Gail Tverberg: The Coming Energy Depression

First, excellent conversation, we all get to check our assumptions and data. Well, at least those willing to provide data.
Here’s my most important chart of the future:

You said:

The bulk of society will redeploy around the new reality of oil (and energy generally) scarcity.
While 'society' may reorganize itself, because of course it will have to, I sincerely doubt that an exponentially-based system of credit will be able to pull off such a feat. We are all fish in "what is water"? Hard to detect when you are the fish. Except our question is "how important has access to high net energy BTUs from fossil fuels been to everything we see around us"? About as important as water is to fish I would propose.

Love the analogy Chris. I was thinking of oil specifically as being the life blood of a person and that person as being septic. A person can go for a while and not know they are septic but there comes a point that without immediate and intensive intervention that person will hit a tipping point and death follows. I suspect that a hiccup in oil distribution for whatever reason will cause major disruptions and crisis for many. I remember post 1964 Alaskan earthquake when bridges were out. So how healthy is the patient?

I always thought Chris was a closet clown… Could I borrow your shoes and your squirty bow tie Chris, I think it may help people on this side of the pond ignore me even more?

Adam: Maybe you should extend an invitation to the Sebastopol seminar to Oprah. Awareness to the Crash approaching is one way to "face that probability! If Gail is right, maybe it is time to capture the American spirit with a “happy story”. If the U.S. isn’t a “storybook” world, I don’t know what is.Yes, Chris, if we don’t change the perception, the status quo will continue. The apocryphal tone which seems rampant, especially in the U.S., does nothing but allow us to stick our heads in the sand. The current political cynicism of TPTB only confirm that

"we know the price of everything and the value of nothing"

AKGran (btw I’m in Anchorage how’s that for a coincidence?): Look, the reason I “stay at 500 ft” is because we Americans are so rich we can’t see reality up close. We can’t remember how normal people in the world still live and how we used to live.
The US housing footprint is twice the SF it was in 1950, yet our families are 1/2 the size as then. Think: one bath used to be the norm for a large family. The reason people have a hard time heating their homes today? We live in huge SF in isolated small families like only rich people used to. Meanwhile, why not walk or bike (we’ve done this for years in a cold climate, it’s much healthier). With double-digit size family we can easily live in 1200 SF as well. Why don’t people just cut back and live within their means if times hare hard?
If people just lived in extended families, got along better, stopping divorcing and arguing, walked and biked, stopped eating out, cooked heathy food at home, lived close to work…us oil producers would probably go out of business (yikes). So no, I’m not very sympathetic to a people consume resources like they are rich while going into debt to fund it all…then cry how resource short the US is. Crazy times these are. That’s just my perspective.

