my submission to mining on Schedule 4

objection to mining schedule 4 land‏
From: Murray Grimwood (
Sent: Wednesday, 26 May 2010 12:20:19 a.m.
I object to the mining of schedule 4 land.

The reason is that the Brownlee initiative represents nothing more than a bankrupt grasp of mathematics.

The aim is to ‘grow’ something called ‘the economy’, but of course, this is exponential growth, on a finite planet.

Perhaps hindsight will ascertain that the societal failure was a lack of physics papers incorporated in an economics degree, and that we all started treating the utterances of economists as we once did those of the clergy – as gospel.

You cannot grow on the back of physical resource extraction, beyond the point of the maximim rate of extraction. This essentially happens at half the URR recovered, or at what is also known as the Hubbert Peak.

When you are down to the point of looking at Schedule 4, you are beyond the peak.

Which means that you cannot maintain, let alone grow, any ‘economy’, beyond this point, and to attempt to do so, is a waste of leadership time – already in short supply.

Just how stupid this ‘idea’ is, can be seen in the following question: What will the ‘wealth’ we are told this will earn, buy, when all the resources are extracted?

This is not just morally bankrupt – stealing from my kids in effect – but mathematically bankrupt too.

Sustainability is the only morally defensible approach in intergenerational terms, and the one-off extraction of finite resources, particularly from areas of outstanding and irreplaceable alternative values, does not meet that yardstick.

The other point is the Key comment about ‘surgical’ mining – the debacle off Louisiana is via a 6 5/8 inch (160mm) pipe. You don’t get more surgical than that. The problem is that the low-hanging fruit has been plucked. Deep water and DoC land are both manifestations of the same problem – the low-hanging fruit has been plucked, and demand has crossed supply permanently – as it had to in a regime of exponentially-growing demand – into areas with more impact, and more potential for environmental disaster.

Simply, we have to show social/intergenerational maturity, and abstain.

What Brownlee proposes is greed. Time he, and those who ‘think’ like him, grew up.


Coal, China, Heinberg, Growth, Truth, wow….

This is a guest post on TheOilDrum from Richard Heinberg. It says, far more eloquently, what I’ve been saying for years.

The post was originally published by the Post Carbon Institute.

Here are a few excerpts:

“Most of this conventional wisdom is correct, but some of it is plain wrong—so wrong, in fact, that environment-, economic-, and energy-policy wonks are constructing scenarios for the future of U.S. and world energy, and for the global economy, that bear little or no resemblance to the reality that is unfolding.”

“Let’s see if we can sort what’s right from what’s not, and see also if doing so can help us paint a more accurate picture of where China, and the rest of the world, are actually headed. China’s coal output grew an astonishing 28.1 percent from first quarter 2009 to first quarter 2010, to over 750 million metric tons consumed in just the past three months.”

“Start with the stats and do some simple math. China is now mining and burning over three billion tons of coal per year. If the nation’s coal consumption grows at, say, seven percent per year, that means consumption will double in ten years (its annual growth rate was actually over nine percent in one or two of the last several years, implying a doubling every eight years—but let’s be conservative and assume seven percent growth). In that case, by 2020 China would be using about six billion tons per annum.”

“Combine unprecedented consumption levels with furious growth rates and you quickly arrive at absurdities and impossibilities. As in, it won’t happen. The wheels will fall off the wagon first.”

It takes infrastructure to mine and use coal. Rails and rail wagons, plus trucks and roads, are needed to move coal from mines to power plants.  China is building all of these at a frenetic pace—but the relentless math of exponential growth is starting to hit home.”

“According to the World Coal Institute, China has reserves totaling a little over 110 billion tons. That’s almost 37 years’ worth of coal at current rates of consumption (i.e., three billion tons per year). But to assume that China won’t have coal supply problems until 37 years have passed is also to assume two absurdities: that Chinese demand, production, and consumption of coal will remain constant; and that after maintaining this steady rate of extraction and consumption for 37 years, China will one day suddenly discover that its coal has run out.”

