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The ‘High Oil Prices = Recession’ Fallacy

Econophile's picture




 

Every time we see oil prices go up we hear that it will cause inflation and/or the economy will go into the tank.

... 7 out of the 8 postwar U.S. recessions had been preceded by a sharp increase in the price of crude petroleum. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to a doubling in the price of oil in the fall of 1990 and was followed by the ninth postwar recession in 1990-91. The price of oil more than doubled again in 1999-2000, with the tenth postwar recession coming in 2001. Yet another doubling in the price of oil in 2007-2008 accompanied the beginning of recession number 11, the most recent and frightening of the postwar economic downturns. So the count today stands at 10 out of 11, the sole exception being the mild recession of 1960-61 for which there was no preceding rise in oil prices. [Hamilton, 2009. Rv. 2010]

The premise is wrong. What causes price inflation is an expansion of money supply (and a desire of people to spend it, often quickly). What causes recessions is malinvestment of capital caused, again, by money supply expansion.

The classic argument is that because 70% of the economy is driven by consumer spending, an increase in gasoline prices will cause a decrease in consumer spending, which will cause an economic decline. Sounds logical on its face. There are empirical studies that show either increases in gasoline prices will not impact discretionary spending (McCarthy, 20110) or that large increases in petroleum prices will cause recessions (Hamilton). Take your pick.

The above chart1 shows the peak of real YoY GDP percentage change (light blue lines) and the relative price of gasoline (red), the product that most directly affects consumers. If gasoline prices have been increasing prior to the peak, then there is statistical data showing that those prices may have had an impact on GDP. From that one might conclude that because oil prices were rising prior to the peak in GDP, and because GDP subsequently declined, then high oil prices may have caused a decline in GDP.  (Because A happened and then B happened, thus A caused B?) Or, is it just a coincidence?

 What we see in the data is coincidence rather than confirmation.

Take price increases of oil and gasoline. It doesn't cause price inflation (i.e., all prices rise). Instead it's a supply and demand thing. When OPEC jacks up oil prices, people spend more on gas and less on other things. The consumer goods they don't buy decline in price. Money is redirected by market forces to petroleum producers who are incentivized to discover and produce more oil. Ultimately, under normal circumstances, prices come down. This process is a bit distorted because we have a cartel-controlled market. But, if OPEC keeps prices too high, people reduce consumption, cartel revenues go down, and OPEC reduces prices to stimulate consumption. This is what happened in the current business cycle. 

It is the same with recessions and oil prices. Each of the recessions we've had in the last 40 years can be adequately explained by causes other than oil/gas prices. For example, while oil/gas prices shot up prior to the 2008 Crash, no one suggests that was a cause of it. Rather we know that oil prices went up as a result of a fiat money fueled boom that drove up all commodity prices.

Looking at our chart, we can start with the 1973 - 1975 recession. That was the time of the Arab Oil Embargo (Oct. 1973 to March 1974). If the theory that high oil prices equals recession holds true then why did the economy recover when gas prices continued to rise post-recovery? What really happened was that the Fed cut interest rates by half in 1970-1971, and then started raising them in 1973 to combat rising prices. By the time the recession started in November 1973, the Fed Funds rate peaked at just over 10%. It isn't as if the oil embargo didn't cause disruption in the economy; it did, but most of the economic disruption was caused by the government's price controls and rationing. But it didn't cause the recession.

Next, GDP peaked in April 1978  (gasoline-PPG $0.631) and declined until October 1980 ($1.223). Recall that price inflation almost hit 15% in 1980.  The recession started in January 1980 ($1.11) and ended in July 1980 ($1.247). Gasoline prices continued to increase during the subsequent recovery. There is no correlation between oil prices and recession or price inflation.

GDP peaked again in Q2 1981 ($1.353) and bottomed out in November 1982 ($1.268). We went into recession in July 1981 ($1.353) until November 1982 ($1.268). You can see an oil price correlation here, but other things were going on: high inflation. By June 1981, the CPI was still over 10%. Carter had appointed Paul Volcker as Fed Chairman in August 1979 and he started raising the Fed Funds rate from around 10% until it reached 19% in January 1981, and kept it high (8% to 10%) for much his term (ended in 1987). This broke price inflation (it settled in the 3.5 to 4.5 range). Thus monetary policy rather than oil prices was the cause of the recession. 

