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ClubOrlov: How To Time Collapses

ClubOrlov: How To Time Collapses

Douglas Smith
Zeus

Over the past half a decade I’ve made a number of detailed predictions about collapse: how it is likely to unfold, what its various manifestations are likely to be, and how it will affect various groups and categories of people. But I have remained purposefully vague about the timing of collapse and its various stages, being careful to always append “give or take half a decade” to my dire prognostications. I wasn’t withholding information or being coy; I really had no way of calculating when collapse will happen—until five days ago, when, out of the blue, I received the following email from Ugo Bardi:

Hi Dmitry,

You may be interested in this post of mine.

Starting from this post, I’m trying to draw a parallel between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the impending collapse of Italy. There are, as always, similarities and differences. In particular, the Soviet Union collapsed almost immediately after that oil production flattened out and started declining. On the contrary, the Italian government survives despite a loss of 36% in oil consumption.

My impression is that it is all related to different taxation methods. I understand that the Soviet tax system was based mainly on commodity taxes and on taxes on production. When production stalled, people had nothing to buy and the government had nothing to tax because most people owned nothing and had little or no savings in banks. So, the government had no choice but to fold over and disappear.

Instead, the Italian system is based largely on income tax and property tax. The government is losing revenues on commodity taxes (e.g. on gasoline) but it can compensate with property taxes. Italians, on the average, are “rich,” in the sense that they have savings in banks and most of them own their homes. So, the government can tax their properties and their savings. As long as Italians still have something taxable, then the government will survive. It will disappear only when it has managed to strip citizens completely of everything they have.

Do you agree with this interpretation? (BTW, Italy as a state may be even more culturally diverse than the old Soviet Union was.)

Ugo

I wrote back:

Hi Ugo,

Very interesting article. Yes, the entire southern tier of the EU is in some early stage of collapse, but so far it hadn’t occurred to me to draw parallels between it and USSR. Now that you mention it, the parallel is obvious: it is financial collapse triggered by something having to do with oil, but with polarities reversed, and delayed by a period of wealth destruction.

In the case of USSR, taxation wasn’t really a source of government revenue. The national economy was based on government ownership of everything, central planning and budgets, and a system of assigning ministerial contracts to enterprises owned by the ministries. The external economy was a matter of exporting hydrocarbons in exchange for foreign currency, which was used to buy grain—mostly feed grain for cattle, without which the population would become protein-deprived and malnourished. Over the so-called “stagnation” period of the 1980s the Soviet economy became hollowed out because of several trends. Too much spending on defense was one of them. Another was that investment in capital goods (machinery, plant and equipment) reached the point of diminishing returns, which is very difficult to characterize but not so difficult to observe. Lastly, Solzhenitsyn and the dissident movement had done irreparable damage to Soviet prestige, destroying morale. The coup de grace, when it came, consisted of two pieces. One was the inability to expand oil production given the state of Soviet oil extraction technology of the era. The other was the fall in oil prices, down to $10/bbl at one point, because North Sea and Alaska both went on stream, and the Saudis pumped as much oil as they could based on a tacit agreement with the US to depress oil prices and thus crush the Soviets. In this they largely succeeded. The USSR became heavily indebted to the West, and, at the very end, needed Western credit to keep the lights on in the Kremlin. One of the final scenes featured Gorbachev on the phone with [West Germany’s Chancellor] Helmut Kohl asking him to ask the Americans to release some funds.

Now, I can see parallels to this in what is happening now in the US and in the EU, but with all the polarities reversed: here oil flows in and money flows out, and the coup de grace [will be] high oil prices rather than low. Instead of failures of central planning, which failed to allocate production effectively, we have failures of the globalized market, where production is effectively globalized but consumption is ineffectively localized among the wealthy and the formerly wealthy, and has to be fueled by credit. Instead of diminishing returns from deployment of capital goods, we have diminishing returns from deployment of capital itself, where a unit of new debt now produces much less than a unit of economic growth. The damage to reputation and morale is mostly on the US side of the Atlantic, where in place of Solzhenitsyn and the dissident movement we have Abu Ghraib [scandal], [Wikileaks’ Julian] Assange and [Edward] Snowden. With the EU, most of the damage has to do with [the] experience of economic disparities between the rich core and the increasingly impoverished periphery, and the recent move in Ukraine to walk away from the EU, and the ensuing Western-financed mayhem in Kiev, show that the bloom is off the EU rose as well. The runaway military spending is likewise mostly a US issue, although epic failures in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, in which the EU is complicit, are likely to have some effect as well.
Comparing USSR to Italy is difficult because of the disparity of scale: 1/5 of the planet’s dry surface versus a smallish peninsula; an economy that slowly decayed in isolation versus an integral part of the EU; a country where the choice is between burning hydrocarbons or dying of exposure versus one where the choice is between riding a scooter or taking the bus; a country with a ravaged agricultural sector unable to grow enough protein calories versus a nation of foodies where corner groceries make worthy subjects for oil paintings. But I think that when it comes to the actual collapse, when it finally comes, there will still be identifiable similarities. Financial collapse always comes first: all sorts of financial arrangements unravel as the center becomes unable to float the periphery, and in response the periphery starts to withhold economic cooperation. The result is a breakdown in supply chains, shutdown of production, and, shortly thereafter, shutdown of commerce. In the case of the USSR, this unfolded in 1989-91 as the various republics and regions refused to cooperate with Moscow. I suspect that this will also happen in the EU, at some point. But I think that you are exactly right that whereas the average Soviet citizen could not be fleeced, Italy, and much of the EU, still have plenty of fat sheep that the government can shear to keep things running. Thus we are looking at a few more years of steady decline before the lights start going out. This, then, is the key distinction: the USSR collapsed promptly because it was already skin and bones, whereas the US and the EU still have plenty of subcutaneous fat to burn through. But they are, in fact, burning through it. And so, the conclusion is, collapse will come, but here it will take a little longer.
-Dmitry
Ugo responded:
I agree with you, of course. It makes perfect sense to me and it is the main point I was making: the Soviet government couldn’t tax Soviet citizens too much because they owned very little.
The Italian government instead has some luck in the sense that Italians have some savings and most of them own their homes. So, the government is progressively strangling their citizens to squeeze out of them all that they have—while they still have something.

