Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Down the Ratholes of the Future

The new year now upon us has brought out the usual quota of predictions about what 2016 has in store, and I propose as usual to make my own contribution to that theme.  I’ve noted more than once in the past that people who make predictions about the future really ought to glance back at those predictions from time to time and check how well they’re doing. With that in mind, before we go on to 2016, I’d like to take a moment to look back over the predictions I made last year.  My post on the subject covered a lot of territory in the course of offering those predictions, and I’ve trimmed down the discussion a bit here for the sake of readability; those who want to read the whole thing as originally published will find it here. In summarized form, though, this is what I predicted:

“The first and most obvious [thing to expect] is the headlong collapse of the fracking bubble [...] Wall Street has been using the fracking industry in all the same ways it used the real estate industry in the runup to the 2008 crash, churning out what we still laughably call “securities” on the back of a rapidly inflating speculative bubble. As the slumping price of oil kicks the props out from under the fracking boom, the vast majority of that paper—the junk bonds issued by fracking-industry firms, the securitized loans those same firms used to make up for the fact that they lost money every single quarter, the chopped and packaged shale leases, the volumetric production agreements, and all the rest of it—will revert to its actual value, which in most cases approximates pretty closely to zero.

“Thus one of the entertainments 2015 has in store for us is a thumping economic crisis here in the US, and in every other country that depends on our economy for its bread and butter. The scale of the crash depends on how many people bet how much of their financial future on the fantasy of an endless frack-propelled boom, but my guess is it’ll be somewhere around the scale of the 2008 real estate bust.

“Something else that’s baked into the baby new year’s birthday cake at this point is a rising spiral of political unrest here in the United States. [...] Will an American insurgency funded by one or more hostile foreign powers get under way in 2015? I don’t think so, though I’m prepared to be wrong. More likely, I think, is another year of rising tensions, political gridlock, scattered gunfire, and rhetoric heated to the point of incandescence, while the various players in the game get into position for actual conflict:  the sort of thing the United States last saw in the second half of the 1850s, as sectional tensions built toward the bloody opening rounds of the Civil War.  [...]

“Meanwhile, back behind these foreground events, the broader trends this blog has been tracking since its outset are moving relentlessly on their own trajectories. The world’s finite supplies of petroleum, along with most other resources on which industrial civilization depends for survival, are depleting further with each day that passes; the ecological consequences of treating the atmosphere as an aerial sewer for the output of our tailpipes and smokestacks, along with all the other frankly brainless ways our civilization maltreats the biosphere that sustains us all, builds apace; caught between these two jaws of a tightening vise, industrial civilization has entered the rising spiral of crisis about which so many environmental scientists tried to warn the world back in the 1970s, and only a very small minority of people out on the fringes of our collective discourse has shown the least willingness to recognize the mess we’re in and start changing their own lives in response: the foundation, it bears repeating, of any constructive response to the crisis of our era.”

What I missed, and should have anticipated, is the extent to which the failure of the fracking fantasy has been hushed up by the mainstream US media. I should have anticipated that, too, because the same thing happened with the last energy boom that was going to save us all, the corn ethanol bubble that inflated so dramatically a decade ago and crumpled not long thereafter. Plenty of firms in the fracking industry have gone bankrupt, the junk bonds that propped up the industry are selling for pennies on the dollar to anyone willing to gamble on them, and all those grand claims that fracking was going to bring a new era of US energy independence have been quietly roundfiled next to the identical claims made for ethanol not that many years before; still, this hasn’t yielded the sudden shock I expected.

The ripple effect on the US economy has been slower than I anticipated, too.  Thus, instead of the thumping economic crisis I predicted, we’ve seen a slow grinding contraction, papered over by the usual frantic maneuvers on the part of the Fed. In effect, instead of popping, the fracking bubble sprang a slow leak, which has played out in a muffled drumbeat of worsening economic news rather than a sudden plunge. So I missed on that one. The rest of the year’s predictions? Once again, I called it.

Now of course, as my critics like to point out, it’s easy to look at everything that’s getting worse each year, and predict that all those things are just going to keep getting worse in the year to come. What those same critics tend to forget is that this strategy may be easy but, unlike the alternatives, it works. Every January, with a predictability that puts clockwork to shame, people trot out the same shopworn predictions of game-changing breakthroughs and game-over catastrophes; one blogger announces that this will be the year that renewable energy reaches critical mass, while another insists with equal enthusiasm that this will be the year when the wheels come off the global economy once and for all; another year passes, the breakthroughs and the catastrophes pull a no-show yet again, and here we are, 365 days further down the long ragged trajectory that leads to the end of the industrial age.

Thus my core prediction for 2016 is that all the things that got worse in 2015 will keep on getting worse over the year to come. The ongoing depletion of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources will keep squeezing the global economy, as the real (i.e., nonfinancial) costs of resource extraction eat up more and more of the world’s total economic output, and this will drive drastic swings in the price of energy and commodities—currently those are still headed down, but they’ll soar again in a few years as demand destruction completes its work. The empty words in Paris a few weeks ago will do nothing to slow the rate at which greenhouse gases are dumped into the atmosphere, raising the economic and human cost of climate-related disasters above 2015’s ghastly totals—and once again, the hard fact that leaving carbon in the ground means giving up the lifestyles that depend on digging it up and burning it is not something that more than a few people will be willing to face.

Meanwhile, the US economy will continue to sputter and stumble as politicians and financiers try to make up for ongoing declines in real (i.e., nonfinancial) wealth by manufacturing paper wealth at an even more preposterous pace than before, and frantic jerryrigging will keep the stock market from reflecting the actual, increasingly dismal state of the economy.  We’re already in a steep economic downturn, and it’s going to get worse over the year to come, but you won’t find out about that from the mainstream media, which will be full of the usual fact-free cheerleading; you’ll have to watch the rates at which the people you know are being laid off and businesses are shutting their doors instead. 

All that’s a slam-dunk at this point. Still, for those readers who want to see me taking on a little more predictive risk, I have something to offer. There’s a wild card in play in the US economy just now, and it’s the tech sector—no, let’s call things by less evasive names, shall we?  The current tech bubble. My financially savvy readers will know that a standard way to compare a company’s notional value to its real prospects is the ratio of the total price of all its stock to its annual earnings—the price/earnings or P/E ratio for short. Healthy companies in a normal economy usually have P/E ratios between 10 and 20; that is, their total stock value is between ten and twenty times their annual earnings.  Care to guess what the P/E ratio is for Amazon as of last Friday’s close? A jawdropping 985.

At that, Amazon is in better shape than some other big-name tech firms these days, as it actually has earnings. Twitter, for example, has never gotten around to making a profit at all, and so its P/E ratio is its current absurd stock value divided by zero. Valuations this detached from reality haven’t been seen since immediately before the “Tech Wreck” of 2000, and the reason is exactly the same: vast amounts of easy money have flooded into the tech sector, and that torrent of cash has propped up an assortment of schemes and scams that make no economic sense at all. Sooner or later, as a function of the same hard math that brings every bubble to an end, Tech Wreck II is going to hit, vast amounts of money are going to evaporate, and a lot of currently famous tech companies are going to go the way of

Exactly when that will happen is a good question, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the next tech bust will be under way by the end of 2016. That’s specific prediction #1.

Another aspect of economic reality that’s going to hit hard in the year ahead is the ongoing deflation of the fracking bubble. Aside from the straightforward financial impact of that deflation, the failure of fracking to live up to the cornucopian fantasies piled onto it means that a lot of people who relied on it as a way of ignoring the harsh realities of planetary limits are going to have to find something else, so they can have new excuses for living the lifestyles that are wrecking the planet. There’s no shortage of candidates just now; no doubt billions of dollars, Euros, et al. will continue to be poured down the bottomless rathole of fusion research, and the government feed trough will doubtless have plenty of other corporate swine lined up and grunting for their share, but my best guess at this point is that photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is going to be the next big energy bubble.

Solar PV is a good deal less environmentally benign than its promoters like to claim—like so many so-called “green” technologies, the environmental damage it causes happens mostly in the trajectory from mining the raw materials to manufacture and deployment, not in day-to-day operation—and the economics of grid-tied solar power are so dubious that in practice, grid-tied PV is a subsidy dumpster rather than a serious energy source. Nonetheless, I expect to see such points brushed aside, airily or angrily as the case may be, as the solar lobby and its wholly-owned subsidiaries in the green movement make an all-out push to sell solar PV as the next big thing. The same rhetoric deployed to sell ethanol and fracking as game-changing innovations, which of course they weren’t, will be trotted out again for PV, as the empty promises made at the recent COP-21 meeting in Paris find their inevitable destiny as sales pitches for yet another alleged energy miracle that won’t fulfill the overinflated promises made on its behalf.

There’s still some uncertainty involved, but I’m going to predict that the mass marketing of what will inevitably be called “the PV revolution” will get under way in 2016. That’s specific prediction #2.

Meanwhile the political context of American life is heating steadily toward an explosion. As I write this, a heavily armed band of militiamen is holed up in a building on a Federal wildlife refuge in the deserts of southeastern Oregon, trying to provoke a standoff. Clownish as such stunts unquestionably are, it bears remembering that the activities of such violent abolitionists as John Brown looked just as pointless in their time; their importance was purely as a gauge of the pressures building toward civil war—and that’s exactly the same reading I give to the event just described.

That said, I don’t expect an armed insurgency of any scale to break out in the United States this year. The era of rural and urban guerrilla warfare, roadside bombs, internment camps, horrific human rights violations by all sides, and millions of refugees fleeing in all directions, that will bring down the United States of America is still a little while off yet, for one crucial reason: a large enough fraction of the people most likely to launch the insurgencies of the near future have decided to give the political process one last try, and the thing that has induced them to do this is the candidacy of Donald Trump.

The significance of Trump’s astonishing progress to front-runner status is large and complex enough that it’s going to get a post of its own here in the near future. For the moment, the point that matters is that a vast number of nominal Republicans are so sick of the business as usual being marketed by their party’s officially approved candidates that they’re willing to vote for absolutely anyone who is willing to break with the bipartisan consensus of what we might as well call the Dubyobama era: a consensus that has brought misery to the vast majority of Americans, but continues to benefit a privileged minority—not just the much-belabored 1%, but the top 20% or so of Americans by income.

Hillary Clinton is the candidate of that 20%, the choice of those who want things to keep going the way they’ve gone for the last two decades or so. More precisely, she’s the one candidate of the business-as-usual brigade left standing, since the half of the 20% that votes Democrat has rallied around her and done their best to shut down the competition, while the half that votes Republican failed to rally around Jeb Bush or one of his bland and interchangeable rivals, and thus got sidelined when the 80% made their own choice. It’s still possible that Bernie Sanders could pull off an upset, if he trounces Clinton in a couple of early primaries and the Democrat end of the 80% makes its voice heard, but that’s a long shot. Far more likely at this point is an election pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump—and though Sanders could probably beat Trump, Clinton almost certainly can’t.

Granted, there are plenty of twists and turns ahead as America stumbles through its long, unwieldy, and gaudily corrupt election process. It’s possible that the GOP will find some way to keep Trump from gettng the nomination, in which case whoever gets the Republican nod will lose by a landslide as the GOP end of the 80% stays home. It’s possible that given enough election fraud—anyone who thinks this is purely a GOP habit should read Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot, which details how Joe Kennedy bought the 1960 election for his son—Clinton might still squeak through and get into the White House. It’s even possible that Sanders will claw his way over the barriers raised against him by the Democrat establishment and win the race.

At this point, though, little though I like to say this, the most likely outcome of the 2016 election is the inauguration of Donald Trump as President in January 2017. That’s specific prediction #3.

Then there’s the wider context, the international political situation that’s dominated by a fact next to nobody in this country is willing to discuss: the rapid acceleration of America’s imperial decline and fall over the last year. That’s something I’ve been expecting—I discussed it at length in my book Decline and Fall and also in my near-future political-military thriller novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming—but the details came as a surprise, not only to me, but apparently to everyone outside a few tightly guarded office buildings in Moscow. The Russian intervention in Syria has turned out to be one of the few real game-changing events in recent years, shifting the balance of power decisively against the US in a pivotal part of the world and revealing weaknesses that the illusion of US omnipotence has heretofore concealed. As a result, probably though not certainly before 2016 is over, the Daesh jihadi militia—the so-called “Islamic State”—is going to get hammered into irrelevance.

That latter may turn out to be a significant turning point in more ways than one, because the Daesh phenomenon is considerably more complex than the one-dimensional caricature being presented by the US media. The evidence at this point makes it pretty clear that Daesh is being funded and supported by a number of Middle Eastern nations, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia probably the biggest contributors; those iconic white pickup trucks aren’t popping into being in the middle of the Syrian desert by the sheer grace of Allah, after all. It’s also at least suggestive that the US, in a year of supposed air war against Daesh, not only failed to slow it down, but somehow never managed to notice, much less target, the miles-long convoys of tanker trucks hauling oil north to Turkey to cover the costs of jihad.

Something very murky has been going on in the northern Tigris-Euphrates river valley, and it deserves a post of its own here, since it will very likely will play a major role in the decline of American empire and the rise of a new global hegemony under different management. Regular readers may find it helpful to review this blog’s previous discussion of geopolitics, or even find a stray volume of Halford Mackinder and read it, keeping in mind that regions and continents have Pivot Areas of their own. Still, there’s a specific consequence that’s likely to follow from all this.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a fine example of a phemomenon all too familiar to students of history: a crumbling, clueless despotism which never got the memo warning that it couldn’t get away any longer with acting like a major power. The steady decline in the price of oil has left the kingdom in ghastly financial condition, forced to borrow money on international credit markets to pay its bills, while slashing the lavish subsidies that keep its citizens compliant. A prudent ruling class in that position would avoid foreign adventures and cultivate the kind of good relationships with neighboring powers that would give it room to maneuver in a crisis. As so often happens in such cases, though, the rulers of Saudi Arabia are anything but prudent, and they’ve plunged openly into a shooting war just over its southern borders in Yemen, and covertly but massively into the ongoing mess in Syria and Iraq.

The war in Yemen is not going well—Yemeni forces have crossed the Saudi border repeatedly in raids on southern military bases—and the war in Syria and Iraq is turning out even worse. At this point, the kingdom can’t effectively withdraw from either struggle, nor can it win either one; its internal affairs are becoming more and more troubled, and the treasury is running low. It’s a familiar recipe, and one that has an even more familiar outcome: the abrupt collapse of the monarchy, followed by prolonged chaos until one or more new governments consolidate their power. (Those of my readers who know about the collapse of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires at the end of the First World War have a heads-up on tomorrow’s news.) When that happens—and at this point, it’s a matter of when rather than if—the impact on the world’s petroleum markets, investment markets, and politics will be jarring and profound, and almost impossible to predict in detail in advance.

The timing of political collapse is not much easier to predict, but here again, I’m going to plop for a date and say that the Saudi regime will be gone by the end of 2016. That’s specific prediction #4.

I admit quite cheerfully that all four of these predictions may turn out to be dead wrong. That the current tech bubble will pop messily, and that the House of Saud will implode just as messily, are to my mind done deals—in both cases, there’s a reliable historical pattern well under way, which will proceed to its predictable conclusion—but the timing is impossible to know in advance. That something or other will be loudly ballyhooed as the next reason privileged Americans don’t have to change their lifestyles, and that the collision between the policies of the Dubyobama era and the resentment and rage of those who’ve paid the cost of those policies will set US politics ablaze, are just as certain, but it’s impossible to be sure in advance that solar PV and Donald Trump will be the beneficiaries.

The simple reality remains that here in America, we’ve poured nearly all our remaining options for constructive change down the ratholes of the future, and the one option that could still accomplish something—the option of changing our lifestyles now, in order to decrease the burden we place on the planet and what’s left of the industrial economy—is considered unthinkable right across the political spectrum. That being the case, those of us who are doing the unthinkable, while we insulate our homes, sell our cars and other energy-wasting items, learn useful skills, and pursue the other pragmatic steps that matter just now, might want to lay in a good supply of popcorn, too; it’s going to be quite a show.


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Greg Belvedere said...

I think Sanders has a good shot at pulling it off. He is raising a lot of money from a lot of people and drawing big crowds. People are excited about him and that has a good chance of getting them up to vote. As opposed to Hillary, the argument for her seems to be that she would have a better shot against Trump. Though the polls agree with you that Sanders has a better shot. We'll see.

One of the reasons I like Bernie is that he is pretty honest about what he can get done. He has repeatedly said that with out a strong movement behind him and a reengagement in civics no president can give us a kick in a better direction. I did not buy into the hype around Obama, I always saw him as a Clinton style establishment democrat. But Sanders seems genuine and is trying to walk the walk through his funding.

Happy New Year!

Tidlösa said...

I hope you´re wrong about Amazon, because that´s where I buy your books! ;-)

I think your political predictions are correct, although one can´t know the exact tempo of events. The collapse of Saudi Arabia will be world historical, and combined with the Russian intervention in Syria, it will shift the balance of power in the Middle East towards a Russian-Iranian-Shia axis.

A civil war in Turkey cannot be ruled out either, as Erdogan, the PKK and Daesh will confront each other in a three-way conflict. Turkey being a NATO member, this might be even more important in the long run than the collapse of Saudi.

If Trump is elected, it will be interesting to see his response - so far, he sounds friendly to Putin. A deal between Trump and Putin concerning the Middle East might be interesting (if that´s the right word for it). Trump takes Turkey, Israel and Egypt, Putin takes...what? The rest? Will this be our "best and last hope" for peace? And how will the Kurds fit in? Will they be betrayed again by the great powers?

As for The Donald, a scary possibility is that "They" simply murder him, in order to stop him being elected/taking office when elected. Then all bets are off, as they say.

My guess is that these things will take longer than one year to work themselves out (except a Trump presidency - or a Trump assasination), but I admit I could be very, very wrong in that - the world *is* obviously changing in a fundamental way right before our very eyes.

One of the few positive changes this will lead to, is that the pseudo-reality of the Internet (including Twitter!) with all its manufactured conflicts (left and right) will collapse, and real politics return. Although the brawls between neo-reaction pick-up artists and SJW slacktivists are weirdly fascinating (in the same way as the belief-systems of cults), they do tend to become rather annoying if taken as the real thing...

A question. When will you post the article on stagflation/demand destruction/price fall on oil?

Ben said...

JMG - Oklahomans are certainly feeling the pain of the collapsing shale economy. The city of Tulsa recently had to freeze new hiring because of continual declines in sales tax revenue. That includes no new firefighters this year and half the number of police the city wanted to hire, and pretty much no new non-public safety positions.
On a related note, I had a pretty entertaining conversation at a bar the other day w/ an acquaintance of a friend who works at one of the fracking companies. He complained profusely about how the science linking earthquakes to wastewater wells was 'pseudoscience' and how a truly scientific study would vindicate his claims. My friend, who works on the pipeline side of the industry, pointed out that until he runs the supposedly more perfect simulation and can show that no, there is no link between wastewater disposal and increased earthquake activity, you have not proven a thing. The conversation made for good entertainment for me, watching someone who very clearly believes in the myth of progress squirm, when 'science' did not produce the results he expected.
More relevant to the predictions for 2016, companies here in Oklahoma have cut blue collar jobs to the bone (and into the bone), and are frantically trying to keep the white collar portion (that top 20% you mentioned) insulated from the consequences of their actions. The shale bubble is certainly popping, but I think the gods of history are shooting for symmetry, giving us financial bubble poppings in 2000, 2008, and this year. Just to keep politics interesting, I guess.
My money is on Sanders pulling the upset over Clinton. The rumblings on the Democratic side just aren't as flashy this year as 2008.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla said...

It's an election year here in Australia and the global commodities bust in conjunction with our vast corpulent housing bubble looks set to deliver the biggest economic shock this continent has seen since the Melbourne land bubble of the 1890's.

We've thankfully Gotten rid of the fool Abbott but he was really only a symptom of the deep malaise that is affecting our parliamentary democracy.

Ps: A few weeks back you asked if i could think of a worse boondoggle then the f-35 and to be honest i really can't. The closest is the Bradley fighting vehicle and even that project produced a decent machine in the end. All the other disasters came from the early days of jets before the Mig-15 set the design standard and no one was sure what design would be successful.

Blueback said...

It’s going to be an interesting year, interesting in the sense of that old Chinese curse.

Speaking of China, have you seen the latest news coming out of the Middle Kingdom? It is starting to look like China might be headed for its own equivalent of the 1929 stock market crash. By historical standards, we are long overdue for another depression, so things could get very ugly indeed and not just in China. We may discover in the not-so-distant future why globalization, hyper-centralized supply chains and no-holds-barred speculation were probably not a good idea in the first place…

Avery said...

Keeping in mind that I was totally wrong last year, I’d like to offer some predictions for 2016 as well, because mine are a little different from yours. I will try to paint these not to simply face off against you, but to offer another suggestion about the next few dozen years as part of this long descent.

The first dot-com bubble in 2000 was the result of there being insufficient demand. But I believe that there is sustained demand for Internet-based business now, and there will continue to be even as the Internet infrastructure begins to weaken. Why? Because we are all getting poorer, and you can’t beat cheap in America. People will continue to want cheap, unregistered hotels at the touch of a button, and jitney cabs called to their suburban homes, and special deals on pizza delivery. The stock market may take a hit in 2016—it’s already dropped 5% in a week—but the big tech names are now valuable brands, and the ultra-rich (who were far less separated from us in 2000) will continue to prefer investing in Silicon Valley rather than Detroit. The Internet infrastructure is expensive but decentralized and tough, and the decay of Main Street has some ways to go before consequences boomerang back to the the tech world. The divided Retrotopia world is still decades, if not centuries, in the future.

I agree with you entirely that Hillary Clinton will be the Dem nominee and that keeping Trump from the nomination will take a Herculean effort by the GOP. I think that Hillary will be the next President, because my estimate for the people who are attracted to her message is not 20% but 50%. Remember that what keeps politics moving is not happiness already possessed, but the pursuit of happiness. A large number of Americans in poverty still believe that neoliberal globalism can make good on its promises of happiness. If Trump is the candidate, that may even include some crossover Republicans.

Even if Hillary is president, though, that only delays your Trumpageddon for 4 years, or 8 at the very most. Hillary is the perfect symbol of the elite of 2016. She is possibly the most insincere person who has ever run for office. I was a college student in 2008, and I think her upset loss to Obama at that time was due to such visible insincerity. This will have real consequences when she becomes the “leader of the free world”. Readers of this blog, JMG, should recognize in retrospect that your Twilight’s Last Gleaming was not a hypothetical future story, but a basic metaphor for this decade. Obama will be remembered for his 2012 “red line” in Syria and his upstaging by Putin over the following two years, and Clinton will have at least one moment like that, if not many more. If Trump is president Twilight’s Last Gleaming may well become a literal reality. But regardless of who wins, we who have studied Rome or China know what comes after failures like the “red line”. The Trumpization of American politics has just begun.


Avery said...

Finally, I want to say a word about the Islamic State. We are envisioning the Islamic State as a single organization somewhere in a Lawrence of Arabia desert, like South American guerrillas. That is not true with ISIS, al Qaeda, or the Taliban. These are ideals, like democracy, not literal groups of people. ISIS is not even located in a particular place; they now possess territory in Yemen, Libya, and Nigeria. Not even a Middle East that accepts zero tolerance for “radical Islam” can restore the damage we have already done. What on earth do we arrogant idiots think will happen after we finish bombing Syria to smithereens? Do we think that whatever rump regime arises out of the rubble will be a “restoration of the norm” on our increasingly inaccurate world maps?? And on we all march into peace and prosperity?? Are we insane?!

We think that this is not World War III because our sons (and daughters!) are not being drafted to the front. But we fail to see that this is not the 1930s, when the social bonds of the United States permitted such a draft. America’s Selective Service “contingency plan” only exists in the United States because if we acknowledged that a draft was impossible, it would be another “red line” moment. In reality, this is World War III. It is a war by the global north on the global south.

The global south, as a military force, will never be able to challenge the stability of the north with anything more than symbolic terrorist attacks. But there are enough Middle Easterners, Muslim, Christian, and others, to overwhelm Europe’s borders and resources if they are forced to flee their homes. Whether or not the current political authorities in Saudi Arabia fail, our parasitic relationship with the rich will continue; but growing instability in Europe will have much deeper effects. Again, this is not a prediction but a trend. This has already happened in 2015, and if we continue to think that radical Islam is a regime we can root out with bombs, it will continue to happen through the rest of this decade.

Mark said...

Excellent, and thanks for the honest appraisal of last year's predictions. It seems that much of what we have called the markets are now just tools of policy - to finance wealth effects or provide funding for drilling, etc. So my guess is that there won't be a serious market dislocation in the US until something really big happens to cause serious mistrust among the players. A messy election with a presumed Trump Presidency could cause that, because it will lead to a significant shake up and change of faces at various points in the Washington-NY nexus. So if Hillary is looking to take the coronation, I would expect somewhat calmer markets (maybe a managed 20% descent to re-calibrate a bit); but if Trump does look set to take it I predict a 2008-style crash in 2016.

But we'll see. It's going to be interesting. More and more now it seems to me that the big themes of decline and fall are fully in motion and can't be reversed. But the tensions and reactions that they are bringing forth are so powerful that it's very hard to predict the details. It's like the forest is already on fire and it's impossible to try to guess which individual trees will catch next.

jean-vivien said...

If you go buy popcorn, spare some change for handkerchieves too. Today is the Charlie Hebdo attacks' first anniversary. Having one country's symbols attacked is not a very fun show... just as 9/11 was a sad one, and as mass public shootings are equally sad.

GHung said...

Insulation: Check
Popcorn: Check
Woodstove: Check
Solar PV: Check (seemed like a good idea at the time)
Obamacare: Check

Good to go for another year.

