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    Good Riddance To The ‘Twenty-Teens’

    A decade best shunned & forgotten
    by Chris Martenson

    Friday, December 27, 2019, 1:36 PM

This is my last report from the good old “twenty-teens”.

In some respects, they didn’t turn out at all like I thought they would. But in many others, exactly as predicted.

I badly underestimated the system’s ability to perpetuate obvious frauds and swindles without causing a social rebellion. And worse, to watch so many otherwise intelligent people participate with glee.

Negative Interest Rates

Back in 2008 when The Crash Course first came out, you would have never convinced me that we’d be sitting here at the cusp of 2020 with $11 trillion of “negative yielding debt.”

I have to place that phrase in quotation marks, because, although I can write those words, I haven’t a clue what they actually mean in a world where money is supposed to be a store of value.  How can money in the future be worth less than money today?

Perhaps Pablo Escobar could help us here, as he reputedly factored in a 10% loss on all his buried cash due to rats, water damage, mold, or forgetting where he placed it.

Thee twenty-teens saw the extinguishment of bond vigilantes  leaving nobody to seriously push back on the abomination of negative rates. Only speculators are left these days, perfectly happy to place the bet that they’ll be able to sell their negative yielding bonds to a greater fool at a higher price.

There’s no such thing as a bond vigilante anymore, only speculators perfectly happy to pull on a slot machine lever in the hopes of selling their negative yielding bonds to some other punter later on at a higher price.

Paying any government to lend it money is a swindle.  Buying Greek national debt with a lower rate of return than US Treasury debt is a swindle.

These and a thousand others completely obvious swindles, and yet here we are with the vast machinery of state and corporate journalism aligned to tell you how good and right they all are.

Shale Oil

I also underestimated the longevity of the recent shale oil “boom”.

I studied it intently early on, concluded it was a money-losing enterprise, and then patiently waited for investors to wake up to that reality.

This realization has been slow to dawn on them, but it’s finally becoming understood. Slowly, grudgingly. However, that’s after 10 years of massive losses for hapless investors in the shale oil space.

Shale company bond and equity holders have been slaughtered, though those vast losses are yet to be recognized.

The reason?

While the capital raised from bond sales and equity offerings has already been spent, so are the wells that were drilled with that money. They’re played out.

Raising new capital merely obscures that any money that has not already been returned to investors can’t be and won’t be because of this dynamic:

(Source)

What does the above chart tell us? Only that the very best shale operator in the world operating in the very best shale play in the world sees an 82% decline rate in average well output in the first year.

Which means that if that well has not entirely paid itself back within that first year, it probably won’t generate *any* returns for bond or shareholders to enjoy. Ever.

It also means that all the debt and equity capital poured into the ground between 2008-2017 is now “invested” in wells that are, effectively, depleted.

Bluntly, if the returns have not already happened on those monies, they probably never will.  How could they?  The wells are mostly drained.

The table below shows the equity losses for a small sampling of afflicted companies. Hundreds of other shale companies have already gone completely bankrupt with similar staggering bond losses to “investors”:

It still doesn’t make sense to me that the obvious cash-destroying financial math of shale oil has proven so difficult to explain that an entire decade has passed before the media and Wall Street have started to catch on.  It’s truly a mystery.  Usually people with money are more alert than this.  I chalk it up to the insanity stoked by the Fed in their “yield starved” captive audiences.

Old Barnum – There’s a sucker born every minute.

New Barnum – Investors are the best suckers there are.

More amazingly, there has been such a rush to rip the shale oil out of the ground that horrifying amounts of associated natural gas has been (and continues to be) simply burned off into the night sky. All that lost fossil energy will never be used constructively to build anything useful to our future.

It’s like a beacon into the universe telegraphing how moronically wasteful we’re being with a precious resource.  A multi-county sized neon advertisement for wastefulness.

As a Dec 24, 2019 Bloomberg article put it:

Producers in the Permian are already flaring record levels of natural gas. The Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry in the state, has granted nearly 6,000 permits allowing explorers to flare or vent natural gas this year [2019]. That’s more than 40 times as many permits granted at the start of the supply boom a decade ago.

(Source)

That was 6,000 opportunities to not be moronic. And we passed on every single one.

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when people will look back, shake their heads, and pass harsh judgment on the generations involved with wasting so much precious energy.

“Unless…”

In Dr. Seuss’ book The Lorax, the hero warns of the self-destructive impacts of industrial and consumer exploitation of the natural world and its denizens.

The book ends with a final warning; Unless.

“Unless” our destructive practices are halted and reversed, much of the natural world will disappear forever, never to return. Gone is gone, man.

The distressing trends in the environment warned of in The Lorax and in The Crash Course have sadly only become gotten predictably worse over this past decade. I hate being right about those.

Meanwhile, I see a lot of people fretting about if/how various carbon emission targets are going to be met. Let me alleviate the suspense; they’re not.

Every single economically-retrievable lump of coal and molecule of oil and gas is going to be extracted and burnt before we give up our addiction to fossil fuel.

Why?

Because without energy ,nothing is possible. Especially our ridiculously comfortable lives of massive over-consumption. And fossil fuels remain unmatched in their net-energy returns compared to today’s alternatives.

Even Australia’s current shattering of all its heat records, with growing swaths of the continent literally aflame, hasn’t managed to trip any alarms in the skull of the Australian PM Scott Morrison, whose single major policy initiative on the matter was to enact harsh new penalties on any Australians who might protest against the coal industry.

