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Peak Cheap Energy

Fighting MSM disinformation and oversimplifications about cost of shale oil and other energy related topics:
as Arthur Berman noted "Shale oil is not a revolution, it is a retirement party"

News Casino Capitalism Recommended Links Secular Stagnation Gas wars Oil glut fallacy Subprime oil: Deflation of the USA shale oil bubble
Paper oil, Minsky financial instability hypothesis and casino capitalism Slightly skeptical view of oil price forecasts Paper oil and record oil futures trading volumes MSM propagated myth about Saudis defending this market share Russia oil production Iran return to western oil markets fear mongering Oil Burden: amount on money spend on energy vs. global GDP
Energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI) Energy Geopolitics Great condensate con A note of ERoEI decline Cushing is filling up hysteria Plato Oil as Hubert Peak in condition of rising oil prices Media disinformation about Plato oil and Hubert peak
Energy disinformation agency and friends Big Fukushima Debate Oil consumption growth The fiasco of suburbia US military energy consumption Media-Military-Industrial Complex Neoconservatism
Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism  All wars are bankers wars Predator state Bakken Reality Check Junk bond bubble Debt enslavement Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism
IMF as the key institution for neoliberal debt enslavement Media disinformation about Plato oil and Hubert peak Fiat money, gold and petrodollar Energy Bookshelf Financial Quotes Financial Humor Etc
80 years ago the Nobel Prize winning chemist explained where oil DOES come into the picture:

Though it was not understood a century ago, and though as yet the applications of the knowledge to the economics of life are not generally realized, life in its physical aspect is fundamentally a struggle for energy, …

Soddy, Frederick M.A., F.R.S.. Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt (Kindle Locations 1089-1091). Distributed Proofreaders Canada.

The ‘backing’ for the petrodollar now includes the monetized value of Chinese and third world labor and natural resources as well as OPEC oil. But controlling the outcome of life’s “struggle for energy” is still the crumbling cornerstone of both US foreign and domestic economic policies:

  • control the world’s access to energy and it has no choice but submitting to the hegemon’s will
  • the U.S. political system is now owned lock, stock and barrel by a financial / military industrial / fossil fuels complex (am I forgetting anybody?). The powers that be are trying to preserve the existing status quo by insuring that life remains a “struggle for energy”.

The denizens of Wall Street and Washington can perhaps be forgiven for believing they were the “masters of the universe” at the conclusion of WWII. What they can NOT be forgiven is their belief – then or now – is that “the end of history” had arrived (unless they cause it).

Steven comment on Michael Klare Delusional Thinking in Washington, The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower


Introduction

Nemesis eventually catches hubris.

"Shale oil is not a revolution, it is a retirement party"
Arthur Berman

When oil is traded too cheaply, the victim of such trades is always the future generations. The drop in oil prices in 2014-2017 might have been a curse, not the blessing as it slowed down or stopped the adaptation processes. Process that were already in place with $4 per gallon ($1 per liter) gas in the USA.  The reality is a harsh mistress: the situation in 2018 with depletion of existing oil deposits and new discoveries is now worse than in, say, 2000.

But we still continue to do the same things. Such as buying large SUVs. Which fits Albert Einstein definition of insanity ("doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"). As one NYT commenter noted (Moscow on the Brazos):

I don't get it. We're supposed to be running out of oil, right? Or has that changed? $2 gas and we've gone past the Bell Curve of supply and use? And now we're all drunk on cheap gas. I'm happy to see new innovative efficient technology, new electric and hybrid cars but now they're selling boatloads of SUVs and pickup trucks. They are back in big style. They are better now, instead of 11 mpg they're 15 mpg.

As IEA noted in iea.org

In a Low Oil Price Scenario, longer payback periods mean that the world misses out on almost 15% of the energy savings seen in our central scenario, foregoing around $800 billion-worth of efficiency improvements in cars, trucks, aircraft and other end-use equipment, holding back the much-needed energy transition.

At the same time, the current slump in oil prices proved to be pretty long and any person who tried to predict commodities price in the current environment is suspect ;-). At the end of the day the supply/demand dynamic is at work, but market under neoliberalism is an unstable system with a built-in positive feedback loop. As such neoliberalism is quite capable of dragging us through shortages, depressions, environmental disasters, and even wars on the way from one equilibrium to another. So all those general considerations that are provided below are nothing but an educated guess. As John Kenneth Galbraith aptly said: "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable." Readers beware...

This is a skeptical page that was created due to strong doubts about MSM coverage of the current oil prices slump. especially the idea of oil glut (which in the USA for some strange reason coincide with rising imports of oil and the deflation of shale bubble) and Saudis supposed decision to defend their share of the market" (aka predatory pricing used by Saudis since mid 2014 to slam the oil prices). There are strong indications that that was the political decision make by Saudi elite to hurt Iran after the decision to lift sanctions was made by the USA and allies in mid 2014. Approximately since this very moment they started to dump their oil on the market at artificially low prices (which is called predatory pricing). It might be a coincidence, but it might be a reaction of Saudis to the deal reached with Iran.

Also, MSM cries about glut on oil look strange as the USA from month to month imports more and more oil. Oil glut and rising oil imports are two incompatible trends. But not for the US MSMs. This looks like a phenomenon which came directly from  Geroge Orwell's novel 1984  where it was called "doublespeak". 

The first thing to understand is that at a given stage of developing of drilling and other related technologies there is a minimal price of oil below which production can be continued only at a loss. This price point is different for different types of oil, and slightly varies between different regions but it does exist. For example, a shale/tight oil well often costs around $6-8 million, which needs to be amortized over the life of a well which in the case of shale/tight oil is approximately five-six years. To make things worse unlike conventional wells that can produce approximately at the same rate for a decade, those wells experience a steep decline after two first years, with more half of oil extracted in the first two years. The cost is much higher for non-conventional oil producers than for conventional producers. Canadian tar sand production is even more expensive. Deep water drilling is somewhere in between conventional and non-conventional oil, pricewise.

There are different estimates, but most analysts agree that the US shale/tight oil producers need around $70-$80 per barrel to be able to pay their debts and around $50-$60 to break even. Those numbers are slightly less for deep water oil ($40-$50) and slightly higher for Canadian tar sands. The picture below illustrated difference prices to produce different types of oil ( see below) is reproduced from What Me Worry About Peak Oil  by Art Berman (December 27, 2015 ):

This means that production of light oil from tight zones need the price of $70-80 per barrel to break even.  The same applies to extra heavy, deep water, and EOR projects. Offshore arctic and ultra deep water are extremely expensive and with their own special environmental risks as BP recently discovered. The implication seems to be that most industry investments do require prices in $80-$100 range to continue pump oil at the same rate (Red Queen's race - Wikipedia). In this sense 2010-2013 were gold age for oil production worldwide, as prices were close or above $100 and billions were invested in high cost oil resources ( "Shale oil is not a revolution, it is a retirement party" as aptly observed Arthur Berman).

Now prices dropped below $33 (as of Jan 6, 2015) and at this level of prices all tight oil producers  are losing money  on each barrel of oil they produce. Debt fueled boom in the shale space will most likely never return. Most shale players managed to survive 2015 (some due to hedges; some due to junk bond dent they accumulate and still did not put into capex). But to survive in 2016 will be more difficult and they are in danger of defaulting on their bonds. Mass extinction might well be in the cards, if low prices persist for the whole year.

 when the almighty money almagamations like the Carlyle Group swoop in and buy up all the distressed assets, we just might see oil prices rebound. The vultures won’t have the motive to short the heck out of oil, like they are now.

Junk bonds has duration around five-seven years, so bonds taken in 2010 will be due soon and refinancing them now is very difficult. That means weaker non-conventional oil producers will probably be bankrupt if not in 2016, then in 2017, if prices stay low. This process already stated with something like a dozen bankruptcies in 2015. According to OilPrice.com more expected in 2016:

At the same time world demand for oil will continues to grow and will grow in 2016 probably by 1.3 Mb/d or more.  In 2015 it rose from 92.45 to 93.82 Mb/d. The only country that has additional capacities now is Iran but how quickly it can expand production in low price regime and whether it will be willing to sell additional oil at such low prices to get currency is difficult to predict. Some think that Iran will be able to add another 0.5 Mb/d in 2016 which can only compensate for the drop of US production and nothing else. Production in all other countries will be iether stable or slightly declining due to natural decline of wells with age and lack of capital investments in new drilling. Typical estimate is 1% decline or around 1MB/d of lost supply. Natural rate of decline of most conventional wells is around 6% and non-conventional around 20 (not evenly distributed; the first year production can even rise).  It it doubtful that remaining capital investments will be able to offset everything but 1% of decline. Real decline from non-OPEC members in 2016 can be more.

Actually even Saudis managed only marginally increase their exports in 2015; they just exported slightly more oil  (around  +0.3Mb/d more) at very low prices which supports the current low oil price regime, but not their economy which ended 2015 with a record deficit around $100 billions by Saudis estimates ($150 by IMF estimates). What is Saudis motivation of doing this (and depleting both their coffers and oil reserves) is a difficult question to answer but probably this is an economic war with Iran. The second important source of support of low prices is Wall Street games with futures.

The key problem here is that shale and tight oil producers were not that profitable at above $100 per barrel oil price range that existed in 2010-2013 and accumulated large amount of debt (several hundreds of billions, mostly in junk bonds) during those "good times" . The debt that now needs to be serviced so they have an albatross around their necks.

The destruction of oil supply while very gradual already started albeit slowly, as decline of wells is still compensated by hedging, new drilling and projects that have been started in the "good old days" are still coming online. This decline might well accelerate toward the middle of 2016, if prices do not recover. In any case hedges will expire somewhere in 2016 and after that it will be clear who is swimming naked.

In other words the current oil prices are IMHO not sustainable (too low) even in one-two year timeframe. When most hedges expire and the number of bankruptcies start to increase, Wall Street might be unable to press oil futures down anymore so push back in prices can be pretty violent. .

BTW Saudis lost around $100 billions this year and their foreign reserves shrunk to around $600 billions. Projected loss for 2016 is around $85 billions. So they need around one decade to deplete their foreign currency reserves.

Some suspicious consistency in the US MSM stories about oil price slump

“Where ideas are concerned, America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground, or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.”

—George Carlin

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive!"

Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi, Stanza 17

 

To make the story short current MSM behaviour is highly irresponsible and suggests that all of them are in the pockets of Wall Street or worse. After all oil is a irreplaceable commodity that will eventually run out. Low oil prices from this point of view are the last thing we need. It's like drinking party on the deck of Titanic. What should be done is creating the infrastructure for living with much less oil available. Which is possible only with high prices for this commodity. also the destruction of oil patch that now is happening should be get so much cheerleading. It is a tragedy for many people. The ability to fill gas tank for less then 2 dollars is not everything in this life. 

Economist Herbert Stein (1916-1999) wrote in 1986: "if it can’t go on forever it will stop." Despite this self-evident truth there is interesting, highly correlated bias, in coverage of oil prices slump for most of the US MSM: all predict essentially that current low oil prices will stay if nor forever, then for a very long time. And that what happened in 2015 is not anomaly, despite clear indicators that at this price most US producers sell their barrels at loss.  They salivate that this situation will continue in the first half of 2016 and well into 2017. They also completely discard negative externalities of this event.  As oil has crashed to $33 levels there is  a lot of MSM talk that the current price is really the long term historical average price, that 2005-2014 was an anomaly (bubble) and that we will stay in this range (say, $20-$40) for years to come.  Actually you can bet that at any price point MSM will claim that the cost of extraction is 20% lower, no matter what the price level is.

You can bet that at any price point MSM will claim that the cost of extraction is 20% lower, no matter what the price level is.

Yes, there are few places in the Middle East and Russia from which oil can be profitably extracted at this price range. But those countries depend on oil for revenue to balance the budget so even in those places this situation is unsustainable.  More then 80% sources of oil are unprofitable at those prices. That includes all shale/tight oil and all deep offshore anywhere in the world.

Still for some unknown to me reason in MSM low oil prices (below the cost of production) and depletion of valuable natural resource are now considered to be a universal good. While at best this is nothing more then initiated by Saudis "Hail Mary pass" to save Western civilization from secular stagnation. Externalities be damned, full speed ahead. Shale oil industry and destruction of its workforce, junk bond market troubles are just collateral damage. Does not matter one bit. Give us cheap oil brother and all will be fine.
 

For some unknown to me reason in MSM low oil prices (below the cost of production) and depletion of valuable natural resource are now considered to be a universal good. While at best this is nothing more then initiated by Saudis "Hail Mary pass" to save Western civilization from secular stagnation. Externalities be damned, full speed ahead. Shale oil industry and destruction of its workforce, junk bond market troubles are just collateral damage. Does not matter one bit. Give us cheap oil brother and all will be fine.

But at the same time never try to catch falling oil barrel ;-). Market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

Also strange and suspicious is that most MSM peruse suspiciously similar and questionable, or outright false, if we look at the facts, stories:

  1. Quicker depletion of a valuable and irreplaceable national resource due to low prices does not matter.  Existing wells deplete 5-8% per year (tight oil more that that) so you need to discover, drill and put on line at least the same amount in order to maintains the same volume of oil production. That costs money, and if money are not here nobody will drill. So natural tendency of production at low oil price (which now man below $70-$80 per barrel) is down, not up. 
     
  2. Saudis are fighting for their market share and flooding the world with oil.  This hypothesis is advanced despite the fact that their exports are stagnant and had grown in 2015 only by around 0.2-0.3 Mb/d (see Saudi Arabia oil production and forecast for 2016). Which is a miserable amount. What fight for market share: they can sell all theoil they produce.  In 2014 they exported around 7.1 Mb/d and in 2015 around 7.3 Mb/d. Plus/minus 0.1 Mb/d. So nothing essentially changed as for the level of their exports taking into account that the growth of world consumption for 2015 is over 1 Mb/d.   Their real strategy is dumping their exports at low price undercutting other producers to bring the price down.  In other words they are using what is called "predatory pricing" and to achieve that they tapped into their currency reserves to the tune of $100 billion a year. They are burning their currency reserves at the speed at which they can exhaust them from six years to decade, losing the investment grade in three.  Also most of their fields are old and semi-exhausted, so maintaining high production might even damage them, cutting short their useful life and the total amount of oil Saudis can recover from them. 

    Saudi shipments rose to 7.364 million barrels a day in October, 2015, according to the latest figures from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI).  Shipments averaged 7.11 million barrels a day in 2014, down from an 11-year high of 7.54 million barrels a day in 2013 and the lowest in three previous years. So Saudis failed even match their 2013 exports in 2015.

  3. Iran is able and willing to throw on the market another 0.5-0.7 Mb/d in 2016 further depressing prices. This hypothesis is advanced despite explicit statements from the Iran leadership that they will not give any future customer additional discounts above those that exist today.  while Iran leadership is definitely irrational, blocking the temporary freeze agreement, and willing to hurt the county future by increasing oil production as much as they can in low oil price environment (hurting their ally Russia in the process), they are not completely stupid and they do not have much money to drill anyway.  As they now have access to their previously frozen foreign reserves they definitely can wait a year or two before coming to the market with the new supply.  also increase of supply is not instant, it requires time and money, even taking into account that Iran has some underdeveloped fields that can be profitably put into production even at low prices that exist to today. This is a better strategy then coming with new supply at the point of ridiculously low prices. Although everything can happen. Middle Eastern nations are unpredictable.
     
  4. A very conservative estimate of the decline of non-OPEC production for the next year. Most assume that it will be limited to roughly 0.5 Mb/d. But the rate of natural decline of existing conventional oil wells is 3-6% and reduced capital expenses mean less new production is coming online in 2016 and 2017. Assuming 1% depletion that's around 1MB/d that should disappear in 2016. Add to this hard crash that is possible for the US shale producers and the estimate 1.5 Mb/d drop does not look outrageously high. But those consideration somehow disappeared from all considerations from MSM and they operate under assumption that supply from existing wells is indefinite and decline is a rounding error.  Only increase in supply is material and eminent (again Iran supply story get the most prominence). 
     
  5. The US MSM propagate the following bogus narrative: "there is an oil glut in the USA market in particular despite the fact that the USA increasing their import of oil. To cry about glut on oil in the country which imports each month in 2015 more and more oil is something new to me.  This is something from Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and is called doublespeak. If you are an oil producer, you don’t pump oil unless you have orders for it.  If you pump oil without orders, then you need your own storage to store it. In no way you ship it to Cushing, Oklahoma with their 80 Mb storage capacity as your customers can be in completely different part of the USA and it's you who need to pay for storage. That's the privilege used by refineries to regulate their input in case of maintenance, seasonal peaks, etc.  You don’t ship any oil without getting paid for it. So oil glut theory claim that they are producers which have oil shipped to customers and customers did not use it. Putting it in storage instead. And this bogus "theory" is propagated by MSM for more then 18 month now. It' time for MSM to stop to propagate this nonsense. 
     
  6. Cheap oil is here to stay and current situation will last to 2017 in worst case or to 2020-2040 in the best. IEA forecasts are viewed as facts, despite clear interest in lower oil prices.  In reality just cutting capital investment along with depletion of  existing fields (almost 6% for conventional wells, around 20% per year but very unevenly spread for shale/tight oil wells) guarantee diminishing supply. To compensate for 5% depletion the world now needs to find and put into production approximately 5 Mb/d of oil. In other words the world is losing approximately 1 Mb/s of supply per quarter. This loss a very difficult to stop, although it was possible for the last several years because huge capital investments in oil industry caused by high oil prices. 2010-2014 has shown that with high oil prices the decline can be stopped and reversed.  The problem is that adequate capital investments are thing in the past and now most oil companies need to adapt to starvation mode as for capital investment in the oil industry. That spells huge trouble for Norway, Russia, GB,  and other nations with mostly conventional wells.  It will be a miracle if they can maintain they level of production at prices below $40 for more then one-two years (there is some inertia here and new projects are continuing to come online for around 18 months since the start of the price drop; that means till mid, or last quarter of 2016, depending were you put the start of oil price drop). 
     
  7. MSM instantly forgot about previous concerns and the reversal of efficiency of the US car fleet. In 2015 SUVs again became the most popular category of personal car with sales of large SUVs booming. This deterioration of the US fleet efficiency happens along with slow down of sales of hybrids and, especially, electrical cars.
     
  8. Growth of demand during the current period of below $2 per gallon gas for some, unexplained reason will be slower then the explosive growth of demand in 2015. for some reason is is expected to be  limited to around 1% or 1.3-1.4 Mb/d worldwide.
     
  9. China slowed down and her oil consumption will be stagnant or down despite boom in car sales, as if the number of cars of the road is disconnected with oil use. In reality transportation is around 60% of country oil use. Right, but China oil consumption is still growing and will continue to grow in 2016. Those trends can co-exist for a while. So electrical consumption decline does not mean that the oil consumption decline is eminent.

    The same situation can exist in other countries such as the USA - slowing of the economy along with growth of oil consumption. All those new SUVs on the road need fuel to run.
     
  10. The assumption that the destruction of shale/tight oil companies with excessive debt loads in the USA  will be gradual and slow. Despite the fact that they currently produce at a loss  each barrel of oil they sell.  Also it will be orderly without major disruption of production -- just a gradual decline despite dramatically lower capital expenses. The assumption of most US MSM is that US production will stay close to current levels due to Gulf production or due to by waiving some magic wand by Obama administration.
     
  11. Junk bond problem does not exist or is of minor importance despite the fact that there are over 100 billions of shale oil book related junk bonds on the market. Similarly losses of financial sector from hedges in 2015 are non-existent as well (only Mexicans got several billions or additional revenue due to hedges).

The question is from where all those MSM deceptive and false  "talking points" originate.

The end of cheap oil hypothesis

The "end of cheap oil" hypothesis can be simplified to several postulates:

  1. Mankind demand for oil will continues to grow, although the pace of growth slows down with the increase of the price of oil as well as due to stagnation of world economy caused by high oil prices. That does not exclude temporary (often multiyear) oil price slumps or highs: instability is the nature of financial system under neoliberalism. 
  2. The supply of oil profitably extractable at any given price point below $100 (such $40, $50, $60 per barrel) will continue to shrink. Total extractable supply of oil can grow only by adding more and more expensive source of oil, sources with lower EROEI. New technology of extraction (especially horizontal drilling) can somewhat offset decline of EROEI but can't reverse it.  Simple calculation by dividing "proven world reserves" by annual consumption suggest that at prices below $100 in 2014 dollars they will be exhausted in approximately half a century (assuming $50 a barrel price point) peakoilbarrel.com, comment 12/11/2015 at 7:34 am)
    Proved oil reserves at 1700.1 billion barrels, 52.5 years of supply.

    Reference:

    http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy/oil-review-by-energy-type/oil-reserves.html

    At 50 USD per barrel, the value is 50×1,700,100,000,000=85,005,000,000,000 usd

    Not enough, 100 USD per barrel will be better. 85 trillion dollars to spend so 1700.1 billion barrels of oil can be extracted and burned in 52.5 years. An absolute bargain. Current consumption at 32.85 billion per year, 365×90,000,000, 1700.1/32.85=51.75 years.

  3. The search for new sources of hydrocarbons by G7 countries will intensify over time and will likely generate resources wars. At least two resource wars already happened: Iraq and Libya. Wars are fought over access to and control of oil resources with high EROEI as well as other vital natural resources. With rising human population, competition for these resources might increase triggering conflicts, large and small. Industrialized nations already started to invade weaker countries to secure access to oil which is essential to the survival of modern industrial civilization (Iraq and Libya, and if we think about pipelines to Europe, Syria). 
  4. Very high price of oil (let's say above $100 per barrel)  leads to stagnation in all major industrialized countries and first of all the USA as well as eventual debt collapse of neoliberal economies and slow down or reverse of neoliberal globalization.
  5. The current "Race to burn what's left" is irrational.  Low oil prices destroy and delay investment in new supplies, slow down efficiency gains, encourage consumption and sow the seeds of the next big boom in prices.  If we assume that at each price point only a finite amount of oil can be profitably extracted from Earth (which is a planet, that is now well researched for oil), the current year and a half slump in oil prices looks extremely suspicious. It means robbing future generations, as conservation efforts are now derailed. Sales of SUVs and small trucks in the USA are up.  Trillions in equity and bond losses, hundred thousands of ruined retirement accounts and there is a severe recession knocking on the door for the US economy. The US are selling their last drops of oil at prices below production cost. In my opinion it would be wiser to save the oil that is currently  produce in strategic reserves and sell it when prices are much higher.

Please note that the US government patiently observes the current situation and does not try to influence the price by buying oil for their strategic oil reserve, although in the past it used to do such things. MSM coverage of oil also suggests strong establishment bias toward lower prices. As if this is the last "Heil Mary" pass in geostrategic game for the USA dominance.  So there are higher priorities in play here then the destiny of the US shale industry and more rapid exhaustion of national oil reserves. At the same time oil price slum is equivalent to a huge stimulus  to the USA economy, but it does have some significant side affects. If we assume $93.17-49.08=44.09 price drop for 2015 and the daily consumption of around  19.58 Mb/s that comes to 222 billions a year.

The current drop of oil prices also represent huge stimulus to EU,  China, Japan and other all other industrialized countries without or with little own oil reserves. If this were organized as a part of Russian sanctions package, this was a brilliant strategy. All industrialized countries in which own consumption far exceeds own production, are essentially isolated from negative affect of countersanctions   by the low price of oil.  In other worlds this is a huge global economic stimulus to the "masters of the universe" and at the same time stern warning to one of the last "resource nationalists" which try to pursue independence from Washington foreign policy.

The key question here: was it engineered by neoliberal strategists in Washington, DC and their masters in major Wall Street banks (in this case this was a really brilliant move)? Or is this ugly side effect of unhinged capitalism known as neoliberalism where oil companies overinvested in new projects due to greed and many new projects are coming simultaneously  online, while demand for oil grows more slowly then they expected. In any case at one point Saudi Arabia decided to dump its oil on the market and fun started. Was it the order from Washington or thier own initiave is unclear.

In recent years oil consumption was growing at slower pace dur to high oil prices. Per Michael Klare 2005 projection of oil consumption in 2015 was 105 Mb/d (millions of barrels per day); actual in 2015 was around 93 Mb/d as high price of oil stimulated investment in energy saving technologies. That includes not only small and hybrid cars (which actually did not improve much from, say, 1990 level, as the size of small car in the USA had grown considerably, but also cars and trucks working on natural gas, blending gas with alcohol (up to 10%), tax breaks for electrical cars ($7500 currently on many "pure electrical" models of small passenger cars, half of that on hybrids). Now this positive trend is partially reversed.  

But there were other signs of introduction of energy saving technologies which indirectly cut oil consumption, especially in chemical industry which will stay:     

For example the energy cost to major chemicals of running their plants is significant in the united states this about 6% of the national energy consumption. Since 1994, Dow has reduced its energy intensity by 22 percent through a structured program targeting process improvements. This has saved 1.6 quadrillion BTUs, equivalent to the energy required to generate all of the residential electricity used in California for one year. The savings have totaled $8.6 billion on an investment of $1 billion.

Note on the term "conspiracy theories"

Conspiracy theory was the term invented by CIA to whitewash their participation in JFK assassination, which got a wider use and became a common term in English language.  Here is how the term is defined in Wikipedia:

A conspiracy theory is an explanatory hypothesis that suggests that two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an event or situation which is typically taken to be illegal or harmful. Although the existence of a proven conspiracy involving United States President Richard Nixon and his aides in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s has been claimed as validation of conspiracy theories in general,[1] the term "conspiracy theory" has acquired a derogatory meaning and is often used to dismiss or ridicule beliefs in conspiracies.[2]

Such things as the current oil slump probably could never happen purely due to market forces (and notion of "free market" is another neoliberal lie; neoliberal markets are neither free nor fair). Oil is not a regular commodity. Oil is a strategic resource. So I think it is naïve to analyze it strictly in supply-demand terms.  Geopolitics plays very important role in oil prices and always was. Remember how the USSR was brought to its knees by dropping the oil prices in late 80th.

Remember Iraq war with one million of Iraqis dead. Was not this a blatant attempt to secure oil resources for the USA majors? Remember Libyan color revolution and Hillary reaction to the horrible death of poor colonel. Is not this about collision of French desire to secure oil supplies and Washington desire to get rid on a dictator who was an obstacle to neoliberal agenda?

And Syria war unleashed to achieve what ? It all about remapping Middle East by toppling "not friendly enough" to Washington regimes. It took longer then "seven countries in five years"  as Rumsfeld promised (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw) but it looks like the plan itself is still current: 

“We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”

General Wesley Clark. Retired 4-star U.S. Army general,
Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia .

It is clear that recent "petro wars" in the Middle East were about execution of a  US strategy which was not only about globalism and the USA world dominance, but also about oil.

The oil market has always been driven by geopolitics, and it was a factor that contributed to unleashing both WWI and WWII. Or, if you want, geopolitics has been very strongly influenced by the supply and distribution of crude oil for at least a century. To talk in pure supply/demand terms about such a strategic, vital for human civilization commodity is absurd.
and the whole idea the Kingdom of  Saudi Arabia, a vassal state completely dependent in its survival on the USA unleashes a price war against the USA shale production looks very suspect. nevertheless it is propagated by major MSM like 100% true.

In other words oil was and is a major weapon of economic war. And dumping oil prices is especially potent weapon against countries with significant oil exports such as Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, etc.  You can kill several birds with one stone.

The key question here is classic cue bono ? Which country is the major beneficiary of the current oil prices crash. The answer is -- the USA (despite some troubles of shale producers which started in late 2015 when most hedges expired). So  it is plausible to suggest that the USA elite including Wall Street banks played an important role in slamming oil prices to reach some important geopolitical goal, significance of which supersede the value of destruction of the USA shale industry.  After all the US financial industry can for a short time distort price of any commodity to any desired level.  HFT is a perfect tool for that and that was explicitly mentioned on Aleynikov trial  by Goldman officials.

It might well be that the current low price is playing double role: to stimulate Western economies and simultaneously serve as the most important part of package of sanctions against Russia. Obama actually hinted that this is true. And Saudi Arabia did play similar role in the past -- crash of oil prices did  facilitated the dissolution of the USSR, which lost the major part of its export revenue).

I would like to stress it again that the idea that Saudi Arabia is engaged in price war against the USA to defend its market share is extremely questionable. By all measures KSA is a satellite state, vassal of the USA if you like. How vassal state can act in such a way without the USA blessing ?  Economic conditions are now not equal to 2008 so the current drop of oil prices can't be explained by panic.  And without using the power of US-controlled financial markets it id doubful that it is possible to accomplish such a quick and sustained drop. 

The USA has long history of using oil as a geopolitical tool. Not only to crash the USSR but also to lure Japan into WWII. Oil embargo against imperial Japan served essentially as a declaration of war and it was read by Imperial Japan leadership exactly this way  (the leadership, which actually has little or no illusions that Japan will lose, but decided not to surrender without armed struggle). There is some evidence that Perl Harbor was not defended specifically to make entrance into the war with Japan more dramatic and more acceptable to the population of the USA, as a reaction on the clear act of aggression by Japan (although air carriers were sent to sea to save them).

And population of Earth still grow, as well as the number of cars and, especially tracks on the road. Similarly the number of airplanes and ships.  Until that trend stops the "long term"  trend for oil price should be up as chances of finding large deposit of "cheap oil" are not close to zero.  Of course "In a long run we all are dead" maxim applies.

But as of 2015 the planet is pretty well explored for this vital commodity. That means that the cost of oil extraction rises with time because the cheapest to extract oil is removed first. Actually this is now true for most commodities, including metals.

To get oil now deeper wells are needed, or fracking equipment and fracking sand and liquids, or you get oil that is too heavy or oil which contains too much sulfur. That means that  special refineries need to be build. In any case more resources are need to produce the same amount of petrol and diesel for transportation and other purposes. It is natural to think that price will gradually rise due to diminishing returns on capital used for extraction.  According to Barclays Capital (cited by  Steven Kopits),  the costs of extracting oil began increasing by 10.9% per year, since 1999 from $5 to almost $25 per barrel.  Add to this transportation cost to refineries, interest on debt, etc and we are probably talking about "magic" figure of $60 per barrel.  So in 2015 any price below it is strongly suspect and probably is temporary. Although the4 rule is "never to say never" and for investors in oil ETNs (such USO, OIL, etc) Keyes saying that market can be irrational longer the you can stay solvent fully applies.  The same saying is now looming over the heads of shale companies executives. As of December 2015 bloodbath has began.

So the question is really about how long the current low oil prices (oil slump) will last. One year is definitely enough to eliminate hedges. And in December of 2015 they are mostly gone (two year hedges do exist but are a rarety)  Capital expenses are now slashed to the bones, but project that take several years to complete will still come into production and that will support the level of oil production at least for one year till Jan 2017. We also can probably see some consolidation of the oil industry. Weak players start being eliminated.

Three years are enough to eliminate most new capital investment and to finish projects which started before slump. Capital investment goes to a screeching halt. After that much depends on the speed of decline of existing wells and pace on increasing of global consumption. that actually includes growth of internal consumption in three major oil producing nations such as USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Of those three Saudi Arabia experiences especially quick rise in internal oil demand.

In any case since mid 2015 the price of oil on spot market dropped almost to one third of max price previously achieved. As of Aug 8, 2015 the spot price for October, 2015 delivery was around $44 per barrel. This is a dramatic drop from over $100 per barrel price peak achieved earlier. 

"Cheap oil" is the cornerstone of the current neoliberal world order; it's end means end of US dominated world

We need to understand that "cheap oil" is the cornerstone of the current neoliberal social system including the level of neoliberal globalization that is underway since late 80th. So for the USA elite a lot is in stake if price of oil consistently stays, say, over $100. The USA world domination which is so cherished by neocons and for which they are ready to fight endless wars is in stake.  Also countries that "do not deserve it in view of neoliberal elite (and are only partially controlled by the USA), such as Iran and Russia, can became fabulously rich. And they understand that "the end of cheap oil" might bring great socio-economic changes within the USA itself as neolibel fairy tale about "tricke down" prosperity will be exposed as a fraud. and American people can became rightfully angry, despite all efforts to brainwash them and to fond external target for their anger. In this sense we can view the current oil slump as a brave attempt, "The Last Hurrah" attack of the old neoliberal guard  which came to power in 1980th to postpone inevitable social changes (and first of all demise of neoliberalism and by extension the USA role as a global hegemon). the important of oil for the US as the center or global neoliberal empire was well described in 2002 article by Bill Christison (Oil and the Middle East)

April 5, 2002

Back in March CounterPunch published Christison's devastating critique of the strategies and conduct of the US war of terrorism. (See our archive by scrolling down to "Search CounterPunch.)) These new remarks, which he has made available to CounterPunch were delivered to various peace groups in Santa Fe, New Mexico on early April.Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit His wife Kathy also worked in the CIA, retiring in 1979.Since then she has been mainly preoccupied by the issue of Palestine.

I've been asked to talk today about the topic, "U.S. Oil Policy as a Juggernaut in U.S. Foreign Policy." That's a great title. When you hear the word "juggernaut," what you think of--at least what I think of--is a monster machine of some sort, maybe the heaviest heavy tank you can imagine, rumbling down a city street, unstoppable, crushing everything in its way, and even destroying the paving of the street as it goes. Well, that comes pretty close to describing what I believe about the long-term effects of our oil, and other, foreign policies in the Middle East. But if we look ahead, rather than at the past or the present, my hope is that, by changing some of our own foreign policies, U.S. oil policy will in the future no longer be a destructive juggernaut.

