The Summer of Discontent, by James Howard Kunstler

The world has too much debt and not enough oil. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:

The ill-feeling among leaders of the G-7 nations — essentially, the West plus Japan — was mirrored early this morning in the puking financial market futures, so odious, apparently, is the presence of America’s Golden Golem of Greatness at the Quebec meet-up of First World poobahs. It’s hard to blame them. The GGG refuses to play nice in the sandbox of the old order.

Like many observers here in the USA, I can’t tell exactly whether Donald Trump is out of his mind or justifiably blowing up out-of-date relationships and conventions in a world that is desperately seeking a new disposition of things. The West had a mighty good run in the decades since the fiascos of the mid-20th century. My guess is that we’re witnessing a slow-burning panic over the impossibility of maintaining the enviable standard of living we’ve all enjoyed.

All the jabber is about trade and obstacles to trade, but the real action probably emanates from the energy sector, especially oil. The G-7 nations are nothing without it, and the supply is getting sketchy at the margins in a way that probably and rightfully scares them. I’d suppose, for instance, that the recent run-up in oil prices from $40-a barrel to nearly $80 has had the usual effect of dampening economic activity worldwide. For some odd reason, the media doesn’t pay attention to any of that. But it’s become virtually an axiom that oil over $75-a-barrel smashes economies while oil under $75-a-barrel crushes oil companies.

Mr. Trump probably believes that the USA is in the catbird seat with oil because of the so-called “shale oil miracle.” If so, he is no more deluded than the rest of his fellow citizens, including government officials and journalists, who have failed to notice that the economics of shale oil don’t pencil out — or are afraid to say. The oil companies are not making a red cent at it, despite the record-breaking production numbers that recently exceeded the previous all-time-peak set in 1970. The public believes that we’re “energy independent” now, which is simply not true because we still import way more oil than we export: 10.7 million barrels incoming versus 7.1 million barrels a week outgoing (US EIA).

To continue reading: The Summer of Discontent

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