fundamental unknown: how long will the United States be able to maintain its production at the levels needed to supply Europe? 

Fracking has been seen as a miracle technology, but it isn't. As always, forecasts are difficult, but we can be sure of one thing: no mineral resource is infinite and sooner or later we will face the peak of fracking gas. And it all starts all over again with the frantic search for energy to keep the industrial society alive. 

In Italy, we are in a position of extreme weakness. We lack the infrastructure (regasifiers) necessary to import liquefied gas. We can build them, but it will take time and, meanwhile, the Italian industry could suffer irreparable damage. It is not certain that when we have regasifiers there will be sufficient gas available to import. Not only that, but the Italian industry could find itself not competitive in the world market if it has to bear the high costs of liquid natural gas. In both cases, we could be facing the end of the industrial cycle of the Italian economy, about two centuries after its beginning. The problem is that, before the industrial revolution, there were fewer than 20 million inhabitants in Italy and famines were not uncommon. 

It seems clear that for us there are no other ways out than a decisive shift toward renewables, already today much cheaper than fossil fuels and capable of completely replacing them. Politicians have not yet understood this, but moving to renewables would protect us from new crises of energy availability and from blackmail by producers. But it's not something that can be done overnight. Only a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine would give us the time needed to build a new infrastructure based on renewables. Can we make it? Nothing prevents us from trying. 


54 comments:

  1. https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/2022/09/29/241-behind-the-crisis/

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  2. Well Ugo: Things are getting even more interesting in your homeland.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-01/gazprom-won-t-deliver-any-russian-gas-to-italy-on-saturday-eni

    It is paywalled, but the headline says it all.

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  3. Regarding your question "How long will the United States be able to maintain its production at the levels needed to supply Europe? ", Fracking is a boom and bust business model here in the US. The original wave of fracking companies already went bankrupt, and the major oil companies are not investing in the way they would have to meet extra demand even at high prices.
    ArtDeco


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  4. When i read something like this ;
    "a decisive shift toward renewables, already today much cheaper than any fossil fuel and capable of completely replacing them. "
    I know that the author is a complete clueless moron of the subject

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    1. It always makes me wonder what drives people so crazy when they discover the simple fact that renewables have become cheaper than fossil fuels. What is that bothers you so much to make you become so rude? Maybe you could explain that without further offending other people?

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    2. Basically, the issue is low EROEI and intermittence. As I understand it, intermittence is the main reason Europe needed natural gas to begin with. You need something to keep the lights on (and the industry going) when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

      Depletion being what it is, in the end, renewables will be all we have. At that point, there will be no industrial civilization.

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    3. Well Ugo, much respect to you, and disapproval for the twat here who’s calling you a moron, but renewables are NOT capable of completely replacing fossil fuels. Renewables are cheaper for sure when they’re generating, but they don’t generate at night, during windless periods, and are less productive when the sun’s angle is at its nadir during the winter. There are “Limits To Growth” chokepoints on elements such as lithium in the quantities to scale up to worldwide replacement levels. It would be great if humanity could get organised behind renewables in a big way, but I don’t believe it’s physically possible in a way that would allow 8 billion of us to have a “happy motoring to Wal-Mart” lifestyle, as James Kunstler would put it.

      I’m part of a clutch of Peak Oil proponents Downunadahere who are avid readers of the Archdruid John Michael Greer. Your mate Simon S. is part of our mob. (“Mob” in the Australian slang sense of “group,” not “mafia.”) Except these people are so Green that they’re “brown,” as in they sneer at the thought of 100% reliance on renewables. One of the guys, who runs his home on solar panels, completely off the electric grid (and harvests rain for his house/farm water, too) is gob-smacked by plans to phase out the massive dirty coal plant that powers this city of 5 million. He, and Simon, and the others, don’t “love” coal, and they have redirected their lives into ways that ready themselves for the Energy Descent. But they know that won’t work for the masses.