Dennis Mitchell said...

My prediction for 2016 is I will get my very nice pony shove and dig a head sized hole in the back yard from which to view Donald's presidency. I hoped his noise was just being amplified by my geographical location here in the state of Idaho. Really, out of all the right wing thinkers we choose a game show host. The good news is the sand here is easy to dig. I guess I"ll dig my walipini first. Hope to have it finished by the November elections.

James Eberle said...

Chalmers Johnson has articulated a very compelling argument insisting that all democratic nations engaged in global empire building ultimately face a crisis whereby they must choose one of two roads: either shed the empire in order to preserve their democracy, or preserve their empire and lose their democracy. Mr. Johnson sees empire and democracy as utterly incompatible. Mr. Greer, you stated that American global hegemony is contracting. Would you say then that the prospects for America to preserve it's democracy have improved? Any thoughts?

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

I like the predictions. All of them seem basically sound, but the timing of these things is the tricky part isn't it? I'm not sure about Trump and Saudi Arabia though.

Trump because the election is a year away and the front runners this far out often disappear shortly into the primaries. I don't have any idea what specifically will change in the race, but I suspect neither Hillary nor Trump will get their party's nomination. Just a hunch, I don't have anything to back that up and I have to admit that I'm having a hard time separating my wishes from my thinking here... I hope you are wrong about this one and I'm not sure how much that is muddling my thinking.

Saudi Arabia because I think it is too soon. The House of Saud is a hollow regime with very little institutional depth in the country. And the monarchy walks a fine line between allying with the USA and supporting radical clerics who preach against it. But, the Saudis have been largely successful in exporting their radicals to cause problems in other countries. I think that internal religious turmoil and terrorist bombings inside the country will precede a collapse of the monarchy. The defeat of Daesh might redirect the focus into the kingdom or it could lead to a push against Russia. Hard to say. The KSA isn't long for this world, but I give it two or three years.

As always, fine work.

Moshe Braner said...

Thank you JMG for the bold predictions.

I thought the "quote of the week" in this week's installment from Mr. Whipple was rather astonishing, here it is:

“By our calculations it will require additional debt formation of $39 trillion over the next decade to keep petroleum production operating. Where that funding will originate from, when it is very unlikely to ever be repaid, will be of tantamount importance. It will take very strong-willed societies to make such sacrifices. If those sacrifices are not made, the integrated global production system will have disappeared by 2026. 2016 will be witness to the beginning of this event with dramatically increasing closures and bankruptcies throughout the world’s petroleum industry.”

- The Hill’s Group — “an association of consulting petroleum engineers and professional project managers”

Of course peak-oilers have said that before, but given the source of that quote, things must be coming to a head.

Also recently seen (I forget where) was the summary that the US stock market lost a lot of the value of most stocks, except for a handful of "tech" stocks which gained so much as to keep the S&P 500 about even for the year of 2015. The companies mentioned included Amazon, which sells things although it does not produce them, Netflix, which provides entertainment (a sure bet even in bad times), Google, which mostly sells ad space (dependent on the rest of the economy), and Facebook, which sells nothing at all. Castles in the air.

Joe Roberts said...

One thing I'll admit to not understanding is why the price of a barrel of oil has plunged as low as it has: West Texas Intermediate is down another 2%+ today to $33.22 a barrel. I understand that volatility is a feature of uncertainty, and I remember the drastic rise and fall of oil prices in 2008 when the economy was more obviously under daily pressure (layoffs everywhere), but I'm not entirely sure how to square resource depletion with $33/barrel oil and $1.75/gallon gasoline. Not to be obtuse, because I think it must be explicable, but it's awfully hard to explain depleted resources to the Average Joe (who I'll own up to being) when oil and gasoline/petrol are so cheap. Why has oil fallen so low just now?

Unknown said...

Those are very risky predictions. I think the global political system is more stable than most people believe. On the other hand, climate change has passed a threshold and I think almost every year from now on will be unpredictable and unrecognizable in most places on earth. I expect that will be the big news next year and it might cause big social problems. Maybe another food shortage in the middle east? Or another heat wave in Europe? Or a cat 5 hurricane in Florida before elections?

Blueback said...

Also, have you seen the news coming out of Afghanistan?

There are reports a Special Forces unit has been trapped and pinned down by insurgents in Afghanistan. The US military is desperately trying to get them out, while the Obama administration has been equally desperate to bury the story. It’s been difficult getting any information from the mainstream media about what is going on over there. Rather, the alternative media and bloggers like Solomon have been the main source of info so far.

As with the destruction of the Medicins Sans Frontiers hospital in Kunduz, there has been a lot of obfuscation and outright lying going on with the out-and-out complicity of the mainstream media. It’s disturbingly similar to the phenomenon you discussed with the fracking industry and the economy in general, where the mass media seems determined to cover up just how bad things are in the interest of protecting the status quo.

As an example of said lying and obfuscation, check out this story. The Obama administration is insisting these troops are not even in combat, even when it’s painfully obvious what a crock of manure that is. It’s almost as if the senile elites in this country are not only living in a world of illusion but are hell-bent on piddling away whatever credibility they still have left, which isn’t a whole heck of a lot at this point.

I think we are going to see a Middle East dominated by Russia and Iran in the very near future.

Shane W said...

(Clasping hands in joy) you mentioned Twitter, is it possible that the implosion of this tech bubble will shut down most social media sites due to bankruptcy? Say it isn't so, that is something to look forward to, the tentative first steps of the post-internet era! People putting down their screens because the sites have gone dead due to bankruptcy. I must admit, though, Amazon operates a lot of local warehouses here, so the economic effect of them closing would not be good. (They are depressing places that have the feel of prisons--Amazon is very afraid their employees will steal their merchandise)
Regarding Saudi Arabia, what are the chances of "boots on the ground" to prop up our "ally"? I would like to think that it is beyond the realm of possibility, but given senility of the elites & how much we stake our politics on Saudi oil, I'm thinking there's a good chance it might be our last military adventure.

Jim said...

With over 650 billion dollars in their soverign wealth fund KSA is not going to run out of money this year, nextyear or for a very long time. If bad things happen to the stability of the country it will have a more political basis than a financial one.

Ray Wharton said...

Very respectable score on 2015. Interesting how the collapse of the fracking sector has been padded out and diffused into the greater muck of the economies turbulence.

Personally I hope you are right about the PV. Not that I believe that they would actually do anything for the large scale, but there are by products of such a bubble that might make for good scrap in the years to come.
Besides, what's the next most likely thing to fill that niche? Nuclear maybe? I dare say that would figure worse in my book. Also solar needs alot of battery costs, and that is one place where green wizardry is progressing for me personally. I have made some (mediocre low grade) graphene in my bed room, and have plans to make a large better batch soon. By the end of this year I could very well be capable of using it to make energy storage devices that would be worth something if there were more people trying to get stuff done with solar. The most dangerous chemical I needed was lye, so fairly environmentally mild.

But all this I have been learning from the mad scientists on youtube make me worried about another issue. The tech bubble could make alot of information access that I have now go poof in short order. I have a stack of note pads next to me as I scribe down details of the experiments I observe on to paper so I can keep progressing if the machines stops, but frankly at the rate of study I can afford right now I am a long way off from having records of what I want. Granted, there are other ways to research, but frankly there is something nice about watching hick mad scientists, because they do things in a way that makes sense, quite unlike some of the more professional texts on the sciences.

Trump I think knows he can more likely beat Clinton than Sanders. That's the reason that he has been attacking her, to help her win the primary. Sanders, if he could get a big lime light on him could get into the race, but he needs to draw an Ace badly.

The House of Saud? Yeah, I feel like things are going bad for them, and the implications of that change shake my bones more than anything else. For the sake of spit I am going to bet against you on this one, just because big events often throw slow balls, and this one feels big to me.

jbucks said...

Thanks for your predictions, and also for going over last year's prediction to see how they panned out (a great habit that very few people do).

About the tech bubble: I work in the tech industry as a designer/programmer, and yesterday I lost my job. The firm I work(ed) for wasn't doing well over the past year, and I was laid off because the firm is in financial trouble. I expected trouble, but not this quickly - I'm not the first to go. The details are still being worked out, I might be able to work significantly reduced hours, but if not, a combination of savings, no debt, a good unemployment insurance system here in Germany means that I should be OK for a while.

I asked my boss why the firm was in so much trouble, and there are variety of reasons, but a major one is that either no one was interested in the products the firm offers (the hype has quietly died down), another reason is that firms are starting to tighten budgets. I have a feeling there are a lot of companies that are about to go through the same thing...

In terms of my own situation, it happened so quickly that I'm uncertain as to what to do next: I now have to decide between trying to learn more programming skills in the short term and try to get freelance work, or to swiftly branch out into something more stable. If the tech bubble pops, and I already believed it would, then freelancing is not going to be viable much longer.

I've spent a few years learning how to do organic gardening, that's at least something, but I rapidly need to continue learning these sorts of skills... hopefully it's not too late.

John said...

Thank you JMG for sharing your electronic voice with us. If your predictions are true, then I'd best get all of those gardening tools I've been eyeing on Amazon, and do it while Prime still offers "free shipping"! My patient wife simply shakes her head when I tell her, "but honey, these are TOOLS so we can grow food!" But she knows that I'm as American as anyone, and that they're just toys.

Mark Rice said...

“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Some comments both counter to and in support of the end of the current technology bubble:

Amazon could easily have huge profits if they wanted huge profits. Instead they invest so much in expanding existing and new businesses they only break even in a profit and loss sense. And they have a lot to show for their investments. They have the Lab126 products such as Kindle. They have server farms and internet infrastructure for rent along with their traditional e-commerce business. That said, I am glad I do no work for Amazon.

On the other side, I see a huge amount of construction in the Silicon Valley. I see pile drivers, cranes etc. all over the place. Old one story tilt-ups are getting torn down and replaced with multi-story steel frame office buildings. However most of the new buildings are sitting empty while even more are being built near by. Some weird is happening. Sooner or later it will pop.

I would push out the time scale a bit. These things usually take longer to pop than what seems reasonable.

jessi thompson said...

the solar ad campaign has already started. there's already a sleek video circulating on facebook touting solar as the next big investment opportunity. if you stumble across it you'll probably recognize the financial sector is trying to sell it. so i guess the real question is whether investors will bite. but since i keep an eye on the oil situation i saw it as an attempt to blow a new bubble before the fracking bubble pops. actually i hope you find it. it basically says "sand is the unlimited energy of the future" which is hilarious when you compare photovoltaics to a solar hot water heater, something much lower tech and far more useful. i'm investing in my future a little differently. i'm scraping up some cash to make an offer on an old hand pump for a well. get this: it's in the yard of a perfectly good house that's going to be torn down so they can build a subdivision full of.... wait for it..... houses.

wish me luck!!! :D

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

I think your specific prediction #1 is likely to come true in 2016, but I am not so sure about the other specific predictions.

PVs have been hyped for a while, at least in some places, and whether your prediction will come to pass depends on what level of additional hype would count as a 'PV revolution'. I also do not see a 'revolution' happening this year because the reduction of demand for energy in Asia (due to worsening economic conditions) will help counteract the decline of fracking. Of course, a collapse of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia would change the conditions, but I think it would take time for that to push a PV revolution.

I do not know enough about what is going on in Saudi Arabia to make an educated evaluation of that prediction, however based on what I do know my gut feeling is that they will hold out in 2016.

As far as Trump ... he definitely has a significant minority who strongly support him. If most of the rest of the population had a 'meh' feeling about him, I would see him winning. However, there is also a significant minority who strongly opposes Trump (including, for example, Latinos - 44% of Latinos voted for Bush in 2004, but I do not think they will do that for Trump). I see this significant minority voting for Hillary, even if they do not like her, simply because they do not want Trump to win, and combined with the (albeit) small group which sincerely supports Hillary, I think Hillary may be able to win against Trump without electoral fraud. Of course, if she wins, then a significant portion of people are going to completely give up on the electoral process, and the results will not be pretty...

Bill Pulliam said...

Just a bit of an aside about P/E, the ratio for the major indices right now ranges from about 13 to about 23, and most are actually unchanged or lower compared to 1 year ago. Not saying teh market is perfectly valued, but by conventional measures it does not look more overvalued now than it was last year.

Quercus said...

Very brave and bold predictions. Thankyou very much for sharing.

Peter Wilson said...

Those are bold predictions. I note one more that you made (August 2015), when you stated that there wasn't much chance that Clinton would win. On that, you may very well be right. I've often seen Trump as the head of a proto-fascist movement, and whilst I think he'll be headed off at the pass, probably by Clinton (you reference good old democratic party election rigging) or maybe, Sanders, if there's any honesty left, many of your predictions, may come to pass. Strange Bright Banners entitled "Make America Great Again" come to mind here.

I also note with interest attempts to discredit the EROEI study of the large-scale Spanish PV installations. Quoting that study (like peak oil) is a great way to get people spluttering with indignation.

My country's (New Zealand) regulatory authority for our electricity industry is actively considering how to bring solar PV into NZ in a fair way, as its analysis shows that the benefits don't stack up, and it may amend pricing and regulations to ensure we don't over invest in it.

Of course, NZ is one of a very few countries where renewables (wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro) exist and are growing without subsidy, and where the EROEI is clearly demonstrated, and commercially viable. For that I remain very grateful.

John Michael Greer said...

Nick, I'm quite sure that there will be food and gas for sale a year from now; it's just that some of the people who can now afford to buy both may no longer have the money available. I hope you're not one of them. Good to hear that your generation has a clue.

Greg, well, we'll see. I think he has a chance, but he's trying to buck the entire institutional weight of the Democratic establishment, and that's going to be an uphill battle all the way.

Tidlösa, I don't see any likelihood of a Trump assassination -- the guy's a member of the moneyed elite, after all, and the other members of that class can work with him. I don't see him as any kind of real change -- what matters is that a great many people think of him in those terms, and he's clever enough to have caught that and figured out how to use it. More on this in an upcoming post. As for the post on hyperstagflation, it's in the queue -- I've got a bunch of things to cover as we proceed.

Ben, thanks for the view from ground zero of the fracking bust! That's what I'd heard from other sources, but it's good to have that confirmed by somebody on the scene.

Sulla, Australia's going to be hammered, no question -- so much of what's driven the bubble has been Chinese money from investment and resource purchases, and now that China's in 1929 mode, that's a thing of the past. Maybe your air force can have a half-price sale on F-35s to get some ready cash... ;-)

Blueback, I've noted before that China is playing the same role in this economic and political cycle that the US played in the last one, so a massive crash and a big depression make sense at this point. Things could get really ugly as that plays out.

Avery, no, the first dot-com bubble didn't happen because of insufficient demand; it happened because the vast majority of the speculative favorites of that time had never figured out how to make a profit off their operations, and so crashed and burned once the supply of fools willing to invest ran out. (I was in Seattle at the time and got to watch the whole thing from close up.) The same thing is true this time around -- most of the current crop of "unicorns" don't make money and have no way to make money, except by selling stock and slurping up venture capital. Once the inevitable downturn starts, the classic rush to the exits will follow on its heels, and Tech Wreck II will follow the inevitable course. As for your other points, though, no argument there at all.

Mark, oh, I don't expect the broader stock market to implode; as I noted in the post, it'll be managed so it stays more or less even, no matter how much financial jugglery is needed to do that. The tech sector, on the other hand, is toast -- it can be allowed to crash and burn without taking out the rest of the market.

Jean-Vivien, true enough. A good stock of handkerchiefs would be worth picking up, and will probably have more uses before the year is out.

GHung, I'll pass on the Obamacare; even if we got the subsidy we're supposed to get (as millions of people found out last year, the subsidy figures given on websites are very often inflated), a plan with a $6k deductable and 40% copay (that is to say, not enough to prevent bankruptcy) would cost my wife and I more than our house payment each month. The fine's a lot cheaper, thank you.

Dennis, of course it had to be a game show host! I forget who said this, but while Trump isn't what America needs, he's arguably what America deserves.

deborah harvey said...

looking forward to your column on what's happening in the tigris/euphrates area.

Christophe said...

That is by far the most interesting set of predictions for 2016 I have yet read. All your predictions take current patterns into account and play them out to their predictable denouements -- at least they should be predictable. Americans seem to have an exaggerated capacity to be willfully ignorant of history, leaving us with limited historical referents to guide us. Projecting our personal boogeymen into the past then really muddles our navigational sense.

Earlier today I was talking with an MSM-watching friend about the Middle East and was surprised to hear him say that Iran is being isolated by the international community and is looking weaker and weaker. When I tried to explain to him that Saudi Arabia's and Turkey's recent actions (sponsoring ISIS included) look like the desperate behaviors one would expect from collapsing regimes, he seemed to have no idea what crazy things over-extended empires have done in the past. Chop down all the trees to build an Armada in the hopes of plundering a new colony? Torture and kill revolutionaries in the Casbah in the hopes of continuing to plunder an old colony? Get mired in an unwinnable war in the Graveyard of Empires in the hopes of plundering a new colony? How many times will some idiot have to try that last one?

Of course, the axis-of-evil boogeyman that is Iran prevented him from being able to honestly consider the House of Saud's or Erdogan's prospects at all. Iran -- evil; Saudi Arabia -- gooood... soft... fuzzy... me like! The American psyche is so polarized and childish. We cannot accurately predict which peoples will prevail based upon whom we like best. We can read as much history of a region, of warfare, of religion, of empires, etc... until we have enough patterns saved as stories in our minds to see whether today's situation fits into one of those stories better than the rest. Then an informed prediction can be postulated.

John Michael, thanks for doing all the work and reading you have done and generously sharing your conclusions with us. President Trump -- Good Lord, these are dark times! Mordor awakens.

John Michael Greer said...

James, empire and democracy are certainly incompatible, but I don't know of a case in which a democracy turned into an empire, lost its empire, and turned back into a democracy -- not without immense turmoil and the overthrow of the existing system of government, at least. As I noted in a post here back in 2012, the US got into the empire business back in 1898, so it's not as though we're at the fork in the road -- that was a long time ago, and what we're getting now is the standard blowback that comes when an imperial power has hollowed itself out trying to maintain its empire and reaches the breaking point. Democracy, if it's going to return to the US, is going to have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Tim, as I noted in the post, I'm quite prepared to be proved wrong. Of course Trump could be edged out in various ways; of course the Saudis might cling to power for a little longer -- but the latter reminds me of all the pundits and politicians who, well into 1917, insisted that the Tsarist government would collapse someday but surely it would hold on for some years more...

Moshe, exactly. The thing that's got its hands around the throat of the industrial economy is that it's no longer possible to produce fossil fuels at a real (i.e., nonfinancial) cost low enough to make them affordable energy sources for the kind of hypercomplex societies we've got. That $39 trillion is a proxy for a fantastic amount of energy and other resources that would have to be poured into scraping the oil barrel, and those resources aren't available for that task -- not without gutting every other part of industrial society. More on this as we proceed!

Joe, it's simple, though it requires paying attention to the real (i.e., nonfinancial) costs of energy extraction. Right now, because of the sky-high real costs of getting oil out of tar sands, fracked shales, ultradeep offshore wells, etc., etc., the amount of real wealth that has to be extracted from all other economic sectors to keep the oil flowing is so high that it's gutting the rest of the economy. That means that a lot of people who would otherwise be able to afford to buy petroleum products can't, and so the price is dropping. It'll be up again -- the declining price will render new drilling uneconomic, old wells will run dry, supply will decrease to meet demand, and so on -- and the result is that we can probably expect oil prices to swing through wild arcs every few years for the rest of your life.

Unknown, of course they're risky predictions -- I said as much in my post. I also said that at this point more climate disasters, worse climate disasters, and plenty of wild swings in climate generally are baked into the cake.

Blueback, thanks for the heads up! No, I hadn't heard -- but I'm not surprised. The Obama administration doesn't seem to have noticed that war is not the management of appearances.

Shane, I think it's quite possible that a fair fraction of the social media firms will either go out of business or end up as pay-to-play sites. As for boots on the ground, it's possible -- and you're right that that could turn into America's last imperial adventure.

Jim, then why are they floating bonds on international markets to pay their bills, and gutting the subsidies that keeps the population passive? $650 billion ought to cover that -- which suggests to me that the legendary corruption of the Saudi royal house may have left a lot less in there than is presently claimed. Of course the political dimension is also crucial, which is -- ahem -- why I mentioned it in my post.

Bike Club Vest Prez said...

@Joe Roberts
The bust in oil prices is not driven by a dramatic expansion in production. Oil production has made some gains, but is mostly flat, worldwide. Currently all liquids production is at about 95MMBbl/yr up from 88MMBbl/yr in 2010 (Source US EIA website). It amounts to about 2%/yr increase. This is more than predicted by Colin Campbell et al, but a dramatic slowdown in production rate gains from, say, 2000. I don’t think anyone in the Peak Oil community saw the shale production surge coming. Also, demand has softened quite a bit, and OECD consumption is just plain flat for the last few years. But there is an interesting financial dynamic in oil. All of your costs are essentially upfront costs -- exploration, drilling, and completion. You sink millions to get the first barrel. After that, paying the electricity to run the pump motors is decimal dust compared to the finance charges. Whether you are a fracker making loan payments or a nation state subsidizing your unhappy population, when the price of oil goes down, you really have no other choice than to minimize expenses and maximize revenue. The fixed loan payments must be made, and the citizens need their bread and circuses. So stop exploration and expansion, and pump at the absolute maximum rate. Then hope you can keep afloat until the price increases again. In the mean time, people are starting to rearrange their lives, by choice or necessity – via bankruptcy or buying that Prius, to live without so much fossil fuels. I think the Peak Oil movement may have fallen prey to confirmation bias (me too!) but the Peak Oil dynamic is very much alive. I am not in the oil industry, but it seems like continued growth in oil production cannot continue much longer. 2020? 2025? Probably no longer.

John Michael Greer said...

Ray, I'd encourage you to get as much info offline as possible. The resources you're using may stay available, but it really will be a crapshoot.

Jbucks, ouch! That's definitely on the up close and personal end of things. You know your own industry better than I do, but if you want to do freelance work, it might be good to find something you can do that people (as distinct from corporations) actually want and need; that's the sort of thing that can keep you gainfully employed in hard times.

John, there's a narrow window between the time that everything gets put on sale for cheap and the time that it stops being available at all. Dawdling may not be a good idea.

Mark, even if Amazon could make a profit -- and I have my doubts -- that profit won't justify the fantastically overinflated price of its stock. Nor, of course, is Amazon the only tech firm with stock prices in full bubble mode...and where there's a bubble, there will soon be a bust.

Jessi, luck! Thanks for the heads up -- I'm not at all surprised.

Notes, I didn't claim that there will actually be any kind of "PV revolution" -- rather, that's the inevitable slogan under which massive investment in PV will be floated, just as the "fracking revolution" used old technology on known fields but presented itself to the clueless as a revolutionary new blah blah blah. As for Trump, I'll leave that for the upcoming post.

Bill, that's why I predicted a tech stock crash rather than a general market crash. By historic measures, most stocks aren't that overvalued -- another parallel with the first tech stock bubble.

Quercus, you're welcome.

Peter, that's good to hear about New Zealand. You've got a good location for renewables, and hopefully less extravagant appetites.

Deborah, stay tuned!

Christophe, I wish I could argue. When Gore Vidal referred to this country as the United States of Amnesia he wasn't kidding. As it is, we're pretty clearly going to learn history the hard way.

Bike Club Vest Prez said...

Production rates should have been MMBbl/day, not year. I was looking at the yearly charts and was thinking about years, when the rate is a daily rate. I need to get better at proofreading. Maybe JMG will correct if before it gets to the blog.

Peter Wilson said...

JMG - thanks. We are at 83% renewables for electricity, and counting. The target is 90% by 2025, and 100% is entirely possible. Of course, the rest of the energy system isn't so rosy, with a high reliance (>2/3s) on imported crude, and the general loss of resilience and hollowing-out that occurs in a small island nation, forced to compete in a globalised economy.

The appetites are more extravagant than they once were, but conspicuous consumption is still frowned upon, and I think NZ will somehow get through. The trick will be ensuring we don't jettison much of our sensible policies and infrastructure in any inevitable bonfire. That's where the work lies, that and electrifying the transport system.

Damo said...

Interesting call on trump. To those who think it can't happen I will only point out many in Australia thought the same of tony Abbott. In short order he disappointed just about everyone and was dumped in favour of a millionaire former Goldman Sachs employee. Maybe he can organise a bail out for Australia when our economy goes down the toilet shortly!

I can sort of see the appeal in trump. In a broken system you might as well vote for the entertaining option.

rapier said...

The great machine which is the US economy does not turn quickly. For all the strum and drang about the 08 crisis the worst GDP print for a quarter was down around 8%. Bad yes but crisis it really isn't. The angst came from the drop in financial asset prices. That's what everyone who is anyone cares about.

The current drop is unlikely to get much below the August September low initially. About a 10% correction which is barely worth mention in the history of bear markets. Crashes don't happen from tops they come from failures to hold recent lows. A real crash would likely come later.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

I agree with JMG's analysis of trends, but there is at least one wild card affecting how and when things happen: major natural disasters.

For example, the next 7.0 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. Geologists give it a two thirds chance of occurring in less than thirty years. I think it will destroy the regional economy and about six sevenths of the people currently living here will have to move somewhere else, because they will have no job or housing or way of getting to work, or can't deal with the health effects of all the toxic residue from the fires (think of twenty or a hundred fires on the scale of the World Trade Center).

I don't expect the Next Big One to resemble Hurricane Katrina, because I think our emergency services are more on the ball. But earthquakes cause fires. If it's dry and windy, the fires might merge into an uncontrollable firestorm. Or if there's a temperature inversion, all that burning plastic, petroleum and industrial chemicals might form a lethal layer of smoke over vast areas.