No one cares until you threaten to dampen corporate profits. Or impede the unchecked march of break-neck resource extraction. If you do, then you’re branded a threat, a terrorist, or “indulgent and selfish” in the words of Mr. Morrison.

After all, what could be more ‘indulgent and selfish’ than advising we proceed with caution, so as to protect society’s future prospects?

In a post-peak world, we’re probably not going to be seeing too many bananas way up north (where I live) in January. And I’m pretty sure the current ones individually wrapped in plastic won’t be available any more:

There’s something so offensive about an individually-wrapped banana that it strikes like a closed fist. It’s a shining reminder that we’re accelerating down a slippery slope, while blithely spraying Astroglide ahead of us.

Maybe we should preserve one of these plastic-wrapped bananas to place in a future Buzzfeed-sponsored Smithsonian display titled “You won’t believe these 10 stupid things your ancestors did.”

Meanwhile, as you can plainly see below, innumerable science-based summits, conferences and accords held over the past decade have really done their work on mounting CO2 levels.

I’ve helpfully mapped the size of the possible solution set below that.

Marine life is in deep trouble, soils continue to erode, species are disappearing, and weather events are getting more and more chaotic.

Only a fool would build (or re-build as the case often is) in a 500-year flood plain. We can now count on those to be routinely swamped.

Yet as a completely non-sensical counter to all this, the central banks of the world, led by the Fed, have mounted a particularly spirited effort to make the wealthy insanely wealthier and by every measure they have not only succeeded, but are determined to top their former high scores.

Fed-Tastic

One thing I never, ever, not once, EVER foresaw was the markets being A-OK with the massive distortions the world central banking cartel has saddled the world with over the past decade.

$15 Trillion in new currency printed from thin-air. The cramming of interest rates to 5,000 year lows. Negative interest rates. The complete perversion of price discovery.

All in the service of making a very, very few wealthy people even wealthier.

All while absolutely screwing the (former) middle classes, slow-roasting pensions, and destroying the retirement dreams of millions living on a fixed income.

Despite the fact the 99.9% of all journalists are decidedly not in the camp of the “winners” here, they nonetheless take pains to never ask a single tricky question of the Fed, nor ask anything about its stated policy of robbing from the many to give to the few.

Here’s a still shot of the media over the past ten years engaging with the Fed.

After ten years of non-stop interventions, the central banks have created the worst asset price bubble in history and are now trapped.

To try to keep it from popping, they’re being forced to use increasingly desperate measures not seen since the hairy depths of the worst moments of the Great Financial Crisis:

Over the past decade, the markets morphed into “markets” which then metastasized into  ““markets”” . They are now so perversified that they are well and truly “““markets””” ,signifying that they lack any resemblance to a place where honest participants set honest prices.

Collectively, the world’s central banks have undertaken more emergency ‘easing’ than at any point in time, since… ever.

Global central banks have cut interest rates roughly 90 times over the past year, the largest cumulative easing since the financial crisis, according to Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce data.

While the Fed accounted for three of those, taking its policy rate down to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, that’s still higher than much of the rest of the developed world, including Japan and Europe, where rates are near or even below zero.

“It’s very hard for the average foreign investor to survive — we’re still at a point now where it’s max desperation,”

(Source – Bloomberg)

How about that? Feeling better yet?

I certainly don’t. But don’t tell the stock “““markets,””” which are now wholly-owned subsidiaries of the central banks and the governments of the world that protect this cartel:

They perform a utility function — but instead of delivering electricity to your home, they siphon wealth from the many to give to the few. If Robin Hood’s evil twin operated a utility, he’d operate the US equity markets.

While the average household in the US slips farther and farther behind, going deeper and deeper into debt, the Fed congratulates its efforts, believing it’s doing “God’s work”.

Again, here’s the media on all this:

At this point you really ought to be asking yourself, “why exactly are the world’s central banks, led by the Fed, freaking out so badly right now?”

As we close out the ‘twenty-teens’, all I can say is, you’d better start working on providing the basics for yourself and your family, because when this credit cycle finally ends, it’s going to be horrible.

Which is precisely what the central bankers know, too.

While you and I may share in that knowledge, it remains unacceptable to talk about in public.

The Overton Window does not allow for such talk anywhere and certainly never in the mainstream media, which is on track to close out the twenty-teens having failed in its Fourth Estate duties more comprehensively than any other press cohort in history.

The End Of ‘Magnificent Folly’

There’s a great emergency happening right now, but society is not acknowledging it.

The social mood is darkening Fourth Turning-style and people are protesting and risking life, career, and limb to express their anxiety and frustration with the policies of Team Elite™. But don’t expect to hear about that on the nightly news or in the mainstream press.

The economy is doing so “great” that central banks are applying record-breaking amounts of funny-money stimulus to counter…something.  Or, more accurately, to avoid something.

I hold the view that people are organisms and that we’re wired to know when our nest is getting fouled. Our instincts, honed over millions of years of evolution, are to migrate to a new, less polluted or played-out home.

That only makes sense. But the problem is that now there’s nowhere new to go. No next valleys. No unpolluted corner to wander off to and inhabit for a while.

So those of us who are ‘of an age’ and remember when a porch light left on for an August night would attract a Zootopia of strange and wonderful insects to our screen doors.  How many of you are now deeply anxious, as I am,  at the creepily barren screens we now wake up to?