It's worth spending a minute to talk about why oil is so important to the United States. The world's total use of energy from all sources--from petroleum, natural gas, coal, wood, hydropower, nuclear, geothermal, solar, and wind power--has increased in recent years roughly as the global population has also increased. Petroleum contributes the greatest single amount -- about two-fifths of the world's total energy output, and natural gas (which is in some ways related to oil) more than another one-fifth. The United States alone uses about one-quarter of the world's total energy output, but has less than five percent of the world's population. The U.S. itself does not produce anywhere near the amount of energy that it consumes. According to statistics of the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States used in the year 2000 almost 100 quadrillion Btu's--or British Thermal Units--of energy. But of those 100 quadrillion Btu's, the U.S. had to import close to 30 percent. The United States is, hands down, the most profligate user of energy, by far, on this whole globe.

With respect to oil alone, the U.S. imported in the year 2000 almost two-thirds of the oil that it used. The importance of Saudi Arabia as a supplier of the U.S., needs to be emphasized, but not just because the Saudis hold the largest known but still untapped oil reserves in the world. What is even more important to the U.S. at the moment is that Saudi Arabia has the largest installed but unused rapid production capacity--that is, oil wells, pumping equipment and so forth already there but not used to meet current, or "normal," production needs. In any emergency that cut off oil supplies from anywhere else in the world, Saudi Arabia would one of very few, and maybe the only, nation that could easily and quickly increase its oil production without a waiting period measured in months rather than a few days. This obviously adds to what any general or admiral would call the strategic value of Saudi Arabia to the United States.

There is another characteristic of the global oil industry that we should all understand. It is an industry dominated by a half-dozen extremely large, global corporations--including ExxonMobil (these two firms merged in 1999), British Petroleum, Shell, Texaco, Gulf and Socal. Fifty to 75 years ago these companies might have been swashbuckling, unregulated corporations seeking to maximize profits and avoid the controls of any governments by all means fair or foul. Today, however, these companies by no means have the same personalities that they had years ago. In the Middle East, at least, the governments of the area have nationalized practically all oil production, and the companies or their subsidiaries have gradually worked out mutually supportive relationships with the local governments, under which the companies continue to manage most of the oil production and global oil trade, while the governments, and OPEC, make the basic decisions on how much oil to produce. The companies continue to make large profits, which keep them happy enough.

In their relations with the U.S. and other advanced nations, the companies no longer shun government regulation, because most of the regulations imposed on them are supportive of, and increase the profits of, the companies themselves. The regulations fall more into the area of corporate welfare than into the area of inducing the corporations to become better citizens. In the U.S., the ties of the oil companies with both of the major political parties are close and mutually profitable. Up to a few months ago, these same comments would have applied to Enron, which was clearly one of the world's largest energy companies, even though it was not one of the largest global oil companies.

I started out by comparing the long-term effects of U.S. oil policies to a juggernaut. To show you why, I want to go back almost 60 years, to February 1945. In that month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, while returning from the Yalta Conference, met with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia on a U.S. warship in the middle of the Suez Canal. Two months later, Roosevelt was dead, but this meeting was probably one of his most important acts as a world leader The actual records of the conversations between these two men have never been released by either of their governments, but it is quite clear that an agreement was reached under which the United States guaranteed for the indefinite future the security and stability of the Saudi monarchy. In return, the Saudi King guaranteed U.S. access to, and joint development of, the massive Saudi oil reserves, also for the indefinite future. These mutual guarantees were later, implicitly at least, extended to apply to the other, and smaller, Gulf state monarchies, from the Arab Emirates to Bahrain and Kuwait. All of these guarantees were reinforced by the U.S. war against Iraq in 1990-1991, and these guarantees still today form the basis of U.S. oil policies in the Middle East.

So for close to 60 years now, the U.S. has continued to prop up and support these authoritarian governments. I'd like to give you an example of how this has worked in the case of Saudi Arabia. This is from an article that appeared in The Nation magazine last November, written by a British expert on world security affairs. Here are a few lines from this article. "To protect the Saudi regime against its external enemies, the United States has steadily expanded its military presence in the region. [T]o protect the royal family against its internal enemies, US personnel have become deeply involved in the regime's internal security apparatus. At the same time, the vast and highly conspicuous accumulation of wealth by the royal family has alienated it from the larger Saudi population and led to charges of systemic corruption. In response, the regime has outlawed all forms of political debate in the kingdom (there is no parliament, no free speech, no political party, no right of assembly) and used its US-trained security forces to quash overt expressions of dissent. All these effects have generated covert opposition to the regime and occasional acts of violence"

The United States pursued policies like these not only in Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States, but elsewhere in the Middle East as well. When the U.S. overthrew Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, and reinstalled the Shah in power, Washington began carrying out precisely the same policies in Iran as it employed in Saudi Arabia. The Shah's secret police, known as SAVAK, and the Iranian military forces both grew markedly stronger. For 26 years the Shah's repressive regime succeeded in smothering internal dissent. In 1979, however, major internal dissent did erupt, supported by radical Islamic clerics who wanted all U.S. influence out of their land. The Shah was quickly overthrown. U.S. experiences in Iran since that date should have suggested to people in Washington that just perhaps the strong U.S. support for repressive regimes in the Middle East was not the ideal long-term policy for us to pursue. No reexamination of U.S. foreign policy ever got started, however, because the United States was immediately consumed by the horrible insult Iranians imposed on us when they held over 50 Americans from the U.S. Embassy hostage for more than a year.

Then, in the 1980s, the U.S. spent the decade quietly cozying up to Saddam Hussein, the dictatorial ruler of Iraq, which was and is another big oil producer of the Middle East. Since Iran was now a U.S. enemy, the U.S. supported Iraq in its war against Iran. The U.S. did not criticize Saddam Hussein even when he employed chemical warfare to gas sizable numbers of Kurdish people in his own country. The United States only abandoned him in 1990, when he crossed the U.S. over Kuwait. Even here, the diplomatic signals Saddam received from the U.S. until shortly before he invaded Kuwait were very unclear. Once again, when the break finally came, the U.S. administration gave no thought to reappraising its own policies throughout the region. A decision was made in favor of going to war to end this threat to U.S. hegemony and U.S. access to oil, and that was that.

Now, in the year 2002, this almost-60-year-old Middle East oil policy of the United States is showing signs of even more fraying at the edges. Beyond any question in my opinion, one of the root causes behind the terrorism of September 11 was this very U.S. policy of supporting for the past half-century and more these authoritarian and often corrupt Arab and Muslim governments. There exists a high degree of anger among many Muslims with their own governments, which have for so long been supported by the U.S.

Osama bin Laden is a good example of this particular root cause behind the September 11 terrorism. His wrath was directed as much against the Saudi government, for example, as it was against the United States. His opposition to what used to be his own government was probably the main reason why he had the support of a majority of the young men under 25 in Saudi Arabia. He received similar support from many young men in other Arab and Muslim states as well. Right now these groups of angry young men obviously no longer have a viable leader in Osama bin Laden, but other extremist leaders are almost sure to arise. In addition, the next generation of leaders in at least some of these states may well emerge from among these young men. If any of them do come into power, their future governments will likely be more anti-American than the present governments, which Washington likes to call "moderate," but which are really nothing of the sort. If we have not reduced our energy dependence on oil in the meantime, we may face serious trouble.

The U.S. should therefore adopt quite draconian measures immediately to reduce its overall energy usage, including its dependence on Mideast oil. It is unlikely, for the near future at least, that the U.S. will solve a future energy crunch through alternative power sources or by "clean" coal, nuclear power, or Alaskan oil usage. The U.S. also should not count on oil supplies from Central Asia as a way to ignore the need for conservation.

The U.S. should also, over time and gradually, reduce its ties with the present governments in many Muslim states, and try to develop improved relations with opposition elements there, actively seeking out democratically inclined groups. Such steps will be necessary if there is to be any hope of reducing support for future Osama bin Ladens that arises from the anger of Arabs and Muslims with their own governments.

I want to turn now to another foreign policy problem that the U.S. faces in the Middle East, one that has become more tightly intertwined with U.S. oil policies since September 11. Ever since shortly after World War II, the U.S. has had not one but two fundamental foreign policies in the Middle East. The first policy, which I've already talked about, has been to support authoritarian and undemocratic governments in the oil nations in an effort to guarantee the long-term easy access to Middle East oil at "reasonable" prices. The other policy, equally important, has been to provide strong support to Israel and to guarantee the security of Israel as a Jewish state, also for the long term.

Over the last fifty-plus years, there has been a fair amount of tension and conflict between these two policies. The United States under President Harry Truman was, as I'm sure you all know, instrumental in helping to establish the state of Israel in 1948. But even then, one of the reasons for the opposition to Truman's desires by many other U.S. officials, including the Secretary of State, General George Marshall, was that it might endanger the west's access to oil from the Arab nations.

As it has turned out, for most of the period since World War II, the U.S. has managed to keep its two basic policies in the Middle East pretty much apart from each other--in separate boxes so to speak--and to keep the tensions between them in check. The very existence of the Cold War, which provided the bogey-man of a common enemy, helped in this regard. The one obvious time when the U.S. proved unable to keep the tensions between its two policies under control was the OPEC oil embargo against the west in late 1973 and early 1974. The Arab-Israeli war of 1973, and specifically the U.S. response of resupplying Israel with large amounts of new military equipment, precipitated the embargo, and many of us here can remember the gas lines that resulted in this country. But the gas lines only lasted a few months, and then we all went back to normal. But we should remember those months as a perfect example of the fact that there are indeed real conflicting interests involved in the two basic U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East.

Overall, though, because the United States has been able to hold these conflicting interests in check for most of the past half century, I think that Washington has allowed the tensions to grow, more or less ignored by U.S. policymakers, to a point where they are going to be exceedingly difficult to deal with in the future. Since September 11, a number of things have happened that make it more impossible than ever to separate the effects of the Israel-Palestine problem from the effects of the continuing U.S. support for most authoritarian governments of the oil nations in the area.

In Saudi Arabia and most of the small Gulf States, the position of the monarchies has become more precarious, as these monarchies have been subjected to more criticism since September 11 from public opinion in the United States than has been the case for years. In normal circumstances, when these monarchies are confident that the U.S. guarantee of their security is strong and unbreakable, most of them will not worry too much about other issues that might further weaken their domestic position. The George W. Bush administration is undoubtedly reassuring them that the U.S. security guarantee is still in effect, but they cannot help but be worried about its permanence when they see public opinion in this country changing. This puts pressure on the monarchies to pay more attention to the opinion of their own Arab "street." And the opinion of this Arab "street" is today more intensely critical than ever of Israel's policies on Palestine and the continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The U.S. government, from September 11 right up to the present, has made it clearer than ever to the world at large that it will unilaterally decide what actions around the world constitute "terrorism," and what actions do not. Specifically, in the minds of Arabs and Muslims everywhere, the U.S. seems to have accepted all actions by Palestinians against Israelis, including acts against Israeli soldiers as well as those against innocent civilians, as being terrorism. At the same time, however, the U.S. appears to believe that no acts by Israelis against Palestinians constitute terrorism. Arabs see this as a double standard. When, also at the same time, Arabs see their own rulers expressing support for the "war on terrorism" as it is defined by the U.S., their antagonism toward their own rulers intensifies. And the rulers themselves, recognizing this antagonism, feel greater concern for their own positions.

I'd like to express a note of caution here. I certainly do not know for sure whether any, or some, or all of the governments in Arab oil nations--the dictatorial governments whose stability and security the U.S. has guaranteed for almost 60 years--will collapse in the near future. Of course change can happen rapidly and without warning. The best minds in the U.S. government had no inkling that the Shah of Iran was going to be ousted a week before it happened in 1979. But even governments that seem to be falling apart can sometimes last for years, until some totally unforeseen shove comes along that pushes them over the edge.

What I am more sure of is that these Arab oil governments are now under greater pressure to change than they have been for years, because of developments since September 11. Therefore the U.S. should be actively encouraging--though never using military force to do so--a gradual movement toward greater political democracy in these nations. And in order to reduce the importance of one major factor leading to greater instability in the region, the U.S. should immediately begin to play a far more active role than it has recently in pressing for a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem based on two truly sovereign nations, with strong treaty guarantees from the United States of the future security of both of these nations.

Simultaneously,  wars for access to cheap oil (Iraq, Libya) can  be viewed as desperate attempts to find a way out of "secular stagnation", in which advanced economies found themselves after 2008 (or, more correctly, after 2000). And history proves that war is not always necessary. Sometimes other mechanisms work as well. So lowering of oil price for a considerable perios can also be viewed as a  clever "Hail Mary" pass to save Western economies which suffer from stagnation (aka "new normal") characterized by low economic growth, high level of debt,  and high unemployment rate --  along with deflationary tendencies at the end of debt expansion super cycle. 

And this precious product then is by-and-large wasted. In most Western countries population uses a lot more energy than they absolutely have to use, burning lion share of it in personal transportation.  Industries produce a lot of unnecessary or outright harmful crap, which sell only by the power of marketing.  Some industries produce crap exclusively and can be eliminated ;-). Most people in the USA could probably cut their private gas consumption by 50% or more with little or no harful effects (less car trips, sharing of cars, use of hybrid and electrical cars for commute, telecommuting, etc).

But this is not true of major industries, air and sea transport.  Those are areas where the limits set by "end of cheap oil" strike hard. At $4 per gallon and higher some (heavy/bulky) goods produced in China are already uneconomic to ship to the USA. That already started to affect  furniture industry. And we need get serious about planning, and the subsequent modifications in our energy usage pattern. Transition to the world with less "cheap oil" takes a lot of time and money to implement.

It might well be possible to replace around 20% of today’s oil consumption with renewable. Hybrid and electrical cars don't save much energy (lithium battery production consumes a lot of energy and rare metals which are very expensive to mine and refine) but they allow to substitute burning of oil to burning coal to produce electricity. 

Just the fact that oil industry now resorted to two  ecologically dangerous methods of extraction of shale oil and tar sands oil indirectly proves "top cheap oil" hypothesis. Why bother if cheap oil is plentiful? It's simply stupid to invest money in such extraction schemes unless you really believe in the "end of cheap oil".  If you object to this that means that you can't think clearly an dispassionately.

In both cases the size of ecological damage will be certain only decades later. it might be something like destroying America to save it. IMHO in no way the US shale production could be the decisive factor in spot prices drop of this magnitude (to closer $30 in 2015 dollars which so 30/2.4 in 1983 dollars ). And in 2014-2015 economic contraction did not reached 2008 levels to justify it from this point of view. EROEI of shale oil is way too low for shale oil to be competitive at current prices:  it is a complex and not very efficient process of conversion of energy and junk bonds into oil. It is far from just drilling a hole  and collecting oil which  flows under internal pressure  like in old good times.  Horizontal drilling greatly helps (and is the essence of most new methods of oil extraction with one (upper) well used to inject stream or chemicals and the other below it to collect oil) , but does not change the whole picture or lower EROEI of those methods. According to Wikipedia:

A 1984 study estimated the EROEI of the various known oil-shale deposits as varying between 0.7–13.3[75] although known oil-shale extraction development projects assert an EROEI between 3 to 10. According to the World Energy Outlook 2010, the EROEI of ex-situ processing is typically 4 to 5 while of in-situ processing it may be even as low as 2. However, according to the EIA most of used energy can be provided by burning the spent shale or oil-shale gas.[76]

Same problem of low EROEI is true about tar sands. Simplifying you can think about extraction of oil from tar sands as the industrial process of converting energy of  natural gas and junk bonds into oil. Approximately  280–350 kWh of energy is needed to extract a barrel of bitumen and upgrade it to synthetic crude. Most of this energy is produced by burning natural gas. Assuming $.1 per kilowatt we will get energy cost alone around 28-$35 a barrel. You probably should double this number to account for capital expenses and other costs.  

Is oil commodity or under neoliberalism this is another currency subject to standard currency attacks

A commodity currency is a name given to currencies of countries which depend heavily on the export of certain raw materials for income. These countries are typically developing countries, e.g. countries like Burundi, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea; but also include developed countries like Canada and Australia.

Befor assendance of neoliberalism in 1980th world oil prices were determined largely by real daily supply and demand. It was the province of oil buyers and oil sellers. Then Goldman Sachs decided to buy the small Wall Street commodity brokerage, J. Aron in the 1980th They had their eye set on transforming how oil is traded in world markets.

It was the advent of “paper oil,” oil traded in futures, contracts independent of delivery of physical crude, easier for the large banks to manipulate based on rumors and derivative market skullduggery, as a handful of Wall Street banks dominated oil futures trades and knew just who held what positions, a convenient insider role that is rarely mentioned inn polite company. It was the beginning of transforming oil trading into a casino where Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP MorganChase and a few other giant Wall Street banks ran the crap tables. Essentially they invented another commodity currency. In the foreign exchange market, commodity currencies generally refer to the Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, New Zealand dollar, Norwegian krone, South African rand, Brazilian real, Russian ruble and the Chilean peso.

It looks like oil also became not pure commodity, but a new commodity currency. New York really trades overwhelmingly on a non-physical oil basis these days. Nobody checks if sellers of the futures have actual oil to settle. All settmenta are in dollar. In other words oil was virtualized.

In addtionan there are multiple oil ETFs (which are prefect way to rob lemmings -- naive investors who decided that oil is more reliable store of value then stocks)

Symbol  Name  Assets*  Avg Vol  YTD  1 Year  3 Year  5 Year  Inception  ER  ETF Home Page  Liquidity  Expenses 
USO United States Oil Fund $2,578,400.00 25,967,785 -28.05% -57.77% -59.14% -56.62% 2006-04-10 0.45% View A+ A+
OIL S&P GSCI Crude Oil Tot Ret Idx ETN $866,760.90 4,389,938 -33.41% -63.17% -64.50% -62.10% 2006-08-15 0.75% View A B
DBO DB Oil Fund $513,040.00 331,095 -27.39% -58.67% -58.24% -53.53% 2007-01-05 0.78% View A B-
BNO United States Brent Oil Fund $91,324.50 128,165 -26.08% -57.43% -59.34% -35.66% 2010-06-02 0.90% View A- C+
USL United States 12 Month Oil $70,752.00 84,619 -22.71%

As with futures, several questions arise about OIL ETFs. In any case as dollar finance is unlimited (via printing press) that creates completely new environment for commodities, when the price can be completely detached from reality.  In a way, oil ETFs are not that different then gold EFT which became pure "virtual currency" called "gold"  -- yet another financial speculation vehicle (Something Just Snapped At The Comex Zero Hedge):

As of Friday the comex gold "coverage" or amount of paper claims on every ounce of physical, was literally off the chart, soaring to a mindblowing 207 ounces of paper gold claims for every ounce of deliverable gold. This also means that the dilution ratio between physical gold and paper gold has hit a new all-time low of just 0.48%!

Similarly to games with gold we see "naked" shorting of oil:

United States Oil Fund LP (ETF) Short Interest Down 6.7% in July (USO) by Max Byerly

Aug 18th, 2015 | Ticker Report

Shares of United States Oil Fund LP (ETF) (NYSE:USO) were the target of a significant decline in short interest in the month of July. As of July 31st, there was short interest totalling 45,855,306 shares, a decline of 6.7% from the July 15th total of 49,139,106 shares, AnalystRatings.NET reports. Based on an average trading volume of 23,230,679 shares, the short-interest ratio is currently 2.0 days.

United States Oil Fund LP (NYSE:USO) opened at 13.89 on Tuesday. United States Oil Fund LP has a 52 week low of $13.86 and a 52 week high of $35.83. The company’s 50-day moving average is $16.41 and its 200 day moving average is $18.44.

United States Oil Fund, LP (NYSE:USO) is a commodity pool that issues limited partnership interests (shares) traded on the NYSE Arca, Inc. The investment objective of USO is for changes in percentage terms of its shares’ per share net asset value (NAV) to reflect the changes in percentage terms of the spot price of light, sweet crude oil delivered to Cushing, Oklahoma, as measured by the changes in the price of the futures contract for light, sweet crude oil traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (the NYMEX). The Company’s general partner is United States Commodity Funds LLC. The net assets of USO consist primarily of investments in futures contracts for light, sweet crude oil, other types of crude oil, diesel-heating oil, gasoline, natural gas and other petroleum-based fuels that are traded on the NYMEX, ICE Futures or other the United States and foreign exchanges.

Here is an interesting graph of money manager positions on NYMEX WTI (only NYMEX and only WTI):

The key question here is: "To what extent oil is still a commodity, and to what extent it is now yet another "virtual currency" subject to standard currency attacks ?" Naked selling of oil futures via shorting of OIL ETFs is not only possible, but highly profitable path for such attacks (4 Ways to Short Oil with ETFs - May 16, 2013 - Zacks.com).  All those tricks are possible due to free convertibility to US dollars, which unlike oil do not have any Earth-based limitations as for quantity and, what is more important, quality (gas liquids and shale oil are not equivalent to "classic' oil and refining of them produce mainly gasoline, instead of full spectrum of products; they should be considered "oil substitutes" and counted separately). And small amount injected in ETF can move spot oil market vary efficiently. So tail can wag the dog.

Who finance such attacks as losses can be substantial is an interesting question the answer on which I do not know, but recent behaviour of oil prices is typical for a currency attack as data about real oil extraction does not produce any optimism as for elimination of "peal cheap oil" phenomenon. But for speculators and gulling retail investors this does not matter. Casino is a casino. What is interesting the US MSM produce highly deceptive and well coordinated picture suggesting that there is government involvement in the whole scheme ( see below Russia sanctions section).

All those talks about crisis of overproduction are suspect. To a certain extent this might be a factor  due to slowing down of China economy and perma recession in the USA along with better small cars efficiency. But it is impossible to hide the fact that it was Saudi Arabia that decided to lower the oil prices and started to move in this direction ( An Oil Price 'Cold War' With Saudi Arabia Experts Disagree - US News) much like that did to economically crash the USSR in late 80th, early 90th.  I think that talk about attack on the USA shale industry does not make much sense, as Saudi Arabia is a vassal state and such move is punishable for a vassal:

Some experts declared it the start of a “cold war” with Saudi Arabia, as described by two University of Texas professors in an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News. Other analysts, however, contend that the Saudis are merely trying to defend against other exporters to the U.S.

“There’s another conflict brewing in the Middle East — the intensifying oil battle between Saudi Arabia and Texas,” Isaac Barchas and Michael Webber, who teach at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in the op-ed.

As Webber, deputy director of the university's Energy Institute, describes to U.S. News, "Ford versus GM, Dell versus Apple: these are big companies duking it out for market share. Why would it be any different for oil. Is it a military war? No. But it's a market share war."

There are three main parts to his and Barchas' argument:

  1. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unleashed an energy boom here in the U.S., reducing net crude oil and petroleum product imports to their lowest levels since 1987.
  2. With more oil now available on the market, combined with a sluggish global economy that’s reduced demand in Europe and China, benchmark Brent crude oil prices have fallen by roughly 27 percent since June – their lowest point in four years.
  3. Saudi Arabia, the U.S's.second-largest source of imported oil behind Canada, is trying to retain its market share by undercutting American producers. The goal: drive down prices far enough to scare away Wall Street investors or simply make fracking unprofitable, forcing U.S. companies to take their drill rigs offline to reduce supply and clearing the way for more Saudi oil imports.

As Chip Register, managing director of consulting firm Sapient Global Markets asserted in a blog post on Forbes, “The Saudis have put a bull’s-eye on the U.S. shale industry.”

Other experts, however, expressed strong skepticism with this view.

“It’s not a personalized attack,” Steven Kopits, managing director of the consulting firm Princeton Energy Advisors, says of the Saudi discount. “Saudi Arabia is looking out for its own interests, not trying to undermine other people’s interests.” 

Jan Kalicki, public policy scholar and energy lead at The Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank, agrees.

“Any real impact on shale in the U.S. is going to require more than a price adjustment of this kind," he says.

U.S. shale fields can start and stop production relatively quickly. Technological advances, meanwhile, have sharply lowered the break-even point – no longer does fracking rank as one of the most expensive forms of oil production. It can still turn a profit at current prices of $80 a barrel, but depending on the type of well, fracking operations might even be able make money at prices as low as $55 a barrel.

Hence, “trying to apply predatory pricing in the oil business will only work in the very short run, if at all,” says Paul Sullivan, economics professor at National Defense University.

I think here the target is probably Russia. Telegraph reported  that Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria - Telegraph

The revelations come amid high tension in the Middle East, with US, British, and French warship poised for missile strikes in Syria. Iran has threatened to retaliate.

The strategic jitters pushed Brent crude prices to a five-month high of $112 a barrel. “We are only one incident away from a serious oil spike. The market is a lot tighter than people think,” said Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review.

Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides.

Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria. “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” he said at the four-hour meeting with Mr Putin. They met at Mr Putin’s dacha outside Moscow three weeks ago.

“We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas in the Mediterranean from Israel to Cyprus. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area,” he said, purporting to speak with the full backing of the US.

Oil futures

Oil ETNs such USO or OIL does not have any intrinsic value. They are based on oil futures. Like is that case with currency future contracts, empirical studies suggest, not only is the oil futures price a biased estimate of the future spot price, but more often  it even gets the direction wrong. If the futures price suggests the oil will depreciate, it can well appreciate instead. In addition you can buy or sell options on oil making this commodity a real paradise for speculators.

Speculators definitely have expectations about the future oil spot price.  But often they demonstrate herd behavior driving the price to extremes as trading futures is trading "virtual oil" (futures are settled in dollars, never in actual commodity). This is especially true about short selling which can drive oil to really unprofitable for all major producers price. Recently they manage to drive it to less then $40 a barrel, the price at which only selected low cost producers can get the oil form the ground (to say nothing to invest in additional exploration or pay the cost of infrastructure and such). You ability to see oil short via specialized ETF or other means is limited only by your dollar reserves and the availability of counter party (and you can play certain games with this counterparty issue). 

Here is example of prices on Aug 31, 2015 (which also is a nice demonstration of dramatic dynamics that is possible in a single day) :

Chart Current Session Prior Day Opt's
Open Time Set Chg Vol Set Op Int
Oct'15 45.00 19:28
Aug 31
49.20
3.98 719704 45.22 440212 Call Put
Nov'15 45.69 19:28
Aug 31
49.93
3.95 137067 45.98 215025 Call Put
Dec'15 46.57 19:29
Aug 31
50.77
3.91 162736 46.86 243840 Call Put
Jan'16 47.50 19:28
Aug 31
51.63
3.91 57430 47.72 102471 Call Put
Feb'16 47.50 19:28
Aug 31
52.38
3.93 38475 48.45 50167 Call Put
Mar'16 48.25 19:29
Aug 31
52.98
3.92 38170 49.06 73615 Call Put
Apr'16 48.75 19:29
Aug 31
53.47
3.86 14106 49.61 25925 Call Put
May'16 48.99 19:28
Aug 31
53.85
3.76 7934 50.09 23357 Call Put
Jun'16 49.86 19:28
Aug 31
54.16
3.64 44230 50.52 103798 Call Put
Jul'16 50.29 19:28
Aug 31
54.38
3.53 3938 50.85 21832 Call Put
Aug'16 50.03 19:28
Aug 31
54.61
3.42 2511 51.19 16337 Call Put
Sep'16 50.72 19:28
Aug 31
54.87
3.31 8091 51.56 42572 Call Put
Oct'16
-
19:28
Aug 31
55.16
3.20 1164 51.96 17226 Call Put
Nov'16
-
19:28
Aug 31
55.48
3.11 1038 52.37 17809 Call Put
Dec'16 52.59 19:28
Aug 31
55.81
3.02 56618 52.79 133005 Call Put
Jan'17
-
19:28
Aug 31
56.05
2.94 598 53.11 14894 Call Put
Feb'17
-
19:29
Aug 31
56.31
2.87 277 53.44 8034 Call Put
Mar'17 55.45 19:29
Aug 31
56.59
2.81 988 53.78 9195 Call Put
Apr'17
-
19:28
Aug 31
56.85
2.75 465 54.10 3543 Call Put
May'17
-
19:29
Aug 31
57.08
2.69 435 54.39 2930 Call Put
Jun'17 53.69 19:29
Aug 31
57.34
2.64 5669 54.70 21475 Call Put
Jul'17 56.32 19:28
Aug 31
57.55
2.60 143 54.95 3120 Call Put
Aug'17
-
19:29
Aug 31
57.81
2.57 48 55.24 1760 Call Put
Sep'17
-
19:28
Aug 31
58.11
2.56 71 55.55 3982 Call Put
Oct'17
-
19:28
Aug 31
58.41
2.54 15 55.87 1184 Call Put
Nov'17
-
19:28
Aug 31
58.73
2.53 15 56.20 1270 Call Put
Dec'17 55.75 19:28
Aug 31
59.05
2.51 9588 56.54 44135 Call Put
Jan'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
59.21
2.49
-
56.72 1532 Call Put
Feb'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
59.38
2.46
-
56.92 312 Call Put
Mar'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
59.57
2.43
-
57.14 2688 Call Put
Apr'18
-
19:29
Aug 31
59.77
2.40
-
57.37 63 Call Put
May'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
59.98
2.37
-
57.61 516 Call Put
Jun'18
-
19:29
Aug 31
60.21
2.34 226 57.87 3700 Call Put
Jul'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
60.35
2.30
-
58.05 296 Call Put
Aug'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
60.52
2.27
-
58.25 61 Call Put
Sep'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
60.69
2.23
-
58.46 461 Call Put
Oct'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
60.87
2.20
-
58.67 61 Call Put
Nov'18
-
19:28
Aug 31
61.05
2.16
-
58.89 311 Call Put
Dec'18 58.54 19:28
Aug 31
61.24
2.12 2002 59.12 19416 Call Put
Jan'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
61.35
2.10
-
59.25 204 Call Put
Feb'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
61.48
2.08
-
59.40 4 Call Put
Mar'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
61.62
2.06
-
59.56 454 Call Put
Apr'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
61.78
2.04
-
59.74 4 Call Put
May'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
61.96
2.02
-
59.94 4 Call Put
Jun'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.15
2.00
-
60.15 1185 Call Put
Jul'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.20
1.98
-
60.22 5 Call Put
Aug'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.29
1.96
-
60.33 4 Call Put
Sep'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.41
1.94
-
60.47 4 Call Put
Oct'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.55
1.92
-
60.63 4 Call Put
Nov'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.72
1.90
-
60.82 104 Call Put
Dec'19
-
19:28
Aug 31
62.93
1.88 158 61.05 6628 Call Put
Jan'20
-
19:29
Aug 31
63.00
1.86
-
61.14
-
Call Put
Feb'20
-
19:29
Aug 31
63.08
1.84
-
61.24
-
Call Put
Mar'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.17
1.82
-
61.35
-
Call Put
Apr'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.28
1.80
-
61.48
-
Call Put
May'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.41
1.78
-
61.63
-
Call Put
Jun'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.56
1.76
-
61.80
-
Call Put
Jul'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.57
1.74
-
61.83
-
Call Put
Aug'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.62
1.72
-
61.90
-
Call Put
Sep'20
-
19:29
Aug 31
63.70
1.70
-
62.00
-
Call Put
Oct'20
-
19:29
Aug 31
63.83
1.68
-
62.15
-
Call Put
Nov'20
-
19:28
Aug 31
63.97
1.66
-
62.31
-
Call Put
Dec'20 64.00 19:28
Aug 31
64.14
1.64 14 62.50 1935 Call Put
Jun'21
-
19:28
Aug 31
64.59
1.57
-
63.02
-
Call Put
Dec'21
-
19:28
Aug 31
65.04
1.50 1 63.54 440 Call Put
Jun'22
-
19:28
Aug 31
65.34
1.50
-
63.84
-
Call Put
Dec'22
-
19:28
Aug 31
65.64
1.50
-
64.14 180 Call Put
Jun'23
-
19:29
Aug 31
65.64
1.50
-
64.14
-
Call Put

Is this  the mixture of overproduction crisis and intelligence operation with unforeseen side effects (blowback)

If we assume that the current event are a complex mixture of overproduction crisis, secular stagnation and intelligence operation with the goal to squeeze Russia (and as a side effect hurt Iran revenues)  that we should expect it lasting for several years, enough to destroy the opponents economically. So changes of recovering of oil prices in 2016 from this point of view are slip. For Russia this is a double blow as oil prices also affect natural gas prices. And it is true that Russian leadership were completely unprepared to this course of events, so the damage is great and real. As noted "Obama’s foreign policy goals get a boost from plunging oil prices" (Washingtonpost, Dec 23, 2015):

Plunging crude oil prices are diverting hundreds of billions of dollars away from the treasure chests of oil-exporting nations, putting some of the United States’ adversaries under greater stress.

After two years of falling prices, the effects have reverberated across the globe, fueling economic discontent in Venezuela, changing Russia’s economic and political calculations, and dampening Iranian leaders’ hopes of a financial windfall when sanctions linked to its nuclear program will be lifted next year.

At a time of tension for U.S. international relations, cheap oil has dovetailed with some of the Obama administration’s foreign policy goals: pressuring Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, undermining the popularity of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and tempering the prospects for Iranian oil revenue. At the same time, it is pouring cash into the hands of consumers, boosting tepid economic recoveries in Europe, Japan and the United States.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/as-crude-oil-prices-plunge-so-do-oil-exporters-revenue-hopes/2015/12/23/ed552372-a900-11e5-8058-480b572b4aae_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_oil-910pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

But there are some visible side effect, with some probably not well anticipated:

All that means that dramatic drop in oil prices is a mixed blessing. Mike Whitney lists several other factors( Oil Price Blowback , Jan 6, 2015, Counterpunch)

Up to now, of course, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have taken the biggest hit, but that will probably change as time goes on. What the Obama administration should be worried about is the second-order effects that will eventually show up in terms of higher unemployment, market volatility, and wobbly bank balance sheets. That’s where the real damage is going to crop up because that’s where red ink and bad loans can metastasize into a full-blown financial crisis. Check out this blurb from Nick Cunningham at Oilprice.com and you’ll see what I mean:

“According to an assessment from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, an estimated 250,000 jobs across eight U.S. states could be lost in 2015 if oil prices don’t rise. More than 50 percent of those job losses would occur in Texas, which leads the nation in oil production.