So much of our infrastructure (gas, water and power lines, sewers, pumping stations, highways and railroad tracks, hospitals and housing) is right over the faults and is going to need repair or be totally laid to waste. Clearing the rubble is going to be a huge task. Quarreling over what's going to be rebuilt and who's going to pay for it will take forever.

It won't destroy California, only kick it in the stomach. The ports of Seattle and Long Beach will be happy to take Oakland's business. A lot of Silicon Valley's activities can relocate. The farmers in the Central Valley probably won't be greatly affected. But our tech centers are currently the growth engine of the state, and if this region suddenly goes from boom to the other kind of boom, troubles will spread.

Kfish said...

The Australian stock market's down 6% since the start of the year, so it's likely things are going to get interesting here. My mum was lamenting the low margins in the family business (farming) a few months back and wondering if there was a time when farmers did well. Wars and depressions, I told her. Thanks for your blog, particularly the emphasis on learning from history and acquiring skills.

Mean Mr Mustard said...


Over here in the UK, taxpayer subsidy to solar for the middle classes is steadily declining, step by step...

Happy New Year to one and all.


Hubertus Hauger said...

The Tec-wreck and PV are interconnected for me. They go together, this year or within 3 years time.

Trump, quite likely.

The Saudi fall? I have no troughout analysis, but my gut is saying, could be rather three years or if their sceaming goes well even more. That bad Iranians could be a very helpful. Such a comfortable enemy, to blame for all the bad bad things in the world. In particular that squezzing economy and the followup reduction of goodies. The only privilege I consider absolutely neccessary ... no no, not fat chickens ... immunity from the furthermore ever expanding persecution. That´s, what broke Roberspierres neck.

M said...

JMG wrote:
"The era of rural and urban guerrilla warfare, roadside bombs, internment camps, horrific human rights violations by all sides, and millions of refugees fleeing in all directions, that will bring down the United States of America is still a little while off yet, for one crucial reason: a large enough fraction of the people most likely to launch the insurgencies of the near future have decided to give the political process one last try, and the thing that has induced them to do this is the candidacy of Donald Trump."

This, maybe we can call it a side prediction, is frightening. By "one last try," is that to say if the Donald does not get elected, this violence and suffering will begin forthwith? Or just that his candidacy may encourage "them" to form another party, or rally around another, similar (but probably much worse) candidate in four years?

Either way, at 55, I have had a decent enough chunk of life not to complain too much (though would certainly like to stick around and see what happens in the next 20-25 years.) My main concern at this point is my 6 year old boy, who is of course an amazing human being, and a very ordinary little boy.

His mother and I no longer live together, so that adds a layer of difficulty when attempting to "collapse now." But I do what I can. I have not owned a car for the past 3 years, and get around almost exclusively by bicycle, renting or borrowing a vehicle when I absolutely must, and he goes with me everywhere in that mode. I do not have a smart phone or TV. I belong to a local farm co-op. I am heavily involved in the community on an activist level. I try to keep him from the two S's in LESS, though this time of year reducing Stimulation and Stuff is more of a challenge!

I am trying to plant the seeds in his mind that might help him deal with the kind of future we are headed for, in a way that I hope is appropriate for a young child. Nothing heavy, but more concepts about general consumption habits, not taking anything for granted, learning to do things with his hands, helping repair or tune his bicycle.

It's hard sometimes to keep at bay thoughts of the kind of society where a young person will be considered little more than cannon fodder to those in power. There is not much by way of example or advice to prepare him for that. I don't really want to teach him to be an overlord or gangster, even if I could. I pray there will be other options in his future, but no matter what, it won't be the life his father has enjoyed. Meanwhile, collapse forward, fellow Archdruid readers!

Phil Harris said...

Greetings from the sodden north of England, - and as far as I can peer through the murk to the north, it seems similar in Scotland. Local travel is a bit restricted by our river although some in the iconic white pickups (no ideological relation of course) can risk a flooded bridge.

I am glad you are keeping cheerful about possibly being dead wrong. I see you have Amazon and the Saudi Royal s in the same frame?

One of your long term suggestions from way back IIRC was the rise again of socialism in USA. And a guy using the very name – it truly is amazing – I did not expect to appear in my lifetime. But as you say, still a long shot
Back in the day British middle class and working class always were divided up differently than in the USA. As de-industrial Thatcherism embraced new financial structures (what our Tony Blair still calls modernisation), our working class – used to be the large majority of Brits - got divided up, some of them distinctly relegated downward and some into something like the lower-middle class with a car and wife earning enough to cover it. It looks as though USA has more recently seen your traditionally much broader category American middle-class (socio-economic majority) similarly divided. I see that a significant proportion has been elevated up the income scale, while perhaps more numerous others take the strain of poverty. But like in Britain, ‘never having had it so good’, if it happens, must feel distinctly insecure.

The Bible likes to talk in terms of eras and before and after The Flood and so on. Well, I’m still waiting for it to stop raining where I am. I think you are dead right about the Solar PV sales pitch even if the Saudis and are not quite the same animals in a year or two.


Dan Mollo said...

I also thought immediately about John Brown when I heard about the militia in Oregon (I live in Salem.) Although most people are trying to downplay this event, probably next to no one is thinking about the fact that this is just the start of something that will build critical mass in the decades to come, if not sooner.

On a slightly unrelated note, I was re-reading your posts from 2009 and came across your deindustrial reading list. I purchased the books I didn't already have (used at dirt cheap prices, I guess no one else wants to read them) and plan on changing my current reading projects to that. It's fun to have homework again!

Tony f. whelKs said...

An interesting set of predictions, and I think the big investment opportunity today is popcorn futures ;-))

I find #3 the scariest proposition. The prospect of President Trump sends shivers down my spine, not entirely regarding him personally so much as what it says of a nation that could elect him in the first place. My thought when Obama was elected was that all the 'change' we're going to see has already happened, in as much as I thought it said something about the nation that it had finally elected its first black president. That was the beginning and ending of the change.

When it comes to Trump, he's such a wild card, I can't help but feel that *something* will happen; maybe a helicopter will experience a technical fault, or a picure of him breaking the legs of kittens in a kindergarten will emerge, or... well, you get the picture. It might be wishful thinking on my part, but I really doubt he'll be in the Whitehouse... but time will tell, and my vision is necessarily blurred from this side of the Atlantic.

I couldn't help thinking, in the wake of his latest diatribe, that if he really wants to prevent American citizens from being killed by violent extremists he shouldn't be trying to stop Muslims coming to America, but stopping white men joining the police, until the authorities "work out what the heck's going on".

On to #4, and the scariest thing I could imagine happening in the Middle East any time soon would be a 'Saudi Spring'. The al-Saud family represent a particularly ugly lid on a pressure cooker, but that doesn't mean that it will be pretty when the pressure cooker blows. Succession by agnatic seniority results in a gerontocracy in a country with very low average age, and the Royal Family is so fractured that some princes are openly calling for regime change.

I don't think anyone can have missed that Sunni-Shia tensions are at about their worst since the Battle of Karbala, and the gloves are now off in the proxy war with Iran. Whether there's a palace coup or something blows up from 'the street', events in Saudi Arabia will surely be significant this year. As they say 'it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing', and Saudi doesn't seem to have the swing any more, or at the very least they're not using it to shore up the oil price. Is that despeation for revenues, or a move to force other producers towards bankruptcy? Either way, Saudi Arabia is being a lot more miltant in the spheres of economics, politics and diplomacy than they have been for decades. Almost as if they've slipped the leash of their handlers...

Oops, a longer screed than I had intended... anyway New Year's greetings to one and all.

Now roll up, roll up, git yer popcorn futures here!

Leo Knight said...

I keep getting spam about financing for solar/ photovoltaic, even though I don't own any property. I also see quite a few "this changes everything!" stories about solar/pv breakthroughs, so a bubble seems likely.

Regarding Hillary vs. Trump, the situation reminds me of two recent gubernatorial races here in Maryland. Some years ago, lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was anointed by the Democratic party machine as Our Next Governor. The electorate proceeded to ignore her. Even faithful liberals refused to support her. A Republican named Bob Ehrlich, trounced her in the election.

In the last election, the Democrats anointed lieutenant governor Anthony Brown as Our Next Governor, to a chorus of yawns. Predictably, Republican Larry Hogan trounced him. Perhaps this might play out at the national level?

Grandmom said...

Social media isn't going anywhere. It is THE way corporations and the government track our every thought, relationship, interest, and movement. Check out the company Acxiom and click on the "partners" section. It shows exactly where they get their data. It doesn't matter if you use a pseudonym on any site, including this one. Your email, phone number, behavior on-line (we are each very predictable you know), and the devices you use to connect to the internet (even the public library PC) are all used to confirm your identity at all times.

Right now Acxiom's data is used for marketing and selling you things. But that data lives on servers and what happens when it is used by ______ (insert nightmare scenario here).

Which is the thing that confuses me about this right-wing militia groups......if they care so much about privacy and liberty, why don't they go occupy one of this corporate schmuck office buildings or server farms holding all of our personal information?

Eric Backos said...

Dear Mr. Greer and assembled Wizardren
Cleveland, Ohio: There is NO meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 this week.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
Splendorem Lucis Viridis!
Tower 440

Zachary Braverman said...

The fact that "looking at everything that’s getting worse each year, and predicting that all those things are just going to keep getting worse in the year to come" is a winning strategy, is itself the most telling thing of all.

Seems like not too long ago people would look at things that are getting better and assume those would continue on the same upward trajectory. Now the valence has been reversed. Irreversibly, it seems.

111DFC said...

Many thanks for your predictions Mr Geer

I agree with most of them, on the other hand I do not "buy" your idea that the actual economic crisis is all related to the oil (or more exactly about the decrease in its EROI), because I think we live in a Ponzi World where the bubbles were formed almost two decades ago with the oil at 20-30$/bbl and higher EROI

For me the root cause of the economic crisis is the de-coupling of the producers and the consumers due to the globalization; and then the huge amounts of benefits and wealth concentrated in fewer hands, were recycled in form of assets bubbles fed by cheap credit that floods the market. Once the "credit anesthesia" start to vanish, the real deflation-trap happens

Here in Spain I was enable to explain people in the begining of 2000's that we will have a huge crisis in the near future that will last decades, becauses houses cannot increase in value 20% allways, but everibody was convinced that "houses never lost value"....This crash would happen anyway with 5$/bbl and with an EROI of 100:1, no doubt. In Spain we do not have industry nor another sector to maintain the economy growing enough to pay the debts, and, of course we will not pay them in the future. We are all dead

Mrs Gail Tverberg has "discovered" The Debt quite recently and buil a theory about the reasons of the low oil price and the decrease in "affordability" and EROI, but history shows that the debt crisis are a very old thing, and arise normally every generation, due to concentration of wealth through compound interests (exponentially growing), that was the reason the 3.000 years old civilizations have a "jubilee" everytime a new dinasty come to power

Our civilitation lack of any institution to solve the Debt Problem and everytime it is "solved" in a bloody way by world wars, revolutions and huges bankrupcies, we are less clever than the Sumerians (they learnt also through bloody lessons, will we?)

I am not saying we do not have others "limitant factors" for the PIB growing, as the oil EROI, but now, the clear limitant factor are the "contracts" ("paper chains" call them Keynes) due to wealth concentration

Once we burn the "contracts" we will have your crisis

Sorry for my english

Mr Sunshine said...

The part of the internet that will go first or be pay only will be these free blog sites, such as the ADR. The prices of existing web hosting will also go up. Corporations will dictate who appears on the internet and messaging to the masses can be more controlled that way.

Don Plummer said...

You brought up Saudi Arabia, and I think your analysis of the situation there is essentially correct. However, you didn't mention their recent provoking of Iran trough the execution of that Shi'a cleric. How does that play into your scenario, if it does at all? Specifically, do you think Iran and the Oil Kingdom are heading for open hostilities? If so, do you think the US will remain neutral (as we probably should), or will our feckless government support the Saudis, given that we're longtime "allies" of theirs and have our own longstanding grievances against Iran?

Or will the whole thing blow over after a bit of sabre-rattling and posturing from both sides? Already the Saudis have suspended diplomatic relations with the Iranians and Bahrain, as I understand, has followed suit.

Odin's Raven said...

How much does it matter who gets elected as President any more than which sports team wins? It's been academically proven that the public has negligible influence on policy, but that lobbying by corporations brings huge returns. Politics is a useful circus to distract the public, but campaign rhetoric is rarely implemented. Trump is almost as much of an insider as the rest of the political class.What will the small number of billionaires who control the circus insist that their puppets do? Even when the public awakes from their democratic delusion, which won't be this year, what can they do but await new masters? Neither Trump nor his competitors looks much like a Caesar, or a Pompey let alone an Augustus, and certainly no Cicero.

Hubertus Hauger said...

I see for meself what utmost has to happen is doing something. In my neighbourhood. Making friends. Growing food. Getting satisfied with less stuff. It´s up to meself. Peacefulness and cooperation is my way to go.
This year I contiunue and enlarge my barter club work, want to do more in the community-garden and do enter this year a preperation group in order to found a living community. Hoping to enter the transition town movement full scale at the far end.
For me its time to gather at the life-boats and build a safe haven afterwards.

Chloe said...

The US election isn’t the only planned event likely to have a major impact this year. The UK government has promised to hold an in-out referendum on the EU before the end of 2017. It’s hard to say when they’ll call it; David Cameron (claims to) want to stay in, and current polls suggest he’d lose, so he may hold off in the hope of clawing back some ground. Meanwhile, it’s only going to become more apparent to the general population that the EU is an overlarge, unsustainable, nice-idea-but-not-in-practice enterprise. I would be surprised not to see Brexit within the next couple of years.

As to what effect the fallout will have on the wider EU, it’s hard to predict. The planned departure of a country that was never all that committed to the project, even a major one, may have less of an impact than the loss of somewhere like Greece to financial chaos; but if the UK goes, then it will seem less outlandish for Greece, Spain et al to do the same. While I won’t go so far as to say the loss of the UK would trigger the EU’s implosion – though something almost certainly will – it won’t do the EU any favours either.

Closer to home, Scotland also has an election in the works, but that’s far less interesting because at this point it would take a major upset to prevent the SNP from walking away with it.

I’ve just had a glance at the most recent polls, and I know it’s a long time to the US election and a lot will change before then but the numbers would suggest that it’s anybody’s to play for – at least, given the strength of Trump’s momentum within the GOP, between Trump, Clinton and Sanders. I’m not going to call it, though it’s fair to say I hope you’re wrong. What’s notable is that over here – but I think this applies to large parts of the US media too – Trump is still seen as something of a joke, and the official line is that he’s not *actually* going to win, don’t be silly… Much like Jeremy Corbyn six months ago. (The silver lining is that this also applies to Sanders.) Your other predictions seem reasonable enough, give or take precise dates.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fairly large climatic upset – rapid melt in Greenland, for example – and perhaps more recognition of the fact that the Paris agreement is not so much shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted as wandering over and promising to do so at some point in the near future. I've also seen rumblings about the possibility that total liquids production peaked in 2015, and if the numbers back it up then that discussion may edge back into the frame, among the sort of people who've been quiet on the subject for a few years thanks to the fracking "boom" even if the general media manages to ignore it.

Eric S. said...

Interesting, I'd actually read you as having been right on the money with the bursting fracking bubble and the economy, but I guess I've been reading this blog long enough that I'd read this year's slow motion trainwreck, as a fast moving, "thumping economic crisis" of the sort that you'd been predicting. I guess weekly doses of long descent talk has been giving me different definitions of words like "fast," and "thumping."

One detail that you didn't address, that I'm very curious about your thoughts on, is the rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the line in the sand that's being drawn as Saudi allies cut off diplomatic ties one with Iran one by one. It seemed significant to me, because the US just got itself tied up with Iran diplomatically, and we've been depending on Russia to do the dirty work against Daesh in Syria has also thrown us in with Russia and Assad, and Iran has been asking the US and the UN for aid against the Saudis. Do you see the Saudi economic crisis, and the failure of legitimacy that comes with it cause domestic issues to overtake foreign ones there? Or could that situation still lead to messy fireworks? It seems significant, because the rising tensions right now are directly between national governments, rather than between various groups of rebels and insurgents (who may or may not be funded by national governments). Also, are there cases in which going to war might actually be a move that could be made to rescue a failing economy (especially one resulting from supply routs and demand destruction), since the costs of warfare have historically had a tendency to raise demand and get the market moving again?

Twilight said...

I'm not sure which is more unstable at this point, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, although the scenario is different in each. It's also possible the failure of one regime will quickly result in the toppling of the other.

This latest transparent attempt by SA to spark a wider sectarian conflagration smacks of scorched-earth desperation. It seems likely to damage SA and it's allies more than anyone.

Robert Carran said...

I find it continually amazing how long the zombie of Imperial America can keep stumbling along. I've stopped trying to predict how or when it will start to truly collapse. And by that I mean, collapse in plain sight such that the MSM can't paper it over.
I'm surprised at your prediction of Trump's election and that Sanders has a chance for two reasons. One, I wouldn't expect you to care that much about the complete clown show that is our election process. Two, it's my understanding that whomever the 1% wants to be president, becomes president. And who else could they possibly want but Hilary? She's perfect! A WOMAN Yay! First a black man, now a woman. A perfect distraction. And of course she's exactly the right choice to continue the Dubyobama course. I guess I'm just surprised at your faith that our election process would still possibly allow an honest man like Sanders to break through the firewall of the 1% owned media. So far, the dismissal and downright blackout of Sanders has been phenomenal.
And I'm also curious what your take is on the potential collapse of the US dollar, considering all the maneuverings of China and Russia in that realm. Not to mention the Fed's complete ineptitude and shenanigans.

Donald Hargraves said...

Three thoughts that pop into my head. All personal opinion (and my prediction skills are not quite to the level of the brown stuff that comes out of my backside), so keep your salt ready to add as needed/wanted:

1) Amazon's present (over)valuation has little to do with its "core business (sending packages around the world)" and everything to do with its true present business (Impoverishing governments all over the nation. Every road turned from asphalt/concrete to dirt or abandoned, every bus service cut or shut down (hi Hammond, IN), every sewer pipe break that leaks for two months before anything happens, every strip mall with a nail and hair salon/massage parlor, used items shop, payday loan store of some type, liquor store and third-rate sports bar chain keeping it half-filled is a testament to the present-day intent of Profit has nothing to do with it, as long as they can pay their bills (and avoid paying sales tax, which I'm betting it will always be able to do), the people who benefit take their benefits from the continuing weakening and gutting of the American Governing Infrastructure.

Twitter, however, may die an ugly death if news of its expanding posts up to 10,000 characters proves to be true (I actually like it, as forcing people to post under 140 characters makes for sharp, witty, brief comments. But then I'm a fan of Haiku, so...).

2) Saudi Arabia used to profitably export a lot of wheat before all their ground wells started drying up. Now, they don't even grow it. (Google it, if you don't believe me). To me it explains a lot of the cratering of oil prices, even to the point of making this "Jihad on American Fracking" a secondary outcome out of necessity. (and don't be surprised if Obama's peace with Iran is an American reaction to this.).

3) Don't be surprised if Trump is paired with someone competent and able to run Government as his VP – and that Trump already knows whom that will be. Bush/Cheney, and Reagan/Bush (and, if a certain source is correct, Eisenhower/Nixon) beforehand come to mind. The Radical Rightists will be reminded that they've gone a long way towards their wishes through the states, and will vote in step on the Federal level to gain what they want through the states.

For the Democrats, if History doesn't repeat (Hillary cut off during the primaries, Dems win the General Presidential Election) it will rhyme (Republicans win the General Election, and not just at the Presidential level). Either way, if the TTP passes the Presidential Election may prove shockingly fruitless as the TTP will make it impossible for government to act in any way possible.

Robert Waldrop said...

Meanwhile, inside the Beltway, the media is chanting "America is already great and getting greater all the time."

Reads like something from Pravda in hmmm 1987 or so.

Howard Skillington said...

It’s possible to imagine the decline of Dick Cheney’s non-negotiable "American Way of Life" continuing at its stately pace if Twitter were to vanish tomorrow; if the corporate press were to insist that they’ve never heard of fracking and have been touting photovoltaics all along; possibly even if the man standing behind the Presidential Seal were named Trump. But it’s difficult to see decline proceeding at less than warp speed if the House of Saud should fall, ending the Petrodollar’s reign as the reserve currency.

It’s hard to imagine an American president resisting large-scale military involvement on the Arabian peninsula in a desperate effort to maintain the greenback’s exorbitant privilege. Given the inefficacy of our efforts elsewhere in the Middle East, it would be easy to imagine a scenario not unlike what you have envisioned for us in Twilight's Last Gleaming.

onething said...


".. a very compelling argument insisting that all democratic nations engaged in global empire building ultimately face a crisis whereby they must choose one of two roads: either shed the empire in order to preserve their democracy, or preserve their empire and lose their democracy."

Certainly the current trends are toward shedding our democracy. Will that turn around as we lose our hegemony? It seems doubtful. Rather, efforts at maintenance will redouble.

Mister Roboto said...

According to respected and usually accurate political analyst Nate Silver, Trump in actuality only has a 25% chance of getting the Republican nomination, and Bernie Sanders has even less of a chance of getting the Democratic nomination. In that case, I'm guessing Marco Rubio would get the Republican nomination, because he's as solid a movement-conservative as a movement-conservative could want and also smart enough to refrain from the sort of rhetorical bomb-throwing that would make the nomination of Ted Cruz absolutely toxic for this year's Republican ticket. I'm actually kind of hoping that Rubio gets the nod so I can start calling him the Miami Sound-Byte Machine! (Though I suppose one would have to be a child of the eighties to find that even mildly amusing.)

However, we probably won't have any clear idea until what I have affectionately come to call "Stupor Tuesday" has come and gone, which will be in a mere two months.

Karl K said...

Great post, as always.

First, in the area of wild speculation, can you suggest a possible running mate for Trump?

Second, any thoughts on higher education? As a teacher at a community college (in NY where we don't have a lot of trade-type things being taught), I was astounded that students still showed up at our doors this past Fall. In addition, I was also expecting a lot of crying and whining from the administrations of more expensive private institutions when students willing to accrue additional debt failed to appear. But, I was disappointed in this expectation as well.

My conclusion is that the popping of the higher ed bubble may still be a ways away.

Brian Chadwick said...

Sanders has as good a chance at winning as Trudeau did this time last year, although I disagree with his 80% renewable energy dreams
Buying anything from amazon contributes to the downfall.
The el nino / el nina weather patterns determine the planet`s weather as much as any other single contributor.

My predictions
Cannabis will become legal in Canada,(2016-17)and it`s cultivation will reinvigorate the world`s economies, eventually.
The LA gas leak will be the worst disaster of 2016.

George Coles said...

Happy New Year to you and yours, Mr. Greer.
Another outstanding post! It is so rare to
hear, read, or witness common sense in today's world
that when one is confronted with it - it is jarring.

On the matter of Mr. Trump, I believe (like you)
that he is a man to watch. I don't follow him
out of admiration, but rather, as an historian
would follow any woman or man who is symbolic of
the age in which they live.

His American followers (and I daresay the many
non-Americans throughout the world who hold
him in high esteem) are likely attracted to
the belief - right or wrong - that his candidacy
will cause damage to the two-party system which
any thinking person can see has corroded the
basic ideas of "real democracy".

In a sense, Mr. Trump's specific policies are
beside the point. But is that so new in American
politics? Isn't style, personal trust, rhetoric,
and character more essential to the electorate?

It is certainly possible that he becomes the next
President, and perhaps likely that his policies
would be a net-negative. But the system that
surrounds us has led to so many feeling alienated
that it is perfectly understandable that he
is finding support from rational people. He is
promising an escape from the technopoly of
American society (as Neil Postman might have meant).

As Eric Hoffer once wrote: "We feel free when we
escape - even if it be but from the frying pan
to the fire."

Bill Pulliam said...

About the whole process of prognostication -- It always surprises me that you engage in this game every year, because it seems out-of-keeping with your tone the other 51 weeks. Right now we are essentially in an oil glut with crashing prices. Sure it is a weird and artificial glut caused by some very strange actions among producers, but there it is none the less. The stock market remains at a plateau only slightly below its record levels, trading in the same range for well over a year. Bubbles are notoriously difficult to prognisticate about. The housing bubble kept up for almost a decade longer than I thought possible. Etc. etc. etc.

It's a safe bet in September that colder weather is coming. But how cold, and when, and whether it is stormy cold, dry cold, snowy cold, and will a once-a decade crippling storm will hit.. you can't forecast these.

Mary said...

JMG, I think there's a fair chance of an "upset" in the Dem primary, which is why I wish Sanders could stay out of small planes. The strongest lesson I learned in statistics is how easily survey results can be skewed, so I take the public polls with a huge grain of salt. They are clearly skewed toward Clinton. I would *love* to see the internal polling results, which would tell the real story. Sanders' quiet confidence against Clinton's (and DWS's)increasingly desperate pandering (and control) speaks volumes. Even more telling: emails sent just before Christmas and New Years, in which she stated they could lose both Iowa and NH, and actually asked for $1.00 donations, apparently to try to bring down the size of her average donation (which remains secret). Sanders 2.5+ million individual donations averaging $25.00 is hitting her where it hurts.

There are also numerous pending investigations, not only the private server/FBI, but also into the Abedin relationship and a new lawsuit re: pay to play via the Clinton Foundation, all of which probably have legs and could blow up at a most inopportune moment.

On oil prices, I would add that in past recessions, KSA (within OPEC) would agree to cut production to support prices. This time around, KSA can't afford to cut production; the financial damage from the misadventures you described means they have to sell more oil to maintain their cash flow. And of course, the more oil they sell, the more the price drops. Classic death spiral.

On solar, I read recently (forget where) that federal solar subsidies have just been extended to 2020. So the groundwork has been laid for that push.