It’s as if the Rapture happened only – surprise! – God took the insects. Because they didn’t have any clothes to leave behind, nobody noticed.

But we’ll soon notice the ramifications of knocking out them and other key pillars of the food chain on which we depend.

As I look forward, I sincerely hope we can do a lot better in the 2020’s. The bar is current set depressingly low.

But we probably won’t. That’s the reality.

What will the 2020’s hold?

More of the same likely, though also some very sharp differences because the effects of a lot of our current bad decisions will come home to roost very soon.

My simplified view of the 2020’s is this: you better be working on your garden’s soil, developing a tight and close trust network, and be emotionally prepared to adapt quickly to new situations and circumstances.

In Part 2: The Coming Decade Will See The End Of Today’s ‘Magnificent Folly’, we explain why, given today’s systemic distortions and deformations, predicting the events of the next ten years will be much easier than it was for the twenty-teens. Largely because there’s little room left down the road to kick the can further.

Conflict, contraction and consequences will define the coming decade. It will be a time of loss, scarcity and pain for many.

But it need not be for you. Not if you use the time we have remaining wisely.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access).

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28 Comments

  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 4:23am

    #1

    robshepler

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Apr 16 2010

    Posts: 163

    2+

    Keeling curve

    I love seeing this graphic show up in your post. I get a bit frustrated with climate change models being subject to so much interpretation. This one is a piece of concrete, rock solid data that can not be disputed.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 6:28am

    #2
    nedyne

    nedyne

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    Posts: 85

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    What else is behind the shale boom?

    I find it unsatisfying to say that the main reason for the continued increase in US shale oil production is that shale investors are dumb. I'm not a shale expert. I don't know much about what's going on in shale, and I find it very plausible that dumb investors and low yields are a partial reason for it. After all, dumb investors are not an endangered species. But it seems to me there's gotta be more to the story. It's not as if the boom happened last year and there hasn't been enough time for reality to catch up with it. Brent bottomed around $30 almost 4 years ago, and that doesn't seem to have deterred investors enough. I'd love to see a future article explore this issue in depth.

     

    This week I watched the entire crash course yet again, and one thing that surprised me was to find out just how much shale production has expanded since 2014: it has doubled, even with price as a strong headwind.

    I've seen that in the past, the energy agencies have had to repeatedly downgrade their forecasts of oil production, so I was surprised to find out that the EIA was way too pessimistic in its 2014 Energy Outlook with respect to tight oil. Instead of production peaking at less than 5 million barrels per day, it's already at 8 and the graph shows no sign it's going to stop rising soon.

    EIA 2014 forecast, from the Crash Course Chapter 21 - Shale Oil:

     

    Reality (source):

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 6:40am

    #3
    pgp

    pgp

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    Talking Chimps

    As one who lives in the real world surrounded by the talking chimps of average society, I can attest to the futility of expecting any other outcome for the world than the self destruction it currently faces.  The demise was inevitable as soon as it became a right to be free to be human, to exploit for profit, to bear children without considering the future cost, to consume wrecklesssly with no more forethought given to why than is mustered by a Bonobos Chimpanzee.  To expect a different outcome is to wonder why parents don't teach their children to think, or expect people to think instead of just running on feelings, or expecting honesty and integrity from the uneducated boobs democracy calls leaders.  The human race deserves what it gets until instinct and ignorance gives way to enlightened self awareness.

     

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 8:30am

    #4
    Steve

    Steve

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    Who is Zoltan Pozsar?

    Zoltan Pozsar went to work for the NY Fed just before the Leman Brothers collapse i 2008.  His detailed map of the financial system, including shadow banks and the repo market, hung in the NY Fed's briefing room.  Co-workers claimed without the map, they would otherwise only be looking at 10% of the picture.  He later worked for the Treasury Department.  In 2015 he went to work for Credit Suisse.

    When he taught others about how the financial system worked, this is what he had to say ...

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 11:06am

    #5
    obizzozero

    obizzozero

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    Joined: Jan 20 2018

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    Thank you Chris and Adam! and Happy New Year

    I want to end the year with some good news (at least for those of us who live in Albuquerque NM). Thanks to our city water conservation program, which has reduced water consumption from 250 gal/day/person (1995) to 125 gal/day/person (2019) and to the use of some surface water our underground water levels are on the rebound. (https://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/08/07/groundwater-levels-are-on-the-rebound-in-albuquerque/).

    If you guys are looking for some farmland, there are still some nice properties along the Rio Grande.

    Cheers and Happy New Year!!!

    Oscar

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 11:31am

    #6

    davefairtex

    Status: Member

    Joined: Sep 03 2008

    Posts: 2136

    9+

    my twenty-teens

    It turns out, I actually enjoyed the twenty-teens a great deal.  The 2008 crash woke me up, and convinced me I had to run off and figure out how the economy really works.  So I did that - at least to a point where I think I have my head wrapped around most of the moving pieces anyway.

    And I got a wealth of education in a number of areas I had heretofore ignored.  Really, I grew by leaps and bounds.  (It doesn't always show - but it is there, under the covers).

    I did far more writing in the twenty-teens than I had ever done previously.  You try finding something semi-intelligent to say five days a week for seven years.

    I now know how AI works, at least to a first order anyway. That, and how to optimize GPU algorithms for crypto mining (which is a story for another time).  And there was a lot of Muay Thai at some reasonably serious gyms.  And there was all the meditation & some of the healing arts too.

