At the top of the peak


Mosaic Adventure



“The fact that conventional non-OPEC oil production has rolled over is a huge problem that has received little attention by oil analysts. To put this in perspective, conventional non-OPEC oil production still represents 45% of global oil production and now appears to be in sustained decline.

Furthermore, if you include other sources of non-OPEC production, such as Canadian Oil Sands (which is not considered “conventional”), biofuels, refinery gains, and OPEC NGLs (which are not part of the OPEC quota systems), the US shales still represent an enormous 75% of the total non-OPEC liquids growth over the last decade. Now that the Bakken and Eagle Ford are facing exhaustion issues that are readily becoming apparent, nearly all of non-OPEC’s production growth will have to come from just one play in West Texas–the Permian.

Never before has the global oil industry been so dependent on one field in such a concentrated geographic area for all of its future growth.”

Goehring & Rozencwajg, “Shale Oil: A Startling Prediction Using The Latest Statistical Techniques”


“A spate of new scientific research released through 2019 has thrown light on nearer-term risks of a global food crisis in coming decades, such as a multi-breadbasket failure — due not just to climate change, but a combination of factors including population growth, industrial soil degradation, rising energy costs, groundwater depletion, among other trends.

Taken in context with a number of climate change models produced over the last decade, the heightened risk of droughts in the 2020s means that a global food crisis could be imminent.”

Insurge Intelligence, “West’s ‘dust bowl’ future now ‘locked in’, as world risks imminent food crisis”



If our global industrial civilisation was a mountain, we are likely to be at or very close to the peak.

If this is correct, our collective future will be a story of the decline and eventual collapse of our industrial civilisation.

A core purpose of this blog is to circulate to a wider audience my view that the limits to Growth business-as-usual (BAU) modelling is the most likely future fate of our industrial civilisation. And that modelling, which has proved broadly accurate over the past 40 years, suggests that we are hitting global per capita peaks in food and services as at now.

Limits to Growth 2020

Dirk Bruere Limits to Growth 


As you can see from the above chart, the 2020’s are, if the modelling continues to prove broadly accurate, a tipping point when industrial production slumps, global population peaks and death rates start to soar.

Interestingly, Bloomberg today noted that top market strategists are referring to the 2020’s as the “Peak Decade” for demographics, globalisation and oil demand. The reality of our global predicament is starting to permutate among the financial elites of the Western world.

The idea that, as we enter the 2020’s, global key metrics are peaking and will rollover may still be a shocking idea for many. We are likely to have to get used to this new paradigm soon. At the top I included a quote from the Insurge Intelligence website which is one of the few online sources that takes resource scarcity seriously. They argue, based on the latest scientific evidence, that various factors, which I have previously referred to as the Limits to Growth mega-trend, are colliding to make a global food crisis a rising probability in the coming years.

I’m not convinced that a global food crisis is imminent – far too much food is wasted across the developed world – however the prospects of future shortages, price hikes and climate triggered droughts is likely in the coming decades.

Peak oil concerns have faded since the surge in US shale production over the last decade. A recent report by Goehring & Rozencwajg suggests that the bulk of non-OPEC production growth this decade will come from “…one just play in West Texas- the Permian”.

Given that conventional oil fields are declining on an annual basis, global oil demand is still rising (for now) and the US shale miracle is slowing, the prospects of another oil supply shock this decade are high. That will likely prove to have major repercussions on a global economy still recovering from the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

So that’s the big picture on where we are and where we are heading as we enter this potentially momentous decade. Now it is time to review how my predictions for the year 2019 fared.

I predicted that Britain would leave the EU in 2019 and that there would be an 11th hour amendment to May’s deal, possibly relating to concessions on the Irish backstop. In fact, Britain is not leaving the EU until 31st January 2020 but Boris Johnson did manage to secure changes to the Irish backstop which enabled a revised deal to be agreed between the UK Government and the EU in October 2019. It wasn’t in the direction of a softer Brexit either as I thought at the beginning of last year.

Overall, I will probably give myself more of a fail than a pass on that prediction but I was not wholly wrong. The timing of our leaving the EU was technically wrong but de facto correct in the sense that the Tories victory in the December general election insured Brexit was happening as a political fact prior to the New Year. Similarly, the key to unlocking a revised Brexit deal was eventually done by concessions on both sides on the issue of the Irish border.

My second forecast, which I only placed a 30% probabilistic chance of happening, was an Arab style insurrection in France. This didn’t happen in the end and was my wildcard scenario for the year.

My final forecast was a bulls eye. I predicted that Trump, as part of a wider attempt to withdraw from the US empire business, would order the withdrawal of the majority of US troops from Syria. That occurred amid chaotic scenes in northern Syria, in November 2019.

So overall, a reasonably decent performance but not the best compared to my now vintage inaugural forecasting attempt back in 2016 when I successfully predicted both Trump and Brexit.

In terms of my predictions for 2020, here is what expect is likely to happen, with a probabilistic rating attached.

