Sunday, November 22, 2009

We are in for a very nasty surprise in the spring of 2010... the economy and the markets will tank dramatically.

We are in for a very nasty surprise in the spring of 2010... the economy and the markets will tank dramatically...

November , (LPAC)—Speaking at the central school of the Chinese Communist Party, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said yesterday that the crisis is not over, and a that real solution can come only from an international treaty among governments, which he called a new Bretton Woods.

"After the disaster, I was of the view that only those banks should be bailed out, which finance families and companies. Instead, all of them have been bailed out. In this way, we gained time, but did not solve the problem. And therefore, the threat of another crisis is around the corner."

"Stock markets are again at pre-crisis levels, and derivatives are growing again at a frightening rate.... The world can be precipitated again into the crisis because the chance of changing was lost." Throughout the world, "governments have intervened using two hands: with one, they injected an enormous amount of liquidity in the system. With the other, they turned private debt into public debt." Such interventions have fixed the balance sheets of large investment banks but not those of the state, and
"an enormous part of this money has stayed in the banks themselves, which today are using it to make profits, by borrowing at 1% and reinvesting into financial instruments at 5.5%.

"At the end of the '90s, de facto the power of uttering currency, which was a power of sovereign states, was put into the hands of banks and the market," allowing large banks to count more than average nations.

"The crisis has put governments back on center stage, but nevertheless there is still an enormous mass of finance inside banks, out of control of the state. Now we must do something completely new."

"We cannot think of solving the problems that emerged out of the crisis through a series of new technical rules written by the bankers," Tremonti "roared" according to the daily Il Riformista, drawing applause from the audience.

The G20 was necessary but "not sufficient," Tremonti said. "Today we need a collective political effort to define the new order, an international treaty to define a new Bretton Woods, which must be the product of a multilateral effort, not only in joining it, but also in drafting it," Tremonti said. "I have the honor to deposit here a first draft of my treaty. I could not imagine a better place."
During his stay in Beijing, Tremonti will meet Chinese government officials.....

Not talking about peak oil.....?

OECD leaders go far out of their way to never, ever mention Peak Oil. This in fact is the biggest real world driver for worldwide Energy Transition away from C02 emitting fossil fuels. Due to limited world oil reserves and production capacity, moving away from fossil fuels is necessary, whether or not there is climate change or global warming. Complicating this, world pipeline and LNG gas supplies are now entering a period of large or massive increase, depending on country and region, perhaps able to last 5 years or more. While oil can get very expensive, natural gas will likely remain cheap, and international traded coal will likely remain low cost on delivered energy terms.

For OECD leaderships seeking rapid transition away from oil, and cutting C02 emissions, natural gas is cleaner burning, with lower emissions than oil or coal. This is a rational energy strategy -- oil substitution by gas -- for the short term.

Waiting for the soft energy and electric car revolution will however be long-haul. Growing the role of non-hydro renewables in the energy mix to anything above 5 percent, by 2030 without also cutting global total energy demand every year by well above one percent, will be costly, complex and slow. Setting policies for non-hydro renewable energy, including wind and solar energy, replacing or substituting large proportions of current fossil fuel demand implies long-term, massive funding, and the related industrial and technical mobilization for the task. To date, no such financing and frameworks exist, OECD leaderships seemingly imagine that ‘the market’ can be relied to carry out and sustain this massive, long term, high cost task.

More rationally, more realistic and at least as necessary as acting to limit climate change, substituting the loss of world oil production capacity due to Peak Oil, through the next 20 years, itself sets massive challenges. Here again, however, we enter the realms of politically correct censorship, because until late 2009 the IEA and other energy agencies, and most of the major oil corporations stood together in officially forecasting no possible shrinkage in world oil supply, and perhaps 25 percent or more supply growth over the next 20 years. Periodic market shortfalls, yes, but not long term declining supplies fixing 90 Mbd as the maximum possible oil output the world can achieve.

This united front is breaking up, like Arctic glaciers, with Zero Petroleum Growth of supply to 2030 now being hinted at, if not openly stated. Peak Oil analysts present much more radical scenarios, based on real world reserve history and production statistics, extending to a loss of up to 25 million barrels/day (Mbd) of production capacity, around 30 percent of present supply, by 2030. Under these scenarios, world oil production, and therefore demand could fall to 60 Mbd or so, by 2030.

Entering a period where annual increase of world oil demand is no longer possible, and demand only decreases, is as economically catastrophic in its implications, as mediatic rantings on global warming catastrophe indulged by some OECD leaders, in the run up to the COP15 ‘climate summit’ of Copenhagen. Doing nothing about the real threat of oil decline and high prices to the economy and society, and possible repeats of ‘military adventure’ in the Mid East and Central Asia, to assure oil supplies, is a bigger threat than of losing face from COP15 failure.

Biting the bit, and facing this uncomfortable reality without the fig leaf of a scientifically shaky and histrionic ‘climatic apocalypse’ as the prime mover for Energy Transition is the best outlook from the failure of COP15 to achieve an impossible consensus. In the coming weeks, as this failure becomes more certain, we will find out which OECD leaderships care to face the reality of peak oil decline in world supply. Action can focus the creation of multilateral agencies, frameworks and funding for global energy transition on a long-term basis.

Why ignore peak oil?

The reasons stretch back at least 30 years to the oil shocks of the 1970s. The complete and total dependence on mostly imported oil, of most major OECD consumer societies was heavily underlined by chaotic and unsuccessful attempts at keeping the economy on the rails. The supposed link between oil prices, economic recession, and inflation were established at that time in the mindset of OECD leaders who like the Bourbons have forgotten nothing, and learned nothing since.

