Progress

In 1900, there were no planes, no space travel. Motorcars were toys that enthusiasts played with, not useful means of transport.  There were no computers, no radios, no antibiotics, no rockets, no nuclear power, no knowledge or understanding of the interior the atom, no very useful plastics.

In 1961 we had all of this stuff

Since 1961, what have we got?

The last man on the moon is getting pretty elderly.  We have abandoned supersonic transport, and supersonic fighter planes are close to being abandoned.

Cell phones and the internet show radical improvement, but are just more intense and improved use of computers and radio, technologies that existed well before 1961.  Genetic technology shows promise, but is not yet doing anything big.  While reading genes continues to improve, writing them may well have peaked, and without vastly improved writing, gene technology is not going anywhere exciting.  AI remains thirty years in the future, as it has been for the past sixty years, even though every desktop now contains more computing power than the human brain.

And, as I regularly point out

The last man on the moon left in 1972

The tallest building in the united states was finished in 1974.

Cars are becoming humbler.

 

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101 Responses to “Progress”

  1. Matthew Lock says:

    To be fair computers in 1961 were toys that only government played with. Internet didn’t exist at all then. Plus jet airline transport barely existed in 1961 and was immensely expensive.

    The main progress since 1961 has been much freer markets across the globe and the government getting out of industries like communications and transport.

    Products are much better and cheaper than in 61 (except housing) and life expectancy is considerably longer.

  2. jim says:

    I grant you since 1961

    But since 1972?

    I don’t think so. Median male salary takes longer to buy bread, a car, etc. The big advance has internet and computers, but all the stuff that was available in 1972 still costs approximately as many hours of work as ever it did.

  3. spandrell says:

    Oil is more expensive, electricity is more expensive, so a lot of tech innovation has been going into saving power. Building have been getting higher outside the US so you haven’t got much of a case there.

    You could say that the fact that power is getting expensive is itself a sign of decreased innovation.

    • Red says:

      Most of the increase in price of power is due to government regulations. Power saving tech is either vaporware or the natural thing that happens when you add microchips to devices(I.E. you finely control the device).

    • peppermint says:

      Power is more expensive due to democracy, i.e. idiots who hear a line of propaganda voting based on it.

      They demand no new nuclear, and complain about everything, leading to Fukushima. They tax energy here, making manufacturing more expensive so it happens elsewhere, and then pour the money into pinwheels and mirrors. Above all, they oppose the construction of anything at all. And they base it all on scientific studies that prove that pinwheels and mirrors are the way to go.

      If we didn’t have democracy, we could have a sensible energy policy. Notice how many pinwheels and mirrors China is building.

      • peppermint says:

        the Earth sustains man
        man has naught to recompense
        kill kill kill kill kill

      • spandrell says:

        Complaining didn’t lead to Fukushima. Criminally bad management by the bureaucracy did.

        China is building millions of windpower crap. You’d be surprised. But you shouldn’t. It’s good rent seeking.

        • Red says:

          Actually it did. The anti nuke movement has made it almost impossible to replace primitive reactors like the ones at Fukushima. It’s the same problem California, they’ve got some of the oldest reactors around but they can’t replace them with some newer and safer because the greens won’t give the permits.

          I’m not excusing the design or the management of Fukushima. Such a design plan should have never been approved in the first place but it also should have been decommissioned and replaced with a better design ages ago.

    • jim says:

      That oil is more expensive relative to income might be because Greenies are right, though I doubt it.

      That electricity is more expensive relative to income is technological decline and social decay. If innovation completely stopped in 1972, electricity should still have become cheaper due capital accumulation and economies of scale.

      • Dan says:

        Of course the Greenies are right about there being limited oil. Do you have any idea how fracking works? Landing a man on the moon is probably easier. Please study fracking for a bit.

        One reason nobody is on the moon anymore is that the moon is the dullest place imaginable. Nothing to learn, no profit to be had, the only interesting scenery is Earth. The space race must’ve been horrible for the Soviets. At least we had money to burn. Granted it was a pleasurable sport but that challenge was conquered.

        • jim says:

          Of course the Greenies are right about there being limited oil.

          If the greenies really believed that oil was limited, they would not be trying so hard to limit it.

          • Dan says:

            The left can have as much influence on the market for oil as King Canute could control the waves.

            Oil is at $100 per barrel and is produced mainly by countries who care not a fig about political correctness. But in the native homes of political correctness what do you see?

            When politically correct Canada engages in the environmentally craziest oil operation on Earth, when America fracks out every drop there is to be had, when Norway and the UK drain every drop they can get their hands on, it would seem that the effect of political correctness on oil extraction is almost exactly nil.

            In fact the countries ruled by political correctness are the ones that most thoroughly squeeze that last drop they can get their hands on.

            I honestly wish the left would win on this one, not because I hate oil but because I think my kids might need some.

            Too bad the left is so moronic on science. Obviously the unlimited energy answer is nuclear+electric everything, but nuclear power is but one more no-go zone for the leftist mind.

            • jim says:

              Oh come on. Progressives rule the world.

              That is similar to the whine that women are powerless and oppressed, when every male lives in fear and trembling lest he be capriciously charged with discrimination, harassment, rape, or noticing that blatantly incompetent women are affirmative actioned into management, science, and technology and wreck everything they touch.

              Fracking occurs in America because the progressives have not yet quite exterminated the tradition of private property rights. It is not yet happening in most of the rest of the world. Fracking is like gun rights – it happening on land where mineral exploration and extraction rights are securely in private hands.

              To the extent that it is happening outside the US, it is happening in the Pentagon’s red empire, not the State Department’s blue empire – and, as illustrated by the silly girly hats that Obama imposed on the marines, the Pentagon’s red empire is quite politically correct, even if less politically correct than the blue empire.

          • Dan says:

            In my Maryland, which is arguably the bluest state in the union now, a bill to ban fracking was killed this year.

            http://thedailyrecord.com/eyeonannapolis/2013/03/05/ban-on-fracking-killed-by-senate-committee/

            Maryland is not even facing economic hardship right now (thanks to Federal spending). If Maryland was in economic trouble, fracking would come in a flash.