      Sadly, as the world goes over Seneca’s Cliff, a lot of humans won’t be walking around at the bottom of it when events level off. It’s going to be awful on the way down. The amount of suffering will be the worst thing since when the asteroid hit 66 million years ago to wipe out the dinosaurs. (Which I still believe did it, even if you’re in the vulcanism camp. Could it be BOTH, as in the asteroid disrupted the Earth’s rotation somewhat or did something else to alter plate tectonics that caused a magma hellmouth to open? But that’s another topic...)

      The ones who make it through the Dieoff WILL have a peasant lifestyle. Hopefully with enough retained scientific knowledge about how the universe works that they’ll be smarter than Roman, Indian and Chinese peasants were in the year 0 A.D. It won’t necessarily be a bad life. No one in the Year Zero was saying “I might as well just kill myself because I can’t fly in an airplane to the other side of the world and watch funny cat videos on my handheld brain device.” They didn’t even know such things could exist! Perhaps, in the New World of the Afterscape, there will be new forms of community and satisfaction that we Technosapiens cannot imagine now. Maybe we will own nothing, but our neighbourhood collective will share everything, and we will be happy. The Cliff is coming, and renewables might “bend the curve” of it a bit. But as the econo-speak boys put it, I’m going “long peasant.”

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    4. Ugo, although rude, his comment is right... clearly your knowledge of how renovables work is totally deficient if you think they can replace fossil fuels.. so much so you shouldn't attempt to write about energy issues really with all respect..

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    5. Let's start by this simple fact: renewables produce electricity. Electricity only accounts for about 20% energy consumption. Even if you get a 100% renewable electricity grid (impossible btw) you are still left with 80% fossil fuel energy usage, most of which can not be electrified. We won't even get into the peak of all resources and metals needed to build renewables or the fact that renewables are ONLY cheap whilst oil is cheap, because they depend on oil throughout its lifetime.

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    6. Funny how mentioning renewables always brings very insulting comments... I believe Ugo has never pretended that renewables would allow to avoid the economic collapse coming. Yes they are intermittent and have low EROI. Yes the limits of natural resources mean that the myth of total electrification sold by politicians is ludicrous. But as far as I know it's one of the only technologies at our disposal allowing us to dream that the landing will be to something slightly better than the Middle Age...

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    7. The naysayers need to get out of their echo chamber more often. The Australian billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest is the worlds 4th largest iron-ore producer and has committed to zero-carbon operation by 2030.
      From buying vast cattle properties to site a new 5GW renewables hub to power a mine
      https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/rural-news/2022-04-06/andrew-forrest-buys-cattle-stations-green-energy-production/100966340
      to another green energy hub to build a $1 billion electrolyser factory
      https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/twiggy-forrest-s-3b-green-energy-play-in-qld-20220227-p5a02u
      He plans to convert his trains and ships to run on hydrogen/ammonia made with renewables. Some iron-ore trains are massive - 240 wagons, 2.5 km long hauling 29,000 tonnes of ore https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortescue_Metals_Group

      That's an ambition to convert an entire heavy industry to renewables.

      Furthermore Ugo never said 100% of anything, the words were "decisive shift toward renewables". The closer we get the better, the more decisive the better.

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    8. Sorry Jack, but Ugo did say "completely replacing fossil fuels" [by renewables]. Which is IMO totally ... er... airy fairy nonsense. This kind of thinking is what got Germany into the pickle it's in.

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    9. Yes, quite right, I didn't re-check back into the comment replies. I got that wrong.

      Let's see how FMG progress with converting their entire mining operations to renewables. They originally said by 2040, and have now changed that 2030. Although they didn't say 100% either, implying 99% in one of the articles.

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    10. Completely uncovers the ignorant bias & agenda of the author with this ludicrous comment "It seems clear that for us there are no other ways out than a decisive shift toward renewables, already today much cheaper than fossil fuels and capable of completely replacing them." This statement is undeniably FALSE!!

