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Will the World Economy Continue to “Roll Along” in 2018?

Once upon a time, we worried about oil and other energy. Now, a song from 1930 seems to be appropriate: Today, we have a surplus of oil, which we are trying to use up. That never happened before, or did it? Well, actually, it did, back around 1930. As most of us remember, that was not a pleasant time. It was during the Great Depression. Figure 1. US ending stocks of crude oil, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Amounts will include crude oil in pipelines and in “tank farms,” awaiting processing. Businesses normally do not hold more crude oil than […]

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The Depression of the 1930s Was an Energy Crisis

Economists, including Ben Bernanke, give all kinds of reasons for the Great Depression of the 1930s. But what if the real reason for the Great Depression was an energy crisis? When I put together a chart of per capita energy consumption since 1820 for a post back in 2012, there was a strange “flat spot” in the period between 1920 and 1940. When we look at the underlying data, we see that coal production was starting to decline in some of the major coal producing parts of the world at that time. From the point of view of people living […]

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Oil For Gold – Real Or Imagined?

By having control of the physical market for gold, China can threaten to use it to destabilize the dollar, without destabilizing the yuan. As such, it is potentially devastating, and used carelessly could trigger an economic collapse in Western capital markets, wreaking financial and economic havoc in America and other advanced nations. China will never be wholly independent from trade with these nations, and severe financial and economic damage to the advanced economies will rebound upon her to some extent. For this reason, she has so far held off using gold as an economic and financial weapon, while she continues […]

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Why Oil Prices Can’t Bounce Very High; Expect Deflation Instead

Economists have given us a model of how prices and quantities of goods are supposed to interact. Figure 1. From Wikipedia: The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product. Unfortunately, this model is woefully inadequate. It sort of works, until it doesn’t. If there is too little a product, higher prices […]

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The Next Financial Crisis Is Not Far Away

Recently, a Spanish group called “Ecologist in Action” asked me to give them a presentation on what kind of financial crisis we should expect. They wanted to know when it would be and how it would take place. The answer I had for the group is that we should expect financial collapse quite soon–perhaps as soon as the next few months. Our problem is energy related, but not in the way that most Peak Oil groups describe the problem. It is much more related to the election of President Trump and to the Brexit vote. I have talked about this […]

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Falling Interest Rates Have Postponed “Peak Oil”

Falling interest rates have huge power. My background is as an actuary, so I am very much aware of the great power of interest rates. But a lot of people are not aware of this power, including, I suspect, some of the people making today’s decisions to raise interest rates. Similar people want to sell securities now being held by the Federal Reserve and by other central banks. This would further ramp up interest rates. With high interest rates, practically nothing that is bought using credit is affordable. This is frightening. Another group of people who don’t understand the power […]

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How Researchers Could Miss the Real Energy Story

I have been telling a fairly different energy story from most energy researchers. How could I possibly be correct? What have other researchers been missing? The “standard” approach is to start from the amount of resources that we have of a particular type, for example, oil in the ground, and see how far these resources will go. Growing development of technology seems to allow increasing amounts of these resources to be extracted. Thus, limits seem to be farther and farther in the distance, especially if a person starts out with an optimistic bias. It is easy to get this optimistic bias, […]

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$50 Oil Doesn’t Work

$ 50 per barrel oil is clearly less impossible to live with than $ 30 per barrel oil, because most businesses cannot make a profit with $ 30 per barrel oil. But is $ 50 per barrel oil helpful? I would argue that it really is not. When oil was over $ 100 per barrel, human beings in many countries were getting the benefit of most of that high oil price: Some of the $ 100 per barrel goes as wages to the employees of the oil company who extracted the oil. Often, the oil company contracts with another company […]

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The real oil limits story; what other researchers missed

For a long time, a common assumption has been that the world will eventually “run out” of oil and other non-renewable resources. Instead, we seem to be running into surpluses and low prices. What is going on that was missed by M. King Hubbert, Harold Hotelling, and by the popular understanding of supply and demand? The underlying assumption in these models is that scarcity would appear before the final cut off of consumption. Hubbert looked at the situation from a geologist’s point of view in the 1950s to 1980s, without an understanding of the extent to which geological availability could […]

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Why Globalization Reaches Limits

We have been living in a world of rapid globalization, but this is not a condition that we can expect to continue indefinitely. Each time imported goods and services start to surge as a percentage of GDP, these imports seem to be cut back, generally in a recession. The rising cost of the imports seems to have an adverse impact on the economy. (The imports I am showing are gross imports, rather than imports net of exports. I am using gross imports, because US exports tend to be of a different nature than US imports. US imports include many labor-intensive […]

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