    And there was all that research into how humans work: the all-important backfire effect, behavioral biology, how power works, hierarchy, intermittent rewards.

    I feel like I got a couple of advanced degrees in - I'm not sure what, and I'm not sure what the use will be, but it sure was an interesting time, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

    And I also learned to trust myself a whole lot more.  Things really are always working out for me; sometimes the details are vague, but if you knew everything in advance, how boring would that be?  Related: "the old man lost his horse."   I lost a number of horses (truth be told, I went through some pretty high stress experiences - story for another time), but in the end, things all seemed to work out.  https://www.thoughtco.com/chinese-proverbs-sai-weng-lost-his-horse-2278437

    I wonder what the twenty-twenties have in store?  I predict: big changes are in the offing.  But, somehow, I think I will be guided so I will end up landing on my feet.  That's the hope anyway.

    And I know I have a lot more tools to deal with all of it than I had back in 2010.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 12:22pm

    #7
    PaulJam

    PaulJam

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    ocean floor mining in the 2020's

    And we now have this to look forward to in the 2020's:

    https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-12-22/ocean-floor-mining-what-could-possibly-go-wrong/

    In part this is to access materials to support electrification for decarbonization.  WASF....

     

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 12:24pm

    #8

    thc0655

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Apr 27 2010

    Posts: 2064

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    Global outrage rising exponentially

    https://babylonbee.com/news/experts-warn-global-outrage-levels-will-reach-point-of-no-return-in-2020

    WORLD—The UN Panel on Outrage Change has confirmed the worst: global levels of outrage may reach the point of no return in 2020.

    Outrage levels previously reached dangerous highs during the Bush administration, but Obama was able to reverse the trend. He didn't change much about the way Bush was handling things, but he was a Democrat, so outrage levels went back down as the press stopped reporting on scandals and corruption.

    However, in 2016, global outrage reached record highs, especially among Democrats. Republicans had been mildly outraged during the Obama years but mostly had to go to work so didn't have much time to spew toxic, harmful outrage into the environment. Libertarians have generated almost no outrage since they are high all the time.

    Experts believe the reelection of Trump in 2020 would be "catastrophic," catapulting outrage levels well into the stratosphere.

    "If we do not cut our anger emissions immediately, the world will be consumed by fiery outrage by the end of next year," said outrage expert Dr. Hal Gourd, pointing to a hockey-stick graph. The audience responded by getting really mad, shaking their fists at the sky and making loud grunting noises.

    "Now, now, let's all calm down," Gourd said, but this only angered the crowd further. Finally, Gourd began to freak out as more and more bricks were lobbed his direction. "OK, FINE, IT'S TIME TO PANIC! AHHHHHH!!!!" He jumped out a window to his waiting luxury jet and flew away.

    Experts recommend everyone stop "yelling and stuff," so we can prolong our inevitable death by outrage a few years. Those who do not wish to stop being outraged can purchase "outrage credits," generated by people who are just chillin'.

     

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 12:55pm

    obizzozero

    obizzozero

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    Posts: 21

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    Don't blame the press

    The difference between the Obama years and the Trump years in terms of outrage is that the former president tried to unite us while the latter is dividing us. I still hope that Trump supporters open their eyes to this. My wish for the new year is that people find ways to unite us.  Political affiliations should not divide us.  We need to work together for the common good.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 1:08pm

    #10
    Helix

    Helix

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    Joined: Sep 20 2008

    Posts: 79

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    Good Riddance to Those who Brought Us the Twenty-Teens.

    Chris,

    I feel your pain.  One difference between you and me is that the last decade turned out more-or-less how I expected it to.  When Hank Paulson got his $700 billion bailout for his pals at failing financial institutions, I saw the handwriting on the wall.  I wish I had been more confident in my convictions.  I'd be a darn sight "richer" than I am now!

    In my opinion, all of the problems discussed in this essay come down to a single cause: greed: the most pernicious of the 7 deadly sins.

    First an aside: My generation -- the boomers -- let this happen.  Why?  Because the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam war destroyed our faith in government and public service, and so the best of us shunned it.  By the time we realized that this course of action simply yielded the field to those looking to bend government to their not-so-honorable purposes, things had deteriorated way beyond what many of us believed to be salvageable.  We found ourselves committed to the status quo, like it or not, and our relatively short time horizon left us little scope for the kind of action needed to turn things around on a national level.  So many believed our best bet was to hold the course and hope to be out of here before TSHF.

    But back to the main point: Greed.  I'm convinced that the grotesque wastefulness we see around us is the result of the 0.1% profiting from it.  While we wistfully hearken back to the days when thrift was honored and admired, we live in a social climate where status is measured in material possessions and little is valued more than ease and comfort.  So absolutely noone sews anymore.  Broken appliances are never repaired.  They're scrapped and replaced with new ones.  New ones engineered to fail as soon as the warranty runs out so the cycle can be repeated.  Few people actually cook.  If they do, their food almost always comes in some kind of packaging because -- yep -- lawyers profit handsomely from any practice that could possibly lead to dis-ease, such as food not hermetically sealed from processing plant to stove top.  The fact that this is unnecessarily wasteful and leads to weakened immune systems fails to gain traction because disease is focused -- that is, prime territory for lawsuits -- while immunity is nebulous.  Local health departments are totally on board: the more regs, the bigger the bureaucracy.  Fits nicely in with the corporate agenda.  In the end, it's all about money and how the 0.1% capture it.