    • Konkvistador says:

      “Building have been getting higher outside the US so you haven’t got much of a case there.”

      Outside the US… but also outside Europe. I think you likely misunderstand Jim because you haven’t read his previous posts on this.

      See:
      http://blog.jim.com/economics/technological-decay.html

      “Earlier I argued that technology in the west peaked in 1970, Tallest building 1972, coolest muscle cars, last man left the moon,though *it continues to advance in some other parts of the world*”

      • spandrell says:

        London is building hideous high buildings. I beg you to spare the rest of the continent from fouling further our cityscapes. Our cities are nice as they are, thank you.

        • jim says:

          Those buildings, however, are mostly less tall than Saint Paul’s Cathedral, as well as uglier.

          (Except, of course for the rather attractive Shard, built by Quatar)

          For beautiful and magnificent tall buildings, observe the Singaporean skyline – which goes vastly higher than Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

          If you want a skyline like that, better convert to the new Caliphate, for Christendom is committing suicide.

  4. Art says:

    Cars are not getting humbler.
    After a huge step back in the mid/late 70s they have been slowly but steadily improving. Look at the history of Ford Mustang.

    • jim says:

      Googling Mustang:

      The biggest and heaviest Mustangs were 1971-74. 1973 Mustang was the star of the movie “Gone in sixty seconds”

      That is remarkably close to the date I give for the US technological peak – last man on the moon, tallest buildings.

      The legendary Ford Mustang Mach 1 was introduced in 1969, also pretty close to the date. It is still a legend. Today’s revival of the Mach 1, not so much. Today’s Ford Mustang Mach 1 is not so much reviving the glory days, as reminiscing over them. The original Ford Mustang Mach 1 was targeted at crazy teenagers. Today’s Ford Mustang Mach 1 is targeted at affluent old men wishing that they were still crazy teenagers.

    • Red says:

      The price on new cars is huge. They go up in price every year despite declining wages. Kids are starting to move back into riding motorcycles or mopeds instead of cars or simply taking mass transit. We’re clearly moving in the wrong direction.

      • jim says:

        As I said, the 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 was a cool care for wild and crazy teenagers. Today’s Ford Mustang Mach 1 is a nostalgia car for affluent old men who wish they were still wild and crazy teenagers.

        • Art says:

          1969 Mach 1 was not intended for teenagers. It was an expensive car. But there were other less glorious cars cheap enough yet still cool and powerful.

  5. Mr. Garbagemouth says:

    Research and development funding is for the most part funneled into formulaic consumer tat. Nobody is going throw big money, or indeed any money at a project without a very definable and impending dollar value. Without risk taking, scientific progress is stymied. Oh look it’s a 32 core wearable touchscreen gewgaw that tweets to your 500 “friends” about the pancakes you’re eating – rejoice! We are saved…

    I’d have got more nihilistic with this post. Why not just say humans are an evolutionary dead-end? We hover up the finite resources of this planet, and lack capability to harvest or colonise any others. The writing is on the wall for us as a species. Everything we touch becomes like ash, we have become death.

    • jim says:

      I don’t think that is the problem. In the nineteenth century, technology was funded by entrepeneurs, and science by wealthy amateurs, such as Charles Darwin, and science progressed rapidly.

      After 1942, there was huge amounts of money for big science, and yet science withered on the vine. Big money in, very little science out.

      Looks to me that by 1950 or so, they realized science was dying, and proceeded to throw ever larger amounts of money at it, in an unsuccessful effort to revive it.

      • Thales says:

        There is also simply the issue of diminishing returns vis-a-vis low-hanging fruit versus shit that’s way up in the tree: the Cavendish experiment was no less important than the LHC, but a google cheaper.

        The same is true in engineering. Chemical fuel was obvious, Fission, not so much. Fusion may be impossible.

        These issues play into each other: once the Tesla’s run out of frontier, the Edisons take over. There’s a political analogy there, as well, which I trust shall not be missed by this audience.

        • jim says:

          The Cavendish experiment was vastly more important than the LHC

          The LHC was big science on autopilot. They were just curve fitting to a rather smooth and featureless curve, adding small epicycles to a model where all the large epicycles were fitted long ago.

          To actually obtain the information that one would hope to obtain from the LHC, one needs to compare and contrast proton proton collisions with electron electron, electron proton, muon electron, and muon proton collisions at similar energies, which the vast science bureaucracy, spending big science money on autopilot, was not doing. They were not looking for the data they needed. They were looking for the data the bureaucracy was set up to obtain.

          The LHC was no more scientific research, than the space shuttle was space exploration. For it to be scientific research, need to compare proton proton collisions with proton muon collision.

  6. Art says:

    One can argue how today’s Mustangs compare to 1969 but no one can deny that when you compare 1976, 1986, 1996 and 2006 Mustangs – each consecutive one was less humble than its predecessor.

    The real story is that cars got really crappy in the mid 70s, continued to decline for next 10 years but have been improving ever since. Although it is debatable whether or not by now they have reached their former glory. My guess is that if you adjust for the general level of technological progress – they have not.

  7. Ulick Mcgee says:

    We should also consider the actions of the US patent office. Apple can get a patent on having curved edges on an iPhone. Small companies get put through the ringer. The current patent system is a drag on innovation. It serves the interests of large/wealthy firms and helps them defend against small, innovative startups/upstarts.

  8. RS says:

    > Obviously the unlimited energy answer is nuclear+electric everything, but nuclear power is but one more no-go zone for the leftist mind.

    It’s conceivable, though the waste thing might be an issue. Not sure. As for Fukushima, it is a nasty thing, but perhaps not unbearable. Burning coal doesn’t just release CO2, it also does directly harm human health at more or less of a mass scale: we just don’t pay any attention to the phenomenon because its diffuse. Obviously cars kill and maim untold millions (though they may also save untold life as well as untold labor).