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    11. Folks, you make me seriously worried about the mental health of the people who read my blog. I understand that sometimes I write things that may shock people, but this kind of reaction is a tiny bit exaggerated, don't you think so? If instead of insults, you were to inform yourselves on the matter, you might discover that you are reasoning on the basis of data from last century. The performance of renewable technology has enormously improved during the past few years: the EROI is now much larger than that of fossil fuels and the variability problem has been much eased by new storage technologies. If you want to keep up to date, instead of insulting the modest me, you would do better by reading this blog "https://thesunflowerparadigm.blogspot.com/" or maybe read the paper that I recently co-authored on the possibility of a 100% renewable based society at: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9837910.

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    12. It may be a little late to comment on this, but why not?
      (1) Renewables need storage backup or they're worthless to a modern civilization. Just adding four hours battery backup to solar (hybrid solar) increases the LCOE by 60%. Never mind eight or more. Look into the LCOE numbers put out by the EIA.
      (2) The EROI of renewables is horrible. Photovoltaics are around two and become a sink with batteries. Solar thermal and wind barely crack 9 when using pumped hydro, and those are location-limited.
      (3) There's simply not enough minerals and mines to support renewables by 1-2 orders of magnitude.

      All that said, there is one solution that could work: Nuclear. It's LCOE is expensive when compared to fossil fuels (for now), but it is affordable. $1.4 trillion would make the entire US grid green and about $9.1 trillion would support the entire US economy. The new reactors like the AP1000 have a design life of 60 years with the possibility of life extension to 80. Advanced reactors like Natrium and the Xe-100 would be needed to support the thermal needs of industry (i.e. sodium fast reactors and pebble bed reactors) and those should start coming online before 2030. Additionally, the EROI of conventional nukes are over 50 (DOE says 162). The real biggie is that there is enough uranium in the oceans to supply humanity for over a billion years. Using current methods, per DOE, the EROI of this around 16 for a once-through fuel cycle. While not great, multiply this by 90 (okay, probably less since 90 is theoretical - 50?) if using a breeder like the Integral Fast Reactor / PRISM. Another advantage of the advanced reactors is that they run at high temperature, which means they can use their primary thermal energy to support industry. The primary energy of a nuke is about 3 times its electric output. With heat, one can create hydrogen using methods like the modified sulfur iodine process. Then one can use existing processes to make efuels and synthetic petrochemicals.

      So the choice is clear: Become a bug-eating serf or learn to love the atom.

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  5. "Wars may not be a question of scarcity but of abundance. That may be the case of the war in Ukraine that we can interpret as a direct result of the impact of..." severely-depleting oil and natural gas supplies coming from war-torn nations such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and now Russia and Ukraine - unmetered - practically looted

    All wars are wars for resources - without an exception ...

    Imagined Energy-abundance is an imposed and forced illusion injected into the consciousness of humans by our outgoing Western Civilisation.

    There has never been an abundance of Energy resources - if humans were told about something fundamental - called Depletion.

    Today, the word "Depletion" has been erased from the dictionary of humanity and the consciousness of humans - entirely.

    Historians in the future may confirm that our Western Civilisation has worked on building this global illusion since the 1860s with ignoring Jevons, and obsessively popularising Karl Marx, E=mc^2, QM, Keynes, Brave New World, 1984, Black Holes, - and all today's synthetic, upside-down narrative in the media and social media - worldwide....

    "No energy store holds enough energy to extract an amount of energy equal to the total energy it stores

    Wailing.

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  6. This might be right, but I feel that Ukrainian agricultural land is also an issue. And here we are in a context of scarcity. Siberia is burning every summer, climate issues are getting worse every year...
    Abundance of natural gas is also a short term concept with fracking. What if Russia would start exporting LNG? Of course business is often a short term concept.
    Regards,
    Etienne