Through all this I remember the single useful thing my mother ever said to me. On the great depression, "At first it was great because everything was so cheap. And then it was awful because there wasn't anything to buy. The shelves were empty."

On a personal note, sadness here at Magical Thyme Farm, as a new baby monitor confirmed I was deluding myself regarding my kitty. Rest in peace, my beautiful little Oaksley. Among the most affectionate and loving beings I have ever been privileged to know.


Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

As Niels Bohr said, "predictions are difficult, especially about the future." :)

A few ancillary observations:

1. Here in Illinois, much of the corn grown is still for ethanol. This continues to exacerbate environmental difficulties caused by mono-cultural farming practices, including loss of pollinator habitat and increased vulnerability to drought. Also, a new study in Nature shows that, in modern times, crops in "developed" countries have been more harmed by drought than those in "developing" nations, in part, the authors say, because industrial mono-cropping leads to less resilience than crop diversity. ("Duh!" I want to respond, "if it's true for ecosystems, it ought to be true for agricultural systems;" however, combining crop data with weather data for some serious crunching hasn't been done in quite this way before to show evidence of large-scale historical patterns. It could prove useful.)

2. Half of Iran's provinces will be basically uninhabitable within 15 years owing to drought and groundwater depletion.

3. I participate in community planning (and action) for resiliency in my town, which, among other things, is working on developing a community solar project. This is the town government as well as citizens. Everyone involved is pretty clear-eyed about what solar can and can't do and future climate/energy impacts on our admittedly middle-class lifestyles. I continue to believe that, regarding de-carbonizing and resiliency, what we see happening and being discussed in the national media and the national-level legislature and political parties doesn't fully capture the serious efforts being made at the (in some cases) state and (especially) municipal levels.

Bill Pulliam said...

Re: P/E, the interesting thing to me is that the one index whose P/E has spiked in the last year is the Russell 2000 (162, up from 61 a year ago, which was already high). It's a "diversified" small cap index. It's not just tech, but also financials, discretionary, healthcare, etc. So do we have a broad-based "small cap" bubble, not just a "tech" bubble? Maybe from speculators "chasing yield" in a climate of zero interest rates and flat indices?

Hello... said...

(from erika in san francisco)

oh my god! that the tech bubble would pop by the end of the year! this reads like the most head-blowing erotica EVER. thank you! san francisco's flush with so much MONEY, but they've been giving so many tax breaks to these raping and pillaging shmucks, there's still a 200 million shortage in the budget and so ed lee's telling city departments to raise or devise new FEES. lovely.

happy new year, John Michael Greer, and thank you for that news. we're watching the stock market over here like a football game.

and happy new year to John Michael Greer's READERS. i just love coming back through the week and reading comments.


Tidlösa said...

Don´t worry, when Amazon sells everything for a nickel, I´ll be there to buy the lot! No "dawdling" there (I had to look up that word). :-)

hewhocutsdown said...

I was at a friend's house last night, discussing current affairs with a hand-picked group of unusually clear thinkers... *and yet* the evidence of thought blockers was in full display. One economist argued that low oil prices were the proof of Schumpeter and capitalism, with a throwaway but revealing comment "unless the externalities overwhelm" that was immediately ignored. Another failed to understand why I refused to talk about the price of oil when discussing EROEI; that the net energy output was the more salient fact, and that pricing masked the underlying, more real phenomena; to him, *price* was more real than physics.

Another is in full-blown denial that global warming is even occurring, but also insists that it will be beneficial rather than harmful. The others immediately pounced on this, dismissing his concerns as illegitimate, when in fact his concerns *were* legitimate, but were *not* sufficient to warrant status as a 'disproof'.

It's demoralizing; these are the select few people in my social circles who have proven over the years to be the *least* susceptible to wishful thinking and cultural illusions; it's worse with everyone else. I feel we're engaging in a rear guard action with possibility of general success being inversely proportional to its necessity.

Joe Roberts said...

Up until a few weeks ago, I doubted that Trump could be elected president. For all his popularity in GOP polls, I thought he could probably be stopped by the Republican establishment somehow in the spring, and in any case would lose to Hillary in the purple states once the general campaign got underway, and his vague bromides and rude insults wore thin with swing voters who, even if they personally might not care for Hillary, at least think she is the lesser of two you-know-whats.

But if the rest of 2016 unfolds as it has thus far, it and the last months of 2015 -- daily large declines in the stock market (another 7% down in China this morning, on top of Monday's 7% fall), even more geopolitical uncertainty, random terrorist attacks from all sorts of terrorists -- then unfortunately I agree with you that Trump could be elected in November. I'm not sure that Obama could have been elected in 2008 if, well, 2008 hadn't been 2008; if it had been a regular year, an outsider like him wouldn't really have stood a chance, but "Hope" and "Change" resonated in ultra-uncertain times the way that Trump's own empty phrases do now, for different reasons. Very scary period we're living through.

whomever said...

JMG: Re "empire and democracy", I might have argued UK might have a reasonable claim. In terms of ex-empires, they seem to have managed it reasonably well (I mean, comparatively), and they are probably more democratic now then they were 100 years ago. They of course have the unfinished business of Northern Ireland (which i get the distinct impression they would love to get rid of but can't for political reasons). But now it looks like Scotland might seriously secede and there may not BE a UK anymore (as I said to a Scottish friend of mind, it would be the height of irony if Scotland was independent before Northern Ireland!)

It's interesting to also read about the collapse of the French empire (especially the disaster in Algeria) and the strains that placed on the French governing system. People forget that they had what was effectively a military coup as recently as 1958!

Collapse of Empires really is a fascinating subject and I'd be curious if there are books you like that specialize in the subject.

donalfagan said...

Steve Ludlum offered predictions, a few of which resemble yours:
— Energy deflation to take hold in 2016
— The Kurds will destroy the Islamic State in Syria in early 2016.
— Turkish strongman, Recep Erdogan, man of many blunders, to be removed from office by military coup.
— The China economy will crash … who could have guessed?
— The ‘Widowmaker Trade’ finally unravels.
— Migrants will flood into the US as Puerto Rico defaults leaving millions of US citizens with no means of support.
— War between Iran and Saudi Arabia …
— Economic uncertainties will cause world-industry leaders to shelve ambitious plans to combat climate change

Clay Dennis said...

Great Predictions, I pretty much agree with all of them, with the addition of Germany uncoupling from the Nato/US empire. I have gone out on a limb with my predictions on a local level ( at least people I know think I have). Here in Portland ,we are kind of a second hand cousin to the Bay Area in terms of a real estate bubble. In the last couple of years we have seen a flood of "walkable" apartment complexes built shoulder to shoulder along transit lines, bus lines and bikeways all over the close-in parts of town. There are massive numbers of these currently still under construction and vacancies remain low despite the fact that these places are charging rents far out of proportion to the incomes of the millenials living there. Locally everyone assumes that this is some sort of historic trend that will continue far in to the future, while I see it as a side effect of the tech money and dicey credit schemes used to finace such developments. I have predicted to everyone that I know that many of these places will never be finished, and even if they are they will sit half occupied untill they collapse down the bancruptcy chain and become cheap to rent. They think I am crazy, but we will see.

Dammerung said...

Ammon Bundy's body lies a'mouldering in the grave;
Ammon Bundy's body lies a'mouldering in the grave;
Ammon Bundy's body lies a'mouldering in the grave;
but his soul is marching on.

Has a catchy ring to it, don't you think?

Pinku-Sensei said...

The marketing of "the PV Revolution" is indeed showing up in the boosterism of at least one economist, Paul Krugman. In his Christmas column "Things to Celebrate, Like Dreams of Flying Cars," he wrote the following about technological progress in energy:

The biggest effects so far have come from fracking, which has ended fears about peak oil and could, if properly regulated, be some help on climate change: Fracked gas is still fossil fuel, but burning it generates a lot less greenhouse emissions than burning coal. The bigger revolution looking forward, however, is in renewable energy, where costs of wind and especially solar have dropped incredibly fast.
[N]ow we can see the shape of a sustainable, low-emission future quite clearly - basically an electrified economy with, yes, nuclear power playing some role, but sun and wind front and center. Of course, it doesn't have to happen. But if it doesn't, the problem will be politics, not technology.

That's what the leftward edge of mainstream economic thought has to say about the subject and a lot of his readers on what passes for the left in the U.S. will buy it. Of course, the mainstream economists invented the idea of externalities, but they meant it as "someone else's problem."

As for ethanol, it may have been neither the great savior of automobile fuel in the U.S. or a great speculative investment, but ethanol production has consumed every additional bushel of corn the U.S. has produced during the past decade and then some. This is despite corn ethanol having at best a 15% EROI and is in many places a net energy loser.

As for Trump, the leading betting market gives better odds for Rubio and Cruz to win the nomination than Trump. The participants don't seem to think that the interest in Trump will translate into votes. Maybe, but it certainly yields page views. Four of the five most shared stories I wrote about elections had Trump as a subject. As long as that's the case, he'll get covered by the media.

donalfagan said...

What is most interesting about the Trump candidacy to me, is that it is very clear that the establishment media (certainly a part of your top 20%) wants him to go away because he represents change. Even the internet media, like Nate Silver and the crew at 538, find it inconceivable that he is still around. ("You keep using that word ...") I have been dismayed to see new internet media types morph into good imitations of old media types.

Nastarana said...

My guess is that Sanders is more likely than Trump to be the victim of assassination. The Clintons are known to be ruthless and to have some unsavory contacts; Bill might just decide to call in favors to get his spouse in the WH, where, I am venturing on prediction here, she will be the first president to be impeached and removed from office.

Trump is, I believe, a creature of Wall Street, who will protect their puppet while he remains useful.

Pinku-Sensei said...

As for last year's prediction that didn't go as well as you expected, it's probably because the consumer economy (barely) made up for the decline in the mining sector of the industrial economy caused by lower oil prices and a stalling of the increase in production. The oil patch is hurting, but the pain hasn't expanded beyond it into the economy of most parts of the U.S. In fact, 2015 set a record for car sales in the U.S. That's the good news from a buisiness as usual perspective. The bad news is that low gas prices mean more of those cars are less fuel efficient. Sigh, they'll be sorry when gas prices rise.

That written, you're right that the plight of the oil workers and those dependent on them isn't getting much attention. In fact, it's going to get less attention, if only in fiction. The TV series "Blood and Oil" was supposed to be a 21st Century version of "Dallas" and "Dynasty" set in North Dakota during the shale boom. The show went ten episodes and is likely to be cancelled. People switched over from the fractured fairy tales of "Once Upon A Time" to the zombie apocalypse of "The Walking Dead" then back to the national security theater of "Quantico," which is "Homeland" meets "How To Get Away With Murder." Viewers would rather watch Rick Grimes kill zombies than a soap opera about oilmen and their women.

So the collapse of the fracking bubble didn't turn out to be the next popping of the real estate bubble, which did damage the wider economy. The movie "The Big Short" turned that tragedy into a comedy. In fact, it's such a good comedy that it got nominations for Best Movie Comedy at both the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards. The protagonists cried all the way to the bank as millions cried their way to bankruptcy, foreclosure, and eviction.

I'll add that film to the ones I recommend to my students, along with "Inside Job," about the real estate crash. Very few students are likely to watch either. Instead, my students are still looking for good news from technology, just like Krugman in my previous comment. Last summer's class was particularly enamored with self-driving cars, which they voted their favorite student presentation. The feedback was that they'd had enough of doom and gloom and wanted something hopeful. "They'll think of something" lives!

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160107T173425Z

Here comes a string of five logically unconnected comments.

(1) Jbucks, sorry to hear of your job loss.

(2) I am dealing with some emotional fallout here, having been troubled in yesterday's daylight hours by Mr Hitler, and having been awake thinking of him again in some of the wee small hours. (The fallout is unending: one notes now, e.g., that whereas the senior Albert Speer designed facilities for the 1936 Olympics, his son, the still-living architect Albert Jr., did some of the corresponding work for Beijing's 2008 games.) So I am a day late in sending e-mail to the crew of our envisaged Catholic catabolic-collapse blog. What I promised for yesterday I hope to deliver today. Sorry.

(3) In last week's crop of blog comments, correcting a previous error, I at UTC=20160105T161415Z introduced a new error: for 'françcais' read, now, 'français'. This correcting of errors is assuming the aspect of a pleasant and dignified parlour game, like the composing of haiku. - I should also remark, again today, that at 20160105T161415Z I drew to the attention of this readership a small, two-minute, painless thing that anyone can do for Ontario forest conservation, while in the same context commenting on a camera-carrying drone and a property developer. And I may as well add now, as a follow-on to 20160105T161415Z, that I have given our local municipality an approx 25-page PDF report on our whole wretched David Dunlap Observatory conservation case (32 hectares out of 77 destroyed; rump park planned for the remaining 45 hectares; we in this municipality have been asked for feedback ideas regarding the rump). Anyone in this ADR readership wanting the report - one or two ADR people MIGHT find a use for it, as they analyze conservation and municipal failure and climate change and the like - should e-mail Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com, with subject line "plse e-mail me DDO park-planning-draft feedback".

(4) To JMG's list of unsuccessful predictions we should add, for completeness, his forthright second-half-of-2014 prediction that Ebola would in the 2014-2015 timeframe spiral out of control. I joined him in this, forthrightly, I think in the autumn of 2014. We can rejoice to have erred. :-)

(5) House of Saud: oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. JMG is right to underscore and stress this sad matter now, as he formulates New Year's predictions. Those of us over the age of 40 or so (JMG himself, and others among us) will recall that we have been pondering the Saudi exposure for decades. If the end of the House of Saud does not occur in 2016, it cannot at any rate any longer be too far off. Kinda-sorta like the Romanovs, minus such positive things as Tchaikovsky and Mendeleyev-Lobachevscky-Popov and Tolstoy-Dostoyevsky-Gogol and Ilya Repin and basso profundo vocalists and Byzantine spirituality and samovars. - It is worth remarking, for the benefit of readers without ready access to mainstream Canadian media, that the Canadian government coolly remarked, upon the unjust execution by Saudi Arabia of non-violent cleric-cum-dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr a few days ago, that Canada would continue with its contracted sale of military hardware to the Kingdom. This kind of thing damages Canada's contemporary diplomatic reputation, which back in 1956 stood high. (Lester Pearson stood up for peace in the Suez Crisis a little north of Saudi Arabia, thereby distancing Canada in a courageous way from the deficient foreign policy of UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden. Mr Pearson's effort earned him a Nobel Peace Prize. I've seen the medal displayed in a lobby at the Canadian foreign ministry - in Mr Pearson's day, 'External Affairs' - in Ottawa.)


(Estonian diaspora)
(municipally in Town of Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto)

234567 said...

@Bike Club Vest Prez

You can look at this:

Fact is, demand and supply are just not that far apart (about 2m/bbl per day). When you look at Saudi and most every other oil producing nation pumping all out to garner necessary revenues in this market, it has future oil shock written all over it. If Saudi implodes, and oil supply is interrupted, then there is an immediate economic shock.

It takes 60 months for an oil price change to work it's way through global economic cycles, so the good side of low prices is later, not now. Oil price jump is instant, as financial players immediately factor it into their data.

Don't lump in crude with "all liquids" - that implies a fungibility that different grades of oil do not possess, and is a cornucopians' trick. Refineries are designed to crack heavier oil, not amend lighter oil, like the condensate from shale wells. Traditional Crudes are at or past peak at this juncture in most producing countries. Fracked "light crude" needs about $70/BBL to even be worth contemplating. ( )

The real issue in global ability to respond to this is the amount of demand destruction occurring in the oil patch today. @Ben above is the tip of the iceberg. I have been doing non-oilfield work and independent consulting in the oilpatch to survive for almost 3 years. This decline started for me when the Gulf of Mexico reached diminishing returns, as my expertise is offshore. That was in 2013.

If oil jumped to $200/BBL today, the response would be 12-24 months later, as financing is not there and will not appear until price is stable. They (financiers) just got their fingers singed playing this bubble, right?

A price jump will hammer non-oilfield next, in the cycle of demand destruction. Remember, it is not a thing most people can visualize because it happens seesaw fashion and incrementally.

Yes - I have all but collapsed completely. All that remains is when the income peters out and I walk away from my suburban house and to my farm.

Helix said...

Re: "I forget who said this, but while Trump isn't what America needs, he's arguably what America deserves."

I said that on several occasions.

I no longer have any Republican friends.

234567 said...

Grid-tie solar is not up to par in my experience. I have had inverter, battery and switching issues yearly. Charge controllers are fine, but not if in same box with inverter. IMHO, the equipment is not robust enough due to excessive digital components and multi-function chips. For this reason, we are switching this to 12V system in the house to obviate the inverter and losses with a simple double master switch to run on line power or stand-alone PV.

All the grid-tie gear is fabbed in Asia. Every year they obsolete one and pop out another - parts are not available due to the compounded chips and transistors, and micro-soldered connections on the PC boards.

Real problem is hypercomplexity bound up with planned obsolescence - does not make for robust systems that last. Looks like grow-your-own is going to be the only way this survives for 30 years.

John Dunn said...

Your historic parallels of WW1 in European/Eastern politics and the nod to John Brown in domestic politics are very appropriate.

If anything is different this time, it is the role of radicalization (regardless of flavor) via the internet. I guess people radicalized through pamphlets and other propaganda, but the web feels like propaganda on crack.

Clay Dennis said...

JMG, just as you mentioned in your commet above, I have come to realize that happy motoring ( kunstlers term) will not come to an end because gas will be unavailible or too expensive but because most people will not be to afford the entire package of costs that automobile travel involves. Most americans are so addicted ( or geographicaly trapped) in to paying to drive their cars that as credit and money becomes scarce they will cut out other things before they stop buying gas. You can see this today with the growing number of cars you find stranded along the roads because the owners can't afford to keep them repaired, or buy tires. The car insurance companies are taking advantage of thier customers insolvency by going to a system of cash payouts for auto accidents. I have known several people who have gotten in fender benders in the last year and after the estimator looked at their car they were mailed a check for an amount that was about half the actual cost of repair. The cutomers could take the car to an approved shop and have it fixed, and fight with the insurance company to have the whole amount paid, or they could just keep the money and not fix the car, or have their brother-in-law fix it up with tape and bondo. A huge number of people are so hard up for cash they often keep the money and drive around with a dented up car. This is just a part of a process of burning the furniture to heat the cabin that is endemic to our economy as a whole.

Carmiac said...

Mr Greer,

Greetings from the SF Bay. I have noticed two trends relevant to your predictions.

First, house prices in the Bay Area seem to have crested in that last 4-6 weeks. I've been following actual sale prices pretty closely for the last couple years and for the first time I've started seeing the sale prices of average homes outside of SF start to drop. Some houses are staying on the market a few weeks longer and dropping in price by a few percent while others are simply being taken off the market when the owner can't get their asking price. In other places this might seem normal, but it is a significant change for this market. It's only recent and could be a blip, but I think it's a sign of things to come.

On a related note, many of the "average Joe" tech workers out here are getting serious about doing the practical work of crashing now. It's small things, but front yard veggie gardens, grey water systems, homemade everything has become a point of pride and seen as quite cool.

Shane W said...

Speak of the devil, look what showed up in the local paper not even a day after you posted about the "PV revolution"
(Being tech ignorant, what html tag do I used for a link?)
Speaking of an implosion of social media, I'm thinking this could affect the sites that host JMG's blogs. Anyone know the financials behind the company behind blogger? I'd like to offer my services immediately in case this tech bubble bust darkens these sites or makes them cost-prohibitive for JMG to maintain. I'd love to help w/making these available hard copy by postal mail. I can be reached on green wizards.
Regarding Saudi Arabia, JMG, others, what do you think are the chances that an implosion of the KSA will lead to fewer terrorist attacks? Most coherent observers link Islamist terrorism to funding of Wahhabist extremism by the Saudis. If this funding dries up, does a lot of the terrorism associated with it dry up as well?
JMG, I've never heard you mention I'll Take My Stand before, and I was wondering why, as it seems like the Southern Agrarians/Fugitives were discussing issues you discuss here eighty years ago, and seem very in keeping with your ideas on progress & industrialism. I must admit, the book is having a powerful impact on me as it clearly lays out something I've felt, but could not articulate--that the agrarian South had a role to play in opposing the dominant American industrialism, and that the South's unique role was not as scapegoat/other, but as an agrarian alternative to the myth of progress and industrialism. I now realize that the rich culture that the agrarians lived in was dying out as I was growing up. I wished that a copy of Limits to Growth could have been spirited back in time to the Southern Agrarians so that they could see that industrialism was self-terminating. I can see a substantial minority of young people in the South, after failed experiments in industrial & finance capitalism, picking up the text as a manifesto for a different future, albeit with serious asterisks around the more problematic racial passages.

Shane W said...

If social media, games like Candy Crush, and other aspects of the internet go down (or get expensive) as part of a tech bust, I expect a MAJOR push on the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana. Screen addiction has a major role to play anesthetizing the public, and if they can't get their screen fix, they're going to demand alternatives, marijuana and psych meds among them. Very few people now want to face reality stone cold sober.

Greg Belvedere said...

It will be an uphill battle. But he has a history of surprising people, so I have my fingers crossed.

In any case, I agree with your other predictions. Having tried to start a tech company myself I'm still amazed that so many companies that have no way of making money have stayed afloat so long. The fact that so many companies got funding despite this fact probably kept me pursuing this goal longer than I should have. The news coming out of Saudi Arabia lately makes me think your prediction about that kingdom's fall could come to pass this year. Both are a matter of when, not if. Interesting times. Gotta go, the oil for the popcorn is ready.

Roger said...

It sounds trite but money is what motivates the top one percent. How many times have you picked up a copy of a bizness magazine to see in its pages articles ranking top 100 companies, top one hundred this or that. Always ranking, always keeping score. Too much is ever enough... It's this obsessive, unreasoning greed that propelled "globalization".

Did you happen to read Barry Lynn's article in Harper's magazine titled the "New China Syndrome"? Mr. Lynn wrote that the American moneyed class, by transferring the industries they control to China, effectively gave control of those industries to the gang of nasty men that control China. And, IMO, control of the vast fortunes of the American moneyed class.

Not only all that but also the ability to influence legislation in America. As Mr. Lynn said, it never occurred to Americans that another power would challenge America inside the world trading system.

The eminently foreseeable result of this transfer is that corporations now do what the Chinese say. Or else. As Mr. Lynn said, Atlantic published an article titled "How WalMart Conquered China" and apparently in response and very quickly, the Chinese showed WalMart exactly who's in charge.

IMO American oligarchs made the seriously boneheaded error of thinking that non-Americans think like Americans think. They don't. They thought that if you educate the children of the elite in American universities the kids would come to follow the same rules as Americans. They didn't. They thought that American values are universal values. They aren't. They thought that money equals power. It doesn't.

What the American moneyed class learned (again) is what Mao said, long decades ago: that power comes from the barrel of a gun. Knowledge is power? Hah. Money is power? Even funnier. Money is just paper with pictures on it. A high velocity projectile has the ability to compel that money doesn't. What power does the CEO of WalMart have? To fire? To write a cheque? To build a store? So what, what's that compared to the power to kill?

The Chairman of Ford may think he has power. But, in China, power rests with the men that command infantry regiments. And in China, the power to compel sits not in Ford's boardroom but rather with those Mandarin speaking men in Beijing who command police and soldiers.

Tell the Chinese what they don't want to hear and, just like that, the foreign exec in Shanghai finds himself in jail. Right or wrong, it makes not a whit of difference. You do what the Chinese say, their way.

In a country with effectively no rule of law, property and liberty can be taken away at will. Legal ownership of industry that Americans brought to China can change with the stroke of a pen.

A huge geo-political shift by the looks of it, thanks to American oligarchs. Stock melt-down or no the consequences will keep unfolding next year and on after.

pygmycory said...

Here's my predictions for 2016:
#1 Economic trouble in the form of at least 3 of the following:
a)housing crashes in at least one of the following: Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, New York, London, or Sydney.
b)a global recession
c)a true stock market crash in the USA
d)more bankruptcies in US/Canadian oil and gas
e)China's economic problems get worse
f)unspecified major economic problem (count as 1 each time it happens)
g)other N. American bubble burst, such as US education or auto loans.

#2 Trudeau will break more election promises to the middle class than to wealthy ones/corporations.

#3 Canada will run a deficit

#4 The refugee crisis will continue and will cause worse problems in europe this year than last.

#5 I honestly don't know what will happen with the wars in the middle east, other than they aren't over yet. I think the US will lose influence there over the course of the year and Saudi Arabia's problems will get worse.

RPC said...

"...instead of popping, the fracking bubble sprang a slow leak." If this is deliberate on someone's part, it would actually be a big deal. Most of the pain of a bubble is a whole class of people suddenly losing their shirts at the end; if this process can be stretched out, the overall economic dislocation would be considerably reduced. OTOH, if Goldman Sachs is right and the only thing keeping the end at bay is China filling its strategic reserve, we may yet see $20 oil and the usual bloodbath.

pygmycory said...

I am questioning the idea of Trump winning the elections being that likely, given how he's said things that are threatening to groups that form most of the US population when put together, ie. women, mexican immigrants, muslims, the media, people with disabilities, people who've been POW's... that may make him very popular with non-elite white men, but they are a minority of the US population.

Of course, if most of the people in these populations don't bother voting because there's no one worth voting for, and his base turns out in high numbers, it's possible he could win. Or if a lot of people in the insulted groups decide any change at all is better than the status quo.

Eric S. said...