From then on, gasoline prices declined and remained relatively stable until 1999 ($0.90 to $1.30) when it started climbing again. The July 1990 ($1.139) to March 1991 ($1.138) recession shows that GDP peaked in late 1987 (about $0.95) and gasoline prices peaked in January 1991 ($1.304) and the recession ended in March 1991. But again, other things were driving the economy: a real estate boom-bust cycle, and that was largely driven by cheaper money and accelerated depreciation rules (those rules ended in 1986). 

Prices fluctuated but remained in the $1.20s for most of the next eight years.

By 1999, the rise in gasoline prices coincided with peak GDP in late 1999 (Dec., $1.353) and gas prices rose, almost steadily since then. The 2001 recession came and went (March-$1,503) — November-$1.324). But, what else was going on? This was a time of incredible production and technological innovation that again benefited from the Fed's cheap money (spurred by Greenspan to revive the economy from the 1990 - 1991 recession). It worked. But Dot Com boom turned into Dot Bomb bust as the Fed raised interest rates and cooled the economy off from its "irrational exuberance".

The Fed decided it needed to stimulate the economy from the bust and from November 2000 to June 2004, the Fed lowered interest rates from 6.5% to 1.00%. From then on oil prices followed commodities prices and gasoline prices continued to climb.

By late 2003 ($1.578) the rate of growth of GDP peaked and thereafter was slowing, although it continued to grow until January 2006 ($2.359). At this point, the Fed again sought to cool down the economy and the Fed Funds rate went from 1.00% up to 5.26% by July 2007. Again, it worked and the real estate markets began to come apart. By H2 2008 ($4.142), GDP began to decline, thus beginning the bust phase of our current boom-bust cycle. Current price is $3.591.

Thus, while you can argue that rising oil and gas prices may have had some negative effects on the economy because of some economic disruption, in every case, the cause of our recession was anything but rising prices.

Regardless you are still going to hear that rising oil and gas prices are going to ruin the economy and cause us to go back into recession. While I believe the economy will decline starting in H2 2012, the reasons have nothing to do with oil prices. Don't let the pundits scare you with this economic fallacy. There is enough to worry about.

 


1. Note that gasoline prices (red line) are not scaled to prices, but are scaled to an index (100). The GDP scale (blue line) shows YoY percent change.

 

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Tue, 02/28/2012 - 14:18 | 2204630 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

   This just in...

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_20061466

I guess all that kerogen in Colorado is not as easy to turn into oil as the cornucopians thought...

Wasn't it supposed to be profitable by now??? What with WTI nearing $110....

Wed, 02/29/2012 - 00:58 | 2206956 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

Nice find Flakmeister.

It's a weird article. First Chevron says they're giving up their lease. Then they go on about how the work was "productive," without addressing the contradiction that if it was productive, then why not pursue it? And only 3 full time researchers?

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 13:04 | 2204367 zebrasquid
zebrasquid's picture

Edit

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 13:05 | 2204366 zebrasquid
zebrasquid's picture

Was it a 70% consumer economy in the '70s? Or much before the past decade? Then the writer is not apples to apples.

In San Diego regular is now $4.60 and it costs $100 to fill your tank. You hear lots of talk about that around the gas station islands. It is registering
with average income people and the joy riders on weekend freeways are fewer. I doubt that they are all out in malls spending that money they are saving by not riding around in their cars. They are home watching tv and playing on their iPads.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 12:52 | 2204318 HowardBeale
HowardBeale's picture

There is being the devil's advocate; there is just plain stupid; there is absurdity to the point that you have to wonder if Zerohedge is a Goldman Sachs front...

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 11:25 | 2203880 MrBoompi
MrBoompi's picture

I think this author is either crazy or works for the energy industry.  Supply and demand only matter when they cause price increases.  A glut of stored oil never causes prices to decrease.  Futures contracts make sure of that.  It probably still costs about $ 35 to get a barrel of oil out of the ground (maybe MUCH less).  When you sell it for $135, and you are sellling 25 million barrels/day to the US, you're making a nice little profit, and taking almost a $trillion/yr from spending that could be used for more productive purposes.