    What’s unmistakable is that Fukushima has had historic repercussions: even CHINA cancelled (I believe) ALL its nuclear plans. (For the nonce, anyway. They are very coal-intensive, and we shall see what they do if the stuff runs low.)

    Nevertheless, if all fossil materials eventually have declining EROI and/or climate change becomes intolerable, what are people going to do at the end of the day: tolerate a Fukushima once a generation, or eat each other? I mean, come on.

    Thing is, there may not be enough rare earths to produce battery vehicles at full scale.

    We don’t absolutely need cars and trucks ; we could have horses and bicycles and battery-bicycles — so light that there is no need to involve rare earths — and lots of trains. And large, nuclear ships. But what about tractors and irrigators? I don’t know: maybe they can be run on overhead wire like streetcars: for a considerable price.

    Everything for a price, in joules, dollars, same difference. How much is this entire new technological plant for all of society going to cost? (Almost all the cost of nuclear power is of course up-front.)

    Suppose the whole thing costs more than WWII. Well then, it’s crushing, but not infeasible. At least not for White people. NAMs? How bout White-NAM composite societies, perhaps rather dysgenic, definitely suffering social decadence and an inverted (White/Asian) pop pyramid? –And whose finances are utterly *d?

    America had a ‘crime-trough’ during the great depression — despite being 12% Black. Argentina (near-White) had a crime wave during its more recent depression.

    Joule doomers, almost all of whom are not even hereditarians, think society will break down — fast or slow, to a shallower or deeper ultimate extent — before any new plant can be put in.

    • RS says:

      Maybe pretty damn soon, in fact.

    • jim says:

      Batteries just don’t seem very practical, even if we had enough rare earths.

      We have unlimited extremely cheap syngas, or would if it were not for the greenies. Worst case, planes run on synfuel, cars run on methanol and dme. We will run out of oxygen before we run out of syngas.

    • Thales says:

      Batteries are only practical for driving around malls and retirement communities. Elsewhere, they’re in status-mobiles for the Brahmins. They won’t get much lighter — we’re already using the lightest metal out there.

    • Red says:

      “America had a ‘crime-trough’ during the great depression — despite being 12% Black. Argentina (near-White) had a crime wave during its more recent depression.”

      The government protected and let the criminals run wild to prevent a revolt from the middle class during Argentina’s depression. Any middle class group organized too openly to prevent crime was raided and shut down by the Argentina’s leftist government. Event white criminals are quite bad for a society. Some groups just produce more criminals than others.

  9. RS says:

    > That oil is more expensive relative to income might be because Greenies are right, though I doubt it. &&That electricity is more expensive relative to income is technological decline and social decay.

    It’s obvious they are >75% likely to be >75% right right about oil, and gas. Nothing complicated about it. Look up what EROI is. Now look up the time curves for discovery of new reserves.

    (The 75%/75% thing means I can’t prove that fracking’s EROI won’t double thanks to some genius, or whatever — for that matter, maybe photovoltaic’s EROI will quadruple, or there will be cold fusion — I’m going to bet ‘no’, but all I have to go on is very crude inductive information.)

    For almost every country, or region, the production curve follows the discovery curve by 40 years or something. And all these curves are very crudely gaussoid. Up, peak, down. The only exception I know is Russia’s production curve — and that is not surprising in a territory which is so vast, and rather thinly populated by a mildly disorganized race.

    Now ask yourself, is there really going to be /that/ much more exploration and discovery of high-EROI oil, now that oil is more expensive, as cornucopians would have it? By and large, probably not. Finding high-EROI oil and securing the land that had it was always a hell of a paying proposition. Today it pays more, but it already payed a lot.

    Now, what applies to oil, why do you think it cannot apply to coal? There is a lot of coal, fairly, at least prima facie ; like oil it varies in EROI, and in the amount of nasty shite in it — sulfur and such — which cuts the EROI. Coal seams vary greatly in size, in sulfur content, gravel content, joule content per de-gravelled kg — and of course in how far down they are, which is a big determinant of their EROI (hence ‘mountaintop removal’ rather than expensive deep shafts).

    /Net/ coal energy per person in the USA may already have peaked, or the peak be nearby.

    Cost of the finished, delivered joule (including huge, sketchy loans in some cases) is everything, net energy is everything. Volume or mass of raw stuff is nothin’. Just like ores . . . you got your 1% copper ore, your 3% copper ore — or whatever it really is — obviously a world of difference.

    • jim says:

      EROI is only a factor if you are retorting shale oil and tar sands, or making synfuel from coal, and even for those, it is reasonably favorable.

      And EROI analysis is irrelevant, for energy in can always come from nuclear power.

      Time to discover new reserves is misleading, since you need to factor in time for newly discovered reserves to be stolen through political action, which profoundly discourages people from looking for new reserves.

      Observe that they are only fracking in lands where the political environment is favorable, indicating that for fracking, EROI is not a factor, and time curves for discovery of new reserves is not a factor.

      The peak oil people argue that declining search for new oil reserves, indicates fewer new oil reserves to be found. Maybe. And maybe it merely indicates that searching for new oil reserves and finding them has been criminalized.

      It is far from clear whether the gaussian curve for the US represented finding all the oil that could be found, or flight from a political climate ever less favorable to finding oil. The fat tail of the gaussian suggests the latter. One of the reasons for the rage at Bush was that he allowed people to find more conventional oil, spoiling the exponential decay part of the gaussian.

      And, if the gaussian for the US did represent finding all the oil that was to be found, it is pretty obvious that with fracking, we are starting on a new gaussian, which is still in its exponential phase.

      Now, what applies to oil, why do you think it cannot apply to coal?

      Because there is enough known discovered coal for us to stay on the exponential part of the curve for three hundred years, and human civilization will leave earth or hit a dark age well before then.

    • jim says:

      Net/ coal energy per person in the USA may already have peaked, or the peak be nearby.

      Not for three hundred years it will not.

  10. RS says:

    > China is building millions of windpower crap.