There are some early signs that a slowdown in drilling could spread to the manufacturing sector in Texas… One executive at a metal manufacturing company said in the survey, “the drop in crude oil prices is going to make things ugly… quickly.” Another company that manufactures machinery told the Dallas Fed, “Low oil prices will drive reductions in U.S. drilling rigs, which will in turn reduce the market for our products.”

The sentiment was similar for a chemical manufacturer, who said “lower oil prices will adversely impact margins. Energy volatility will cause our customers to keep inventories tight.”

States like Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Louisiana have seen their economies boom over the last few years as oil production surged. But the sector is now deflating, leaving gashes in employment rolls and state budgets.” (Low Prices Lead To Layoffs In The Oil Patch, Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com)

Of course industries lay-off workers all the time and it doesn’t always lead to a financial crisis. But unemployment is just one part of the picture, lower personal consumption is another. Take a look:

“Falling oil prices are a bigger drag on economic growth than the incremental “savings” received by the consumer…..Another way to show this graphically is to look at the annual changes in Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) in aggregate as compared to the subsection of PCE spent on energy and related products. This is shown in the chart below.

Lower Energy Prices To Lower PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures):

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(The Gasoline Price Myth, Lance Roberts, oilprice.com)

See? So despite what you might have read in the MSM, lower gas prices do not translate into greater personal consumption or more robust growth. Quiet the contrary, they tend to intensify deflationary pressures and reduce activity which is a damper on growth.

Then there’s the knock-on effects that crashing prices and layoffs have on other industries like mining, manufacturing and chemical production. Here’s more from Oil Price:

“Oil and gas production makeup a hefty chunk of the “mining and manufacturing” component of the employment rolls. Since 2000, when the oil price boom gained traction, Texas has comprised more than 40% of all jobs in the country according to first quarter data from the Dallas Federal Reserve…

The majority of the jobs “created” since the financial crisis have been lower wage paying jobs in retail, healthcare and other service sectors of the economy. Conversely, the jobs created within the energy space are some of the highest wage paying opportunities available in engineering, technology, accounting, legal, etc. In fact, each job created in energy related areas has had a “ripple effect” of creating 2.8 jobs elsewhere in the economy from piping to coatings, trucking and transportation, restaurants and retail….

The obvious ramification of the plunge in oil prices is that eventually the loss of revenue will lead to cuts in production, declines in capital expenditure plans (which comprise almost 1/4th of all capex expenditures in the S&P 500), freezes and/or reductions in employment, and declines in revenue and profitability…

Simply put, lower oil and gasoline prices may have a bigger detraction on the economy than the “savings” provided to consumers.” (The Gasoline Price Myth, Lance Roberts, oilprice.com)

None of this sounds very reassuring, does it? And yet, all we hear from the media is how the economy is going to reach “escape velocity” on the back of cheap oil. Nonsense. This is just more “green shoots” baloney wrapped in public relations hype. The fact is, the economy needs the good-paying jobs more than it needs low-priced energy. But now that prices are tumbling, those jobs are going to disappear which is going to be a drag on growth.

Now check out these headlines I picked up on Google News that help to show what’s going on off the radar:

Measuring oil production and consumption: BBL,  MMbbl and Mb/d

In a way the USA (along with Canada) is an exceptional (read backward) country which still was unable (or more correctly unwilling) to switch to metric system.  In the USA oil production and  consumption by volume is usually measured in  barrels (BBL). One BBL equals 42 US gallons  or approximately 159 liters; 6.29 barrels equal one cubic meter and (on average) 7.33 barrels weigh one metric ton (1000 kilograms). Energy-wise one barrel of crude approximately equals 5604 cubic-feet of natural gas, 1.45 barrels of liquefied natural gas (LNG), or about one barrel of gas condensate.

When converting volume measures into weight measures a coefficient based on so called API gravity  is used. The latter is a measure of how heavy or light a petroleum liquid is compared to water: if its API gravity is greater than 10, it is lighter and floats on water; if less than 10, it is heavier and sinks. In other words this is a measure that is inverse of density. Although mathematically, API gravity is a dimensionless value,  for historical reasons it is measures in 'degrees' like angles. In this case this is degrees on a hydrometer instrument. API gravity values of most petroleum liquids fall between 10 and 70 degrees. From Wikipedia:

Crude oil is classified as light, medium, or heavy according to its measured API gravity.

Crude oil with API gravity less than 10° is referred to as extra heavy oil or bitumen. Bitumen derived from oil sands deposits in Alberta, Canada, has an API gravity of around 8°. It can be diluted with lighter hydrocarbons to produce diluted bitumen, which has an API gravity of less than 22.3°, or further "upgraded" to an API gravity of 31 to 33° as synthetic crude.[7]

Oil companies that are listed on American stock exchanges typically report their production in thousand or million barrels. Abbreviations like Mbbl (one thousand barrels), or MMbbl (one million barrels) are used. Often Mb/d is used instead of MMbbl per day.  This actually preferable notation that is used in this page.

As density of the oil varies it is not that easy to convert one metric into another for example volume into weight  as the following quote illustrates (Open Thread, Oil and Gas - Peak Oil Barrel ):

One problem is the estimate of Russian average barrels per metric ton, often it is assumed that this is 7.3 or 7.33 barrels per metric ton. If 7.33 barrels per ton is correct the average API gravity would be 33.4 degrees.

The Urals blend is about 31.7 degrees API or 7.25 barrels per metric ton.

On political motives for reporting less Russian output, possibly the US government wants the sanctions to affect Russian oil output and has some influence on what is reported by the EIA. Likewise the Russian government wants to show that sanctions are not affecting them and might influence the Russian oil ministry to report higher output.

Possibly this could happen or the average API gravity of Russian output may be different than we think, if API gravity is 31.7 degrees (Urals blend) then output in April would have been 10.55 Mb/d, JODI had about 10.1 Mb/d in April.

AlexS showed that the NGL numbers reported by the EIA and Jodi may be about 350 kb/d too high (perhaps some condensate is being included in NGL that should be part of C+C output). If we added 350 kb/d to JODI’s April 2015 estimate of C+C output we get about 10.45 Mb/d for Russia, now the difference is only 100 kb/d, take the average and call it 10.5 Mb/d+/- 50 kb/d. That is a better explanation than “politics” in my opinion.

Great Condensate Con: What liquids are counted as oil in statistical reports such as EIA

There are several different liquids that are usually counted as oil.  Three major are crude, condensate and Natural Gas Liquids. The total all three is often counted as would oil production which now is over 90 Mb/d. But by how much nobody knows. The EIA reports crude plus condensate  as "oil".  EIA has total world production of Crude Oil, NGPL, and Other Liquids at 93,770,000 barrels per day in June 2015.  This type of reporting provides oil traders with wrong data and was called "Great condensate con" :

Lease condensate consists of very light hydrocarbons which condense from gaseous into liquid form when they leave the high pressure of oil reservoirs and exit through the top of an oil well. This condensate is less dense than oil and can interfere with optimal refining if too much is mixed with actual crude oil. The oil industry's own engineers classify oil as hydrocarbons having an API gravity of less than 45--the higher the number, the lower the density and the "lighter" the substance. Lease condensate is defined as hydrocarbons having an API gravity between 45 and 70. (For a good discussion about condensates and their place in the marketplace, read "Neither Fish nor Fowl – Condensates Muscle in on NGL and Crude Markets.")

Refiners are already complaining that so-called "blended crudes" contain too much lease condensate, and they are seeking out better crudes straight from the wellhead. Brown has dubbed all of this the great condensate con.

Brown points out that U.S. net crude oil imports for December 2015 grew from the previous December, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy. U.S. statistics for crude oil imports include condensate, but don't break out condensate separately. Brown believes that with America already awash in condensate, almost all of those imports must have been crude oil proper.

Brown asks, "Why would refiners continue to import large--and increasing--volumes of actual crude oil, if they didn’t have to--even as we saw a huge build in [U.S.] C+C [crude oil plus condensate] inventories?"

Part of the answer is that U.S. production of crude oil has been declining since mid-2015. But another part of the answer is that what the EIA calls crude oil is actually crude plus lease condensate. With huge new amounts of lease condensate coming from America's condensate-rich tight oil fields -- the ones tapped by hydraulic fracturing or fracking -- the United States isn't producing quite as much actual crude oil as the raw numbers would lead us to believe. This EIA chart breaking down the API gravity of U.S. crude production supports this view.

Exactly how much of America's and the world's presumed crude oil production is actually condensate remains a mystery. The data just aren't sufficient to separate condensate production from crude oil in most instances.

Brown explains: "My premise is that U.S. (and probably global) refiners hit in late 2014 the upper limit of the volume of condensate that they could process" and still maintain the product mix they want to produce. That would imply that condensate inventories have been building faster than crude inventories and that the condensate is looking for an outlet.

That outlet has been in blended crudes, that is heavier crude oil that is blended with condensates to make it lighter and therefore something that fits the definition of light crude. Light crude is generally easier to refine and thus more valuable.

The trouble is, the blends lack the characteristics of nonblended crudes of comparable density (that is, the same API gravity), and refiners are discovering to their chagrin that the mix of products they can get out of blended crudes isn't what they expect.

So, now we can try to answer our questions. Brown believes that worldwide production of condensate "accounts for virtually all of the post-2005 increase in C+C [crude plus condensate] production." What this implies is that almost all of the 4 million-barrel-per-day increase in world "oil" production from 2005 through 2014 may actually be lease condensate. And that would mean crude oil production proper has been nearly flat during this period -- a conjecture supported by record and near record average daily prices for crude oil from 2011 through 2014. Only when demand softened in late 2014 did prices begin to drop.

Here it is worth mentioning that when oil companies talk about the price of oil, they are referring to the price quoted on popular futures exchanges -- prices which reflect only the price of crude oil itself. The exchanges do not allow other products such as condensates to be mixed with the oil that is delivered to holders of exchange contracts.

But when oil companies (and governments) talk about oil supply, they include all sorts of things that cannot be sold as oil on the world market including biofuels, refinery gains and natural gas plant liquids as well as lease condensate. Which leads to a simple rule coined by Brown: If what you're selling cannot be sold on the world market as crude oil, then it's not crude oil.

The glut that developed in 2015 may ultimately be tied to some increases in actual, honest-to-god crude oil production. The accepted story from 2005 through 2014 has been that crude oil production has been growing, albeit at a significantly slower rate than the previous nine-year period--15.7 percent from 1996 through 2005 versus 5.4 percent from 2005 through 2014 according to the EIA. If Brown is right, we have all been victims of the great condensate con which has lulled the world into a sense of complacency with regard to actual oil supplies--supplies he believes have been barely growing or stagnant since 2005.

"Oil traders are acting on fundamentally flawed data," Brown told me by phone. Often a contrarian, Brown added: "The time to invest is when there's blood in the streets. And, there's blood in the streets."

He explained: "Who of us in January of 2014 believed that prices would be below $30 in January of 2016? If the conventional wisdom was wrong in 2014, maybe it's similarly wrong in 2016" that prices will remain low for a long time.

Brown points out that it took trillions of dollars of investment from 2005 through today just to maintain what he believes is almost flat production in oil. With oil companies slashing exploration budgets in the face of low oil prices and production declining at an estimated 4.5 and 6.7 percent per year for existing wells worldwide, a recovery in oil demand might push oil prices much higher very quickly.

That possibility is being obscured by the supposed rise in crude oil production in recent years that may just turn out to be an artifact of the great condensate con.

 

But counting such a diverse group of liquids is impossible without substantial errors in each category. That mean that the error margin of and global production figure has margin or error around  +- 0.5% or even 1% or one Mb/d.  for example amount of oil produced and pumped to the surface at wellhead is different and greater that amount of oil that got to refineries (which along with chemical plants are major consumers) because of losses during transportation and evaporation or light fractions in case weather is hot during the period before oil is processed at refinery or chemical plant.  Also there are differences in reporting and errors in measuring oil density by various countries, difficulties of converting weight into volume and vice versa, etc.  There are also large differences in reporting between agencies ( aspofrance.viabloga.com)

Reporting of small producers (and small producer countries) is often very fuzzy and here various games can be and often are played with those report with compete impunity, if you have some agenda.  So any analyst who take published by agencies figures  as precise amount produced accuracy equal to five meaningful digits is iether idiot or crook. Only first three digits  probably can be countered as meaningful. In no way the forth digit is.  If the analyst is talking about "oil glut" based on those figures he/she is definitely a crook ;-). 

Now you understand that all talk about 1Mb/d glut is very suspect.

Que Bono and Wall Street HFT games with oil futures

Low oil prices are essentially a crime against humanity as oil is exhaustible resources and burning it now in oversized SUVs means depriving of fuel and extremely important important for chemical industry commodity future generations. So the question is "que bono"

From this point if view (which is a standard starting point of any crime investigation) the origin of low oil prices lies probably in Wall Street  which capitalized on the US government desire to hurt Russian economy, Saudi machinations (with Saudis as a partner in this crime ;-) related to thier declining market share in oil market.

It is not that difficult on the level of Wall street cguant to play the short game for a long time,  skillfully dropped the market prices by exploiting rumores, and with the help of MSM distorting statistics (just read a typical CNBC article to feel the level of crap they are trying to infuse in readers), exploiting Saudi desire to preserve market share combined with temporary oil overproduction. Temporary overproduction due to the period of oil prices over $100, when everybody and his brother in the USA were trying to discover and drill new shale well and convert junk bonds into flow of oil trying to get rich in such supposlydly lucrative market. 

World production at the same time stagnated. Russia exports are actually in decline for many years. After all Libya production now is off the market, due to destruction of their country and subsequent civil war caused by French intervention in alliance with the USA, Qatar and several other mid-eastern countries. If you analyze the US press the bias toward lower oil prices is  evident. 

 

Production by country and total world production

Estimated average world daily production of 95.71  Mb/d for 2015 ( (Jan 12, 2016 forecast) exceeds EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2015 forecast (April 2015) by 2.6 Mb/d! so much for EIA forecasting abilities.

For 2016 IEA predicts 95.93 (Jan 12, 2016 forecast) and for 2017 96.69 (also  Jan 12, 2016 forecast)

OPEC predictions were 94.5 Mb/d for 2015 (December 2015  forecast) with growth in 2020 to 97.6 (it presupposes investment of  around $250 billion each year in non OPEC countries and $40 billions annually by OPEC countries; money that with current oil prices are nowhere to come by):

In the downside supply scenario, 3.3 mb/d from non-OPEC supply is assumed to be lost by 2040 with respect to the Reference Case.

Oil production is highly concentrated.  The top dozen of out of 100 oil-producing countries accounted for over 73% of the world's oil production. The top three (Russia, Saudi Arabian and the USA) account for almost 40%. 

Here is a chart from  Bloomberg Business

Iraq and Iran are also large and important players but currently  they are definitely the second tier players.  That might change in the future.

Now what will (most probably) happen in 2016 with the major players

Now let's discuss Iran and Iraq

All three major oil producers (troika) are severely affected by the oil price slump, but for the USA as one of the largest world oil importers it is a mixed blessing (destruction of shale  industry and connected with it jobs is just a collateral damage for approximately $200 billion stimulus due to lower prices.

For the Russia and Saudis this is a huge negative development which  leads to unbalanced budgets (especially for Saudies who need $100 oil to balance the budget and  lost $100 billions of their foreign reserves in 2015) and depletion  of currency reserves (more for Saudis then Russia, but Saudis had bigger currency reserves and can benefit from being a vassal of the USA by commanding a higher prices for state assets in fire sale). 

All-in-all around 100 countries produce oil with top three producing around 40%,  and the top ten over 63% of the world's oil production.

According to International Energy Agency (EIA), in 2011 the top ten oil-producing countries accounted for over 63% of the world's oil production.[2] As of November 2012, Russia produced 10.9 million barrels of crude per day, while Saudi Arabia produced 9.9 million barrels.[3]

Top oil producers: According to EIA top 10 oil producer countries produced over 64 % of the world oil production in 2012. The top oil producers in 2012 were: Russia 544 Mt (13 %), Saudi Arabia 520 Mt (13 %), United States 387 Mt (9 %), China 206 Mt (5%), Iran 186 Mt (4 %), Canada 182 Mt (4 %), United Arab Emirates 163 Mt (4 %), Venezuela 162 Mt (4 %), Kuwait 152 Mt (4 %) and Iraq 148 Mt (4 %). In 2012 total oil production was 4,142 Mt. [4] In 2011 the world oil production was 4,011 Mt demonstrating an annually rising trend in oil production.[5]

  Country Production (bbl/day) Production (MT) Share of
World %
Date of
Information
 World 84,951,200 10,194 100% 2014 est. Peak Production
1 Russia 10,107,000 1212 14.05% 3/2015.[6] 10,107,000 (3/2015)
2 Saudi Arabia 9,735,200 1168 13.09% 12/2014.[6] 9,900,000 (1/1980)
3 United States 9,373,000 1124 12.23% 4/2015.[6] 9,610,000 (6/2015)
4 China 4,189,000 502 5.15% 5/2015.[6] 4,189,000 (5/2015)
5 Canada 3,603,000   4.54% 12/2014.[6] 3,603,000 (1/2015)
6 Iraq 3,368,000   4.45% 5/2015.[6] 3,368,000 (5/2015)
7 Iran 3,113,000   4.14% 12/2014.[6] 6,060,000 (1/1974)
8 United Arab Emirates 2,820,000   3.32% 12/2014.[6] 2,820,000 (1/2013)
9 Kuwait 2,619,000   2.96% 12/2014.[6] 2,650,000 (1/2013)
10 Mexico 2,562,000   3.56% 12/2014.[6] 3,476,000 (1/2004)
11 Venezuela 2,501,000   3.56% 12/2014.[6] 3,280,000 (1/1997)
12 Nigeria 2,423,000   2.62% 12/2014.[6] 2,627,000 (1/2005)
13 Brazil 2,255,000   3.05% 12/2014.[6] 2,255,000 (1/2015)
14 Angola 1,831,000   2.31% 12/2014.[6] 1,946,000 (1/2008)
15 Kazakhstan 1,573,000   1.83% 12/2014.[6]
16 Qatar 1,553,000   1.44% 12/2014.[6]
17 Norway 1,539,000   2.79% 12/2014.[6]
18 Algeria 1,462,000   2.52% 12/2014.[6]
19 Colombia 1,003,000   1.19% 12/2014.[6]
20 Oman 940,000   0.95% 12/2014.[6]
21 Azerbaijan 871,000   1.20% 12/2014.[6]
22 Indonesia 828,000   1.66% 12/2014.[6]
23 United Kingdom 801,000   1.78% 12/2014.[6]
24 India 772,000   1.04% 12/2014.[6]
25 Malaysia 570,000   0.82% 12/2014.[6]
26 Argentina 540,000   0.93% 12/2014.[6]
27 Ecuador 526,000   0.58% 12/2014.[6]
28 Egypt 514,000   0.80% 12/2014.[6]
29 Libya 470,000   0.85% 5/2015.[6]
30 Australia 338,000   0.70% 12/2014.[6]
31 Vietnam 337,000   0.36% 12/2014.[6]
32 Equatorial Guinea 270,000   0.41% 12/2014.[6]
33 Congo, Republic of the 265,000   0.33% 12/2014.[6]
34 Sudan 259,000   0.13% 12/2014.[6]
35 Thailand 241,000   0.45% 12/2014.[6]
36 Gabon 239,000   0.29% 12/2014.[6]
37 Turkmenistan 229,000   0.22% 12/2014.[6]
38 Denmark 175,000   0.31% 12/2014.[6]
39 Yemen 131,000   0.34% 12/2014.[6]
40 Brunei 112,000   0.17% 12/2014.[6]
41 Italy 106,000   0.17% 12/2014.[6]
42 Ghana 105,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
43 Chad 98,000   0.13% 12/2014.[6]
44 Romania 85,000   0.14% 12/2014.[6]
45 Trinidad and Tobago 81,000   0.18% 12/2014.[6]
46 Pakistan 81,000   0.16% 12/2014.[6]
47 Cameroon 81,000   0.09% 12/2014.[6]
48 Timor-Leste 79,000   0.11% 12/2014.[6]
49 Peru 69,000   0.17% 12/2014.[6]
50 Uzbekistan 65,000   0.08% 12/2014.[6]
51 Tunisia 55,000   0.11% 12/2014.[6]
52 Germany 52,000   0.19% 12/2014.[6]
53 Bolivia 51,000   0.06% 12/2014.[6]
54 Bahrain 50,000   0.06% 12/2014.[6]
55 Cuba 50,000   0.06% 12/2014.[6]
56 Turkey 48,000   0.06% 12/2014.[6]
57 Ukraine 41,000   0.12% 12/2014.[6]
58 New Zealand 40,000   0.07% 12/2014.[6]
59 Ivory Coast 36,000   0.07% 12/2014.[6]
60 Papua New Guinea 34,000   0.04% 12/2014.[6]
61 Belarus 30,000   0.04% 12/2014.[6]
62 Netherlands 28,000   0.07% 12/2014.[6]
63 Syria 23,000   0.48% 12/2014.[6]
64 Philippines 21,000   0.02% 12/2014.[6]
65 Albania 21,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
66 Mongolia 21,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
67 Burma 20,000   0.02% 12/2014.[6]
68 Congo, Democratic Republic of the 20,000   0.02% 12/2014.[6]
69 Poland 19,000   0.04% 12/2014.[6]
70 Austria 17,000   0.03% 12/2014.[6]
71 France 15,000   0.08% 12/2014.[6]
72 Suriname 15,000   0.07% 12/2014.[6]
73 Serbia 12,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
74 Hungary 11,000   0.03% 12/2014.[6]
75 Guatemala 10,000   0.02% 12/2014.[6]
76 Croatia 10,000   0.03% 12/2014.[6]
77 Chile 7,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
78 Mauritania 7,000   0.02% 12/2014.[6]
79 Spain 6,000   0.03% 12/2014.[6]
80 Japan 5,000   0.16% 12/2014.[6]
81 South Africa 4,000   0.22% 12/2014.[6]
82 Bangladesh 4,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
83 Czech Republic 3,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
84 Lithuania 2,000   0.01% 12/2014.[6]
85 Belize 2,000   0.00% 12/2014.[6]
86 Bulgaria 1,000   0.00% 12/2014.[6]
87 Georgia 1,000   0.00% 12/2014.[6]
88 Kyrgyzstan 1,000   0.00% 12/2014.[6]
89 Barbados 1,000   0.00% 12/2014.[6]
90 Greece 1,000   0.00% 12/2014.[6]

Global oil production has been split into three geo-political categories: 1) USA and Canada, 2) OPEC and 3) the Rest of the World (RoW). RoW production bears the hallmarks of having peaked in the period 2005 to 2010 and this has consequences for oil prices, demand and prosperity in parts of the world, especially the OECD. Most of the growth in oil supply has been in the USA and Canada where the market has been flooded with expensive oil.

Here are the data for crude oil + condensate + natural gas liquids (C+C+NGL) and exclude biofuels and refinery gains that are included by the EIA in their total liquids number.

The 1.1 million bpd gain in US oil production was the largest year over year gain for any country in 2013, and the largest gain in US history. Mostly due to shale oil. The US remained the world’s third-largest oil producer at 10 million bpd in 2013, trailing Saudi Arabia’s 11.5 million bpd and Russia’s 10.8 million bpd. Rounding out the top five were China (4.2 million bpd) and Canada (3.9 million bpd).

Just to put the current US oil boom into further perspective, over the past five years global oil production has increased by 3.85 million bpd. During that same time span, US production increased by 3.22 million bpd — 83.6 percent of the total global increase.

If the current “low oil price crisis”  does indeed destroy high cost production capacity then this will raise the question if the high cost sources can  be brought back? And at what cost?  Especially interesting is the question: "Can the shale industry can come back from the near death experience?"

What MSM do not discuss: depletion rates

Low oil prices are suicidal for mankind in a long run. Oil is too valuable and irreplaceable resource  for chemical industry to be burned in excessive qualities in transport due to low prices, especially when hybrid and all electrical cars is a reality and price differential with ordinary cars for small card is not that great (less then twice). Electricity unlike oil can be produced from renewable resources such as nuclear (breeder reactors are a reality), wind and solar (solar panels improved dramatically in the last ten years).  At the same time in the USA (and probably elsewhere) sales of SUVs and light trucks are again booming.  That say something about level of intelligence of the USA government. 

With producers in the US and across the world pumping as much as they can, they are doing it at a cost of running into diminishing production rates (depletion) on those existing wells sooner. The 2008 IEA survey of ~800 major fields (including all giants and supergiants) which produced over 60% of that year crude showed an average annual decline rate of 5.1%.

Most countries in the world now face depletion of their reserves. Some face acute depletion (Indonesia, Mexico, etc), some still manage to maintain plato (Russia, Saudi Arabia) or even increase production (the USA, Canada, Iraq, Iran, in the future probably Libya and Syria),  But generally around 4% of total world capacity is depleted per year and without adequate investment can't be replaced. in 2008 IHS estimated global oil field decline rates to be around 4.5%. EIA did a study estimated the worldwide decline rates to be around 6.7%.

When peak oil has been discussed decades ago it was considered a 3% decline rate in production was manageable -- 5% would considered extremely difficult to deal with  (The Guardian)

Now depletion rates are higher (source: IHS, Deloitte & Touche and USGS databases; other industry sources; EIA estimates and analysis)

Outside a couple of countries such as Iran, Iraq and Venezuela offshore production grows faster the onshore production. Shale production growth in the past was the fastest, especially in the USA.  That means a switch to more expensive sources of oil.

Given the increasing decline rates, the oil industry needs considerable capex investments. In the absence of them it slide into irreversible decline.  New technologies greatly help but there are natural limits of what you can achieve with them. they are not substitute to finding new fields which is a very expensive activity.

US oil production and forecast for 2016

Among three major oil producing nations (USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia) the USA is the most dynamic nation, and the most difficult to predict due to large share of shale oil in the USA output. Gradual destruction of the US shale industry ability to pump oil  due to low prices is now established fact. That only discussable item is how quick it will proceed. The first 12 months were cushioned by hedges, but at the and of 2015 most companies are now  "swimming naked". 

Still there are signs that the US oil production peaked in 2015. Decimation of shale can't be compensated by offshore drilling. The sinking shale that could easily lose 1 Mb/d in 2016

At the same time in 2015 total US oil production remained remarkably stable, bank loans were extended or refinanced and bankruptcies were few and does not look like an epidemic. So forecaster of "doom and gloom" were wrong by at least one year. There are no signs of panic in view of drop of oil prices below the level of sustainable production. After all oil is the strategic industry and to leave to market forces is extremely unwise. Wall Street probably has other opinion. As John Kenneth Galbraith said “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.” (The Great Crash of 1929). They live by the next quarter results.

Dec 8, 2015 EIA data  can be found http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/tables/?tableNumber=29#

EIA estimates that total U.S. crude oil production declined by about 60,000 b/d in November 2015 compared with October. That decline will accelerate in December. Crude oil production will probably gradually decrease through the third quarter of 2016 before growth resumes late in 2016, it higher oil prices (at least above $50) materialize. 

Projections of the U.S. crude oil production

Saudi Arabia oil production and forecast for 2016

Oil production

There are signs that Saudi Arabia oil production peaked or close to a peak. A terror attack in 2016 Saudi Arabia is not very likely. Shiite organizations have not resorted to terrorism in many years and they seem now focused on fighting ISIS. which although sponsored by Saudis is a distinct organization.

Saudi Arabia produced 10.28 million barrels a day in October, 2015,  up from 9.69Mb/done year ago.   Chances that production will reach 11 Mb/d are slim. There are strong signs that they have huge difficulties in increasing oil extraction volume.  All their efforts to increase production led to increase of less then 1Mb/d  increase in 2015 (7% increase in production). Which is partially offset by  increase in internal consumption (In 2015 Saudi Arabia oil demand rose by a notable 0.21 mb/d, which equates to a nearly 8% rise y-o-y, )  Here is relevant quote (OilPrice.com, Dec 21, 2015)

Crude exports from Saudi Arabia rose from an average of 7.111 million barrels per day in September to 7.364 million per day in October, according to the latest data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), which monitors the oil industry. The report said this quantity was the most oil exported from Saudi Arabia since June and 7 percent higher than in October 2014.

And those doubts about Saudis ability to increase production exist for some time. When U.S. president George W. Bush asked the Saudis to raise production on a visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2008 they declined. After that Bush questioned whether they had the ability to raise production any more.

But they did managed to achieve temporary production peak: in April 2015, the Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi said that Saudi Arabia produced 10.3 million barrels per day in March that year, which was the highest figure based on records since the early 1980s.  The previous peak in production was in August 2013 at 10.2 million barrels per day.

Theoretically as its own population and internal consumption is growing and depletion of its wells reached critical level, they should concentrate of providing the standard of living for future generations, not dump the oil at the lowest price.  In three decades if the current annual increase in internal consumption continues at, say, 5% and production stays flat Saudi Arabia paradoxically may became oil importing county.

Still Saudi are known to use the most advanced (and most expensive) technologies of boosting the extraction rate to counter the natural decline curve.   They now are exploring shale technology and reportedly are trying to hire workers from the USA who became unemployed during the downturn of shale industry started in mid 2014.

Exports

Contrary to MSM coverage about Saudis flooding world with their oil, year over year increase in exports is slim. Basically they are flat (due to rapidly increasing population and domestic consumption): 

Net exports were around 7.111 Mb/d (September, 2015). But with current low prices this is an economic suicide, even if this is an economic war against Iran -- attempt to hurt its major competitor when  sanctions are lifted.

The net revenue dropped more then a half and the country is burining its currency reserves (which are substantial and at current burn rate will last for more then three years)  So there is something fishy in this propagated by Western MSM idea of Saudis defending their market share. The cost of defending their market share proved to be in hundred billions of lost revenue, which far exceeds their losses from rise of the US shale oil production (if the prices remained above $100 per barrel).  Also the question arise, why now. Shale was a long story in the USA and reached present size around decade ago (2005).

This is definitely a declation of war. But if the target is not the USA (and it can't be the target as Saudis are the USA vassal state), then war of whom ?  The USA is actually a beneficially of this  war (like most wars in this region) and  got a half trillion subsidy due to lower price of oil.  And  "corrupt and atheistic" Western Europe also got similar subsidy.

Business Insider

A report by Citigroup has warned that Saudi Arabia could run out of oil to export by 2030, raising fears that oil prices may rise significantly in coming years.

... ... ...

Its export capacity could steadily reduce and, “if nothing changes, Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030”, Citi analyst Heidy Rehman wrote.

Saudi Arabia consumes 25pc of its oil output and oil accounts for about 50pc of its electricity production. With peak power demand rising by about 8pc per year, the nation is aiming to more than double its power capacity by 2032 through new nuclear and solar instalations.

Internal consumption

Saudi Arabia produced 10.28 million barrels a day in October 2015 and exported  7.364 million barrels a day. the difference  is less then 3 Mb/d

In September figure were 10.28 and 7.111. The difference is above 3 Mb/d.

So we can assume that 2015 internal consumption is approximately 3 million barrel a day.  In 2015 Saudi Arabia oil demand rose by a notable 0.21 mb/d, which equates to a nearly 8% rise y-o-y, driven by transportation fuels such as jet/kerosene, gasoline and diesel oil, which grew at high rates. The higher consumption of jet fuel reflects the increase in travel activity towards the end of the summer vacation, which coincided with the Hajj season.

Internal consumptions rapidly growing year over year with some years (2009) close to 10% growth (Saudi Arabia Crude Oil Consumption by Year (Thousand Barrels per Day)):

2005 1,963.64 4.20 %
2006 2,020.02 2.87 %
2007 2,094.33 3.68 %
2008 2,236.99 6.81 %
2009 2,436.12 8.90 %
2010 2,579.73 5.90 %
2011 2,760.91 7.02 %
2012 2,861.00 3.63 %
2013 2,925.00 2.24 %

Russia oil production and forecast for 2016

Russian oil production considered to be at "over peak" stage with increases mainly due to offshore drilling. In 2014 total petroleum and other liquids production in 2014 were 10.8 Mb/d  (EIA). Russia crude oil production in late 2015 was around 10.20M, up from  10.08Mb/done year ago. That's was an unanticipated, even by Russian Ministry of Energy result of activities of small companies. which managed to increase of  production by  1.12% from one year ago, when most analysts expected a slight decline (Russia Crude Oil Production (Monthly, Barrels per Day).

Despite severe depreciation of ruble and sanctions, in 2015 Russia managed to reach the level of production that exceed the level of former USSR period. At the same time most of Russia's fields are mature fields and the production from them is declining for long time,  offset only by new more expensive projects with less total volume. Unless Arctic oil and other expensive oil are economical to produce (which requires over $100 bbl price) the national path for Russian production is iether long plato or down. 