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  7. I totally agree, interestingly, by fate we are all experiencing what the depletion of cheap energy looks like. Those "families" discarded the warnings that many geophysicists and other cultural influencers like Hiram Rickover gave us repeatedly. It is an amazing transformation to watch. The fracking boon as many have said already, is really nothing more than getting that last bit of peanut butter out of the nearly empty jar. The life of the fracking "plays" are measured in months. While they tend to deliver robust results initially they typically collapse and output drops to unprofitable volumes. Gas seems to be the pony to bet on in the near future, but going to the Arctic to get it won't be cheap or fun. Especially now with the antics we have just seen in the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately "families" have been doing this kind of stuff for decades - Africa comes to mind. To your point Ugo, it too is a finite resource and the combination of a the demands of our large population and a generally inefficient industry which frames an unsustainable global economy spells out trouble ahead unless we can convince the "families" to let go of the turf and governments can (here's the fairy tale part) work together to transition to alternatives. As you say and I too believe - it's the only game to play - unless you enjoy the cold and dark lifestyle. My thought is that eventually regional independence based on fortunate geography and thoughtful leaders will allow many small populations to make the transition amidst a back ground of chaos, instability, suffering and irrational fear mongering. There is hope, there are a few examples of sustainable villages around the World. But I think most of these examples consume a lot of energy to create and may not be a viable in 20 or 30 years. How much better we would all be if the "families" would be part of the solution. Perhaps the great reset needs to be about unwinding global dependencies and rebuilding regionally self sufficient attributes. Meh, never happen, me thinks the meek will inherit the mess after the paid experts, bureaucrats and "families" have totally screwed this up. LOL, sorry to sound so pessimistic.

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    1. Just like you say, I feel that sustainable villages only can survive as long as spare parts are available and climate change doesn't turn them upsidedown.
      A technological society is only possible with an interconnected world because of the costs of the technology needed to build the infrastructure.
      So I feel that we have the choice between collapse and landing, but war and infrastructure sabotage is the pathway towards collapse.

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  8. When I first heard about the Nord Stream sabotage I lazily concluded Russia was responsible simply due to Russia always being responsible for bad things in the news. Now I struggle to imagine why the Russians would blow up their own pipeline when they can simply just cut off the tap.

    Clearly the worry is that as we Europeans experience the full cost of support for Russia in the form of freezing homes in winter there will be demands for a reapproachment with Russia. If Russia is unable to supply gas due to sabotage then there is no point in us being friends with them.

    I'm in the UK which seems to love making a bad situation worse. http://www.fraw.org.uk/blog/posts/022/index.shtml

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    1. They already did cut off the tap, gas inside the pipe was there for pressure only. Reasons for sabotage was simple - to demonstrate power to conduct such a complicated mission and succeed and to show Europe that this tap is not turning on again anytime soon even if Europe stops sending help to Ukraine.

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  9. The world is currently ruled by 3 kings, USA is still the strongest, but has gotten a lot weaker with age and complacency has similarly weakened that kingdom, as corruption significantly destroyed the country's resources and people. The other 2 kings, Russia and China are smaller, but allied together their strength may match the old king, which is why both sides are very carefully testing each other only in proxy wars that destroy neutrals and mainly each other's vassals.

    With global resource depletion accelerating however, the pressure is on to heat up these hostile engagements or the kings fear their people might overthrow them when they suffer too much. So the planet is edging towards another period of maximum conflict again, that occur periodically through history when some players in the game feel they have a chance to improve their position or nothing to lose so they try to destroy opponents if they're going down anyway.

    A way to put off pain in the short-term, is to delay difficult decisions, so we in western Europe, being vassals of the old king, are being sacrificed as pawns to keep up the standards and wealth in the most powerful kingdom. Like Russia did with their central European and Asiatic vassals during the Soviet period, we are now more directly experiencing the exploitation involved in being a lesser being in a colony, forced to live at a lower quality of life to subsidise the higher one of our masters. Most Europeans still don't understand any of this though, they think these are random international events, we are allies (albeit the weaker links in the chain) and our leaders haven't sold us out extremely cheaply just for their own personal gain.

    On Italy's population, my great grandfather had 10 children and the country was so poor my grandfather had to emigrate. Of those 10, my grandfather had the most children, (4), while 4 of the 10 had none. Of the 4, my father had the most (3) but me and my siblings all have none and will soon be all too old to breed, while on average, the extended family is replaced by at least only half with every new generation. So rapid reduction in quality of life and hope is quickly taking us back to the energy-scarce carrying capacity of the land and we can only hope this is quick enough to avoid worse pain.

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    1. Thank you for so eloquent explanation of the current crisis genesis.
      Exactly my point of view.