    That stuff, assuming you want it to actually yield measurable (gross) energy, uses so much rare earth that its hilarious. Hi? Yeah, wanna get 700,000 kg of pure, finished neodynium could you just text me and leave it out back, k thx.

    Until we get hit, manna-like, by a huge meteorite of pure rare earths (which would probably be really bad actually), it’s looking like Corn Ethanol Part II.

  11. […] The last man on the moon is getting pretty elderly. We have abandoned supersonic transport, and supe… […]

  12. peppermint says:

    OF COURSE the Left is right about there being a limited amount of oil on Earth. And yes, we are running out of it.

    And yes, we do need to consider alternatives fuels for transportation. Specifically, synthetic fuels. Biodiesel. Methanol. Ammonia. Simple. Obvious. Been done before.

    The Left hates nuclear because of residual hate from back when the Bomb held the commies in check. The stories they tell themselves about Fukushima are similar to the stories they tell themselves about Trayvon Martin; and just like that, they repudiated the “nuclear thaw” that they were considering five years ago, just like they repudiated the idea of neighborhood watch and serious police patrols that they weren’t sure about.

    You know what it sounds like to hear conservatives automatically gainsaying anything the progressives say? Exactly the same as it sounds to hear conservatives reflexively agreeing with anything the progressives say outside of their personal hobby-horse poison pill that will Save the West if it could by snuck into the progressive agenda.

    Incidentally, when you talk to proggies about what would be needed for them to accept nuclear energy, they suggest monarchy themselves. Then they say that that’s why nuclear is permanently unacceptable. You can even get them to say that civilization is permanently unacceptable because monarchy is unacceptable.

    • jim says:

      OF COURSE the Left is right about there being a limited amount of oil on Earth. And yes, we are running out of it.

      It is not obvious that we are running out.

      real cost of oil

      Those peaks look like political shocks, not resource exhaustion.

      As for there being a limited amount of oil, there is also a limited amount of flint, but the stone age did not end for lack of stone.

      If progress continues, we will dismantle Jupiter for raw materials. If we hit a dark age, we will not be able to pump oil, nor use it effectively if we could pump it.

  13. Glenfilthie says:

    AI will never happen no matter how sophisticated and fast they get. Boolean math and programs are just that and speed won’t change anything.

    We don’t understand our own minds or consciousness and until we do there is no way we will be able to instill one in a machine. That’s my scholarly opinion, handed down from the lofty heights of the Intellectual Peanut Gallery. An opinion that is liable to be worth less than you paid for it!

    😉

    • jim says:

      Agreed. We can make intelligent machines – they beat us at everything that we regard as indications of intelligence, such as chess, but we cannot make conscious machines, in part because we do not know what consciousness is, perhaps for the same reason a fish does not know what water is.

      • Mr. Garbagemouth says:

        There is always some university professor with a cutesy faced robot telling people what great strides his department is making in the field of AI. People have been lapping up the AI snake oil since the 70’s.

        On a brighter note, a believe we will see progression in fake AI. Chat bots are continually getting better and IBM’s Watson was impressive. Most humans are going to be happy with a machine that can fake it really really well. All they want is some tin-can they can guiltlessly dominate. CP3O… fetch me a beer.

    • Thales says:

      Intelligent consciousness isn’t all that mysterious. The problem is that there’s no obvious way to replicate it without duplicating human brain structures, a task we’re nowhere near undertaking.

      Also, what’s the point? As Garbagemouth notes, there’s potentially limitless utility in having an army of servant AI droids. But willfull, conscious machines will just lead to robotic revolutions and Butlerian Jihads. Haven’t we had enough of those?

    • Alrenous says:

      I’m researching what consciousness is. I’ve found it is exactly what it appears to be – it is subjectivity. I should, but may not, have a satisfying answer to ‘what is subjectivity?’

      Designing a consciousness machine isn’t particularly hard once you know what consciousness is about.

      I suspect free will is a key property, which means designing an unpredictability machine. So, I would wire up a true-randomness source to itself such that its future probability works out to Not a Number. All the components of such a machine exist in neurons and would be easy for evolution to assemble.

      • Thales says:

        Not just subjectivity, but the analog self linguistically denoted by the word/concept of “I”. More completely, the narrative one constructs of one’s analog self.

        But it will resemble no human consciousness without a holistic right-brain (master). CS is getting good at imitating left brain (slave) function, but one only need look at the state of robotic poetry to see how far off they are from real autonomy. And again, why would you unless you were building something to displace humans?

  14. RS says:

    > The peak oil people argue that declining search for new oil reserves, indicates fewer new oil reserves to be found. Maybe. And maybe it merely indicates that searching for new oil reserves and finding them has been criminalized.

    Not that it is inconceivable, but unless political gangsters made high-EROI oil more illegal first of all, and so on down the line, why the continual shift over decades to drilling deep, and offshore, — and now fracking, where apparently many within the industry are discussing whether it is really profitable once the loans for up-front costs unwind. People who hit superficial light sweet crude under pressure didn’t have debates like that in 1949.

    If gangsters made a take from modest-profit oil production in the 00s, why not decriminalize pumping from the more-profitable high-EROI fields produced from in the 70s? It might happen that way for some screwed-up reason — life is not quite so straightforward, quite so orderly, as that. But it is less likely.

    > And, if the gaussian for the US did represent finding all the oil that was to be found, it is pretty obvious that with fracking, we are starting on a new gaussian, which is still in its exponential phase.

    My above comments on fracking apply. Will it be profitable, how much of it will be profitable (what will the price be, are the most profitable sites being used first)? The known US tight oil will not be a vast uptake of net energy or profit – it’s a considerable uptake of net energy. The shale gas in the US is vast — but how much will be how $-profitable and how joule-profitable? A lot of info could be secret/doctored. Dude says x. Cui bono? And quale? Some might benefit psychologically from doomerism or cornucopism. Does man love money, sex, or the truth?