The last round of tax increases in Italy is targeting homes and it is really, really hurting, especially the poor. You can be poor here, and still own a house that you inherited from your parents. Now the government asks you to pay as if that house were revenue! That is truly evil. People who don’t have the money to pay this property tax can only indebt themselves with banks (or worse). Eventually, they’ll have to sell their homes or give them to the bank (or to the Mafia)—the result is disaster for everybody, including for the banks, and even the government. But the whole thing has a perverse logic. It has the advantage that it generates some immediate cash which is badly needed, then the hell with the future.

The [next] phase will be to target bank accounts. Then, when there will be nothing left, the government will decamp and say bye to everybody. Hell, what a planet I landed in…..

All the best,

Ugo

And so here is the outline of the method for calculating the timing of collapses:
1. Find out when the collapse clock starts running by looking for a significant drop in energy consumption
2. Calculate how long the clock is going to run by dividing the total wealth of the citizenry by the economic shortfall of the shrinking economy
For any industrial economy the collapse clock starts running as soon as the consumption of fossil hydrocarbons starts dropping appreciably. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether this has already happened if the country in question is still a major hydrocarbon producer. Gross production numbers can still be holding steady or even seem to go up a bit, but once you subtract all the energy that is being expended on energy production itself, and on the unprofitable mitigation of its many undesirable consequences, you might be able see a decline sooner rather than later. Notably, the net energy yield, or EROEI, is very low for all the newer unconventional sources that have been trumpeted as panaceas in recent years, such as ones that require hydrofracturing and drilling in deep water, tar sands and so on. (The so-called “renewables,” such as wind, solar and biofuels, are an even bigger joke, because all of them with the exception of hydroelectric plants have net energy that is too low to sustain an industrial economy, plus they all depend on technologies that are “nonrenewable” unless the country maintains a vast industrial base which happens to run on fossil fuels.) And so the drop in net energy consumption is clear for Italy, which produces 7% of the oil it consumes and imports the rest, whereas the picture is somewhat less clear for the US, which still manages to supply around a third of its oil.
Since all industrial economies literally run on fossil fuels, lower energy consumption immediately translates into a lower level of economic activity and a shrinking economy. The gap between the expectations of economic growth that are dialed into all of the financial arrangements, and the reality of economic decline driven by lower energy availability, has to be plugged with the population’s savings. There are a number of ways of expropriating wealth, generally proceeding from various kinds of stealth taxation measures, to more overt measures, to outright expropriation. Taking the US as the example (since I am most familiar with it) the expropriation cascade is proceeding as follows:
1. Central bank policy of zeroing out of interest rates on savings combined with massive money-printing. This forces money into speculative markets (stocks, real estate, etc.) creating huge financial bubbles; when these bubbles pop, savings are said to be destroyed, but in reality that money has already been spent by the government or used to fill the private coffers of those closely associated with the government.
2. Government policy of canceling retirements or short-changing retirees. The federal government has worked hard to make its official measure of inflation all but meaningless so that it can justify its policy of making cost of living adjustments to social security payments that are far less than the the real increases in the cost of living. Another federal expropriation scheme is via guaranteed student loans, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, and which have created an entire class of indentured servants. At the more local level, state and municipal governments are curtailing or canceling retirement programs by virtue of going bankrupt.
3. Ever more onerous reporting requirements for financial transactions, especially for those who try to leave the country and expatriate their savings. All foreign bank accounts must now be reported, and people who work abroad are now forced to file voluminous annual reports that cost thousands of dollars to prepare. Those who decide to repudiate their US citizenship are made to pay a hefty exit tax. Nevertheless, record numbers of US citizens have been doing just that. Just having a US passport often makes it impossible to set up accounts in foreign financial institutions, which have little desire to comply with US demands for financial disclosure.
These are the measures that are already in place. Looking at what’s been tried before, here and elsewhere, we can see what other measures are in the works. Among them:
1. So-called “bail-ins” where insolvent financial institutions are rescued by confiscating depositor funds. We can expect the script to be similar to what happened in Cyprus: politically connected depositors get word ahead of time and yank out their money forthwith; everybody else gets shorn.
2. Limits on bank withdrawals. You might still “have” money in the bank, but that’s the only place you can “have” it. The semantics of the verb “to have” can be quite tricky, you see…
3. Ever-increasing taxes on property resulting in property confiscation. It works like this: government prints money and hands it out to its friends; its friends use it to temporarily bid up property values; property taxes go up to a point where the property owners can’t pay them; owners lose their properties. A staggering 63% of real estate purchases in Florida last December were cash purchases.
4. Various kinds of sudden, new, super-complex regulations, noncompliance with which results in very large fines. In turn, nonpayment of these fines results in forfeiture of assets. The US has some very curious laws according to which inanimate objects such as cars, boats and houses can be charged with a crime, seized and auctioned off. We can expect lots more of such property grabs in the future.
5. Gold confiscation, which happened once in the US already, so there is a precedent for it. Yes, I know that this will make a number of people upset, but I am yet to hear a convincing argument for why the US government would not resort to gold confiscation when that turns out to be one of the few remaining cards it can play.
This list is by no means comprehensive. If you feel that I have missed something major, please submit a comment, and I will consider it for inclusion.

