Guest Post: Why Oil Prices Are Killing the Economy

Tyler Durden's picture

From contributor Gregor Macdonald

Why Oil Prices Are Killing the Economy

"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.” ? Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Have rising oil prices just put the final coffin nail in the entire 2009-2011 economic recovery?

Given the slowdown in China, the new recession in Europe, and the rocky bottom in the US economy, it certainly seems that way. 

Oil's Relentless March Higher

Oil prices emerged from their spider-hole over two and half years ago. Having fallen from the towering heights of $148 a barrel in the summer of 2008, the early months of 2009 saw a return to prices in the $30’s. Interestingly, during that great oil crash, the price of West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil (WTIC), spent only 20 trading sessions below $40. That is the exact price most analysts, only three years prior, believed oil could never sustain as the world would pump “like crazy” should prices ever reach such “impossibly high levels.”

Given the enormous debt troubles the West is currently facing, and the fact that oil has averaged over $100 during several months this year, it does seem reasonable to suggest that, once again, the economy has been pushed off a ledge by oil. Let’s take a look at oil prices, over the past several years.

Many economists and older energy analysts, although they won’t admit to it, have been simply blown away by the persistence of oil prices: especially in the weak economic environment post the 2008 crisis and financial market crash. How did oil prices manage to recover to $80 (let alone to $40 or $60), and make their way back all the way to $100? (And this is just a chart of WTIC oil. Brent oil has been even stronger the past year). Why, for example, has a 12% reduction in US demand and weak economies elsewhere in the OECD not translated to much cheaper oil prices? Why did oil simply not flatten out in price, post 2008? After all, many claimed oil was nothing but another in a series of 'Made in America' financial bubbles. With “no shortage of global supply” (as many said), and with a market “awash in oil” (as others said), why didn't oil prices simply go to sleep at, say, $50 per barrel?

Do Higher Oil Prices Really Cause Recessions? (Answer: yes)

Before we unpack some of the factors behind oil’s strength, I want to address the subject of oil prices and recessions. I think readers should be aware that some analysts reject any reflexive, easy causality between high oil prices and sharp contractions in the economy. There are a range of views on this topic, from those who embrace the idea of substitution to those who assert oil prices and oil supply rise concurrently with movements in the economy.

Substitutionists tend to also be positive, or constructive, transititonists I might add. Many of these come from technical and engineering backgrounds, and often have very good exposure to economic theory. In their view, higher oil prices drive human innovation and spur entrepreneurs to create new technology. High oil prices for them are actually a positive. Understandably, they also want all subsidies and other externalities, which we pay as a society to the fossil fuel industry, to be phased out. And frankly, I myself sympathize with that view.

Meanwhile, analysts who see the relationship between energy supply and the economy as more equalized, more symbiotic if you will, tend to hold the view that if the economy demands more oil--and is willing to pay the price--then the earth will reliably “give it up” to the resource extractors, over time. You can see this view very much at play currently, in the excitement over natural gas and also oil extracted from shale. Indeed, the learning curve, in which the hydraulic fracturing technique moved from experimentation to perfection, conforms very much to theory.

If one expands on these two schools of thought---human innovation that conquers limitations, and, a symbiotic view of the economy and energy supply---it becomes rather easy to imagine that high oil prices present a real, but, rather small problem for the economy.

Of course, I take a different view.

Writing with my friend and colleague Chris Nelder at the HBR Blog, earlier this Fall, we warned of not one but two risks associated with stubbornly high oil prices. First, we referred generally to the history of oil spikes and recessions, noting that in the post-war US economy, one generally followed another. For an economy that has been geared towards oil for many decades, this should come as no surprise -- especially when energy expenditures rise over certain thresholds, as they did in the 1970’s, and again more recently. But we also warned that an over-confidence had developed over the decades, and especially in America, that any pressure from energy prices was ultimately solvable. And, we encouraged corporate management to be more skeptical of the idea that the global oil and gas industry would be able to continue bringing resources to market, that most could afford.