    Wastefulness is there because it benefits the 0.1%.  It's a no-brainer that the more resources that are consumed, the more someone profits.  It's certainly not the consumers.  They're the ones who pay for it all.  The trick is to either convince them or require them to indulge in wasteful practices.  How many ads do we see where the "smart" guy buys the product and gains the admiration of the girl, while the loser looks on?  How many products are required by law to come with excess packaging?  How has the public been convinced that buying bottled water is preferable to tap water at 100 times the cost?  In the end, it's all about money, and how the 0.1% can capture it.

    Tight Oil: same thing.  When money is being firehosed into the 0.1%, they're going to try to find places to put that money to work.  Productive and profitable enterprises are the gold standard, but how many of those are available to absorb that kind of money? Some portion of it is going to find its way into speculative ventures offering a possible (though not assured) payoff.  In the early days, the depletion rate of fracked wells was not well-understood, so it attracted the QE money.  Now that the reality has been exposed, the industry may be in for some rough sledding.  But in the end, I fully expect the Fed to ride to the rescue.  We need that oil to keep the show going.  In the end, it's all about money, and how the 0.1% can capture it.

    We wail about the Fourth Estate and its obvious dereliction of  duty.  But when the 0.1% have concentrated the main-stream media into five or six large (and cooperating) media, and when that media is dependent on advertising revenue for its livelihood -- advertising which just happens to be paid for by the 0.1% and large corporations -- it behooves that media to tow the party line.  In fact, I can date the death of the Fourth Estate.  March 10, 2003.  That was the date that the Dixie Chicks made their fateful statement of opposition to the then-impending invasion of Iraq, resulting in their being blacklisted by nearly every country music station in the country.  The message was clear: tow the line -- or else.  The coffin was nailed closed in 2018 when Jim Acosta and Kaitlin Collins were banned from White House press conferences for having the temerity to ask actual questions rather than lobbing softballs.  Not that the lid wasn't pretty tightly shut long before that.  Advertising money is there to sell product.  Any media outlet that espouses contrary views through its programming will find its advertising revenues tight indeed.  In the end, it's all about money, and how the 0.1% can capture it.

    Government is the only institution with enough clout to rein in the greed of corporations and the 0.1%.  Unfortunately, the 0.1% and the corporations have turned governments at all levels into their handmaidens.  Getting elected to any government post above the local school board is phenomenally expensive, forcing candidates either to be from among the 0.1% themselves, or beholden to those who are.  Legislation and court decisions such as Citizens United has cemented this system into place.  In addition, the winner-take-all character of our electoral system has assured that the US congress is always more or less evenly divided.  This situation is ripe for lobbyists bearing bagfuls of corporate money.  They need to "persuade" a mere handful of congressmen to tip the scales, making sure that any issue is decided in favor of those they represent.  This outcome is shown clearly in studies confirming that enacted legislation is almost always in line with the interests of the elite, while only randomly correlated with the interests of the public at large.  That the public is disgusted by this state of affairs is of no consequence.  In the end, maybe it's about more than money and how the 0.1% can capture it.  It's about power, too, and how it can be controlled by money.

    I'm of the opinion that this system is so deeply entrenched that there is no hope of changing it through constructive action.  Any person making a serious effort will be slandered, ridiculed, and defunded.  At a more populist level, a "yellow vest" movement is unthinkable here.  Americans long ago lost both the skills and the will to take care of themselves.  They are dependent on this system, unfair as it is.  It will require a catastrophe to sweep aside the old and construct something that will hopefully be better.

    That catastrophe may well have to wait until resource depletion begins to bite deep.  Deep enough that the systems delivering Americans' their customary ease and comfort no longer function.  At that point, change will become possible.  It will most likely be Gen-Xers and Millenials who will be in charge by then.  The boomers will be a spent force.  AMF.

    And it will be a world in which resources and energy are a great deal less plentiful than they are now.  Knowledge of how to live well under these circumstances will be invaluable.  Which is why I fully subscribe to Chris's concluding remark:  "As we close out the ‘twenty-teens’, all I can say is, you’d better start working on providing the basics for yourself and your family, because when this credit cycle finally ends, it’s going to be horrible."

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 3:46pm

    #11
    agitating prop

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    agitating prop said:

    We began to experience, first hand, extreme effects of climate change in the twent-teens. We will experience more of the same in the 2020's and it will change everything. Not all of the changes will be negative. We have to learn to live within our ecological means and be very skeptical about 'serious' arguments that counter anthropogenic global climate change. Vet all opinions to their source and do it carefully.

    One of the leading lights on youtube, who denies humans have a hand in global warming is, indeed, a scientist. And  what kind of scientist? He's a geologist with a history of working for oil companies. People have to wake up and figure out what is valid and what should be ignored.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 4:33pm

    Helix

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    Helix said:

    I don't worry much about climate change anymore.  Although I'm pretty sure humans contribute to it, I don't know how the planet will respond.  In fact and for all I know, anthropogenic climate change may be all that's keeping the earth from entering the next ice age as we speak.

    But more to the point, I don't think we're going to do squat about it.  We are going to bulldoze every mountaintop sitting on a seam of coal into the adjacent stream valley to get to it, and we're going to frack every cubic meter of rock holding economically retrievable tight oil.  We're going to take all of it and then we're going to burn it or turn it into plastic grocery bags or beverage containers and trash the place with them.  And then we'll just adapt to whatever the climate pays us back with.