Russian oil extraction (red) and oil exports (green) in metric tons

 

In 2015 Russia managed to increase exports the first time in six years, but that does not change general situation: internal consumption is growing pretty robustly with growth of car fleet and decline of production due to national depletion of oil conventional wells became more and more difficult to compensate with new discoveries. And new fields, even if such exist, can't be now tapped because capital expenditures by most Russian oil companies now are slashed to the bone (russia is more like the USA in this respect with over dozen of major oil companies producing   oil).

At current oil prices Arctic oil now is out of reach and only existing platforms will remain in production. All of them are losing money. conventional wells are still profitable with same remaining profitable up to $20 per barrel. Still for the next several years Russia probably will be able to keep the current level of production due to huge previous investments dome in 2010-2014 in a few new fields (Bloomberg Business, December 20, 2015):

The other big boosts to Russian production this year have come from a few mid-sized new fields like those of Severenergia in the Arctic Yamal region. Co-owners Novatek OJSC and Gazpromneft PJSC invested in the $9.2 billion project back when oil prices were high. With most of the capital already committed, operating costs now are relatively low and output of gas condensate, a light and especially valuable form of crude, is up five-fold this year.

One side effect of falling oil prices -- the 52 percent plunge in the ruble over the last two years -- has helped Russian oil producers, chopping their costs in dollar terms since between 80 and 90 percent of their spending comes in rubles.

... ... ...

To be sure, few in the industry expect Russia to be able to sustain the current performance for more than a few years. Tax hikes and lack of financing have cut deeply into exploration drilling, which is down 21 percent this year, and handicap the larger new projects that are needed to replace the country’s older fields as they run dry.

... ... ...

In some parts of the Russian oil patch, low prices are already causing pain. At $40 a barrel, “half of our fields could be stopped. Heavy oil, low horizons, mature horizons are all unprofitable at a price of $40-45. We are waiting for better times,” Russneft OJSC Board Chairman Mikhail Gutseriev said in an interview on state television early this month.

Unfortunately just before the oil prices crush Russia was engaged in several high cost drilling projects in Arctic and was caught naked when oil price dropped. ( see Petroleum industry in Russia - Wikipedia).  Timing can't be more bad as this is a really expensive oil, probably around $60 per barrel or higher at wellhead.  Which are now sold at a huge discount.  Igor Sechin proved to be a weak leader of the Russia major state owned oil company Rosneft.  Government refused to bail out the company which faces large external debt and it was saved by some "white knife" billionaire.

Moscow Exile, December 19, 2015 at 11:19 am

Undeterred by OPEC’s decision to keep pumping and drive out U.S. shale rivals, Russian oil output continued to grow, in October setting a new monthly record for the post-Soviet era. Explorers have remained profitable under a friendly tax system and low production costs.

Mystery Benefactor

Rosneft assuaged concerns over the sustainability of Russia’s biggest corporate debt load after the company received a $15 billion advance payment for oil supplies from a source the company didn’t identify, according to quarterly reports published Nov. 13. The inflow of cash will help Rosneft meet $2.5 billion in debt due in the fourth quarter, $13.7 billion in 2016 and $11.3 billion in 2017, according to a presentation on its website.

See: One Year Into New OPEC Era, You Made 12% Buying These Oil Bonds

It looks like the board is in denial of the blunder with overinvest they made:

18 December 2015
Rosneft Holds Board of Directors Meeting

On December 18, Rosneft Board of Directors considered in Vladivostok interim results of its 2015 operations, the business-plan for 2016-2017, the Long-term development program and the energy efficiency program of the Company.

The following decisions were taken:

1. The Board of Directors considered and acknowledged 2015 Rosneft interim results and the intermediate results of the implementation of the long-term development program of the Company. The Board of Directors welcomed the results of the implementation of programs aimed at raising efficiency in challenging economic environment: the Company maintained low levels of OPEX and eased its debt burden.

2. The Board of Directors considered and acknowledged the business-plan for 2016-2017, structured in accordance with a conservative macroeconomic scenario and focused on the implementation of the Long-term development program of the Company, approved by the Government of the Russian Federation.

Within the ambit of delivering strategic goals of boosting production, securing deliveries of oil and oil products, maintaining a market share (both in Russia and abroad), the Company plans to increase capital expenditures by a third (compared to 2015 levels). The investment development program envisages the achievement of strategic goals of hydrocarbon production growth by means of accelerated commencement of oil and gas greenfields whilst exercising a balanced external financing program. After the completion of transition to Euro-5 motor fuels production in December 2015, refineries’ modernization program will be focused on increasing processing depth. Also, the program of cutting operating costs and enhancing operating and financial efficiency will be continued. Hence the leadership in the industry by the operating costs and capital costs will be guaranteed.

... .... ...

Commenting on the results of the Board meeting, Rosneft Chairman of the Management Board Igor Sechin said: “Measures taken by the Company for strengthening its oilfield services business dimension in 2015 enabled Rosneft to increase production in order to guarantee supplies to its traditional markets while keeping operating and capital expenditures at the record-low levels. The Company consistently generates free cash flow, providing funding sources for its investment decisions in accordance with 2015-2016 business plan approved by the Board of Directors and the Long-term Development Program”.

In August 2014, it was announced that preparations by the Russian government to sell a 19.5 percent stake in the company were underway and would most likely be sold in two tranches. So far this chunk of the company was not sold, probably because of low oil prices. 

Russia oil internal consumption is generally more or less stable and growling at a very slow page outside several 'abnormal" years. In 2016 it will not probably grow much as the economy remain is conditions close to recession. Lukoil chairman has said that he  expects Russia to produce less oil  in 2016 than in 2015

Russia internal oil consumption is currently around 3.3 Mb/d, up from 3.2 Mb/d one year ago. This is a change of 3.15% from one year ago.

2005 2,785.14 1.25 %
2006 2,803.47 0.66 %
2007 2,885.10 2.91 %
2008 2,981.92 3.36 %
2009 2,888.53 -3.13 %
2010 3,081.82 6.69 %
2011 3,352.11 8.77 %
2012 3,395.11 1.28 %
2013 3,320.00 -2.21 %

It is expected that it will continue to grow by around 0.1 Mb/d per year as car fleet is rapidly growing.. Also Russia will process more raw oil in 2016 then in 2015 which also negatively influence export of raw oil

Oil producing countries with civil wars/sanctions/military conflicts  

This is a very complex topic that is beyond the scope of this analyses. But paradoxically such countries are the "last hurrah" for increasing the oil production, as they do have reserve that can't be tapped at reasonable costs now but at the same time represent the last spot of "cheap oil" deposits. Some facts:

Oil consumption

Mankind dependency on oil is hardwired into fabric of our civilization.  It is an irreplaceable product. But as much as  2/3 of this extremely valuable chemical industry resource is burned in transportation. That actually means that sales of cars and trucks are instrumental to predicting future demand at least one year ahead.  And they are growing especially fast in China and India. They also accelerated in the USA.

World oil consumption is often given in millions barrels per day (mbpd or Mb/d). BP stated that in 2014 global oil demand increased by 1.4 Mb/d over 2012 to 91.3 Mb/d.  Assuming on average $60 per barrel this is 5.5 trillion dollars a year of additional expenses on energy.   Here are actual figures of world consumption for the last decade ( World Crude Oil Consumption by Year (Thousand Barrels per Day))

2005 84,668.04 1.79 %
2006 85,586.39 1.08 %
2007 86,700.09 1.30 %
2008 86,027.86 -0.78 %
2009 84,953.36 -1.25 %
2010 87,839.10 3.40 %
2011 88,657.70 0.93 %
2012 89,668.91 1.14 %
2013 90,354.27 0.76 %

As BP noted in February 2015 "Global demand for energy is expected to rise by 37% from 2013 to 2035, or by an average of 1.4% a year".  So it is reasonable to assume that oil demand will rise approximately the same rate, which taking into account the current rate of consumption is above 1Mb/d.

The oil consumption proved to be extremely resilient  to economic conditions (that only drop in the last decade happened in 2009) and is growing globally each year by rate about 1 Mb/d due to increase of population and cars and trucks on the road. ( Peak oil - Wikipedia )

The table above does not contain data for 2014 and 205. Here they are:

As for the forecast of 2015, the growth of consumption is predicted in the range of 1.2-1.4 MB/d:

According to IEA "an annual $630 billion in worldwide upstream oil and gas investment – the total amount the industry spent on average each year for the past five years – is required just to compensate for declining production at existing fields and to keep future output flat at today’s levels" (iea.org). It is easy to see that such amount is difficult to come by when prices of oil are in $30-$40 range,  do the decline of world oil output might happen faster then growth of consumption.

OPEC forecast is usually more reliable then EIA but generally very similar, despite having different set of biases (G7 bias in case of IEA and Saudi Arabia bias for OPEC forecast) They predict higher growth of demand in 2015 and lower growth in 2016:

World oil demand is expected to grow by 1.50 mb/d in 2015 to average 92.86 mb/d, ...  In 2016, world oil demand growth is seen reaching 1.25 mb/d ...  to average 94.14 mb/d.

India is set to become the world’s third largest oil importer after the US and China before 2025, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). India’s energy needs would overtake Japan as the third largest net importer of oil before 2025. EIA predict stable consumption level until 2040 only 1.1% growth on average (EIA)

The bulk of that demand growth is expected to come from developing countries in Asia. With U.S. supply falling, where are the new oil supplies coming from ? There simply isn’t enough to go around.

Double-digit percentage increases in oil consumption were recorded by Pakistan, Venezuela, and Azerbaijan from 2012 to 2013, and over the past five years double-digit percentage consumption increases were recorded by Central and South America (15.2 percent), the Middle East (18.3 percent), Africa (12 percent), Asia Pacific (17.4 percent), and the former Soviet Union (12.8 percent). World Sets New Oil Production and Consumption Records

Per country picture: not all countries are created equal

The most significant factor affecting petroleum demand has been human population growth. Large countries that previously were dirt poor and consumed minuscule amount of oil now now rapidly growing (India and China) are primary drivers of consumption. Arab countries also experience rapid population growth (Saudi Arabia is one example). The United States Census Bureau predicts that world population in 2030 will be almost double that of 1980. Oil production per capita peaked in 1979 at 5.5 Giga barrels/year but then declined to fluctuate around 4.5 Giga barrels/year since. In this regard, the decreasing population growth rate since the 1970s has somewhat ameliorated the per capita decline.

Not all consumers of oil are created equal.

Source: CIA World Factbook - Unless otherwise noted, information in this page is accurate as of January 1, 2014

See also: Oil consumption per capita bar chart

Country Name Oil consumption per capita
 (bbl/day per 1000 people)
Year of Estimate
Singapore 202 2012
Nauru 139 2012
Kuwait 134 2012
Luxembourg 119 2012
Bahamas, The 111 2012
United Arab Emirates 103 2012
Saudi Arabia 100 2012
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) 96 2008
Seychelles 89 2012
Qatar 85 2012
Greenland 69 2012
Canada 64 2012
United States 61 2012
Netherlands 60 2012
Belgium 60 2012
Cayman Islands 57 2012
Antigua and Barbuda 56 2012
Iceland 56 2012
New Caledonia 54 2012
Libya 51 2012
Norway 47 2012
Malta 46 2012
Oman 46 2012
Korea, South 45 2012
Australia 44 2012
Taiwan 43 2012
Hong Kong 42 2012
Brunei 42 2012
Finland 41 2012
Puerto Rico 41 2012
Saint Kitts and Nevis 39 2012
Sweden 39 2012
Bahrain 38 2012
Japan 35 2012
New Zealand 35 2012
Greece 34 2012
Austria 34 2012
Trinidad and Tobago 33 2012
Slovenia 32 2012
Israel 31 2010
Barbados 31 2012
Germany 31 2012
Spain 31 2012
Switzerland 31 2012
Ireland 30 2012
Macau 29 2012
France 28 2012
Panama 28 2012
Grenada 28 2012
Suriname 27 2012
Venezuela 27 2012
Portugal 26 2012
United Kingdom 26 2012
Lebanon 26 2012
Denmark 25 2012
Italy 25 2012
Turkmenistan 25 2012
Estonia 24 2012
Iran 23 2012
Iraq 22 2012
Jamaica 22 2012
Belize 21 2012
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 19 2012
Czech Republic 19 2012
Malaysia 19 2012
Lithuania 19 2012
Saint Lucia 18 2012
Mexico 18 2012
Chile 18 2012
Mauritius 18 2012
Armenia 18 2012
Belarus 17 2012
Fiji 17 2012
Cuba 16 2012
Djibouti 15 2012
Russia 15 2012
Brazil 10 2012
Turkey 8 2012
China 7 2012
India 3 2012
Pakistan 2 2012
Bangladesh 1 2012

Consumption in net oil exporting countries is limited to the volume of production and price while consumption in net oil importing countries by the price of oil and the oil that is left for export after internal consumer got their share (which depends on price of oil).  In other words, to paraphrase “Animal Farm,”  all pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal then others.

Of course pigs with strong military (read G7) are also more equal then others and can change this equation in their favor by force and already started doing this (USA in Iraq, France in Libya).

While demand for oil continues to increase globally, oil producing countries also increase their internal consumption rapidly. For example increase in internal consumption of Saudi Arabia led to a situation when since 2005 their exports are essentially flat despite increase of production.

Having noted Steven Kopits’ continuing track record of being remarkably prescient regarding global oil supply and demand analysis, I do have one issue with global supply & demand analysis -– consumption in net oil exporting countries versus consumption in net oil importing countries, to -- wit, to paraphrase “Animal Farm,” in my opinion some consumers are more equal than others.

Let’s assume a scenario where all oil production and refining operations are in oil exporting countries and let’s ignore things like refinery gains. Total petroleum liquids production is 80 mbpd and consumption in the oil exporting countries is 40 mbpd, and they therefore net export 40 mbpd to oil importing countries.

Production rises by 2.5 mbpd in the oil exporting countries, so total supply increases from 80 mbpd to 82.5 mbpd. However, consumption in the oil exporting countries rose by 5 mbpd. So, Net Exports = Production – Consumption = 82.5 mbpd – 45 mbpd = 37.5 mbpd.

My point is that a global supply and demand analysis would not accurately represent the situation in the net oil importing countries, i.e., a 6.25% decline in the supply available to net importers (40 mbpd to 37.5 mbpd), although global supply is up by 3.125%, 80 mbpd to 82.5 mbpd.

Of course, the crux of what I call “Export Land Model” or ELM, is that for a number of reasons (subsidies, proximity to production, legal restrictions, etc.), consumption in oil exporting countries tends to be satisfied before oil is exported.

Interesting enough, the case histories tend to show that regardless of how oil exporters treat internal consumption, given an ongoing production decline, the net export decline rate tends to exceed the production decline rate and the net export decline rate tends to accelerate with time.

For example, Indonesia subsidizes petroleum consumption and the UK heavily taxes petroleum consumption, but both former net oil exporters showed accelerating rates of decline in their net exports (in excess of their respective production decline rates).

Here are the ELM Mathematical Facts of Life:

Given an ongoing production decline in a net oil exporting country, unless they cut their domestic oil consumption at the same rate as the rate of decline in production or at a faster rate, the resulting net export decline rate will exceed the production decline rate and the net export decline rate will accelerate with time. Furthermore, a net oil exporter can become a net oil importer, even with rising production, if the rate of increase in consumption exceeds the rate of increase in production, e.g., the US and China.

The (2005) Top 33 net exporters showed a slight increase in production from 2005 to 2013, from about 62 mbpd to 63 mbpd (total petroleum liquids + other liquids, EIA), but their rate of increase in consumption exceed their rate of increase in production and their combined net exports (what I call Global Net Exports, or GNE) fell from 46 mbpd in 2005 to 43 mbpd in 2013.

Furthermore, China and India (“Chindia”) consumed an increasing share of a post-2005 declining volume of GNE. What I call Available Net Exports (ANE, or GNE less Chinidia’s Net Imports, CNI) fell from 41 mbpd in 2005 to 34 mbpd in 2013.

Here’s the Available Net Exports problem:

Given an ongoing decline in GNE–and it’s when, not if–then unless the Chindia region cuts their oil consumption at the same rate as the rate of decline in GNE, or at a faster rate, the resulting rate of decline in ANE will exceed the GNE decline rate and the ANE decline rate will accelerate with time.

From 2005 to 2013, GNE fell at 0.8%year. From 2005 to 2013, ANE -- the supply of Global Net Exports of oil available to importers other than China & India -- fell at 2.3%/year.

The USA consumption

The United States remains the world's largest consumer of petroleum. The United States uses most of oil per capita in the world.  Between 1995 and 2005, US consumption grew from 17.7 Mb/d (2,810,000 m3/d) to 20.7 Mb/d (3,290,000 m3/d), a 3,000,000 barrels per day (480,000 m3/d) increase. According to EIA Jan 12, 2016 report (eia.gov):

In other words the USA consumption is approximately equal to total Saudi export capacity. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) includes volumes of biofuels in data on total petroleum consumption. Per capita consumption of oil in the USA is one of the highest in the worlds and exceeds, for example, Russian per capita consumption four times.

Looking forward, both the EIA and the EIA project that U.S. oil demand will oscillate around 20 Mb/d mark. That might change if oil price stays low for several years.

The USA consumption is highly concentrated on transportation sector and in private cars sector is quite wasteful. The same population in Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, the low countries and Scandinavia use 10 Mb/d.

Peter, 12/21/2015 at 4:33 pm
Watcher

1)US consumption is besides a couple of small countries the highest in the world.

http://www.indexmundi.com/map/?v=91000

compared to other western industrial countries it’s consumption is totally unjustifiable.

2) Driving a Ford F150 or an ampera to work has nothing to do with GDP and everything to do with needless oil consumption. So stop saying things which even an 8 year old would find obvious

US consumers will not cut consumption out of the goodness of their hearts, they will be forced to do so when prices make cuts necessary.

China consumption

China, by comparison, increased consumption from 3,400,000 barrels per day (540,000 m3/d) to 7,000,000 barrels per day (1,100,000 m3/d), an increase of 3,600,000 barrels per day (570,000 m3/d), in the same time frame.

China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest crude oil importer in 2015. As China’s economic growth is predicted to decrease from the high rates of the early part of the 21st Century that level might grow more slowly, but still China is so far behind the USA in consumption of gasoline per capita the trend toward more equal consumption clearly will increase china figures dramatically. Much depends how quickly china will grow middle class, which owns individual cars.

India consumption

India is burning over 4 mbpd now. India's oil imports are expected to more than triple from 2005 levels by 2020, rising to 5 million barrels per day.  Look at Energy Export Databrowser to see the consumption line for each country. 45 degree slope for India, just a few degrees less than China’s slope. KSA’s slope looks early exponential. No reason why it shouldn’t be. It’s their oil.

Russian consumption

Russian internal consumption grows rapidly and that means that in the future Russia will export less oils. Russian leadership have found itself unprepared to the dramatic drop of oil prices and now will take moves to refine more oil at home, and selling less raw oil. The fact that Russia sells mostly unprocessed oil was a blunder that costs Russia billions and Putin had shown ability to learn from mistakes. 

Russia's Key Energy Statistics world rank
Total Primary Energy Production
2012
55.296
Quadrillion Btu
3
Total Primary Energy Consumption
2012
31.522
Quadrillion Btu
3
Dry Natural Gas Production
2011
22,213
Billion Cubic Feet
2
Total Petroleum and Other Liquids Production
2014
10,853
Thousand Barrels Per Day
3
Total Primary Coal Production
2013
388,013
Thousand Short Tons
6

Compare that with the USA

United States' Key Energy Statistics world rank
Total Primary Energy Production
2012
79.212
Quadrillion Btu
2
Total Primary Energy Consumption
2012
95.058
Quadrillion Btu
2
Dry Natural Gas Production
2011
22,902
Billion Cubic Feet
1
Total Petroleum and Other Liquids Production
2014
13,973
Thousand Barrels Per Day
1
Total Primary Coal Production
2013
984,842
Thousand Short Tons
2

India

India's existing domestic production of about 0.86 Mb/d is only about 25% of its current consumption of 3,47 Mb/d.  According to the EIA, its production peaked at 996,000 barrels per day in 2011. Energy consumption in India is likely double by 2031.   The CAGR (compound annual growth rate) for the ten years ending in March 2014 is above 3.5%.

Domestic production of  oil is relatively stable. The EIA (US Energy Information Administration) estimates that India had close to 5.7 billion barrels of proven oil reserves at the beginning of 2014. About 44% of the reserves are onshore resource.

 Imports is likely to rise  from current 75 percent to 80 percent by the end of the 12th five year plan (2016-17). According to the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, crude oil and refined products made up over 28 percent and 30 percent of India's import of principal commodities in 2010-11 and first half of 2011-12 respectively.

India is a major crude oil refiner. India petroleum refining capacity has outstripped demand consistently. Since 2002, the country's export of petroleum products has risen from 10 million tones to around 60 million tones in 2011-12, an average annual growth of over 20%.

Analyzing India’s oil consumption

According to IES (International Energy Statistics) presented by the EIA (US Energy Information Administration), the CAGR for total petroleum consumption for the world was 0.8% from 2005 to 2013. This consumption has been measured in thousand barrels per day. In the same period, China saw its consumption increase by 5.1%. In CAGR terms, India’s consumption increased by 4.1%. In contrast, the US saw its consumption decrease by 1.2%.

Per sector consumption

Oil consumption is distributed amongst four broad sectors: transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial. In terms of oil consumption, transportation is the largest sector and the one that has seen the largest growth in demand in recent decades. This growth has largely come from new demand for personal cars. In the USA it accounts for approximately 68.9% of all the oil used. Globally it is close to 55%

There are also "shadow" consumers of oil. For example military is important but often underreported or unreported consumer. So in no way published figured of consumption can be taken at face value. 
 

Consumption by transportation sector

Approximately two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption is due to the transportation sector. Slightly less for the world. 

In the USA consumption is depicted on the following picture

Private transportation is gradually became more efficient in miles per gallon metric (so energy consumption is shifted to the production of battery and electrical motors).  Most of the efficiently is already obtained on cars such as Toyota Prius which averages probably 40 miles per gallon and can run on electrical engine at low speeds/city traffic which is killing regular car efficiency.  Further substantial improvement is unlikely as traffic jams are the most important feature of morning commute in the USA. Traffic congestion, especially at rush hour, is a problem in most of the USA large cities. A 2009 study found that traffic congestion costs the United States almost $87.2 billion. The economic costs of traffic congestion have increased 63% over the past decade, and despite the declining traffic volumes caused by the economic downturn, Americans still waste more than 2.8 billion US gallons (11,000,000 m3) of fuel each year as a result of traffic congestion. Motorists also waste 4.2 billion hours annually, or one full workweek per traveler.

Private transportation sector oil consultation with gradually rise with the growth of population.

It's not only car and trucks burn fuel on the roads. Maintaining road surface is pretty fuel-intensive activity as well. With the development of the  Eisenhower Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, the road system in the USA, as of 2010, has a total length of 47,182 miles (75,932 km), making it the world's second longest after China's, and the largest public works project in US history. A large number of multilane roads while improving peak hours traffic is considerably more expensive to maintain. A Federal Highway Administration report saying the number of roads in good condition each year is going up.  As the same time roads and surface transportation will only get about half their projected $1.7 trillion need for capital projects.  The high cost of America's bad roads and bridges - Feb. 12, 2013

Industrial transportation use efficient diesel engines and improving efficiently on such engines is a very difficult task. So it will approximately consume the same amount of fuel per ton per mile of transported goods as now. Some improvement are possible by increasing of usage of railways. for maritime transportation saving are possible by lowing the speed of vessels, which was already done when price of oil was high.

In air transportation larger planes, more efficient engines can improve fuel efficiency. Between 1960 and 2000 there was a 55% overall fuel efficiency gain. Optimal amount of passengers/cargo  and fuel are also important factors. As over 80% of the fully laden take-off weight of a modern aircraft such as the Airbus A380 is craft and fuel (Fuel economy in aircraft - Wikipedia )

Pilots of turbine airplanes actually have less control over the fuel efficiency of their flights because there are so many variables, first among them being air traffic control. Turbine engines are at their least efficient down low where the air is dense. As the airplane climbs up and the air thins, the turbine produces less power and thus consumes less fuel, but the drag of the thinning air on the airplane decreases faster than the power from the engine drops, so the airplane speeds up and the fuel flow goes down. Takeoff delays really cut into fuel efficiency in a jet compared to a piston engine.

Military aviation also consumes large amount of fuel and is known for very low fuel efficiency.

Chemical industry consumption

Chemical industry consumes approximately 30% of oil.

Residual Fuel Oil Consumption By Chemical Industry - By Country - Data from Quandl

Military consumption

Also we should not forget that one of the largest consumer of oil is military which will get oil at any price. And we have the recent trend in re-armament. So the consumption of oil by military grows again. Here are some 2007 data (US military energy consumption- facts and figures)

As the saying goes, facts are many but the truth is one. The truth is that the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of energy in the world. But as a wise man once said, don't confuse facts with reality. The reality is that even U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) does not know precisely where and how much energy it consumes. This is my Fact Zero.

Below I give some facts and figures on U.S. military oil consumption based mostly on official statistics.[1] If you want to reproduce them make sure you read every footnote even if you need to put on your glasses. Also read the footnotes in this article.

According to the DoD's Federal Energy Management Report for FY2006, the DoD spent approximately $3.5 billion on facility energy and $16.5 billion on energy for tactical vehicles. To this we should add 238 million spent on non-tactical vehicles.[6] Overall, total actual cost[7] for DoD energy consumption is over $20 billion. By the way, remember that a billion has nine zeros.

According to Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib a $10 increase per barrel of oil increases Defense Department costs by $1.3 billion per year.

Hurting Russian economy

Oil is a strategic resource using which countries pursue geostrategic interest. So manipulation on oil price is a war by other means. As Patrick J. Buchanan  noted in his article America Regains the Oil Weapon The American Conservative in American Conservative (Nov 14, 2014)  "...price, Adam Smith notwithstanding, is something we can control and manipulate"  although strangely enough he consider Saudis to be an independent player, as if they are not a vassal state dependent on Washington:

In July of 1941, after Japan occupied French Indochina, the Roosevelt administration froze Japan’s assets in the United States. Denied hard cash, Japan could not buy the U.S. oil upon which the empire depended for survival. Seeing the Dutch East Indies as her only other source, Japan prepared to invade.

But first she had to eliminate the sole strategic threat to her occupation of the East Indies—the U.S. battle fleet at Pearl Harbor. FDR’s cutoff of oil to Japan was thus a primary cause of WWII in the Pacific, which led to hundreds of thousands of U.S. war dead, the destruction of Japan, Mao’s triumph in China and a U.S. war in Korea.

A second stunning use of the oil weapon came in 1973. Arab members of OPEC imposed an embargo in retaliation for Nixon’s rescue of Israel with an airlift in the Yom Kippur war. Long gas lines helped to bring Nixon down.

Now the oil weapon appears to be back in America’s hand.

Due to the substitution of natural gas for oil in heating homes and buildings, horizontal drilling, and hydraulic fracking, which enables us to bring oil and gas out of shale rock in places like North Dakota, U.S. production has exploded. We now produce more oil than Saudi Arabia and the benefits are not only economic, but geostrategic.

... ... ...

What is Riyadh’s game?

Is the Saudi strategy to let prices fall to where it is no longer profitable for Americans to begin new fracking? Are the Saudis thinking of doing to the new oil-producing champion, USA, what we are doing to Venezuela, Russia, and Iran? Riyadh may want to let the price of oil sink below where it makes sense for energy companies to prospect for new sources of oil or invest more billions in expanding production.

Are the Saudis out to cripple us with an oil glut?

Today, not only are Iran and Iraq producing below potential, so, too, is Libya. And we have been bombing ISIS’ oil facilities in Syria.

A contrarian’s question: Would we not be better off if these countries not only restored oil production, but also expanded production and put more oil on the market than they do today? Demand creates supply, and a world oil market where there is more supply than demand would seem to be to America’s benefit. For we remain the world’s largest consumer of petroleum products. And surely it is to our benefit to enlarge both the reserves and production of oil and gas in North America.

Price pays a huge role in creating, and shrinking, supply. And price, Adam Smith notwithstanding, is something we can control and manipulate, even as China manipulates its currency.

In “America’s New Oil Weapon” in National Review, Arthur Herman of the Hudson Institute urges the United States to take bold steps to increase our supplies of oil and gas.

We should relax the rules on drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has 10 billion barrels of oil locked up. We should use as an economic weapon against OPEC the 700 million barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We should allow the export of oil from the United States to enable us to cope with OPEC cutbacks. We should build the Keystone XL pipeline, and the other oil and gas pipelines between us and Canada now sitting in limbo.

What Herman is urging upon us is a new nationalism, a new way of thinking about international economics that puts the U.S. and its allies first, and uses our economic leverage to advance national rather than global interests.

High oil prices pressured the US economy and its perennially-undercapitalized banking system. US economy health depends on low oil prices.   But there is geopolitical dimension of the current drop of oil prices. In is not unconceivable to think that Washington reused Reagan plan of hurting Russian economy (which catalyzed dissolution of the USSR) by pushing down oil prices.

Among the many threats facing Russia’s economy, cheap oil could be the biggest of all. Low crude are depressing the ruble (at some point in early 2015 ruble  dropped to 69 per dollar from 30-35 or so; in August 24, 2015 it reached 69.96) and knocking export on which Russia depends due to its integration in the global economy: the direction Russian neoliberal pushed for since 1991. And Russian elite was taking high oil prices for granted. For example,  Russia’s draft budget for 2015 was based on $100-a-barrel oil (Oil Prices Are Hurting Russia's Economy - Businessweek, October 13, 2014)

Because of Russia’s outsize dependence on oil and gas, which account for more than two-thirds of its exports, lower energy prices can easily tip its $2 trillion economy into recession. “Growth is likely to remain positive only with oil prices above $92 to $93 a barrel,” says economist Charles Robertson of Renaissance Capital. At $90 a barrel, the economy would contract 0.4 percent next year, and at $80 a barrel it would shrink 1.7 percent, he predicts.

Do the US tried to subdue Russia the second time via decimating oil prices and thus cutting dramatically the stream of revenue from oil exports?  It is difficult to say.   But now this strategy is better understood by Russians, which created certain difficulties in its implementation despite the huge power of the US financial sector. The sector which can allow itself to play with oil futures the way it wants due to unlimited supply of the US dollars -- the world reserve currency.  The Fed remains a monetary superpower controlling the world's main reserve currency and xUSSR  and emerging countries currencies are formally or informally pegged to dollar. Therefore, its monetary policy is exported across the globe. The Fed was exporting its easy monetary policy to the rest of the world in the early-to-mid 2000s. Now  the attempt of normalization of monetary policy creating huge tightening of monetary conditions for the rest of the world.  It also dramatically devalue large export oriented Russian companies:

How Russian energy giant Gazprom lost $300bn  Justin Burke for  the New East network

Aug 07, 2015  |  The Guardian

annamarinja airman23 8 Aug 2015 09:09

Poor airman23. Have you ever heard about Dick Cheney? Have you ever looked at the Wolfowitz Doctrine? If not, then you are very much behind the nowadays understanding of fascism and fascists. On the other hand, you are such a concrete success of Mrs. Nuland-Kagan' (and likes) travails.

yemrajesh  -> psygone 8 Aug 2015 07:36

Difficult to say. If the costs are true'ly low it would have reflected at the Pump. But it hasn't. Another flaw is how can oil pumped from deeper well ( Fracked Oil) is cheaper than conventional oil. It looks more like US flexing its muscles to subdue Russia. Besides its not Just Gazprom , shell, BP, Exxon , Gulf, Mobil etc also many of US vassal states are affected. It would be interesting to see how long this artificial price drop continue with zero benefit to the customers.

Kaiama 8 Aug 2015 06:07

Since the Russians haven't rolled over the first time, the US is trying again. These days, the price of oil is determined by activity in the futures market impacting the spot price. Likewise, I expect for shares and wouldn't be surprised if someone is shorting the stock. Any oil and gas not pumped today is available to be pumped tomorrow - possibly at higher prices. Gazprom isn't going bankrupt. Neither are any of the other major oil companies.

AlbertEU  -> alpamysh 7 Aug 2015 17:09

The crisis of one industry necessarily will hurt other sectors. Hard-hit banking sector, which is credited US shale industry. The effect can be like an avalanche. Especially if it is strengthened by additional steps. I think for anybody is not a secret the existence of a huge number of empty weight of the dollar, which is produced by running the printing press. Oil trade is in the dollar, which in turn keeps the volume of the empty weight of the dollar. Now imagine a situation where part of the oil market has not traded more in dollars. It is equally affected, the USA and Russia.

But there is one important detail. Russia has never in its history, was a rich country (if you count all the inhabitants of Russia, not individuals). In the country there is no cult of consumption. The traditional religions of Russia, that is, those that have always existed in Russia (Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Buddhism) did not contribute to the emergence of such a cult.

Orthodoxy says plainly that material wealth is not important for a man. Wealth is only supplied in addition to achieve the main goal in the life of an Orthodox Christian. Therefore, to be poor in Russia is not a problem. This is a normal way of life. Hence the stoic resistance to any hardship, challenges, wars and so on. Expectations of great social upheaval in Russia, caused by the lowering of the standard of living is a little naive. Russia used to run in the marathon. Who would have more strength, intelligence and endurance is a big question. Geopolitics is a very strange science...

If this is a deliberate maneuver, an economic war on Russia, it can became very costly and might have made sense only on a short or medium-term basis (three-five years), to shock Russian elite into submission and depose Putin and his faction of "resource nationalists" which are like a bone in the throat of US multinationals.  This time Washington managed to catch  Putin's government completely  unprepared to such development of event, which increased the chances of success.