One of the more thoughtful reactions to our essay came from Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations. Levi called into question that any reliable threshold existed, of energy expenditures to GDP, that would trigger recession once crossed. In a general sense, that strikes me as reasonable. And to clarify, the notion of proving a magical threshold -- say, when energy expenditures to GDP rise above 5% -- was not exactly our central point. Indeed, I would agree with Levi more specifically that the rate of change might be at least as damaging, if not more so, than any threshold. In Does Expensive Oil Inevitably Cause Recession? Levi also makes an additional point worthy of attention:

There is, however, a possible back door explanation for why high petroleum expenditures relative to GDP seem to correlate with recessions even if they don’t do a good job explaining them: it is easier for petroleum expenditures to undergo big changes in short periods of time if they are starting from a high level. If, say, the price of oil rises 50% from a starting point where petroleum expenditures are 2% of GDP, the change in spending is 1% of GDP; in contrast, if the price of oil rises the same 50% from a starting point where petroleum expenditures are 6% of GDP, the change in spending is 3% of GDP. Whatever your transmission mechanism – supply side contraction, demand destruction, shifts in consumer preferences for durable goods – the 3% jump is going to be far more economically damaging than the 1% one. Indeed the years where oil spending was high but recession was absent generally come from a period where prices were fairly stable.

As we look at the historical table from IEA Washington, showing expenditures to GDP from 1949-2010 (opens to PDF), what’s illustrative to Levi’s point are the levels from which we rose, starting in 2004. Because in 2003, the level was already sitting at 6.8%. But in 2005, that rose to 7.3% and then reached the very high level of 9.8% in 2008. Today, I am mainly concerned with the outlook to 2012, given that the global economy was granted only the most brief reprieve from high energy prices in 2009, before resuming in 2010 and this year 2011. To provide the most to up-to-date data, let’s also look at the chart, also from EIA Washington:

Understanding Causality

It is difficult to satisfy a demand for precision, when asserting that high energy prices, or fast rates of change in energy prices, or energy-prices-to-GDP thresholds, have caused a recession. The most significant hurdle lies in the organic complexity of the economy itself. With all its political and cultural variances, and the mercurial nature of social moods and trends, how does one make certain claims about such a large system?

Some have suggested therefore that high or rising oil prices cause changes in GDP--and hence, recession. To try and put this in layman’s terms, Clive Granger attempts to assert causality within a more uncertain matrix: saying, essentially, that certain events follow others reliably---but in a sequence where causality is difficult to quantify. As has been pointed out by some, Granger is unfortunately paired with the word causality, when in fact it is really a test or a method by which to determine predictability. (For some of the best work on energy prices and recessions, and Granger Causality, I point readers to the work of James Hamilton, who also runs the popular macroeconomics blog, Econbrowser.)

A broader discussion of the economic impact of energy prices would also include the problem of energy transition. Or, if you like, the broader subject of adaptation. For example, perhaps oil-induced recessions historically were exacerbated or ultimately made possible by policy mistakes. It once was the habit of central banks to raise interest rates in the face of higher oil prices. But what if the economy had simply been left to handle higher prices on its own? More recently, Ben Bernanke has allowed that the central bank cannot control oil.

“There’s not much the Fed can do about gas prices per se. After all the Fed can’t create more oil. We don’t control emerging markets.” --Ben Bernanke, 2011

This suggests an evolution in thinking over his predecessors. Could the economy adapt better to resource price pressures, if policy mistakes were not a feature of the economy?

I’m not so convinced of that either. After all, the volatility in free markets can have its own deleterious effect on new investment. One of the most vexing features of any reliance on high fossil fuel prices alone, as a trigger for investment in alternative energy, is the volatility of prices. If those with capital are to be encouraged to invest in new energy technologies, many of which capture more diffuse energy -- or which create energy but at a higher cost -- then there must be some confidence that cheap fossil fuels will not re-enter the scene, making new investment uneconomic. Encouragingly, that particular issue now looks more resolved than ever because the price of the master commodity -- oil -- which is still the primary energy source of the world, is now structurally higher and is almost certain to stay that way.

Asking The Right Question

And so, to answer the question, do high energy prices cause recessions, I would say with full respect to uncertainty and causality, yes. Eventually, however, the energy transition away from fossil fuels will gather enough momentum that we will interpret high energy prices differently: we will say they forced (helpfully) a necessary transition. But as we are so early in any global transition to alternatives, it would be better for economists, policy makers, and business to consider the Douglas Adams quote that’s in the header of this essay. Trying to prove that black is white may be a noble effort -- in the fullness of epistemology and causality -- but in the short term it could get you run over in a crosswalk.