    > Observe that they are only fracking in lands where the political environment is favorable, indicating that for fracking, EROI is not a factor, and time curves for discovery of new reserves is not a factor.

    I heard they are fracking the New York hinterland. I’m not from NY/Conn/Boston but I would think the coastal power-SWPL consider that their recreational territory. There is power in New York City.

    I don’t know what the discovery time curve stuff is for the stuff now being fracked. My vague sense is that people already knew something about its extent, and they knew the geological pores were too ‘tight’ (small – and or poorly connected?) for them to get the oil or gas with what they had.

    EROI can almost never not be a factor — a critical factor — when ‘deep-audit’, i.e. highly-inclusive EROIs are something like 3 or 6 or 12. EROI is very likely to be a big factor in fracking. Probably a huge factor.

    For it to decline from 80 to 40 is a big deal. It’s just not a critical deal. You are not in the kind of business you were in before, but you are in a very nice business, especially because prices have gone up a bit. And as for what matters more — the whole rest of the economy — it has a lot of the best, most substitutable, and most important commodity.

    > And EROI analysis is irrelevant, for energy in can always come from nuclear power.

    Nuclear has an acceptable EROI, if worse than coal. It might send you a higher electric bill and result in a higher durable manufactures bill, but it won’t mean life is like way worse.

    So I agree for basically everything but land and air vehicles. But like I said, can the nukes be built by a decadent state with wog quotas, and an ethos, probably something of an outlier historically, of conformism/ high-suggestibility/ low frankness (with informal quotas on that)? When? Now? In the nick of time? Too late, but sort of good enough, in a way? The costs are up front, reactor uranium costs little. I doubt matters are too different with thorium or with radical reactor designs.

    • RS says:

      > If gangsters made a take from modest-profit oil production in the 00s, why not decriminalize pumping from the more-profitable high-EROI fields produced from in the 70s?

      I meant to say, why not decriminalize discovering and pumping from the /type of/ nice fields used in the 70s.

      Not necessarily from the same exact fields, which at least according to their own reports are in production decline — but from such fields.

      • jim says:

        The recent blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was from a nice high EROI field in water that was not all that deep. Fracking, and drilling in water, and drilling in Africa, indicates we have all the easily obtainable oil that was on land in politically tolerable places. But that is a long way from concluding that we are running out of oil.

    • jim says:

      EROI can almost never not be a factor — a critical factor — when ‘deep-audit’, i.e. highly-inclusive EROIs are something like 3 or 6 or 12. EROI is very likely to be a big factor in fracking. Probably a huge factor.

      EROI data deserves no more credibility than do miracles performed by saints, both reports coming from the same kind of sources.

  15. RS says:

    > Not for three hundred years [coal] will not.

    That is debatable. Let me go grab some stuff.

    I assume, then, that you were thinking coal for syngas?

    Apparently it can also be made from waste, but I don’t know anything about that whole topic (waste — heating and burning it — doesn’t sound real clean to me but I’ll suspend judgement).

  16. RS says:

    “Overall, domestic U.S. coal now has 20 percent less energy per kilogram than it did in 1949, and the quality is still declining.”

    OK, that’s just 0.2 over a very long period — bad, but no huge deal.
    But that is just one factor.
    This seems to be a stridently natural-gassy sort of greenish page . . . you can see from the second chart there that coal price went up and it seems related to lower labor productivity and reduction in mountaintop removals (which are quite productive). I don’t know if mountaintop removal got more mined out or more governed out or both. I’m not so sure I am in favor of it anyway.

    Consider this hard-numbers claim:
    “And the US Energy Information Administration claims – we might say reports – that on an energy-content basis United States coal production peaked in 1998 (at least to date). “See

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/overview.html, Table 1.2

    [back to RS] I went there and he is not really lying (it was a little hard to locate table 1.2 at first but not really). The actual moment of ‘peaking’ is not relevant, as US coal btu production is basically stagnant for 15 years with +/-2.5% fluctuation. I assume this is absolute, so /head production is accordingly going down by like 1% /year — over quite a long period, more than a decade. That’s quite significant.

    I know a bit about oil, not much about coal, so again I won’t point to regulation causing this, or not. For all I know for certain, the numbers are a lie, or it’s solely because people started spending more on insulation — or because gas is so much better, the contention that a thousand propaganda pages urge on us. But it is interesting to see some hard numbers that are worth tracking for the future.

    I’ll say this, last time I heard someone say we ‘might already have peaked’ – namely in global oil production, some years ago – it turned out to be true, so far, for the intervening four or so years. Conventional oil has declined: but more to the point, using the broader definition of what is functionally pretty useable as oil, namely liquid fuels, production has been nearly flat. (If you can pretty much use it as oil, it should count as oil however it was made — except corn ethanol and anything else with such a total ‘facepalm’ EROI.)

    And I’m almost sure that’s an absolute decline in liquids, not per capita. With Chinese demand rising, and production not really responding too much to a much higher price — other than scrambling after enough ‘weird’ and difficult (offshore) and lower-profitablity sources to keep supply flat — it looks to me like the price is going to keep going up. Barclay’s says like 182 bucks in 2020.

    Of course part of the price rise may be a sort of special inflation, to the extent that we are mega printing a certain paper note that is backed by our de facto semi-ownership of, inter alia, OPEC, based ultimately on military domination-protection . . . at least according to some people . . . but all that is a little above my pay grade.

    I don’t think that can be the sole cause of the price rise, though, when you look at flat supply and a Chinese economic miracle of 1.4 BILLION freaking people going on.

    • RS says:

      > I don’t know what the discovery time curve stuff is for the stuff now being fracked. My vague sense is that people already knew something about its extent, and they knew the geological pores were too ‘tight’

      There is a truly huge gas formation in Russia, far bigger than any other gas deposit in the world, but by the will of god neither the sinful nor the righteous have drawn out the noble fuel. It’s just a geologically shit formation, about as useful so far as the terrible heat believed to be found many thousands of miles from here in the deep core of the earth. It does actually contain real gas, same as it ever was, but it might as well not contain it. But people have known it was there for a long time.