And they really took Russian elite by surprise. That's why the USA oil Blitzkrieg initially enjoyed such a huge success and immediately crashed the ruble (100% devaluation happened) as well as put Russian economy in recession. But Russians quickly realized what's going on and the game in the second part of  2015 became more complicated as those futures and shale industry junk bonds now also weight on the USA financial sector.  It this was a deliberate maneuver, it does has unanticipated side effects.

Those who sell futures for 2017 for $58 can be hit with $30 loss per barrel, if the game turn bad.  So the current low oil price movements should be viewed as  yet another neoliberal financial casino gambling session, in which stakes are really high.  It is completely counter productive from the point of view of future of mankind, but the last thing the USA elite care about is the future of mankind. They are preoccupied with the desire to preserve and enhance their global neoliberal empire and that requires crashing all potential competitors, including Russia and China. The paradox is that while they weaken Russia they really strengthen China (although they try to compensate this with playing Chinese stock market to their advantage). But Putin severely underestimated the damage West can inflict to Russian economy:

Opportunities for the West to hurt the Russian economy are limited, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday. Europe cannot stop buying Russian gas without inflicting pain on itself, and if the US tries to lower oil prices, the dollar will suffer.

If the West tries to damage Russia’s influence in the world energy market, efforts will likely backfire, the Russian President said during his twelfth annual televised question and answer session.

To really influence the world oil market a country would need to increase production and cut prices, which currently only Saudi Arabia could afford, Putin said.

The president added he didn’t expect Saudi Arabia, which has “very kind relations” with Russia, will choose to cut prices, that could also damage its own economy.

If world oil production increases, the price could go down to about $85 per barrel. “For us the price fall from $90 to $85 per barrel isn’t critical,” Putin said, adding that for Saudi Arabia it would be more sensitive.

Also the President said that being an OPEC member, Saudi Arabia would need to coordinate its action with the organization, which “is very complicated.”

Meanwhile, Russia supplies about a third of Europe's energy needs, said Putin. Finland, for example, is close to Russia economically, as it receives 70 percent of its gas from Russia.

“Can Europe stop buying Russian gas? I think it's impossible…Will they make themselves bleed? That's hard to imagine,” the Russian president said.

Since oil is sold internationally on global markets cutting the price would mean lower dollar circulation, diminishing its value in the global currency market.

"If prices decrease in the global market, the emerging shale industry will die,” Putin said.

The US shale industry has boosted domestic production, but President said that the so-called "shale revolution" was expensive and not quick to come.

Russia’s economy largely relies on energy. In 2013 more than 50 percent of the national budget was funded by gas and oil revenues. The main revenue comes from oil, as last year, oil revenues reached $191 billion, and gas $28 billion.

“Oil and gas revenues are a big contribution to the Russian budget, a big part for us when we decide on our government programs, and of course, meeting our social obligations,” the president said.

As Reuters reported:

“The Obama administration has opened a new front in the global battle for oil market share, effectively clearing the way for the shipment of as much as a million barrels per day of ultra-light U.S. crude to the rest of the world…

The Department of Commerce on Tuesday ended a year-long silence on a contentious, four-decade ban on oil exports, saying it had begun approving a backlog of requests to sell processed light oil abroad.

The action comes at a critical juncture for the global oil market. World prices have halved to less than $60 a barrel since the summer as top exporter Saudi Arabia, once a staunch defender of $100 oil, refused to cut production in the face of surging U.S. shale output and tempered global demand…

With global oil markets in flux, it is far from clear how much U.S. condensate will find a market overseas.”
(Analysis – U.S. opening of oil export tap widens battle for global market, Reuters)

Why would the oil producers, who have over the years raised the price of oil  suddenly agree to drop the price from roughly $120 a barrel to lower then $60  a barrel (Want To Hurt Russia Lower The Price Of Oil OilPrice.com?).

Let us look first at who the major oil producers are today: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, as well as Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.

Of those, we can make a clear distinction between the first four countries who have solid economies and ample amounts of cash reserves and who can sustain a sharp drop in revenue when oil is sold at a lower price...

The big losers in this case will clearly be the last three countries on that list: Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.

Coincidentally, these countries are currently engaged in highly controversial conflicts and are facing opposition from the United States and the West.

Russia is involved in Ukraine’s civil war, supporting the separatists in a highly criticized move condemned by the United States and its Western allies. In response, the allies began to impose sanctions as punishment and, given the ruble’s recent downturn, Russia’s credit rating being slashed and desperate gas deals in the Asian markets, it seems that the sanctions have, thus far, been highly successful.

CNN reported that Russian is Russia losing $140 billions from sanctions and low oil price according to estimates from Russia's finance minister Anton Siluanov. For every $10 drop in the per-barrel price of oil, Russia loses up to $14.6 billion a year in revenues, according to Alfa Bank. This is a real economic war (Russia has just lost the economic war with the west Business The Guardian)

The phrase “perfect storm” is over-used, but the combination of a collapsing currency, a collapsing economy and punitive interest rates make it apposite. The question now is how Putin responds. If he softens his line over Ukraine, the west’s gamble will have paid off and it will be mission accomplished. But there are hardliners in Moscow who will argue that the response to the crisis should be a siege economy and the ratcheting up of military pressure on Ukraine. If economic agony makes a wounded Russian bear more belligerent, it will prove a hollow victory.

Here’s a clip from an NPR interview with the president just last week. About halfway through the interview, NPR’s Steve Inskeep asks Obama: “Are you just lucky that the price of oil went down and therefore their currency collapsed or …is it something that you did?

“Are you just lucky that the price of oil went down and therefore their currency collapsed or …is it something that you did?

Barack Obama:

If you’ll recall, their (Russia) economy was already contracting and capital was fleeing even before oil collapsed. And part of our rationale in this process was that the only thing keeping that economy afloat was the price of oil. And if, in fact, we were steady in applying sanction pressure, which we have been, that over time it would make the economy of Russia sufficiently vulnerable that if and when there were disruptions with respect to the price of oil — which, inevitably, there are going to be sometime, if not this year then next year or the year after — that they’d have enormous difficulty managing it.” (Transcript: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview)

Obama just admit that he wanted “disruptions” in the “price of oil” because he figured Putin would have “enormous difficulty managing it”?

Isn’t that the same as saying that it was all part of Washington’s plan; that plunging prices were just the icing on the cake for their asymmetrical attack on the Russian economy? It sure sounds like it. And that would also explain why Obama decided to allow domestic producers to dump more oil on the market even though it’s going to send prices lower. Apparently, none of that matters as long as the policy hurts Russia.

So maybe the US-Saudi oil collusion theory isn’t so far fetched after all. Maybe Salon’s Patrick L. Smith was right when he said:

“Less than a week after the Minsk Protocol was signed, Kerry made a little-noted trip to Jeddah to see King Abdullah at his summer residence. When it was reported at all, this was put across as part of Kerry’s campaign to secure Arab support in the fight against the Islamic State.

Stop right there. That is not all there was to the visit, my trustworthy sources tell me. The other half of the visit had to do with Washington’s unabated desire to ruin the Russian economy. To do this, Kerry told the Saudis 1) to raise production and 2) to cut its crude price. Keep in mind these pertinent numbers: The Saudis produce a barrel of oil for less than $30 as break-even in the national budget; the Russians need $105.

Shortly after Kerry’s visit, the Saudis began increasing production, sure enough — by more than 100,000 barrels daily during the rest of September, more apparently to come…

Think about this. Winter is coming, there are serious production outages now in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela and Libya, other OPEC members are screaming for relief, and the Saudis make back-to-back moves certain to push falling prices still lower?

You do the math, with Kerry’s unreported itinerary in mind, and to help you along I offer this from an extremely well-positioned source in the commodities markets: “There are very big hands pushing oil into global supply now,” this source wrote in an e-mail note the other day.” (“What Really Happened in Beijing: Putin, Obama, Xi And The Back Story The Media Won’t Tell You”, Patrick L. Smith, Salon)

As New York Post tabloid, a mousepiece of Rupert Murdock,   gleefully reported

The price collapse could not have come at a worse time for Bad Vlad Putin. The Russian president needs an oil price around $100 a barrel to prop up what’s become a wartime economy. Oil and gas provide up to a third of budget revenue and compose two-thirds of exports.

Sanctions imposed over Putin’s aggression have gnawed at Russia’s economy, but this price drop bites deep: The ruble has crashed, Russian bonds are pathetic, and foreign reserves are bleeding.

While Russians will put up with harder times than Westerners will, Putin’s made extravagant commitments (bet he’d like to have back the $50 billion he squandered on corrupt Olympic construction). The world’s fave bare-chested bully had embarked on a massive arms buildup, with a hi-tech $5 billion command center just unveiled. But Putin’s visions of military resurgence are becoming unaffordable. He also made election promises to improve Russia’s wretched health-care system. Instead, he’s firing health-care workers and shuttering hospitals.

He promised higher living standards, but now the average Ivan’s feeling squeezed. And Putin faces enormous costs in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, two booby-prize welfare states, with the latter shot to ruins. Putin’s popularity remains high. For now. The gravest worry is that, with his back to the wall, he’ll play the Mother Russia card and attack again.
 

Iraq war was a war for oil

Oil, the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area and the Bush Agenda By Antonia Juhasz,

 Antonia Juhasz, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, is the author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, on which part of this article is based. She is working on a new book that will make the case for the break-up of the largest American oil companies. Learn more at www.TheBushAgenda.net

Remember oil? That thing we didn’t go to war in Iraq for? Now with his war under attack, even President George W. Bush has gone public, telling reporters last August, “[a] failed Iraq … would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales.” Of course, Bush not only wants to keep oil out of his enemies’ hands, he also wants to put it into the hands of his friends. 

The President’s concern over Iraq’s oil is shared by the Iraq Study Group, which on December 6 released its much-anticipated report. While the mainstream press focused on the report’s criticism of Bush’s handling of the war and the report’s call for (potential) removal of (most) U.S. troops (maybe) by 2008, ignored was the report’s focus on Iraq’s oil. Page 1, chapter 1 laid out in no uncertain terms Iraq’s importance to the Middle East, the United States and the world with this reminder: “It has the world’s second-largest known oil reserves.” The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what should be done to secure those reserves. 

Guaranteeing access to Iraq’s oil, however isn’t the whole story. Despite the lives lost and the utter ruin that the war has brought, the overarching economic agenda that the administration is successfully pursuing in the Middle East might be the most enduring legacy of the war—and the most ignored.  Just two months after declaring “mission accomplished” in Iraq, Bush announced his plans for a U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area to spread the economic invasion well-underway in Iraq to the rest of the region by 2013. Negotiations have progressed rapidly as countries seek to prove that they are with the United States, not against it.

The Bush Agenda

Within days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced that the Bush administration would be “countering terror with trade.” Bush reiterated that pledge four years later when he told the United Nations, “By expanding trade, we spread hope and opportunity to the corners of the world, and we strike a blow against the terrorists. Our agenda for freer trade is part of our agenda for a freer world.” In the case of the March 2003 invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq, these “free trade”—or corporate globalization—policies have been applied in tandem with America’s military forces.

The Bush administration used the military invasion of Iraq to oust its leader, replace its government, implement new economic and political laws, and write a new constitution. The new economic laws have transformed Iraq’s economy, applying some of the most radical—and sought-after—corporate globalization policies in the world and locking in sweeping advantages to U.S. corporations. Through the ongoing occupation, the Bush administration seeks to ensure that both Iraq’s new government and this new economic structure stay firmly in place. The ultimate goal—opening Iraq to U.S. oil companies—is reaching fruition.

In 2004, Michael Scheuer—the CIA’s senior expert on al-Qaeda until he quit in disgust with the Bush administration—wrote, “The U.S. invasion of Iraq was not preemption; it was … an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages.”  How right he was. For it is an absolute fallacy that the Bush administration had no post-invasion plan for Iraq. The administration had a very clear economic plan that has contributed significantly to the disastrous results of the war. The plan was prepared at least two months prior to the war by the U.S. consultancy firm, Bearing Point, Inc., which then received a $250 million contract to remake Iraq’s economic infrastructure.

L. Paul Bremer III—the head of the U.S. occupation government of Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)—followed Bearing Point’s plan to the letter. From May 6, 2003 until June 28, 2004, Bremer implemented his “100 Orders” with the force of law, all but a handful of which remain in place today. As the preamble to many of the orders state, they are intended to “transition [Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy” virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat.  Bremer’s orders included firing the entire Iraqi military—some half a million men—in the first weeks of the occupation. Suddenly jobless, many of these men took their guns with them and joined the violent insurgency. Bremer also fired 120,000 of Iraq’s senior bureaucrats from every government ministry, hospital and school. {By removing the Sumi bureaucracy, they removed opposition to globalization.  The U.S. could now shop for support from what would soon be a newly elected factionalized parliament—jk.}  His laws allowed for the privatization of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises (excluding oil) and for American companies to receive preferential treatment over Iraqis in the awarding of reconstruction contracts. The laws reduced taxes on all corporations by 25 percent and opened every sector of the Iraqi economy to private foreign investment. The laws allowed foreign firms to own 100 percent of Iraqi businesses (as opposed to partnering with Iraqi firms) and to send their profits home without having to invest a cent in the struggling Iraqi economy. Iraqi laws governing banking, foreign investment, patents, copyrights, business ownership, taxes, the media, agriculture and trade were all changed to conform to U.S. goals. 

After the U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq

More than 150 U.S. companies were awarded contracts for post-war work totaling more than $50 billion.  The American companies were hired, even though Iraqi companies had successfully rebuilt the country after the previous U.S. invasion. And, because the American companies did not have to hire Iraqis, many imported foreign workers instead. The Iraqis were, of course, well aware that American firms had received billions of dollars for reconstruction, that Iraqi companies and workers had been rejected and that the country was still without basic services. The result: increasing hostility, acts of sabotage targeted directly at foreign contractors and their work, and a rising insurgency.

Halliburton received the largest contract, worth more than $12 billion, while 13 other U.S. companies received contracts worth more than $1.5 billion each. The seven largest reconstruction contracts went to the Parsons Corporation of Pasadena, Calif. ($5.3 billion); Fluor Corporation of Aliso Viejo, Calif. ($3.75 billion); Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho ($3.1 billion); Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, La. ($3 billion); Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco ($2.8 billion); Perini Corporation of Framingham, Mass. ($2.5 billion); and Contrack International, Inc. of Arlington, Va. ($2.3 billion). These companies are responsible for virtually all reconstruction in Iraq, including water, bridges, roads, hospitals, and sewers and, most significantly, electricity.

U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, author of a 2002 U.S. government study on the likely effect that U.S. bombardment would have on Iraq’s power system, said, “frankly, if we had just given the Iraqis some baling wire and a little bit of space to keep things running, it would have been better. But instead we’ve let big U.S. companies go in with plans for major overhauls.”

Many companies had their sights set on years-long privatization in Iraq, which helps explain their interest in “major overhauls” rather than getting the systems up and running. Cliff Mumm, head of Bechtel’s Iraq operation, put it this way: “[Iraq] has two rivers, it’s fertile, it’s sitting on an ocean of oil. Iraq ought to be a major player in the world. And we want to be working for them long term.”

And, since many U.S. contracts guaranteed that all of the companies’ costs would be covered, plus a set rate of profit (known as cost-plus contracts), they took their time, building expensive new facilities that showcased their skills and would serve their own needs should they be runing the systems one day.

Mismanagement, waste, abuse and criminality have also characterized U.S. corporations in Iraq—leading to a series of U.S. contract cancellations. For example, a $243 million contract held by the Parsons Corporation for the construction of 150 health care centers was cancelled after more than two years of work and $186 million yielded just six centers, only two of which are serving patients. Parsons was also dropped from two different contracts to build prisons, one in Mosul and the other in Nasiriyah. The Bechtel Corporation was dropped from a $50 million contract for the construction of a children’s hospital in Basra after it went $90 million over budget and a year-and-a-half behind schedule. These contracts have since been turned over to Iraqi companies.

Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR is currently being investigated by government agencies and facing dozens of charges for waste, fraud and abuse. Most significantly, in 2006, the U.S. Army cancelled Halliburton’s largest government contract, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), which was for worldwide logistical support to U.S. troops. Halliburton will continue its current Iraq contract, but this year the LOGCAP will be broken into smaller parts and competitively bid out to other companies.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), a congressionally-mandated independent auditing and oversight body, has opened 256 investigations into criminal fraud, four of which have resulted in convictions. SIGIR has provided critical oversight of the U.S. reconstruction, but this fall it nearly fell prey to a GOP attempt to shut down its activities well ahead of schedule. Fortunately, it survived.

SIGIR’s October 2006 report to Congress reveals the failure of U.S. corporations in Iraq. In the electricity sector, less than half of all planned projects in Iraq have been completed, while 21 percent have yet to even begin. Even the term “complete” can be misleading as, for example, SIGIR has found that contractors have failed to build transmission and distribution lines to connect new generators to homes and businesses. Thus, nationally, Iraqis have on average just 11 hours of electricity a day, and in Baghdad, the heart of instability in Iraq, there are between four and eight hours on average per day. Before the war, Baghdad averaged 24 hours per day of electricity.

While there has been greater success in finishing water and sewage projects, the fact that 80 percent of potable water projects are reported complete does little good if there is no electricity to pump the water into homes, hospitals or businesses. Meanwhile, the health care sector is truly a tragedy. Just 36 percent of planned projects are reported as complete. Of 20 planned hospitals, 12 are finished and only six of 150 planned public health centers are serving patients today.

Overall, the economy is languishing, with high inflation, low growth, and unemployment rates estimated at 30 to 50 percent {being part of a militia is providing employment} for the nation and as high as 70 percent in some areas. The International Monetary Fund has enforced a structural adjustment program on Iraq that mirrors much of Bush’s corporate globalization agenda, and the administration continues to push for Iraq’s admission into the World Trade Organization.

Iraq has not, therefore, emerged as the wealthy free market haven that Bush & Co. had hoped for. Several U.S. companies are now preparing to pack up, head home and take their billions of dollars with them, their work in Iraq left undone.  The Bush administration is likely to follow a dual strategy: continuing to pursue a corporate free-trade haven in Iraq, while helping U.S. corporations extricate themselves without consequence. The administration will also focus on the big prize: Iraq’s oil.

Winning Iraq’s oil prize: 

The Bush Agenda does have supporters, especially those corporate allies that have both shaped and benefited from the administration’s economic and military policies.  In the 2000 election cycle, the oil and gas industry donated 13 times more money to Bush’s campaign than to Al Gore’s. The Bush administration is the first in history in which the president, vice president and secretary of state are all former energy company officials. In fact, the only other U.S. president to come from the oil and gas industry was Bush’s father. Moreover, both George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice have more experience running oil companies than they do working for the government.

Planning to secure Iraq’s oil for U.S. companies began on the tenth day of the Bush presidency, when Vice President Dick Cheney established the National Energy Policy Development Group—widely referred to as “Cheney’s Energy Task Force.” It produced two lists, titled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts as of 5 March 2001,” which named more than 60 companies from some 30 countries with contracts for oil and gas projects across Iraq—none of which were with American firms. However, because sanctions were imposed on Iraq at this time, none of the contracts could come into force. If the sanctions were removed—which was becoming increasingly likely as public opinion turned against the sanctions and Hussein remained in power—the contracts would go to all of those foreign oil companies and the U.S. oil industry would be shut out.

As the Bush administration stepped up its war planning, the State Department began preparations for post-invasion Iraq. Meeting four times between December 2002 and April 2003, members of the State Department’s Oil and Energy Working Group mapped out Iraq’s oil future. They agreed that Iraq “should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war” and that the best method for doing so was through Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs).

PSAs are considered “privatization lite” in the oil business and, as such, are the favorite of international oil companies and the worst-case scenario for oil-rich states. With PSAs, oil ownership ultimately rests with the government, but the most profitable aspects of the industry—exploration and production—are contracted to the private companies under highly favorable terms. None of the top oil producers in the Middle East use PSAs, because they favor private companies at the expense of the exporting governments. In fact, PSAs are only used in respect to about 12 percent of world oil reserves {such as Nigeria}. 

 

Weakness of the propagated by MSM hypothesis about Saudi Arabia fighting for its market share

In 2013 before oil prices slump started Saudies shipped 7.54 million barrels a day on average up from 7.41 million barrels a day in 2012 (JODI website ). Saudi Arabia exported 5.49 million barrels a day in 2002, when the group began collecting oil data. Saudi monthly exports in 2013 peaked at 7.84 million barrels a day in August, the most since April and May of 2003. North Sea Brent, the benchmark for more than half of the world’s oil, averaged $110.82 a barrel during the 2010-2013.

Saudi Arabia produced 10.28 million barrels a day in October, 2015,  up from 9.69Mb/done year ago.   Chances that production will reach 11 Mb/d are slim. There are strong signs that they have huge difficulties in increasing oil extraction volume.  All their efforts to increase production led to increase of less then 1Mb/d  increase in 2015. Which is partially offset by  increase in internal consumption (In 2015 Saudi Arabia oil demand rose by a notable 0.21 mb/d, a nearly 8% annual rise)  Here is relevant quote (OilPrice.com, Dec 21, 2015). All they can achieve is 7% increase of exports.

Crude exports from Saudi Arabia rose from an average of 7.111 million barrels per day in September to 7.364 million per day in October, according to the latest data from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), which monitors the oil industry. The report said this quantity was the most oil exported from Saudi Arabia since June and 7 percent higher than in October 2014.

The key question about propagated by MSM hypothesis about Saudi Arabia fighting for its market share is "Why piss yourself without any need?". 

That means that if Saudis withdraw one Mb/s from the market in 2015 and exported the same 7 Mb/d (instead of 7.5 Mb/d, saving around 0.5 Mb/d of their oil reserves, not counting rise in internal consumption)  their revenue would be  125 billions.  While after increasing oil production to maximum (no spare capacities) they got oil revenue $118 billions.  Less money for more effort.  Their proven oil reserves are only 268 billion barrels (EIA)  which at current rate of production (which is around 3.6 billion barrels per year) get them less then a hundred years.

Moreover they need approximately $100 oil to balance budget, so low oil prices mean depletion of their currency reserves, which if prices say on the current level will last less then 10 years.  Saudi Arabia’s record deficit of  $98 billion in 2015 At the end of October, its reserves fell to $644 billion from $732 billion at the end of last year.  The finance ministry has issued bonds worth $20 billion for the domestic market. projected means that dumping oil on the market was a self-destructive action.

The only reasonable explanation for such suicidal actions is that they launched "all-out" economic war against their arch-enemy Iran depriving it of oil revenue after lifting sanctions, hitting simultaneously Russia, Venezuela and couple of other countries they do not like.  In any case such an action should be approved by Washington as Saudis are a vassal state completely dependent on Washington for survival of their monarchic regime.

And it is easy to see huge benefits for Washington from such Saudis-Iran oil war.  Moreover may be lifting sanction itself was a gentle push for Saudis to unleash this war.

Not everybody buy MSM propagated version of Saudis behaviour. For example here is a comment from Yahoo (Saudi to diversify economy away from oil King Salman)

brian  Dec 30, 2015

This oil collapse is engineered by Saudi with the Western media. As the analysts are saying the daily over production is 1.5 million barrels. 1.5 out of 100 million daily production is ONLY 1.5% percent. Why did Saudi keep on over producing and with the media bombarding over production, the future's market is easily manipulated as oil collapsed to $36 per barrel.

This just does not make sense and not fair to the commodity producing nations. If you look at the U.S., Euro, Japan, China all they are doing is QE, printing money to supercharge their economy. On the other hand, the commodity nations are contracting.

Si

Saudi Arabia is in a conundrum, it has propped up its Clergy and kept majority of its population illiterate. This was done to keep the Kingdom under full control of its population, their women folk are even further worst off. The country is run by expatriates from around the world, mostly from Egypt, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. According to Saudi rules these expatriates can not ever become citizens, even after many generations. Unlike Iran whose population is highly educated (Men and Women), Saudi administrators are afraid if Saudi gets educated there will be a revolution and that will affect how Saudi Arabia is ruled. My bet is Saudi Arabia can not progress beyond oil based economy.

 

And in another Yahoo thread Oil down 3 percent; Brent near 11-year low as oversupply worries return
Old Midwest Geezer
Saudi Arabia is fighting a financial war against Iran, its mortal enemy. Iran's main source of income is oil and SA is putting the screws to them and their Russian buddies. They picked up a perk by squeezing the US shale oil producers.

Hedging and junk debt: shale oil as subprime oil


"There are too many ugly balance sheets," warns one energy industry analyst, adding simply that "the group is not positioned for this downturn." While the mainstream media continues to chant the happy-clappy side of lower oil prices, spewing various 'statistics' about how the down-side of low oil prices is 'contained' and the huge colossal massive tax cut means 'everything is awesome' for America, the data - and now actions - do not bear this out.

Zero Hedge

Shale oil companies were not making as bandits when prices were $100. They operated in a very risky and rather unstable environment and mot of them took substantial amoount of debt.  Many used hedges regularly to make the environment more stable which is double edge sword -- it helps if price drop but deprive you of profits if price surge. Those who did were in better shape in 2015 when oil prices dropped to $35 per barrel (WTI).  Here is a good explanation of hedging from a post in peakoilbarrel.com blog:

shallow sand, 12/20/2015 at 8:56 am
Donn. Companies hedge with counter parties. Those are usually large banks. The there are 3 basic types of hedges.
  1. SWAP. The producer and counter party agree to a fixed price, say $70 per barrel. If the price goes above $70, the producer pays the counterparty the difference. If it goes below $70, the counterparty pays the producer.
  2. Cost less collars. These are like SWAPS, but in a range. Say the parties agree to a collar of $60-80. No money changes hands unless the price goes outside the range.
  3. The third is a floor, or put. The producer pays a premium to the counterparty. Say the producer buys $60 puts. If the price falls below $60, the counterparty pays the producer.

There are various hybrids and modifications of the above.

The price levels and cost of puts are based on the futures market. It is now impossible to hedge anything remotely profitable for the shale industry and a good portion of US conventional.

Furthermore, it is difficult to hedge production past 24 months. This is especially true for shale, with the high declines.

One concern with SWAPS or collars is in the event of a price spike, the producer produces less barrels than that hedged. That can wind of costing the producer a lot of $$. Also, theses types of hedges can result in very large margin requirements of the producers, but they commonly avoid those by allowing a first lien on production.

Another problem with hedges is giving up upside. If it were possible, someone who hedged in 2003 for the next ten years at $30 a barrel would be BK, as the price rocketed up, which caused OPEX to also skyrocket.

Most companies do not hedge past 24 months. Also, they do it in layers so that not as many barrels are hedged n the later years.

Many companies had significant hedge gains in 2015. There will be much less in 2016 and almost none in 2017.

Shale companies debt was typically rated as junk which means that chances for repayment of the load are low.  Just due to this fact the current talk about profitability of certain parts of shale at below then $50 prices looks a little bit suspicious even with some technology advances which were sped up by the price slum as well as lower service companies costs.   To many observers $60-$75 per barrel looks like a more reasonable minimal price for shale oil sustainable extraction, if the amount of junk bond debt is counted.

The current talk about profitability of certain parts of shale at below then $50 prices looks a little bit suspicious.   To many observers $60-$75 per barrel looks like more a reasonable minimal price for shale oil sustainable extraction, if the amount of junk bond debt is counted. 

Some technological improvements can cut costs. Neglecting ecological concerns can cut costs. The strong dollar and crash of other commodities can cut some costs (as steel and some equipment, can be bought at much lower prices). But whether all three factors mentioned can cut 50% of costs is a big multibillion question.   Gail Tverberg, a well known commentator on "end of cheap oil" problem,  thinks that the current drop of prices looks more like a harbinger of the collapse of financial system then oversupply problem on world markets (Deflationary Collapse Ahead?  Aug 28, 2015  Our Finite World )

The entire shale oil industry in America is complex mix of new technological methods and new schemes of creation of  junk bonds by Wall Street (200 billion of this debt might also be securitized like subprime mortgages). There also might be some complex derivative bets  (including but not limited to related to hedging of oil prices by shale producers, airlines, etc).

Shale oil is impossible to understand without  proper context which is the existence of  sophisticated financial system and complex financial products under neoliberalism. Wall Street can be trusted as for its ability to produce exotic financial instrument tailored for particular purpose, which can blow in your face in case of any Black Swan event.  In this case this might be securitization of debt of shale oil companies that could play a role somewhat similar to subprime mortgages but on much smaller scale as the amount of dent is miniscular in comparison with subprime mortgages.  Still, in this sense, we can call shale oil subprime oil (Broken Energy Markets and the Downside of Hubbert’s Peak Energy Matters): 

The second example of a broken energy market I want to explore is the US shale industry.  This shares certain characteristics with the wind industry in that it is a high cost but potentially very large resource. But the mechanism for integration of this resource into the market is rather different. The problem with shale gas is that over-supply has resulted in the US gas price being dumped below the level where many shale operators can make a profit. Consumers in this case benefit through getting both secure and low priced gas. But the shale operators have reportedly racked up large losses that have been covered by expanding debt. These losses may yet come home to roost with the consumer if debt defaults result in a new credit crunch where the debts are socialised via government bailouts of the banking sector.

If it were possible to produce shale gas at $1 / million btus then everyone would be happy. Consumers would be getting secure and cheap energy and producers would be making handsome profits to distribute to shareholders. That is how capitalism is supposed to work. The system as it has operated seems broken.

US Light tight oil (LTO) production appears now to have created the same problem for the liquids plays where the entrance of expensive liquids in the market have contributed to the crash in the oil price. This has created risks for the LTO operators. It remains to be seen if the LTO sector sees mass insolvencies and default on loans that may socialise these losses. The introduction of high cost LTO has also undermined the whole of the higher cost component of the conventional oil sector. If LTO could be produced in large quantities for $20 / bbl then there would be no problem since this source would  go on to substitute for the higher cost conventional sources of supply. But with costs closer to $60-$80 this is not going to happen. The conundrum for capitalism is the introduction of large quantities of higher cost energy to the system.

At this point I have to admit that nuclear power may be subject to similar limitations. It is difficult to view the Hinkley Point new nuclear build in the UK as a triumph for the consumer or the country. A better way to manage such enormous capital expenditure on vital infrastructure is via the state. The costs may eventually be socialised to the tax payer, but at least the energy is reliable and amongst the safest forms of power generation ever developed and the taxation system distributes costs in an equitable way.

A form of society could undoubtedly exist powered by nuclear, wind and shale gas. But it would be a society supported by the state with far larger numbers working in the energy industries than now, producing lower surpluses, the energy production part perhaps running at a perennial loss. Those losses have to be covered by either higher price or via the taxation system. Either way, the brave new world that awaits us will be characterized as the time of less that will be in stark contrast to the time of plenty many of us enjoyed during the 20th Century.

The so-called “shale revolution” in the U.S. was partially powered by innovation in horizontal drilling but  its cornerstone is the junk bond market. Which questions boom’s the long-term sustainability.  As The Wall Street Journal  reported total debt is   almost $200 billion. At 7% that's 14 billion of interest a year. Or at $40 per barrel 350 million barrels per year are needed just to service the debt. That's almost million barrels per day or almost total production of Bakken field (dmr.nd.gov )

And now,  the bankruptcies have begun as financing costs are not just prohibitive, there is no liquidity available at any price for many...

American oil and gas companies have gone heavily into debt during the energy boom, increasing their borrowings by 55% since 2010, to almost $200 billion.

Their need to service that debt helps explain why U.S. producers plan to continue pumping oil even as crude trades for less than $50 a barrel, down 55% since last June.

But signs of strain are building in the oil patch, where revenue growth hasn’t kept pace with borrowing. On Sunday, a private company that drills in Texas, WBH Energy LP, and its partners, filed for bankruptcy protection, saying a lender refused to advance more money and citing debt of between $10 million and $50 million. Neither the Austin-based company nor its lawyers responded to requests for comment.

Energy analysts warn defaults could be coming. “The group is not positioned for this downturn,” said Daniel Katzenberg, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. “There are too many ugly balance sheets.”

...

In 2010, U.S. companies focused on producing oil and gas had $128 billion in combined total debt, according to financial data collected by S&P Capital IQ.

As of their latest quarter, such companies had $199 billion of combined total debt.

Even is "good times", before the start of current oil price slump,  the whole shale industry was financed only via junk bond market:  75 of the 97 energy E&P companies were rated by S&P below investment grade (Shale Boom Built on ‘Junk’ - GE Reports Ideas, May 19, 2014)

Although share prices for most U.S. exploration and production (E&P) companies are at all-time highs, the elephant in the room is an industry financed by the high-yield debt market, better known as “junk bonds.” The S&P says that 75 of the 97 energy E&P companies it rates are below investment grade.

The report cites a recent analysis by Energy Aspects, a commodity research consultancy, of 35 independent companies that shows a steadily worsening financial picture across the last six years. The analysis showed the companies spent as much as they brought in and “net cash flow is becoming negative while debt keeps rising.”
 

Many of the oil-drilling newcomers set up shop in order to take advantage of the low rates and easy money available in the bond market. Now that oil prices have crashed, investors are avoiding energy-related junk bonds. Moreover the whole US bond market started to turn south (in correlation with stocks) in anticipation of rate hikes. Which is making it impossible for the smaller companies to roll over their debt or attract fresh capital. The most indebted companies from Here Are America's Most Levered Energy Companies Zero Hedge are:

Source: CapIQ

When these companies need to refinance their bond they are forced to default or, if they have valuable properties, be acquired by larger companies. The whole situation with junk bonds from shale companies has some analogy with subprime loads and while lesser in scale still can serve as a catalyst for another financial meltdown (WSJ.com)

Energy companies, the fastest-growing segment of the high-yield bond market in recent years, account for nearly 18% of all outstanding high-yield bonds, up from 9% in 2009, according to J.P. Morgan.