We face a more immediate question: is the global economy headed back into recession in 2012? Almost certainly, I think. 

The Coming 2012 Global Recession

In Part II: Why Its Now Easier to Predict The Outcomes of the Coming Recession, I will explain why oil prices currently are so stubbornly high, and I’ll pay particular attention to how tight the oil market has become (again) post the 2008 crisis. So as not to be simplistic, however, I will not reject the fact that debt saturation and crises of confidence will play a role in 2012. Indeed, Granger causality can be employed in both directions, not merely whether energy prices affect GDP, but whether GDP affects oil prices. This is useful because the combination of a very tight oil market, along with Western economies that have reached the terminus of credit-based consumption, makes for a very tricky price landscape in 2012, for oil. This is no doubt why bets on volatility, a very wide band oscillation in oil prices, are popular for next year.

Finally, how much can the global economy adapt, should oil prices reach even higher levels? Can we make the right policy choices should another oil spike unfold? Remember, policy making which is always at best imperfect can be even more dysfunctional in a crisis.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access).

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TruthInSunshine's picture

The Bernank logic governs this realm.

Using gasoline/diesel/heating oil as just one example, if The Bernank can get their prices to double over the next 4 years, even while consumption of these products decreases by 15% due to an economy so bad that people are forced to choose between eating and turning the thermostat up past 50 degrees, he is #winning.

You see, The Bernank, if given enough time, can duplicate this effect on just about every consumable item, and even the prices of services if he's allowed to rape and pillage long enough, and he can thereby report that expenditures are growing (even while consumption is falling) during an awful real economic contractionary period, and all will be well as reported in splashy headlines and graphics across the front page of USA Today.

The kicker is that the more that prices rise, the more that real consumption falls, and a self-reinforcing demand destruction loop is then born, in which case The Bernank has to rely more and more on rising prices to deceive as many as he can into thinking the economy is actually growing (or at least not contracting).

Bernankincidal Economics 101.

r00t61's picture

Who cares if the supply of oil runs out?

I mean, I've heard many economists say that we can simply print and inflate our way to prosperity, so it must be true.

TruthInSunshine's picture


The Paul Krugman economic revival plan, which would entail a) printing an additional amount of federal reserve notes that now matches the existing U.S. debt, to use to pay off said debt, and b) printing approximately 15 trillion additional federal reserve notes on top of the amount mentioned in order to prepare elaborate defenses for purposes of warding off a hostile invasion of Martians -

- would offset the economic destruction brought about by diminishing oil production.


*If The Bernankio can succeed in getting a standard crap loaf of bread to $6 or $8 in the next couple of years, we're really going to be firing on all cylinders. Bernankincide Economics 101 FTW.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Actually TIS, a centralized transactiion system can keep SNAP cards and food on the tabel for a while yet if needed. In effect, the cost to the government is really zero when they "print". 

The only cost is a political cost, which they seem willing to pay at this point.

When your card says you can get a bread every other's price ceases to matter. All you have to practice is breathing and staying alive, which seems to be the goal for most anyways.



trav7777's picture

can't print oil, bitchez....and there are no alternatives to transition to that will be cheaper.  Except unicorn piss

Bicycle Repairman's picture

In the graph I note that oil prices move in lock step with the stock market.  But of course this is a coincidence and neither "market" is manipulated.  Further any "analysis" that does not account for the USA military's use of oil and for the interference with oil from Iraq, Iran, Libya and who knows where else is woefully incomplete.  Fail.

rwe2late's picture

Bicycle Repairman

Agreed. The global oil cartel or "oily"-gopoly manipulates prices. The global Pentagon/NATO is the world's biggest user and polluter of Petroleum products (as well as chemical, biological, nuclear, etc.).

There is also a potential and literal black swan effect of an even worse BP disaster occuring given the planned and ongoing activities in the North American Arctic, as well as the known environmentally ruinous activities in Africa, Russia, and elsewhere.






Jumbotron's picture

Yummmm.....Hot Spiced Unicorn Piss Toddies for all...just in time for the holidays !!!