Re: your predictions on the economy (since I slightly misunderstood exactly what you were predicting last year in terms of scale), when you say that you’re expecting a crash in tech stocks, rather than a full stock market crash, and that you expect the impacts to be paved over by the media, and the actual impacts on the official economy to be propped up by economic jerry rigging… to what degree do you expect that to be the case? It seems like even without a tech stock bubble bursting, we’re already headed into the early moves an economic recession at least on the scale of the one that the commodity slide in the early ‘90s brought. Compounded by a tech stock burst like the one in 2000 (which on its own brought a small, but undeniable recession with it), I’d expect something worse than that. Would something in the vicinity of a 2% drop in GDP, a 10% drop in official employment statistics, and a 20-30% bear market in stocks within the next year/year and a half (masking much worse unofficial numbers) fall within the scope of your prediction (that's kind of the range of what I'm expecting based on the way 2015 turned out)? Or are you predicting that the year is going to bring something even less dramatic than that, and that the continuing commodity slide and tech burst won’t even register as a recession outside of the phantom corners of our society where statisticians dare not go?

Bill Pulliam said...

So now on to Trump. He'll only get the nomination if he gets a straight majority of delegates. It's pretty obvious that if there is need for additional ballots, once the delegates are released (most of whom would have been voting for Trump because of legal obligation, holding their noses all the way) they will consolidate around some other more manageable figurehead.

If he does manage the nomination, he has huge "negatives" for the General. For every person who is motivated to go to the polls to vote for him, there may be 1.2 motivated to go to the polls in sheer horror of the idea of him. Clinton has plenty of "negatives" too, but I don't think they are as visceral overall.

And if he somehow manages the General and gets innaugurated, hey, we'll survive. Italy survived Berlusconi who is pretty much the Italian version of the same character. He did a lot of damage from which they have not fully recovered, but they are still there.

And then what happens? His approval ratings plummet, his policies get blocked in congress and the courts, and in 2018 there is a wave election against him returning congress to split or democratic control. And so on and so on while the macro forces continue dragging the global economy in exactly the opposite direction from that which every politicion around the globe promises it will go.

SLClaire said...

We have 15 or more pounds (not finished shelling it yet so I don't have the final total) of popcorn ready to go from my 2015 harvest. Looks like my husband Mike and I are all set to settle in and watch the fireworks. ;-)

My sense overall is much like yours. If Clinton wins the nomination, I won't vote for president. If Sanders wins the nomination, I could stand voting for him, though I'd feel sorry for him if he wins. Being US president from 2017-2021 isn't going to be easy for anyone. I wouldn't wish it on anyone I respect. A big part of that will be the fallout from the fall of the House of Saud.

I only set personal goals rather than make predictions. So here are a couple goals for me in 2016: that Mike and I have a screen porch added to the north side of the house so we have a bug-free place to sit outside in warm weather, and that I redesign the yard and gardens based on what I've learned in the 14 years we've lived here. I have more goals, but they are personal. As for the 2015 goals, we do now have a woodshed and I had the best garden year ever, and achieved most of my personal goals as well. I'll be reporting on the 2015 garden results soon in my blog.

nuku said...

Re your predicted Tech Bubble: I read somewhere that Foxton, the huge Chinese company that makes most Apple "devices", has started to slow down production and is sending large numbers of its workers home during the Chinese holidays. The days of double and triple overtime are gone. Apple investors are nervous and Apple stock has fallen.
The "smart" phone market is glutted; some countries have more smart phones than people! "Innovation" is down to little geeky geegaws like smart watches and fridges that tell you your milk's out of date.

August Johnson said...

JMG - I know you keep saying it, I'll say it too; If you are at all interested in maintaining communication, Get your Amateur Radio License! Don't stop with a Technician level license but get your General level license, and Get on the air, both VHF and HF.

I'm working very closely with the ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) groups here and we're making sure that we have a robust communications "system" that in no way depends on massive, delicate infrastructure. Yes, we have to support computer communications to work with the Local, State and Federal agencies that we work with, but we're making sure that we all have the equipment and know how to communicate even if all that dies.

I just gave a used 2 Meter mobile radio to a High School student who has had his license for a couple years now and is also into Search & Rescue. He's a part of our ARES group and making great contributions.

I can't say this loudly enough, "collapsing now" includes learning how to communicate without using the Internet, just as much as growing some of your own food, using less, etc. Preparing for emergencies and "collapsing" have many skills in common.

I'm very interested in the idea of a written ADR, I'll subscribe as soon as it's available.

MIckGspot said...

Thank you JMG. Having finished Green Wizardry last evening I predict a year of home based science projects in 2016. Continued focus on improving individual ability to survive and thrive is my top priority. I may go to drone mechanics school in September per my belief these instruments of destruction and associated industry have at least 10 strong years to go.
What do you need when the chips are down?
A drone of course!

Hubertus Hauger said...

@ GMG said (preveously): "... on the future of ... sustainable renewable-energy technologies ... can get through ... and make human societies ... into the far future. It's the fantasy that today's lifestyles ... the product of ... of wretched excess and absurd extravagance... a daunting prospect, but it's not as though we have a choice"!

For the material part resources get more difficult to be harnessed, than we can afford. One limit.

For the metaphysical part death an birth are another limit, where there is a break. Which we cannot avoid. Death disperses our existence and birth is foccusing it into being. In both cases its normal to resist its coming. Also its painful.

By going we leave space, for the ones following after us. By coming we conquer space for our time being. Living while we exist and leaving an impression after us.

These limits in life, I fear them. Sometimes I am paralized. Sometimes I run off. Yet the limits do not define me. As a catholic a great question is, what is our purpose in life. One impressive answer I got, was, change something, do something, live!

Change is inevitable ... not that we have a choice. So, let´s carry on!

avalterra said...

Well since we are all doing it I will chime in with my 2016 predictions:

1) Hilary Clinton is elected our next president. In more detail - Donald Trump does not win the nomination. He is either forced out in some manner by the GOP and runs third party undercutting the GOP nominee or he gets to the convention with enough delegates that the convention is brokered and he is forced out there. In any case whoever the eventual GOP nominee is Trump supporters don't back him (likely him as I don't see Fiorina pulling it off) and Hilary walks to victory.

2) Saudi Arabia does not collapse but the beginnings of its collapse are evident before year end. Wide spread unrest and protests put down brutally, economic collapse and military embarrassments. More evidence of Saudi Arabia's involvement in world event will come out but now they will actually get attention by the media and the public. Iran's stand off with Saudi Arabia which looks foolish now will look strategically smart in hind sight.

3) The markets (bond, stock, housing) stumble and bumble and herk and jerk all year long with an overall downward direction. There are a few sharp sell offs with some relief rallies. The end of the year closes down. The serious sell off does not begin until next year or very late this year.

4) After many feints and false starts at least one European country finds themselves with a slight majority of its population favoring one of its radical parties. The backlash against immigration builds momentum all year long with more attention getting events like the one that occurred over New Years in Cologne.

5) The Oregon stand off sputters to an end and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. What most won't see is that there is a growing number of American's who agree with the sentiment of those men (not necessarily their ideas but their anger). A much more serious version of this event occurs somewhere in the US with much more serious actors. However, this time the actors in question will adroitly use legal loop holes, sharp arguments and social media to position themselves.

6) And here is my hail Mary prediction. An actually serious politically motivated act of violence (homegrown) occurs on American soil some time in 2016 with serious loss of life and/or property and/or serious political consequences. I will not predict which faction this will come from (because it could come from any of them).

Nick said...

What do you think of Gail's 2016 predictions? They're pretty dire:

BoysMom said...

Personally, I would much prefer a President Trump _now_, rather than whoever might tap into his supporters after four years more of collapse. Or than what might happen if his fans feel the Republican party cheated in the nomination process. Picture, if you will, a Democratic win, with the Trump supporters believing that the Republican nomination, and thus the general election, was stolen from their candidate.
While Trump runs with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, his _wife_ is a legal immigrant. I think that'll keep matters from getting too out of hand. I may be wrong, of course, but almost everyone who's dealt with the legal immigration process has little sympathy for illegals, in my experience: no one likes cheaters.
Belief being a powerful force: if enough Americans believe that Trump will Make America Great Again, could he succeed? He'd have to change the narrative about what makes America great, but I think he's already done some of that with his anti-free-trade stance. There is a strong Isolationist strain in the Republican party: that's what Pres. George W. Bush ran on and won his first term with, if you don't remember. Could we get an economic boom out of isolationism and protectionism? Or something near enough for the poorer classes of America to feel that it was 'Great'?

Shane W said...

regarding the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, when I lived in SoCal, they were saying that SoCal was overdue for a major quake, on the magnitude of Sylmar/Northridge. So perhaps both the Bay Area & SoCal are overdue for 7.0s?
Hmm, if Twitter goes belly-up before the election, how will Trump maintain his stranglehold on the MSM? :P
Regarding establishment candidates, Rubio's now calling for a Constitutional Convention for term limits & a balanced budget. What makes this so interesting is that an idea that is all but foreclosed by the the talking heads/tame intellectuals as "too dangerous" is being endorsed by an establishment candidate. Strange times, indeed.
I have a theory I want to throw out there and see what others think. The US first brush with limits to growth and economic trouble/stagflation related to oil problems also coincided with a sharp uptick in crime, which continued into the 80s. It provoked the "war on drugs", mandatory minimums, and a ballooning of the prison population, which continues to this day. However, in, I'm guessing either the late 80s or early 90s, crime rates plummeted and have continued to stay bottommed out, defying expectations--normally, an increase in youth, like the millennials & generation Z, which are as large as the Boomers, and economic decline correspond to an increase in crime. My theory is that digital technology, starting with PCs & video games in the 80s, working up to the internet/online services in the 90s, culminating with "dumb"phones and other digital saturation products, are responsible in large part for anesthetizing the population to a large enough degree to account for the anomaly in crime rates, and that, without digital crutches/fixes, the crime rate would be much higher, more reflective of the demographics/economics. My guess is that if a Tech bubble bust was strong enough to actually impede screen addiction, there'd be a corresponding increase in crime. Of course, other factors, such as psych meds & marijuana & other drugs (see above) could also contribute to the crime anomaly.
not sure if you live close to the Toronto Waldorf School, but it is in Richmond Hill. There's a nice little farmers market there every Saturday, and a nice little farm from Hastings Co. has a stall/booth there. Not sure if you ever make it there.

kristofv said...

I agree with your analysis of the conflict in Syria but I wonder if you aren't underestimating America's geopolitical power-play. If the goal is to prevent one powerful adversary from arising then the following situations seems to be successes: A EU-Russia alliance is out of the question since the Ukraine civil war. Turkey and Saudi-Arabia are firmly united against Iran, so no one dominant power is set to arise in the middle east. Russia is now firmly on the side of Iran but heavier entangled in the Syrian conflict than the US is. I don't see much disadvantage. If your prediction is right that the regime in Saudi-Arabia goes down, then the USA will be "forced" to intervene, but until that time...

Paulo said...

Well done on the 2015 predictions. Well done.

I am going to disagree with you on Trump. I think he will lose in Iowa, thus opening the label of loser. He will become more and more strident and implode with his rhetoric. Cruz will win that first one, but so did sweater-vest Santorum last go around. I'll go with Rubio for the eventual GOP nomination. The establishment will hold their nose and support a good-looking young 'one of theirs'. He will be their Kennedy. Sanders? Can't see it. I like him except for the 'free university for all' pledge. The US is way past being able to afford that one on the books. I expect Hillary will get the Dem nomination with 'the fix' behind her. I think she will lose to Rubio as he takes the Hispanic vote...(one of theirs). I find it hard to imagine coloured folks of any flavour voting for Trump. All he needs is a rope in his hands to complete the picture.

2: Saudi days are numbered.

3: The economic plunge continues.

4: Stock Market implosion (led by Shale industry) with a protest refrain of, "oh, this is terrible, but the Stock market is not really the economy so everything is on track as planned. USA USA USA".

(Our loonie is down, but it is worth it to be Canadian as far as I'm concerned)

Continuing with Ghung's list:

Insulation and windows...done
Chickens......are laying, meatbirds....ordered
Tool crib and stores.....growing
Health........excellent, plus single-payer BC med for backup
Family........doing fine progress

All the best to you all for 2016. Good luck and keep smiling.

nuku said...

@JMG & Peter in NZ,
Re solar: The first big wave of NZ solar energy was hot water production in the early 2000's. That was stimulated by government grants direct to the property owner. I was one of the first to get a system for my house, and I worked closely with a guy who established one of the more successful solar hot water companies. That market has now gotten saturated, and the Gov’t ended the grants about 5 years ago.

My guy has since gone out of the solar hot water business and heavily into the PV market, both grid-tied and battery systems. He's recommending that people NOT install hot water systems, but just use PV to power their existing electric water heaters. His selling point is that PV based hot water is simpler (no pipes with possible leakage problems) to install and to run, and that you only need one system to cover both electricity and hot water.

There is no Gov’t grant for PV, and there is no legislation requiring electric supply companies to pay the property owner for his grid-tied electricity generation. Some companies pay for your power, some don't, but those that do pay much less for your power than they charge for their own power.

I did the math for a small grid-tied system that would only produce slightly less than I use on average during the day (to avoid generating excess for which I'd get paid very little). Based on the energy costs I would save, the pay-back period was between 10-15 years, so it was a no go. I have the feeling that the take-up of residential PV systems is based in part on people wanting to appear green.

One problem is that in residential use, often a lot of energy is used at night (lights, heat, computers, etc) and that can't be offset directly by sun shine. You need to use the grid as storage for your excess generation, and you don't get paid much for your energy. Getting paid at parity with electricity suppliers' charges would of course change the economies of the situation.

Kiwis buy/sell their houses at a lot as there is effectively no capital gains tax and "getting on the property ladder" (working the property bubble/scam) is seen as the easy way to get rich. As a consequence, many people are reluctant to put out the $ for solar hot water or PV since the pay-back period is longer than the time they actually own the property. There's also a perception that a solar system doesn't raise the selling price of a house more than the system costs to install.

On the other hand, industrial PV systems make more financial sense as the energy use is mainly during the day when the sun is shinning. In that case, the system can be sized to cover the majority of energy use.

Varun Bhaskar said...


I was wondering when your round of yearly predictions would be posted. I look forward to seeing how things turn out.

My paper is going to print this year. How likely do you think it is that a community newspaper can survive and grow in the coming storms?



GHung said...

I just received my "Survivor Library"; a huge collection of books on DVD, mostly from the 1800s. I'm currently scanning through a book on bookbinding. Thinking I may need to print and bind all of these electronically reproduced books at some point. Could take a lifetime ;-) Anyone have their printing press up and running?

Oh, wait! There's a couple of dozen books in the library on printing, printing presses, lithography, paper making, inks, etc. Seems we can save some knowledge after all.


Scotlyn said...

This is a lot to take in. I have bought an oscillating hoe and predict that in 2016 I will learn its uses. Thank you!

Renaissance Man said...

Well, Happy New Year to you, too, you incorrigible optimist. :)
Thing is, overall, in the past many years of reading predictions for the coming year &c. most are wrong more than they are right, about both the details & general trends, whereas you have been right more than not. So, as cheery as your predictions are, I'll put money on them.

William Lucas said...

I'm particularly interested in your predictions about solar power. In the almost 5 years since I relocated to Japan with my family (yes, just after the earthquake) I've observed a massive growth of that industry here, since the nuclear industry has come to a grinding halt (is that metaphor apt?). Just locally I can point to dozens of sites that have had rows and rows of angled panels erected. They range from village plots the same size of a traditional graveyard to areas that cover acres. Every time I see them Joni Mitchell's 'Miles of Aisles' comes to mind.


Blueback said...

Here's some theme music and a fitting music video as we watch the implosion of both the House of Saud and the American Empire...

John Michael Greer said...

Prez, I can't correct, edit, or alter people's comments -- all I can do is put them through or reject them. Caveat scriptor!

Peter, how much of the electricity is hydro? That's always been the one renewable that consistently breaks even, economically as well as energetically -- falling water has a lot of energy density.

Damo, what I suppose we might call the punditariat -- the officially approved talking heads of the media -- always misses the potential of an Abbott, a Berlusconi -- or a Trump. More on this in an upcoming post.

Rapier, er, in what imaginary world don't crashes follow tops? The 1929 crash came a few months after the market hit an all-time high; so did the crashes of 1987, 1999-2000, and 2007-2008. I'd recommend any good book on the history of market panics for the details.

Unknown Deborah, three comments. First of all, I know it's popular in San Francisco and environs to think of the Bay area as the center of the world, but a catastrophic earthquake that leveled the entire region would be a local problem -- even more so than the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, which messed up shipping all the way up the Mississippi watershed. Second, they've been predicting a big quake any day now in your area since I was born, so it's not exactly relevant to a post attempting to predict next year's news. Finally, I've noticed that every single time I make predictions that talk about preventable disasters that wouldn't be happening if some hard choices had been made over the last thirty or forty years, somebody -- and usually, as in this case, several somebodies -- pops up and tries to divert the discussion into random natural disasters for which nobody can conceivably be held responsible: a rather revealing pattern, don't you think?

Kfish, hang onto your land -- depression and war is pretty much a given for the future ahead of us.

Mustard, yes, I'd heard. How about subsidies for big corporations that want to go into renewables?

Hubertus, nah, the Saudis aren't Robespierre -- they're Louis XVI. Stay tuned...

M, I wish I knew. It could be either one -- and much depends on how the Trump campaign ends, if it doesn't end with his inauguration. Either way, we -- and your son, I'm sorry to say -- have a rough few decades ahead.

Phil, I've always been fond of the labels "antediluvian" and "postdiluvian." Wishing you a quick arrival of postdiluvian times!

Dan, glad to hear it. As for the folks in Oregon, exactly -- it's not what they do but what they represent that matters.

Tony, agreed about the Saudis. As Russia in 1917 (among many other examples) demonstrates, just because a government is corrupt, clueless, and incompetent, it does not follow that its replacement must be better...

Blueback said...

I found a great quote from the Atomic Rocketship website, an excerpt from an essay by James Blish expounding on Oswald Spengler’s theory of history. The portion in bold print from second paragraph sums up Dubyobama perfectly…

“But autumn ends, and a civilization becomes a culture gone frozen in its brains and heart, and its finale is anything but grand. We are now far into what the Chinese called the period of contending states, and the collapse of Caesarism.

In such a period, politics becomes an arena of competing generals and plutocrats, under a dummy ruler chosen for low intelligence and complete moral plasticity, who amuses himself and keeps the masses distracted from their troubles with bread, circuses, and brushfire-wars. (This is the time of all times when a culture should unite — and the time when such a thing has become impossible.) Technology flourishes (the late Romans were first-class engineers) but science disintegrates into a welter of competing, grandiosely trivial hypotheses which supersede each other almost weekly and veer more and more markedly toward the occult.

Among the masses there arises a "second religiousness" in which nobody actually believes; an attempt is made to buttress this by syncretism, the wrenching out of context of religious forms from other cultures, such as the Indian, without the faintest hope of knowing what they mean. This process, too, leads inevitably towards a revival of the occult, and here science and religion overlap, to the benefit of neither. Economic inequity, instability and wretchedness become endemic on a hitherto unprecedented scale; the highest buildings ever erected by the Classical culture were the tenements of the Imperial Roman slums, crammed to bursting point with freed and runaway slaves, bankrupts, and deposed petty kings and other political refugees.”

John Michael Greer said...

Oh, and before we go any further, word is that Saudi Arabia is looking at selling off part of its national oil company in an attempt to raise money. I trust I'm not the only one to smell absolute desperation...

Leo, exactly. The Dems have lost track of the fact that the candidates that appeal to a self-referential circle of political hacks (i/e., the Democratic party) may not have the same appeal to anyboyd else. I see Hillary as the natural product of that process.

Grandmom, no doubt there'll be social media in the future, as long as the internet holds out. That doesn't mean that companies such as Twitter, which has never earned a profit and survives by burning through ever-expanding helpings of investment funds, will be around to provide it.

Eric, so noted!

Zachary, why, yes, and of course that's part of the point!

111DFC, don't fall into the trap of assuming that there can be only one problem with only one cause. Of course the debt cycle is also at work, and so are several other economic cycles that tend to amplify boom-and-bust cycles. The decline in net energy is another factor, big and slow, and it's one of the core reasons why so many of the things that used to work don't work any more. More on this in an upcoming post.

Mr. S., the transformation of the internet from its current free-for-all to a bland, advertising-heavy, corporate medium is something I've talked about here more than once in the past. Trust me, I've got backup plans already under development.

Don, good question. One lesson history has to offer is that in the last days of a clueless, crumbling despotism, you never know which way the clueless and crumbling despots are going to jump.

Raven, it matters purely in that whether Crassus or Catiline becomes Consul this year gives you a clue of the relative strength of the parties for which they're the sock puppets.

Hubertus, I just hope you haven't waited too long.

Chloe, yes, I'm watching British and European politics as well. Lots of turmoil ahead, one way or another.

Eric, I'll be discussing the entire Middle Eastern imbroglio in an upcoming post. With regard to the Saudi situation, though, foreign and domestic policies can't be separated here -- as I noted in my post, the quagmires in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq are very important parts of the picture, and Saudi military failure in those wars will doubtless play a core role in the denouement.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Small admin announcement: In connection with the emerging Catholic blog, in which (as previously discussed here at JMG's ADR) some of will be discussing from a Catholic perspective the issues arising from week to week at ADR, I have just (1) sent mail to the six individuals (other than myself) in what I am in my own record-keeping calling the "Htg-Jes-Kal-Kmo-Ruv-with-Eng-Nes Grouping", (2) sent mail to another interested individual, engineer "I.*", and (3) sent mail to yet another relevant individual, Catholic Worker practitioner "B." Anyone who would like to be added to our new blogging venture as an essayist, even now as we proceed to firm up our administrative arrangements, should either e-mail me at Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com or phone me at (Canada) 647-267-9566.

Once the new Catholic blog is launched, quite likely toward the end of January, all and sundry, whether favouring Catholicism or opposing it, will be very welcome to participate as **COMMENTATORS**.

I reiterate that the present call is simply for people (whether Catholic or simply Catholicism-interested) who want eventually to write as members of the rather special, rather high-profile, **ESSAYIST** collective in the emerging blog venture.

Hastily, cheerfully,


Jeff said...

I enjoy these year end prediction posts. Thank you for your point on the Trump vote being the potential insurrectionist vote. One thing I disagree on is your assessment of saudi arabia, who are still the most important place in the world when it comes to a commodity the modern world cannot do without. If I may post ANOTHER view, I think saudi arabia doesn't have a source of wealth problem, but a form of payment problem, which is being addressed as we speak. As a wise man said in 1997:

:If you owned a commodity in the ground that had to be sold for paper currency in order to realize value what would do? Yes, the oil in the ground may last another 50+ years but will the bonds and currencies of other governments last that long? One thing you don't do is buy gold outright, it would cause it to stop trading as a commodity and start trading as money! You learned that in the late 70s. Nor do you acquire "real gold money" in any fashion that would allow a comparison of price trends ( graphs ) ! There must be a way to convert the true wealth of oil into the outright wealth of gold. We know that oil is a consumed wealth of a momentary value that is lost in the heat of fire.

The stars blink and it is oil wealth no more!

It has become "the debt of nations " now owed to you. Gold on the other hand is not a commodity as many assume, as it is truly "the wealth of nations " meant to last thru the ages! A wise oil nation can strike a deal with the paper printers and in doing so come out on top. Go back a few years to the early 90s. Oil is very high, you offer to lower the US$ price in return for X amount of gold purchasing power. You don't care what the current commodity price of gold is, your future generations will keep it as real wealth to replace the oil that is lost. Before the future arrives gold will be, once again valued as money and can be truly counted on to appropriately represent all oil wealth!"

You will think long and hard on this in the future.

Ed-M said...

Well I'm one of those who think that if any of the other GOP candidates succeeds in outcompeting Trump, fairly or not, certain powers that be in Washington will inform The Donald that he must stand down and endorse the GOP nominee... or else. And that "else" will not be an assassination, methinks. Why make a martyr out of Trump when you can create a scandal to embarrass him and get him to go back to private life? Surely he must have lots of skeletons in his closet.

Iuval Clejan said...

So what is your take on what is happening in China and why it is affecting the US so heavily?

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160108T005501Z

Dear Shane,

Thanks for your pointer, in a posting earlier today, to a farmers' market here in York Region. The market is a little distant from my own residence, being approx 5 kilometres away. 3.0 or 3.5 kilometres is max feasible pedestrian distance between desk and grocer, if grocery bags are in the equation. Your info is nevertheless of importance, and it reminds me that I have to investigate properly our own local Richmond Hill farmer's market - apparently held on some Saturdays, but perhaps not all year round, on Yonge Street, not too far north of the Richmond Hill Public Library central branch, and therefore perhaps 2.2 km or 2.4 km from this desk.



(in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto)

(PS: I also posted a few minutes ago and FORGOT to include the UTC timestamp which my duly configured Linux box so accurately generates, ultimately on strength of Network Time Protocol, to precision of plusminus 100 milliseconds or so. UTC timestamp makes sense. The programmers' timestamp, giving time without timezone, is a bit deficient. In general, timestamping norms have
been promulgated at ISO in Geneva, and we may hope they come into increasingly wide use.
On, we note note only failure to specify timezone, but also a potentially
dangerous month-date ambiguity, in defiance of ISO norm: is "1/7/16" 2016-01-07, or is it, rather, 2016-07-01? - seems kinda-sorta like Peter Carr, not thinking that his diplomatic
mission requires a duly thoughtful choice of shaving tackle....!)

(PPS: JMG: Maybe you will some day be clarifying Peter Carr's role in public administration? He seems too clueless to be a career diplomat or a career intelligence officer, even from a bad country like the neo-Soviet Atlantic Republic. My best guess at the moment is that the poor lad is from a family with connections, and that this family has to be placated by giving its occasionally dim son some kind of important duties - even over the conceivable protests of professionals in the Atlantic Republic diplomatic and intelligence communities. I imagine some Atlantic Republic case officer eventually giving him an hour's reprimand, for over and over again calling undue attention to himself.)