    • RS says:

      > And I’m almost sure that’s an absolute decline in liquids, not per capita.

      Sorry, not decline — stagnation, flatlined absolute production.

    • jim says:

      With Chinese demand rising, and production not really responding too much to a much higher price — other than scrambling after enough ‘weird’ and difficult (offshore) and lower-profitablity sources to keep supply flat

      Chinese (and Indian) demand rising, price falling. Supply cannot be flat.

    • jim says:

      “Overall, domestic U.S. coal now has 20 percent less energy per kilogram than it did in 1949, and the quality is still declining.”

      Untrue. Quality is not declining.

      That coal is classified by its degree of graphitization, not its purity, indicates that pure coal remains widely available. Contrary to environmentalist claims, we don’t bother mining impure coal. People worry about high sulfur, low sulfur. People worry about the degree of graphitization. No one worries about high ash or low ash coal, because we don’t bother mining high ash coal.

      High ash coal undergoes “coal washing” or “benefication”. The procedure is that you crush the coal and mingle it with water. The dirt settles far faster than the coal. Out comes wet crushed low ash coal. Not much coal undergoes “coal washing”. Accurate information on the energy content of coal would reflect information on the extent of coal washing.

      If coal’s energy content had declined twenty percent, people would be categorizing coal in ways that reflected its energy content.

      That coal seam fires are burning all over the world, and have been burning for thousands of years, indicates that readily accessible, pure coal, remains plentiful. If air can get at it, miners can easily get at it.

      Environmentalists observe changes in the type of coal mined, and interpret this as mining lower purity coal. That is simply not what is happening.

      Proven coal reserves are good for over a century.

      Conventionally mined coal is, therefore, good for many centuries, quite likely millenia. It is so abundant that no one bothers finding out how abundant it is.

      And when conventional mining fails, several centuries, or several thousand years from now, we can do in situ syngas generation.

      • jim says:

        Looking up high ash coals, twenty percent ash will kill a power station designed for regular coal, and cannot be burned in a normal furnace. Thirty five percent ash, sixty five percent coal, is the waste product that gets washed out of coal when you wash high ash coals.

        So if coal these days had twenty percent more ash, it would be a major crisis. They would have to wash it, and after they washed it, there would not be much left.

  17. RS says:

    > We can make intelligent machines – they beat us at everything that we regard as indications of intelligence, such as chess, but we cannot make conscious machines,

    I think you have really understated the case . . . imagine suggesting chess or anything like it is a proxy of intelligence, when some electric abacus can prevail by brute force. How does it differ in principle from their whipping you in a ‘word find’ game, or calculating 1242345^48347? A chess set is a useful object for attracting White people while repelling others. But it’s really nothing compared to the works of Dickinson, Hafiz, or the 2-d calculus. Show me a computer that can do those things or paint a Kokoschka or Moreau. When has anyone ever gotten an interesting interpretation, theory, or esthetic expression from a computer. One exception might be high quality renderings of fractals that would be hard to make without a computer.

  18. RS says:

    > Those peaks look like political shocks, not resource exhaustion.

    Your chart quit in 2009. In 2009-2013 oil leapt to new all-time highs where it essentially still is.

    The brief oil crash around ’09 was merely because of the Great Recession and I think that was the time when titanic firms were still going down or getting unbelievable amounts of govt support/involvement. Anyway it was probably partly some sort of psychological or economic reaction against the big spike – but the reaction didn’t last.

    Oil has been absolutely blasting since like ’99 or something with that single interruption. So have a number of raw commodities for several years, but oil is #1.

    The 70s shocks are pretty well understood. I believe it started with the Yom Kippur war in ’73 and Opec declaring an embargo. I guess they didn’t think of this or whatever in ’67. Then there was the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. I’m not sure those things sufficiently explain why it spiked so hard for so long, but those are the main two facts.

    As for why the US economy wasn’t ravaged (more), I have seen no joule doomer explain it, but I think it’s because we were still only a light net importer. After all we were once the big oil land, and I think we are a pretty large (gross) producer to this day. And we got good discipline from Volcker — and/or he got lucky.

    I remember sitting in my driveway in about ’06 listening to this econ jock do 20 minutes or 40 minutes with Terri Gross on how the business cycle would never happen again, because of, I don’t know, advances in monetary theory mainly, IIRC, or something like that. Yup, listened to NPR all the time back then so I could learn all about the world and politics and everything. You gotta be educated, man.

    • jim says:

      Price of oil US$145 in July 2008
      Price of oil US $96 a couple of days ago.

      I don’t think that is resource exhaustion. Rather it reflects the easing of the US government’s anti oil policy. Obama says “all of the above”, meaning that oil will be semi tolerated as the Cinderella stepsister of solar, and oil prices fall, despite the steady and enormous expansion of Indian and Chinese oil consumption.

      Resource exhaustion was a plausible and convincing story until 2008. From 2008 to the present the political character of the oil price has been apparent.

      In 2008 it seemed obvious that the peak oilers were finally, like a stopped clock, correct.

      Today, however, the world consumes a lot more oil at a lot lower price.

  19. […] have major technological changes stopped since the […]

  20. RS says:

    > Chinese (and Indian) demand rising, price falling. Supply cannot be flat.

    It has fallen to a steady all-time high of ~$110.

  21. RS says:

    OK yeah it did peak higher in 08. I had blurred that out of my mind because it was such a spike and then corrected hard.

    You say it is now $96 everyone else says 110. And there it has sat for two years and a couple months, with no real trend. What’s the ten year trend? A giant swoop upward, with a little stagnation at the end.

    > Resource exhaustion was a plausible and convincing story until 2008. From 2008 to the present the political character of the oil price has been apparent.

    > In 2008 it seemed obvious that the peak oilers were finally, like a stopped clock, correct.

    > Today, however, the world consumes a lot more oil at a lot lower price.