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  10. Great article as always. I believe that the sanctions on russian energy exports were also designed to destroy demand, as the elites have always chosen that way to subdue inflation. Make the masses poorer in order to protect the profits from the capitalists has been a policy implemented time and time again when inflation hits. And all the media narrative about inflation being due to the war- when anyone can check that it started months prior- also works in that direction. For instance here in France the prices of pasta rose by 25% just for the month of April 2022, with every media explaining that it was because of the war. How far can you be from the physical realities of this world and what can be your understanding of the agri-business supply chain to believe such lies ?? The euro monetary mass having doubled between 2011&2019 and then increased y 50% in 2020-21 seems a more rational explanation. But that would be admitting that policies were aimed at making the rich richer for the last 10 years. And everyone know our governements work for the people, not for the capitalists... What a world...

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  11. Recently the CEO of Aramco said that the decline of oil wells is 6% per year and 20% for the oldest ones. And Prince MBS warned that by 2030 the world would only extract 30% of the current extraction. It is clear that they were demanding more investment, but oil and fossil resources are running out, so if these figures are true, we have a terrible problem in the world.

    On October 27 the IEA will publish its WEO, we will see what panorama they draw us, but this decline and the increase in global energy demand, although not as great as on previous occasions, seems to predict a critical situation in a world of 8,000 million people. population.

    I don't think the EU's warnings about energy supply cuts and rationing are intended to put fear into our bodies. Just look at the number of countries that are already experiencing power outages, including India and China, whose populations number almost 3 billion and whose energy needs are enormous because they also want to improve their standard of living with every right of the world, as we have done before in the West. But I don't think the planet gives for more

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  12. I am puzzled by the dedication of industrialization folks to the "GRID". Here in California the state government passed a law to "help" put 10,000 miles of the "GRID" underground. What a waste of resources to protect humans living in forested areas from the "GRID", which is doomed to collapse even faster as the price of fossil fuels continues to rise. The smart thing to do would be to spend that money on solar and battery-powered fire-fighting smart homes which are buildable with today's technology, instead of wasting BILLIONS on undergrounding.

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  13. Back in highschool, at the end of the 1990s, I used to fantasize about what perverse games of conspicuous consumption superpowers got to engage in.

    For example, the US would nuke Italy to show the Russians how strong NATO was. "See, Russkies, we bomb the little spaghetti-eating bugs, yet they still adore us like gods."

    Or the Russians would announce that they would destroy either a small town in the American Mid-West, or Milan. The Americans got to choose who would have to die.

    With the US basically destroying Europe's industrial base, reality turned out disturbingly close to fantasy out 20+ years later.

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  14. Spain, Mwh ~15€, in UK, France, Italy, Germany ~220€.
    Thanks to Solar, Wind, Nuclear Power, hydro and some imported gas.
    Armando Gascon
    @arbronca

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    1. I have heard that Spanish energy prices are indeed lower than in the rest of the UE, but I wonder how they do it. Where did you get that number?

      If they have many renewables and nuclear energy, then they also need gas to balance the net; they used to get that gas from Algeria, but they are now in a diplomatic spat and, from what I understand, Algeria stopped selling gas to Spain.

      Sure, Spain has more gas terminals than the rest of Europe. But I doubt that the US was able to deliver vast quantities of gas in the past few months.

      Also, I just came across this article that puts the MWh price at EUR 251.24.

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    2. I forgot to add alink to the article: https://euroweeklynews.com/2022/10/02/average-price-of-electricity-skyrockets-in-spain-on-monday-october-3/

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  15. Can't we just drop all superfluous energy use (private cars, youtube videos, high-res 3d games, toys and gadgets, etc)? It would make fossil fuels last much longer, their impact be much smaller, and possibly allow using mostly renewables, all while retaining the pillars of modern lifestyle (health, food security)

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    1. What a great idea, except the rich don't care about your health or food security, but care deeply about their private cars, yachts, jets, and toys.
      Sorry about the snark, but that's my take on all the policies the I've seen enacted so far.