“In the real world, China’s demand for coal is expected to grow. Adding ten percent annual consumption growth to the forecast would yield a reserves lifetime of only 16 years. While a sustained rate of growth this high is extremely unlikely, the principle is worth keeping in mind.”

“A bursting of China’s property bubble could collapse the nation’s economy quickly and soon. But it is essentially a problem of money, and money is a creation of the human mind. Currencies can be reformed; banking systems can be reorganized. Such things are painful and take time, but they are certainly possible—and historic examples are numerous.”

“Energy is different. Without energy, nothing happens. Transport systems stall; building construction and manufacturing cease. The lights go out. You can’t make energy out of nothing and you can’t call it into existence with computer keystrokes, as bankers can do with money. Generating electrical power requires physical resources, infrastructure, and labor. And so there are natural limits to how much energy we can summon for our human purposes at any given time.”

“China has become a great manufacturing powerhouse largely because it was able to grow its energy supply quickly and cheaply. And so China’s contribution to the world economy is to this extent a function of China’s contribution to world energy. One significant gauge of this link is the fact that Chinese coal production represents more than double the amount of energy contributed to the world economy as compared to Saudi Arabia’s oil production (1,100 million tons of oil equivalent vs. 540 Mtoe.)”

“If China faces hard energy limits, that means its economy is living on borrowed time. That also means the world as a whole confronts energy and economic constraints that are harsher, and closer, than we are being told. This fact in itself is really peculiar and disturbing. We are participating in a slow-motion train wreck, yet all we can manage to discuss is the quality of the food in the dining car.”

“Maybe this is because acknowledging the train wreck would require us to confront a slew of contradictions at the core of the entire modern industrial project.”

“But further growth may be unattainable anyway, as the world approaches fundamental resource limits. Nobody wants to think about these things, much less talk about them. Not China’s leaders, nor economists elsewhere, nor many environmentalists, nor politicians, nor journalists.”

“But we can’t wish these limits away. Impossible things (like unending economic growth) won’t happen just because people want them to. And awful things (like the wreck of the China train) won’t be averted just because acknowledging them makes us uncomfortable.”

“There are of course steps that Chinese officials—everyone, in fact—could take to make the situation better. We should be developing and deploying renewable energy as fast as possible, with a wartime mentality in terms of priority and commitment. And we should be planning for the end of growth, indeed for economic contraction. These things will be difficult, there’s no getting around it. Still, they are possible in principle. But we will fail for sure if we remain sunk in denial and do not even make the effort.”

“It is all a remarkable spectacle. Sit back, watch, and marvel if you wish. But know one thing: unless we collectively wake up, engage the brakes on this runaway train (and here I am speaking not just of China), and start discussing how we will adjust to the end of economic growth as we have known and defined it, none of this will end well.”

Great man, great writer, great read. Compare that to the ODT  effort I mentioned yesterday.

Otago Daily Times – mining – not quite, folks

The Otago Daily Times have recently run a series on mining. Presumably they thought it was balanced, presumably they thought it was big-picture.

It was, predictably, neither.

The heading gave it away – Good as Gold.

I have just sent a ‘letter to the editor’, pointing out that when your caption is your anticipated answer, you’ve got the cart in front.

Interestingly, during the series, 40,000 people marched in Auckland. Below, in the brackets, is the sum total of the ODT’s coverage

(                              )

Absolutely unacceptable, presuming your thing is journalism.

Then there is the lack of ascertaining who Brownlee’s son works for, and what he does (Matthew Hooten and mining lobbying). Also, the piece destined for Conservation Estate, which got ‘kept out’, and is going to be lignite-to-fuel, with ‘2700  jobs’, up St Bathans way.

No mention of ERoEI, or of exponential growth, or even of whether Business as Usual is capable of maintenance in such a paradigm (it isn’t).