Now, it would be nice if all of these measures worked like clockwork, always producing the right amount of wealth confiscation to levitate the government, and the financial scheme on which it is based, for a little while longer. Alas, as with most things, something is bound to go wrong at some point, most likely when you least expect it. And it seems like a dead certainty that something will in fact go wrong well before every last American citizen is relieved of every bit of their accumulated wealth and is living peacefully in a roadside ditch, wearing an attractive loincloth and a stylish mudpack for a hat, quietly perfecting a nouvelle cuisine that features snails au jus and dandelion salad au chaume. Maybe you can imagine it, but I can’t. Beyond a certain point, I can only imagine reports of widespread “public disturbances” followed by “breakdown of law and order.”
Still, I hope that this framework will allow us to set an upper bound for how long collapse can be deferred for any given country. Once hydrocarbon consumption drops appreciably, the clock starts running. Then it is possible to estimate how long the clock can theoretically run by dividing the remaining net worth of the population by the size of the hole in the economy created by falling energy consumption.
But after that things get messy. Some countries will hollow themselves out quite peaceably, and go softly into the night, while others will explode and fast-forward though the financial-commercial-political collapse sequence. And so perhaps the most useful thing to know is whether the collapse clock is already running for any given country, because if it is already running, then it becomes a fool’s game to wait around for the inevitable outcome.
One reasonable approach is to get another passport and quietly relocate to another country. It is important that this country be one for which the collapse clock is not running and won’t be for a long time yet. Ideally this would be a financially secure, politically stable, energy independent, militarily invincible, underpopulated, non-extradition country which will be among the last to be severely disrupted by climate change and where you could have lunch with Edward Snowden. But this approach doesn’t appeal to everyone, and I understand that.
And so another approach is to adapt to what’s coming while remaining in the US, or in any other country for which the collapse clock is running, by making yourself, and your wealth, should you have any, illegible. Here is a very nice article by one smart cookie by the name of Venkatesh Rao on the concept of illegibility. And here is his very nice primer on being an illegible person. This kind of illegibility has nothing to do with bad handwriting; it is about hiding in plain sight. Please read these as homework, because I will have more to say on this topic in the near future. And I would love to see a list of countries for which the collapse clock is running, along with first-order estimates for how long it could possibly run for each one, based on their population’s net worth and the country’s economic shortfall. But since this post has just gone over 3000 words, I am leaving this as an exercise for the reader.

U.S. Crude Oil Exports, Really? – A Look at the UK

U.S. Crude Oil Exports, Really? – A Look at the UK.

by Steve Andrews, originally published by ASPO-USA  | TODAY

Last week the U.S. Senate’s Energy Committee held the first hearing in decades on the question of whether exporting US crude oil, prohibited by law since the 1970s, should be allowed again.  Attendees heard proponents say that allowing crude exports would hold prices down with opponents claiming the opposite case.

To be clear, these would not be net crude oil exports.  Of the 19+ million barrels a day that we consume at present, we import roughly 7.5 million barrels of crude per day and export roughly 2.5 million b/day of petroleum products (diesel and propane, for example).  And even the US EIA admits we’ll be importing millions of barrels of crude oil for decades, in fact indefinitely.

So this is really an intramural fight: US oil producers want to be able to export while refiners and most users want to keep the crude at home.  As Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Energy Committee, said in his remarks, don’t expect this argument to be resolved quickly.

Here’s a related thought experiment.  It involves the UK crude oil situation between 1980 and today, shown in Figure 1 below.  After joining the exclusive club of Top 20 world oil producers in 1978, two years later the UK’s oil producers joined the ranks of oil exporters.  Over the next 25 years they exported roughly ¼ of their total oil production, earning around $20+ per barrel most of those years.  But after production peaked in 1999, within six years the UK was back to importing oil, at an average price approaching $100 a barrel.  Imports have grown back to ½ million b/d, which is 1/3 of total consumption.

My question to the Brits: if you could turn the clock back, would you allow all your oil to be produced at the maximum possible rate, earning the amount of export dollars you did, if it meant that within a generation you would be back to being an oil importer paying roughly five times as much per barrel?  In other words, how did the buy-high sell-low plan work for you?  And were those exports in your best long-term national interests?  Didn’t think so…

There are almost as many differences as there are parallels between the UK and US circumstances.  But they share a bottom-line question: is it in the USA’s best long-term national interests to produce unconventional shale oil sufficiently fast that we end up exporting some of it overseas? Didn’t think so…

Fig. 1: The UK exported oil for 25 years from 1980 through 2005, shown above as the amount produced above the consumption line.  Exports peaked at 1.2 million barrels a day in 1999, the same year that production peaked at 2.93 million b/d.   imported roughly a half-million b/d in Data is from BP (2013).

Steve Andrews is a former energy consultant and a contributing editor for Peak Oil Review.

Jean Laherrere uses Hubbert linearization to estimate Bakken shale oil peak in 2014  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

Jean Laherrere uses Hubbert linearization to estimate Bakken shale oil peak in 2014  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

In his latest research on shale oil French oil geologist Jean Laherrere from ASPO France

http://aspofrance.viabloga.com/texts/documents estimates a Bakken shale oil peak in 2014.
He uses a Hubbert linearization to calculate a total of 2,500 mb to be produced
In global terms, a total cumulative of 2.5 Gb is just around 10% of annual crude production and 1.3% of daily production.
Well productivity in Bakken is stagnant at around 130 b/d for a couple of years now.
There has been a peak in the number of drilling rigs. A shift of the rigs curve by 2 years suggests a production peak in 2014.
Jean’s research is in line with that published by David Hughes in November 2013:

California Getting Record Volume of Canadian Oil by Rail – Bloomberg

California Getting Record Volume of Canadian Oil by Rail – Bloomberg.

