Mike, we'll have to disagree. I see you obsessed with oil to the exclusion of all the other factors. It's like Christians connect everything to God. This world is too complicated for your single issue answers..
The house of credit everything is collapsing as we write. This may surprise you. On my other favorite blog sight, they think I'm overly pessimistic. Yet I find myself the resident optimist on this site.
Austrian Theory has an explanation why mineral commodity and energy supplies are tight: Cheap money provided the incentives for consumption which crowded out the capital needed for long term projects. It enabled the expansion of emerging nations like China and India faster than large long term capital projects could keep up. If capital came from savings, consumers would have put consumption off to the future providing capital for long lead time projects. The books go into more detail, but that's the substance of it.
Thanks Ray. I'm relatively new to Austrian Theory, and that explanation clears up quite a bit.
Yes Mike, but what was feeding demand?
Other countries doing without. They're called the third world......
Yeah, I live in one fo those, but I don't see how that has anything to do with the question.
Cheap money fueled the demand. It also created bubbles in 3rd world countrys who saw exports to the US triple in 10 years. Too bad they didn't realize all their exports were being purchased by fake money.
Coon, I posted that TOD article on my Aussie Running on Empty list, and one of our more prominent peakniks wrote this in response:
I know you're quoting someone else, but it's clear to me that whoever wrote the above commentary has either not put much thought into their hypothetical scenario or is relatively naive about world politics or military capabilities/strategy. I know it's a what-if sort of scenario, but most of it is so unlikely that it's not even worth considering. Like Canada? They already send almost all their oil to the US, so then what's our motivation?... will we going after their strategic Molson and poutine stockpiles? (Just teasing Canada, nothing but love ). The Israel and Iran scenario is the only possibility worth serious thought in the near future, and that's a grim enough possibility that it eclipses all the other possibilities mentioned above. Wars are inherently expensive and destabilizing, and generally speaking no country's leaders that are halfway-sane are going to initiate a war of conquest unless it feels it has a LOT to gain and the ability to carry it out to completion. And wars started for other reasons usually involve expectation of being attacked first or when the perceived cost of doing nothing far eclipses the cost of the war (i.e. Israel letting Iran build nukes). And starting difficult wars on multiple fronts when you have a choice not to is nuts. Occasionally you have situations where a person in absolute power has gone batsh!t insane, but those are the exceptions.
This is not to say that we don't have to worry about large wars breaking out in the near future (it's all too real a possibility), simply that one has to examine capabilities and motivations when looking out for where trouble is likely to come from. Just food for thought.
I spent some time looking at data to figure out how much peak oil might correlate with the economy and found the following:
See BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2008 for oil production, consumption, and price data:
OIl prices were steadily rising since the early part of this decade, peaking in the summer of 2008. World demands were also growing steadily. The BP data shows world consumption grew about 1 million barrels per day or 1.1% from 2006 to 2007 but production dropped by 0.2%. US consumption hardly changed from 2006 to 2007 while China's grew by about 4%. 2008 data is not available yet but I'll be interested to see it!
This chart from Theoildrum.com also shows world production leveling off generally since 2005, though the all time peak was May 2008 (as of August 2008).
US housing prices peaked in 2005. The US stock market peaked in October 2007 and the US recession began officially in December 2007.
The chart below from this link at Theoildrum.com shows US oil demand about the same 2006 to 2007 then dropping significantly beginning in early 2008, perhaps reflecting declining economic conditions already. Oil/gas prices peaked around July 2008, supposedly causing a big drop in discretionary driving and a sharp dip in demand as indicated in the chart last summer/early fall.
So what does this tell us? Did the declining ability to provide cheap energy from oil cause our debt based economies to be unable to keep expanding? Or did economic factors like the bursting housing bubble and the inability to keep expanding credit cause us to level off our oil demand. I'm getting too sleepy now, so I will think on this more and would like to get some input from others.
One thing is clear, according to the IEA oil fields worldwide are declining in production capacity at an average rate of 4%/year but work on bringing replacement sources on line has been cut way back due to lower oil prices (and lower demand? - I'm waiting to see most recent consumption data). The low hanging fruit has already been picked. This can only mean BIG problems for supply to meet demand down the road, and that there will not be enough cheap energy to grow our economy like in the past. Hence the next 20 years will be very different!
No Patrick, money doesn't come into it. Zimbabwe has loads of cheap money, and look at the state they're in? It's ENRGY that you need to do stuff with. All those houses they built in the US, all required something like 350 to 400 barrels of oil, every car 90 to 200 barrels, and just transporting all that crap from China to the US, all done with oil. And it all came to a grinding halt when oil just got too dear, when THAT cost made EVERYTHING else too dear.