I’d urged the ODT to have the debate, and ‘big picture, if you please’. They didn’t get to the debate, and were a mile from the big picture.

Kevin Rudd should have been mentioned, too. He understands that resources are all there is, at the end of the day. Given his approach, he obviously understands that the end of the day is close – which puts him light years ahead of our bunch.

Murray Kirkness must have allocated a fair bit of reportorial time to this, and perhaps he genuinely thought he was giving it the heave.

We must remember, that he was appointed firstly because he demonstrated an ability to increase hick-town circulation. That say a lot (which we already knew, of course) about Julian Smith, but it does not an Editor make.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. None who went before, did any better. Middle class men, all. Blind? Religious? in Denial? Fear? Arrogance? Ignorance?

Or a combo?

Predictable. Sad, but predictable. We’re going to fail. In part, because of folk in places like the ODT.

Sad. Sorry kids – mine and theirs.

to Morning Report. Sometimes I get a tad frustrated.

Listening to a ‘report’ of John Boscowen speaking to 35 faithful, with extensive quoting, I just shook my head. This is endenic bias. If it isn’t the need to get some return from sending a reporter to a meeting he’d been invited to… which is still unacceptable – decisions should be about presenting balance and truth.

get this right please – re: economy, economic growth, OECD, productivity,‏
From: MurrayJennie GrimwoodUpton (
Sent: Monday, 3 May 2010 8:46:23 p.m.
note – I’m sticking this on my blog, and will refer to it if in the future, if knowledge of the content is denied. Nothing personal, I’m just out of patience.

Time your researchers investigated some facts.

*  All ‘investment’ requires a return. Coupled with the to-date bank approach of charging for ‘monies’ loaned (the loaned portion is a zero-sum game), the result is a need to enlarge the system by the underwriting of the interest/return, each go-round. (given that it couldn’t continue to be underwritten, the Fed at zero is telling).

*  This increase is a percentage, and therefore exponential. Not linear. Be very clear about the difference.

*  Being exponential, it could only continue indefinitely if it were virtual.

*  It is not virtual, at the end of the chain you buy things physical, which are in turn underwritten by energy.

* So, at the point where energy supply peaked (Hubbert’s estimate for ‘Peak Oil USA was out by 3:3.4, but it made a mere 3 months difference in 14 years) so too has economic growth.

* Global average, of course. China can go up, if someone else goes down, but the sum total will now descend under a sinking lid.

* Meaning that, on average, investments must all decrease from here on, again winners and losers, but under a sinking lid.

* I picked the crash of 2008, to the decade (2000-10) in 1980, and to the year in 2002. I did so using physics – the real.

* Your reportorial mistake, is to interview, quote and/or believe, economists. They were taught in, and gurus of, a short-term scenario – where the exponential ramping of activity was capable of being underwritten by cheap (easily obtained) energy, stored over aeons. Not only has the physical extraction rate of that peaked, but the ERoEI (energy return on energy invested – note, a dollar irrespective concept) is declining also – a compound decline.

* That ramping period is over, at least in terms of having no more ‘doubling-time’ (please investigate and understand this concept) left, certainly can’t peak later than 2016, and most of us who research it, believe it peaked in 2005, and is currently traversing a bumpy plateau.

* In that scenario, the only valid goal is attaining a state of equillibrium to hand on generation-to-generation. Any other approach collapses within a decade.

* Comments about competition with other countries, comparisons with the OECD, and talk of ‘productivity gains’ or ‘the economy’, must be made with this overarching proviso in mind.

* Meaning that reporting 35 people listening to Boscowen, and taking a similar time to do so, as to cover 40,000 marching, is unbalanced. The questions are whether an ETS will actually address the target problem (physically) and whether mining – irrespective of site – is a valid approact to setting up a sustainable society to hand on.