John Michael Greer said...

Twilight, no question, Turkey's landed itself in a very tight corner, trying to play hardball with powers that are considerably larger and better armed than it is. Still, I think the Saudi situation is far more likely to result in short-term implosion. I wouldn't be surprised if Erdogan gets thrown out sometime soon by a military coup, but I expect Turkey as it's existed since Ataturk's time to endure. Saudi Arabia? Stick a fork in it, it's done -- in a few years, they'll have to change the atlases.

Robert, the group you're calling "the 1%" isn't a unity. It's a tangle of squabbling factions, each clawing for a larger share of power and wealth, and presidential elections are among the venues where that struggle works itself out. Trump wouldn't be where he is today if a substantial faction of the very rich hadn't decided to back him; of course there's another faction backing Clinton (Freudian slip: I nearly typed the name "Clingon," and you can take that as a Star Trek reference if you wish), and others with their own favorites; then there's a large subset that's hanging back, waiting to see what deals it can strike with whoever comes out ahead and needs additional support.

As for why I pay attention to it, well, some people enjoy women's roller derby, some people like watching lawn bowling, I find presidential politics entertaining. No accounting for taste!

Donald, I agree wholeheartedly with your points #2 and 3. #1 -- well, that's part of it, but like other big name tech companies these days, its primary product is hype -- that's what enables it to suck in investment money to make itself look successful.

Robert, why, yes, I'd been noting the resemblance as well. ;-)

Howard, yes, that's certainly one of the options. On the other hand, watching the way the US jerked its carrier out of the Persian Gulf the moment Russian cruise missiles started flying, I think the Pentagon knows full well just how badly the US would lose in such a situation, and that might guide US action in Arabia, as it's arguably done in a number of other trouble zones of late.

Mister R., obviously I disagree -- but that'll have to wait for explanation until we get to the post on the Trump phenomenon. Here I'll simply say that respected analysts who usually get it right nearly always miss the sort of shift that's in process here.

HalFiore said...

I've been wondering for the last few days whether "Nimr al-Nimr" might turn out to be Arabic for "Francis Ferdinand." A blow-up of a major war centered on Saudi Arabia and Iran with all sorts of others obligated by treaty or interest could take out or at least greatly diminish two of the biggest - by far - oil producers on the planet. If nothing else, that would send a lot of us back to our scratch pads as far as any calculation we might have made with respect to the future of the fracking bubble, at least for now.

Hard to know what effect that might have on the prospect of a PV bubble. I could see it going either way.

As far as the election is concerned, I think it is only a small bubble of a different kind that imagines Bernie Sanders as more than a minor hindrance to The Anointed One. Past Iowa, which is all about mobilizing the fanatics, and New Hampshire, which is mighty close to Vermont, the primaries turn to the Southland, where he will be lucky to come out with his skin intact. I believe after Super Tuesday, he will be too far behind to recover, but I am often surprised where humans are involved.

This same dynamic only helps Trump. Nevertheless, I do not see him besting TAO in the general. It's possible that some of the "Feel the Bern" echo-chamber might stay home in November, but that should be more than made up by a pretty big plurality in both parties genuinely horrified by Trump.

Which, all in all, and like the current president, is probably about as good as we could hope for. Trump is not a fascist, despite what is being said all across the so-called spectrum, and Sanders is not much of a Socialist. But either would be a pretty big disaster nonetheless, just from a governance point of view. In Washington, DC, either would be a party of one.

The older I get, the less I care for the idea of a revolution. That may just be me, but I am part of the largest, and only getting older, cohort.

btidwell said...

I've never seen my liberal friends acting more "elite" than they have this year. Everybody thinks Trump is a joke and, even when the thought of an actual Trump presidency chills their blood for a moment, they distract themselves with "of course he could never win." I keep trying to remind them that Trump is an idea as much as a candidate. He's gotten where he is because millions of people agree with him and even if he goes away, they will not. His whole campaign is a distraction, though. The only real difference between him and his closest competitors is his lack of diplomacy. All of them have much the same platform.

It's very disconcerting to read your belief that he will win. Then I was almost relieved by your comment that he's really as much of an oligarchy pet as any of the others. I wonder, though, what is going to be most upsetting to the Angry Right? Having their poster boy trounced by the evil Hillary, or getting him elected only to discover that he's just another insider?

This armed insurrection in Oregon is much the same. For all of those not on Social Media, shortly after the takeover, one of the militia men posted on his FaceBook page asking his friends to send care packages. This, while Ammon Bundy was assuring the media that they were armed to the teeth, settled in for the long haul, and ready to die for the cause. It has set off one of the most creative meme blitzes in memory...#SendSnacks, #Yallqueda, #Yeehawd. Then there are the Brokeback Mountain references to a group of lonely men sequestered in a cabin together.

They are a national joke, and it really is hilarious, but as I posted yesterday, "It's all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out." In the past year, the number of known militia groups has increased 30%. There is no way to determine how much existing groups have grown. Not all of them will be as quixotic and amateurish as this bunch in Oregon. The Tea Party already has a hugely disproportionate influence in congress. If these people turn into actual terrorist cells the results on the national psyche will be catastrophic and the Feds have already demonstrated that they have no clue how to manage it.

Bruce E said...

Wow! Thanks for not playing it safe shying away from very specific predictions. I very much hope you are wrong about Trump...

Some other specific predictions I've read this week that stand out:

Jim Kunstler predicts the S&P collapses below 1000 by June.

Gail Tverberg predicts oil storage will fill up and oil prices will drop below $10/barrel.

Steve Ludlum does a great job describing energy deflation and predicts Kurds will destroy IS in Syria in early 2016.

Crazy times. I'm finding it more and more difficult to creatively but still credibly imagine a "soft landing" non-crash scenario for the next After Oil fiction challenge...

HalFiore said...

That is to say, I have no doubt revolution is that figure I see trudging up the road. I just have no desire to rush out to greet him.

Ceworthe said...

If Trump wins the presidency, I for one will be glad that I have a quantity of Canadian dollars of various denominations in coin in glove compartment of my vehicle (coin, as their "paper" money will melt in the heat), in case I need to make a run for the border and find a job there to avoid whatever hideous things I fear he might do. ;-0

Martin Larner said...

I'm not sure the Saudi Regime will collapse this year, but Nafeez Ahmed wrote about the inevitability of its demise a few months months back and he's a journalist with his finger on the pulse of Geopolitics. Myself, I've been saying it for years and my guess is that a good litmus test for imminent demise would be if the campaign by marginalised Senators and campaigners to get the 28 Redacted pages on Saudi involvement in 9/11 released, actually start to gain some real traction in the Corporate Media. This, if it does occur will happily be stage managed and all the glaringly obvious compromising financial/connection trails which lead straight back to the United States or up the road to Israel will be dutifully buried or ignored, just like they were the first time round when Bush flew all his friends who were bin Laden family members home while all other flights were grounded.

As for Amazon, it always seems to me that they do in fact make profit, but they're hiding it with offshoring, which is how they get away without paying any tax. If push comes to shove, they're hardly going to admit that there's plenty of money being made - instead they'll declare a chapter 11 and hope they're "Too big to fail". In the event that doesn't happen, the Executives will do a runner with all the cash just like their contemporaries at Enron did, leaving employees, customers and shareholders to carry the can.

Denis Landry said...

The Great White North is in full hit the brick wall mode:
That bit I didnt get from canadian media but from US
It affect price of housing:
It also affect confidence in further investment:
Now with economic crisis comes political crisis:
notes first comment:It could be worse. You could be in Ontario.
Speaking of Ontario:
The situation is much worst in the suburb, commuters have to choose between gas or food:

Me, I am related as i work in supplies to the construction industry...
Ready or not, here it is
Its Gonna hurt like a b*tch...

Andy Brown said...

In the spirit of the Archdruid’s blog, I’ve not only made my own predictions for 2016, but also reviewed the predictions that I made for 2015 as well. With some generous grading I gave myself credit for a 30% accuracy rate in prognostication.

Robert Carran said...

Okay. I understand your point about the "1%" not being a unity. But I'm really talking about the .01%, or whatever it is. Not Sheldon Adleson or even the Koch brothers. I mean the ones whose names don't make it into the MSM. And yes, I am one of those wacky 911 truthers and whatnot. But I choose not to bring that up here because I imagine you don't buy that story, and at the very least realize that it introduces a world of conjecture that opens up the flood gates of unruly discussions. So sure, there are powers at play that jockey for position, but in the end, the "choice" always ends up being one that favors the 1%. And I totally disagree that the powers at play are seriously supporting Trump. He has gained popularity because of his bravado and the fact that he is already a star and sells news. The 1% may have underestimated him and abide him for now, but know that he will fade. His xenophobia will not sustain among the general population. In Germany, the Jews were there in every day life to be made the enemy on a visceral level. Here, many Americans have integrated the Mexican population. Sure, there is hatred and envy, but over all, I think most people realize they are just good Christians working their butts off for their families, and that is respected. And the fear of Muslims still seems a far stretch to be a rallying point for most Americans. Maybe they'll support a war "over there", but the Muslims here seem to be pretty mellow or integrated and are far too sparse to provide the visceral response needed for a fascist regime. It's sad and disgusting, but I'm still 10/1 on Hillary. I'll bet you 10 pounds of beans and rice to one : )

YCS said...

Happy New Year JMG!
Those are some dire predictions you have. Still, not much we can do. The die was cast long ago.

I just arrived in the United States two weeks ago and am shocked at how quickly this country is heading towards collapse, and how completely ignorant people here are of it. I thought my fellow brethren in Australasia were in lala-land, but they seem realistic and onto it compared to the people in America!

I'll be glad when I get out, to (temporarily) safer lands. I'm still worried for loved ones who still stay here because of the vast facade this country's middle and upper classes have erected between themselves and reality. What else would you expect in a place like Silicon Valley though?

Talking about predictions, I've issued one of my own - but it's not for this year. I've written a bit on what I think the year 2050 will be like in some ways. I might be around to see it if all goes well for me.

With you safety in the tumultuous times ahead,

YCS said...

Oh, here was the blog post to the one I mentioned (forgot to add it in the previous post!). A small bit on what I expect 2050 to be like:

Glenn said...


IIRC you owe someone a bottle of bourbon regarding your Ebola prediction.


Patrick DeBoard said...

Popcorn, indeed. I liked the book Twilight's Last Gleaming so much that I read it three times. Yes, three times. The US so badly needs to be smashed in the mouth, and it's just not happening quickly enough for me! But the book really satisfies my yearning for some artistic justice - the picture on the cover of the book is a dream - an aircraft carrier badly filled with water, holes in the hull, tilted in the water, aground on a reef. Beautiful!

As for the predictions - maybe, maybe not. I think that the scammers who are getting rich in all this will keep everything going as long as possible - as long as they continue to get fabulously wealthy. I'm taking steps to have a homestead up and running in two years time, and I imagine things will keep running for a lot longer than that, although not in a good way. Still, I love watching Russia and China and Iran and others getting weaponized for that day when the world finally does smash the US in the mouth. That will be a good day in the world. Actually, every day that the US gets exposed is a good day. Every day US fighters in Syria get "lit up" by Syrian radar and decide to boogie out of Syria is a good day in the world. I'm probably one of a handful of Vietnam veterans who are happy to see the US confronted by an equal military force and turn tail and run. That's what bullied do when confronted. They run. They're cowards who only fight those who are unable or too afraid to fight back.

Shane W said...

you do bring up a good point about Trump being a member of the moneyed elite, and having some elite backing to make it this far. So your point about them not being afraid of his presidency is valid, though he is a loose cannon, to say the least. I look forward to your post on him.
I'm wondering since tech is supposed to be the thing that "saves us", that explains the repeated tech bubbles? If the tech bubbles are just repeated fiscal demonstrations of the religious faith in digital technology. Also, JMG, I'm wondering what you think the chances are for a bailout if tech gets too threatened? Will there be an appetite to "save the information superhighway" via bailout? I'm thinking that the government may value screen tech's ability to anesthetize and pacify the population to let it implode too much.

Kfish said...

Thanks, it looks like the family farm will stay with our branch, if only for sentimental reasons. Unfortunately it's literally over the road from the local coal mine, which has managed to both flood the farm and set it on fire in 2015! Now they're quibbling over compensation, since apparently the old fences that got burnt out are worth less than the new fences to replace them ...

Unfortunately, since I'm writing this on coal-produced electricity, there's a limit to how far I can resent them without being a complete hypocrite. If I went without electricity, I could hate them freely, but so far my love of comfort and middle class status outweighs that. It's something I'm working on.

I have a lot of green friends who are vocal about our need to stop burning coal, but mentioning that this might require a downgrade in living standards tends to kill the conversation. This irony is not lost on the miners and other primary producers here, who tend to regard environmentalists as ignorant, ungrateful and spoiled. You really can't blame them for thinking that way.

Shane W said...

Regarding Trump,
pundits have already mentioned that polls may be underestimating his performance due to a "reverse Bradley effect"--that people are reluctant to admit they support him when polled, yet would be more than willing to pull the lever for him in the privacy of the voting booth.

Peter Wilson said...

JMG - Lots and lots of information here (, but you are a busy man, so I'll summarise.

EROEI of hydro is one of the few concentrated energy sources in nature. The EROEIs on hydro are consistently high. However, in NZ, the EROEIs here for wind and geothermal (and some biomass, due to short transport distances) are good as well, consistently above 1:10. The trick is working wind into the transmission system, because of daily and weekly inconsistency in power flows.

NZ has lots of hydro, probably around 70% of the renewable total. It's been consistent and reliable for over 100 years, although we don't have a lot of storage in lakes, which causes issues at times if it doesn't rain. There aren't a lot of new appropriate sites left for new large hydros though, with most of the remaining rivers being protected or valued, and a flat future market for electricity. Lots of scope for smaller ones though. The country invested heavily in thermal generation from the 1950s onwards (coal, then gas, and now, geothermal) because of this. The last coal plants are soon to be retired because the new (deep) geothermal is more cost-effective, not to mention vastly better on the environment. The gas will last a bit longer.

As I've said for years, I think NZ can run something of an industrialised economy on renewables. The numbers stack up, with a lot of system changes. The challenge, with all things, is the political and cultural will required to make that happen.

HalFiore said...


War, maybe, but not depressions. They hit the farm sector hardest and last longer than any other part of the economy. The Mississippi where I grew up in the 1960s had still not recovered from the Depression of the 1930s. I grew up listening to stories of farmers plowing under their crops because there was no market. It was the end of farming for a lot of people.

Moshe Braner said...

One of the things I can't figure out is why are the Saudis pumping the oil out as fast as they can. If they were to cut "production" by 2mbpd they'd make MORE money, not less, as the price would double. The punditariat's mantra that they are doing it to kill the frackers seems silly, since the Saudis didn't have any lack of income despite the competition, plus they must know that the frackers would self-destruct before long, even with a much higher oil price. So what's really going on?

Agent Provocateur said...

Joe Roberts,

Allow me to take a stab at answering your question.

As annual production of a commodity passes it peak due to resource depletion, it is a common expectation that the price will spike upward and then continue to rise. The only documented examples I am aware of (whale oil and whale bone) suggests otherwise (see an old “Oil Drum” post by Ugo Bardi in 15 May 2008 at

One of the most relevant sections reads:

“But the historical data for whaling tell us that an exponential rise of the prices is not the only feature of the post-peak market. The prominent feature is, rather, the presence of very strong price oscillations. We can attribute these oscillations to a general characteristic of systems dominated by feedback and time delays. Prices are supposed to mediate between offer and demand, but tend to overcorrect on one side or another. The result is an alternance of demand destruction (high prices) and offer destruction (low prices).”

When the buying/selling of oil reaches about 5% of the world economy, that economy stalls. Oil prices immediately drop due to drastically reduced demand (and relative glut of oil due to high prices). The more marginal producers of oil (whose costs are high because it takes more energy to produce oil from such sources as fracked rock, offshore, tar sands etc.) cut back production / go out of business first and fast. Production drops sharply and so price rises until the world economy stalls again. Rinse and repeat.

Another way to think of this is in terms of yea olde supply and demand curves. Plot Price (vertical axis) against Quantity supplied (horizontal axis) and you generally get an upward sloping curve because the more something costs, the more people will produce it. Plot Price (vertical axis) against Quantity demanded (again horizontal axis) and you generally get an downward sloping curve because the more something costs, the fewer people will buy it. The intersection of these two curves (so the theory goes) determines the price (sold and bought) and quantity (produced and consumed). An increase in supply moves the supply curve (the first one) as a whole to the right with a corresponding drop in set price and quantity. An increase in demand moves the demand curve (the second one) as a whole to the right with corresponding rise in the set price and quantity.

When quantity (per year) of production/consumption is limited by resource depletion, the first curve becomes more and more vertical as it reaches the vertical wall of what is physically possible to produce. Supply is said to be “inelastic” in this case. Under the condition of resource limits , the supply curve can be thought of a vertical and each year on the downside of the annual production curve (Hubbard's curve) sees the supply curve walk left to lower and lower values.

Both supply and demand curves can be thought of as “jittery” (constantly moving to left and right). With the supply curve vertical, small movements to left and right of both curves (representing normal small variations in say monthly supply and demand) can lead to huge swings price with little variation in supply.

That fact that high oil prices stall the world economy means the demand curve will tend to walk to the left each year as well. Parts of the world just stop using oil at all. I think this will tend to follow the “last on first off” principle. This permanent loss of demand will tend to limit a generally upward yearly average drift in prices that we saw with whale product prices. The overall long run average drift in oil prices may even be relatively flat as both (vertical) supply and demand curves walk to the left together.

Agent Provocateur said...

In keeping with the prediction theme:

As a wild guess, I'd say we will see three very big spike/drop pairs in oil before we see the beginning of indeterminate or “chaotic” (in the mathematical sense) monthly oil prices i.e. random dots ranging wildly about a relatively fixed annual mean with no meaningful curve to connect the dots.

The peak of annual conventional oil production was 2005. Since that time we have had a spike/drop in 2008/2009 and another spike/drop in 2014/2016? ( That gives me very feeble grounds for assuming a weak periodicity of about 8 years. The grounds are even more feeble given I'm guessing any periodicity will become entirely undone/chaotic past the third spike/drop.

The slow rise from the first drop shows how difficult it has been to get the world economy firing on all cylinders after the first spike/drop of 2008/2009. Let me guess between 8 and 16 years to the next big spike/drop. That puts the chaotic phase starting no later than 2032 and as soon as 2024.

Chaotic monthly prices mean no ability for producers to plan so they wouldn't. No oil exploration or investment in oil production, refining, and distribution would take place after (and possibly well before) that point. The system would rot out from that point forward accelerating the decline of industrial civilization.

John Michael Greer said...

Karl, I'll pass on trying to anticipate Trump's thinking. As for the higher ed bubble, good question -- community colleges are going to be slow to crash, since a lot of people will try to split the difference and go to cheaper forms of college before they finally drop the idea altogether.

Brian, I'm far from sure you're right about the gas leak. That's not to say it isn't a disaster -- quite the contrary -- but I suspect we may see some much bigger things in the coming year.

George, thank you! That's exactly why I pay attention to Trump; it's not who he is or what he does, but what he represents, that's important.

Bill, I engage in the annual guess-the-future contest for two reasons. The first is that I find it entertaining. The second is that I'm usually right.

Mary, I'm very sorry to hear about Oaksley! Rest in catnip, etc.

Adrian, quite a bit of the planet is going to be uninhabitable within the next couple of decades due to those same processes. Why should Iran be left out?

Bill, very possibly yes -- but 62 is one heck of a long way from 952! It may simply be that investors are looking for something else unnoticed that might undergo the same wild increase in fictive value.

Erika/Hello, and a happy new year to you too! If predictions of tech-bubble implosion count as erotica, maybe I ought to try writing something really steamy about real estate values crashing... ;-)

Tidlösa, vocabulary expansion is just one of the services I offer. ;-)

Hewhocutsdown, I know. I've watched any number of apparently intelligent, well-educated people undergo sudden brain cramps and find themselves unable to think when someone brings up a concept that hasn't been prechewed and digested for them by the media. It really is scary.

Joe, understood, but I think enough people are finally sick enough of business as usual and its cascading failures that they're ready to embrace the greater evil, so long as the latter is willing to do something different.

Whomever, the UK is unquestionably an exception, because it let go of its empire deliberately, rather than clinging to it until the empire was pulled out of its cold dead hands. That's vanishingly rare in history, and traumatic as it is, it does seem to have major advantages in the long run. As for books on the decline of empires, I haven't found any I really like -- I prefer to read detailed histories of what happened to actual empires, and then do the comparative work myself.

Donalfagan, those are plausible, for the most part.

Clay, it'll be interesting to see what Germany does. If it breaks from NATO and allies with Russia -- far and away the smartest thing it could do, all things considered -- the EU will come apart promptly, and things may get very messy in short order. If it doesn't -- well, that's a topic for later.

John Michael Greer said...

Dammerung, indeed it does.

Pinku-Sensei, Krugman is a fascinating spectacle. Watching him insist at the top of his lungs that doubting the omnipotence of renewable energy resources is tantamount to climate denialism is an object lesson about the ways in which an otherwise intelligent person can end up babbling the crassest sort of propaganda.

Donalfagan, exactly. We'll be talking about that in an upcoming post.

Nastarana, I think anyone who expects any of the current candidates to be assassinated has lost track of the fact that all of them are either professional politicians or rich businessmen. Yes, that includes Sanders. Despite their rhetoric, noen of them is going to overturn the system; they are the system.

Pinku-sensei, that's why I no longer do speaking gigs at colleges and universities. It's like talking to members of a cult: you get the same thousand-mile stare from them, and any words you say just vanish into mist as they repeat their mantra: "I'm-sure-they'll-think-of-something..."

Toomas, of course. I said at the time that there was still a real chance of stopping the thing, and fortunately, enough resources got committed to that in time to make the difference. I can only hope we'll be as lucky next time.

Helix, funny.

234567, that's what I hear from most of the people who've actually had to rely on them.

John, I dunno. Read up on the way people radicalized in the US in the years leading up to 1860 -- Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury is a good readable history -- and you'll find that it happened just as dramatically without benefit of internet.

Clay, got it in one. A society trying to support itself on a energy resource with steadily rising costs per unit of energy has two choices: let the users bear the costs, in which case prices soar and use decreases, or turn the costs into externalities that have to be borne by the economy as a whole, in which case income stagnates, economic sectors contract, and use of the energy resource decreases. Our society is flinging itself back and forth between those twochoices.

Carmiac, thanks for the heads up! Let's see what happens to housing prices as we get into the prime moving months.

Shane, I haven't read I'll Take My Stand -- the South might as we be a foreign country out in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up, and I'm still not as well educated as I probably should be about Southern history and culture. As for your other questions, those will want to wait for further posts.

Greg, I'm guessing that the problem was that you were trying to provide some actual good or service, rather than simply manufacturing hype, the way the big dogs do.

Roger, good. It's almost universal for plutocratic ruling classes to lose track of the fact that money is an abstraction used to manipulate wealth and power -- in itself, it's not wealth, much less power -- and this is one of the common ways in which they end up being tossed into unmarked graves by more muscular hands.

John Michael Greer said...

Pygmycory, did you make predictions last year? How did they do?

RPC, good question. I don't know to what extent the prolonged hiss was deliberate, and to what extent things simply happened that way.

Pygmycory, that is to say, a vocal minority of each of the groups you've named is either upset at Trump, or are being told by the media that they ought to be upset at Trump. It's easy but often inaccurate to jump from that to the conclusion that most the voters in each of these groups will vote against Trump.

Eric, no, that sounds about right. The tech stock bubble will be on top of another round of contraction in the real economy, papered over as usual by the mass production of fictive wealth by the financial sphere; a lot depends on just how much pretense goes into current economic statistics.

Bill, of course we'll survive. I see Trump as maybe a Berlusconi, maybe a Mussolini, and Italy survived both of those.

SLClaire, excellent! No question, if it comes to a choice for the presidency between Clinton and Trump I'll have to vote third party; which of those is the lesser evil strikes me as a theological question rather than a political one.

Nuku, thanks for the data point!

August, I second the motion. I'll get details on the printed version of the Report up here once it's in process.

Mick, well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Hubertus, one of these days I hope I understand why people find limits frightening. Me, I find them comforting. I like to know that the chair I sit on is going to limit the tendency of my buttocks to descend toward the floor; I find it comforting to know that my immune system is busy limiting the tendency of microbes to make me sick; and as for death, I know my own limits well enough that I have no desire to stay permanently cooped up in this body and personality, so it's good to know that my life has a limit, too. Maybe that's why I find industrial society's fantasies of omnipotence and perdurability so dreary.

Avalterra, did you make predictions last year? If so, how did they do?

Nick, Gail has been predicting total collapse every year since her blog first appeared. She's been wrong every single time, and she'll be wrong this time, too, because she's forgotten that every system adapts to change to try to preserve its own existence -- and modern industrial societies have a vast array of tools that can be and have been used to stave off the kind of sudden collapse she wants to believe in. I'm sorry to have to say this, but when I talk about the people who keep on rehashing the same failed predictions of doom every single weary, dreary year, she's one of the people I have in mind.

Alexandra said...