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    2. You mean that the poor should drop all that, while the rich keep driving and playing? Sure, I am afraid that many people at the top completely agree with your proposal.

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    3. No the poor should give up either heating or eating, or maybe both. It's the 99.9 percent that should give up cars, boats, and planes. In a Zero Sum worldview, every poor person is just taking up resources better used elsewhere.
      ArtDeco

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  16. So-called "renewables" will never be close to a 100% replacement for our current energy sources--in this I agree with other commenters. I see at least three reasons.

    The first, which is usually overlooked by those flogging solar panels and wind turbines, is that they are what one commentator refers to as "non-renewable renewable energy harvesting" devices; they wear out in 10-20 years and must be replaced, draining more precious resources, of course.

    The second is that these are intermittent power sources that require extensive energy storage capacity to make them into the dispatchable and continuous energy sources that any kind of industry needs. We are either looking at many more dammed up valleys for pumped storage, and/or the entire world's supply of the appropriate battery material.

    The third is just a matter of mathematics. The number of devices that would have to be deployed to even reach 5-10% of current capacity is beyond comprehension.

    The elites trying to sell this to the public as the solution to the world's energy woes are lying to them. The truth is that industrial civilization as we currently know it will not survive the end of fossil fuels unless some new miracle source of energy is discovered.

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    1. ' "renewables" will never be close to a 100% replacement for our current energy sources'

      willem you are not smart enough to understand how this works and thankfully Ugo is here to show you.
      See, Ugo's friend Klaus Schwab* will make sure that the peasants don't use any energy (dead men don't in general) so he and his friends get to enjoy caviar and private planes.

      * - I wonder if Ugo deleted the old post that was praising WEF and Klaus.

      So Ugo, did they accept your application? How many virgins do you get?

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    2. See my previous note, above. This kind of comments make me seriously worried about the mental sanity of the people reading my blog. On the other hand, if most people's minds were sane, we would not be in the mess we are.

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  17. As a working theory, I had judged that technocrats such as the Davos crowd have been deliberately engineering the energy crunch to force the public "cold turkey" into the "Limits to Growth" post-industrial world before the gas tank is completely empty. But if Ugo is correct in his theory about the US wanting to take over as the European energy supplier, perhaps not all the big shots are on board with the Davosians yet. Because it seems to me that the wisest strategy for the US at this point is to carefully nurse its remaining fossil resources for its domestic benefit as long as possible. This would seem to be the logical extension of deglobalization--bringing your energy supply back to domestic shores along with your industry. But if Ugo is right, it seems that this is too long-term a vision for the energy barons, who want their profit right away.

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  18. So there is a war in Ukraine because the evil O&G mafia called the United States had a surplus of gas to sell and decided to forcefully take away the European market from its Russian competitor - and provoking a war in Ukraine was the best way to do so. However, in the process it is killing European industry and hence destroying the European gas market. Because of course this evil O&G mafia called the United States is not just evil, it is also dumb! CVD!!!
    Of course, it's so plain obvious!!!

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    1. Not dumb at all. They are making a lot of money with this operation. Later on, the rubble will be someone else's problem.

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    2. Ugo, how does it fit in this narrative that it was clearly Russia who started this massive war in Ucraine?

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    3. Good question. Possibly, it was just a mistake: governments are known to do this kind of mistakes. Or, there is something more behind the whole story. I don't even discount the possibility of supernatural demonic forces at work. I am serious. Sometimes evil is so great that you can't imagine that mere humans can engage in certain actions.

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  19. There is a contradiction with your reply to one of my comments in a previous post. Then you said " this criticism is flawed from the beginning, when he says "replacing the existing fossil fuel powered system" -- this is not possible. We are not searching for a replacement of the existing system. We are looking for a complete overhauling of it, rebuilding in a form that will not be so horribly resource-hungry.". Now you talk about replacing FF. Until you give us more details about the ways to do it and the new social contract it implies, I will remain skeptical. I appreciate your work more than I can say, but here the is a blind spot.

