Anybody paying into a pension or trying to manage an endowment that needs to be there in 30 or 40 years (or forever, as is the case for university endowments) needs to understand that projections based on prior rates of economic growth are fantasies, hatched when we had the luxury of pretending there were no energy limits. The restructuring of our energy economy, if taken under our own terms and on our own timelines, will utterly crush traditional economic growth as we’ve come to know and love it.
The United States and Canada work well together. The countries share the world’s largest and most comprehensive trade relationship, exchanging more than $2 billion per day in goods and services; the U.S. is Canada’s largest foreign investor and Canada is the third-largest foreign investor in the U.S. The partnership clearly isn’t broken, but it may need some mending as bilateral and international gas trade stands to complicate matters in short order.
Wage inequality is really a sign of a deeper problem; basically it reflects an economic system that is not growing rapidly enough to satisfy everyone. Our basic problem is that the world economy is growing so slowly that the ordinary workers at the bottom find themselves with less than an adequate quantity of goods and services. This problem seems to be getting worse rather than better, over time, making the problem a political issue.
While we have touched on some of the primary catalysts for the ongoing decline in railroad traffic, chief among which the drop off in global trade and the plunge in oil transportation, a third - just as important factor - has been the situation involving US coal power plants, where as the EIA writes, "coal stockpiles at electric generating facilities totaled 197 million tons at the end of 2015, the highest level since June 2012 and the highest year-end inventories in at least 25 years."
Props to Saudi Arabia. Unlike other producers, including U.S. shale producers, it maintained financial strength and flexibility during the last boom. When it began to shift the paradigm of global supply, the kingdom was explicit about its goal - market share - even if it didn’t always trumpet the proactive steps it was taking towards that goal. The now-evident objective of low prices, having been achieved and sustained, begs the question of why Saudi Arabia defended its market share.
China's choice of Djibouti as the country that will host Beijing's first overseas military outpost has put the tiny African nation in the geopolitical spotlight. Situated on one of the planet's most critical oil chokepoints, and nestled amongst countries that serve as operations bases for some of the world's most notorious terror groups, Djibouti is set to become a focal point for power poltiics in the years ahead.
“They’ve stopped saying everything’s fine. I’ve got two words for ‘everything’s fine’: Flint, Michigan.” On February 18, SoCalGas and the national media declared the “worst methane gas leak in U.S. history” permanently sealed, but just over a month later, hundreds of Porter Ranch residents who evacuated — and are now returning home — are suffering the same symptoms they suffered when the gas leak was active.
Russia’s decision to greatly reduce its military presence in Syria, coming as it did with little warning, has left the world struggling for explanations. Russia is to maintain a military presence at its naval base in Tartous and at the Khmeymim airbase. In fact Russia is “withdrawing without withdrawing”. By re-establishing the Assad government in Syria, and permanently placing its forces at Syrian bases, the Russian’s have placed an impenetrable obstacle to the development of the Qatar gas pipeline.
Oil prices have climbed by about 50 percent from their February lows, topping $40 per barrel. But the rally could be reaching its limits, at least temporarily, as persistent oversupply and the prospect of new shale production caps any potential price increase.
It’s spy thriller stuff; no one is talking. But there are indications Russia would not announce a partial withdrawal from Syria right before the Geneva negotiations ramp up unless a grand bargain with Washington had been struck. Tradeoffs seem to be imminent. And that would imply a power shift has taken place above Obama - who is essentially a messenger, a paperboy.
The timing of the Russian withdrawal could not be more fortuitous, as it occurs at the very pinnacle of the European refugee crisis, a crisis that was caused by Europe’s backing of the Saudi-Turkish attempt to overthrow Assad. Is Russia gambling on receiving some modicum of European gratitude for helping to stem the flight of refugees to its borders, with the pay-off in terms of easing sanction and enabling its long stalled pipeline projects to be completed.
In the end, the oil attrition wars may lead us not into a future of North American triumphalism, nor even to a more modest Saudi version of the same, but into a strange new world in which an unlimited capacity to produce oil meets an increasingly crippled capitalist system without the capacity to absorb it.Think of it this way: in the conflagration of the take-no-prisoners war the Saudis let loose, a centuries-old world based on oil may be ending in both a glut and a hollowing out on an increasingly overheated planet. A war of attrition indeed.