Meme, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Very thoughtful but I think that your assumptions and facts are based on false facts from a bankerized media promoted GDP religion world view where racketeering activities form the majority of the GDP and total amount of oil/coal is an input necessary for human progress. The “GDP” that CM keeps talking about is not a talisman of real world prosperity, progress or human happiness and the “news” is merely a dream state placed in front of sheeple to get them to believe things that facilitate their conversion into vassals of a neofeudal society owned and managed by those GDP experts. Thus I disagree with your memes. An objective view outside the US meme may be necessary to break the spell cast by the oligarchs and their financial analyst acolytes including those found on this site who promote the false religion of GDP.
Japan (and now China) are rapidly moving past industrialization and going into a knowledge based economy. Those very efficient vehicles in China are progressively being powered by solar energy. Even in parts of the West you have electric vehicles being charged by parking lots with roofs made of solar panels. These products are sold now. The conversion to a solar powered transportation is real and not a dream or conjecture. To say that electric vehicles (which WILL replace fossil fuel burners) require coal energy is a misrepresentation at best and a hallucination at worst. In fact already there is much more solar electric energy entering the grid than there is electric car removal of energy from that same grid. Further, already solar electric is being used more directly (solar to car when parked) without going long distances in the grid. The old coal story doesnt even fit the rear view mirrer perspective, much less the fast ongoing reality of rapidly increasing renewables powering the grid.
We moved from agrarian (99% farmers) to non agrarian (1% farmers) over a short period of not so many years from a historical perspective. The present reality of change to sustainable (mostly solar electric but also wind etc,) is just as fast, on the same time scale. I dont see the point of looking in the mirror and talking about coal burning “but see…see… there be coal burning!!” particularly when the majority population and technology (yes, China is advanced OVER the US in electric inventions and development change, I know this as a fact and I am developing my inventions there because they have so much more opportunity and more openness to change) are rapidly moving now to power a non-fossil fuel future with renewables where those renewables even now are much more abundant than the “there be coal energy entering electric cars!” . The Japanese rapidly moved away from smoke stack industries and the Chinese are similarly moving away from coal to renewables and rapidly cleaning up their environment, just as the Americans did and the Japanese did. Meme monkey, I was astonished to see that the meme presented by the oligarch’s meme machine is totally wrong about Asia. You can continue to believe the monkey’d dream meme of a GDP evaluated world memed out by the American “media” dream meme machine.
The stuff you read in the American mass delusional news networks is very misleading. I cant stop anyone from believing the hallucinations of the mass media or to follow the gospel of (the racketeers defined and measured) GDP and economic growth desirability and strategies. By way of example, the BIGGEST cause of carbon burning by far (represented in that worshiped GDP) is the U.S. military. The US military is the biggest source of carbon emissions on the planet and its continued growth is a big part of the “GDP.” If the US stopped killing and bombing and etc. around the world, a large portion of US oil would NOT be burned and the GDP would drop. This is just an example of what the GDP boys refuse to talk about but want to facilitate instead as “prosperity.”
Bankers and their financial analyzers (now funded by web sites on the internet with paid for access to advertisers) make money from the rest of us who believe that “religion.” The GDP valuations are not even based on real wealth and do not reflect what people need. I predict that the racketeer’s GDP will fall and that many of us outside the neofeudal-izing US will be much better off and consider that progress, particularly if the bombs stop falling, the drones stop flying, and the rest of the world stops sending THEIR wealth to the American GDP meme masters in return for nothing tangible expect maybe a promise not to bomb them.
Maybe this is part my disagreement with financial analysts and their “I have a PhD in economics!!!” masters who include the insulting assumption that someone who makes twice as much money as another is twice as good as that other, and that someone who makes 1000 time as much as another (such as found in America now) is 1000 times as good as another. This is a bed rock fundamental of that oligarch dream meme. Meme monkey, I disagree with that meme and the meme that those racketeers’ creation of GDP based primarily from racketeering and more often than not counting $ as progress something that hurts the people somehow should be the basis of evaluation. I am done with that. We need cryptos to abolish the banks. We also need a different measure of human progress to abolish the GDP along with the bogus evaluation of employment and other things that go with it, and to help the GDP acolytes (financial managers) direct their efforts toward real wealth and prosperity. dont need these dreams of get rich quick that just takes time away from our real lives… No more time for this keyboarding chit chat. I dont have any more time to defend my statements.
Best wishes

So no, I’m not very sympathetic to a people consume resources like they are rich while going into debt to fund it all…then cry how resource short the US is. Crazy times these are. That’s just my perspective.
One advantage to growing older is being able to hold two emotions and thoughts at the same time. I understand being frustrated with people but we have been lied to for so long people think cheap fuel will last forever and they don’t understand where and why the economic bus derailment happened. So, you, and society blames Mr. & Mrs Middleclass and they blame themselves and there is a ripple effect, like family violence, drugs, crime, and the effects goes on and on.I think it was Chris Hedges who talks about the war against the weak. I think its a war against the people.
Secondly I don’t know that many rich people, monetarily speaking. But I do know people who live without running water or indoor plumbing. People that don’t have much but will share everything they do have with you if you are in need. People who pass things around and can squeeze a dime out of a nickel.
You say why don’t people cut back and live within their means when times are hard? You mean like paying 25% to 50% more in health insurance, paying off a catastrophic medical bill, or let’s see the increase in utilities, food, fuel, and just for frivolous kicks ever priced braces or had an emergency vet bill. Probably not. For petes sake walk in some-one else’s shoes. I know I could introduce you to a friend that just lost a child to cancer, yep they should live within their means cause times hard. How about the family who’s father just committed suicide I could go on but won’t.
Well if you live in Anchorage go volunteer at Bean’s Cafe or Brother Frances Shelter or the Covenant house and come back and let’s talk again and we will see if it’s still easy to BLAME people.