By Lynn Doan and Dan Murtaugh  Jan 31, 2014 7:34 PM ET

California, the third-largest oil-refining state in the U.S., is bringing in a record volume of oil fromCanada by rail as it faces shrinking supplies from Alaska and within the state.

The most populous U.S. state received 709,014 barrels of crude from Canada by rail in December, a 4.9 percent increase from November and up from zero a year ago, data posted on the state Energy Commission’s website show. Canada made up 67 percent of the state’s total oil-by-rail receipts. North Dakota, where fields in the Bakken formation are producing a record volume of crude, shrank to a 5.9 percent share.

U.S. West Coast refiners from Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) to Tesoro Corp. (TSO), lacking pipeline access to the glut of shale oil in the middle of the country, have been turning to rail to counter declining supplies in California and Alaska. California brought in a record 2.83 million barrels of oil by rail in the fourth quarter from all sources, almost double the amount from the three months prior, the state said.

“We’re seeing a lot of Canadian crude-by-rail loading facilities coming online, so it’s no surprise it’s beginning to show up in California,” David Hackett, president of energy consulting firm Stillwater Associates in Irvine, California, said by telephone. “Refinery configuration in California is oriented toward heavy or medium, sour crude, and the Canadian barrels, which are heavy and somewhat sour, are a better fit than the light Bakken barrels.”

North Slope

Alaska North Slope crude, which made up 12 percent of California’s oil slate in 2012, has traded an average $27.73 a barrel above Western Canadian Select, a heavy sour blend, over the past month, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Bakken oil has traded $16.09 a barrel above Western Canadian.

“The discounts have been pretty big, an indication of how constrained the pipelines are up in Canada,” Gordon Schremp, a fuels analyst at the state Energy Commission, said by telephone fromSacramento. “I’m not surprised to see more Canadian come in. Wait until some of these rail projects get built here. The economics will be even better than what we’re seeing today.”

Oil-by-rail receipts from Wyoming totaled 221,793 barrels in December, making up the second-largest share of the state’s volume at 21 percent. North Dakota sent 62,325 barrels and New Mexico 12,927.

Alaskan oil output has declined every year since 2002 as the yield from existing wells shrinks. Alaska North Slope crude production averaged 567,600 barrels a day in December, down from 582,150 a year earlier, data posted on the Alaska Department of Revenue’s website today showed.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lynn Doan in San Francisco at ldoan6@bloomberg.net; Dan Murtaugh in Houston at dmurtaugh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

Oil Security 2025 report – US remains vulnerable

Oil Security 2025 report – US remains vulnerable.

From the report website:

The inaugural work of the Commission on Energy and Geopolitics, “Oil Security 2025: U.S. National Security Policy in an Era of Domestic Oil Abundance,” explores the potential for U.S. oil production to impact American foreign policy and national security in the coming decade and presents a series of recommendations designed to safeguard and advance U.S. interests.

Link to the report page

Link to full report (PDF) Released January 15, 2014

 

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

US still vulnerable to oil shocks, say generals

Ed Crooks, Financial Times
The US remains vulnerable to oil price shocks caused by disruptions in the Middle East and other producing regions in spite of the North American shale boom, a commission of former generals and senior officials has warned.
(15 January 2014)


How the oil boom could change U.S. foreign policy

Brad Blumer, WonkBlog, Washington post
The United States is suddenly awash in crude oil. From 2008 to 2013, domestic oil production rose by 2.5 million barrels per day — the biggest five-year increase in the country’s history. Last year, U.S. produced more oil than it imported for the first time since 1995.

So what does that mean for the rest of the world? Or for U.S. foreign policy? Well, for starters, it probably doesn’t mean that Americans can now safely ignore the Middle East. The U.S. economy is still heavily reliant on oil, and prices are still largely swayed by what goes on in the global markets. Disruptions in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Iraq still have a big impact. That’s one conclusion of a major new report by a commission of former generals and senior officials, backed by Securing America’s Energy Future (SAFE).

“The oil boom has sparked a lot of loose talk about how we can now ignore what goes on in the Middle East,” said Adm. Dennis Blair, a former director of National Intelligence who led the commission, in an interview Tuesday. “But that’s just not true.”

Blair pointed out that the oil boom has already had some impact on U.S. foreign policy. For example, increased North American oil production likely allowed the United States and Europe to impose stricter sanctions on Iran without worrying as much about resulting price spikes. There are also early, tentative signs that China could become more cooperative on Middle East issues now that the fast-growing nation has displaced the United States as the biggest oil importer from the region.

But what’s arguably more telling is how much hasn’t changed. Even with the boom, the United States is still quite vulnerable to oil shocks…
(16 January 2014)


Report: Energy boom won’t end US ties to global oil politics

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Fuelfix
National security leaders are warning that, even as ever more crude flows from American fields, the U.S. still will be tethered to the global politics of oil and involved in unstable regions that supply it.

In a report issued Wednesday, a group of former military brass, presidential advisers, ambassadors and politicians insist that it’s an illusion that surging U.S. oil production could unshackle the nation’s foreign policy decisions from concerns about safeguarding worldwide crude supplies.

“This is an antidote to those who just glibly say more oil production means we’re free of foreign entanglements,” said Adm. Dennis Blair, the former director of national intelligence, and co-chairman of the Commission on Energy and Geopolitics that produced the 108-page analysis.

“We Americans like to think we can produce our way and work our way out of something,” Blair said in an interview with FuelFix. “Unfortunately, the fact that we are now drilling as much oil as we are is not going to, in and of itself, keep America out of the vulnerable situation and the series of entanglements in places around the world that we have been in the past.”…
(15 January 2014)

What do I believe about the world complex? Or, why I think a collapse is inevitable.