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    1. No contradiction, I think. "Replacing the existing" fossil fuel system with renewables is obviously impossible, no matter how many times you hear about the "hydrogen economy." "Overhauling" is a different story: we'll have energy, but in different forms, used differently, and more efficiently. You can find more details at "https://thesunflowerparadigm.blogspot.com/" or maybe read the paper that I recently co-authored on the possibility of a 100% renewable based society at: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9837910.

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  20. Additional US motivations, not yet discussed here, are:
    * decrease EU consumption of resources and the global depletion rate - Europe has high consumption
    * force migration of skilled labor and industry itself from the EU to the USA
    * damage China's export-led economy and Russia's technological development by severing links (EU purchasing power, investment, and trade)

    Demolition of Europe is bad for Russia and China and good for the USA on a relative-power basis and in terms of absolute remaining resources for us.

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  21. I commented on the rather nasty comments I received on renewables with this post:

    https://thesunflowerparadigm.blogspot.com/2022/10/hating-renewable-energy-something-went.html

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  22. In his book “Debt: The First 5000 Years” Graeber explains how the fact of being under de burden of debt has pushed people to atrocious dynamics. He explains a number of examples. The slave market from Africa to Europe, for example, is described in detail as a chain of actors, all fueling their actions by the desperation and humiliation of “owing money” to some one else. Debt. Another example is the spanish “conquistadores” killing and looting in south America, more often than not in despair to try to cancel a debt that increased every day. In all these cases there is a resource to be chased, but the degree of recklessness is dictated by the strain debt inflicts.
    I think here we have a clear example of the very same thing. At one side we hear about the economic problems the fracking industry is facing, how investors have a hard time having profits, if any. Sometimes we hear it described as an economic bubble yet almost exploding. At the other side we have what Ugo describes in his article: an aggressive attempt to expand a market, no matter what.
    Maybe we could think that debt is the root cause of wars, not resources. Of course debt means owing some kind of currency, that may eventually be exchanged into resources, so we might say its the same thing. But there is a difference. Resources we know what they are. Anything we need to live, live well, physically transform our reality. Debt, in the other hand, is something less easy to explain. In any case is something related to how human societies are economically structured. How they work. As Graeber explains, there have been societies with mechanisms to release the strain debt can inflict, to regulate its tendency to grow, and others less pitiful towards debtors. It results in very different societal dynamics. Under this light, what can we expect from the USA, decaying ultra-liberal mecca ?
    Translating this kind of phenomena to the Seneca effect epistemology, if it was just for resources we would be good for a Malthusian crisis, with a tendency towards stabilisation. However, in a debt-based economy, with no release mechanisms, debt pressure makes players put the foot down, grow or die, so it pushes the system to overshoot prior to collapse.
    Mart

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  23. Hello Ugo. What kind of day to day life can you expect for somebody living in the solar future you write about in your other blog? Does the manufacture and disposal of the new infrastructure need fossil fuels as Alice Friedemann explains, and do you have any thoughts on the latest post from "dothemath"? Point six, specifically. https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2022/10/the-cult-of-civilization/
    Thanks.

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    1. Alice Friedmann still lives in the past century, the future she sees is an old future: it will not arrive. I had seen Tom Murphy's post: it is very nice, and he is right about almost everything he says. He is skeptical about renewable energy, and he may be right about that, too. But I disagree.

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    2. https://ourfiniteworld.com/ Gail's latest post goes into a bit of detail about the same thing, using California as an example.
      I remain very sceptical. The closest example I have found to be realistic was in a film called 2040, where after the greenwash was a real example of a solar system in Bangladesh where each house in the village had a panel and a meter that enabled them to create micro grids, so each house could sell power to another who needed it. The catch was that they had a couple of lights, a radio and a sewing machine. If there is to be a solar-powered future, that is it. As Johnathan Neale showed in his book "fight the fire", even if we were able to have a global smart grid balancing power from sunny areas to other areas, it would give us 100 years breathing space before the limits were reached and we all fell off the cliff. It would also entail global cooperation the likes of which have never been seen, which is also unlikely.
      Thanks, Benn.