Thanks for your response. I offer this rejoinder even though you indicate that you don’t have any more time to to defend your statements.
First I can assure you that my arguments, facts and assumptions are not based on " banker memes" that I absorbed in some sort of fugue state perched in front of a TV news show or worshiping at the alter of GDP as a totem of success. My arguments are rooted in the science of ecology and the physics of thermodynamics. My facts are measurable and observable in the real world.
In your world the future is all about smart renewable electrical tech It is after all what you do and good for you! I approve and prefer that flavor of technology to conventional BAU.
And while you might feel it is impolite to point to China’s Coal habit as the renewable future looks so promising to your eyes It is unfortunately current reality. 2017 saw a 3.5 percent increase in coal consumption in China and while yes that unpleasant fact gets reported in the corrupt media but I can also see with my own eyes Mr. Buffett’s Coal Train with it’s miles of cars pass by me here on it’s way to Vancouver for transshipment to China.
It is not an accident that China is economically colonizing Africa for access to it’s energy and mineral resources, talking with the Saudis about a Petro Yuan or building out it’s decidedly non solar powered Navy and Military to project power for the OBOR initiative. China, in fact all of Asia runs fossil fuel powered industrial economies with rising material standards of living and growth as the de facto objective.
Your statement that Japan and now China are rapidly moving past industrialization and going into a knowledge based economy is belied by the observable and measurable energy inputs into and material goods out of those economies. Moreover, to the extent that there is a shift in those modalities in a given country such as China, they are due more to externalizing those industrial processes to poorer nations for the benefit of wage arbitrage (like the USA did with Asia)
To the extent that energy efficiencies are realized by technological advances in information processing or other technologies they appear to be obviated by Jevon’s paradox as growth at any cost is still the context in which they occur.
While you talk about the rapid conversion to solar and renewable powered transportation, you ignore the necessary fossil fuel inputs to the system and grid that is responsible for that. The roads, mining, batteries, factories, plastics, electronics, maintenance etc. that are integral to the production and maintenance of those technologies.
With regards to your comment:
We moved from agrarian (99% farmers) to non agrarian (1% farmers) over a short period of not so many years from a historical perspective. The present reality of change to sustainable (mostly solar electric but also wind etc,) is just as fast, on the same time scale.
Is revealing as well. It turns out that both those paradigms shifts are a function of the same thing. I.E,
Oil and related fossil fuel exploitation.
I would argue that you appear to confuse the initial rapid rate of renewable adoption with the reality of it’s ultimate and inherent scalability given the resource constrained inputs to this build out you anticipate. At it’s core this argument is most readily understood in the context of the low EROI of these renewables when conventional inputs are accurately and recursively accounted for. This is ultimately a function of the diffuse nature of sunlight and wind as an energy source.
Finally to end on an agreeable note I think that in many ways we are aligned on a philosophical basis with regards to the military carbon footprint and other exploitations of empire, banks, GDP as a measure of value, definition of work etc. I even agree that China is where the better tech is increasingly arising.
I don’t believe in the the religion of GDP as you put it but nor do I believe in the religion of progress technological or otherwise, either. I don’t see it saving us from what is coming or making a smooth transition a world wide industrial system to an enlightened techno agrarian one. Which is not to say that a transition won’t happen. It just won’t be techno, smooth or enlightened.
I believe in the laws of Nature and think we are subject to them. Industrial society as interesting and comfortable as many of it’s benefits are, is a crime against nature and the punishment is coming due.
thanks for the debate

jdsfrisco wrote:
Long debates about energy between techno cornicopians and doomers are silly. Mostly I've notice that memebrs of both groups live nearly identical lives. Same kinds of homes and apartments, same cars (an SUV and a Prius are more alike than they are different,) same flights, same food (Walmart vs. Whole Foods is a cosmetic variation,) same everything. Personally, I live a plain vanilla regular life too, but I've made some modifications. I carry no debt. Not even a mortgage. I've super insulated my home room by room over the years and installed a high quality metal roof that reflects heat. The place basiclly doesn't need mechanical heat or air conditioning anymore. I own a car, but I live in a place where driving isn't critically necessary and only put about 2,000 miles a year on it. It's a small town that's easy and pleasant to navigate on foot and by bicycle without feeling like a loser. And I've transformed the half acre yard into a highly productive food garden and preserve the bounty with home canning, etc. I do these things because I enjoy this kind of life, and because I like knowing that I can ride out any number of serious difficulties if need be. If energy remains plentiful and cheap forever, great! If energy becomes scarce and expensive... shrug.
If you're not familiar with Johnny's blog, I highly, highly recommend it. Johnny has tremendous insight and a terrific personality to accompany that. The post to which he linked is easily one of his best. I'd also recommend the following two:

I think an important consideration to “moving closer” and “having smaller homes” is the sheer amount of private fixed investment our society has sunk into “living far” and “having larger homes”. Plus, construction of public transit projects takes both time and energy to put in place.
Such a change as you describe could happen, but it would take a lot of time and investment to bring about - where investment means “spending energy to construct stuff”. Once we get to a point where energy is more scarce, we’ll be in one of those catch-22s where we need to change our infrastructure in order to save energy, but we will be hard-pressed to find the energy to do so.
The Hirsch report talked about the time and expense of mitigations, projecting that once things flipped, it would take 10-20 years to implement enough structural changes to deal with the issue. (It was a while ago I read this - this is based on my memory). And that during that 10-20 year period, things would be pretty unpleasant.
It also suggested that if we started early, we could avoid the unpleasantness.
While I agree completely with the amount of waste, and the potential for reduction, I think we aren’t “starting early”, and that when things start to get serious, we won’t have done anything to prepare for it (because of the ‘oil is really cheap’ viewpoint) and so it will be a 10-20 year period of no-fun-at-all that could have been avoided had we started preparing in advance of the problem.
I’m also going to guess that when things get more serious, your private oil companies (and mine) will all be nationalized. That, or a windfall profits tax will be imposed - like it was in the 70s - so our upside will most likely be capped by government action. We’ll be in a position of having made the right call, but not being able to benefit from it while at the same time suffering the downsides along with everyone else.
I’ve often wondered how to hedge against this. A railcar full of oil in the backyard seems impractical. Any suggestions - assuming government will act to cap “windfall profits” just like they did the last time?

that as a teacher of history, I am aware of no examples of large, complex societies voluntarily or involuntarily devolving to a less complex society without either substantial change (as the Mayans walking away from their cities, or the Anasazi doing the same) or substantial disruption and violence (such as the collapses of the “Golden Age” civilizations). We’ve never seen human civilization operating at the scale and complexity we are operating at now, so I find any notion that we will simply “scale back” without massive disruption and/or violence not rooted in any examples I can point to.

We also, psychologically speaking, are never as good at heading-off a crisis as we are as putting the pieces together once crisis hits. There are numerous examples I could highlight in both the modern and ancient worlds that show we are piss-poor long-term thinkers when in a group. The bigger the group, the worse we are at it too.

This will not slowly devolve, because a) too many people have their bets placed on the current system, and they will not give up their creature comforts easily or without a fight, and b) too many people are willfully ignorant of the dashboard of red warning lights flashing at us.

davefairtex wrote:
Once we get to a point where energy is more scarce, we'll be in one of those catch-22s where we need to change our infrastructure in order to save energy, but we will be hard-pressed to find the energy to do so.
Great points Dave, as usual...and I want to remind everyone that because of the short-sighted, profits-today-count-for-more-than-a-better-tomorrow mentality most of the world, but especially the US, is going to be having to replace ~100% of its existing concrete structures over the next 100 years.
In every single reinforced concrete structure, silently behind the smooth exterior, the concrete is breaking itself apart due to the corroding steel inside. What all this means is that literally everything you see today that’s made of concrete will need to be replaced within a hundred years of its installation. Every bridge, every building, every roadway…all of them.

They’re just rotting away from the inside, silently and relentlessly. When the rot progresses far enough, it leads to something called ‘spalling’, which is when the surface of the concrete crumbles away to reveal the rusted steel beneath.

Once you notice this, you’ll see it everywhere:

So let’s travel forward just a few short years into the future. There we find hundreds of trillions of dollars more of global debt, even greater sums of unfunded liabilities, much more expensive fossil fuels (as explained in this recent podcast with Art Berman) -- all competing with a crumbling concrete-built environment that will have to be torn down and replaced.

Where the article above concludes that trillions of dollars will need to be be spent just in the US alone to replace its concrete infrastructure, that number will be at least an order of magnitude higher for the entire globe.

And we don’t get much incremental benefit for the cost of replacing a crumbing piece of infrastructure. When you tear down a bridge and replace it you still have one bridge performing the services of one bridge. Sure, you occupy a number of people in the construction and manufacturing trades for a while, but you don’t get any added value beyond that. It’s not the same as putting in a new bridge at a new location to open up a new geographic area for greater economic activity.