And by the are correct sir !

Sudden Debt's picture

Your right!

And why doesn't GM build cars tha run on Plutionium pellets? I bet we'll get better mileage anyway!


zhandax's picture

Wrong concept; GM is green now.  Depleted uranium pellets.  Cheap, plentiful, and now that Iraq is 'supposedly' over, in surplus (never mind that dozen or so troops that got shifted to the 'other' border).

Caviar Emptor's picture

@ Truth: I call it Biflation as you know. Thanks for re-enumerating. 

At the root it's all really about Bubble Economics: or What happens when you short-circuit the laws of supply-demand in a supposedly free-market economy? 

This is what happens under the law of unintended consequences: misallocations, price misalignments, inefficiencies and ultimately anti-competitive business models. 

Bernank inherited bubble economics from his predecessors, but he is also one of the high-priests. So in his zeal to reflate the burst bubble of 07-08 (which is also a 30-year bubble) he has created biflation as a side effect. And the global economy is suffering because of it. 

TruthInSunshine's picture


There is absolutely no way price discovery or any proper correlation on the supply/demand curve, etc. can occur in the markets that Ben S. Bernanke completely broke.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Economics are trumped and rendered irrelevant by insufficient oil flow.

That's just the way it is and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Freddie's picture

The muslim paying back his patrons is Saudi Arabia.  No exploration.

Flakmeister's picture

Now you have gone from being hateful to just plain ignorant....

Pray tell, who is not "exploring"?  For full marks, show your work.

Iwanttoknow's picture

Nah,I'm afraid that Freddie's ignorance is congenital.

WhiteNight123129's picture

Agreed, this is how idiots confuse dimentionless demand supply imbalance which is an increase in demand given constant supply, or a decrease in supply assuming constant demand etc... Obviously there is a bit of demand price elasticity, but overall it is becoming less and less elastic, or people will need a donkey for transportation.

Now prices are not dimentionless measure of price increase, price is a ratio. Oil divided by dollar, yens,Gold etc...

So instead of measuring anything going on with supply demand it just measures what is going on with the denominator.

If Silver availability goes down faster than oil, Oil will go down if denominated in Silver. In that case no need to buy Oil,just buy Silver as you will be able to buy more oil with your Silver down the road.

Ah... about supply constraints on the dollar... Raise donkeys they might become a useful commodity!

homersimpson's picture

I guess the algos didn't read this article. Futures on DJI now +50 this late at night.

heremynkitty's picture

Good, I need another entry point for TZA.  Do I hear +200?

Stuck on Zero's picture

Anyone remeber the panic and confusion when oil went from $2.50 a barrel to $10.00 a barrel in 1973? 

Caviar Emptor's picture

Yup. And oil imports were only 30% of consumption. Now it's doubled

Ghordius's picture

In Europe the highways were closed on Sundays, and the debate raged around what to do with the already high gasoline taxes...

Yup. Those were good times for bicycle sellers.

jonjon831983's picture

Just wanted to point out something from the past.


When oil hit $110 airline pilots were claiming that airlines, in order to save on costs, were demanding that planes be minimally fueled 

Pilots claim airliners forced to fly with low fuel



High prices will encourage... creative answers.


Take from one place and give to another...

I am a Man I am Forty's picture

i'm too stupid to understand the quote at the beginning

prains's picture

It's the orange jump suit,jambs brain signals to the ass

Kitler's picture

Persistently high oil prices in the face of collapsing demand?

Perhaps just Bernanke and his boys doing more of Gods work.


Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), BP (BP), Total (TOT), Shell (RDS.A), Deutsche Bank (DB) and Societe Generale (SCGLY.PK) founded the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in 2000. ICE is an online commodities and futures marketplace. It is outside the US and operates free from the constraints of US laws. The exchange was set up to facilitate "dark pool" trading in the commodities markets. Billions of dollars are being placed on oil futures contracts at the ICE and the beauty of this scam is that they NEVER take delivery, per se. They just ratchet up the price with leveraged speculation using your TARP money. This year alone they ratcheted up the global cost of oil from $40 to $80 per barrel.