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    3. Alternative energy is really the only game in town. Who says it will replace cheap oil and gas for EVERYBODY? For the fortunate few it will slow the speed at which depletion will impact a community and possibly provide for that community extra time, perhaps it will be the gateway to new energy sources. If the time it provides is not sufficient, then it merely delays the inevitable. Succeeding generations of wind and solar will be hard to pull off without cheap oil and gas. Of course declining population changes the consumption equation too, that part seems to be omitted from the public debate. I agree with both, it's the only rational path and yes, it's not good enough to solve the problem of a replacement. Of course there's yet another possibility - that greed, war and the worst of human nature stimulated by the stress of a declining energy world destroys even this chance. If I were to place a wager, all three have equal probability in my opinion.

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  24. Let's look at the issue from a higher perspective, with a holistic glance, let's say with the eyes of an alien species visiting the planet for the first time. And then the question arises: "Is civilization really ultimately desirable? Whatever we power it with? Is it desirable, this enormous megamachine that we call civilization, spewing poison, poisoning and killing everything in its way? This megamachine that is so horrible that it even changes the climate, making climate too hot for us and the planet? Those who tout that renewable energy will save us, haven't really thought this through. I mean, if we really would be able to power civilization with 100% renewable energy, wouldn't it just make us continue the poisoning and killing of life, driving us for example to cut down all our forests in the world, which we are about to do right now? Wouldn't it just make us fish out the oceans, further kill all the microlife in the agricultural soil, wouldn't it make us overpopulate the earth, make us drain the aquifiers, make us produce more plastics and crap that pollute the oceans and the rivers and all the rest of nature.

    All in all, would not the continuation of civilization with the help of 100 % renewable energy just make us further overshoot the earth's carrying capacity, and drive us to collapse and extinction anyway?

    Wouldn't the transition of all technology to renewable energy need all the remaining fossil fuels to be done and completed, however cheap the renewables are? Observe that such a replacement takes decades and require enormous amounts of energy. We have never before tried such a replacement of a higher quality energy source with a lower energy source.

    Bardi writes in a comment that renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels. But isn't it cheaper only because of subsidies? And is it really cheaper than conventional oil was twenty years ago? It might be cheaper than fracking oil and heavy oil from offshore oil production, but not cheaper than conventional oil from current Saudi oil fields.

    Maybe civilization was not such a good idea, that it would be better if we lived as wild indigenous people.

    I also recommend Alice Friedemanns book "Life after Fossil Fuels. A reality check on alternative energy" (2021) which I read recently. It gives the alternative energy salvation a death knell.

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  25. How is it possible that European countries, Germany especially, allowed themselves to become so dependent on an authoritarian country over the 30 years since the end of the Cold War?
    Here’s how: These countries are in the grips of a delusional ideology that makes them incapable of understanding the hard realities of energy production. Green ideology insists we don’t need nuclear and that we don’t need fracking. It insists that it’s just a matter of will and money to switch to all-renewables—and fast. It insists that we need “degrowth” of the economy, and that we face looming human “extinction.”
    As the West fell into a hypnotic trance about healing its relationship with nature, averting climate apocalypse and worshiping a teenager named Greta, Vladimir Putin made his moves.
    While he expanded nuclear energy at home so Russia could export its precious oil and gas to Europe, Western governments spent their time and energy obsessing over “carbon footprints,” a term created by an advertising firm working for British Petroleum. They banned plastic straws because of a 9-year-old Canadian child’s science homework. They paid for hours of “climate anxiety” therapy.
    While Putin expanded Russia’s oil production, expanded natural gas production, and then doubled nuclear energy production to allow more exports of its precious gas, Europe, led by Germany, shut down its nuclear power plants, closed gas fields, and refused to develop more through advanced methods like fracking.
    The numbers tell the story best. In 2016, 30 percent of the natural gas consumed by the European Union came from Russia. In 2018, that figure jumped to 40 percent. By 2020, it was nearly 44 percent, and by early 2021, it was nearly 47 percent.
    The result has been the worst global energy crisis since 1973, driving prices for electricity and gasoline higher around the world. It is a crisis, fundamentally, of inadequate supply. But the scarcity is entirely manufactured.
    https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/the-wests-green-delusions-empowered


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