Last year I published a report with the (justifiably) bombastic title, “$500 per barrel: could oil price rise tenfold?” One of my central claims was that producing oil requires investment of real capital including materials, equipment and highly skilled labor, and that, “as more and more resources are required to generate the same amount of liquid fuels, energy production is becoming ever more expensive to society in real terms.” Thus, as it becomes more expensive in real terms (as the deteriorating EROEI figures indicate), the fact that energy has recently become cheaper in nominal (dollar) terms can only be a temporary abberation. EROEI stands for energy return on energy invested; in the early 1900s, we obtained 100 barrels euqivalent of oil per barrel invested (EROEI of 100 to 1); today we are at about 15 to 1 globally and at 11 to 1 in the USA. Continue reading
Participants in financial markets have to deal with uncertainty on a daily basis. Their need to research and understand markets has given rise to a massive industry delivering security prices, reports and expert analyses to traders and investors seeking to make sense of the markets and predict how they might unfold in the future.
The need to understand stuff is innate to our psychology: when something happens, we almost reflexively want to know why it happened. But the compulsion to pair an effect with its cause sometimes gets us jumping to conclusions. If such conclusions turn out to be mistaken or irrelevant, they could prove useless – or something worse. Consider two recent titles from the ZeroHedge blog, published 89 minutes apart: Continue reading
Donald Trump and his administration have been at the receiving end of passionate denounciations and scorn from many opinion leaders in the media. At the same time Trump’s approval rating among American voters has ranged between 50% and 60%. Here’s a statistical sketch of this American riff-raff and why they may support Trump.
Fully 35% of Americans do not have enough money to live comfortably (english: they can’t make ends meet). That’s more than 110 million people. These Americans have to supplement their cost of living with credit card debt. The Urban Institute reports that this same proportion of Americans (35%) have debt in collections (180 or more days past due). On average, the households that carry credit card debt are over $16,000 in the hole, paying an average interest rate at 16.1% (that’s $2,600 per year just in interest). Continue reading
Over at OilPrice.com Nick Cunningham wrote that Saudi Arabia might finally reveal one of its closest kept secrets as they prepare to sell some 5% of its oil monopoly, Saudi Aramco, to the public. The Saudis and their Wall Street bankers expect Aramco to be valued at $2 to $3 trillion, which would generate north of $100 billion for the Saudis and massive underwriting fees for Wall Street Banks.
Since both the Saudis and Wall Street hope for the highest possible valuation for Aramco, we should not expect that they’ll “unveil” anything less than the rosiest plausible figure for their oil reserves. Continue reading
Noam Chomsky wrote that, “Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for meaningful democracy.”
Any time the mainstream media latch onto an issue and make it a big story you can be sure that it’ll be spun, doctored and distorted so that the public can’t take a well-informed position on the subject. Examples of this are countless and pervasive. About a year ago, the Zika virus story suddenly burst forth, seemingly out of nowhere, linking the mosquito-borne virus with frightful birth deformities in infants of affected mothers, including microcephaly. The story led to mass trip cancellations, abortions, unnecessary carpet-spraying against mosquitoes (which killed millions of bees), and much hysteria in general. As it turns out, the virus is harmless. Continue reading
Before I became a parent I used to wake up around 6 AM every morning, made myself some coffee and spent at least an hour or two reading – not news or fiction but a book about something interesting and of consequence on psychology, history, economics, philosophy… This practice almost invariably charged up my batteries with ideas, energy and enthusiasm and each day started with excitement about what I could accomplish that day. I’ve recently come across an article that distinguished this kind of reading from the more casual kind (newspapers, magazines, e-mail stack…) calling it “deep reading,” which explained, sort of, why I so enjoyed this routine. Continue reading
In June 2011 Carmen Reinhart wrote a paper for the IMF titled “Financial Repression Redux.” She suggested that the current policy of financial repression could ultimately lead to high levels of inflation. Today, five years later it seems like she couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. In spite of the unprecedented monetary expansion, monetization of public debt and swelling central bank balance sheets, deflation seems entrenched. So why worry about inflation at all? In short, because deflation could actually give rise to inflation. Continue reading