China and India: Accelerating to the Finish Line

The air in Delhi, shown here in 2011, like the air in Beijing, is barely breathable by humans. Yet these two countries, with their 2.6 billion people, have just begun to burn fossil fuels. (Photo by je poirrier/Flickr)

The air in Delhi, shown here in 2011, like the air in Beijing, is barely breathable by humans. Yet these two countries, with their 2.6 billion people, have just begun to burn fossil fuels. (Photo by je poirrier/Flickr)

Hopium addicts and a few novelists nurture the convenient belief that while the 1.4 billion people of China and the 1.2 billion people of India struggle lustfully to live as luxuriously as do the 300 million people of the United States, they will manage to do so in a manner somehow less wasteful of energy and natural resources, less destructive of the living web of life, than we have done. The belief is convenient because, while there is not a whisker of evidence to suggest it is true, holding it permits the believer to carry on with business as usual. Continue reading

Rage Against the Dying of the Lights

The lights went out in Hoboken in 2012. They’re going out more often, for longer, in more places. Are you ready? (Photo by Alec Perkins/Flickr)

The lights went out in Hoboken in 2012. They’re going out more often, for longer, in more places. Are you ready? (Photo by Alec Perkins/Flickr)

Much of Detroit went “gentle into that good night” this week, its entire municipal power grid succumbing to age, infirmity and neglect.  It was no big surprise, Detroit’s public buildings (schools, fire and police stations, courts, a hospital, etc.) and traffic signals went dark in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Nor would it have surprised the readers of a recent study [“The Technology and Sociology of Power (Failure)”] whose authors concluded that “Blackouts are dress rehearsals for the future in which they will appear with greater frequency and severity, and as urban areas become more compact, with greater consequences.”

The world, they said, should “prepare for the prospect of coping without electricity as instances of complete power failure become increasingly common.”
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Wall Street: “Quite measurably out of its mind.”

Forget the bull statue they have in the street in front of the stock exchange -- this is the guy who’s taking over in 2015. (Photo by Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr)

Forget the bull statue they have in the street in front of the stock exchange — this is the guy who’s taking over in 2015. (Photo by Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr)

John Hussman runs a very large mutual fund whose performance for the past five years has not been great. He is reviled by many of his fellow Masters of the Universe for saying of them, as he did in a recent client newsletter, that Wall Street, collectively, is “quite measurably out of its mind.” Others balance the scorn of the gamblers against the fact that Hussman was saying much the same thing just before the crashes of 2000 and 2008.  In a world whose collective memory maxes out at 90 days, in which logic and mathematics are optional belief systems, Hussman is an historian and number cruncher. What do the numbers tell him? To brace for impact. Continue reading

Troubled Oil is Under Water [UPDATED]

A Russian oil rig in the North Sea. New oil wells are deeper, more expensive, more complicated -- and play out faster -- than ever.

A Russian oil rig in the North Sea. Used to be only part of the oil business was in deep water. Now it pretty much all is.

The whole global edifice erected with oil profits is trembling and cracking while the people responsible for its imminent implosion refuse to even get under their desks, insisting that there is no problem. This crash that is already under way is not the ultimate one that will bring down the Industrial Age, not quite yet, but it is going to drop us from the rubble-strewn “new normal” of the post-2008 Great Recession to the cratered moonscape of the newer normal that will follow the Crash of 2015. The problem in 2008 was subprime home loans. The problem now is subprime oil wells. Continue reading

War Criminal Charged in War on Coal

Farmington-Mine-Disaster-smoke

A battlefield in the real War on Coal (the 1968 Farmington Mine disaster in West Virginia). The aggressor is not who you think it is, nor are the victims. (Wikipedia Photo)

A long, long list of lies have been perpetrated by industrialists to confuse ordinary people about how, and by whom, the world is being destroyed. Proceedings in a Federal courthouse in West Virginia are about to bring some clarity to the issue. The quality of the lies has been uniformly low — none of them stands up to a moment’s rational examination. Their success rate, on the other hand, has been high; a dismaying proportion of Americans believes that the people who are exploiting them the most are their best friends, and the people who are trying to save them are their enemies. There is no worse example than the bogus “War on Coal,” imagineered by coal-mine operators as a unifying theory of everything bad that happens: Obama did it, as part of his “War on Coal.”