* Big-picture, we are chewing into the finite resources of the planet at 3 times the sustainable rate (to underwrite the need to increase consumption exponentially). Turn that upsidedown – there are 3 times too many homo sapiens on the planet. That is at subsistence level, of course. To maintain an equillibrium at your (not my) level of indulgence, the planetary carrying capacity is estimated to be a mere 1 billion. 1/6th of the present number. We will be there (1-3 billion) by 2050. Ask Colin James – I believe he’s of a similar mind on that.

* Please investigate the above, I’m happy to help – free – and ask our current political/business ‘leaders’ the serious questions. We simply have to get to that state of equillibrium, while we have the fuelled time to do so.

* Your approach (and that of pretty much all the NZ media) is not helpful in terms of informing the public about what essentially should be your domain – the truth.

Murray Grimwood.

And I bet nothing changes……

a question, and an answer

An old friend found my blog, and asked this:

Hi Murray.
I have just found your website.
Just a quick question. You have said that the world poulation
 is projected to hit 8 billion. Yet statistics are showing that
 fertility rates in many countries around the world are droping
rapidly. This therefore would indicate that we are in fact in a
couple of generations going to be in a huge population decline.
 Similar to your bell curve.
Your thoughts on these statistics

Fair question. The problem is that we will never get to that 8
(or 9) billion. That's a reproduction projection only. Resources
- food, water, energy - won't support the rise from here to there,
and the limits are happening now.
  There is not the oil (particularly) and a lot of other stuff, to
raise everyone on the planet to our level of consumption, and
been since 1980. We are doing it on borrowed time, using resources
that took millions of years to accumulate (oil being anaerobically
decayed biota, coal being fossilised trees, etc) up in one 220-year
period. That bell-curve (the Hubbert curve, in effect) was always
predicted to peak around 2012 to 2016. See the Club of Rome report,
(1970) and it's 10-year updates.
 Far from the declining population helping things, the declining
availability of resources (particularly the oil which powers all
non-peasant agriculture) will continue to outpace projected population
declines. They won't outpace real population declines, though. They
will inevitably drive them, and the picture is not pretty.
  Best estimates are that we are using up resources at 3 times the
sustainable rate. Turn that on its head, and there are three times
too many of us here. That, however, is at subsistence level. If you
take it at our level of consumption (well above the global average)
then the figures are perhaps 6 times too much consumption, and that
there is permanent support for perhaps 1 billion indefinitely, planet-
 How it will play out, I won't pick. Anthropologists suggest we keep
going hard, until we collapse. I think there will be wars over 
resources which will make Iraq look like a sunday picnic.
 Certainly, economic and physical growth, global average, has to stop
before 2020. Probably has now. Folk like me reckon you can plot the 
oil supply graph, and use it to extrapolate work done. It gets worse,
though - the ERoEI gets worse per volume - deeper, sourer oil, 
requiring more energy to lift and produce, that the stuff we cherry-
picked at the beginning.
 Rwanda, Haiti and Bangladesh are obvious examples of what will 
happen increasingly. Rwanda is conveniently portrayed in western 
media as genocide, but in some Hutu-only areas, the death rates 
were similar. It was poverty, land shortage, food and water..
  Can I be wrong? No. Hubbert, in 1956, projected a high and a 
low alternative to his 'peak oil in 1970 for the USA' projection.
 Even the eventual 3.4 billion barrels, versus his projected 3 
billion, mover that 14-year projection by 3 months.
 When you run into exponential consumption into peak supply rate, 
the time essentially doesn't alter.
 My pick? We get to 7.5 billion, and 2020, with increasing 
desperation, fighting and angst. At that point, social disruption, 
chaos, and anarchy. By 2050, still 3 billion or so alive, but
inhabiting a denuded planet, and taking out other species in a doomed
fight for survival.
 Not pretty. There is another way, but it is too late probably. Large 
numbers of people won't take responsibility for themselves, or 
ownership of the problem. Ans we're pretty much out of time to 
educate/change them.

Essential googling is:

Albert Bartlett - the exponential function
Marion King Hubbert - the Hubbert Curve.
The oil drum - blogsite.