Speaking at Jackson Hole in August 2009, The US Fed’s Ben Bernanke solemnly warned that oil prices are already uncomfortably high for the US economy. He went on to say oil prices reaching $100 a barrel would be as serious a threat to US economic recovery, as prices hitting $145 a barrel were in 2008 and that he could raise interest rates, despite the impacts of this on the recovery, if they went above his new $100 ‘pain threshold.’ This merely states the obvious, but adds the interesting possibility that the US and other world economies are now more sensitive, not less sensitive to high oil prices. Support to this argument is not lacking, in energy economic studies.

In 2007-2008, however, the US economy soldiered along quite a while with prices above $125 a barrel and little evident inflation, albeit with constantly falling growth rates by quarter. Whether oil prices, or the subprime debt bubble and Wall Street ‘exuberant’ trading of nearly-virtual financial derivatives in vast quantities were the real cause of the 2008-2009 crisis remains to be elucidated, but Bernanke’s new oil price limit leaves alternate theories almost ignored.

In any case, the Keynesian recovery masterminded by Bernanke and the US Fed has included the printing, borrowing, lending and engaging of truly vast sums, probably exceeding $3,750 billion for the US economy alone, for 2008-2010. The US Federal budget deficit in 2009 will probably attain or exceed $1,600 billion, around 12 percent of GNP. We can note that even at Bernanke’s fear price of $100 a barrel, US oil imports costs would struggle to achieve a yearly level above $300 billion. This tends to suggest that oil prices, alone, are not the bogeyman they are painted, and also could suggest that any future rise of oil prices and US oil import costs could (at least in theory) be covered by the Keynesian print-and-forget route, in the event of no other sustainable strategies being available or being ignored due to ‘market thinking’ replacing planning and organization.

One thing, however, is sure, oil prices remain hard-wired to economic and political decider mindsets as a dire threat to economic growth -- this growth always featuring the growing consumption of oil dependent and energy intensive products and services. Unsurprisingly, oil demand tends to increase anytime there is ‘classic’ recovery. Just as unsurprising, oil prices rise with demand growth and this process shows higher and higher positive feedback in an ever shorter feedback loop. The basic cause is peak oil, reserve depletion, higher costs and longer lead times for raising oil supply capacity, as well as environmental, geopolitical and other causes. As a growing number of well documented web sites (such as The Oil Drum) show, the correlation of declining oil supply growth and higher cost/longer lead times for supply expansion, with oil prices, is high and positive. Any hope that Bernanke or others might have for oil prices staying ‘moderate’ is likely to be dashed -- if there is sustained conventional and classic economic recovery for any period of time.

To be sure, the fond hope is that ‘green energy,’ notably the non-hydro or ‘new’ renewables, and to some extent energy saving could quite quickly replace or economize oil in the economy. Selling this to a recalcitrant mass consumer public totally hooked on oil-based consumer goods and services supposedly requires the big stick of Climate Apocalypse fantasy, rather than informing the same public of peak oil reality. In turn, this makes the likely failure of the COP15 ‘climate summit’ problematic for the image management of OECD political leaderships, terrified of losing face.

Likely the most basic reason for studiously ignoring peak oil and making sure any comment or data on this subject can be contradicted or denied derives from the real world, real economy dependence on oil of the ‘postindustrial’ consumer societies of the OECD. Today, compared with 1979, this remains high, even if oil’s part in total energy consumption has slipped, as gas, coal, hydro and nuclear energy, and to a small extent the non-hydro renewables have reduced the percent share of oil. This however sidelines one major fact which can be measured. Total oil consumption, and total oil imports of the OECD economies have in general and on average increased since 1979, in some cases doubled (100 percent growth), sometimes in less than 15 years. Those countries that have decreased their oil consumption in absolute terms are the minority. This reinforces the careful ignorance of oil dependence and the reality of peak oil, but in no way prevents (in fact guarantees) the coming progressive and long-term reduction in world oil supply. Replacing or substituting oil with ‘other energy sources’ will soon need open and real debate, when the sideshow of Global Warming apocalypse collapses from lack of public conviction, and lack of fact.

Moving forward

With the failure of the COP 15 conference now almost programmed in advance, but oil prices showing little signs of following traded natural gas prices into ‘sweet and low’ territory, the time may be ripe for OECD leaderships to bite the bullet on coherently moving to Energy Transition. The tapering down of world oil export supply, called export ‘offer,’ may be faster than world oil production capacity decline. Conversely world gas supplies face a short-term and large scale bulge. Coal supplies on the same horizon are limited by export and transport infrastructures, not reserves.

The net effect of oil being shortest-fuze energy resource, this can only refocus geopolitical rivalry and tension to the Middle East and Central Asia, and African oil exporter countries. IEA scenarios for 2030, we can note, are forced to claim that OPEC could or might produce 55 Mbd by 2030, quite close to 100 percent above present production, simply to balance out demand forecasts, with supply. This will again refocus and concentrate oil drive tensions and rivalries in the above cited regions.

Believing in the above cited IEA miracle, OPEC led by the OAPEC group practically doubling production in 20 years, is comparable with believing in Al Gore stories of coming global warming tsunamis, and Biblical Floods which can sweep all before them.

OECD leaderships can now begin to blend in real world facts to their energy speeches, with the same target: mobilize their consumer publics to accepting energy saving and non-oil energy sources on a constant and long-term basis. Enabling transition from oil, followed later by gas and coal, is the most serious and basic challenge faced by leaderships in the ‘postindustrial,’ but not post-oil or post-carbon consumer societies. Facing this reality is one of the largest tests of leadership quality that we face in the short term.

Energy Transition is both a policy challenge, and a necessity that will not go away. While we still have time, this challenge should receive the attention it needs, not hidden behind a cloud of global warming rhetoric. Failure of COP15 conference will therefore be the chance for a new departure, facing real world limits, and moving the world forward.....

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