"Traders of the the ICE core membership (GS, MS, BP, DB, RDS.A, GLE & TOT) wouldn’t really have to put much money at risk by their standards in order to move or support the global market price via the BFOE market. Indeed the evolution of the Brent market has been a response to declining production and the fact that traders could not resist manipulating the market by buying up contracts and “squeezing” those who had sold oil they did not have. The fewer cargoes produced, the easier the underlying market is to manipulate." - Chris Cook, Former Director of the International Petroleum Exchange, which was bought by ICE.


Then again what would the former DIRECTOR of the Petroleum Exchange know.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Persistently high oil prices in an environment of collapsing demand SAYS WHAT VIA OCCAM'S RAZOR?

It says supply is diminishing.  This is not rocket science.  The flow rate of oil out of the ground (which should NOT be called "production", no one produced anything, it was already there) is NOT SUFFICIENT.

Period.  Full stop.

Oil flow rate out of the ground is NOT SUFFICIENT.  Prices are rising.

When you see insane articles like that in USA Today (today) try VERY HARD to read it carefully. They intersperse crude and petroleum products all over the place and confuse even themselves.

The US imports about 2.5 barrels of oil for each barrel it "produces".  The rest is utter bullshit.

Kitler's picture

Tell that to the FORMER DIRECTOR of the exchange.


A Partnership made in Heaven?

There are probably few more influential people than Peter Sutherland. An Irishman with a high level legal and political background, he became a non-executive director of BP as early as 1990, and after a brief but successful period to 1995 as head of the World Trade Organisation he has been on the BP board ever since, from 1997 as chairman. He has also chaired Goldman Sachs International since 1995.

Lord Browne of Madingley was a career BP man who ascended to the top in 1995 and eventually fell from grace in May 2007 shortly before he was due to retire. He was on the Board of Goldman Sachs from May 1999 until May 2007.

BP have always been natural traders. Unlike Exxon, who are vertically integrated and produce & refine oil and distribute products, BP sell the oil they produce on the market, and buy the oil they refine. In the years since 1995, BP has made phenomenal profits by trading oil, and oil derivatives.

So have Goldman Sachs. You don't rise to the top in Goldman Sachs unless you are responsible for making a great deal of money: and their energy trading operations have made immense amounts.

The key player in Goldman Sachs is the current CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who rose to the top through Goldman's commodity trading arm J Aron, and indeed he started his career at J Aron before Goldman Sachs bought J Aron over 25 years ago. With his colleague Gary Cohn, Blankfein oversaw the key energy trading portfolio.

It appears clear that BP and Goldman Sachs have been working collaboratively – at least at a strategic level - for maybe 15 years now. Their trading strategy has evolved over time as the global market has developed and become ever more financialised. Moreover, they have been well placed to steer the development of the key global energy market trading platform, and the legal and regulatory framework within which it operates.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

None of that has anything to do with geology.  Geology is the dominant force in the matter.  The rest is hand waving.

dolph9's picture

Oil production is, for the most part, flat since 2005.  A brief spurt upwards does not prove a trend.

If anything, oil production is going to start to fall, they'll call it "demand destruction" but in reality the supply is not there, so that demand ultimately won't be, either.

ZerOhead's picture

90 million barrels per day is more than the estimated 84 million barrels currently being consumed. Looks like a concerte effort to force the price down. I wonder where it's all going?

Global oil supply rose by 0.9 mb/d to 90.0 mb/d in November from October, driven by lower non-OPEC supply outages. A yearly comparison shows similar growth, with OPEC supplies standing well above year-ago levels. Non-OPEC supply growth averages 0.1 mb/d for 2011 but rebounds to 1.0 mb/d in 2012, with strong gains expected from the Americas.

trav7777's picture

uh, NO, it isn't.

If there were oil out there in abundance, producers would PRODUCE INTO THE HIGH PRICES.  They would SELL INTO IT.  Do you freaking GET that?

TruthInSunshine's picture

I used to disagree with Trav on the oil issue, we'd get pissy (especially him), but after I took a genuine leap into the oil production issue, I discovered he was right.

We weren't in alignment on the core and important issue, at any rate. He was speaking of oil that was economically feasable to extract/recover, while I was focused on total amount of oil in terms of provable reserves. Further, total global oil production peaked around 1976 and has declined since then, regardless as to consumption patterns.