And for those who don't think oil price and recession/depression are related:

http://www.wtrg.com/oil_graphs/recessi.gif

 

 

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 12:49 | 2204291 CPL
CPL's picture

The only time I would write something like that seven years ago is to blind myself with bullshit that my investments are safe.

 

More than likely he's stuck in position.  By the cheerleading going on, he's stuck in it badly with the start of tax season in two days...

 

Your link is 404 bud.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 10:04 | 2203483 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

The premise is wrong. What causes price inflation is an expansion of money supply

Right.  The oil speculators are just manipulating the ponzi scheme to their advantage (and taking advantage of tension in the Middle East caused by Western Governments). 

Can you blame them?  I mean, if you are just gonna unlock the vault......

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 08:58 | 2203255 jason4u
jason4u's picture

This article is absolute rubbish...the author doesn't have a clue...need to go to Econ 101...

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 09:06 | 2203277 MassDecep
MassDecep's picture

The truth about Gas Prices

http://youtu.be/eQYy25kLijA

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 04:21 | 2203020 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Money is redirected by market forces to petroleum producers who are incentivized to discover and produce more oil.

_________________________________________________

The miracle of infinite growth, as brought to you by US citizens.

The myth of the west frontier. Just settle on Indian lands, there is enough for everyone. Always more indian lands to transfer tomorrow. Or how a denial of basic reality which led to world wide depressions, two WW2 and a number of other wars, communism taking over in Russia and South East Asia and a few other things keeps being brandished by US citizens.

Oil is produced, not extracted so well, just pump enough money and produce more and discover more.

By the way, it is why peak oil cannot be predicted with any accuracy.

It is US citizen game to claim that peak oil already happened when actually too little data to infirm or confirm.

It is the underlying principle. If prices go high, oil exporters will seek to export as much oil as they can, hence if they can not go beyond their current oil extraction rate, they must have hit the ceiling.

US citizenism has a dimension of dementia.

-oil extractors know the amount they are left with.
-Some countries live off oil sales nearly exclusively
- current system of money is debt

But in this situation, oil owners are expected to sell as much as possible to be paid with USD.

Consumption, consumption, consumption.

Sell all your tangibles the faster you can to get in exchange USDs.

Give something in exchange of the promise of something.

With credit emission:

Give something in exchange of nothing.

And you are expected to do this to the utmost and the fastest possible.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 02:35 | 2202905 Savvy
Savvy's picture

eh never mind. It's beer o'clock

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 02:02 | 2202864 boiltherich
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Just as small changes in supply or demand can trigger disproportionate change in prices or visa versa in a very inelastic product small changes in our inelastic household budgets can trigger disproportionate changes in consumer behaviors.  The vast majority of people have very little discretionary income so when fuel takes another $900 or 1200 per year bite out of that budget people will respond pessimistically and sometimes irrationally. 

I do not know about econophile but when gasoline goes from $1.529 in 2005 to $4.359 in 2008 I AM IN A RECESSION.  And I know when I paid $4.149 yesterday I went over to Blockbuster and cancelled my Blockbuster monthly pass.  Last time I trimmed by Charter bill with lower services, and cancelled my newspaper subscription, now if I can just find another $50 or so to cut out I will be back to making it through the month.  It sounds pretty bad that $50 would make such a difference, but that is just how bad it is out there for the majority of households.  I have lost at least 30% of my income to unreported inflation in just the last three years, I am at the point of spending NOTHING I can avoid spending and I am still having a hard time getting through the month.  When I saw February on the 2012 calendar I thought SHIT!  I have to make the money last an extra day this month. 

This morning the low tire pressure light came on in my dash and I seriously hoped it was a glitch because if I had to buy tires 3 months before I had the money saved up I could possibly lose my car.  Seriously, on the way to the dealership I was thinking about bankruptcy.  An extra dollar per gallon does not sound like a lot, but in fact for most of us it is. 

In a way it might be a blessing, that auto loan is the only thing left tying me to the USA.  If I did not have that around my  neck I could live pretty nicely elsewhere. 

