What’s Next — Evolution or Extinction?

evolution

(Poster by sorah42/funnie.st)

Our friends at the Doomstead Diner (they frequently repost Daily Impact essays) have caused a bit of an uproar among doomers — their term for people who believe the crash of industrial society is imminent — by conducting a poll on whether and when all humanity will be extinguished by the collapse. The Human Extinction Survey immediately revealed strong differences and strong feelings among the doomers surveyed. Just a few years ago it was controversial in the extreme to raise the prospect of collapse; now the idea is moving to the mainstream but wait, extinction? Yikes. Continue reading

GOP and Coal Launch War on America

This is how the Republican Coal War will look, fought not with artillery but smokestacks. It’s a war no one can win. (Photo by alohaspirit/iStock)

This is how the Republican Coal War will look, fought not with artillery but smokestacks. It’s a war no one can win. (Photo by alohaspirit/iStock)

To celebrate their coming to power in the United States Senate, Republicans this week launched their answer to the imaginary “War on Coal” by declaring war on clean air, and thus on all of us. Newly elected West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito introduced a bill that would make it impossible for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions from coal-burning power plants. Climate-change-denier-in-chief James Inhofe, celebrated for bringing a snowball onto the floor of the Senate in February to prove that global warming is a hoax, cheered Capito on from his throne at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Continue reading

New U.S. Recession Already Here

** ARCHIV ** Hostess Kim Sturmhoefel geht am 19. Maerz 2004 am Microsoft-Stand auf der Cebit in Hannover eine Treppe hinab. Dem Software Hersteller droht eine Strafe der Europaeischen Union wegen Verstosses gegen EU-Wettbewerbsregeln in der erwarteten Rekordhoehe von 497 Millionen Euro. Am Mittwoch, 24. Maerz 2004, will Wettbewerbskommissar Mario Monti die Entscheidung verkuenden. (AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach) ---     Hostess Kim Sturmhoefel steps down some stairs at the booth of U.S. software giant Microsoft at the Cebit 2004 in Hanover, northern Germany, March 19, 2004. The European Union treathened Microsoft with an expected record fine of 497 million euro (US$ 612 million) for alleged antitrust abuses. An EU decision is expected Wednesday, March 24, 2004. (AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach)

We hear every day from the bean counters whose jobs require them to play in the Don’t-Worry-Be-Happy Band, whose favorite numbers (by which I mean their favorites, not ours) are “Recovery is Bustin’ Out All Over,” “Happy Days are Here Again,” and “When I am a Rich Man.” The other, independent bean counters are hard to hear amid the blaring brass, but if you pay attention you can hear what they’re yelling: the next recession has already started.

When the federal government reported yesterday on the growth of retail sales last month, there wasn’t any. Growth, that is. Continue reading

Oil: A Fit of Peak

“Rex [Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil] knows his company is in liquidation and he’s terrified his stockholders are going to find out.” — Arthur Berman. Is this what Rex sees when he dreams?

Arthur Berman is perhaps the most credible debunkers of oil hype on the planet because he is a highly qualified petroleum geologist and a longtime, top-tier employee of the oil industry. In a presentation early this year, he made an offhand remark in answer to a question about Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. “Oh,” Berman responded, “Rex knows his company is in liquidation and he’s terrified his stockholders are going to find out.” I don’t know if anyone else heard a thunderclap at that moment. The discussion moved quickly onward, but I sat stunned (as I listened to the tape). It seemed to me I had just heard spoken aloud the essential truth of our industrial age: it’s in liquidation, and the people in charge are terrified we are going to find out.

Liquidation, also known as a going-out-of-business sale, is a stunning word to use about the oil industry, unless you think about it for a minute. Continue reading

Global Pandemic Affecting Growth

A heartbroken teenager absorbs the news that his growth rate is slowing and may soon stop altogether. Given his bleak prospects, thoughts of suicide cannot be ruled out. (Photo by bngdesigns/pixabay)

A heartbroken teenager absorbs the news that his growth rate is slowing and may soon stop altogether. Given his bleak prospects, thoughts of suicide cannot be ruled out. (Photo by bngdesigns/pixabay)

A mysterious affliction that is affecting human growth rates has apparently spread unnoticed around the world. “We are seeing normal growth rates of three or so inches a year decline, over the space of a few years, to a half inch or even less,” said one scientist who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to take the blame. “For some reason it seems to be affecting young people, in their late teens.”