Last evening (January 12, 2014) I sat down to create a compilation of beliefs I hold about the world complex. The first twenty that popped into my head were pretty easy with the last few (I only went as far as once through the alphabet) requiring a little thinking. In no particular order I offer this quickly composed list with some links to articles/websites to support them:

ECONOMY/FINANCES

a)     Economic markets are rigged.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-11/are-markets-rigged
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-12/summarizing-known-rigged-markets
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-11/wmreuters-busted-latest-market-rigging-and-collusion-scandal-foreign-exchange

b)    Gold has been moving from the West to the East.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-world’s-gold-moving-west-east
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-12-19/chinese-dont-want-dollars-anymore-they-want-gold-londons-gold-vaults-are-empty-why
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-08/chinese-gold-imports-soar-monthly-record-insatiable-demand

c)     The world’s primary reserve currency never lasts forever.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-10/todays-reserve-currency-tomorrows-wallpaper
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-07-06/bundesbank-warns-chinas-currency-its-way-becoming-global-reserve-currency
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-13/guest-post-how-much-longer-will-dollar-be-reserve-currency

d)    Central banks have been coordinating their monetary policies from interest rates to ‘money printing’ to ‘forward guidance’ that is resulting in currency devaluations

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/here-comes-mother-all-rumors-g-20-sources-say-central-banks-preparing-coordinated-action
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/goldman-todays-coordinated-central-bank-bailout-it-isn’t-enough-save-anyone-or-solve-averything
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-03/guest-post-rise-and-fall-monetary-policy-coordination

e)     Central banks have been monetizing sovereign debt through increased holdings of government bonds.

  1. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-01-07/japan-may-or-may-not-mint-quadrillion-yen-coins-it-will-monetize-european-debt
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/ecb-monetizes-another-€10-billion-piigs-debt-trichet-says-prudent-ecb-not-fed
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-10-20/presenting-all-us-debt-thats-fit-monetize

f)     Sovereign nations are in extreme debt.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_debt
  2. http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock
  3. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/country-list/government-debt-to-gdp

g)    Private households are in extreme debt.

  1. http://www.oecd.org/std/fin-stats/
  2. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-06-04/debt-nations
  3. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/06/focus-1

h)    All fiat currency experiments eventually end.

  1. http://dailyreckoning.com/fiat-currency/
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oql8CTy6AcA
  3. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.ca/2011/08/average-life-expectancy-for-fiat.html

i)      Robotic technology is replacing increasing number of jobs.

  1. http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/robots-to-replace-almost-50-per-cent-of-the-work-force/story-fn5fsgyc-1226729696075
  2. http://robotswillstealyourjob.tumblr.com/post/48210312400/robots-are-taking-our-jobs-and-we-will-take-their
  3. http://www.amazon.com/Jobocalypse-Human-Jobs-Robots-Replace/dp/1482701960

j)      There exist trillions of dollars of IOUs supporting the financial system.

  1. http://demonocracy.info/infographics/usa/derivatives/bank_exposure.html
  2. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-coming-derivatives-panic-that-will-destroy-global-financial-markets
  3.  http://moneymorning.com/2011/10/12/derivatives-the-600-trillion-time-bomb-thats-set-to-explode/

k)    Unemployment has skyrocketed across western nations, especially for the young (under 25).

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/14/youth-unemployment-wreck-europe-economic-recovery
  2. http://business.time.com/2012/11/05/why-the-u-s-has-a-worse-youth-employment-problem-than-europe/
  3. http://www.workopolis.com/content/advice/article/study-why-youth-unemployment-in-canada-is-here-to-stay/

ENERGY

l)      Production of conventional oil has begun to decline.

  1. http://www.oildecline.com/
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/dec/23/british-petroleum-geologist-peak-oil-break-economy-recession
  3. http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0412/The-decline-of-the-world-s-major-oil-fields

m)   New technologies and dirtier sources are being increasingly required to sustain fuel production.

  1. http://www.peakoil.net/future-oil-production-in-canada
  2. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d005f176-4ad8-11e3-8c4c-00144feabdc0.html
  3. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/10017

n)    Fuel production barely sustains demand.

  1. http://omrpublic.iea.org/balances.asp
  2. http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/06/oil-production-and-consumption
  3. http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=12891

o)   The Shale Oil Revolution is not.

  1. http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/
  2. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-21/major-study-projects-no-long-term-climate-benefit-from-shale-gas-revolution
  3. http://mondediplo.com/2013/03/09gaz

p)    Models of future fuel production rely on significant ‘yet-to-be-discovered’ sources.

  1. http://www.abo.net/en_IT/publications/reportage/togo/togo_1.shtml
  2. http://seekingalpha.com/article/236162-iea-forecast-economy-depends-on-yet-to-be-found-oil
  3. http://www.jeffrubinssmallerworld.com/2010/11/24/even-the-international-energy-agency-forecasts-peak-oil/

q)    Fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and use have polluted the planet with numerous toxins.

  1. http://www.ec.gc.ca/energie-energy/default.asp?lang=En&n=1F4E5D8A-1
  2. http://www2.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-fossil-fuels
  3. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil.html

ENVIRONMENT

r)     Climate extremes are increasing in frequency, duration, and magnitude.

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/18/2013-extreme-weather-events
  2. http://www.climatecommunication.org/new/articles/extreme-weather/overview/
  3. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srex/SREX_FD_SPM_final.pdf

s)     Polar ice caps are melting.

  1. http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/qthinice.asp
  2. http://www.dw.de/polar-ice-sheets-melting-faster-than-ever/a-16432199
  3. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/what-if-the-world-s-icecaps-melted-overnight–120351663.html#PK3eE9D

t)      We are experiencing peak water.

  1. http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/16-05/ff_peakwater?currentPage=all
  2. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-06/peak-water-the-rise-and-fall-of-cheap-clean-h2o.html
  3. http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/article/20130606/PRINCEGEORGE0304/306069987/-1/princegeorge/peak-water-limiting-energy-production

u)    Deserts are expanding.