UK will agree to a shallow goods-based trade deal by 31st December 2020 (70% probability)

Britain, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will achieve a shallow trade deal with the EU facilitating the free flow of goods by the end of 2020. Other areas will be concluded in 2021 and 2022 but the overall thrust of the final settlement with the EU will be a hard Brexit e.g. low alignment with EU standards which allows the UK to diverge on regulation and laws.

Despite much commentary in the European media I don’t think there will be an extension to the trade talks although it is possible that a very short-term technical extension to approve the new deal might occur in January or February 2021.

Sir Keir Starmer will win the Labour leadership contest (75% probability)

The crushing defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in the 13th December British general election triggered a new leadership race. There are currently 5 candidates still in the running although that is likely to be reduced given the need for trade union endorsements. The three candidates who are most likely to go to the wider membership are Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long Bailey (RLB) and Lisa Nandy.

The Yougov polling of Labour members and the political betting markets suggest that Sir Keir Starmer is the overwhelming favourite to win the race. RLB is the preferred candidate of Corbyn’s circle but has lacked any spark so far. Anecdotally the membership, still shaken by the defeat, seem to be prioritising Starmer who is seen as the most prime ministerial of all the candidates.

Whilst I have placed a small wager on Lisa Nandy, who has impressed me so far and could surge now that the hustings have started (allowing me to exit with a profit), my forecast is that Sir Keir Starmer is the most likely candidate to win the Labour leadership contest.

The result will be announced on 4th April 2020.

Donald Trump will win the US presidential election (60% probability)

This has proved a difficult one to call. Whilst Trump’s rating vs v vs Joe Biden, who remains the most likely Democratic candidate to win the primaries, remains poor, he has significantly narrowed a once big lead.

Compared to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are on the left of the Democratic spectrum, Trump is leading in key battlefield states. Should either Warren or Sanders win the Democratic primaries Trump is likely to win the US presidential election, possibly by a landslide.

Joe Biden, who appeals to soft Republicans and conservative Democrats worried about the tax-and-spend socialism of Sanders and Warrens, has a better chance of defeating Trump.

One figure to watch for is Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who would be my wildcard candidate to win the Democratic primaries. Conservative, ex-military veteran and homosexual; he reminds me of the relatively unknown Emmanuel Macron who ended up winning the French presidential elections in 2017. Buttigieg has horrendous ratings among the key African-American demographic who form Biden’s Southern firewall and therefore has a difficult, if not impossible, path to victory.

Should Biden become the Democratic Party candidate the prospects of a Democratic victory in November increases (at least compared to his rivals), however, on the balance of probabilities I would predict that President Trump is more likely than not to get re-elected for a second term in office.

The reason for my call is that Trump has managed to erase much of the once mighty Biden lead in battlefield states and we are still in the early days of this presidential campaign. The booming economy in the “flyover states” and the wider cultural weaknesses of the Democratic Party suggest that enough voters will hold their noses and vote for the Donald again.

Please note that prediction is predicated on the assumption that President Trump is not impeached in the Senate.

Well, that’s it for my set of forecasts for 2020. We will see how I perform at the beginning of 2021!

As always, I appreciate any feedback and comments you have to my blog posts.

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At the top of the peak

3 thoughts on “At the top of the peak

  1. Nonplused says:

    I’ve known this was coming since 1998 when I read a Scientific American article (back when they actually had science articles instead of all global warming articles) called “The End Of Cheap Oil” (Campbell, Leherre). They predicted that “cheap oil”, i.e. light sweet crude that was easy to drill for, would peak around 2006 using methods originally proposed by Hubbert which more or less accurately predicted the peak of US conventional production in 1970. By 2007 oil had reached $140/bbl, so I think their forecast was correct. Of course the SA writers were only considering cheap, easy to extract oil, but that is the stuff that growing economies are made of. There is lots more oil out there at $100/bbl but the question remains whether the economy can actually afford that oil, at least as an energy source. For example there is a lot of oil in shale, but so far nobody has made any money trying to extract it.

    I actually made a lot of money being long O&G stocks in the 2000’s based on reading that article, but not enough unfortunately to get me through what’s coming. Back in the day, SA was a better investment guide than anything you found in an economist magazine. Sadly, they are too political now to be of much use, and I cancelled my subscription years ago. I mean how can a magazine that forecast correctly that we are running out of fossil fuels in 1998 be inserting runaway global warming into every single article today? The CO2 problem has its limits. We can only make the problem so much worse than we already have. We should be worrying about things like plastics in the ocean, over-fishing, pesticides killing all the bees, and what replaces oil and gas to fuel our economy, not a self correcting problem that is bound to go away on its own.


    1. Hi

      Apologies for not seeing this comment earlier.

      Agree entirely with your comment. My view is that the CO2 emissions will moderate once our global economy starts crumbling away and the impact on climate change, whilst moderate, won’t be the disaster some are forecasting.


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