As propaganda, the War on Coal was a brilliant stroke. How else could an industry whose air pollution is destabilizing the entire planet, whose operations are obliterating mountain ranges, poisoning groundwater, and routinely killing and sickening its employees, instantly make itself seem a blameless victim of outside aggression? Its audacity was exceeded only by the gullibility of a grateful nation, which never paused to remark on the oddity of Coal declaring a war on itself, on behalf of an enemy that did not seem to be aware of it. Continue reading

International Energy Agency Says: Brace for Impact

What America will look like of the frackers have their way -- and what Huntington Beach, California looked like in 1926. But according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, we shouldn’t be too concerned about what the frackers are going to be able to do.  (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives)

What America will look like of the frackers have their way — and what Huntington Beach, California looked like in 1926. But according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, we shouldn’t be too concerned about what the frackers are going to be able to do. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives)

The customarily cheery International Energy Agency (IEA), created to advise the member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has taken a more somber tone in its latest annual World Energy Outlook released today. The agency dismisses the wildly hyped shale-oil and -gas “boom” in the United States as a band-aid on a malignant tumor, a temporary mask distracting the world from the pervasive illness afflicting its oil supply. Continue reading

Mid-Term Message: Abandon Hope

Okay, we won. Now would everybody please go home and leave us alone. We’ll let you know if we need you again. (Photo by Jayu/Flickr)

Okay, we won. Now would everybody please go home and leave us alone. We’ll let you know if we need you again. (Photo by Jayu/Flickr)

Bull beat brains just about everywhere in America on election day last Tuesday, (with an exception or two), and anyone who still harbors the hope that the American Dream is alive, that the future will be better than the past, simply was not paying attention. People who profess not to believe in climate change have been given power over our national response to this rising threat to our continued existence; people who owe their souls to industrialists have been given responsibility for protecting ordinary citizens from the depredations of industry. We the passengers of the Titanic just elected a crew that doesn’t believe in icebergs. Continue reading

China Hosts Development Celebration. No, Really.

China_Steel_Industries

This Chinese steel factory demonstrates what a boon it is to the Chinese people. And why it must be shut down while the Chinese people have visitors.

Remember when the Marlboro Men, the rugged, cowboy-looking actors hired to glamorize cigarettes, kept dying of lung cancer? Or imagine if they made the overweight Ron White (the Blue Collar Comedy guy) host a TV fitness program while swilling bourbon and puffing on a cigar. Now you have an idea how China feels this week, as it prepares to host the growth-mad Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation organization. It’s hard to glamorize something that’s actually killing you.

Instead of a celebration of unfettered development, a my-project-is-bigger-than-your-project bragfest, a sky-is-the-limit orgy of optimism, the attendees are going to be strangling on the effects of unfettered development and holding hands with a would-be Marlboro Man of countries who is, in reality, terminal. Most people die when they can no longer breathe; in China, you’re in danger if you do breathe. The air is that bad. Continue reading

Peak Bullets: the Weirdest Shortage of them All

(Photo by Mojave Desert/Flickr)

Once, this is what you bought for a buck to deal with rats. Now it’s a priceless commodity? (Photo by Mojave Desert/Flickr)

During the past six years or so, I have had occasion from time to time to go into a WalMart, or a Gander Mountain store, or  some other sporting goods establishment, wherein I have asked the question: “Do you have any .22 caliber ammunition?” On every occasion, the answer has been “No.” Each time I asked, “When are you going to get some in?” and was told, “Don’t know.” If I went even further and asked, “When was the last time you had some in stock?’ the answer was along the lines of, “Three months ago, on a Monday morning, for about 15 minutes.” I thought it was odd, the first few times it happened. Then I found out the same thing was happening all across the country. And was going on for year after year, and that weirded me out. Continue reading

Global Warming Problem Solved

Yes we can keep our environment cool and pristine. The medicine, however, is a little strong. (Photo by Mohri United Nations University)

Yes we can keep our environment cool and pristine. The medicine, however, is a little strong. (Photo by Mohri United Nations University)

The paper was published in 2009, and those who have not ignored it since, have ridiculed it. (Sort of like Darwin’s theories, or plate tectonics, or Hubbert’s view of peaking oil.) Odd, because in a way it confirmed the fervent hope of millions that technology, which has sickened the world with its pollution — never forget, please, that climate change is a pollution problem — would restore our health with a magic pill we could take, and wake up to find the problem gone. The paper, by Tim Garrett of the University of Utah, applied the laws of physics to the cumulative behavior of human civilization, and thus discovered the magic pill. Unfortunately, it was cyanide.

But let’s focus on the good news. Continue reading