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 09:32 | 2203340 Implicit simplicit
Implicit simplicit's picture

Get your tire plugged for ten bucks. If it can't be plugged, go to a salvage yard specializing in salvaged tires. You can get a set of tires in great shape salvaged from a total that for .25 the cost of a new tire.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 10:20 | 2203563 boiltherich
boiltherich's picture

Two words Implicit:  RUN FLATS.  They can't be repaired.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 00:52 | 2202742 LucasATX
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I think that it is great that ZH is willing to post a variety of opinions. My opinion is that this article was horse shit. But, thanks for sharing!

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 00:36 | 2202712 Heyoka Bianco
Heyoka Bianco's picture

"When OPEC jacks up oil prices," Instant proof that this Econophile doesn't have a fucking clue what he's talking about.

Since you apparently cruise the comments, Econotard, please to be explaining how OPEC engineered the latest price spike, and why it's already fallen off. You can't because that's not even remotely how prices are determined.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 00:29 | 2202693 engineertheeconomy
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I love it. Zerohedge is spouting out mainstream media horse shit all of the sudden. They must have threatened Tyler with something serious. This article may  just as well have been written by Warren Buffet

it probably would be best if they just tripple all the fucking prices on everything and get it fucking over already

what a bunch of fucking cocksuckers

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 02:38 | 2202916 Lednbrass
Lednbrass's picture

Its a GUEST POST.

Its from a guest poster (Econophile), not Tyler.  They run a fairly wide range of guest contributors here, try oh...I dunno... READING!

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 00:20 | 2202669 geekgrrl
geekgrrl's picture

Sorry econophile, I stopped reading after I saw you were comparing gasoline prices to GDP.

One thing you might want to keep in mind is that this time really is different: we've passed the peak of oil production. Because of our profound dependence on oil, it is inappropriate to use an increasing energy history as a model for a declining energy future. I don't completely discount your argument that prior correlations between gas prices and GDP have not been particularly significant, but your argument amounts to little more than a wish that the future will be a continuation of the past, and I don't think the evidence for that is very compelling at all. Just look at your graph. What I see is an increasing sensitivity to gasoline price on GDP. Increasing sensitivity suggests a system is approaching positive feedback, and risks going into a runaway situation where self-destruction is likely, if not inevitable.

I also don't think "high oil prices = recession" is a fallacy at this point, and I would actually go further and say that high oil prices = mass awakening and disillusionment, followed soon thereafter by profound anger and divine retribution. YMMV. And may you not get caught in the crossfire.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 21:40 | 2202344 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

This is a rather broad sweeping conclusory statement:

"While I believe the economy will decline starting in H2 2012, the reasons have nothing to do with oil prices. Don't let the pundits scare you with this economic fallacy."

They should frame this and hang it next to every pump.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 03:50 | 2202992 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

"While I believe the economy will decline starting in H2 2012, the reasons have nothing to do with oil prices. Don't let the pundits scare you with this economic fallacy."

___________________________________________

Quick way to bucks, copyright and all.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 22:19 | 2202431 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

or maybe the bike store and bus stop

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 23:25 | 2202567 economics1996
economics1996's picture

High oil prices combined with increases in food show there is too many dollars pumped into the economy.   Inelastic items jump in price more than elastic items.  With inflation labor becomes cheaper and more economical, this is where the Phillips Curve was developed although a different cause/effect was attributed to it.  The theory is crap anyway but that is where the myth was created.

Anyway high oil prices are a indicator of inflation, nothing more.  Combined with food prices going up means there is a lot of liquidity and you can bet there will be winners and losers when the counterfeit money is circulated throughout the economy.

Wed, 02/29/2012 - 18:29 | 2210090 Econophile
Econophile's picture

Actually, that is exactly what I was saying. Most commenters didn't read the piece. And the Phillips Curve is crap as you say. This site is becoming a haven for flamers.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 12:12 | 2204110 Nigh Eve
Nigh Eve's picture

Very well stated.   Your 2nd paragraph is probably close to what Econophile was attempting to say.  (Unfortunately, he botched it by adding a handful of contradictory statements.)

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 21:31 | 2202329 TheMerryPrankster
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I guess the price of oil won't matter when all the wells are radioactive after the next Israel/Iran pissing contest gets out of hand.

Black swans are sometimes just white swans covered in oil and dying.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 21:09 | 2202297 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

to quote Shakespear, "oils well, that ends well."