  1. http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0909/full/climate.2009.84.html
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/desertification-expansion-of-the-sahara-desert/1498.html
  3. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/131211/waterless-world-inner-mongolia-desert-wasteland

v)     Sea levels are rising.

  1. http://pri.org/stories/2014-01-10/sea-levels-rising-uk-starting-let-go-some-its-coastline
  2. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/
  3. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/adaptation/sea_level.html

w)   Honeybees have been decimated by human chemical use.

  1. https://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/24/9177
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6
  3. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/honeybee-population-decline-and-its-devastating-effects-are-topic-of-vanishing-of-the-bees-82364717.html

LIBERTY

x)    Governments are spying on their citizens.

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/02/revealed-australian-spy-agency-offered-to-share-data-about-ordinary-citizens
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/02/revealed-australian-spy-agency-offered-to-share-data-about-ordinary-citizens
  3. http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=dae581de-2490-45f8-90c7-919d01fbd4f4

y)    Governments are spying on each other and themselves.

  1. http://www.globalresearch.ca/nsa-spying-on-congress-to-manipulate-intimidate-blackmail-top-government-and-military-officials/5364273
  2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/new-snowden-docs-show-u-s-spied-during-g20-in-toronto-1.2442448
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/21/world/nsa-dragnet-included-allies-aid-groups-and-business-elite.html?_r=0

z)     Governments are manipulating the data they provide to the public.

  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/government-data-manipulation-pricestats-argentina-inflation-2012-10
  2. http://www.wealthdaily.com/articles/unemployment-data-manipulation/4767
  3. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-11-19/government-investigate-government-over-jobs-manipulation-report

I know many people would prefer to hear a message of hope but when these ‘realities’ exist I can’t help but be fairly pessimistic about our chances of a ‘sustainable’ future or a ‘soft landing’ for our economic woes. Unless some unforeseen miracle can save us from ourselves, I can only conclude that the day of reckoning is quickly approaching; it’s a matter of when, not if. Some event, minor or major, will be that snowflake that begins a cascading collapse of our interrelated, complex world. And by collapse, I mean a sudden, devastating drop in the standard of living (similar to Dimitry Orlov’s Five Stages of Collapse) OR an elongated, slow contraction (similar to James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency or John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent); to me, these are not too dissimilar and require simply a change in time perspective to interpret the change as either ‘sudden’ or ‘lengthy’.

To quote William Catton Jr., from his book Overshoot: “…the pressure of our numbers and technology upon manifestly limited resources has already put out of reach the previously acceptable solutions to many of our problems. There remains steadfast resistance to admitting this, but facts are not repealed by refusal to face them. On the other hand, even the ‘alarmists’ who have been warning of grave perils besetting mankind have not fathomed our present predicament…” (p. 5).

Update 1. January 17, 2014

1.  Far more ‘paper’ precious metals exists than actual ‘physical’ metal in existence (a type of ‘fractional reserve’ banking):

2. Large Western financial institutions (i.e. U.S. Federal Reserve; Bank of England) have sold/leased their gold holdings and misled their clients about this:

3. The United States government and/or people within it have carried out domestic assassinations of numerous leaders:

4. The Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Plant disaster is far worse than the corporate media is letting on:

5. ‘Democratic’ countries are becoming more secretive and totalitarian through ‘legislation’:

Interesting thoughts: Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State (ISBN 978-80-87888-43-8):
“…the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people…Briefly, the State is the only organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue …by use of complusion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonnet. Having used force and violence to obtain its revenue, the State generally goes on to regulate and dictate the other actions of its individual subjects…The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society….The State has never been created by a ‘Social Contract’; it has always been born of conquest and exploitation…”

Feel free to offer some further ‘beliefs’, and three ‘credible’ links, in the comments. I will update the list periodically.

Cheers,

Steve

EIA International Energy Statistics for August and September » Peak Oil BarrelPeak Oil Barrel

EIA International Energy Statistics for August and September » Peak Oil BarrelPeak Oil Barrel.

The EIA has finally published its International Energy Statistics. The last one had July data. This one is has two months updates, August and September. All the data I publish comes is Crude+Condensate from January 2000 through September 2013.

Again, all data is C+C in thousand barrels per day with the last data point September 2013.

World

As you can see from the chart World C+C production has leveled out in the last year and one half. September 2013 is slightly lower than February 2012.

There were a couple of major revisions in the July data. Canada was revised down by 269 kb/d while Non-OPEC was revised down by 228 kb/d. There were other small revisions upward. OPEC C+C had no revisions so that left World C+C for July revised down by 228 kb/d.

Both the USA and Canada are on a real tear, owing of course to Light Tight Oil and the Oil Sands. Their combined production is up about 1.9 mb/d since in one year, since last September.

USA + Canada

But they are the only ones on a tear. Almost everyone else is flat to down with a few small producers up slightly.

World Les US & Canada

World less USA and Canada is actually below where it was in June 2004 and is swiftly approaching the bottom it hit after the crash of 2008. The peak was in January 11 and they are down 2.65 mb/d since that point.

Actually only Light Tight Oil is keeping the world from declaring peak.

World Less USA

World less USA is down over 1.5 mb/d since the peak of January 2011.

Non-OPEC is up on the strength of the USA and Canada.

Non-OPEC

However the EIA has OPEC C+C down considerably.

OPEC C+C

Charts of all Non-OPEC producers are now up on the Non-OPEC Chartspage.

Also a new page has been added, World Crude Oil Production by Geographical Area

Hibernia platform oil leak curbs production – Newfoundland & Labrador – CBC News

Hibernia platform oil leak curbs production – Newfoundland & Labrador – CBC News.