    There was a huge spike in 2008, but the average price over that year was only a few percent worse than the prices we’ve now seen for 2.2 years running . . . following the 2008 spike, the huge correction, and the big climb back up to the current 2.2year high plateau.

    Assuming, that is, that this is in constant dollars ; otherwise we would want to make some correction:

    http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-prices/crude-oil/5-year/

    The world is certainly consuming more total liquids than in 2008, but not by much.

    Squinting at graph, maybe 84.8 B barrel/day in 2008, 87.8 B in 2012, for an average linear gain of 0.75 per year:

    http://www.api.org/~/media/Oil-and-Natural-Gas-images/Gasoline/Whatsup-hi-res/World-Liquid-Fuel-Consumption.ashx

    You can see it grew really fast from 1990 to about 2005, about 42 B barrels to 85 B, a linear average change of 2.86666 per year:

    http://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/eia-world-liquid-fuel-production-figure_28-lg.jpg?w=640

    At any rate, since a decade now the gain is taking place in China and in exporting lands. OECD gross consumption peaked in 2005/6:

    http://bittooth.blogspot.com/2013/06/ogpss-june-twip-and-opec-momr.html

    I didn’t read most of that post, just grabbed the data since they’re attributed.

    OECD is
    W & C Europe, Greece, Estonia

    America, Canada, Mexico

    Auzie, Zealand

    Israel, Turkey

    Japan, SK

    Chile and some little joint in South America.

    This mounting price and limp supply stuff started, respectively, several years before and a few years before the ‘official’ start of the whole recession (which I mark by the subprime implosion becoming a repetitious MSM topic that every frequent MSM consumer knew of). Looks pretty bad to me, views vary about how much this affects the economy but it’s effectively a tax on a lot of things, and I don’t personally think it’s going to go down in price. China uses many times less than us /head and so can get more value on the margin than we can, and can afford to bid high. Obviously we know their growth is based on IQ and Conscientiousness fundamentals plus their ability to control some natural resources, that it will slow if it strains for resources but will not stop, that it is truly pious to consider their government ‘worse’ than ours, and a tender rapture to behold how their development will inevitably be limited by their efficient, authoritarian structures.

    • jim says:

      You say it is now $96 everyone else says 110. And there it has sat for two years and a couple months, with no real trend. What’s the ten year trend? A giant swoop upward, with a little stagnation at the end.

      Here are some up to the minute graphs:

      Oil is well below 2008 peaks, slightly below year peaks, slightly below five year peaks.

      High, and steady, prices are bad. But resource exhaustion should result in high and steadily rising prices. This is not happening.

      If you look at 2000 to early 2008, looks like resource exhaustion. If you look 2007 to present, looks like politics attempting unsuccessfully to emulate resource exhaustion.

  22. Red says:

    Here’s a thought on cars: Computers should have made making cars much cheaper along with bigger and faster. They’ve gotten faster since the 1980s and the electronics are very good but the price tag just keeps going up. So while my mustang is better than a mustang from 1984, it should be better and cheaper in adjusted dollars.

  23. RS says:

    > High, and steady, prices are bad. But resource exhaustion should result in high and steadily rising prices. This is not happening.

    This is a vast real-life system, not a materials sciences experimental setup. Do you really expect things to proceed in a highly ‘mathy’ way?

    Maybe total world economic production has just stopped growing? That fits the oil price data, and is hardly out of line with your and my views: you and I don’t really believe US and EU have been out of recession much since 2008. China’s growing, so maybe it all evens out.

    > If you look at 2000 to early 2008, looks like resource exhaustion. If you look 2007 to present, looks like politics attempting unsuccessfully to emulate resource exhaustion.

    How am I supposed to prove its not politics? Doesn’t seem very likely.

    Anyway what do you think will happen? Liquid fuels will start growing again at something more than 0.75 billion barrel /year — something more like the 2.87 seen in 1990-2005? I bet they won’t. We’ve had high prices for seven years now, we see more difficult work being undertaken in response to that signal over that time, yet they are basically treading water because of fundamental limits. After seven years, its safe to say, with moderate confidence, this is a (‘soft’) peak. By soft I mean it could just sit there for 15 years with very little shape — like US coal BTU production, which looks like it has probably gone over a very gentle peak, but is in the larger picture really just plateau’d for now.

    • jim says:

      I predict that as the Chinese empire grows and the blue and red empires shrink, oil production will rise accordingly – that China will pursue empire in order to obtain carbon that Gaia worshipers are denying the world.

      • Thrasymachus says:

        I don’t have faith in the future of the Chinese empire. Everybody has as much cheap junk as they need. I’m desperate to not buy stuff made in China, if I only could. The Chinese have nothing to offer the world except cheap labor, and plenty of other places have that without the megalomania and the dishonesty.

        • jim says:

          Every white guy who has a cool idea for cool physical technology winds up going to China to make it real. It is not just cheap junk that we do not make any more. It is leading edge stuff that we never made before, and can no longer make.

  24. RS says:

    > So if coal these days had twenty percent more ash, it would a major crisis. They would have to wash it, and after they washed it, there would not be much left.

    Who said the BTU/kg difference was only or mainly in ash?

    How bout (combustion joules)/mol for the various chemical species? –I’m so amateur, but double bonds and especially aromatic cycles should alter that value some, no?

    How bout water for that matter? If you can get the steam into the turbine, at least you didn’t lose much energy on water. But it is still dead weight. If you can’t, it is worse than dead weight.

  25. RS says:

    sup with graphite? Does it fail to combust at the relevant temp?

    • jim says:

      Graphite, and graphitized coals such as anthracite, do not burn easily. This is sometimes an advantage. They will burn under the right circumstances.

  26. RS says:

    > How bout (combustion joules)/mol

    I mean of course /kg not /mol. Since kg is what we were talking about.

    • jim says:

      Where is this data about the energy yield of coal coming from? Greenies have been manufacturing facts about resource exhaustion for nearly a century. How do they supposedly know this stuff?