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 20:26 | 2202219 j0nx
j0nx's picture

Did the bernank write this article using his nom de plume? Gas prices don't matter, gas prices don't matter. Say that 3x and then click your heels twice.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 19:37 | 2202082 Cthonic
Cthonic's picture

 

Record corn acreage expected to be planted this year.  For our cars.  Don't worry, be happy, serfs, energy prices matter not.  Meanwhile, I'll let what people are eating (or not) speak for itself.

http://imgur.com/WFY6o

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 04:36 | 2203031 title examiner
title examiner's picture

The signs saying the gas MAY contain as much as 10% ethanol are getting larger at the pump.

I wish they would stop with that.  HOW do they expect agriculture to suddenly and permanently supply both food and increasing demands for energy?  I've read stuff that indicates this to be a really bad idea.

Meanwhile, the cattle herds in TX and OK are as small as they have ever been, because of a drought, ranchers had to liquidate their herds, because they couldn't afford grain nor hay at the rate of 80 cents to $1.20 per pound that the market was offering for cattle.

I spoke with one small scale rancher about it at length.  Gas price surely kept them from trucking in hay.  I imagine this gas price spike has withered those with larger scale operations who thought they could weather via hay and grain supplements.

How much does a decent steak cost?  According to econophile, it costs what it costs....and that is ok.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 22:21 | 2202439 HarryM
HarryM's picture

The speed of the price increase is what kills the economy.

If we know now that gas will cost $20 in ten years we can adapt - but when they "Drop the Hammer" we suffer.

It's an unexpected expense.

 

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 19:50 | 2202119 11b40
11b40's picture

Wow.  Interesting chart.  So, we are back at the levels of the mid 70's.  Now let me think.  What happened then to petroleum prices?

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 18:47 | 2201985 skipjack
skipjack's picture

Your point that high gasoline price des not make inflation is well-taken; the definition of inflation is a rise in the supply of money over the rise in productivity/output.  However, where you go off the rails is in not understanding that high gasoline prices is in fact very DEflationary.  As others have already pointed out, the higher cost of fuel and the resulting higher prices of things made or delivered or heated by such will cause a concomitant cutback in the use of those goods.  Likewise, the ability of people to service their debt is impacted - there is only so much cutback that can occur in commuting to work, cutting out meals, and turning down the thermometer in winter.  Additionally, the psychological effects of higher prices of gas, food and fuel on the average person will send confidence down, causing those who can to postpone discretionary purchases in favor of putting a few more dollars aside for what is touted all over the MSM to be even more increases in the price of fuel.

 

It's not INflation but DEflation that is caused by high gasoline/fuel prices.  You are going to see business margins crushed in 12Q1, and defaults on credit are going to start going up.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 19:49 | 2202116 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

As to where inflation and deflation will likely go, read this :
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/observations-engineer

Many economists seem to be differing on whether the economic system will head towards inflation or deflation. My insight reasons that both inflation and deflation will be occurring but they will happen in differing areas of the economy. Assets that require longer term loans to purchase where there is a forward looking expectation that the debts incurred in today's transactions will be able to be repaid from wages earned in future years will suffer deflation and falling prices and asset valuations. The reasoning for this is as follows :  The Hubbert Curve strongly implies that future real economic activity will be decreasing since there will be less energy available in each successive year, so less will get done in each successive year, which implies that there will be less jobs in each successive year. With less jobs available, and more unemployed people competing for any job openings that do become available, the wages for jobs will be dropping too, as there will be more competition between the unemployed to get any given job. Employers will be able to do price discovery for wages where supply and demand work somewhat in reverse (but not counterintuitively). With a high demand for jobs, and a small supply of jobs, the price (or wage) of jobs goes down! So, with less jobs in the system, and a tendency for there to be less wages paid for existing jobs, we can expect the funds that will be available in future years to repay long term credit to be decreasing. This is a fundamental change for the long term credit business model used in prior years and decades. Prior to peak oil/debt/GDP/water/soil/phosphorous etc, the trends and expectations were that there would be more wages earned and more funds available to repay loans in future years, and 7 yr. loans for CRE, and 15 and 30 yr. loans for housing made good business sense. Now that we are post peak the long term credit business model is structurally challenged with higher risks of defaults due to an expectation of less wages being available to repay loans.

