US Labor Force as percentage of population: 1952-2012

This is a different metric to, say, the Labor force Participation Rate.

Although there has been a marked decrease in recent years, the most salient part of this graph has to be the 1962-1990 growth period, whereby large amounts of people entered the workforce. This reflects the growth of women choosing to work in the workplace rather than remaining at home. I'm sure that birthrates during this period would also reflect a downward trend.

And although productivity is certainly a important feature in GDP growth, this graph should also prove that GDP growth between the 1962-1990 period was also driven by an expansion of the available workforce. Similarly, any discussion about how GDP growth in recent decades has been lower than the previous ones should also take into account the plateau from 1990 onwards.

Note also that the 1981-1990 period grew at a slower pace than the 1964-1980 period. Reaganomics?

The 1952-1962 period is interesting in that the population grew faster in proportion to the workforce. In a word: Baby Boomers. By 1962, the eldest Baby Boomers were 17 and ready to go to work.

The post 1990 period corresponds with the tech boom, the housing boom and the GFC.

As the population ages and more people retire, there will be a fall in the above graph. I'd love to look at a graph for Japan, considering their population is aging and now in decline.

Sources: CLF16OV, POP.


Worldwide food production: no collapse yet

This is a result of some number crunching I did, comparing the amount of cereal grains produced to world population level:

I chose a three year average because the original had huge yearly swings while this gives a reasonably good idea of where things have been heading. It also takes into consideration the fact that cereals can be stored over the long term, which means that high production one year can help service demand the following year.

I chose cereal grains since these are a staple food and indicates generally the potential for future famines (as production decreases).

What it shows is that, so far, there have been no significant negative impacts on world food production in the past 50 years. There was a marked decline between 1985 and 2003 that needs to be explained, but production since 2003 has risen quickly.

The reason for looking at per capita figures (tonnes of grain produced divided by world population) is to see whether or not production levels are exceeding population: It's all well and good for cereal production to increase but it is another thing altogether if population is increasing faster than cereal production.

You can see the effect of the "Green Revolution" between 1963 and 1986.

I created this spreadsheet and graph to see whether or not Peak Oil and Global Warming had affected global food production. So far the answer is that they haven't yet.

A few years ago there were various food riots around the world tied to increasing prices. See here and here. It seems that, in hindsight, these problems were probably a result of local issues arising out of the Global Financial Crisis.

It's also true that grain prices have increased and this is due to increased demand from developing countries like China. Notwithstanding these facts and the consequences of them (richer people increasingly consuming more of the available food than poorer people) worldwide cereal production is still better now than at probably any other time in history.


World Population Figures: Source.
Cereal Production 1961-2010 (World total; Cereals total; Production quantity): Source.
Cereal Production 2011-2012 (estimates): Source.


The Three Spheres of Society

  • People
  • Business
  • Government

What happens when Conservatives get convinced by Climate Change?

They don't stop being conservatives, they start advocating a carbon tax:
Taking stock of our conservative principles and America’s energy and climate challenges, E&EI believes that the solution is an energy policy which:

  • Eliminates all subsidies for all fuels;
  • Attaches all costs to all fuels;
  • and Ensures revenue neutrality to prevent the growth of government

A sensible solution is a revenue-neutral tax swap, accompanied by a phase-out of all energy subsidies. A tax swap would, dollar for dollar, ratchet down anti-growth income taxes and shift the tax onto carbon pollution: Tax the bad, quit taxing the good, and let the free-enterprise system deliver the fuels of the future.
Despite my position on the left hand side of the political spectrum, I have always believed that a number of conservative beliefs are worth keeping. The solution proposed by E&EI is probably not enough to solve the whole problem of global warming, but it is a healthy start, and one that comes from a side of politics that seems all too willing to deny science.


No Peak Now?

Monbiot has given up on Peak Oil:

The facts have changed, now we must change too. For the past 10 years an unlikely coalition of geologists, oil drillers, bankers, military strategists and environmentalists has been warning that peak oil – the decline of global supplies – is just around the corner.


Peak oil hasn't happened, and it's unlikely to happen for a very long time.

A report by the oil executive Leonardo Maugeri, published by Harvard University, provides compelling evidence that a new oil boom has begun. The constraints on oil supply over the past 10 years appear to have had more to do with money than geology. The low prices before 2003 had discouraged investors from developing difficult fields. The high prices of the past few years have changed that.


There is enough oil in the ground to deep-fry the lot of us, and no obvious means to prevail upon governments and industry to leave it in the ground. Twenty years of efforts to prevent climate breakdown through moral persuasion have failed, with the collapse of the multilateral process at Rio de Janeiro last month. The world's most powerful nation is again becoming an oil state, and if the political transformation of its northern neighbour is anything to go by, the results will not be pretty.

But The Oil Drum says that the Harvard study is flawed:

So, there now comes an Energy Study from Harvard which boldly states that this is rubbish - that by 2020, global production will be at 110.6 mbd and these concerns that most of us have at The Oil Drum (inter alia) are chimeras of the imagination.


The amount of oil in the region tapped by the well is finite, and when it is gone it is gone, whether from a vertical well that shows gradual decline with time, or from the horizontal well that holds the production level until the water hits the well and it stops. I am not sure that the author of the report understands this.


The report further seems a little confused on how horizontal wells work in these reservoirs. As Aramco has noted, one cannot keep drilling longer and longer holes and expect the well production to double with that increase in length. Because of the need to maintain differential pressures between the reservoir and the well, there are optimal lengths for any given formation. And as I have also noted, the report flies in the face of the data on field production from the deeper wells of the Gulf of Mexico.