I was interested to note how your predictions dovetail with Bill Herbst's astrological predictions for 2016 through the early 2020s, which I read the other day (

Here's my quick and dirty summary of Herbst's interpretation of the transits, for anyone who can't access it (though it is well worth reading in its entirety if you are into astrology):

-Continued economic contraction, probable continued inability to face up to it and make necessary changes; no recovery in sight.
-We start to reap the whirlwind of disappointment as our hopes for the future prove unfounded. The shine starts to come off technological progressivism, a process just beginning but which will be felt more strongly beginning in the 2020s.
-Doubt and confusion around the election and/or its result; tendency to be seduced by political demagoguery and difficulty discerning "hucksterism" from real leadership.
-Increasing urge toward reform, social justice activism, and rebellion against authority, with corresponding reactionary backlash from authorities/institutions. When the powers that be do finally get around to enacting changes, "With the difficult Jupiter–Saturn square setting a secondary tone to the more basic Uranus–Pluto archetype, the likelihood is that the policies undertaken toward reform will probably not be visionary or forward-looking. Instead, protocols will be put in place based on expediency and the intention to address existing issues in the easiest ways. In this case, however, 'easy' is unlikely to equal 'wise.'"

All of these astrological predictions will ring familiar to regular readers of this blog, of course, but what really struck me was how your prediction that Trump will win the election unless Hilary buys it seems to line up perfectly with the dynamics Herbst is describing.

I'm not confident enough to issue my own predictions, but I am sad to see that the astrological transits seem to be backing up a nagging intuition I've had for a long time now, viz. that the popular efforts toward social reform are based as much on illusion as the elites' senile policies are--just different illusions. I have always had issues with progressivism (as an archaeologist, I always say there's no such thing as progress) but I've been particularly dismayed to see it taking on a nasty, authoritarian, censorial tone even more on the so-called left than on the right. At least that's how it's playing out in my real world interactions. Thought- and speech-policing seems to be very high on the agenda at the moment.

Bill Pulliam said...

Curious about your "usually right" claim, so I looked over the last few years. In general your predictions were similar to the method of forecasting the weather where what you predict for today is the average of what happened yesterday and the climatological mean for the date. So they were really hard to evaluate as to whether they were "right" in a sense of real predictive skill. The measure of that is not simply how well you extrapolated the trend, it is how well you anticipated deviations from the trend. This year you've placed a few more tangible markers on the board, so we'll see how it goes!

More thoughts on the Tech sector. Amazon and Twitter are extremes. Facebook currently has a P/E of 91, still pretty high but not as freaky. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all in the 20 or below range. Given your monastic way of life, I think you also might underestimate the extent to which services like Twitter and Amazon have thoroughly inserted themselves into the cultural and economic DNA like a bunch of retroviruses. They are beyond "too big to fail." They are more like AT&T than Society will keep them or their equivalents up and running someway, somehow, until it becomes actually impossible to prop them up any more.

I think rather than a bubble collapsing we are more likely to see increasing fees for services, via some structure, directly or indirectly, somehow. The fact that these services are not actually productive of anything tangible will be overlooked, and a larger share of our dwindling *real* GDP will get sucked into these black holes in the name of "convenience." Not positive, but very different than a bubble collapsing. For one thing, it just goes on and on draining its host forever, like that retrovirus does. No dramatic illness followed by recovery, just a long-term decline that continually drags down every function and every system. AIDS, not Ebola.

Bill Pulliam said...

The prospect of President Cruz actually scares me significantly more than the idea of President Trump. Because Cruz is NOT an idiot...

Tennessee has an open primary, and there's likely to be no meaningful action on the Democratic side. So I may actually have to decide which one of these Republican Bozos to vote for!

das monde said...

The fracking bust is handsomely anticipated (WSJ, FT, Forbes, Fortune). But the remarkable yet rarely mentioned factoid is that US has surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production since 2014. Holy cow, fracking, biofuels added almost a whole Saudi Arabia to the supply?! No wonder that the oil price catered, and the Saudi kingdom is tumbling.

The other question is, really, how sustainable is the fracking production. Financial (if not physical) limitations seem to be in sight to many, but appearances of any "normalcy" are kept as long as possible. Smart big players are possibly preparing for an inescapable downturn rather than really playing for expected profits. 2016 might be the year of the Big Whimper, after all.

Bill Pulliam said...

To be fair, my own Trump scenario also falls within the "just projecting the past into the future" realm. "Outlaw" candidates like him don't get nominated. And no matter who is elected, in recent decades the first midterm nearly always results in a major shift away from the President's party and establishes divided government. And in the last decade or so, divided government has increasingly meant stalemate government. So I'm just taking this pattern and overlaying it on 2016-2019.

John Michael Greer said...

BoysMom, the thing is, if Trump won the presidency with a big enough majority and got a bunch of Congressflacks to rally around his flag, he might actually be able to get at least a temporary improvement in economic conditions. All he'd have to do is shut down some of the big corporate-welfare programs, such as Obamacare, that benefit big business at the expense of working Americans. It actually wouldn't take that much more money in people's pocketbooks to make them convinced that happy days are here again -- if things just stopped getting worse, that might be enough!

Kristofv, I think you're off base here, but again, this should probably wait for a detailed explanation in an upcoming post on the Middle East.

Paulo, well, obviously I disagree about Trump, but I'll get into that in due time.

Nuku, interesting. Now of course your PV guy has an incentive to get people to buy PV now, since that's what he sells!

Varun, if it finds a loyal audience, I think it has a very good chance of making it.

Ghung, I'd say get going on it!

Scotlyn, now that sounds like a useful prediction.

Renaissance, as I noted, I'm far from sure about the four specific predictions -- all four seem a good deal more likely than not, but we'll see. The core predictions, though -- that the things that have been getting worse for the last decade or so will just keep getting worse, and nobody will do anything meaningful to fix them -- that's as solid as a rock.

William, Japan tends to be an early adopter of technology, so I'm not at all surprised that it's ahead of the curve!

Blueback, thanks for the sound track! Also for the Blish quote, which is priceless. The Beat poets back in the Fifties used to read Spengler out loud at house parties, though I'm sorry to say it didn't help Ginsberg's poetry much.

Jeff, I've already thought long and hard about that, with the benefit of historical hindsight -- one thing that a lot of gold bugs don't seem to be willing to take into account. Gold is not wealth, it's just one of many commodities that has been used as a set of arbitrary tokens to facilitate the exchange and storage of abstract wealth, and in times like the ones we're entering -- as I've discussed at some length here already -- gold is a ticket, not to prosperity, but to a shallow unmarked grave.

Ed-M, the mere fact that Trump outrages the narrow clique of political hacks who currently run the GOP does not mean that the actual holders of wealth and power in this country find him equally offensive. It intrigues me to listen to people come up with reasons why someone, somewhere, has to stop Trump -- there's a reason for that, of course, which I'll discuss in due time.

John Michael Greer said...

Iuval, that's a subject for an entire post, not a brief comment! For the very short form, pick up a copy of Galbraith's The Great Crash 1929 and read it from cover to cover, substituting "China" for "America" throughout.

Toomas, hah! Stay tuned...

Hal, remember that the people who anointed Clinton represent a small though influential faction of the American political class -- a faction that's almost completely out of touch with realities on the ground -- and polls suggest that their chosen candidate is profoundly disliked and distrusted by more people than dislike and distrust Trump. The aura of inevitability with which Clinton's flacks have tried to invest her may not last long into the primary season. Stay tuned...

Btidwell, exactly. Trump and the newly declared Oregon Cow-liphate are symptoms, and the way that so many people are heaping on the ridicule -- though admittedly they're both easy targets -- suggests that a lot of Americans are aware of this, however subliminally. Humor is one of the ways we deal with things that make us acutely uncomfortable.

Bruce, Jim and Gail have both made those same predictions over, and over, and over again, and apparently have learned nothing from the repeated failure of each year to meet their expectations. I haven't followed Ludlum, so don't know what his score has been -- does he discuss the accuracy of his previous predictions, by any chance?

Ceworthe, I'd encourage you to make your plans in advance, as the flood of refugees might just force Canada to close its borders!

Martin, I admit to wondering whether they're doing an Enron on the other side of the balance sheet as well, and parking debt in offshore subsidiaries. All that vast rickety empire of corporate structures would make a great way to conceal a Ponzi scheme.

Denis, I've been hearing the same things from friends in Canada. I hope you're out of debt and have a good backyard garden in place...

Andy, excellent! It takes a certain courage to admit that you made mistakes, and learn from them.

Robert, to my mind, the problem with your analysis is that you assume that somewhere in the 1% of the 1% of the 1% there must be some inner circle that makes the decisions. My study of history, including the history of the American political class, leads me to think that this isn't the case -- that the decisions made by the US, overt or covert as the case may be, are the product of temporary alliances among viciously competing power centers, no one of which has more than a temporary ascendancy over the others. It's all a brutal game of palace politics, in which poisoned daggers have taken a back seat to more refined ways of sidelining rivals -- well, for the most part! -- and the presidential circus is as much an arena in which different power centers compete for spoils as it is bread and circuses for the masses. That's my take, at least, and there are clearly important factions that are backing Trump against all comers. But we'll see what happens.

YCS, I'd like to see you write something detailed on your blog about how you see this country collapsing around you. Please consider it -- a pair of eyes sharpened by time spent elsewhere might well see things that are missed by those of us who live here.

Glenn, nah, I promised a signed first edition. I've got it ready -- I've been waiting for the person in question to contact me.

John Michael Greer said...

Patrick, I'm glad to hear you liked the book! I think you've probably got two years to get your homestead together, if you've got things coming into place already -- the tech-stock crash and Trumped-up presidency I've predicted won't prevent that from happening, and when the PV boom crashes, you can probably pick up a good collection of PV panels very cheap.

Shane, I'm sure the government will keep the internet intact, but content providers? Those are a dime a dozen. If Google or Netflix or Twitter implode, someone else will float something else to keep the masses supplied with little colored shapes jerking across glass screens.

Kfish, I don't blame them at all. The environmentalists I respect are those who cut their carbon footprints significantly, and there are too few of those.

Shane, I find that all too easy to believe.

Peter, many thanks! This is grist for the mill.

Moshe, that's a complex issue, which I'll discuss in the upcoming post on the Middle East.

Agent, that seems very plausible. I'm curious -- did you get the three-cycles-and-then-chaos from Toynbee?

Alexandra, fascinating; I'll have to spend some time reading Herbst's work. (My own background in mundane astrology has focused so far almost entirely on classical ingress charts.) May I commend you, by the way, for learning the obvious lesson from your archeological studies? I'm amazed, and not in a good way, by how many people who study the past still manage to buy into the mythology of progress.

Bill, I don't claim any particular gift as a forecaster; I've just noticed that assuming the continuation of a trend gets better results than insisting that the trend is suddenly going to give way to one of the emotionally satisfying but historically improbable events that so many other forecasters like to predict. As for the coming tech bust, I don't disagree at all; a bunch of fantastically overpriced content providers will lose most of their market value, the useful ones will be bought up, the useless ones allowed to go broke, but the internet itself and some of its less inflated content providers will continue to chug along for years to come. Buying tech stocks at the bottom might be a wise strategy.

The thing about Trump is that he's not an idiot. He's extraordinarily canny. Have you noticed that whenever he says something "stupid," his poll numbers go up? He's figured out how to exploit a massive and almost completely unmentionable fault line in American society, and is doing it with nearly surgical precision. More on this in a week or two.

Das Monde, the fracking bubble was quite a phenomenon, no question. Just as both tech bubbles put astonishing amounts of free content onto the internet, the fracking bubble put astonishing amounts of more-or-less-petroleum onto the market, and in both cases the fact that this was a temporary effect doesn't change its impact on the economy and public life.

Bill, which is one of the reasons I don't disagree with you anything like as much as you apparently think. Outsiders do get into the presidency at times when the mainstream is suffering a serious crisis of legitimacy -- Abraham Lincoln comes to mind here -- and I won't be surprised at all if Trump's presidency has an effective lifespan of two years, until the 2018 elections fill both houses of Congress with candidates sworn to oppose him tooth and nail.

Eric S. said...

Regarding your discussion of the presidential election: one thing I find fascinating about the two "populist" candidates in this election is that they are representing a fundamental shift in the underlying mythology of American radicalism. Trump is promising to "make America great again," and is talking about bringing jobs back from overseas, rebooting American industry, and breathing life back into American labor; Sanders meanwhile has been looking back to the policies and practices of the Eisenhower era, which was the last time in American history that the political reforms of the New Deal functioned as a bipartisan consensus and still more or less worked before being slowly dismantled through the rise of the Goldwater era until it became the New Society programs under Johnson and finally got totally abandoned in favor of Reaganomics (his followers still think of themselves as "progressives" in the myth of progress sense, but more and more the spirit of American progressivism is becoming less and less about pursuing the next big thing and more about going back to the spirit of the progressive era that kicked off the reforms of the first half of the 20th century). The thing they both have in common is a mentality that looks back to the past for inspiration, and for both of them specifically to the 1950s which represented the last big wave of American ascendency and prosperity. Even if they both get shunted aside in favor of an establishment candidate like Clinton they represent a new emerging mythology for America, very in line with the voluntary regression theme you've been exploring these past several months. Is that something you've noticed?

ed boyle said...

I did not want to discuss this very painful issue here but it is relevant as it happened oon new year's eve celebrations in germany. My complaints last week about your, from current perspective, PC portrayal of a young woman's future role after 50 years of reverse technology may be revenged just as what is now occurring in Germany. The police in cologne identified mass sexual criminals as syrian refugees who just crossed the border but the police leadership denies this. Cops say this individually, anonymously. PC thought is destroying real women's rights to walk freely on the streets without being rape by people with stone age mindset on sexes. Feminists for most part, want to play down incident because of course only racists identify dark skinned mobs as criminals. Read up on the daily life of swedes in Malmo. Gang rape is normal, but only by muslims on swedes. This is Europe's future if we continue to have 'denkverbote', (forbidden thoughts). This is worse than paris attacks as now all women in the country will be afraid to go to work, in public places, trains, etc. due to a growing immigrant mob. In 2016 I predict difficult times for Germany and its population. The classic conundrum would be a feminist or leftwing type person who says 'never again' regarding nazi history, being gang raped on a public place by young asylum seekers. What will happen in her mind. She has been indoctrinated in a left wing family to abhor racism, nazism, to love democracy, multiculturalsm, p,ualism, freedom of religion. Now she is afraid to go out of the house. Her world view is destroyed. Liberalism has met the stone age. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth or turn the other cheek? Moses or Jesus?
Thousands still cross the border daily and they are being distributed everywhere in Germany. I hear that they are mostly young men, as in cologne. If so the young male population in 20s, military age, could quickly double in Germany. These men have no training, are war traumatized, sexually frustrazed, have no future, nowhere to go back to. This is a time bomb for crime, terrorism here. Current events just keep getting worse. In 2014 it was Ukraine mass murders by nazis which were PC ignored in the West as Russia is evil. Now PC thought says only European whites can do wrong, due to colonial past, nazism. Freedom must be redefined by every generation. Religion, race, etc. is no excuse. Women's roles are defined by society. We should not let theses roles be imposed by a combination of PC denkverbote and muslim stone age attitude meeting together to form the politically strange bedfellows that says gang rape in public places is ok as long as it is liberal young women, who presumably are experienced sexualy and worldly wise, so they don't mind and their male relatives and friends have no sense of honour, despising their women flok as domineering feminists, who had it coming anyway. As in 'finally someone putthem in their place, I have been emasculated for generations, would be great to be a real man'. So these sly immigrants play off the differences in the war of the sexes to have their jollies. Feminists have aa attitude that equals jesus words and dominate career and political leaders and voter rolls and their men at home and dictate the tone in society. Merkel is typical. Like Hillary. However to fight an enemy we must become like him, change from inside. Our hard won civic freedoms of the 19th century must be rewon against islam and PC denkverbote. Men must be men if they are to protect their women, who regardless of power structure and social status, remain second class animals to many from non european cultures.Machismo forgotten as a right wing racist nationalst sexist trait must be reawakened in the soft western male heart, full of love for the female goddess that gives true meaning to his life. Otherwise he will lose her, her freedom, which is his soul, his freedom.

Cherokee Organics said...


Well done on the scores for last year’s predictions and respect for reviewing those past predictions too. The public review process makes one’s mind sharp doesn't it?

Geology and the realities of the well decline rates for fracking aside, which certainly makes for an unsustainable position and industry, no doubt about it. However, given your predictions in relation to the Middle East and I note that you have been quite consistent on the Yemen affair for a while now, has it not occurred to you and others that perhaps the fracking industry is being sustained for strategic reasons? The people at the top of the food chain in your country may be in la la land on domestic matters, but external affairs, I doubt they are so foolish and muddleheaded about them.

As to the Trump issue, I'll note that one of our past five Prime Ministers (Kevin Rudd who spoke fluent Mandarin too!) - that's in five years too by the way - was the most popular Prime Minister in recent history. One of the interesting things that I noted about his campaign was that there was a dirt story on him that surfaced during the campaign. At some stage in the past he visited a strip club whilst in the US. Do you know what happened next? The smear campaign failed abysmally and his popularity actually increased as a result. Of course it would work for Trump to say stupid things, because it is a clear indication to my mind that enough people are absolutely sick and tired of the standard meat and potatoes they are being fed and they may seek to use Trump as a method of sticking it to the man. Dunno.

The other thing that I've noted in our politics down here that may be of interest to you is that parties and politicians doggedly pursuing the strategy of "opposition" as distinct from the more difficult skill of "diplomacy" are actually not much good at the actual job of governance - and our recently deposed Prime Minister (don't worry about them too much, we've got plenty more where they came from!) Tony Abbott is a prime example of that species (he certainly loved the brawl, but was an abject failure at leading the team which is a whole different skill set).

As to Australia, I’d have to suggest that with the way the exchange rates are going, the decline in export income and the sheer fall of the stock market in recent weeks – we’re fracked! ;-)! Seriously. I’m just waiting for the inevitable fall of the housing market – that is sure gonna hurt some.



PS: I’ve got a new blog entry up: Frog in hot water where the recent heat and lack of rain has seen my watering of the garden go from a quick daily task to a much longer task without me even being aware. The tomatoes are absolutely jumping out of the ground though. I’m also showing how I’m converting the old chicken shed into a super nifty and very strong firewood shed. I show a photo of the biggest diameter tree in this mountain range that I am aware of (it’s huge). Lots of cool fruit photos, an Echidna and a massive stick insect.

Odin's Raven said...

Here's a view of American decline by an expatriate American now resident in Crimea, who on a recent visit found himself a stranger in his native land. The decline is more cultural and moral than material as yet.

nuku said...

A little more about NZ energy from Wikipedia:
"Hydroelectric power accounts for 11% of the total primary energy usage in New Zealand with imported oil and oil products making up 70% of the primary energy. Hydroelectric power accounts for 57% of the total electricity generation in New Zealand"

As you can see, at present hydroelectric power still accounts for a pretty small fraction, 11%, of the TOTAL energy usage. As Peter said, most of the easy hydro sites are already developed and there is a lot of ecology-based resistance to dams on any more of the significant rivers. On the plus side, one of the biggest hydo sites, the Manapouri in Fiordland, was developed in part to supply electricity to a huge Austrialian owned aluminium smelter. This smelter may very well get closed down in the near future releasing a large amount of electric generation to industrial and residential uses.
Still IMHO its going to be a big ask to provide ALL of NZ's energy usage, not just electricity, with renewables, WITHOUT cutting way back on the total of energy usage, in other words people's 1st world lifestyles. As usual that's the one thing Joe Average, and the politicians he elects, will not contemplate.

mirela said...

A couple of data points. Small, but when added to those already out there, maybe relevant:

One of my co-workers is a 60-somthing lady whose husband has been in the oil business for over 45 years. Owns his own company and sometimes works for other companies (as some sort of consultant/analyst - she didn't say clearly what he does). He is currently working for someone, and she said the owner of that company has warned him he will probably be let go soon. I said to her: "Oil business has always been cyclical - how does this downturn compare to previous ones?" She shook her head and said (in a worried voice) "There has never been this much debt before, EVER! The problems have not even begun to bubble up." I wonder if the "bubble up" will be like the methane fizzing in the Arctic ocean, or more like the craters in Siberia.

Last week in the comments someone wrote about a lack of Christmas cards - people neither sending nor receiving them this year. I can add two more points: at work (mostly evangelical Christians) AND in my bi-weekly discussion group (a wide range of beliefs, NONE evangelical Christian) the same phenomenon was noted. And no, I did not bring up the topic in either case.

Mark said...

Quick question. I've been reading you a good while now (used to comment as Yupped). You have been consistent with the theme that complex systems don't collapse suddenly, and that ruling elites usually respond to events in ways that can keep the system tottering along, so that decline is stair-step down process, rather than sudden collapse. Makes sense to me. But about 12-18 months ago, I sensed you seemed to be expecting a quickening of the pace of decline in 2015, with more dramatic events to occur. Did I read that correctly? Do you see less urgency now, with more time for people to prepare and change their lives?

I confess I haven't been paying close attention this last year, I've been focused on setting up a new homestead and small scale herb farm. Compared to where I was in 2007, I've cut household expense by 60%, my home is about a third of the size as well and I make my living mostly on the land, rather than an office. Even if the world pulled out of economic decline and found some magic energy doughnut to keep it all going, I'm very glad I made the changes. If nothing else, working with plants and animals versus working with corporate persons makes for a much happier life. Thank you again for the inspiration and insight along the way.

zentao said...

Hello John Michael,
Modeling can be useful – close the windows now because it is going to rain tomorrow – and some is essential – better to migrate and avoid ever-increasing climate-change fueled storms. For complex systems the second type of prediction gets rather, shall we say, interesting since bifurcation or state change is both rapid and extremely sensitive to conditions (chaotic).

For example, even a “simple” model of mechanical loading on an assembly or fluid flow in a system can be useful as long as one avoids transiting the zones of one regime (elastic versus plastic or linear versus turbulent). If the model even comes close to the transition then it can be “all bets are off”.

However, there is a lot of utility to examining how close systems are approaching the regions of bifurcation. Certainly if multiple systems are approaching (or even within) these zones then one should be prudent to allow for the distinct possibility of a major shift.

All this rambling is lead into a bit of a discussion about a couple of your predictions. And some discussion on a prediction that you did not make but that I see as highly probable.

Trump is certainly an interesting character but, as you point out, it is not the man but what he represents that is much more relevant. I agree but I think his emergence and popularity represent much more – and that this bears very close watch. Anyone remember Ross Perot? How about the way he suddenly dropped out?

I think the people predicting bad things will befall Trump have some merit. As empires collapse a hallmark is an “overpopulation of elites” to borrow from Turchin. Keeping them in line is important to slow the progress of decline; I think it is highly likely that a very strong message will be sent via events that befall Trump. Third-party participation needs to be avoided at all costs for BAU for the puppet masters…

On a higher level the election year is also a time when there is a lot of jostling and attention moves from external to internal. I think there is a strong element of “don’t rock the boat for Hillary” that weighs down the current administration. This already seems to be making problems in areas such as the middle east and I expect it to only get much worse.
In my view we are in a few state transitions with regards to politics and, therefore, the warning bells are ringing for making good predictions. All bets could be off over the next several months and, depending on outcome, 2017-2020 could really be impacted.

You also made a prediction regarding the Saudi regime. The events in the middle east, on many levels, point to several phase transition regions. Certainly, if your prediction were to come true, the ramifications would be enormous and the collateral reactions and events would likely be significant. A definite bifurcation…

One prediction that I will add is that 2016 marks the true emergence of AI – not “strong AI” but certainly very useful technology that greatly exceeds anything available at the moment. I’m not going to put all the details here but I will say that there will be significant impacts starting this year. Lots of jobs will be lost since the new deep learning systems are very versatile as well as simple to teach. More importantly are the military applications. There is very good chance that we will be at another “we have the atomic bomb and they don’t; we should attack now” kind of bifurcation moments.

The final point that I will say is that when we watch the weather we really want to know if the storm is going to bring some rain or whether there is high likelihood of tornadoes. With the high probability of significant phase transitions I think people should be doing more than closing a few windows…

I would be very interested to hear if see this as well.

Dau Branchazel said...

JMG and all,

I have just published a rather small piece in relation to the Oregon wildlife refuge takeover and how it has been handled by media and authorities alike. It can be read at my blog or at the The Australian Independent Media Network website where it was originally published.

Seb Ze Frog said...

Good Morning.

John Michael, and Pinky Sensei... I occasionally give speaking gigs in high schools about "The Energies of the XXIst century". This was initiated as gigs where us physicist would demonstrate all those great new energies that we would be using in The Future. But some of us seem to have made their homeworks and present things more along the lines of "Let me tell you about what energy is in physics. Now, let's speak a minute about thermodynamics. Now, let's have a look at all those "new energies" and compare it to oil. Finally, let's talk about what a closed system is. Good. Now, what conclusion do we reach ?"

While I haven't done it in Universities, both friends who do this gig and myself have a fairly good success with it in schools. There is of course the occasional pupil (and more often than not teacher) who mentions the "they will think about something" but this usually ends up in a productive discussion.

I thought you might like to know that some times there is more than blank looks...

And yes John Michael, before you point it out, as you inevitably will: being among the "They" people have in mind when invoking "they-will-think-about-something" might give us a little edge on this one ;-)

PS: as for predictions... To me, using a trend extrapolation or an other method to predict a departure from a trend are differences in method, not in the accuracy of the prediction. The accuracy of the prediction gauge is how facts end up matching with it. I have been predicting that the Sun will rise the next day for more than 20 years now. Some might not find it impressive but the fact is that I am, so far, 100% right.

If I was to guess, I would say that at least some portion of why you find this game entertaining is because you are shooting fishes in a barrel. Matching your prediction of the rising of the Sun against those of people who keep coming up *night after night* with a scenario of why, this time, it won't. But that's not a prediction, just a mere guess ;-)

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- wasn't actually criticizing, just examining. That method of weather forecasting is actually pretty good, and still now in the era of supercomputers and dynamical models, the best predictor beyond 7 days remains the climatological averages for the date. You may notice for these silly private companies that issue "10-day forecasts" that the last 3 days are usually "partly cloudy, 25% chance of precipitation" with the average temperatures for the season. It's still the most reliable guess that far out. And as you point out frequently, the best guess for next year is that it will look a lot like last year, on average, after all the shouting dies down.

edde said...