    But I don't worry, because it's going to run out.  When?  I don't know.  I have to think that by 2050 or so, things are going to get a bit tight for ordinary people.  The military will still have access, of course, and perhaps some of the large corporate farms, transport companies, and wealthy people with access and influence, and perhaps some of the emergency services in major cities.  But ordinary people are going to start feeling the squeeze.  This is why I agree with Chris that now is the time to get property that can sustain you and/or to develop skills that are useful in a very different kind of future..

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 5:24pm

    Helix

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    Helix said:

    Re

    Experts believe the reelection of Trump in 2020 would be “catastrophic,” catapulting outrage levels well into the stratosphere.

    Let me preface my remarks by saying that I have been an election official in central Virginia for many election cycles now.  We are obviously prohibited from discussing candidates or issues at the polls, looking at any ballot, or in any way attempting to bias the election process.  However, we have eyes and ears and have a unique perspective on the political sentiments of the election.  So...

    Here's a news flash.  If the Democrats continue on their current course, Trump will be reelected by a landslide in 2020.  And not because he's wildly popular, but because many of those who would normally vote Democratic will simply stay home on November 2.  Black voters in particular are keenly aware of and repelled by unfair treatment, and I'm pretty sure a lot of them are going to voice that opinion by not supporting the Democratic candidate on election day.

    The Democrats' constant attacks on Trump, one after the other turning out specious, and their disgraceful and blatantly partisan and unfair impeachment proceeding have alienated the independent vote, which is instrumental in national elections.  Even many dyed-in-the-wool Democrats have expressed to me their disappointment that their representatives have fallen to questionable tactics rather than making the best of a bad situation and doing their best to carry out the business of the country.

    This is what I'm seeing here in central Virginia, a traditionally red area but with a substantial blue streak.  Those in the blue streak have little sympathy for Trump, but at this point, they have even less for the Pelosi / Schiff crowd.  And I think they're going to not vote accordingly.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 5:26pm

    davefairtex

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    maximum engagement

    I think we may underestimate just how profoundly society has changed as a result of phone addiction and social media.

    In order to maximize engagement, the phones feeds us what it knows we want (and the phone knows us better than our parents do, based just on an aggregate of we glance at for longer than a few milliseconds), making sure we don't leave the phone unattended for too long.  Subject matter presented is whatever maximizes engagement.  Often that's either cute, or something that makes us angry.  Rinse, repeat.

    In order to compete, legacy media has to do the same.  Instead of news, we have a shriek-o-meter catering to a specific echo chamber - otherwise our attention just drifts off when the phone issues its ping.  Anger, rinse, repeat.

    Result: maximum engagement, products sold, plus maximum outrage (leading directly to a horribly fragmented society, with civil war as the logical end point) as an "unfortunate side effect."

    If China (or RUSSIA!!) wanted to rip us apart, they couldn't have planned it any better.

    But at least Zuckerberg will be insanely rich.  So there's that.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 7:45pm

    #15
    MKI

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    ....many otherwise intelligent people participate with glee.

    I underestimated the system’s ability to perpetuate obvious frauds and swindles without causing a social rebellion. And worse, to watch so many otherwise intelligent people participate with glee.

    Not sure what is meant by the pejorative "glee" here.

    During the 2009 bailout craze, I was observant to US equity markets beoming a "government run utility" via bailouts. What did I do? Well, I didn't self-righteously sputter "Prove me wrong!". Rather, I participated in this new normal by buying blue-chip, dividend-paying stocks. And yes, this resulted in a very profitable decade. One with more than its share of glee.

    I have strong opinions of how the economy should be run. But until I'm appointed dictator I will leave my ego behind and invest as the world "is", not the way I want it to be.

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  • Sat, Dec 28, 2019 - 11:02pm

    davefairtex

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    trading philosophy

    MKI-

    FWIW I agree with your mindset in terms of how to properly participate in the market.  I know myself - I get all wrapped up in "what should be" and predictions about the future, and so to counter this, I went off wrote a bunch of code in an attempt to provide me with an emotionless observer of "what actually is happening" in terms of prices.

    It could be money printing, it could be reach for yield, it could be buybacks - all of it - but if money continues to flow into the market, then prices will continue to rise, regardless of what we think is "the right thing" at some higher level.

    Now here's a question.  MKI, are there companies that you will not invest in, because you think the products they provide are immoral or antithetical to your worldview, and you just don't want to be associated with them - energetically?  I mean, I have some. I don't like tobacco, so I don't buy their equities.  But that's just a line I draw.  Somehow, I'm ok buying an offshore driller.  People are funny with the lines they draw; my line may well not be your line, but it makes me happy.

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  • Sun, Dec 29, 2019 - 3:31am

    Chris Martenson

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    Total alignment - it's all going to be burnt

    But more to the point, I don’t think we’re going to do squat about it.  We are going to bulldoze every mountaintop sitting on a seam of coal into the adjacent stream valley to get to it, and we’re going to frack every cubic meter of rock holding economically retrievable tight oil.  We’re going to take all of it and then we’re going to burn it or turn it into plastic grocery bags or beverage containers and trash the place with them.  And then we’ll just adapt to whatever the climate pays us back with.

    As I wrote in the article above:

    Meanwhile, I see a lot of people fretting about if/how various carbon emission targets are going to be met.