You just get your bridge replaced. One for one: an economically neutral exchange that costs a lot of money.

My larger question here is this: Can all the competing future demands even allow all of the current concrete infrastructure to simply be replaced, let alone expanded?

What if there’s not enough energy for that task, plus the demands of feeding and sheltering and defending ourselves?

It's my strong belief that we’ll regret the short-term mentality that led us to trade durability for lower cost. Furthermore, I contend that competing future demands will prevent us from replacing all of our decaying infrastructure with similar copies.

Either they won’t be replaced at all because we cannot afford to do so (see: Detroit) or we'll have to bite the bullet and begin installing truly durable structures that won’t simply tear themselves apart from the inside in a few short decades. Which will likely be a lot more expensive to build.


This was one of the more personally impactful articles I wrote in the last few years. I learned something and it changed the way I see the world around me. Now I notice spalling everywhere.

I see how much of our existing infrastructure is, essentially, disposable. It's built to be replaced, and soon even by human standards. It rests upon the assumption that the energy will be there to do this.

According to the EIA cement is the most energy intensive of all manufacturing industries (click on image to be taken to source) and it's production is (of course) intimately linked to economic expansion:

And of course that's just the manufacture of the cement...not the mixing into concrete, transporting and pouring into a new structure. Those cost extra.

All of these new energy costs all begin to hit about the same time. You the twenty years between 2008 and 2028.

We're going to have to make other arrangements, and that especially includes the Chinese who may have a slightly greater focus on electric cars (sorry, but they are still only (45/24,200) = 0.2% of total yearly sales in 2017), but are entirely exposed to cement dynamics with their massive stack of apartment towers poured in place, often very badly.

This all isn't rocket science, just basic math. Sadly, hard to get across because it runs afoul of treasured belief systems.

“Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness.” --Titus Livius (Livy) 59 BC-17AD.

Hi Chris, and thanks again for your reply. I’m in total agreement with you on our debt-based monetary regime. There is absolutely no question in my mind that this regime will collapse, “first slowly, and then all at once” as some pundits have quipped about a related topic. I also agree that it’s the impossibility of the chart you presented continuing that will be the root cause of the this collapse.
Regarding your musing “how important has access to high net energy BTUs from fossil fuels been to everything we see around us?” Well, it’s essential, of course. Civilizations are built on economic surplus, and the net energy supplied by fossil fuels has enabled us to generate surplus in abundance. We’ve been fortunate indeed to live in era when such abundance has been available and has kept pace with growing economies and populations.

Comment 1: Look at what Art Berman actually says:
That is absolutely correct. For the shale plays, $50 is the cheapest – and really we need to be talking about $60-$65 kind of on average for the best of the plays in the core areas. Deepwater is higher. Oil sands can be sort of in that range for existing projects, probably $80 for new projects.
This is chump change, not “moonshot” prices. Amazingly, $150 oil didn’t even seem to have extreme effect on driving cutbacks (look at mileage), so we seem to need over $200 oil $5 gas to really make much an impact in use…because we are rich! Remember, oil is 70% transport $ in the US and the US could eliminate half of driving relatively easy, most of that driving is just wasteful living. Because we can and life is so easy. Hardly a crisis.
Sadly in the interview, Art then goes on to speculate on how oil will effect the overall economy, which is way outside his considerable petroleum engineering knowledge. He knows nothing more than you or I about how oil prices effects the general economy. My thoughts? Watch the price of oil for its economic indications. And it’s still very, very cheep right now, even at $150. Art got the economy part pretty wrong so far. A little humility would do Art (and all of us) good on economic matters. Since that interview, US companies have been making lots of $ (I’m talking real money, ROIC, not stock prices) and I’ve made a lot of money following along this growth. So Art got the economic part totally wrong, which is nothing against him, he should just know the limits of his expertise.
Comment #2: It’s important to realize oil is merely the most convenient energy resource the US has and that’s why we use it. We could either cut back or replace it with ease. But by bother when it’s so cheap? This is why we use so much oil, because we can. But it would not hurt the economy to replace it with NG, coal, nuclear, or reduced usage. It would actually help!
Comment #3: Infrastructure rebuild has no reason to damage the US economy, it will only provide a greater transfer of weatth from the rich to the average. This would be good because our economic productivity gains would then shift more to the common man from the rich. Remember, GDP has doubled since 1950 and we lived a pretty good life even back then. We simply don’t need as much energy anymore due to technology. We have new technologies in lighting, autos, communications that make life much easier and cheaper with no loss of function. Electricity usage and driving are both falling with no loss of quality of life even today when we are awash in cheap energy.