BTW, if two people came to my door starving looking for food, and one had a bar of gold, and the other knew how to handle a hoe and a shovel or pitch fork, I'd help the second guy first......
This chart from Theoildrum.com also shows world production leveling off
generally since 2005, though the all time peak was May 2008 (as of
CRUDE OIL peaked in 2005. TOTAL oil products, ie crude + all the unconventional oils peaked in 2008. Just to set things straight.
"So what does this tell us? Did the declining ability to provide cheap
energy from oil cause our debt based economies to be unable to keep
expanding? Or did economic factors like the bursting housing bubble
and the inability to keep expanding credit cause us to level off our
oil demand" IT was BOTH.
Thanks Mike for the clarification on the peak production rate. I just watched Matt Simon's recent video, available here, in which he called 2005 our last sustained peak:
He does a nice job summarizing what (he says) is fact and what is unclear with the relationship between oil and the economy.
One of the most alarming things he notes is the (supposedly real not political) decline in Russia's gas production; just imagine what is going to happen when Europe's needs can no longer be met!
I hear ya. Since I'll still have money, maybe I'll be able to afford to buy several shovels and pitch forks and a few other things before coming by your door.
My take on the comments posted on this thread are that there are several "factors" which create a complicated and sometimes difficult predicament to grasp. But of all of the issues we deal with ( economics, population, energy etc.), oil is likely to be the one that trumps all others. That is only because our survival now depends on it more than any other single resource.
IMHO a pessimist is one who is unwilling to confront real issues facing us. Why? Optimism comes from confronting and solving tough issues and it is through the production of these solutions that morale is raised and optimism flourishes. Pretending all is well or that an issue is not really an issue is what we can thank big Gov't and the Wall Street experts for showing us how it is supposed to be done.
Recall what a great optimist Bush was last summer when he assured us that "our economy is fundamentally sound". Wow, glad I took that line of bull s%^& to heart. But then again, we wouldn't want to call a spade a spade, esp if it were truth albeit somewhat "pessimistic".
This is not about pessimism or optimism. It is about confronting what is really happening. While your attention is riveted on the financial crisis thinking that is the real issue, a "peak oil" energy bomb is being planted under your chair. I suggest you check it out. It won't go away and you will have to diffuse it at some point.
In the above post I said "That is only because our survival now depends on it more than any other single resource" which is not correct. I agree with your eartlier comment that water is our most precious resource. But our lifestyle depends on oil per the above.
The thing about water is that most of it is simply wasted.... Water should not be a problem. We haven't washed a car in YEARS! Our toilet doesn't flush, and our shower is a one gallon a minute affair. By mulching the garden we hardly ever water, and believe me, it gets hot here.
Apart from the neighbours who have half the people there we house, and 50% more water, we are the only house in our estate to have never bought water.....
Right now, there's a cat 4 cyclone (hurricane) bearing down on us, ~ 200 miles away) and our tanks are overflowing, again.... keep fingers crossed on whether Hamish decides to cross the coast nearby..... been screwing more screws into the house for the past couple of days! http://www.thedaily.com.au/news/2009/mar/10/cyclone-hamish-dump-100mm-day/
May your hatches stay battened down and your tanks full!
As for water, I'd say it is being polluted in greater quantities than it is wasted, esp with ag runoff. Either way it is pure stupidity.
Here in California it would take a very large supply to last through the summer season if you had much in the way of a garden. I will see how well a windmill works to provide the amount we need this year. I will also be installing a DC powered submersible pump as backup. We're also in process of converting to permaculture vs. "landscape". The almond tree just burst into bloom this weekend!
We're also in process of converting to permaculture vs. "landscape". The almond tree just burst into bloom this weekend!
This is great!
Interesting analysis. Note publication date of 12/18/06. Some predictions in here have already come to pass.
Economics / Analysis & Strategy Dec 18, 2006 - 11:14 PM
am no expert on Peak Oil, but Peak Oil is not the urgent problem that the world faces, economically, or politically. The problems of the supply-demand of oil will play out over a longer period and its effects would be spread over a longer period of time than that of the Peak Debt, which are lot more immediate. As a matter of fact, it has been the rapidly rising debt (racing towards the peak), which in turn has "fueled" a worldwide construction boom, that has resulted in the high prices for oil over the past 4 years and not the realization of the problem of Peak Oil. During the coming global depression, within this decade, the price of crude oil should fall below $25 a barrel and there will be glut due to sharply falling demand. I realize that these are not the concerns that people have today as long as the American consumer keeps borrowing. But, for how long?
What Is Peak Debt?