    Let me alleviate the suspense; they’re not.

    Every single economically-retrievable lump of coal and molecule of oil and gas is going to be extracted and burnt before we give up our addiction to fossil fuel.

    See? Nothing to worry about.  We already know the outcome.  Everything is going to get burnt up.  Then we get to deal with the aftermath.

    Which will include:

    • 8 to 10 billion souls alive on the planet 99% of them subsisting on fossil fuel derived nitrogen and caloric inputs
    • Depleted soils lacking both macro and micro nutrients, as well as a balanced and thriving soil microorganism ecology
    • The majority of people living in cities which are simply energy sinks and waste generating machines
    • Wonky weather that will reveal the extent to which being lucky counts for more than being clever.  That is, the 10,000 years of human progress maps onto a 10,000 year cycle of extremely stable climate.
    • A global economic model that is not even remotely tuned for local efficiency or sufficiency and will have to be entirely remodeled for a lower energy future.
    • Complex and complicated alt-energy systems that require lots and lots of continuous mining and manufacturing to repair and replace.

    Now those are some things worth fretting about, because you can (and even must) determine your own response to them, even if that's "I'm not going to do anything." No choice is a choice.  For those wishing to surf the wave they've been born upon, and to give it everything they've got, there's an endlessly complicated set of responses to consider none of which assure anything.  Welcome to life.  This life.

    I know predicting the future is difficult, but predicting the continuation of trends is pretty straightforward and eerily accurate.  I believe Newton's first law of motion nailed it; a body in motion tends to stay in motion (unless acted upon by a net external force)

     

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  • Sun, Dec 29, 2019 - 6:25am

    Quercus bicolor

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    How do we draw the line?

    How do we draw the line that determines which companies we will not invest in?  Do we let deep seated and mostly unconscious attachments that drive us to protect ourselves with "wealth" have us create stories in our minds to justify investments that are way beyond our ethical and moral boundaries if we were to really look deeply?  Dave, you hint at that with your reference to offshore drilling.  What would it take to remove emotion from the component of our investing that determines the universe of acceptable investments?

    (I put "wealth" in quotes because the agreement that maintains tertiary wealth as wealth is a tenuous one that can change unexpectedly and very quickly.  Of course some of us with foresight convert tertiary to primary and secondary wealth as we accumulate it.)

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  • Sun, Dec 29, 2019 - 12:25pm

    davefairtex

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    offshore drilling vs tobacco

    QB-

    So with both offshore drilling and fracking, I have some serious mixed feelings about it all.  Yes, they extract energy from the ground without which we would all die.  But the side effects are "environmentally problematic."  Certainly if there was fracking going on near my groundwater, I'd be pretty upset.  Hence, my mixed feelings.

    With tobacco, there is no mixed feeling at all.  Those companies kill people with their product.  They kill a whole lot of people.  The products are designed to first addict people, and then, as a side effect of using the products exactly as they were designed to be used, the addicted users die.  So, its an easy decision for me.  There is no moral dilemma of "energy for civilization in exchange for environmental problems."

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  • Sun, Dec 29, 2019 - 4:43pm

    Quercus bicolor

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    moral dilemma

    Thanks Dave for the clarification.  That makes sense to me.

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  • Mon, Dec 30, 2019 - 9:25am

    Helix

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    Things to fret about

    Chris,

    I couldn't agree with you more on conditions to fret about.  I have some personal views which I would like to share:

    • 8 to 10 billion souls alive on the planet 99% of them subsisting on fossil fuel derived nitrogen and caloric inputs

    This is the biggie.  It's not clear that a world without abundant energy resources can support this number of people.  The permaculture / organic folks have made great strides in recent years in building soils and improving productivity, but this comes at a steep investment of human labor.  Even in the best-case scenario, a lot of people living in cities and suburbs are going to go "back to the land."  In not-so-favorable scenarios, I don't like to imagine what may happen.

    • Depleted soils lacking both macro and micro nutrients, as well as a balanced and thriving soil microorganism ecology

    Although I'm still behind the curve, I do subscribe to organic / permaculture methods.  And I think these will become more widespread in the coming decades.  There's some intensive labor involved, but I've seen with my own eyes how soils can be improved.  Micronutrients seem to me to be the Achilles Heel, as replacing them in depleted soils involves mining them and transporting them over long distances, activities that could become... "problematic"...

    • The majority of people living in cities which are simply energy sinks and waste generating machines

    I have no doubt that this will change, one way or the other.  At some point, depopulating cities will result in a scramble for productive land.  Some chilling incidents could transpire.  My hope is that strong leadership and a generous dollup of human compassion will make a satisfactory transition possible.  But I'm far from convinced that they will.

    • Wonky weather that will reveal the extent to which being lucky counts for more than being clever.  That is, the 10,000 years of human progress maps onto a 10,000 year cycle of extremely stable climate.

    Well, who knows?  Weather has always been a problem, and whether it will be more so in the future is, to my mind, an open question.  As climate changes, will some regions benefit while others suffer?  Not sure.  One thing I do know is that many more people will be involved in agriculture, and so will keenly feel the effects of whatever payback the climate has in store.

    • A global economic model that is not even remotely tuned for local efficiency or sufficiency and will have to be entirely remodeled for a lower energy future.

    This is the second biggie, because we're now talking about cui bono.  Those benefiting from the current system are certainly going to do everything possible to preserve their positions, and I have no doubt that violence will still be on the table.  Once again, I'm hoping for strong leadership.  And once again, I'm far from confident that we'll get it.