A leak at the Hibernia offshore rig in mid-December has caused a decrease in oil production.A leak at the Hibernia offshore rig in mid-December has caused a decrease in oil production.

External Links

(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

An oil leak at the site of the Hibernia offshore platform on the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland has resulted in a significant downturn in oil production.

Workers reported a small leak on Dec. 18. Hibernia management company officials said it happened in a valve that is part of the rig’s offloading system. Only 10 litres of crude oil spilled at the time, and no oil sheens were spotted on the water at that time.

However, on Dec. 27, oil was discovered in the ocean once again, and a further investigation revealed the valve was leaking. The small sheen was rapidly dispersed by heavy seas, and by Jan. 3, it was no longer visible.

As a result of what was observed, Hibernia has shut down the transfer of oil to tankers, and the company says it has “significantly” cut back oil production.

Crews have been arranged to fix the leaking valve as soon as the weather permits.

Why a Finite World is a Problem | Our Finite World

Why a Finite World is a Problem | Our Finite World.

Why is a finite world a problem? I can think of many answers:

1. A finite world is a problem because we and all of the other creatures living in this world share the same piece of “real estate.” If humans use increasingly more resources, other species necessarily use less. Even “renewable” resources are shared with other species. If humans use more, other species must use less. Solar panels covering the desert floor interfere with normal wildlife; the use of plants for biofuels means less area is available for planting food and for vegetation preferred by desirable insects, such as bees.

2. A finite world is governed by cycles. We like to project in straight lines or as constant percentage increases, but the real world doesn’t follow such patterns. Each day has 24 hours. Water moves in waves. Humans are born, mature, and die. A resource is extracted from an area, and the area suddenly becomes much poorer once the income from those exports is removed. Once a country becomes poorer, fighting is likely to break out. A recent example of this is Egypt’s loss of oil exports, about the time of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 (Figure 1). The fighting has not yet stopped.

Figure 1. Egypt's oil production and consumption, based on BP's 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

Figure 1. Egypt’s oil production and consumption, based on BP’s 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

The interconnectedness of resources with the way economies work, and the problems that occur when those resources are not present, make the future much less predictable than most models would suggest.

3.  A finite world means that we eventually run short of easy-to-extract resources of many types, including fossil fuels, uranium, and metals.  This doesn’t mean that we will “run out” of these resources. Instead, it means that the extraction process will become more expensive for these fuels and metals, unless technology somehow acts to hold costs down. If extraction costs rise, anything made using these fuels and metals becomes more expensive, assuming businesses selling these products are able to recover their costs. (If they don’t, they go out of business, quickly!) Figure 2 shows that a recent turning point toward higher costs came in 2002, for both energy products and base metals.

Figure 2. World Bank Energy (oil, natural gas, and coal) and Base Metals price indices, using 2005 US dollars, indexed to 2010 = 100.  Data source: World Bank.

Figure 2. World Bank Energy (oil, natural gas, and coal) and Base Metals price indices, using 2005 US dollars, indexed to 2010 = 100. Base metals exclude iron. Data source: World Bank.

 

4. A finite world means that globalization will prove to be a major problem, because it added proportionately far more humans to world demand than it added undeveloped resources to world supply. China was added to the World Trade Organization in December 2001. Its use of fuels of all types skyrocketed quickly soon afterward (Figure 3, below). As noted in Item 3 above, the turning point for prices of fuels and metals was in 2002. In my view, this was not a coincidence–it was connected with rising demand from China, as well as the fact that we had extracted a considerable share of the cheap to extract fuels earlier.

Figure 3. Energy consumption by source for China based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 3. Energy consumption by source for China based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

5. In a finite world, wages don’t rise as much as fuel and metal extraction costs rise, because the extra extraction costs add no real benefit to society–they simply remove resources that could have been put to work elsewhere in the economy. We are, in effect, becoming less and less efficient at producing energy products and metals. This happens because we are producing fuels that are located in harder to reach places and that have more pollutants mixed in. Metal ores have similar problems–they are deeper and of lower concentration. All of the extra human effort and extra resource expenditure does not produce more end product. Instead, we are left with less human effort and less resources to invest in the rest of the economy. As a result, total production of goods and services for the economy tends to stagnate.

In such an economy, workers find that their inflation-adjusted wages tend to lag. (This happens because the total economy produces less, so each worker’s share of what is produced is less.) Companies producing energy and metal products are also likely to find it harder to make a profit, because with lagging wages, consumers cannot afford to buy very much product at the higher prices. In fact, there is likely to be the danger of an abrupt drop in production, because prices remain too low to justify the high cost of additional investment.

6. When workers can afford less and less (see Item 5 above), we end up with multiple problems:

a. If workers can afford less, they cut back in discretionary spending. This tends to slow or eventually stop economic growth. Lack of economic growth eventually affects stock market prices, since stock prices assume that sale of their products will continue to grow indefinitely.

b. If workers can afford less, one item that is increasingly out of reach is a more expensive home. As result, housing prices tend to stagnate or fall with stagnating wages and rising fuel and metals prices. The government can somewhat fix the problem through low interest rates and more commercial sales–that is why the problem is mostly gone now.

c. If workers find their wages lagging, and some are laid off, they increasingly fall back on government services. This leaves governments with a need to pay out more in benefits, without being able to collect sufficient taxes. Thus, governments ultimately end up with financial problems, if extraction costs for fuels and metals rise faster than can be offset by innovation, as they have been since 2002.

7. A finite world means that the need for debt keeps increasing, at the same time the ability to repay debt starts to fall. Workers find that goods, such as cars, are increasingly out of their ability to pay for them, because car prices are affected by the rising cost of metals and fuels. As a result, debt levels need to rise to buy these cars. Governments find that they need more debt to pay for all of the services promised to increasingly impoverished workers. Even energy companies find a need for more debt. For example, according to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Last year, 80 big energy companies in North America spent a combined $50.6 billion more than they brought in from their operations, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. That deficit was twice as high as in 2011, and four times as high as in 2010.