Mr. Hamid says that the 40% possible default rate is the upper limit over the next few years, and that energy companies will take steps to avoid falling into bankruptcy, including cutting spending and selling assets.

Still even if companies make smart moves to cut costs, with oil at $65 per barrel or below for the next three years, he estimates that default rates high-yield bonds from the energy sector could still hover around 20% to 25%. “It would become a very dire scenario,” Mr. Hamid said.

After a steep plunge in oil prices last week, WTI crude, the U.S. benchmark, was recently up 3% to $68.14 a barrel in Monday morning trading.

He predicts that not that many companies will default in 2015 because many companies have hedged their exposure. But he expects that energy companies will run into trouble in 2016 as even the most conservative energy companies will see most of their hedges run off.

Energy companies are the largest sector in the high-yield universe by a wide margin. The next largest sector, J.P. Morgan estimates, is the healthcare sector, which accounts for 7.1%.
 

The total size of shale companies junk bond debt is estimated at 200 billions out of which at least 20 billions are not recoverable.

The additional huge problem is that the banks again have bundled a lot of shale companies debt into financially-engineered products like Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs), which much like subprime CLO and CDO are overrated and might fail when borrowers are no longer able to service the loans. The rot can be concealed for a while (may be two-three years -- as long as existing well produce oil in quantity to pay the debt), but eventually, if oil prices don’t recover, a significant number of these companies are going to go under

Vultures start circling shale companies

If low prices persist for all 2016 many shale oil companies are doomed. And vultures already started circling them:

Clueless, 12/19/2015 at 10:40 pm
I would guess that by now, most can see what is happening and therefore, what is going to happen in the future since the model has been established. The banks are not going to take serious hits. Re: Magnum Hunter and New Gulf Resources.

I remember seeing some vulture investor discussions back in 2009. They were stating that they would never buy equity in failing companies: they would take control thru the debt. Much more upside possible. So, a company with $1 billion in debt has its bonds trading at say 70 cents on the $ and it is rated junk. The bond funds that hold the debt [their covenants prohibit them from holding “bankrupt” rated debt] sells to novice speculators. Then the debt plunges to 10- 30 cents on the dollar. The investment/hedge funds step in. They can buy $1 billion of debt for $300 million or less, and the are praying that the company does go belly up. If it does, they get 100% of the equity, and agree to put in another $200 million to ride out the storm. A totally non-contested, prearranged bankruptcy. If things come back [even partially], they might own a company worth $2 billion for their $500 million investment. 

shallow sand, 12/19/2015 at 11:20 pm
Clueless. You are correct. I might add that the vultures do not appear to be just purchasing the debt. They are trading unsecured debt for second lien debt. I am not sure how this works, but from what I have read, the unsecured bonds have very weak covenants. The vultures give the unsecured bond holders the option of taking pennies on the dollar or becoming subordinate the vultures on all the debt the vultures are able to trade out.

The vultures better be pretty sharp, however. 1st, they better have a good handle on the assets they are trying to acquire. Second, they better have a good team put together to operate the assets. Third, they better have a better handle on future oil and gas prices than schmucks like me.

I saw something similar to this up close in the aftermath if the 1998-99 crash. An investor group bought the bad debt from a bank for pennies on the dollar, took assignment of the liens and foreclosed.

The investor group found out in a hurry that they didn’t quite know what they had bought, and that it wasn’t easy to manage from 1000+ miles away. They had a hell of a field superintendent, but of course they thought they were smarter than him, despite him having grown up in the middle of the field.

In any event, after burning several million dollars, the sold the assets and I am sure took a big loss. They also screwed up on timing the sale. Had they held on for about 3 more years they could have at least quintupled the sale proceeds. But they knew about as much as I, or really any of us, know about where oil prices are headed.

I am sure these distressed buyers are real sharks. But sharks can die too.

What is the sustainable minimal oil price with the current oil reserves depletion

As oil is important geopolitical resource there can be no definite answer to it. Still there is a probability that the peak "cheap oil" has already occurred, but we won’t know that until several years after the fact.  There is a large discrepancy in estimates ;-).  Much depends of the type of oil in question with shale, oil sands, as deep water oil as the most expensive.

Shale oil has a break even price around $70-75 / barrel for most shale producers and at below $50, every single well is losing money. There are also pretty expensive oil extracted from  deepwater (around 7 Mb/d). Which at current oil prices will shrink approximately 10% per year.  And there are around 20 MB/d in shallow water with higher staying power but also declining 10% due to lack of investments in current price situation.  Half of oil production from future developments is uneconomic at US$60/bbl (post of AlexS 01/29/2016 at 7:06 pm )

EIA projects that in 2030 the average real price of crude oil is projected to be $72 per barrel in 2006 dollars or about $113 per barrel in nominal dollars. Projected U.S. crude oil production averages 9.3 Mb/d in 2015 and 8.8 Mb/d in 2016.  Decline is 0.5 Mb/d.  EIA is always on optimists side (they were major cheerleaders of shale bubble, which makes them more of propaganda agency then statistical outlet)  so you can probably assume that 2020 prices of oil will be above, especially if low prices will last the whole 2016.  

Pricewise EIA projections are dropping all 2015 (Short-Term Energy Outlook)

EIA short term predictions as of December 3, 2015 suggest that low oil prices might continue to dominate the first quarter of 2016:

Previously common wisdom was around that price will return to $100 per barrel on average in 2016, which the following post from Zerohedge illustrates:

6344498 Magooo

HOW HIGH OIL PRICES WILL PERMANENTLY CAP ECONOMIC GROWTH For most of the last century, cheap oil powered global economic growth. But in the last decade, the price of oil production has quadrupled, and that shift will permanently shackle the growth potential of the world’s economies.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-23/how-high-oil-prices-will-permanently-cap-economic-growth

HIGH PRICED OIL DESTROYS GROWTH According to the OECD Economics Department and the International Monetary Fund Research Department, a sustained $10 per barrel increase in oil prices from $25 to $35 would result in the OECD as a whole losing 0.4% of GDP in the first and second years of higher prices.  http://www.EIA.org/textbase/npsum/high_oil04sum.pdf

BUT WE NEED HIGH OIL PRICES:  Marginal oil production costs are heading towards $100/barrel http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2012/05/02/983171/marginal-oil-production-costs-are-heading-towards-100barrel/

The marginal cost of the 50 largest oil and gas producers globally increased to US$92/bbl in 2011, an increase of 11% y-o-y and in-line with historical average CAGR growth.  http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2012/05/02/983171/marginal-oil-production-costs-are-heading-towards-100barrel/

Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood said the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programmes. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120,” he said http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/11024845/Oil-and-gas-company-debt-soars-to-danger-levels-to-cover-shortfall-in-cash.html

Sanford C. Bernstein, the Wall Street research company, calls the rapid increase in production costs “the dark side of the golden age of shale”. In a recent analysis, it estimates that non-Opec marginal cost of production rose last year to $104.5 a barrel, up more than 13 per cent from $92.3 a barrel in 2011.   http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ec3bb622-c794-11e2-9c52-00144feab7de.html#axzz3T4sTXDB5

Now all those consideration looks far less plausible in a short term (one year) period. Here are some "post oil price slump" considerations (in 2013 dollars):

Wikipedia article gives a more wide range of prices at wellhead (without cost of servicing the debt and transportation costs) from $35 to $95 for shale oil (Oil shale economics - Wikipedia)

The United States Department of Energy estimates that the ex-situ processing would be economic at sustained average world oil prices above US $54 per barrel and in-situ processing would be economic at prices above $35 per barrel. These estimates assume a return rate of 15%.[6] The International Energy Agency estimates, based on the various pilot projects, that investment and operating costs would be similar to those of Canadian oil sands, that means would be economic at prices above $60 per barrel at current costs. This figure does not account carbon pricing, which will add additional cost.[4] According to the New Policies Scenario introduced in its World Energy Outlook 2010, a price of $50 per tonne of emitted CO2, expected by 2035, will add additional $7.50 per barrel cost of shale oil.[4]

According to a survey conducted by the RAND Corporation, the cost of producing a barrel of oil at a surface retorting complex in the United States (comprising a mine, retorting plant, upgrading plant, supporting utilities, and spent shale reclamation), would range between $70–95 ($440–600/m3, adjusted to 2005 values). This estimate considers varying levels of kerogen quality and extraction efficiency. In order for the operation to be profitable, the price of crude oil would need to remain above these levels. The analysis also discusses the expectation that processing costs would drop after the complex was established. The hypothetical unit would see a cost reduction of 35–70% after its first 500 million barrels (79×10^6 m3) were produced. Assuming an increase in output of 25 thousand barrels per day (4.0×10^3 m3/d) during each year after the start of commercial production, the costs would then be expected to decline to $35–48 per barrel ($220–300/m3) within 12 years. After achieving the milestone of 1 billion barrels (160×10^6 m3), its costs would decline further to $30–40 per barrel ($190–250/m3).[7]

 

Floor for oil prices for 2016

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
 ~John Kenneth Galbraith

The most common view is that most US shale producers are highly vulnerable if price falls below $60 and are losing money on each barrel of oil they produce  at prices below $50. With difficulties of junk bond re-financing this figure should be higher. Some Russian sources cite $75 per bbl as a breakeven price for US shale oil.  This estimate is supported by the following detailed report BAKKEN - Single Well Economics  (Jan 4, 2016).

Here is a pretty telling graph from  Scotiabank (they have way too optimistic price for Bakken I think: adding $10 to $47 we get $57 for Bakken, which is probably 10 to 20 dollars low):

 

Source Why oil prices keep falling — and throwing the world into turmoil - Vox

As you can see plausible minimum for shale oil wellhead costs is around $55( $45+$10) per barrel ( and that  does not include the cost of servicing of junk bond debt).  If prices in 2016 remain under $50/bbl (as many forecaster expect), shale oil production in the United States will likely see a substantial decline in output and many shale companies will face merger or pushed into bankruptcy. But as for total US output, this decline will be partially offset by Gulf oil coming into production so for the first six months of 2015 total decline probably will be around 0.5Mb/d or lower. 

In any case, as 2015 has shown low prices became sticky and self reinforcing via Wall Street financial mechanisms. So chances for quick reversal in 2016 are close to zero. That spells real trouble for the US shale oil industry as well as Canada oil sands production  (QE At Work Pouring Cheap Debt Into The Shale Ponzi David Stockman's Contra Corner) as well as speculators in oil futures who will be wiped out via EFN  (outside major banks and those who shorted oil):

There are two pieces of the economic puzzle when it comes to shale. First is that most shale oil deposits are not profitable to extract except at current high prices. This drilling/extraction method is not cheap. Breakeven prices vary by region but it is safe to say that no shale oil deposits are profitable below $50/barrel and most areas require much higher prices. An average might be in the range of $65 and there are plenty of areas where the price needs to be above $80 before anyone makes a nickel.

I would just note that oil traded, albeit briefly, at $34 in the last recession. Second is the production profile of shale wells; production drops off rather precipitously after the first year (in contrast with traditional wells which deplete over much longer time frames). Combine high extraction costs with rapid depletion and the economics of shale become not only dubious but frankly insane.

Usually forecasts of oil prices are not work the paper or electrons. but there are some exceptions to this rule. For example  Bill Connoly in his Oil Price Forecast 2015-2016 - Forbes was one of the few forecasters who proved to be right as for 2015; remains to be seen for 2016.

My price forecast is that today’s $60 price is likely to be the high end for the coming two years. There may be temporary market volatility higher, but don’t expect a higher price to be sustained. At the low end, $50 seems like a floor absent a global recession.

OilPrice.com analysts think that the bankruptcy of shale companies and drastic reduction of the number of new projects and capital expenditures will eventually move the oil price up to $70+ range. And that the production of shell oil in the USA will drop 1 Mb/d in 2016 or even more, while consumption rises as record number of cars was sold in 2015.  But this process in not immediate and can take more then one year as in 2015 oil production defied gloomy forecasts and remains relatively stable (Oil Price Scenarios For 2015 And 2016 OilPrice.com_

The spare capacity data suggests that demand/supply imbalance may last three years, requiring 18 months to work through to the mid-cycle point where over-supply turns to under-supply. It is by no means certain that the market will respond to the same time dynamic when we are now dependent upon natural production capacity wastage to occur as opposed to OPEC simply closing the spigot. But this is all I have to go on.

The downturn in the current price cycle began last July and we are therefore just 6 months in. Another year of pain to go for the producers, that is unless OPEC decides to intervene.

In we count start of mid cycle from December of 2014 then we can see some upward pressure in July of 2016 or so.

Low prices also might mean that only selected shale projects ("sweet spots") with continue to be explored, diminishing of flow of oil from this source to the market ( Oil under US$60 beyond 2016 suggests market rethinking shale - Channel NewsAsia). Those places will be exhausted in two-three years making extraction more expensive on average.

If U.S. shale drillers - the world's new 'swing' producers - can still turn a profit at below US$60 a barrel, then the fall in long-dated oil prices may be rational. If not, as some bullish market analysts worry, then lower prices could be choking off new supplies the world may need as soon as next year.

"If you take the curve at face value, it appears to be saying that U.S. shale can grow ... if WTI stays below US$60 for three years. That doesn’t seem very likely," Paul Horsnell, global head of commodities research at Standard Chartered, said, referring to West Texas Intermediate crude.

"One would guess that all those companies that had been holding back from cutting projects and jobs over the past few months are not going to hold on much longer, and another shakeout will start. And it probably won’t be long before U.S. rig counts start to dive again."

Link to chart: http://link.reuters.com/tef25w 

... ... ...

U.S. oil futures for December 2017 delivery have dropped by as much as US$5 a barrel, or 8 percent, in the past two days, an even deeper retreat than last November when OPEC's surprise decision to maintain oil output despite a global glut sent markets into a deepening tailspin.

CLZ17 Commodity Futures Price Chart for Crude Oil WTI December 2017

[Note that they are close to $58 as of July 24, 2015 -- NNB]

EIA forecasts change with market prices

Short-Term Energy Outlook - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

In December 2015 EIA predicted average price of oil in 2016 much lower, around $51 a barrel, so EIA forecasts change really fast with future prices and as such are just educated guesses.

  2013 2014 2015 2016
WTI Crude Oila
(dollars per barrel)
97.98 93.17 49.08 50.89
Brent Crude Oil
(dollars per barrel)
108.56 98.89 52.93 55.78

Sustained low oil price will cut capital investment in oil dramatically

An extended period of lower oil prices would benefit consumers but would trigger energy-security concerns by heightening reliance on a small number of low-cost producers, or risk a sharp rebound in price if investment falls short, says the International Energy Agency (EIA) in the 2015 edition of its  World Energy Outlook publication (WEO-2015).We need to distinguish between oil as a chemical substance, a source used by chemical companies to produce all kind of useful things and oil as a source of motor fuel.  Oil is irreplaceable resource and burning it now deprive of oil future generations. As simple as that.

The US government policy of allowing (or, most probably, facilitating/engineering) very low oil prices is extremely unwise (I would use a stronger word) because at least for one segment of transportation (which is around 70% of total oil consumption in the USA) alternative does already exist. Small hybrid and electrical cars with prices of oil over $100 (and gasoline above $4 per gallon) are absolutely viable.

Instead now we have a huge jump in SUVs sales which became No.1 personal car category. To say nothing about light trucks. Which is the last thing we need.

Switch to natural gas in large vehicles such as buses (and small delivery trucks) also experiences a dramatic slow down (transit buses in Europe already are using this fuel on mass scale).

Again I think that it is the US government which is the culprit of destruction of the US shale industry which was build with such great effort and expense and is now on the verge of extinction. By really great people working in very difficult, challenging conditions.

The US government could buy excessive oil into strategic reserve or do something similar to keep prices at least above $70 dollars level. They could also prohibit short oil ETNs and other Wall Street machinations and for good effort jail couple of too aggressive traders for violation of some New Deal era laws(after all this is gambling, plain and simple) which are still on books after all this deregulation efforts by Clinton and Bush II administrations.

My point is that wind and solar might well be not the best choices. Other alternatives of renewable fuels exists. Meanwhile we need to save oil and the best way to do it is to ramp up oil price to above $100 level, which ensure the survival of frackers, which unfortunately became a collateral damage in some larger, possibly geopolitical play.

Actually EIA recognizes the danger of oil price spikes caused by sustained low oil prices and low capex investments Sustained low oil prices could reduce exploration and production investment - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Adminis

Low oil prices, if sustained, could mark the beginning of a long-term drop in upstream oil and natural gas investment. Oil prices reflect supply and demand balances, with increasing prices often suggesting a need for greater supply. Greater supply, in turn, typically requires increased investment in exploration and production (E&P) activities. Lower prices reduce investment activity.

Overlaying annual averages of the domestic first purchase price (adjusted for inflation) on oil and natural gas investment reveals that upstream investment is highly sensitive to changes in oil prices. Given the fall in oil prices that began in mid-2014 and the relationship between oil prices and upstream investment, it is possible that investment levels over the next several years will be significantly lower than the previous 10-year annual average.

Oil production is a capital-intensive industry that requires management of existing production assets and evaluation of prospective projects often requiring years of upfront investment spending on exploration, appraisal, and development before reserves are developed and produced.

Previous investment cycles provide insights into how investment responds to crude oil price changes. In 1981 and 1982, after crude oil prices significantly increased, investment topped out at more than $100 billion (in 2014 dollars) and then averaged $30 billion to $40 billion per year into the early 2000s as crude oil prices fell and remained in the $20-$30 per barrel (b) range. From 2003 to 2014, investment spending increased from $56 billion to a high of $158 billion as crude oil prices increased from $34.53/b to $87.39/b, including several months of prices reaching more than $100/b. EIA's 2015 Annual Energy Outlook Reference case projects real domestic first purchase prices to average about $70/b in 2020. This price level could result in substantially lower annual oil and natural gas investment over the 2015-20 period than the annual average of $122 billion spent during the 2005-14 investment cycle crest period

 

Additional "end of cheap energy" readings

See also my introduction to the topic of "End of cheap energy":


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[Jun 18, 2018] China blindsides US with new energy tariffs threat by Jim W. Dean

Notable quotes:
"... According to US Energy Department figures, China imports approximately 363,000 barrels of US crude oil daily. The country also imports about 200,000 barrels a day of other petroleum products including propane. ..."
Jun 18, 2018 | www.veteranstoday.com
Just as China topped the list of nations buying US oil, Beijing – retaliating to unilateral Trump economic threats – sent jitters through energy markets on Friday by threatening new tariffs on natural gas, crude oil and many other energy products.

On Friday, Beijing threatened to impose tariffs on US energy products in response to $50 billion in tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump. Such tariffs would inhibit Chinese refiners from buying US crude imports, potentially crashing US energy markets and hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts the most: in shareholder approval.

"This is a big deal. China is essentially the largest customer for US crude now, and so for crude it's an issue, let alone when you involve [refined] products, too. This is obviously a big development," Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, told Reuters.

According to US Energy Department figures, China imports approximately 363,000 barrels of US crude oil daily. The country also imports about 200,000 barrels a day of other petroleum products including propane.

The US energy industry has seen its profits boosted by fracking in domestic shale fields, which produce some 10.9 million barrels of oil per day.

The US is also exporting a record 2 million barrels per day, and encouraging countries like China to import more US energy products instead of those from Iran, after Trump recently withdrew from the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 nuclear arms deal with Tehran.

China is currently the largest buyer of Iranian oil as well, purchasing some 650,000 barrels daily during the first quarter of 2018.

According to Bernadette Johnson with the Denver, Colorado, energy consultancy Drilling info, tariffs will increase prices for other petroleum products including propane and liquefied natural gas.

"The constant back-and-forth about the tariffs creates a lot of market uncertainty that makes it harder to sell cargoes or sign long-term [trade] deals," Johnson noted, cited by Reuters.

In late March, the White House slapped trade sanctions on China, the world's second largest economy, including limitations in the investment sector as well as tariffs on $60 billion worth of products.

Citing "fairness" considerations, Trump referred to the car market, stating that China charged a tariff ten times higher on US cars than the US did on the few Chinese cars sold in the US.

Separately, in a bid to deliver on campaign promises, Trump announced his intention to impose a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum imports from an array of US allies, including the EU, Mexico and Canada. Those nations -- longtime allies to the US -- have promised retaliatory economic measures.

Trump has also reportedly mulled placing a 25-percent import tax on European cars, something that would significantly affect the highly-profitable US market for expensive German automobiles.

[Jun 15, 2018] Libyan Oil Exports Impaired as Some in OPEC Seek More Supply

Jun 15, 2018 | www.msn.com

by Salma El Wardany (Bloomberg) Two of Libya's biggest oil ports stopped loading on Thursday after clashes erupted between rival forces for control of the country's economic lifeline, taking more barrels off the market just as OPEC debates whether to boost production.

Fighting at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf terminals led to the loss of about 240,000 barrels of Libya's daily oil production, state energy producer National Oil Corp. said in a statement Thursday. NOC evacuated staff from both terminals, which account for 40 percent of Libya's oil exports, and declared force majeure on shipments.

The disruptions come a week before OPEC nations hold key meetings in Vienna with other major producers including Russia to discuss if they should stick with a pact to restrain oil supply after prices topped $80 a barrel in May. Oil producers were already facing growing pressure, including from U.S. President Donald Trump, to boost supply to offset disruptions caused by the economic crisis in Venezuela and renewed American sanctions on Iran.

Libya's oil output has rebounded over the past two years, but remains well below the 1.8 million barrels a day the country pumped before the 2011 campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi. That NATO-backed war gave way to years of fighting among rival Libyan groups in which the country's oil installations became prized targets.

[Jun 15, 2018] Libya Halts Sharara Oil Loadings as Biggest Field Shuts Down - Bloomberg

Jun 15, 2018 | www.bloomberg.com

[Jun 10, 2018] The Battle for Money Has Begun naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... If Money=Debt, the battle over money can only be won by individuals wisely choosing whom they become indebted too. As the wise Michael Hudson points out, "Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid." ..."
"... Money is the creation of the elite to control the rest of the masses. It screws the rest of the masses by constraining what they can get their hands on while the elite can get their hands on anything they want. ..."
"... IMO the point of the article was to hint that objections (or refusal to engage with) MMT is largely political in nature. ..."
"... Skippy said it above: these are likely bad faith actors who disguise their classism and political desires with talk of "positive money" and the like. Debate clubs won't win this one. ..."
"... As I understand it, MMT is simply a more honest way of explaining the current reality, the problem being that the 1% would like to keep that a secret so that money is only created for the things that they can profit from, like war. ..."
"... MMT necessarily requires the exorbitant privilege of having the US dollar accounting for 60% of world trade & financial transactions with the US economy representing only 20% of world GDP. ..."
"... The Entrepreneurial State ..."
"... money and credit are used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction ..."
"... In a normal economy, government spending is financed by taxes and borrowing, meaning that no new spending power has been created, as IS the case with new bank loans. ..."
"... You can fool part of the people all of the time, and all of the people part of the time. ..."
"... handing all credit creation to the central banks is not only technically impossible in a modern economy, it's a dangerous folly ..."
"... Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition. ..."
"... The Order of Time ..."
"... "The debts are owed to government banks. A government can do what the U.S. can't do. The government can forgive debts, at least those that are owed to itself, without creating a political backlash. If a viable corporation has run up too much debt, the government can forgive it. This is better than letting the debt close down a factory or force it be sold to a predatory asset management firm as occurs in the United States. That is the advantage of having public credit and why credit should be public. That's how it was in Babylonia. Rulers were able to cancel debts all the time in the 3rd millennium and 2nd millennium BC, because most debts were owed to the palace or the temples. Rulers were cancelling debts owed to themselves. ..."
"... China can cancel business debt owed to itself. It can proclaim a clean slate. It can minimize debt service to whatever it chooses. But imagine if Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs are let in. It would be much harder for the government to raise real estate taxes leading to defaults on the banks. It could save the occupants by making new loans to those who default – based on lower land prices. ..."
"... Well, you can imagine the international furor that would erupt. Trump would threaten to atom bomb Peking and Shanghai to save his constituency. His constituency and that of the Democrats are the same: Wall Street and the One Percent. So China may lose its ability to write down debts if it lets in foreign banks." ..."
"... that this is a Chicago School / Friedmanesque monetary policy is made clear by Positive Money ..."
"... It seems there are greater similarities between China and the US than may be visible at first glance. China builds real estate for a shrinking population, invests for an over-indebted client (the US, which even insists on a drastic reduction of the bilateral trade deficit) and finances all this with money it does not have ..."
Jun 10, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Disturbed Voter , June 8, 2018 at 6:30 am

Perhaps the cost of the 2008/2009 bailout was too high? And I don't mean quantitively. It seems modern man has no sense of the qualitative.

Odysseus , June 8, 2018 at 5:22 pm

The same money that went into TARP would have bought a whole lot of nonperforming mortgages. You wouldn't have needed a large bailout if the money actually made it's way to main street.

PlutoniumKun , June 8, 2018 at 6:32 am

Slightly off-topic, but if its true that this is a right wing proposal using naïve left/Green supporters to give a progressive fig leaf, it wouldn't be the first time this has happened. You can see the same phenomenon with Brexit, where many supposed left wingers have often bought unthinkingly into many right/libertarian memes about 'freedom' from the EU. The core reason they could do this is the effective abandonment by the left of arguments about money and capital to the conservative and libertarian right from the 1980's onward.

One of the many reasons I love NC so much is that it has tried to fill the gap left by so much of the mainstream left and much of the Greens in analysing economics issues in forensic technical detail. Articles like this are absolutely invaluable in building up a proper intellectual program in understanding the central importance of macroeconomics in building a fairer society.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 8:08 am

God, country, apple pie, balanced budget, freedom, democracy, pay-as-you-go, ingredients in the hash of right/libertarian memes, all supposedly 'common sense' but actually nonsense, spread thick, intended to distract us while our ruling class steals everything not tied down.

I think the left saw its audience washed away by a tidal wave of this clever, well-funded nonsense, so they stopped arguing about money and capital because they found it embarrassing to be caught talking to themselves.

Of course back in the 1970s, much of the working-class had was doing well enough that they thought the argument about money had been settled, and in their favor. Little did they know that their 'betters' were planning on clawing-back every penny of wealth that they'd managed to accumulate in the post-war years.

So here we are, the working class that was formerly convinced that anyone could live well if they just worked hard, are finding that you can tug on your boot-straps with all your might, and get no where.

Morty , June 9, 2018 at 12:18 pm

I think you're right in that the wrong narrative is now dominant.

I don't think this was done intentionally – I think the people pulling the strings don't know for sure what will happen, either.

The 'common sense' you mention is the best explanation most people have available. They look at macroeconomics through the lens of their own household budget. Of course a balanced budget responsible application of money makes sense Most people don't have a money printer in their basement.

Norb , June 8, 2018 at 7:27 am

The battle is for the soul of humanity. A leadership that is working toward reducing inequality and injustice in the world will adopt policies reflecting a more positive outlook on the human condition. Those implementing austerity revile the masses of humanity, wether stated or not. The masses are to be controlled, not enlightened or cared for.

The West has gained supremacy in the world by using the strategy of Divide and Conquer. This thought process is so engrained in the psyche, that it heavily influences every form of problem solving by using outright war and financial oppression as primary tools to achieve these ends.

There would need to be a fundamental shift in thinking from Western leadership in order to bring about a change that would focus on wellbeing over profit, which does not seem forthcoming.

If Money=Debt, the battle over money can only be won by individuals wisely choosing whom they become indebted too. As the wise Michael Hudson points out, "Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid."

The main problem I see is the definition of what "Winning" would be. The definition determines the policy.

Summer , June 8, 2018 at 1:54 pm

"There would need to be a fundamental shift in thinking from Western leadership in order to bring about a change that would focus on wellbeing over profit, which does not seem forthcoming."

Akin to a religious conversion.

DHG , June 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Money is the creation of the elite to control the rest of the masses. It screws the rest of the masses by constraining what they can get their hands on while the elite can get their hands on anything they want. The tipping point will be when there are sufficient numbers who understand money isnt necessary to live and have nice things, it actually exists to deprive them of such.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 7:58 pm

What is your alternative?

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 7:34 am

We've been fighting this same 'war' for a very long time.

Everybody now just has to make up their mind. Is money money or isn't money money. Everybody who earns it and spends it every day in order to live knows that money is money, anybody who votes it to be gathered in as taxes knows money is not money. That is what makes everybody go crazy. -Gertrude Stein – All About Money

As far as I can tell, about 1% of us believe that money is not money, and the rest of us believe that money is money.

Most of us believe that money is money because as Gertrude Stein said: Everybody who earns it and spends it every day in order to live knows that money is money

So here's the problem: the 1% of the people, the ones who believe that money is not money, are in charge of everything.

It's not natural that so few people should be in charge of so much, and that they should be in charge of 'everything' is truly crazy. (Please excuse the slight digression)

The people who are in charge of everything believe that it's right, proper, indeed 'natural' that they be in charge of everything because they believe that no one could do as good a job of being in charge of everything because they think they are smarter than everybody else.

The reason that the 1% of people believe they are smarter than everybody else is rooted largely in what they believe is their self-evident, superior understanding of money; that is to say, the understanding that money is not money.

The trouble is, the difference between the 1%'s understanding of money, and the common man's understanding of money is not evidence of the 1%'s superior intellect, so much as of their lack of a moral compass and their ability to rationalize the depraved indifference they show to their fellow man.

Read more;

Watt4Bob FDL June 2014

perpetualWAR , June 8, 2018 at 10:32 am

I don't believe money is money. Pretty certain I am in the 99%. "Money" or currency says right on the face that it is a debt instrument.

Samuel Conner , June 8, 2018 at 7:54 am

Maybe this thought is callous, but perhaps it would be useful to have a real-world demonstration that this is a bad idea. How systemically important is the Swiss economy? US abandoned its monetarist "quantity of reserves" experiment after a relatively short time. Again, it sounds callous, but perhaps a year or two of distress in a small test environment

(that is starting from a pretty good place and has a good social safety net

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/SAFETYNETSANDTRANSFERS/Resources/281945-1124119303499/SSNPrimerNote25.pdf

)

would be helpful to the world at large in terms of deprecating a bad idea. Perhaps MMT will be the last approach standing?

Could it be that Wolf's "we need experiments" rhetoric is actually opposed to "positive money", but he recognizes that the idea won't go away until it is badly spanked? Even if not, maybe there is something to the idea that experimentation could be used to distinguish bad ideas from less bad (the good ideas won't be tested, I reckon, until all the various flavors of "bad" have been tried and rejected).

TroyMcClure , June 8, 2018 at 8:11 am

IMO the point of the article was to hint that objections (or refusal to engage with) MMT is largely political in nature. See Marriner Eccles and his observation regarding the political enemies of full employment.

Skippy said it above: these are likely bad faith actors who disguise their classism and political desires with talk of "positive money" and the like. Debate clubs won't win this one.

If the Swiss go through with it and it inevitably fails there will always be an excuse. They didn't do positive money "hard enough" or whatever.

liam , June 8, 2018 at 10:22 am

What I'd like to know is if the Swiss go through with it and it fails, is there anything other than central bank independence that needs to be changed? Fundamentally it's still fiat, operating within a democracy. Does it not come down to who decides how much and for what purpose?

Maybe I'm missing something, but it strikes me as the elites getting their revenge in first. There go my people and all that. Maybe I am missing it.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 8:18 am

the good ideas won't be tested, I reckon, until all the various flavors of "bad" have been tried and rejected.

So, you don't think current conditions are convincing enough?

As for me, I'm more than convinced, that left to themselves, our elites have an endless bag of bad ideas, and every one of them results in their further enrichment at our expense.

Samuel Conner , June 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

I'm convinced; have been persuaded that MMT is the right way to think about "money" since shortly after I encountered it almost a decade ago.

As I understand it, this is a referendum. If the people don't like the outcome, they presumably would have power to reverse it. Throw the bastards out and replace with new bastards who will try something different.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm

As I understand it, MMT is simply a more honest way of explaining the current reality, the problem being that the 1% would like to keep that a secret so that money is only created for the things that they can profit from, like war.

So the issue is that since enough money can be created for the needs of the rest of us, why is that not happening?

It would appear to me that almost any efforts by the 1% to create a 'new' plan is in reality, an effort to make sure that the 99% never reap any advantage even if we were to unanimously come to understand the MMT is really the most realistic perspective.

It's almost as if the 1% has decided to change the rules because the rest of us are starting to understand that there is no technical reason we can't finance a more equitable economy.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 2:03 pm

It's good to explain the current reality more honestly.

Even more honestly would be to explain that reality, which is a man-made system, doesn't have to be that way, unlike scientific explanations, for example, one for how gravity works. That particular physics explanation comes with the understanding that we can't change how gravity works.

The word 'theory' in the sense most people with more than 10 years of education associate with it is that

1. You will fail to advance to the next grade, or the next class if you don't understand it.
2. If you don't understand it, you are under pressure to show you agree with the theory, lest you fail the exam.
3. The reality described by the theory is unalterable, which is often the case with natural science theories, but not really the case with social/economic/political theories, unless they deal with human nature, which is hard to change.