I will limit the discussion to the US. If one looks at the long-term graph of Total Debt as a percent of the GDP (see graph in the above reference) one sees a Longwave Cycle type of behavior whereby the debt grows for a long period, decades, reaches a crescendo and then seems to fall down rapidly, in a crash-like fashion, and remains low for a long period. Since the process is cyclical in nature, it repeats. Thus, Peak Debt, unlike Peak Oil, is not a theory but an observed reality of our economic system.
What happens at the Peak Debt is that the Total Debt of the economy, as a percent of the GDP, or nominal debt in current dollars, or both, stop going up and start to go down. The last time that the Peak Debt occurred in the US was in early 1930s and I can confidently predict that the next Peak Debt will occur within this decade, because the forces pushing debt higher and higher are reaching a point of exhaustion. The rising Consumption Debt exerts a depressionary effect on future consumption and at some point the debt service reaches a high enough portion of the income that the current consumption must be cut down.
Debt plays an extremely important role in our economic system, especially, if one recognizes that stock market is a substitute debt market. In particular, Consumption Debt, taken on by the households for the express purposes of consumption expenditures (including mortgage debt), plays direct role in income and wealth inequality; high corporate profits, hence stock market booms; inflation rate; etc. All these - inequality, historically high corporate profits, and inflation - peak before the Peak Debt. Peak Debt occurs during the early part of the Deflationary Depression phase of the Longwave Cycle. What follows Peak Debt is a long period of depression, as the material and psychological effects of the prior consumption boom linger. All the above are based on cause and effect and not some theory and fully supported by history of earlier episodes. Since these cycles are rooted in human behavior, in this case the predictable behavior of various participants, especially, bankers and consumers, the cycle unfolds in a "clock-work" fashion.
The modern history of Consumption Debt, on a broad scale, especially, on non-essential purchases, is only a century old. Its messiah was none other than Henry Ford. Ford realized that it is not enough to offer great products at a reasonable price but the consumers must be induced to purchase in order for the producers to be able to sell more and more product and make more profits. This led to financing of the consumer goods that ultimately resulted in the 1920s boom in the US (very very similar to what has been going on in India over the past ten years). What is new in 2000s, compared with the 1920s, is not just pushing the consumer products, for which financing became a vehicle, but pushing of the debt itself, which now results in later afterthought purchases of big-ticket consumer items. I hope that you discern the difference between the two. PUSHING DEBT HAS BECOME THE EASIEST AND THE MOST PROFITABLE BUSINESS IN THE US OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. Who wants to take the risks of a producer when financing has become so lucrative? Look at the largest "industrial" corporations in the US over the past decade, or two, and what you see is that they are lot more into financing business than in production business.
BTW, the boom-bust nature of the Longwave Cycle has most to do with debt, hence the "banker's mischief" in creating them. Let me quote my favorite economist, Joseph Schumpeter, "One of the results of our historical sketch will, in fact, be that the failure of the banking community to function in the way required by the structure of the capitalistic machine account for most of the events which the majority of the observers would call "catastrophe."" I am amazed by the fact that blind faithful of the American System don't see the current "reckless mortgage lending" as an indictment of the whole econo-political system as being corrupt. These blind faithful will pay the price in not too distant a future. That is what happens with any blind faith. No system, or human institution, is immune from the control by the Crooks. We can proudly claim to be #1 when it comes to takeover of the econo-political system by Corporate Crooks, or as "the Money Bags" had done in England a hundred years ago.
The two largest bubbles of their kind in the US history - the Stock Market Bubble of late 1990s and the Housing Bubble of 2002-06 - over the past ten years are a result of the largest Debt Bubble (or Credit Bubble) in US history.
Economic Central Planning, the American Style
We all know that the Central Planning, the Soviet Style, consisted of planning of the production. In America, Federal Reserve, particularly in the recent years, has been attempting to plan the level of consumption (we all know that the consumption is some 70% of the GDP and to keep the GDP growing consumption must not be allowed to fall below a certain level). The control mechanism is Consumption Debt, because at the margin all the growth in recent years is a result of debt-driven consumption. Thus, by the control of interest rates and lending policies the Federal Reserve affects the growth in Consumption Debt, the most visible examples of this have been the lending on homes and automobiles.
Of course, Federal Reserve doesn't tell you that it is trying to control Consumption Debt, or control the economy via Consumption Debt, but its policies do exactly that. This is because there are other variables that come into play when Consumption Debt is being affected. The most important of these variables being the inflation rate - all other things being equal, the increase in Consumption Debt leads to increase in inflation rate (simple demand driven inflation) and vice versa. Now, that is in Fed's domain.