Aqua Appia; 312 B.C. and still counting. Material engineering verses cheap and fast mechanical engineering is perhaps the new direction we should be taking. A consumer focus has led us to the situation we find ourselves in. Cost vs. value (or do I repeat myself)? Oh, did I mention, done by hand?

Let’s use my favorite accounting statement - the balance sheet - to explain why rebuilding an existing bridge isn’t actually a positive thing for the economy.
Imagine for a moment that “The Wealth of America” was contained on a massive balance sheet. This included not only bridges and roads, but all the nonrenewable resources, like oil, coal, natural gas, and whatnot.
So if you imagine the nation before we arrived; the balance sheet was full of natural resources, and very little fixed investment. In the 400 years that followed, we “converted” natural nonrenewable wealth into bridges, houses, and what not. Natural nonrenewable resource dropped, and “fixed investment” increased. Let’s say the balance sheet stayed neutral - it was a transfer from the natural resource section over to the “fixed investment” section.
Now let’s knock out a bridge because of rotting rebar, and then rebuild it. What does that do to the “national wealth” balance sheet?
It drops by the amount of nonrenewable natural resources used to tear down the old bridge, and then rebuild the new bridge.
Same thing with hurricanes. Destroy a bunch of cars, buy new ones - what is lost? All the nonrenewables spent to construct them that we will never get back.
That’s at a very basic level. Now let’s add a level of complexity. Normally, we swap non-renewables for stuff that ends up being more valuable, so our national wealth balance sheet grows every year, as we convert non-renewables into more-valuable fixed invesment. But when we rebuild existing stuff: our balance sheet declines. Bridge remains a bridge on the balance sheet, but the non-renewables used to replace it are consumed. Total national wealth drops.
Most people don’t put “non-renewables” on their idea of the national wealth balance sheet for the country. That’s why they don’t understand its bad to have to rebuild things after hurricanes, or rebuild rotting bridges.
[The real accountants out there will remind me that we should have applied a depreciation schedule to the bridge, so our national wealth balance sheet would reflect the decline in bridge value every single year, and presumably will be at $0 by the time we have to replace it. But the consumption of the non-renewables when rebuilding the bridge that hits the national wealth balance sheet still remains valid. And arguably, the poorly-built bridges means our national wealth invisibly declines every year, requiring constant infusions of non-renewables to keep them all operational - again subtracting from total national wealth.]
Or to put it more simply, rotting bridges = bad. :slight_smile:

and “poetic justice” perhaps. As Chris mentioned in his post regarding concrete, wouldn’t it be a hoot if just as everything was falling apart within a short space of years, the costs (or ability) to repair, let alone rebuild became restrictive or too prohibitive (as in revenue, parts, energy inputs and so on).
I was thinking a few more of these potential engineering professionals might help.

We have new technologies in lighting, autos, communications that make life much easier and cheaper with no loss of function.
There are tradeoffs that are not on the radar of common (pejorative use) folks. With respect to lighting: This one is personal. I live near an intersection and the sodium streetlight was just replaced with an LED fixture. As a consequence, there is no more stargazing in the front yard. Autos: We don't need them. From a sustainable -- for those who are into future life on the planet -- perspective, it is well known that hybrids, for example, are not any better than a well-tuned combustion engined auto. My wife and I live without one and it can be done -- and result in a higher quality of life. Communications: With the increased use of cell phones we now have a nation of zombies with an addiction. Most of the young women that I see driving down the street are looking into their devices rather than at the road. I would call this a lack of function and that is being kind. With respect to "Luddites": This is a group of artisans that were forced by "progress" to give up a life of liberty for one of "punching the clock" each day to do mindless tasks. Kirkpatrick Sale, among others, has written about the topic. Is life "cheaper" with this wonderful new technology? In a word, yes. Were there some technologies that improved life? Yes, but most of them were introduced over a 100 years ago and were done because it was the right thing to do and not to because it enabled one to build a McMansion.