If I say there is a theory to explain that on Mars, you drive on the right side of the road on odd-numbered days, and on the left side on even-numbered days, you would say, I appreciate the clear explanation of your wonderful theory, but I don't like it, I don't like how that system is designed. And I want to change it!!!!!!!!!!!!

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 7:03 pm

Yesterday, I watched one of many Mark Blyth videos on YouTube where he was talking about why people hold on to stupid economic ideas. He offered a variety of interesting hypotheses, most of which were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Even a theory that fails basic tests of correspondence with reality -- neoclassical economics being the prime example -- may prove to be a reliable means of coordinating behavior on a huge scale. That we indoctrinate people in colleges and business schools in neoclassical economics has been the foundation for neoliberal politics; even if the theory is largely rubbish by any scientific standard, the rhetorical engine is easy to operate once you have a few basic concepts down. And, immunity to evidence or critical reason may actually be politically advantageous.

Econ 101 is taught as a dogma. The student is under pressure to learn the answers for the exam, as you say. All the rhetorical tropes -- not just deficit hysteria, but regulatory burdens, tax incentives, "free markets" (you see many actual markets? no, I didn't think so) and on and on -- are as easy to recite mindlessly as it is to ride a bicycle.

We have an ideology that prevents thinking or even seeing, collectively.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:34 pm

Well, your wish has been answered – about 160 years ago. Lincoln's issuance of Greenback's allowed the Union Army to exist. No borrowing, no MMT debt incurred.

Alejandro , June 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Why were they accepted as payment?

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 9:43 pm

"MMT debt" is a non-sequitur..

MMT experts point out regularly that the Federal government spends out of nothing. Issuing bonds is a political holdover from the Gold Standard era, but separately, those bonds do have some use because a lot of investors like holding a risk free asset.

The government spends by the Fed debiting the Treasury's account. That's it.

We don't go around worrying about issuing bonds to pay for the next bombing run in the Middle East. The US has all sort of official off budget activity as well as unofficial (why do you think the DoD is not able to account for $21 trillion of spending over time? No one points out this $21 trillion mystery is proof the USG actually runs on MMT principles).

Older & Wiser , June 9, 2018 at 10:58 pm

MMT necessarily requires the exorbitant privilege of having the US dollar accounting for 60% of world trade & financial transactions with the US economy representing only 20% of world GDP.

Such impunity is changing as we speak so for that reason only (there are others) MMT should soon find itself non-viable.

Yves Smith Post author , June 10, 2018 at 1:08 am

That is not correct. Any government that issues its own currency is a sovereign currency issuer and operates on MMT principles. Canada, Japan, England, Australia, New Zealand .the constraint on their ability to run deficits is inflation. They will never go bankrupt in their own currencies. They can create too much inflation.

Adam1 , June 8, 2018 at 8:17 am

I have the same reaction to Positive Money ideas as I do to someone who talks about "parallel currencies". They don't understand money, banking and central banking.

While I agree whole heartedly with Clive that establishing the mini-bot currency is subject to the law of un-intended consequences and would no doubtedly have a bumpy start and might not even survive; but it's just another currency. Yes it would likely be subject to a discount versus the Euro, but so what. From a banking perspective there is nothing magical about state money or central bank money. These are the dominate means of clearing and settling payments today, but that's because it's currently cheaper, easier and less risky. But banking predates central banks by at least one or two hundred years (if not more). Thinking that if you put an iron fist on the usage of state/central bank money is going to stop banking only shows you don't understand banking. Most economies already have dual currencies – state money and bank money – but nobody thinks of them that way because they trade one for one. But locking the banking system out of using state money to clear and settle payments created by lending only forces the banking system to find a new means of acquiring liabilities (I'd suspect they get called something other than "deposits" of course) and clearing and settling payments. It wouldn't happen overnight but it most certainly would happen – there's too much "money" to be made.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:36 pm

"Most economies already have dual currencies – state money and bank money" Give me the ratio please. Other than feeding the parking meter or doing your laundry what else do you use state money for?

Alejando , June 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Paying taxes. Unpaid parking tickets are debts, no borrowing involved.

voteforno6 , June 8, 2018 at 8:40 am

It's not exactly the gold standard, but it would have the same impact, I think. You have to give them credit, though – they keep finding new ways to dress up this very old idea.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Hard to get to a new answer if you don't even start with the right question.
Wolf asserts his obvious and unquestionable truth: "Money is debt".

Really?

J. P. Morgan didn't think so. When he was asked:

"But the basis of banking is credit, is it not?" , Morgan replied:
"Not always. That is an evidence of banking, but it is not the money itself. Money is gold, and nothing else" .

Ah yes, the shiny rare metal that served mankind as money for millennia.
I have a gold coin in my hand. I can exchange it for goods and services. But I can't for the life of me figure out whose debt it is.

And no less than The Maestro (Alan Greenspan) opined the following last month:

"The gold standard was operating at its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of extraordinary global prosperity, characterised by firming productivity growth and very little inflation.

But today, there is a widespread view that the 19th century gold standard didn't work. I think that's like wearing the wrong size shoes and saying the shoes are uncomfortable! It wasn't the gold standard that failed; it was politics. World War I disabled the fixed exchange rate parities and no country wanted to be exposed to the humiliation of having a lesser exchange rate against the US dollar than it enjoyed in 1913.

Britain, for example, chose to return to the gold standard in 1925 at the same exchange rate it had in 1913 relative to the US dollar (US$4.86 per pound sterling). That was a monumental error by Winston Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. It induced a severe deflation for Britain in the late 1920s, and the Bank of England had to default in 1931. It wasn't the gold standard that wasn't functioning; it was these pre-war parities that didn't work.

Today, going back on to the gold standard would be perceived as an act of desperation. But if the gold standard were in place today we would not have reached the situation in which we now find ourselves. We would never have reached this position of extreme indebtedness were we on the gold standard, because the gold standard is a way of ensuring that fiscal policy never gets out of line."

So let's start with a simpler definition of money: "Money stores labor so it can be transported across space and time" .

I grew some wheat, and want to store my wheat-labor so I can use it later, or spend it somewhere that is nowhere near my wheat pile.

But this points out why money that took no labor to produce cannot reliably store labor. Our system materializes money from thin air. Which is precisely the point of gold: it takes alot of labor to produce, so it has reliably stored labor for centuries. In A.D. 250 if I wanted a good-quality men's costume (toga, sash, sandals) the cost was one ounce of gold. Today one ounce of gold is +/-$1300, probably enough for a pretty good suit and pair of shoes. That fact is incredible: every other currency, money, government, and country have come and gone in the interim but gold reliably stored labor across the ages.

Cue the haters: "But gold money allows deadly deflation!!!". Yes, that scourge, when people benefit from rising productivity (lower costs of goods and services) in what used to be termed "Progress". Instead we're supposed to love being on a debt treadmill where everything costs more every year, on purpose .

https://mises.org/library/deflating-deflation-myth

Free your mind.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that credit should somehow be abolished. Credit is critical, and hence so is banking. But separating money and credit would mean that every banking crisis (extending too much credit) is not automatically also a monetary crisis, affecting everyone, including people who had nothing to do with extending or accepting too much debt.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Yes, you are correct. No one in the monetary reform movement wants to abolish credit – an agreement between two entities – but to have that "credit" backed by the US government as real money – what a racket!

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 3:02 am

Sigh no such thingy as "real" money, same issue with using terms like "natural" as a quantifier.

This also applies to say pods above statement about "freeing the mind", especially when referencing Mises.org or other AET affiliates.

The Rev Kev , June 8, 2018 at 8:48 pm

Of course it should be noted that if you dig up a gold coin from two thousand years ago or even older, it still has value just for its metal content alone. It still holds value. This is never true of fiat currencies. In fact, it had never occurred to me before, but when you think about it – the history of money over the past century has been to get actual gold, gold coins, gold certificates, silver coins, etc. out of the hands of the average people and to give them pieces of paper and now plastic as substitutes. Even the coins in circulation today are only cheap remnants of coins of earlier eras that held value in itself. I would call that a remarkable achievement.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 3:13 am

Uh .

I think you should avail yourself wrt the history of gold and how humans viewed it over time, then again you could look at say South America from an anthro observation and the social changes that occurred between Jade and Gold eras.

As far as value goes that is determined at the moment of price taking which can get blurry over time and space.

Gold was used as religious iconography for a reason imo.

Just from the stand point that gold was in one anthropological observation – a flec of gold to equal weight of wheat means the gold got its "value" from the wheat and had nothing to do with some concept of gold having intrinsic value.

The Rev Kev , June 9, 2018 at 10:51 pm

Not particularly in love with gold nor am I a gold bug. My own particular prejudice is that any money system needs an anchor that will set some sort of boundaries to its growth. Something that will not blow through the physical laws of natural growth and will acknowledge that resources can and will be exhausted by limitless credit and growth. Personally I don't care if it is gold or Electrum or Latinum or even Tribbles so long as it is something.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:56 pm

Yet MMT clearly states that growth is restricted to resources full stop. So I don't understand your issues with anchor points, its right there in black and white.

Look I think there is a huge difference between informal credit [Greaber] and formal credit [institutional] and the risk factors that they present. This is also complicated by not all economies are the same e.g. steady state. In facilitating up lift [social cohesion with benefits of currant knowlage] vs putting some arbitrary limit on credit because it suits the perspective of those already with claims on wealth.

skippy , June 10, 2018 at 12:43 am

In addition I would proffer that MMT is not supply side dependent, just the opposite. Economics would be much more regional in reference to resources and how that relates to its populations needs, especially considering the democratic governance of those finite resources without making money the linchpin to how distribution is afforded.

Older & Wiser , June 8, 2018 at 9:03 pm

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL
How dare you submit such irreverent goldbuggery ?
Your line of thought is not politically correct Sir.
Something for nothing is easier to sell and to live by, don´t you know ? as long as it lasts.
Problem is ( as HAL would say ? ) the 50 years are almost through, so it just can´t last much longer no matter how much we pussyfoot around reality.

Plenue , June 10, 2018 at 1:04 am

It has nothing to do with being 'politically incorrect'. It has to do with goldbuggery being completely ignorant of actual history and facts. It ascribes to gold attributes which it never truly had even in the West, much less globally.

Some examples from objective reality:

When the Conquistadors arrived in the 'New World', they discovered an entire continent filled with easily accessible gold and silver, and yet neither was treated by the natives as money. They were shiny trinkets. Money was cocoa beans and pieces of linen.

When the Vikings reached the Eastern Mediterranean, the Byzantines had a hard time getting them to accept gold as payment. Before that, the only 'precious' metal they had any interest in was silver.

Going eastward, in feudal Japan currency was based on rice, not precious metals. Gold and silver were used as representative tokens of large values of rice. The source of value wasn't felt to be the metal, it was what the metal represented.

If civilization were to end today, the most well off survivors aren't going to be the ones who stockpiled gold. It's going to be the ones who stockpiled food and water (and/or the weapons to protect/seize such stockpiles). Gold has exactly zero inherent value. It's a luxury item at best, in the same way fine art is. No one in the post-apocalyptic wasteland is going to be impressed by your lumps of heavy, soft metal.

There's plenty of information available from historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists (but emphatically not from mainstream economists) on the history of money. If you want to 'free your mind', you'd best start with one of these fields. Not some libertarian cesspit, where the 'intellectuals' are even more delusional than mainstream neoclassicals.

skippy , June 10, 2018 at 1:39 am

Concur.

Pespi , June 9, 2018 at 3:19 am

That all sounds very neat but is not true. Money is not a labor token, it is not a token of anything but an act of accounting.

templar99 , June 8, 2018 at 9:12 am

' Everybody needs money, that's why they call it money ' David Mamet ' Heist '

The Rev Kev , June 8, 2018 at 9:52 am

I'll probably get slammed here for this but to tell you the truth, I see no justification for the shape and character of the present money system in use around the world. In fact, I absolutely refuse to believe that There Is No Alternative. The present system is one that has evolved over the centuries and for the greater part was designed by those with wealth to either solidify or expand their wealth.
Yesterday, in a comment, I made the point that for an economic and financial system to work it has to be sustainable. Call that General Order Number One. But a survey of the present system shows a system that by its very nature is seeking to transfer the bulk majority of wealth to about 1% of the population while pushing about 90% of the population into a neo-feudal poverty. This is nothing short of self-destructive and is certainly not sustainable.
We tend to think of money as something permanent but the different currencies in existence today make up only a fraction of the currencies that have ever existed. All the rest have gone extinct. I am given to understand that when the US Federal Reserve meets, it is in a room whose walls are adorned with examples of these extinct currencies. In fact, I even own a few German Reichsmarks from the hyperinflation era of the early 1920s for an occaisional bit of perspective.
OK, maybe the Swiss referendum is being used, misused and abused but it is a sign of an arising discontent. It certainly surprises me that it was the Swiss as when I visited that country, they were the most conservative people that I have ever met as far as money was concerned. In any case, perhaps it is time that we all sat down and designed a money system from the ground up. Throw away the rule book and just take a pragmatic approach. Forget theories and justifications, just look for stuff that works.

JEHR , June 8, 2018 at 11:44 am

There is no need to "experiment" with other systems of money use: we just need to regulate the system we have but, unfortunately at present, we are in the midst of de-regulating everything–finance, environmental protections, healthcare, education, etc., and getting rid of other groups such as unions. The undermining of many (public) institutions is well on its way and I do not see it ending well. I think the rich have won this round just as they planned in the 1970's.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 12:14 pm

We have to consider, think or experiment with other systems. The comment below by Anarcissie is a good start.

Anarcissie , June 8, 2018 at 11:53 am

I imagine you would want to start from value (a mental state of persons) and labor, things persons do to achieve stuff which they value. It would be convenient to have tokens which represented social agreement about value, valued stuff, and labor. The social agreement could be brought about by cooperative voluntary institutions ('credit unions') which would oversee and guarantee the issuance of tokens (debts) by members (persons). We already do this on a modest scale by writing checks, so it's not unheard-of.

If you want a system which doesn't just feed the elites, you have to create one which doesn't rely on institutions dominated by or entirely controlled by the elites, such as the government, the major corporations, large banks, and so on. You want something egalitarian, democratic, and cooperative. It's not impossible.

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Indeed it is possible and has been done in the recent past.

A key insight behind credit unions, mutual insurance and savings and loans back in the day was that these institutions were loaning people their own money savings and should be run without assigning hotshot managers the dubious incentive of a profit-motive or talking up "innovation".

One of the things I object to in Richard Murphy's rhetoric and that of more careless MMT'ers is that they implicitly concede the premise that Money is usefully thought of as a quantitative thing, a pile of tokena circulating at some velocity. Financial intermediaries (and yes, Richard, they are intermediaries) do create "money" in the form of credit by matching ledger entries. For a savings and loan, which gives a mortgage to a depositor or just a checking account to a saver, this can be a key idea supporting mutual assistance in cooperative finance.

But, if you insist that the bank is "creating" a quantity of money that is then set loose to drive up house prices or some similar narrative scenario, I do not see that your storytelling is doing anyone any good.

Credit from institutions of cooperative finance -- shorn as they must be of the incentive toward usury and rent extraction -- is actually a very useful application of money, enabling people to take reasonable risks over their lifetimes. For example, to enable a young couple to form a household and buy a house and gradually build up equity in home ownership against later days. This is sensible and prosaic, a standard use of money to insure by letting a bank or similar institution help individuals or small businesses to transform the maturities of their assets and prospects, while certifying their credit. If your understanding of money does not encompass such prosaic ideas as leverage and portfolios or their application to improving the general welfare, then the "left" is up a creek without a paddle.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:44 pm

"Financial intermediaries (and yes, Richard, they are intermediaries) do create "money" in the form of credit by matching ledger entries. "
That is NOT what is meant by the term,"intermediaries" here. The common belief is that banks merely take in a depositor's money and, as an intermediary, lend that money out. An intermediary, by definition, does not create anything. That is the accepted meaning of the term when discussing banking. You are free to use your own definition but it will lead to confusion.

bruce wilder , June 9, 2018 at 12:47 am

What is the accepted meaning of the term, "intermediary", when discussing banking?

I am unclear what definition you are referencing.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 10:08 pm

You are incorrect as to how banking works, and you have also jalbroken moderation, which is grounds for banning, as is clearly stated in our Site Policies, which you did not bother to read.

Per your comments on banking, you are also engaging in agnotology, another violation of site Policies.

Banks do not intermediate. They do not lend out of existing savings. Their loans create new deposits. Not only has MMT demonstrated, and this has been confirmed empirically, but the Bank of England has endorsed this explanation as correct.

You are presenting the loanable funds fallacy, a pet idea of monetarists. It was first debunked by Keynes and later by Kaldor.

Your idea of "accepted meaning" is further confirmation you are way out of your depth here and are a textbook case of Dunning Kruger syndrome.

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 9:59 am

The matter of who or what controls money is actually secondary to the matter of what money is used for. Positive Money correctly identifies the fact that under our present arrangements in the USA, UK, and most of the West, money and credit are used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction (though they do not, so far as I know, use the terms). If "the people" somehow were able to gain control of money and credit, and money and credit continued to be used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction, society and the people would see no net advance economically.

That's the simple overview. Allow me to lay out a couple scenarios to show why just solving the problem of who controls money and credit does not really address our most urgent problems.

For the first scenario, assume that it is right wing populists who have triumphed in the fight to seize control of money and credit. Recall that in the first and second iterations of the bank bailout proposals in USA, Congress was deluged by overwhelming public opposition to the bailout. But in the second iteration, the Democrats mostly folded, while on the Republican side, the closer you got to the Tea Party extreme, the stauncher the opposition to the bailout you found. So, under right-wing populist control, we would probably see prosecutions and imprisonment of banksters, which would likely have the intended effect of lessening rent extraction. But we would probably also see that right-wing populists are not much concerned about speculation and usury, so those would continue relatively unscathed.

More importantly, we could expect right-wing populist control to result in severe cutbacks to both government and private funding of scientific research, most especially on climate change. We would be hurried forward on our course toward climate disaster, not turned away from it.

For the second scenario, let us assume it is a left-wing populist surge that achieves control over money and credit. In this scenario, speculation and usury would be suppressed as well as rent extraction. On science, there would no doubt be a surge in funding for climate research. But I would greatly fear what left-wing populists might do to funding of space exploration and hard sciences such as the large Hadron collider at CERN. And what would happen to funding for military research programs like DARPA?

Can you imagine the implications of cutting those kinds of science programs? Try to think of doing without all the spinoffs from the NASA Apollo moon landing program and the original ARPAnet, which includes much of the capability of the miniaturized electronics in the computer, servers, modems, and routers you are now using.

The point is, that without restoring an understanding of republican (NOT capital R "R"epublican Party) statecraft, its focus on promoting the general welfare, and the understanding that promoting the general welfare ALWAYS involves identifying and promoting the leading edges of science and technology, any success in seizing control of money and credit away from bankers (whether private or central) does not necessarily result in victory. For an extended discussion of science and republicanism, see my The Higgs boson and the purpose of a republic .

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 10:17 am

There will always be right-wingers, left-wingers, progressives, imperialists, etc.

One or more of them will seize control.

It would seem, then, the first thing to do, is to work on human nature, and not discovering new devices for them (or us, ourselves), because we can not guarantee no harm to Nature will come from colliding high energy particles.

Lord Koos , June 8, 2018 at 2:17 pm

I don't really see the left as being anti-science, it seems to me that it's the right that wants to deny scientific findings such as climate change, etc. There are exceptions of course, such as new-age/anti-vaxers, chem-trail theorists, etc but they are a small minority, and I find it hard to envision a scenario where a leftist government would cut science funding. As it is now, many if not most scientific and technical advances have originated from what was originally military funding, including the internet we are using at this moment.

This is a model that needs to change IMHO, there is no reason that cutting-edge science has to be tied to the military, science could just as easily be funded for its own sake, without the pentagon getting the money first and then having the tech trickle down to the rest of us.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

I am trying to come up with some examples where technological advances were not induced or misused by warriors and/or libido, from the dawn of humanity till now.

Stone tools – misused for war.

Bronze/iron tools – the same.

The wheel – war chariots.

Writing – to lord over the illiterate

The steam engine – how the west was won with buffaloes going extinct.

Gun powder – war, and above.

The internet – surveillance and libido.

The smart phone – above.

Aspirin – that's all good .maybe the example I am looking for except I'm allergic to it.

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

The technology of smart phones originated almost entirely with DARPA -- see Mariana Mazzucato's The Entrepreneurial State

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

money and credit are used almost entirely for speculation, usury, and rent extraction

Certainly on the leading edge, that is what money and credit are used for, but "entirely"??? In the main, money remains the great lever of coordination in an economy of vastly distributed decision-making.

The forces of predation and fraud are seriously out-of-control and they use money for anti-social ends, protected by neoliberal ideology and the cluelessness of what passes for the political left. Like any normal bank robber, the banksters want the system of money to continue to work and it does continue to work, in the main, even as they play Jenga with the towering structures of finance.

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Well, I did qualify it with "almost" : ). Still, in the late 1990s I found that there was around $60 (sixty dollars) of trading in financial markets (including futures and forex) for every one dollar of GDP. That compares to 1.5 to 1 in 1960. The ratio probably dropped in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 crashes, but I's be surprised if it has not surpassed 60 to 1 by now. Have mercy on me: I haven't looked at a BIS report for a few years now.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:47 pm

Your first scenario is already in existence today, my friend. As far as the second scenario – what exactly is it that you have against democracy?

Ignacio , June 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

It is just intuitive that giving central bankers the monopoly for money creation is not a good idea

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:49 pm

So your solution is to keep it in the hands of the elite?! Please note that the "central bank" under the Vollgeld initiative is completely redefined, not a central bank at all but a government institution controlled by a democratic process.

Martin , June 9, 2018 at 12:38 am

Many banks around the world started out as state-owned and have been privatised.
I admit it is simplistic, but having a state-run not-for-profit bank being this "government institution controlled by a democratic process" has a lot of merit to me.
It would have lending guidelines to aid investment in productive endeavours, limit the risk, and have no part in the insane fringe financial transactions that brought about the GFC, and who know how many other things that have gone under the radar.
This brings all currency creation into a single place, so it needs transparency and a (proper) democratic governance.
There would probably be fewer jobs I admit, but many of these would be the top levels enjoying fat bonuses based on winning zero-sum games.
And as a final comment – should GDP include the transactions within the financial sector at all? Given the zEro-sum games involved, and the creation of losers as part of that, does it actually "produce" anything at aLL?

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 2:00 am

I hate to be a nay-sayer, but the reason there were once many state banks in the US and there is now only one is that they became cesspools of corruption. And having arm-wrestled with CalPERS for over four years, which is more transparent than a lot of places, good luck with getting transparency and good governance.

Jamie Walton , June 9, 2018 at 7:39 am

Good point Yves. My research revealed the same re. previous state banks.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 8:24 am

Mind you, that does not mean they might not be worth trying, but the assumption that they can just be set up and will work just fine "because democracy" needs to be taken with a fistful of salt. There needs to be a ton of careful thought re governance and lots of checks (an inspector general with teeth at a minimum, we can see from CalPERS that boards are very easily captured).

Jamie Walton , June 9, 2018 at 9:52 am

Agreed. Could a public banking option run through the U.S. Post Office be a better approach (they have branches and staff everywhere already)?

Watt4Bob , June 9, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Bank of North Dakota has a fascinating history, being founded during the Progressive Era, when ND had a governor who was a member of the Nonpartisan League, a populist political party, and intended to save North Dakota's farmers and laborers from the predations of the big banks in Minneapolis and Chicago.

It remains the only state-owned bank in the country.

The populist
Nonpartisan League
remains the most successful third party in history, and had remarkable impact on politics in North Dakota and Minnesota. It merged with the Democratic Party in the 50s.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Ahem, I acknowledged that. What you miss is that pretty much every other state had a state bank and they were shuttered because they became embarrassingly corrupt. The fact that past "state bank" experiments almost universally failed makes me leery of the naive view that they'll be hunky dory. They could be but the sort of cavalier attitude that they'll be inherently virtuous is the road to abuse and misconduct.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:30 pm

And what did ND do as far WRT usury in being a CC tool.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 10:11 am

I was talking with my wife about DeBeers and the man-made diamonds they're selling @ 1/10th of the price of the genuine article

what if some neo-alchemist did the same thing with gold?

It would in an instant, render all of it worth $130 an ounce, on it's way to $13 an ounce.

And more importantly, take away the only real alternative to digitally produced ducats.

SubjectivObject , June 9, 2018 at 1:11 pm

allotropes
you need need natural allotropes

Jim Haygood , June 8, 2018 at 10:30 am

" Money is debt. It is only created by government spending and bank lending. " -- Richard Murphy

We've jumped through the looking glass. The former money, gold, is NOT debt. Debt-based money is ersatz, a ghastly fraud on humanity.

In a normal economy, government spending is financed by taxes and borrowing, meaning that no new spending power has been created, as IS the case with new bank loans.

Daniel Nevins' book Economics for Independent Thinkers discusses how modern economists got misled into believing the money supply governs everything, whereas earlier 19th century economists understood that bank lending is what drives expansions.

Poor Murphy, starting out with a wonky premise, only succeeds in careering into a briar patch and wrecking his bike. He should post his pratfall on YouTube.

False Solace , June 8, 2018 at 11:57 am

Fiat money can also be created without debt. That's the whole point of MMT, but it makes Haygood's head explode so he never acknowledges it (without muttering about hyperinflation, which never actually happens outside of disasters on the scale of a major war).

When the federal government spends money into existence -- which can be on the basis of a democratic agenda, in countries that have actual democracies -- there's no need for a corresponding issuance of government debt. Hence, spending power is indeed created. If the government does create debt, the bond is an asset on the ledger of whoever buys it, and the government spends the interest into existence. Which creates additional spending power for the private sector. The government can choose to, or not, collect a portion of this as taxes, which extinguishes the money. If the government collected as taxes everything it ever spent there would be no money in circulation.

> In a normal economy, government spending is financed by taxes and borrowing, meaning that no new spending power has been created, as IS the case with new bank loans.

Er, new bank loans also represent borrowing that has to be paid back. The spending power that gets created is extinguished by paying back the bank loan.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 12:07 pm

the federal government spends money into existence

a

That's a choice made by the designers of the current system.

But not the only choice.

The people, for example, can be empowered (or perhaps inherit that power, on the basis of the Constitution amendment clause* that any power not given explicitly to the federal government is reserved for the people), to spend money into existence.

*The Tenth Amendment declares, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Susan the other , June 8, 2018 at 11:59 am

So do you gold bugs want to dispense with double entry bookkeeping or keep it and adapt it to gold (would that entail both counterfeit money and counterfeit debt?) – gold as both credit and debt, or just what exactly? With the gold side weighing down the ledger it's gonna get wobbly. Maybe have to start a war to fix it? The fog of positive money. Really, JH, you've been the best voice against war. How do you reconcile all the social imbalance that would follow with "positive" money?

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Nobody's going to willingly go back to a gold standard, it would have to come about because money via digital deceit has failed in entirety.

Jim Haygood , June 8, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Fiat money is war finance, made permanent. Even during the gold standard, governments would suspend gold convertibility during wars. Lincoln's greenbacks and the UK's suspension during WW I are noteworthy examples.

So the gold standard won't stop governments declaring national security exceptions -- they've always done so. But permanent war finance is what sustains the value-subtraction US military empire, a gross social imbalance that already plagues us by starving the US economy of investment.

Double entry bookkeeping doesn't require that every asset have an offsetting liability. A balance sheet with no liabilities is all equity on the right-hand side. It's what a bank would look like if it sold off its loan portfolio and paid off its depositors -- cash on the left side, equity on the right. If the bank then bought some gold, it would be exchanging one asset (cash) for another (gold), with no effect on the liability/equity side.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:30 pm

It is worth noting that the Federal government struck well over 10 million ounces of gold in coin form for use in circulation from 1861 to 1865

And the CSA?

Not one grain worth

Anthony K Wikrent , June 8, 2018 at 6:40 pm

I've gathered and read much on the greenbacks, but don't recall that very interesting data about minted gold. Any sources you might recommend?

Wukchumni , June 9, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Just look up the mintage figures, here's $20 gold coins that contain just under 1 troy oz of pure gold in content, from 1861 to 1865. You can follow links to other denominations.

There were over 8 million ounces alone in $20 gold coins struck during the Civil War, by the Union.

http://www.amergold.com/gold-news-info/gold-coin-mintages.php

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm

p.s.

We were never on a pure gold standard, nowhere close actually.

The most common money in the land until the Federal Reserve came along, FRN's not being backed by gold?

Why, that would've been National Banknotes, which was the currency of the land from 1863 to 1935. There were over 10,000 different banks in the country that all issued their own currency with the same design, but with different names of banking institutions, etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bank_Note

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , June 8, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Specifically, in this case:

Assets = Equity (+ zero liabilities)

The accounting identity is still good.

Susan the other , June 9, 2018 at 10:06 am

Very hard to argue with you, but I'm tripping over this: "If the bank then bought some gold, it would be exchanging one asset (cash) for another (gold) with no effect o the liability equity side." Because in my mind cash isn't an asset – it's just money – a medium of exchange and a unit of account. Where we get all messed up is when the unit of account starts to slip (due to mismanagement) and people start to demand that money become a store of value. When the value is society itself. And blablablah.

JTFaraday , June 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Sure, the value is society itself, I agree with this. But OTOH, it is for example much better to be a woman, black person, fill in the blank, even "working class" person with a lot of money than not in a sexist, racist, etc society.

I can't necessarily compel the forces of sexism, racism, old farts who don't agree with me, etc through the "political process," thereby bringing my will to bear on society. But I can move things with my dollars, This is how money gets its magic power. If people played nice with each other, we wouldn't need money.

Older & Wiser , June 8, 2018 at 1:03 pm

What about paper bugs Susan ?
Has paper buggery helped any ever ?
Why do fiat currencies always self-implode (in average) every 50 years ?
" You can fool part of the people all of the time, and all of the people part of the time. .."

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:42 pm

8 white men control > 50% of the world's wealth. Let's just keep going in that direction, to where it's down to one white guy, and with debt-based money everyone else owes him all the "money" in the world. Then we can just strangle him in the bathtub and usher in an era of peace and prosperity.

Older & Wiser , June 8, 2018 at 6:40 pm

Richard Murphy says that " handing all credit creation to the central banks is not only technically impossible in a modern economy, it's a dangerous folly "

What is QE then, Sir ?
Our "modern" economies don´t have business cycles any more, just distorting credit cycles.
There are no "markets" as such today, nor prices only interventions.
Even interest rates (the price of supposed "money" remember ?) are not priced by markets any more .

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 7:47 pm

Ask any economist or banker what they think about fixing the price of goods and services and see how they answer.

Watch their heads explode when you then ask if it's a clever idea to fix the most important price in the global economy.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Help me. Gold is not money. And it does not have and never had immutable value. Even in the days of the gold standard, countries regularly devalued their currencies in gold terms. It was the money that was used for commerce, not the gold. When the US government devalued the $ in gold terms by 5%, bread at the store didn't cost more the next day, which is what your "gold is money" amounts to. It's not correct and you need to drop it.

Synoia , June 9, 2018 at 10:49 pm

I visited a gold mine for a tour onec. At the end of the tour was the gold refinery, and on the floor two ingots of gold.

They made the offer, "if you could life one with one hand, you could keep it."

I tried.

And discobered that the ingit, was

a) Pyramidal in shape so ones fingers slid off it
b) F .. heavy. 140 lb.

When you see gold "bars" being tossed around in the movies, it's complete bs. Arnold at his best coud not toss them around.

So we went an had a beer instead. Wiser, but not sadder.

Plenue , June 10, 2018 at 1:13 am

"The former money, gold, is NOT debt. Debt-based money is ersatz, a ghastly fraud on humanity."

You've been on NC for years. You have to know by now that this literally, objectively, isn't true. It just simply isn't. History and anthropology do not at all support your version of events. People like Hudson and Graeber have extensively documented where money came from. Debt and credit came first, then money as a token to measure them. We have warehouses full of the freaking Sumerian transactions tablets that show it! Money is debt, always has been.

Actually, I say you have to know this by now, but given how conspicuously absent you seem to be in the comments of Michael Hudson articles about the history of debt hosted here, maybe you just aren't reading them. Or you are and don't like what they say and how it clashes with your pre-established worldview, so you just ignore them. Though even if the latter, it's still telling how you don't even attempt to refute them. Perhaps because you can't.

steven , June 8, 2018 at 10:52 am

It's not about money; its about creating and distributing wealth. That a trivial thing like a double-entry bookkeeping operation should stand in the way of creating the wealth the world and its people need to survive is, of course, insane. But it is also insane to expect different results from turning over control of the process of money creation to a wholly owned subsidiary of governments like those of the United States and Great Britain, bent as they are on global hegemony ("full spectrum dominance") – at ANY cost.

Whether or not China and other developing nations realize it, genuine wealth creation – not money as debt creation ('finance capitalism') – is THE source of national power. It is more than a little amusing to watch the neoconservatives fret about the rise of China after having joined with their neoliberal brothers in off-shoring US and Western wealth creation potential (in what they must have thought was an oh so clever attack on Western living standards by forcing 'their' people to compete with the world's most desperate workers in a global race to the bottom so their 1% patrons would have an excuse to create more money as debt).