  27. RS says:

    > By soft I mean it could just sit there for 15 years with very little shape — like US coal BTU production, which looks like it has probably gone over a very gentle peak, but is in the larger picture really just plateau’d for now.

    If our Total coal btu production – Gross – is flat for fifteen goddamn years — and the price of electricity is finally moving up, as well . . .

    What do you think our net coal btu production per head is?

    And yet you think the suggestion that net btu production /head has already declined is some outlandish idea, and that, correspondingly, coal — or rather, coal net energy at a decent price, since that is always what matters, net joules, at the time and place needed, at a decent price — is highly plentiful?

  28. RS says:

    > This is a vast real-life system, not a materials sciences experimental setup. Do you really expect things to proceed in a highly ‘mathy’ way?

    Your whole way of thinking is too clean for complex systems.

    My technical background is mostly bio, a little math. You sir could whip me up and down the block on the subject of atomic behavior or whatever. However:

    Write down ten unrelated medical drugs off the top of your head. Go on google scholar and see what the variance is for the max serum concentration is, when those drugs are orally administered in man. Without wishing to encourage you to be lighthearted in any way about either medical or nonmedical drugs — I’ve had my share of problems with lasting sequalae — you will notice some pretty damn high variances.

    And that in spite of the fact that all men are equal! Think of that!

  29. RS says:

    > This is a vast real-life system, not a materials sciences experimental setup. Do you really expect things to proceed in a highly ‘mathy’ way?

    Look, if the Sultan of x becomes 2.3x more fearful of the Maximum Leader of y, year over year, that can affect the price. Materially.

    The way these prices are made is beyond the mind of man to totally understand. A maximum security clearance would help. Don’t really know you that well on a personal level, but I’m guessing you don’t have one. Just out of the goodness of my heart, I’ll reveal that I for my part have nothing of the sort.

  30. RS says:

    > Here are some up to the minute graphs:

    OK yeah, it varies a little for WTI crude vs Brent crude.

    Especially this month. Get the 5y data and notice how much less divergent they are.

    • RS says:

      In the long run they won’t usually be as divergent as they are now. That after all is what arbitrage means and is.

      • RS says:

        But as far as I know, we can, crudely, split the difference between the two to get the true world price. In the long run they are pretty much the same.

        So I acknowledge that the true world price over the last 1.33 years is some 6.5% lower than what I claimed, or something like that.

        Doesn’t affect my major assertions very much IMO.

        • jim says:

          I rather think it does. Looking at the world from 2007 to the present, oil deviated in a big way from what one would expect for resource exhaustion. Looking at the world over the last couple of years, it deviated in a small way from what one would expect from resource exhaustion.

          We have two hypotheses:

          1. Resource exhaustion

          2. Ever holier worship of Gaia.

          On the whole, the data better fits the ever holier worship of Gaia.

          • Hidden Author says:

            Or it could be as follows:

            The volume used in 2008 was too big for the resources available while the volume now is not. Indeed the price shock from excessive usage via supply and demand may well have created a recession; then the less wealthy people of 5 years bought a lesser volume at a lesser price, impoverishment having adjusted the demand curve accordingly to a position more in tune with available resources. Thus the whole paradox could be explained more by the demand curve than the supply curve.

            • jim says:

              Possibly.

              But I find it hard to fit this picture with the rapid growth of China.

              We don’t actually know how much oil liquids were produced and consumed. Such figures are politically motivated guesswork. Those who buy, and those who sell, have no reason to say what they are doing, for such information would allow others to front run their transactions. We do know the price, and we do know that there has been a huge increase in the number of people driving cars.

  31. RS says:

    > Go on google scholar and see what the variance is for the max serum concentration is, when those drugs are orally administered in man

    Damn, I forgot part of the fun.

    Some of those drugs are tightly bound to serum proteins — albumin, other proteins — and so are more or less sequestered away from more meaningful biological interactions.

    So you really need the free serum concentration . . . not that that is the final detail that really matters for every drug . . . but it is a decent index for the true critical values, >80% of the time . . .

    Net result: still more variance.

  32. RS says:

    My point is zoom out. Zoom to five, ten, thirty years. Parties and politics then cancel out.

    Do you think they have twenty, thirty year plans that they give a shit about? They are too decadent for that.

    • jim says:

      Ever leftwards movement. We have had thirty years of steadily escalating hostility to oil.

      As for coal, we have a hundred years of proven reserves for coal.

      People want proven reserves the way they want nine inch nails hammered through their heads. Proven reserves attract politics. The larger your proven reserve, the greater the effort to put you out of business.

      Observe that oil producers have pumped many, many, times their proven reserves of oil, without greatly diminishing their proven reserves. If proven reserves of coal stretch out centuries, the real reserves must be many times that.

  33. RS says:

    > I don’t have faith in the future of the Chinese empire.

    The problem is they use as much as 3-4x less barrels than we do. (That’s the claim anyway.) So even if they are 43% less amazing then everyone assumes, which might be true, they may even then be able to outbid others on oil for years to come.

  34. RS says:

    > Observe that oil producers have pumped many, many, times their proven reserves of oil, without greatly diminishing their proven reserves.

    Maybe I will see whether I can observe that.

    > But I find it hard to fit this picture with the rapid growth of China.

    Granted

    > We don’t actually know how much oil liquids were produced and consumed. Such figures are politically motivated guesswork. Those who buy, and those who sell, have no reason to say what they are doing

    Might be pretty true

    > We do know the price, and we do know that there has been a huge increase in the number of people driving cars.

    But there’s a serious decline in mileage in the US since I don’t know when. And probably the rest of OECD.

  35. RS says:

    All in all we might wind up with a mix of fission, syngas, and poverty.

    Or, just abundant coal or abundant shalegas, but I doubt it.

  36. RS says:

    > granted

    One thing you have to keep in mind is China built from scratch, knowing USA.mil was and would be running security in the greater Mideast/Africa/oceans/wherever. (In order to benefit mankind.)

    And they had coal at home. So they built from scratch toward coal use whenever possible, I would speculate.

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