Let us see, in 2003, Bernanke wanted to artificially boost the economy in preparation for the Bush re-election in late 2004 and his own future appointment. He had read articles by some self-serving economists in 2002, if it hadn't occurred to him, that low interest rates could boost housing and that may lead the economy out of the recession (it was already out of the recession, but didn't feel like a recovery with the employment falling). So, during the first half of 2003, Bernanke, as a Fed Governor, started to publicly talk about the deflation threat and how the Fed can always stop that by "printing money." Thus, the Fed, under Greenspan chairmanship back then, lowered the rates to "emergency" levels when the only real emergency was the Bush re-election. Greenspan was very happy to play along because his own reappointment in 2004 was contingent upon the economy visibly recovering.
The artificially low rates gave rise to artificial boost to the economy in the form of the predictable housing boom, but no one could have predicted the Housing Bubble and the overbuilding that ensued. As mentioned earlier, the global building boom, as well as the general rise in consumption due to the boom, also gave rise to the steep increases in the price of oil, which has led to the current problem of inflation. So, now the Fed has the excuse to force consumption down by altering the availability of Consumption Debt in the form of mortgage refinancing. Therefore, the Fed is actively engaged in leading to the Peak Debt that I am predicting. This is because curbing consumption is necessary to control inflation, especially, inflationary psychology, and it is not an accident that "inflation peaks during the first year of a recession," as announced by Ron Insana on CNBC. One way or another (by raising the rates further, if necessary, or holding rates high enough for long enough) Bernanke will have to bring the consumption down by indirectly affecting Consumption Debt. As in the past, at some point Consumption Debt in the US will peak (the debt service to income ratio having reached historical highs), most likely during the next recession, leading to the general condition of the Peak Debt for the current Longwave Cycle.
With great forethought, in 1999, Bernanke, an academic getting attention as the future Fed Governor, pre-empted any talk of Fed having to take any actions to nip in the bud any asset bubble by his public declaration that Fed should keep its hands off any asset bubbles, i.e., let the asset bubbles build as far as they go. Bernanke was just the man that Bush needed on the Fed for his re-election bid and was thus appointed just in time. (On a historical note, one of the three conditions that Grant had to agree to get the command of the Union Army was that Lincoln be re-elected; this was confirmed by another general who was offered the command on the same conditions, before Grant was offered, and who declined due to the conditions).
Consequences of Peak Debt
The most immediate impact of the falling debt would be a collapse in corporate profits, hence, a sharp fall in the stock market, either crash-like, or over a period of 1-2 years. The second would be fall in inflation rate to level significantly below the level preceding the Peak Debt. Demand Destruction is what is going to kill inflation in the US, as has been the case in the past time after time, and when inflation starts to fall it doesn't stop readily and keeps falling all the way into the next economic recovery. You can count on the inflation rate going down below zero because the rate wouldn't be very high to begin with when it starts to fall. Trying to control inflation rate within a very narrow band, e.g., 1-2% core CPI, is idiotic and tells you more about the mindset of the economic central planers of the US of A than about anything else. Trying to control the economy too finely, requiring too much meddling into the economy, is not a sign of a country committed to free markets. Higher degree of uncertainty is one price of freedom. Control freaks are never lovers of freedom and the Federal Reserve System is a dark mark against the free market principles. In case you haven't noticed, Federal Reserve interferes is the markets, incessantly. These meddlers don't even know the meaning of hands off policy most of the time (to a blind faithful whatever the Fed does must be right and for the good). In attempting to control inflation within a very tight range haven't these geniuses looked at the historical data on inflation? Oh, they are smarter than all the rest in the past?
One consequence of the rise in Consumption Debt over an extended period, mostly pushed on the middle class, is rising ineqaility. This is one consequence that takes a very long time to correct. If you listen to people like Greenspan and Bernanke, who act as if they are "very concerned" about the problem of rising inequality, which they have contributed the most to!, you will hear lame excuses like education gap. What a crock. Is the education gap in the US much higher today than in 1973? Most importantly, the rich are NOT the most educated; it so happens that the most educated serve the richest, who happen to be lot less educated then them! BTW, Bush administration's solution to narrowing the inequality is, you guessed it, "No Child Should be Left Behind" program! I heard an administration official claim that, just a few days ago.
You will find direct correlation between the increase in debt on the middle class, as percent of income, and the rise in inequality. And this correlation is a result of causation. This time, the banking Crooks have taken the problem to such a scale that the middle class in America will be decimated. America will become a nation full of bankrupt households most of whom were formerly middle class. It does not bode well for the stability of the whole political system. The current Peak Debt may well foreshadow the collapse of the American political system, as the world has known it since 1776. And that would be a long life for a political system. Circa 2020s: It was a good system for most of the time it lived. May it rest in peace.
Jas Jain, Ph.D.
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