Greetings John Michael,

Great post, thanks for predictions.

We just now returned from Cuba. Fascinating place, perhaps a peek into USA's future as we continue down current trajectory?

That said, people were well dressed, well fed, seemed healthy. Cubans have free education with high literacy rate, free health care, 75 year life expectancy, very low rents, most have very low incomes. Over 97% participated in electing their "people power" neighborhood representatives.

Many Cubans I spoke with are proud of their country, hope for a quick end to USA blockade - perhaps as the empire winds down?

Feliz ano nuevo!

Best regards,

Sherril Bowman said...

re Bill Herbst and civilizational astrology
more here:

Shawn Aune said...

Does the announcement of a possible Saudi Aramco IPO change your predictions in any way? The announcement came right on the heels of your prediction. I think they may be reading your blog.

avalterra said...

Nope - my first year of predictions. I should set up my own blog, post these and look at them next year.

RPC said...

Re. photovoltaics: our version of industrial society needs concentrated sources of energy. After fossil fuels and a very limited subset of uranium deposits, the next most concentrated energy is flowing water. Hence, something like this would make more sense than a huge buildout of PV. Yes, the damming involved would result in significant environmental harm, but we're well into the stage where the "best" solution is really the "least bad" solution anyhow!

RPC said...

Re. Mr. Trump: going back a little over a century, the common wisdom was that that aggressive warmonger Teddy Roosevelt would wage endless war for the length of his tenure in office. In the event we got "walk softly and carry a big stick," the National Park Service, and the dismantling of some huge and influential corporations. It's impossible to predict what the shock of actually becoming President will do!

Grandmom said...

I don't agree with the Bundy group holed up in a nature preserve equaling the acts of John Brown. May be if they weren't crying in front of cameras so much while still enjoying electricity, wifi, and Facebook, it could be possible. Or if they occupied something like the federal offices of the land management folks they have such complaints about.

They occur to me just as whiny and self entitled as most of American society, demanding things they claim they deserve and refusing to do the basics, like pay taxes.

Shane W said...

serious busts in the Alta. oil patch are nothing new, and this one may not be the worst. Seems like there was a very severe one in the 80s. Of course, this is not unique to Alta., Tex., Okla. & maybe Alaska have experiences oil booms & busts, too. Just comes with the territory. Though the populism mentioned in the article is a concern--western Can. is the source of probably the most politically active populism in North America, and the Notley government seems to be pursuing some pretty boneheaded & clueless policies in light of the recent economic implosion.
I'm so surprised you haven't read I'll Take My Stand, as it dovetails so nicely with what you expend upon here on this blog! A background: it was written in 1930 @ Vanderbilt as the Great Depression was picking up steam by 12 distinguished intellectuals, all from the South. At that time, the South was still primarily agrarian, but the New South idea, whereby the South would be industrialized, had started to take root, and it was this nascent Southern industrialization that they were writing about. Although it was directed towards the South, the authors noted that its ideas could be taken more generally as an alternative from capitalism & industrialism. The essays touch on themes you discuss here, such as overproduction, cycles of civilization, the way that industrialism through technology destroys traditional community cohesiveness, industrial destruction of the land and soil, and the external costs of higher and higher levels of technology on production. One of the essays is even titled "A Critique of the Philosophy of Progress". And this was all written in 1930! They were all very well educated on Spengler and other contemporary writers. Considering the similarities, I felt almost certain that it colored a lot of your thoughts. I know that I'll Take My Stand was a strong influence on Wendell Berry.
JMG, Canadians I've spoken with are VERY ADAMANT that their border with the US cannot be secured...

Hello... said...

(from Erika in SF)

My dear dear John Michael GREER!

oh, your words make me SWOON! now you're dangling an actual real estate crash in front of me? ah! i'm going to drag my sick self out today to do the over-flowing laundry at one of the laundromats that plans to demolish itself for more condos, and dance to music OUT LOUD.

the new business owner of a cafe calls the cops on me when i dance with my earphones on (the cops MOSTLY leave me alone because ...what am i doing illegal except SCARING him with my joy and lack of feminine self hatred? it downright CONFUSES the white folks here that there isn't SOME LAW against this kind of unrestricted happiness without a permit from the city).

but i still fear that one of the cops who harrasses me will have me getting touchy, saying something wrong, and i'll end up with a creepy posthumous mug shot like Sandra Bland. the new folks here call the cops on us colored folks because they think we're all in gangs. and scary. Alex Nieto and Mario Woods. if you shot dogs, you'd get in more trouble. Ugh.

in fact, Nieto was reacting angrily to a guy whose big wolf dog had tried to get his burrito twice, and the guy ignored his dog to watch a female jogger. i know bernal hill dog walking culture well and people don't feel they need to control their dogs much so there have been many tiffs up there. but Nieto was wearing a 49ers jacket, and so he MUST be a gang member...

a few years ago, i myself, was ushered out of my YMCA of 20 years, by three cops who were called on me for CRYING when a white woman was upset at me for challenging her right to block the handicapped parking for her casual unloading. i cried to her and she raged and complained and the cops were called and i was escorted out and told to "calm down."

so i will dance for this tech bubble to burst, i will pray for the real estate insanity to STOP. everyone's EVERYONE's turning into a jerk because it's turned into a free-for-all now.

and anyone who defends amazon and the internet. you all, it has killed EVERYTHING. sure, it's convenient. but so is acid when you wanna burn something away.

art and books and PRIVACY is dead. privacy is needed to birth special beautiful things.

and those of you who're so PROUD to buy books dirt cheap? yup. love it now for that's what's made only wealthy people able to write and make spare change on making art.

we're in an age of regurgitated karaoke bull. what's NEW? remember music scenes, y'all? REMEMBER? it used to be FUN being human. more fun than now.

there's no proverbial "girl" at the end of this current american dream. no love. only money and more...WHAT?

the internet has killed everything. sure i use it. but i admit that i'm loving rediscovering the things you CAN'T FIND on the INTERNET. and that takes magic. magic of paying real attention. in a different way.

can't explain it. but i'm getting ready for the other side of a human scream to all this.

more later. i love the comments on here as usual. i've been 3 different kinds of sick over the quiet holidays. much time to THINK. i'll be back for sure.
bear with me.


Tripp said...

Considering the historic alignment of perils gathering around the USA currently, the name Trump itself is an interesting concept! And no doubt holds at least some, probably mostly subconscious, appeal among the desperate.

Always enjoy your annual forecast, and your willingness to revisit past mistakes and successes. Bang up job so far, by the way! I sometimes wonder if you don't throw in a misguided prediction now and then just to keep the witch hunters at bay...

Fall 2015 was for us one of building shelter - improving the house with finished floors where they were missing, more insulation, replacing a couple of broken windows, installing a more efficient back-up heater, building a new one cord woodshed, alternative ways of cooking, more reliable roofing, more pantry storage, and so forth.

If anyone is interested in seeing a few pics of our recent work, I'm glad to share my blog link with you all.

Cheers! And here's to a productive and joyful new year for all.
Tripp out.

Tripp said...

@Jbuck, my condolences on your job loss. That's harsh, but I know how it feels. I'm just really glad my personal D-Day occurred 8 years ago, and gave me the extra time to get prepared for a different future. Here's hoping you are getting there in a hurry too...

Phil Harris said...

@ das monde wrote
"Holy cow, fracking, biofuels added almost a whole Saudi Arabia to the supply?!"

Well no, not quite. Saudi Arabia has continued producing more than 10 million barrels per day and exporting something like 8mmpd for many years.

Hat tip Joe at Ugo Bardi's blog:
"According to the EIA, [USA] net imports of crude and refined products was about 5 million bbl/day in 1991, which gradually increased to about 13 million bbl/day in 2007 and is now about 5 million bbl/day. The drop of 8 million bbl/day [imports] since 2007 was due to about 3 million bbl/day less [lower] consumption and about 5 million bbl/day in increased production, mostly from tight oil."

I have not checked out biofuels, ethanol, in the comparison


Hello... said...

------------[from erika... part 1/2]

i don't know whether i'm writing this because i don't know what to "do" with it, but i can't help but feel it's also a sign on par with the militia takeover in oregon. (i can't help but think of philadelphia's bombing of MOVE and the burning of osage avenue in the 80s when i lived there. how INTERESTING the different treatments of white/black rage. i'm not saying they should BOMB oregon. i'm saying... "daaaaaamn...")

but i'm in the mission and we've seen a few of the earlier tech guys snap mentally. however they usually just get evicted and are kind of oblivious about the brutal reality of san francisco and LIFE.

but this young guy downstairs, only 32, Matt. he had a psychotic break and walked into the presidio and shed his keys, wallet with cards/cash, and his coat. they haven't found his body in the water or in the presidio.

his ex-girlfriend/roommate also seemed to go mad, and she haunts the tenderloin and the many growing homeless encampments in this city searching for him. she says he's not made for the street life.

that angered me a little, but i hid it as i said, "Tess, but WHO IS?" like there's always SUPPOSED to be a class of poor and homeless so puffy people can have fluffy lives.

he comes from orange county and his parents are equally oblivious about how to even HANDLE this. they are passive and count on this also young girl to LEAD the "investigation" of their missing son.

it's over a month now. she's a little mad now, too, and bangs on the drums wildly downstairs until i stomp on the floor.

Matt didn't come to trust her anymore. she said his job wasn't the problem. he said they were watching him. messing with him.

TRACKING HIM on his iphone.

i smiled that she "thought" he was paranoid.

because even in crappier little jobs, they DO track you, film you, harass you, watch you, mess with you. and he's IN TECH: he KNOWS what you CAN do. and what they DO DO.

and tech workers are already complaining about how insane the culture is to their humanity. they are mentally messed with to get them to work crazy hours.

i was wondering when the dissonance of this "utopia" would mess with their own humanity. i was so confused about how this entire city could die so FAST, with a WORSE dream that never ends with the proverbial girl. without love, even a FANTASY of love on the other side of all this working hell, what is there???

what do you go home to?

it sounds all woo woo... but really???...


Hello... said...

-----[from erika; PART 2/2]-------------

so in the end, Matt felt his own ex-girl/roommate was in cahoots and there was no one he could trust.

suicidal TENDENCIES and snapping doesn't tend to scare us artists. i don't believe in humanity-killing meds that block the red lights we NEED to go off.

most of us artists have already long been institutionalized or told we're messed up and wrong from jump street. our lives are about trying to be ourselves in this world so we've got different muscles from NOT fitting in that regular folks let get flaccid.

but Matthew was out of touch as a lot of them are here. they never look UP. they never look at EACH OTHER. they are hungry ghosts of the most naked magnitude. the death is obvious.

i am sorry Matt felt so, so alone and that there was no other option or world to retreat into.

see, THAT'S what san francisco used to be for: the lonely crazy's the opposite now when you outlaw nudity in the castro because ONE MAN insists on sitting nude in the sun. how SILLY! (it's allowed for parades, though. you can only be nude if everyone else is doing it at certain times of the year... whaaaat?)

now we oddballs and colored folks get shot, evicted in new crazy mean ways, or politely take ourselves.

i used to be a runaway and see wild things that'd make regular bougie white folks look at me like an alien. so i learned to stay quiet.

now they are dealing with the same wild energies but aren't equipped to handle the darknesses. they are snapping left and right. some more quietly and loudly than others.

artists jobs are to turn poison into medicine. but we're floundering en masse.

so most folks are on their own to rant screeds and troll endlessly on the internet.

i'm COUNTING on a new underground and black market.

it's the only way we CAN survive. surviving isn't just food and safety. it's spiritual.

and Alexandra--thanks for the astro link. if that was you. i love that site and ruminate on their ideas and offerings every time i step up to myself out in the world. it helps me focus on a bigger "reason" or the energies. i don't feel so... confused.


Alexandra said...

"I'm amazed, and not in a good way, by how many people who study the past still manage to buy into the mythology of progress."

Amen! I used Tainter's Collapse of Complex Societies as a textbook when I taught the Rise of Civilization years ago. My advisor, who started that course at my university, always lamented that the departmental administration wouldn't allow him to teach a regular course on Fall of Civilization--and doesn't that just tell you a lot about our society's approach to...well, everything? Only upward and forward trajectories allowed. United States of Amnesia indeed! I just wish I had known more about collapse then, and been better at articulating the cyclical nature of civilization; it would have been a much more interesting--and I dare say--useful class for the students. But we live and learn, right?

Quos Ego said...

Dear JMG,

I think you are being quite unfair to Gail Tverberg, since her first real prediction dates back to 2014, when she predicted a brutal collapse starting in 2015-2016, which might still happen.

For what it's worth, I think she's wrong, because she's obsessed with the financial system as it currently is, and cannot envision any other form of managing labor and resources, but I think you are being a bit dishonest when you say that she's been predicting a brutal collapse since her blog started: the shrill tone of her articles started only in 2014. Her predictions, however, haven't been proven wrong yet.

Jim Kunstler, that's a different story altogether: he's been predicting a S&P at 1000 points since 1954. Every single year.

Agent Provocateur said...


In reviewing my own comments I've come to the conclusion my predictions are vastly superior to yours. I see no need for false modesty. I'm here to help.

You see I've extended my deadline well beyond any time anyone will remember (16 years) and I've made the bracket of fruition similarly broad (8 years). Further the “thing to happen” is so wildly broad I can't really be wrong. Indeed I'm arguably already right. So far ahead no one will remember and so vague no one would bother with trying to hold you to account: that's the ticket.

I'm guessing the boldness of your predictions are informed by some occult philosophical technology: an oracle of tested and reasonable reliability, some “aletheiometer” of sorts. One would expect no less of an operative mage. Nonetheless, no matter how finely tuned, no transmission is certain to be without error. Indeed in this field, as most others, certainty is never assured. So we are in the realm of statistics.

Let's keep it simple and say that each of your four predictions have at best a 84% chance of being correct. Clearly I hold your clairvoyant abilities in high esteem. So the chance of all 4 predictions being correct is (0.84)^4 = 50% max. OK, I reverse engineered this number, but it does work out to a nice percentage doesn't it? Let's set this as our upper bound.

Now, despite there generally being far more ways of being wrong than right, a reasonably well informed unbiased opinion should give a better than 50% probability of being right on each item. Lets say, without applied philosophic tech, one should have a 67% (2 out of 3) chance of being right. For 4 predictions this gives (0.67)^4 = 20%. Let's set this as our lower bound for all predictions being correct.

Basically these numbers suggest you have a 50% to 80% of being wrong in at least one prediction when making 4. Had you made only one prediction, you would have had only a 16% to 33% chance of being wrong. So the lesson here is make fewer predictions for a better track record. No one remembers your successes. Failure is always more memorable.

To summarize: when making predictions, go long (don't make the deadline this year, #3 sort of fits), go vague (only #2 could fit … who calls it a “PV revolution” anyways?), go few (three tops). Please note these methods and try to do better next time! ;-)

Nah, I'm completely joking. Keep up the good work!

P.S. On the bright side, these number suggest your chances of being completely wrong are not more than about 1% i.e. (0.33)^4. In reality I'm guessing this is way too low. I should have stuck with the “way more ways to be wrong then right” idea. This statistic does drive home the contrary point that the more predictions one makes, the more likely at least one is to be correct. Thus, if you don't mind some errors, you can compensate going short (of necessity … it is an annual prediction after all) and going specific (damned objective criteria for being correct) by making lots of predictions. Its up to you of course to find your sweet spot.

Martin B said...

Art Berman has a good take on the oil price: "All oil producers are losing money at current prices but companies and countries are producing at high rates. Indebted conventional and unconventional players need cash flow to service debt so they are producing at high rates. OPEC is producing at high rates to maintain or gain market share. Everyone is acting rationally from their own perspective but from a high level, it looks like they have all lost their minds." (My bold)

His blog is worth a look if you're interested in oil. He knows his stuff.

What's wrong with Trump as President? I remember Reagan's campaign. An actor for President?! My God, the clowns are taking over the circus! the commentariat spluttered. He turned out all right, IMO.

I have no quibbles with JMG's predictions. I'm surprised Europe didn't get a mention. With refugees, Syria, Ukraine, Greece, etc, I think European unity and NATO will be severely tested.

And Dmitry Orlov has given me my nightmare scenario for 2016. He points out that western Ukraine is heading for failed state status, and it has 19 Russian nuclear power station manned by inadequately-trained personnel with shaky grid power supplies driving the cooling pumps. I'm holding thumbs.

Michael Kalk said...

@John--Estate sales are a great place to find old, well-made tools for reasonable prices. Gardening is a lovely way to meditate. Even if you rent, like I do, you would be surprised how much you can do in a small amount of space.

@Dan Mollo or JMG--As a somewhat newish follower of this blog could you point me to the 2009 deindustrial reading list? I poked around in some of the 2009 posts but could not locate it.

Anastassia Makarieva said...

Dear Mr. Greer,

I have been reading your blog with much interest. My colleagues and I have been working to develop the biotic pump concept, which highlights the role of forests in transporting atmospheric moisture. I thought that you could be interested in our recent publication
What can we learn from natural ecosystems to avoid a civilization breakdown?

Sorry for being off-topic. Please feel free not to post this comment.
Best wishes,
Anastassia Makarieva

Daergi said...

The problem with predictions these days is that events in the world are increasingly being measured with a rubbery ruler. When measuring, the ruler is being stretched longer or slackened in order to achieve a predetermined, glowing result.

Ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June of 2013 bureaucrats spent £300,000 to paint fake storefronts on closed down businesses to present a bustling economy for the news cameras that would be reporting from there. A more recent paint job, for example, the Swiss National Bank began purchasing U.S. stocks to the tune of $100+ billion by the spring of 2015. Other central banks invested in the U.S. and their own markets in 2015, and have done so at an alarmingly increasing pace. The Fed has admitted to direct intervention in the market. In addition, they've purchased much of the bad housing derivatives off banks in an effort to prop them up. Despite this, as well as banks having access to nearly free money, seven years on from the 2008 crash and most of the banks are still flailing along in the red. But you wouldn't know this from the black ink of their quarterly profit statements. Due to subsidies and clever accounting we are led to believe that everything is rosy. I know that no one here believes that, but still, last week a reader apologized for his prediction of a crash in 2015 not playing out. I happened to think that he had no real reason to apologize. While maybe not a cataclysmic end of all things occurred, neither was it a benign continuation of business as usual - even though that is what has been reported.

The rate and scope of intervention steeply increased in the second half of 2015. One headline a few weeks ago spoke about how the government has committed to go into debt at a quicker pace in 2016 and beyond. China has dramatically increased its level of QE throughout 2015 and into the new year, and Japan was a poster child for mountainous intervention in 2015. All of this intervention has achieved little growth. (Most would argue, based on indicators such as electrical generation and the dry bulk index, that there was a decline instead.) I ask myself what the market and economy would look like without printing trillions of dollars, trillions of renminbi and more than a quadrillion of yen amongst other currencies. If you were able to view the economy sans propping wouldn't it be represented by a line on a graph heading due south. We might get a glimpse of the very real decline that dominated 2015, but disguised by all this borrowing from the future. What is all this intervention after all but putting off into the future having to experience the actual decay that is occurring around us today.

A harder to measure metric, but just as indicative, is the quality of things. Which took a big dive in 2015. Quality loss can often be missed unless a person is regularly involved with a system and happens to be paying attention. If a company is struggling and delays maintenance, replacement, repair and reduces staff quality declines but the company may report higher earnings because of money saved from reduced costs. (Looking at revenue will often unmask these tactics.) Almost everywhere I looked in 2015 I saw lower quality and reduced choice.

Personally, I think 2015 was a bleak year in general, but if the health of the economy and the accuracy of predictions are being judged on a cursory inspection of this Potemkin village we live in, instead of peeking behind the scrim to examine the empty storefronts and crumbling ruins, then the crash might not be noticed until long after it has passed and the flimflam has crumpled and blown away in the wind. Predictions for 2016 need to be accompanied by criteria for measuring outcomes since the governmental narrative has completely digressed into the genre of fantasy.

Shane W said...

regarding a Civil War, who is going to fight for the Feds? In our most recent imperial adventures, morale has been at an all time low, and that is against an Other that has been properly demonized (terrorists). How are already jaded & demoralized troops going to be persuaded to fire against their neighbors? Aren't they likely to stand down, like you outlined in Twilight's Last Gleaming? Or are you assuming that the fighting will be amongst factions that come into the void once the Federal government implodes?

RPC said...

Of course that motto was "speak softly and carry a big stick." Darn fingers! (Darn brain!)

pygmycory said...

My predictions for 2015 went fairly well, actually. I wrote them down, so here they are:
#1 Trouble in oil-producing countries, especially high-cost oil producers.
#2Trouble in Canadian tarsands and US shale oil - likely leading to some bankruptcies, a burst bubble, lots of delayed or cancelled projects and production likely to peak and/or start decreasing.
#3 a) Canada will have an election during this mess
b) Conservatives may get less funding from oil patch than normal, may be able to unseat them
c)likely means Trudeau Prime Minister (hello plastic figurehead #2)
d)my riding definitely won't elect a conservative
e)if elected, Trudeau will not be a very good PM, and I doubt all the conservatives' damage will be undone
f)Elizabeth May will be re-elected; the greens might gain seats
g) if re-elected, Harper will be insufferable and will make lots of really bad decisions wildly against the evidence, and he will get significant pushback from citizens (not necc. 2015, may be later)
#4 Poor economy stagnant or recesiion in western Canada
#5 The illusion of endless growth being possible will be seen through by more people as the system becomes more tattered.
#6 A world recession is a possibility, the US is/will get a nasty shock re shale oil and other bubbles probably cause recession definately cause problems
#7 The ebola epidemic won't be over by Febrauary and may give another nasty fright to people who've nearly forgotten about it.
#8 The refugee crisis will become even more heartbreaking as aid falls further short of need
#9 We have not heard the last from the people protesting police killings of black men, and it will likely get messier than it did in 2014 given people are still protesting outside in December. Though it could go quiet for a while, then flare up again in a big way later than 2015.
#10 Russia's troubles aren't over.
#11 There will be a revolution or a breakout insurgency somewhere in the world.
#12 The bombing of Iraq won't lead to a stable democracy any time soon.
#13 California's water problems will continue, and various areas will run out of groundwater.
#14 Greece may leave the Euro or change its policies and default drastically within the Euro. They're having an election in January and the situation is getting rediculous.

buddhabythelake said...


I haven't caught up on the last 100 or so comments, so others may have already made note of this -- but some confirmation of the plausibility of your presidential prediction:

Frankly, when I first read your post, I was somewhat surprised that you saw him as viable in the general, but I am beginning to understand your reasoning.

pygmycory said...

Places I erred:
I overestimated the amount of political trouble there would be in oil producers. So far it has been mostly economic trouble, with political scandals in Brazil and the ongoing wars in Syria etc.

I overestimated the effect of the deflating oil sands bubble on the USA (I think there is more of that to come, so I was more early than wrong).

While I'm sure some more people figured out endless growth isn't working, I'm not sure all that many more did.

While I was right that Greece tried to make major changes, it didn't succeed.

In California, groundwater did run out in some places, but they were small and overall it was more a case of running really, really low. And now they're getting some winter storms, so hopefully next year will be a bit better for them.

I'm pretty happy with how my guesses went. I thought I'd probably get more outright wrong.

Hubertus Hauger said...

For the Saudis future in 2016 we shall see. For the long run I agree with your forcast in my timeframe.
Last time I made a future prediction I won. For the world did not go under in 2000. However I lost the bet I mad. A bar of chocolate which I didn´t get. What a pity. Now we could make a bet! Do you love chocolate?

Furthermore me making great plans to enter the transition movement and now you start discouraging me, by darkly hinting it may be too late. Uuuuuh .... ! Not nice of you!

For the anxiety you are the enlightened fearless hero we adore you for. While humble frightful little beings as we are, we might once follow your footsteps, becoming brave and bold as you are. Until then we stay in the dark, shivering and with chattering teeth. Klak klak klak klak ...!

buddhabythelake said...


More echoes of Twilight's Last Gleaming:

Phil Harris said...


Some good comments on digital technology as it became big. I have been searching for some summary of the ‘rationale' or the 'role' for the ‘digital revolution’. It was supposed to make a lot of economic activity more ‘productive’. To a modest extent it has done that – but … actually the ten-fold increase in the industrial use of coal in China over the last 20 years seems much more likely to have been the basis of continuing world economic growth. What ‘digital’, however, seems to have created is a very large ‘virtual reality' ... one still needing vast inputs from the ‘real’ world. Virtual reality seems a contradiction in terms.

I'm lost ... no 'future' can be 'digital' can it? What can we be thinking of?


Daniel Najib said...

Mr. Greer,

Just found out that the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott has called for a Constitutional Convention and is angling to introduce nine amendments that would increase state power at the expense of the federal branch. This is reminding me of Twilight's Last Gleaming. Who knows, maybe the convention, if called, will become just as sidetracked...


Ray Wharton said...

Oh maybe it would be good for me to make some Hail Mary predictions just for the fun of checking them next year.

1. A third party candidate will get enough votes to get blamed by the losing D/R for their defeat.

1.1 Unlike the past where this successfully marginalized the third party, this time it will actually invigorate it. I confess that the consequences of this prediction might not be easy to measure in a years time.

2. As noticing that climate change is happening in private conversations expands, noticing in public conversations will contract.

3. China's government will reject substantial elements of its pseudo market economy. Their market instability will reach a point where the Government will simply exercise executive power over the system and begin revealing an alternate structure.

4. Craigslist will prove relatively resilient to the rest of the tech sector, because it is not publicly traded. Further down the line its simple 90's like layout may prefigure future trends in the internet, being far lighter on servers and transmission systems.

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