At the same time that the need for debt is increasing, the ability to pay it back is falling. Discretionary income of workers is lagging, because of today’s high prices of fuels and metals. Governments find it difficult to raise taxes. Fuel and metal companies find it hard to raise prices enough to  finance operations out of cash flow. Ultimately, (which may not be too in the future) this situation has to come to an unhappy end.

Figure 4. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

Figure 4. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

Governments can cover up this problem for a while, with super low interest rates. But if interest rates ever rise again, the increase in interest rates is likely to lead to huge debt defaults, and major financial failures internationally. This happens because higher interest rates lead to a need for higher taxes, and because higher interest rates mean purchases such as  homes, cars, and new factories become less affordable. Rising interest rates also mean that the selling price of existing bonds falls, potentially creating financial problems for banks and insurance companies.

8. The fact that the world is finite means that economic growth will need to slow and eventually stop. We are already seeing slower economic growth in the parts of the world  that have seen a drop in oil consumption (European Union, the United States, and Japan), even as the rest of the world has seen rising oil consumption.

Figure 5. Oil consumption based on BP's 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 5. Oil consumption based on BP’s 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Countries that have had particularly steep drops in oil consumption, such as Greece (Figure 6 below), have had particularly steep drops in their economic growth, while countries with rapid increases in oil and other energy consumption, such as China shown in Figure 2 above, have shown rapid economic growth.

Figure 6. Oil consumption of Greece, Based on EIA data.

Figure 6. Oil consumption of Greece, Based on EIA data.

The reason why we are already reaching difficulties with oil consumption is because for oil, we are reaching limits of a finite world. We have already pulled out most of the easy to extract oil, and what is left is more expensive and slow to extract. World oil production is not rising very fast in total, and the price needs to be high to cover the high cost of extraction.  Someone has to be left out. The countries that use a large proportion of oil in their energy mix (like Greece, with its tourist trade) find that the products they produce are too expensive in a world marketplace. Countries that use mostly coal (which is cheaper), such as China, have a huge cost advantage in a cost-competitive world.

9. The fact that the world is finite has been omitted from virtually every model predicting the future. This means that economic models are virtually all wrong. The models generally predict that economic growth will continue indefinitely, but this is not really possible in a finite world. The models don’t even consider the fact that economic growth will scale back in mature economies.

Even climate change models include far too much future fossil fuel use, in both their standard runs and in their “peak oil” scenarios. This is convenient for regulators. Oil limits are scary because they indicate a possible near-term problem. If a climate change model indicates a need to cut back on future fossil fuel use, these models give the regulator a more distant problem to talk about instead.

10. Even the most basic economic relationships tend to be mis-estimated in a finite world. It is common for economists to look at relationships that worked in the past,  and assume that similar relationships will work now. For example, researchers like to look at how much debt an economy can afford relative to GDP, or how much debt a business can afford. The problem is that the amount of debt an economy or a business can afford shrinks dramatically, as the economic growth rates shrinks, unless the interest rate is extremely low.

As another example, economists believe that higher prices will lead to substitutes or a reduction in demand. Unfortunately, they have never stopped to consider that the reduction in demand for an energy product might have a serious adverse impact on the economy–for example, it could mean many fewer jobs are available. Fewer jobs mean less demand (or affordability), but is that what is really desired?

Economists also seem to believe that prices for oil products will keep rising, until they eventually reach the price level of substitutes. If people are poorer, this is not necessarily the case, as discussed above.

11. Besides energy products and metals, there are many other limits that are a problem in a finite world. There is already an inadequate supply of fresh water in many parts of the world. This problem can be solved with desalination, but doing so is expensive and takes resources away from other uses.

Arable land in a finite world is subject to limits. Soil is subject to erosion and degrades in quality if it is mistreated. Food is dependent on oil, water, arable land, and soil quality, so it quickly reaches limits if any of these inputs are disturbed. Pollinating insects, such as bees, are also important.

Probably the biggest problem in a finite world is the problem of too high population. Before fossil fuel use was added, the world could feed only 1 billion people. It is not clear that even that many could be fed today, without fossil fuels. The world’s population now exceeds 7 billion.

Where We Are Now in a Finite World

At this point, the problem of hitting limits in a finite world has morphed into primarily a financial problem. Governments are particularly affected. They find that they need to borrow increasing amounts of money to provide promised services to their citizens. Debt is a huge problem, both for governments and for individual citizens. Interest rates need to stay very low, in order for the current system to “stick together.”

Governments are either unaware of the true nature of their problems, or are doing everything they can to hide the true situation from their constituents. Governments rely on economists for advice on what to do next. Economists’ models do a very poor job of representing today’s world, so they provide little useful guidance.

The primary way of dealing with limits seems to be “solutions” dictated by concern over climate change. These solutions are of questionable benefit when it comes to the real limits of a finite world, but they do make it look like politicians are doing something useful. They also provide a continuing revenue stream to academic institutions and “green” businesses.

The public has been placated by all kinds of misleading stories about how oil from shale will be the solution. Quantitative Easing (used by governments to lower interest rates) has temporarily allowed stock markets to soar, and allowed interest rates to stay quite low. So superficially, everything looks great. The question is how long all of this will last. Will interest rates rise, and undo the happy situation? Or will a different financial problem (for example, a debt problem in Europe or Japan) bring the house of cards down? Or will the ultimate problem be a decline in oil supply, perhaps caused by oil and gas companies reaching debt limits?

2014 will be an interesting year. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed as to how things will work out. It is surreal how close we can be to limits, without major media catching on to what the problem really is.

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