 

Inflation can be expected in the price of real/hard assets and commodities that don't require long term credit, especially where basic necessities (BN) are concerned. Discretionary spending will obviously decrease, but BN purchases will be made first. With money printing increasing the funds available, more money will be competing for BN and for real assets where there is immediate value and need. And the Hubbert Curve implies that there will eventually be less supply of BN and real/hard assets, so supply and demand will tend to drive prices up in these areas and cause inflation in them.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 06:01 | 2203087 DevilsPrinciple
DevilsPrinciple's picture

Michael:

I agree with you and there is ample evidence everywhere to support your statement. 

Asset deflation: Real estate ( inability to service debt)

Asset Inflation : The stock market.( need to prime the pump continuously)

 

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 20:06 | 2202162 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

How does government spending factor into the hubert curve? 

Lots of thought little thinking. 

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 22:34 | 2202466 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

Long term credit/debt/deficit/bailouts are structurally risking return of capital if the economy shrinks from declining energy inputs. It doesn't matter how much you spend or print if the energy isn't there to run the machines and engines.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 23:06 | 2202526 riphowardkatz
riphowardkatz's picture

natural gas, oil shail, tons of coal, wyoming, nuclear, wind, waves, solar, algae and on and on and on. Keep dreaming. You get mixed up in defintiions anyway so you are not credible. Deflation and inflation are mutually exclusive. Dollars are going to have more value or less value. Pick one can't be both.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 00:12 | 2202643 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

The Crash Course here (http://www.chrismartenson.com/) provides an excellent analysis of debt, money, and energy issues, and is worth viewing several times to really understand and "get it".   A strong case is made at that website that renewable and alternate energy sources will be difficult to implement and integrate into the economy at scale.

Can you please review the crash course please? You will learn a few useful things.

Wed, 02/29/2012 - 19:23 | 2210260 redrob25
redrob25's picture

michael_engineer,

 

I have gone through Chris's course and encourage many to do as well. I have shown it to many people. However, he consistently has one major issue in his energy writings. Even if we are at peak oil, there is a very cheap alternative that would solve a lot of our energy issues (not all). Thorium is a VERY safe, VERY plentiful nuclear fuel safe that the US has the most advanced technology over (we did a big project in the 60's looking for a solution to the nuclear jet fighter). Adding in liquid flouride into the equation (a technology known as LFTR or 'lifter') would allow us to, much more cheaply than we do now, produce abundant energy for several millenia even at current growth rates (hockey stick equations taken into consideration). It is estimated by several nuclear engineers that if the US were to dedicate significant resources in a Manhattan-style project, we could have a working, ready to roll-out into production model in 3-5 years.

The US, as a result of the 60's research, have enough Thorium already in storage to power the world for almost a year, and the US for many years.

But, stupid politicians and money-hungry energy companies don't want that to happen. So through political contributions and media propaganda, development of the cheaper, safer, and very plentiful fuel source have been stymied. Right now, the Chinese are taking the torch and are actively developing a LFTR reactor for Thorium. Sadly, even though the concepts were discovered by the US half a century ago, the Chinese will be the first to produce a production-ready reactor and the US will buy the licenses from them.

And then there is the Tesla ionosphere theory, which if we could get JP Morgan to release the documentation they took when he died, may give us a plentiful, non-regulatable, free energy supply for as long as we wish to have it. But that idea will probably never see the light of day as long as TPTB have a say in it.

So while yes there is a current energy 'crisis', it is largely the result of brainwashing of the public and sorry energy policy by govt bureaucrats with tunnel vision. The problem could be easily solved if we wanted it to be.

Don't let all the scaremongering get to you. While we face many problems, many of them have solutions should we just choose to look for them rather than spending all of our energy running from the boogey man.

 


Wed, 02/29/2012 - 19:53 | 2210349 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Thorium does not solve the problem since the worlds transport infrastructure is not electrified...

Look, I like Tesla, he was a smart guy, but he was barking up the wrong tree with his power distribution idea...

Hint. inverse square law...