So long as the West remains focused on 'the price of everything and the value of nothing' (like the human potential of their own people, for example), the developing world is soon likely to have a monopoly that will put OPEC and its Middle Eastern dictators to shame. In summary this is about FAR more than just about how a few 'post-industrial' democracies create their money. The definitive work on this topic remains Soddy's Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 8:57 pm

Soddy doesn't object to democratizing the money supply and turning over its creation the democratically elected government.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 6:18 am

Soddys drama is making money a physical object when its a contract with time and space qualities,

blennylips , June 9, 2018 at 7:28 am

Just as a few days ago Carlos Rovelli, author of " The Order of Time ", has useful insights of the political significance of LSD, he has advice for this too in the same book:

The entire evolution of science would suggest that the best grammar for thinking about the world is that of change, not of permanence. Not of being, but of becoming.
We can think of the world as made up of things. Of substances. Of entities. Of something that is. Or we can think of it as made up of events. Of happenings. Of processes. Of something that occurs. Something that does not last, and that undergoes continual transformation, that is not permanent in time. The destruction of the notion of time in fundamental physics is the crumbling of the first of these two perspectives, not of the second. It is the realization of the ubiquity of impermanence, not of stasis in a motionless time.

In other (his) words:

"The world is made up of networks of kisses, not of stones."

Not bad for a physicist!

blennylips , June 9, 2018 at 8:02 am

As long as I am feting physicists, this just came over the transom from Sabine Hossenfelder of backreaction.blogspot.com fame. She's written a book, " Lost in Math " and was informed that a video trailer is customary in this situation. As the first comment there says:

"Hey, that is a GREAT statement! (And it applies to SO MUCH in life, not just physics!)

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2018/06/video-trailer-for-lost-in-math.html

djrichard , June 8, 2018 at 10:54 am

We've all been focusing on the demand side of the Fed Reserve's liquidity pump: be it for sound business needs. Or not (pirates).

But what happens when demand for that pump disappears because everyone is over-extended? Because this is where Bernanke and Japan and the ECB have done "whatever it takes" to keep that pump from going in reverse. Because in an empire created on naked shorts (currency creation today is essentially a naked shorting process), the last thing you want is that pump to go in reverse. That's not just creative destruction. That's house-on-fire destruction.

So Bernanke et. al. have figured out how to keep that pump from going in reverse. Simply prop up asset prices, e.g. by reducing the asset float in treasuries, MBSs, etc. And it worked. Yay! Right? If you're an asset holder, you're aces. If you're not an asset holder, well you're not doing so well. In particular, if you're in that part of the economy which depends on the velocity of money. Because velocity is at a stand still. As another blogger I used to follow would say, price sans volume is not the right price. So from my perspective, Bernanke (and Japan) had to destroy their economies by replacing them with zombie economies to rescue certain players. Not just players, but playahs – the pirates that pushed us to this end-game. So the pirates are rescued. And the average joe inherits the after effects. But hey, those with 401Ks got rescued too, so it's not all bad. And since the 401Kers are competitive, they generally found safe harbor in the job market too. Yay for them.

If we were not on a debt-based monetary pump, we would not end up with a zombie economy. One which the Fed Reserve can't figure out how to solve except for creating even more demand at the debt pump, even more over extension to mask the issue only to fall back within the same trap again. From what I can tell, we are truly in a doom loop and at present I don't see any creativity in getting us out of this doom loop.

So the vollgeld initiative would ostensibly be a way to extricate an economy from that doom loop. I suspect the Swiss don't really need it as much as other nations. But why get in the way of that type of creativity?

And I would just add that supplanting the federal reserve note with a Lincoln greenback type of approach would work just as well. Even better since it gives the monetary powers to the fiscal side of the Fed Gov.

I posted a version of this last night in the previous thread. But suspect nobody is going to go to that thread anymore. So apologies for a repeat of sort. Not trying to spam.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 11:06 am

The idea of a real estate pumped perpetual notion machine, combined with essentially an interest free savings plan for the proles, persuaded them to come through and help rise all boats, and who could have figured on vacation rentals helping out housing bubble deux, the sequel.

Looking @ the real estate listings here in a vacation rental hotspot is indicative, in that there are only a few $250k-$300k homes for sale now, whereas there used to be a dozen, always.

Now, on the other hand, we're swimming in $500k to $1m homes that don't make the rental cut.

That says a lot.

Jim Haygood , June 8, 2018 at 12:36 pm

You probably read the Bernank's naive confession yesterday that fiscal stimulus "is going to hit the economy in a big way this year and next year, and then in 2020 Wile E. Coyote is going to go off the cliff."

Three hundred shocked staffers in the Eccles Building cocked their heads to the side and gasped, "He said WHAT?" So I wrote this song Technodammerung for rogue banker Ben:

He was just a Harvard hand
Workin' the QE he planned to try
The years went by

Every night when the sun goes down
Just another lonely quant in town
And rates out runnin' 'round

It's another tequila sunset
Fed's old scam still looks the same
Another frame

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 12:46 pm

{imagines Bernanke working tables @ South Of The Border, and typical waiter spiel going something along these lines }

"Bienvenidos amigos, me llamo Benito, may I start you with an endless supply of chips?"

Alejandro , June 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Pardners in chime
proseytizing in real time
Preaching, if you can touch a dime
Why wont paper rhyme
But in their zeal and haste
And self-righteous aversion to waste
Recruit disciples in bling bling
Preaching money is a thing thing
While finger wagging the bloat
Preaching fix the rate, dont let it float
But beyond the noise
Preaching with poise
Its all about them
Their stuff, jewels and gem

Thornton Parker , June 8, 2018 at 10:58 am

Might the actions of a bank be restrained more easily by requiring all payments and stock issuances to the executives and directors be put directly into escrow accounts to be metered out in small amounts if the bank stays healthy over time? If the bank suffers major losses, the escrow accounts would be the first source of funds to make up for them. No Federal Deposit Insurance or other government payments would be made to the bank until the escrow accounts have been reduced to zero.

John , June 8, 2018 at 11:45 am

Randall Wray could be made Sec Treasury, Stephanie Melton Fed Chairman and if the plutocrats still run the rest of the political show that sets priorities, we would still be screwed. The full employment guaranteed jobs could just as easily be strip mining coal from national parks and forests as installing a national solar grid. It could be done with forced low paid labor camps that maximize rent for the plutocrats. MMT seems morally neutral on how the money is spent. For a good portion of the plutocrats, helping the poor is morally suspect .if they consider it at all. That is the larger problem than acceptance of MMT.

economicator , June 8, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Right on.

I didn't see any comment here going in depth with ideas on the binding money creation decisions with socially useful goals (saving TBTF I dont consider such a goal, except for emergency purposes), by what type of process and stakeholders – to avoid driving us toward becoming a 3rd world oligarchy.

The rest is just mechanics – but the most important thing is what is the social control and social purpose of money creation. I am sure we could do just fine even with the present system (of course since it is a MMT system), if there were some limits on speculation with asset prices, less military spending, more democratic control of enterprises, including banks, severe constraints on the FIRE sector, etc, etc.

In the end the problem of managing money well is a political problem. And not much is changing there for the better, despite a growing awareness that "we have a problem" as a society. Where are the politicians that will connect the dots and take on the responsibility to fix the travesty that we have?

More questions than answers, I know. But what we need a change in politics – then banking will follow.

Pespi , June 9, 2018 at 3:34 am

This is a common fallacy, that MMT is bad because it isn't about communal barter tokens or some other thing. MMT exists to empirically describe how money works in the existing economy today. You can be any sort of ideology and embrace it, anyone can use it, just like anyone can use science, it's not inherently biased toward any ideology unlike neoclassical economics and its baked in neoliberalism. That doesn't make it bad, that just shows that it is what it purports to be, an empirical description of money in our existing economy.

You want a brand new type of currency in a whole new economy, well, start organizing your revolutionary army, because that's what that will take.

bruce wilder , June 8, 2018 at 12:42 pm

The Battle for Money -- that much, it seems to me, is true. Neoliberalism is going down, brought down by its own (unfortunate in my view) success and hubris, and one consequence, on-going, is the urgent political need to re-invent the institutions of money.

The institutional systems of monetary/payment/finance systems are always under a lot of strategic pressure: they tend to develop and evolve quickly and they do not usually last all that long -- maybe, the span of three or four human generations -- except in the collective memory of their artifacts and debris.

There's a natural human wish that it could all be made safely automatic -- taken out of corruptible hands and fixed with some technical governor. Whether you are a fan of democracy or loyal to oligarchy really doesn't take anyone very far toward devising or understanding a workable system of money.

As I said in a comment on the earlier Richard Murphy post, money is a language in which we write (hopefully) "true" fictions to paper over uncertainty. Much of what passes for a theory of money is just meta-fiction, akin to literary criticism of a particular genre or era. That is certainly true of Quantity Theory (1.0 re: gold and 2.0 Friedman). It is true of related fables, like Krugman's favorite, loanable funds.

When Murphy rejects the quantity theory of money and then turns around and talks about the need to create "enough" money, I pretty much write him off. When he embraces the Truth of MMT, I know he is hopeless.

Wukchumni , June 8, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Ideally in a battle of money

a squadron of F-35's would be pitted against a fleet of Zumwalt Class destroyers

Summer , June 8, 2018 at 2:13 pm

It's been discussed on NC before, but despite all the theories and figures, it's really a battle of values. I'm not pushing religion, just saying it has all the makings of a holy war.
(come to think of it, isn't religion a big part of the history of monetary theory?)

Mercury , June 8, 2018 at 3:46 pm

China has yet to fall under the thumb of private banks the way the west has. State still holds the reins of regulation tight and the government bank maintains a robust public sector. Michael Hudson just came back from China and has this to say:

"The debts are owed to government banks. A government can do what the U.S. can't do. The government can forgive debts, at least those that are owed to itself, without creating a political backlash. If a viable corporation has run up too much debt, the government can forgive it. This is better than letting the debt close down a factory or force it be sold to a predatory asset management firm as occurs in the United States. That is the advantage of having public credit and why credit should be public. That's how it was in Babylonia. Rulers were able to cancel debts all the time in the 3rd millennium and 2nd millennium BC, because most debts were owed to the palace or the temples. Rulers were cancelling debts owed to themselves.

China can cancel business debt owed to itself. It can proclaim a clean slate. It can minimize debt service to whatever it chooses. But imagine if Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs are let in. It would be much harder for the government to raise real estate taxes leading to defaults on the banks. It could save the occupants by making new loans to those who default – based on lower land prices.

Well, you can imagine the international furor that would erupt. Trump would threaten to atom bomb Peking and Shanghai to save his constituency. His constituency and that of the Democrats are the same: Wall Street and the One Percent. So China may lose its ability to write down debts if it lets in foreign banks."

http://www.unz.com/mhudson/us-vs-china-housingand-those-millennials/

There are advantages to restoring financial management to the nation-state, as former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Frank Newman has pointed out in books and lectures. The private banks have exhausted QE to the tune of $30 trillion, none of which was invested in the industrial economy. Why blame the Swiss for wanting to be like China?

Grebo , June 8, 2018 at 5:23 pm

that this is a Chicago School / Friedmanesque monetary policy is made clear by Positive Money

The Chicago Plan of the 1930s and the unrelated Friedman suggestion of 1948 were both predicated on the false fractional reserve theory of banking. Given that individual banks create credit unrestrained by reserves those plans would not have had the desired result.

Positive Money knows this, though they do sometimes carelessly use the term 'fractional reserve banking'. They think their plan is different and, to the extent that it would actually prevent banks creating credit, it is.

It is silly to suggest that Positive Money is some Neoliberal front. Neutering the banks is the last thing Neoliberals want, and when they want something they don't bother with democratic methods like public pressure groups, they use think-tanks and lobbying.

Murphy's main complaint is about handing the 'quantity' decision to the Bank. I don't think Positive Money is wedded to that idea, it is just an attempt to defuse the 'profligate politicians' argument.

Watt4Bob , June 8, 2018 at 5:29 pm

I'm sort of disappointed in this thread.

Being that NC is the place I discovered MMT, and it's been explained and debated so for so long here, I would have expected NC readers to more broadly understand that what we have currently would work for everyone if only our masters would allow it.

IOW, it is not necessary to reinvent our system so much as insist that it be used to finance material benefits for all, as opposed to endless war, political repression and bail-outs for our criminal finance sector.

How can it be that we can we finance $trillions for war at the drop of a hat, but cannot afford to 'fix' SS, or provide universal healthcare?

It seems to me that it's a political issue, not a technical problem, or am I missing something here?

Korual , June 8, 2018 at 6:54 pm

It's the difference between nationalization and centralization. We can change policy direction or we can double down, as the Swiss are considering.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 8, 2018 at 8:11 pm

Cui bono?
The current mission of the custodians of our "money" is to keep banks afloat. It's not to provide general benefit, or to even preserve the buying power of the scrip they issue, despite what you might hear about the supposed "dual mandate" (which is now a "triple mandate": prices, employment, and the stock market).

"Financing material benefits for all" could be a bank that extends credit to a small business. Take a look at commercial credit creation to see how well that's been going. Take a look at velocity.

The Fed gifted Citi $174 billion on a day when they could have purchased 100% of the Citi Class A common stock for $4B. This is the difference Michael Hudson points about about China: their instant ability to swap debt for equity because all banks are state-owned and because they're Communists and nobody would blink an eye .

Most interesting in The Middle Kingdom are the moves to protect the state-owned banks. They started about 18 months ago, when people were told they could only have one Tier 1 bank-linked e-commerce account. As a result 7.5 billion (with a B) accounts were closed. Next they said all payments systems (including WeChat and Alipay) must clear through a new central bank clearinghouse. Two weeks ago they said not only will everything clear through these but the actual funds will need to be transferred to the new CB account .

Ant Financial announced that in the future they would be concentrating on services to finance and e-commerce companies, and away from providing those services themselves. They even anticipate a name change, from Ant Financial to Ant Lifestyle. All this makes perfect sense: President Xi will see every financial transaction in the country, and presumably apply a Social Score filter on whether he allows it to go through. 11 million people have already been denied the right to purchase train tickets or buy a house because they spat on a sidewalk, jaywalked, or made the wrong comments on social media.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

Wow! We are clearly past the "First they ignore you.." stage and just on the other side of " then they ridicule you.." phase. What a basket of slurs, gross omissions of fact and outright falsehoods is this current blog post.
Anytime Milton Friedman is invoked to slur a concept developed before he was even born, should be an indicator that there is no substance to the argument against the democratization of money creation.

Thanks to the internet however, one can easily visit the Positive Money site, the American Monetary Institute and International Movement for Monetary Reform sites to see those fake progressives in action. While you're at it, go to the Vollgeld site yourself and read what those wolves in sheep's clothing are really saying instead of the creative writing displayed in the blog.

How can anyone who claims to be concerned over the excesses of capitalism prostrate themselves in front of the current banking system, the driver of capitalism as it rides off the rails.

I can't bring myself to respond to the stream of unsubstantiated assertions presented but need to remind people that banks, MUST create money first for the most creditworthy. I won't insult the readers any further by naming who that class represents. A child can see that this, by definition, must lead to the accelerating inequality we see today.

As a challenge, I ask the author to show specifically in the US code where it permits the Federal Government to spend before its accounts at the Fed are replenished either by borrowing or taxing. Stay tuned to these pages for the evidence .

Clint Ballinger , June 8, 2018 at 7:29 pm

PM just wants OMF (Overt Monetary Financing) with ZIRP and a very small horizontal money system. MMT analysis suggests OMF with ZIRP and a much more regulated horizontal system is needed. There is actually very little difference in their policy prescriptions. They just arrived at them from opposite sides of the track

http://clintballinger.edublogs.org/2017/11/02/omfg-mmtpm-get-along/

steven , June 8, 2018 at 8:43 pm

I'm sort of disappointed in this thread.

I'll second that but for different reasons. Buried not far beneath the surface of this issue (money's creation, how and how much) are hugely important issues. But the discussion never seems to get beyond everyone's favorite system for creating money. The assumption seems to run along the lines of: if we can just come up with some scheme for government or gold backed money, those who possess or produce the real wealth for that money to buy will forever be content to exchange it for the money we will forever create to pay for it. There seems to be a belief countries like China or Russia can never escape the 'dollar trap' – or if they try we can threaten and intimidate them back in line with our "full spectrum dominance" military. Money IS debt – and sooner or later those who hold it are going to want to call that debt in.

Both Positive Money and MMT appear to me to just be attempts to continue 'business as usual', operating without a real definition of wealth and trusting / hoping 'the market' will sort it out.

Paul L. , June 8, 2018 at 9:23 pm

Please explain your comment "Money IS debt". Money may represent a debt but is not debt in and of itself.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 1:24 am

Money is debt, both functionally and conceptually. This is true for most of the money used in the Main Street economy. It is created as debt – yours to a bank when you use your credit card or borrow money; the bank's to you when you deposit money with one. In its role as a medium of exchange money serves as a claim on society's goods and services, its real wealth. You don't exchange real wealth for fiat or bank-created money without the expectation you will at some future time be able to again exchange that money for real wealth at least equivalent to what you had to give up in exchange for the money originally.

Jamie Walton , June 9, 2018 at 7:48 am

Rather than a claim on wealth, money could be viewed as a representation of value. Value exchange is more like a giving/sharing economy, rather than debt-swapping. I think this psychological improvement will lead to many physical/social/environmental improvements.

Of course, in any case, people need to be willing sellers/exchangers – it's not automatic or universal; we need some freedom to choose, and the better the conditions are generally, the better the freedom we will have.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 10:24 am

OK but the term, "money is debt" is used too loosely and can be very misleading. Money does not have to be issued as debt as claimed by MMT. In fact, money can first appear as equity on the government's balance sheet with no counterbalancing debt. So this concept is grossly misused to imply money must be issued as debt when, in fact, once issued it may represent a claim on the wealth of society. Proponents of MMT first make the claim that money is debt, and that the notion that money can be issued debt-free is therefore false on its face. Pretty clever. They slyly blur the distinction between the creation of money by a government and the role of that money once in the economy.

WobblyTelomeres , June 9, 2018 at 10:28 am

SOME proponents of MMT first make the claim that money is debt.

FIFY.

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 10:33 am

How can money first appear as equity? Isn't the other side of that the deficit? Granted I am naive on these points but I thought money was a bond of zero duration.See skippy re time and space

steven , June 9, 2018 at 11:17 am

I don't believe you are

"naive on these points"

. A question for Paul: Unless it is 'privatized' is there even such a thing as 'government equity'? The way the West's financial system works nothing that can't be sold appears to have any value. What's missing from that system – and the discipline of economics (see below) – is a definition of wealth.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

steven –
I believe we know what wealth is – but I don't understand your claim that money needs to be privatized to be considered equity. The government declares by fiat that the money it creates can be used to purchase goods and services in the economy.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 5:11 pm

I believe we know what wealth is

I don't believe this is anywhere nearly correct. From all over the political spectrum commentators lament the lost of trillions of dollars (or euros or whatever) of wealth. At least until the effects of a financial crisis start to take hold, no physical or intellectual capital is lost. The only thing that is lost are a few zeros on some financial ledgers.

As for money as equity, you may be technically correct, i.e. the rules of accounting may permit governments to count the stacks of paper currency they print (in any case, small change in terms of the total money supply) as 'equity'. But for most of us the only thing governments possess that we would count as equity are asset classes like public infrastructure. And until the services they provide (or the assets themselves) are sold, that infrastructure would, from a business accounting standpoint, technically be 'worthless'. (that last is a question?)

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 11:24 am

I'll add watt4bob has stated what I feel is true, which is that we have MMT right now, and it's more commonly known as socialism for the rich

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 1:04 pm

tegnost – There is nothing in the accounting standards that prevents the inclusion of equity on a balance sheet. If we were under the gold standard and you happened to find a nugget of gold in your back yard, are you telling me that you would have to imagine some kind of "debt" to balance your household balance sheet? When Lincoln issued the Greenbacks in the 1860's there was no bond or debt associated with it. It paid soldiers wages and goods and services during he civil war.
Just as MMT states the government isn't a household, it also isn't a commercial bank either. It has the constitutional power to coin money as needed, no debt involved.

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 2:42 pm

presumably you bought the nugget of gold when you purchased the property and it's land use rights so it's not a virgin birth, the debt is what you purchased the land for. Maybe one of those diamonds in the outback that hardy souls find, but those may have some territorial claim as well.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 3:37 pm

tegnost – If you have to go there to make your point I let others judge.

tegnost , June 9, 2018 at 5:18 pm

ok how bout I come into your yard and look for some gold?

Plenue , June 10, 2018 at 1:33 am

The gold nugget has no inherent value. It's just a lump of cold metal. It will only become valuable when you go to someone else with it and try to exchange it for something, whether it be a currency or some kind of good. And only if the other person agrees with you that it's valuable. This is fundamentally what money is: a token of social interaction. The gold becomes valuable when you go to exchange it for something else. In other words when a debt comes into play. Money is debt. Or rather, it's a measurement of debt and credit. 'Store of value' and all that econ 101 rot is so much gibberish.

Once you realize that, then a question arises: "Well, why bother with rare metals or pressed coins? If it's just a token, you could literally just take a stick and carve marks into it and it would be the same thing". Yes, exactly. Which is precisely the sort of thing we see lots of in history.

RBHoughton , June 8, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Murphy sounds like one of those indecisive chaps who dispute with everyone but have no ideas of their own. I shall ignore him. Good luck to Switzerland. They have the courage and political system to try the experiment and we will all know the result in early course.

Oregoncharles , June 8, 2018 at 11:50 pm

What am I missing? As far as I can tell, the proposal is just Modern Money with the central bank substituted for the Treasury. Yes, that makes it less democratic.

MMT is inflation-limited, too. That's how you know you've overshot your resources. In fact, MMT poses a technical problem: how do you know when you've reached resource limits, EXCEPT by observing inflation? Because without that, you have a ratchet. Of course, that's just what we have, usually, so maybe that's evidence for the theory.

"First, this puts inflation at the core of economic policy." – is a false claim. As quoted, it treats inflation as a limitation. The core is promoting adequate economic activity.

Finally, he treats "money is debt" as doctrine. he doesn't justify it and it makes little sense, ESPECIALLY in MMT. How can you pay a debt with a debt? Someone's getting cheated. MMT actually proposes free money, to a point. I've seen elaborations of the idea, but they use a very extended sense of "debt." And I don't see how it's even relevant to his overall thesis.

The Swiss are pretty conservative, so I doubt they'll pass it.

Yves Smith Post author , June 9, 2018 at 1:45 am

No, Positive Money is not remotely MMT. Wash your mouth out.

The Positive Money types want to limit the extension of credit and put it under the control of what Lambert called "a magic board," a regular gimmick from his days back in debate where someone needed to be in charge but no one wanted to think hard about who or how. In practice, a central bank would be in charge. So how democratic is that?

MMT does not fetishize money the way the Positive Money does. MMT despite having Monetary in the name is about the role of government spending in a fiat currency system. MMT argues that (as Kalekci did) that businesses have strong incentive (not wanting workers to get uppity) to keep the economy at less than full employment. So the government can and should spend to mobilize resources. And it can because its role as the currency issuer means it can never go bankrupt, it can only create too much inflation. Taxes are what contain inflation in MMT.

By contrast, the Positive Money types want to do it by limiting credit creation. And thus Murphy is correct. That means their priority is to preserve the value of financial assets, not achieve full employment.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 11:03 am

I don't believe it is accurate to say that Positive Money "fetishizes money". Irving Fisher acknowledged his debt to Frederick Soddy for the concept of "100% Money", the intellectual foundation for the Positive Money movement. Soddy's intent in limiting the creation of money to the stock of wealth available for it to purchase was to retain independence from the state in obtaining the means of subsistence. He compared the use of monetary policy to goose the economy to a merchant putting his or her finger on the scale, making it difficult to impossible for money to fulfill two of its primary functions: serving as a medium of exchange and a store of value.

So long as there was wealth available for it to purchase, he – and presumably Fisher's Positive Money crowd – would have no objection to creating as much money as needed to keep the economy running. What he and every other respectable economist have been trying to bring under control is the excess money creation fueling speculation and the seemingly inevitable boom-bust cycle accompanying the private creation of money.

Rather than curbing that excess, however, the 'solution' that seems to have been adopted is for the US and other Western governments to absorb the excess credit (money as debt) creation by taking it on their (governments') own books. Government debt is I believe called 'near money' in the financial markets. But neither the governments nor the bankers of countries that no longer create real wealth have any logical right to create the money to buy it. Just retaining the right to 'print' more money or 'near money' doesn't change that, except perhaps in an absurdly narrow legal sense.

There are, of course, some issues like globalization intimately connected with the construction of a logical and fair monetary system. But underlying them all, including for countries other than the US, is a logical definition of 'wealth':

a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed for the basis of economics if it is to be a science."

Frederick Soddy, WEALTH, VIRTUAL WEALTH AND DEBT, 2nd edition, p. 102
(Soddy might have added "if government is to be a science".)

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 8:12 pm

Here in lies the rub economics will never be a Science.

Firstly the medium used by most economics – philosophy – does not even have a functioning model of time and space and is prone to fads. Magnified by scale WRT elite tastes or self dealing. Wealth or Capital is also a bit complicated by say the Cambridge Controversy et al. So until some very fundamental flaws are sorted, that have nothing to do with – money – the concept of "Science of Money" is going to be a non starter.

Worst is those that use such syntax and dialectal style are going to be called into question – over it.

I mean we had political theory, then some bolted on science to it, and called it economic science. Which then begat a whole time line of dominance front running the political process regardless of political incumbents.

I think Scientists that dabble in monetary theory fall victim to the same dilemma that say religious based views do – their optics are ground before looking.

steven , June 9, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Skippy,

Probably best to start with the first part of Soddy's (actually John Ruskin's) observation, "a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed ". "Most economics" may indeed disguise its prostitution with a veneer of philosophy or mathematics. But I don't think you can say that about Soddy's:

A definition of wealth must be based upon the nature of physical or material wealth, in the sense of the physical requisites which empower and enable human life-that is, which supply human beings with the means to live, and, as an after consequence of living, to love, think and pursue goodness, beauty and truth.p. 108

(All citations are from Soddy's Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, 2nd edition- WVWD)
For that matter, according to Michael Hudson, you can not accuse the classical economists of just dabbling in philosophy. They were ALL about freeing society from free-lunch economic rent seekers, freeing up the resources so they could be devoted as completely as possible to the development of "the physical requisites which empower and enable human life".

What we have to do to develop those physical requisites – and increasingly the limitations imposed by the requirements of sustainability – is pretty well known. Whether a science of money can be devised to help accomplish that goal or some other mechanism for distributing the wealth made possible by advances in science and technology is required is increasingly open to question.

Take a look at Soddy's –THE THREE INGREDIENTS OF WEALTH (DISCOVERY, NATURAL ENERGY AND DILIGENCE). p. 61 The first two are firmly embedded in time and space.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:21 pm

I have read Soddy, more so I have talked with PM sorts for a long time, hence I'm not ignorant of the camps views or actions during said time.

Onward

"a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed ".

I did reference the Cambridge Controversy, are you informed WRT this aspect.

"A definition of wealth must be based upon the nature of physical or material wealth, in the sense of the physical requisites which empower and enable human life-that is, which supply human beings with the means to live, and, as an after consequence of living, to love, think and pursue goodness, beauty and truth.p. 108"

Sorry but . "consequence of living, to love, think and pursue goodness, beauty and truth" has nothing scientific about it.

I reiterate – Metaphilosophy has no scientific underpinnings and attempts to "brand" it otherwise in only to burnish its credentials without any empirical satisfaction is just rhetorical gaming.

"you can not accuse the classical economists of just dabbling in philosophy."

Hay I respect Hudson, that does not mean I worship him, hes been invaluable to the discovery process, but, that does not mean everything he has to say is the word of dawg, nor would I surrender my cognitive processes just because someone uses the term classical.

If I have to go that space I would favor say Veblen or Lars P. Syll where if your to own a thing one must accept the responsibility from a social aspect and not one of atomistic individualism.

But hay I regress . because I'm still waiting for someone to show me a few decades of a labour market in "action".

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 11:22 pm

BTW it would be incumbent of you to redress my concerns above without forging a new path which excludes them.

steven , June 10, 2018 at 1:40 am
"BTW it would be incumbent of you to redress my concerns above without forging a new path which excludes them." – Sorry if I did that. It was not my intent. Wikipedia is my only exposure to the Cambridge Controversy . As I understand it, science is supposed to be all about observing the real world and then drawing conclusions from those observations. It looks to me like the participants in the debate were looking at their models and maybe the logic they used to construct them, not the world they were supposed to be modeling.
"Most of the debate is mathematical, while some major elements can be explained as part of the aggregation problem. The critique of neoclassical capital theory might be summed up as saying that the theory suffers from the fallacy of composition;"
This kind of cant is a far cry from something like:

"Though it was not understood a century ago, and though as yet the applications of the knowledge to the economics of life are not generally realised, life in its physical aspect is fundamentally a struggle for energy , in which discovery after discovery brings life into new relations with the original source. Evolutionary development has been parasitic, higher and higher organisms arising and obtaining the requisite supplies of energy by feeding upon the lower. But with man and the development of conscious reason, that process as regards energy is being reversed. "

(emphasis added)

Sister Gloria , June 9, 2018 at 8:46 am

Sorry, but where does Positive Money , in any of the publications and articles, propose any limitations on 'credit' ?
I never saw that.
Or AMI or any of these public money types for that matter?
Thank you.

Paul L. , June 9, 2018 at 9:45 am

You are completely correct, they don't. This is all made up propaganda against the democratization of the money supply. What PM proposes is sound credit creation.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 8:23 pm

PM wants to establish a non democratic administration of government issuance and then allow a return to the free banking period of the 1800s. All based on notions of EMH and QTM contra to all the historical data from that period. So on one had PM wants to lay claim to scientific methodology WRT money yet still cling to scientifically refuted EMH.

As far as I can discern PM proponents advance the belief that this would compel banks to become investment entities for "productive" activities. Don't know how that would work out considering how corporatism views society.

Sound of the Suburbs , June 9, 2018 at 4:13 pm

MMT has looked at publicly created money.

The positive money people have come at it from the other angle. People like Richard Werner have been studying the problems with privately created money since the Japanese economy blew up in the 1980s .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EC0G7pY4wRE&t=3s

They have seen all the problems with privately created money and the positive money people were very pleased when the BoE confirmed their beliefs in 2014.

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/quarterly-bulletin/2014/money-creation-in-the-modern-economy.pdf

The positive money people have come to the wrong conclusion through not understanding publicly created money.

The MMT people can learn a lot about the problems of privately created money from the positive money people.

The two camps should merge to get the big picture.

I started looking into all the problems of privately created money after 2008 and was a latecomer to MMT.

The two merge nicely when you think about it and realise the why the positive money people came to the conclusion they did. They just didn't understand the way publicly created money works now.

djrichard , June 9, 2018 at 4:19 pm

In the case of Japan, unless I'm misunderstanding things there, presumably they've embraced MMT out the wazoo, in that they're willing to leverage federal gov debt out the wazoo. And yet I think the consensus still seems to be that their economy is still zombified (still not really recovered from the debt overhang from their go go years). In which case, why is that?

Has Japan been hamstringing their use of MMT, so it's less effective than it could be? Do they need to up the ante, employ MMT-on-steroids to overcome the trap that they're in, say like the US needed WWII to get out of its trap?

Withstanding MMT-on-steroids, should it be QE-on-steroids instead that get the animal spirits rekindled? I don't have a strong sense of whether the US central bank has done more in that department compared to the central bank of Japan. Or if indeed, the US central bank has been more successful on that front. It's clear that animal spirits are certainly rekindled in the US – the usual playahs are back at it. Though whether that's unzombified our economy, I'm not so sure – I don't think it has.

If these hurdles are so difficult, seems to me we should have a monetary system that doesn't result in a zombified economy to begin with, per the comment I was making further above.

Synoia , June 9, 2018 at 10:41 pm

And yet I think the consensus still seems to be that their economy is still zombified (still not really recovered from the debt overhang from their go go years). In which case, why is that?

Debt Peonage. For it to work there has to be a debt jubilee (a forgiveness of peoples debt).

Older & Wiser , June 9, 2018 at 8:21 pm

China´s Battle for Money

" It seems there are greater similarities between China and the US than may be visible at first glance. China builds real estate for a shrinking population, invests for an over-indebted client (the US, which even insists on a drastic reduction of the bilateral trade deficit) and finances all this with money it does not have ."

https://mises.org/wire/china-trouble

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 9:39 pm

I know the answer to this dilemma – Praxeology – !!!!!

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 8:29 pm

MMT has always stated to whom the debt is owed is the crux of the matter and in what form denoted.

I have trouble understanding the dramas with bank issued credit when squared with say equities, why all the focus on one and not to be inclusive of a wide assortment of other mediums of exchange and how they are created and why.

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Sorry comment was directed at djrichard above.

So tell me why J – bonds are called the death trade e.g. shorters nightmare – albeit they will tell you their shorts are being thwarted by ev'bal forces.

The Rev Kev , June 9, 2018 at 10:26 pm

Couldn't resist this. That title has me intrigued so, with apologies to Winston Churchill-

" What (neoliberals have) called the Battle of (Credit) is over the Battle of (Money) is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of (world) civilisation. Upon it depends our own (western) life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our (civilization). The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. (Neoliberals) knows that (they) will have to break us in this (idea) or lose the war. If we can stand up to (them), all (the world) may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the (United Nations) and its (Countries) last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour." "

skippy , June 9, 2018 at 10:50 pm

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/mark-ames-libertarian-liars-top-reagan-adviser-cato-institute-chairman-william-niskanen-%E2%80%9Cdeficits-don%E2%80%99t-matter%E2%80