    • Complex and complicated alt-energy systems that require lots and lots of continuous mining and manufacturing to repair and replace.

    Clearly these systems will have to be... "reviewed"...

    As far as I can see, thorium reactors are the only hope I can see of maintaining anything resembling the current lifestyle, and even at that, that resemblance might not be all that strong.  The problem is that this is still an unproven technology and the waste disposal problem is still with us.

    The other alternative is that we get something resembling a 19th century economy and social system, augmented by whatever technology is feasible in a world with much less abundant and less reliable energy -- what John Michael Greer has dubbed "steampunk technology".  This might not be so bad, providing we survive to see it!

    In either case, life is going to be very different.  As Admiral Rickover pointed out in his incredibly prescient 1957 speech, increasingly crowded conditions require that people give up liberties in order to live side-by-side with minimum strife.  If you live in the country, you can pee in the bushes.  If you live in a city, peeing on the sidewalk isn't a great option.  Some other system will have to be put in place, and it will require collective action to do so.  People will have to accept greater supervision of their activities by some authority to manage resources and reduce frictions.  This runs strongly against the grain of American culture.  It could be a rough transition.  But the only alternative I can see is less crowding.  And that might be rougher still.

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  • Mon, Dec 30, 2019 - 5:15pm

    MKI

    MKI

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    trading philosophy

    DFT: ...regardless of what we think is “the right thing”

    To me, to claim I know what is the "right thing" at a macro level is just loco. What do I actually know besides it's a rigged game? Nothing. The Fed plays the tune. I dance. QED.

    Now here’s a question. MKI, are there companies that you will not invest in, because you think the products they provide are immoral or antithetical to your worldview, and you just don’t want to be associated with them – energetically?

    I don't think I (or anyone else) is smart enough to know what is going on "energetically" (3BP and all that). Regarding tobacco/coffee/drugs/processed food, I don't use it them myself but have no moral problem with those who do, so of course I will invest in them.

    On energy/environment? If people truly cared, they  would change their own life first, because that's the guaranteed win (e.g. walk/bike rather than drive/fly, garden, stop eating processed foods, repair/reuse). I already do all those. But again, I have no moral problem with 99.9% who don't. They might well turn out to be right; I've been wrong before.

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  • Sun, Jan 05, 2020 - 8:51am

    #23

    Mark_BC

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    Mark_BC said:

    As far as I can see, thorium reactors are the only hope I can see of maintaining anything resembling the current lifestyle, and even at that, that resemblance might not be all that strong.

    I don't have much of any faith in thorium reactors making any difference. There are several problems I see.

    One is that electricity is the easiest form of energy to provide. And it is the least useful industrially. The opposite of this is oil which is turning into the most difficult to provide and most useful because you can do and make pretty much anything with it.

    Oil is running out waaaaay faster than our ability to make electricity. Electricity will be the last energy form to become scarce because we have hydro, and can burn pretty much anything to make it.

    Without oil, cohesive economies could not function. You can't make most of the things we use without oil. Without oil, you can't build a thorium reactor.

    So since oil will run out first, what good is a thorium reactor? Coal could be used in oil's place. But if there's enough coal to make oil then it could also be used to make electricity. Certainly cheaper than building a thorium reactor.

    When we run out of oil society will be in disarray; exactly the conditions that make a nuclear reactor not feasible in terms of the highly complicated processes required for its manufacture, maintenance and energy distribution into a grid.

    In short, as society devolves from lack of energy, simplification will be required. New complex technologies won't help us.

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  • Sun, Jan 05, 2020 - 8:44pm

    #24
    ao

    ao

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    question on oil's use

    Does anyone have any figures on the percentage of oil that goes to produce energy versus the percentage that goes to produce such things as plastics, chemicals, and other synthetic materials?  Also, does anyone have any idea what percentage of oil's use for the non-energy purposes can be replaced by coal?  To me, a compelling argument for moving away from burning oil and other carbon fuels for energy as well as getting around the ACC vs. non-ACC argument would be to preserve it for other more vital and irreplaceable uses.  This argument would have parallels to moving away from the (in my opinion) insane practice of "spending" top soil to grow corn to produce sugar to produce alcohol to produce energy.

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  • Sun, Jan 05, 2020 - 11:03pm

    Nate

    Nate

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    energy flow chart

    Image result for doe energy flow chart"

    https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/commodities/energy

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  • Sun, Jan 05, 2020 - 11:49pm

    davefairtex

    Status: Member

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    coolest energy chart ever

    Ok Nate that's just the coolest chart ever.  I'm going to save this one.  Lawrence Livermore is good for something after all, it would seem.  🙂

    I'm going to be a little bit of a poop and point out that yours is from 2013, and the solar & wind components of electrical generation are higher now than they were then.  I had to snap this from the llnl site and upload it...boy.  What a great chart.

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  • Mon, Jan 06, 2020 - 1:17am

    Nate

    Nate

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    2018 data

    If you go to the link in my earlier post, you can look at the data both by year and state.

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  • Mon, Jan 06, 2020 - 9:03am

    Mark_BC

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    Posts: 398

    Mark_BC said:

    All of oil's uses can be replaced by coal as coal can essentially be turned into oil in factories. It's just not a very favourable process energetically although you can get any feedstock you want out of it, it just would likely be an energy sink.

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