Wed, 02/29/2012 - 23:10 | 2210945 redrob25
redrob25's picture

Flakmeister,

 

A bit of linear thinking. If we use Thorium for energy generation, we free up natural gas for mobile applications. And with advances in battery technology, thorium can be used to power more electric vehicles. And you'd free up the coal for heavy rail applications. And you'd have cheap grid electricity to run light rail. In some cases the energy for mobile applications (and costs of building out rail lines where applied) may increase transportation costs, but this is far less of a catastrophic, mad max type scenario than a lot of people claim it is. Plus, there are always technologies we don't know about yet that always seemt to come into play when we most need them. We simply don't have the knowledge now to know whether we are at our limits on energy as there is much more natural science to be explored.

I don't claim to understand the technology behind Tesla's research as I am not a scientist and don't have that kind of brain (though technology in general comes easy to me and it is what I do for a living). No offense, but if Tesla thought is was possible, I'd take his opinion over just about anyone's. Unless some other scientist has already proven it not true.

Thu, 03/01/2012 - 09:44 | 2212127 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Fair enough...but your plan is at least 50 year one... and we do not even have a demonstrated working commerical design yet...

And time is running out if you want to have a smooth transition...

Tesla and his post AC power distribution schemes were not the high point of his research...and I am not the first Ph.D. in physics to arrive at this conclusion...

Hey don't get me wrong, LFTRs may be a big part of the answer, but to make them fly it will take humongous government effort and based on what I see out of Washington, the government pulling this off will not be US one...

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 04:26 | 2203027 title examiner
title examiner's picture

Well, you are one of the few who gets that structural readjustments can occur...inflationary in some places, deflationary in others.  That is a lot less naive than the typical oversimplifications.  I just love all the prescient beings who discovered that the mortgage crisis was a bad thing, starting around 2006.  I would respect them if they had discovered that before 2000.

I don't get how one can write an essay about oil prices without getting into how the current oil markets actually function and where the money is flowing.  Some say that Koch is running a price manipulation scheme after the Enron Loophole granted by the CFTC, similar to the scheme ran by IntercontinentalExchange (yes there is no space in their incorporation papers)  So, how do you get the right answer without touching on these points?

One potential weakness I see in the Hubbert Curve is that the Russians have a unique view of where oil may be found.  For example, US companies decided Vietnam had no oil.  The Russians sank some very deep wells and have found plenty of oil there.  So, while folks still have their heads in the old ways of finding and thinking about oil, Mechanics professors in Russia are kind of giggling a bit, I suspect.  And it fits with crony capitalism to kind of hide that "new technology" is about to flood in a change the picture.  So, when you see strange bills in Congress, you might suspect that there is a problem with  asymetrical of information.  And to a large extent, there isn't much drilling going on here in the US as the campaign continues for the public domain to be privatized for pennies on the dollar.

For better or wose, I suppose I have been following Jeremy Rifkin for a long time.  He came out with books like Entropy in 1980 and The End of Work in 1996, a good distance ahead of the curve.  I don't know what people here think of him, actually.  (I may not care.)

I'll review the information you have suggested.  Thanks for the recommendations and insights.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 06:13 | 2203091 title examiner
title examiner's picture

http://www.huliq.com/19627/exxon-drills-world-s-deepest-well-at-its-russ...

abiotic oil:  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/on-energy/2011/09/14/abiotic-oil-a-t...

I have always remembered reading something about these deep well in a 1975 supplement to the encyclopedia.  I know a bit more than that, but for purposes of argument, let's acknowledge the Russians have a different view of it, Exxon and others are in that game now--and they dig what the Russians are digging.

So, let us amend our views to be up to date and circumspect, eh?

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 15:55 | 2205214 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

You loose credibility by alluding to "Russian Theories"....

That's code for abiotic oil....

As for Viet Nam... you are spinning the facts something fierce...

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 17:01 | 2205556 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

Amend nothing. Flak covered the weakness in where you went with your statements.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 17:13 | 2205604 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

But in fairness you did have a good handle on the structural angle.

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 16:23 | 2205338 title examiner
title examiner's picture

I suppose in your world, the Russkies aren't capable of science and mathematics.

Speaking of Abiotic....it would seem other planets have no life, but they do have hydrocarbons, such as methane gas.

If you wish to accuse me of something, you need to do more than make an accusation that has no substance.  bring it, buddy.

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