“Growth is essential to the economy,” said an economist who preferred not to be identified because he’s tired of all the ridicule. “The clothing industry depends on it, as does the basketball industry, just to name two. The effect on them is likely to be catastrophic.” Continue reading

World Water War I: Already Under Way

A common misconception: the wars of the future will be fought, not with water, but over it. There will be a lot of them. Soon. (Photo by Radio Free Asia)

A common misconception: the wars of the future will be fought, not with water, but over it. There will be a lot of them. Soon. (Photo by Radio Free Asia)

The stresses that are rearranging the world’s maps, uprooting populations, destroying nation-states and destabilizing the planet have less to do with extreme “-isms,” geopolitics, hegemony or nuclear armaments than they do with water. Overuse, misuse and pollution of water, combined with spreading drought, a consequence of climate change, are imposing on larger and larger regions of the world an inexorable sequence of deprivation leading to desperation, then disintegration. About halfway through the progression, as desperation begins to bring on disintegration, the violence begins, and from then on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride hard. Continue reading

The Crash of 2015: Vultures vs. Jackals

So. How have you frackers been feeling, lately? Just checking. (Photo by docentjoyce/Flickr)

So. How have you frackers been feeling, lately? Just checking. (Photo by docentjoyce/Flickr)

The crash of 2015 has been paused temporarily by a curious circumstance: a brawl among the financial scavengers who by now should have carted away the body parts of the great American fracking boom. Against all logic, financial vultures are fighting with financial jackals for possession of the corpse, and while doing so are pumping transfusions into it even though decomposition is already well under way. Here’s what’s happening:

The Vultures believe the decline of American oil fracking is only temporary, a product of the sudden decline in oil prices that struck last fall, and that with the inevitable return to $100-a-barrel oil, the frackers will return to profitability. Continue reading

TIME: What You Don’t Need to Know (About Refugees)

A typically overloaded boat carries Libyan refugees toward Europe. (Photo by notenoughgood.com)

A typically overloaded boat carries Libyan refugees toward Europe. (Photo by notenoughgood.com)

The TIME website headline said: “What You Need to Know About the E.U.’s Refugee Crisis.” It was, of course, a follow-on to the deaths Sunday of nearly a thousand desperate refugees whose boat capsized off the coast of Libya, on its way to Italy. It was one of a series of accidents that killed 3,500 last year and 1,500 so far this year, a fatality rate that testifies to the size of the human tsunami that is crashing into the south coast of Europe. All we have are guestimates of the size, but one of them places the current flow at 10,000 per week. Continue reading

Credit Scoooooooooore!

Don’t worry about the bill, we’ll think of something. In the meantime, please, keep spending. Your country needs you to.  (Photo by Jason Rogers/Flickr)

Don’t worry about the bill, we’ll think of something. In the meantime, please, keep spending. Your country needs you to. (Photo by Jason Rogers/Flickr)

I don’t know why we worry so much, when American ingenuity has always risen to the occasion, every single time, to snatch victory from the jaws of success. Once again, American financial engineers have analyzed the problem — the central problem of the American economy — and after having a couple of beers have come up with the solution. Brilliant. Prosperity is at hand.

These particular engineers are employed by Fair Isaac, who is not a handsome English squire, but the oddly named company that assigns the credit scores upon which 90% of all personal lending decisions — from credit cards to car loans to rental contracts — are based. Continue reading

Forbes: “Shale Oil Boom Goes Bust”

This happy fracker -- a Halliburton employee at a site in North Dakota’s Bakken play -- obviously hasn’t got the memo yet. It’s over. (Wikipedia photo)

This happy fracker — a Halliburton employee at a site in North Dakota’s Bakken play — obviously hasn’t got the memo yet. It’s over. (Wikipedia photo)

Yes, Forbes, the magazine of the Masters of the Universe has uncharacteristically published some discouraging words about the only good news the American economy has had to celebrate in many decades.

Oil output from the most productive U.S. shale fields is expected to drop off next month by 57 million [sic — they mean thousand] barrels of crude daily from April to May, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday. That would represent the first monthly decline in more than four years, according to Reuters.

And then there’s Bloomberg Business, a more objective reporter of what’s going on in American industry, with the headline: “Shale Oil Boom could End in May After Price Collapse.”

Output from the prolific tight-rock formations such as North Dakota’s Bakken shale will decline 57,000 barrels a day in May, the Energy Information Administration said Monday. It’s the first time the agency has forecast a drop in output since it began issuing a monthly drilling productivity report in 2013.

Yet even after admitting that it’s over in the shale patch, the Pollyannas insist that it’s only for a while, until reduced supply brings prices back up and everybody starts doing exactly what they were doing before. How shall we put this? Continue reading