Aside from the fact that I do believe oil prices are significantly manipulated by games played at terminals and games played by central banksters, and that this typically leads to a significant premium on prices paid for oil IF IT WAS LIKE ANY OTHER RENEWABLE COMMODITY, I'd sure as hell rather keep my oil in the ground and wait rather than take Bernanke or Trichet's toilet paper for it, if given the choice.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I know.

They'd probably make me an offer I couldn't refuse.

richard in norway's picture

no good long term financial sence, why sell something today for $100 when tomorrow you can get 200

ZerOhead's picture

TIS  (Looks like you can't handle the truth! :)

The supply function is being manipulated by OPEC. Do not cofuse yourself with production vs. production capacity.  

Latest production numbers are now at 90MM b/d. Production capacity is 6-7 MM b/d higher.


Global oil supply rose by 0.9 mb/d to 90.0 mb/d in November from October, driven by lower non-OPEC supply outages. A yearly comparison shows similar growth, with OPEC supplies standing well above year-ago levels. Non-OPEC supply growth averages 0.1 mb/d for 2011 but rebounds to 1.0 mb/d in 2012, with strong gains expected from the Americas.


TruthInSunshine's picture

When I went back and forth on that issue (the true rate of production vs reported rate and the reported rate that's possible if everyone was pumping), and went through a ton of sources trying to find credible information, I found sources claiming production and production capacity (current) is underestimated and that it's overestimated.

I'm not a geologist, and I don't have access to what OPEC and non-OPEC oil producing sources know about their fields.

I think what I'm speaking to more than what is the current rate of production, which would allow for the admission that oil may very well be overpriced if it were renewable and/or their were expectations that oil consumption would decline over the long term (rather than increase), is that there's an area that exists between what are proven reserves of oil & reserves of oil that can be efficiently extracted at what could be profitable prices given today's prices.

That area is where the price premium will ultimately really come into play, even if over the intermediate or longer term.

Kitler's picture

"Peak oil" is very much dependent on price and time response to that price. And technological advancement.

Therefore peak oil is about as solid a concept as peak wheat or peak corn. You can always extract more if the price is higher but at some point the price creates it's own demand destruction.

If the globe could handle say $200/bbl oil production could be increased to perhaps 150-200MM barrels per day for decades.

8-9 TRILLION barrels of non-conventional crude exist in the world. 1.6T are in the Canadian oilsands alone.


1,600,000,000,000 divided by 100MM barrels per day (assuming you had enough water etc.) would get you 42 years of 100MM barrel/day supply.

Technically impossible right now but give it time and higher prices and anything is possible but it's not going to happen overnight to be sure.

DaveyJones's picture

Coping, planning and adapting to peak oil is subject to peak understanding 

ZerOhead's picture

Right now it looks more like peak gouging if you ask me.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I really should have qualified my statement above to say "I think Trav is right," rather than "Trav is right."

Honestly, does anyone really know how to balance what any rational and observant person can agree is manipulation of the exchanges and inventories against the actual, hard, irrefutable fact of how much oil that can be extracted at economically feasible levels remains (given the technologies of any time period)?

IBM's Watson just made its 5 Big Predictions for the next 5 years, and one of them wsa that energy will become free as humans learn how to coordinate, pool and store their own kinetic movement (or something to that effect - and no, I am not putting much weight into this, but I'm no physicist, either).

ian807's picture

The flaw in your argument is "anything is possible." That's not true. For some things there are no solutions that are easy enough and inexpensive enough to matter. The trillions of barrels under the earth's surface are there, but will do us no more good than the hydrocarbons on the moons of Jupiter. It's neither energetically nor economically profitable to try and use them. There's also no way a teacup of oil in a 10 cubic yards of rock at 50 thousand feet will ever be worth getting compared to other solutions. Not now. Not ever in our lifetime.

Restricting your view to proven reserves (1.4 trillion barrels or thereabouts), real extraction rates (45% is pretty average) and a little extra thrown in for unconventional really doesn't take us far past the next 30 years.

So quantity of affordable oil is one problem. The other two are:

1) A near total dependence of the transportation sector on cheap oil

2) At some point, supply chains (including those that supply the oil and coal sectors themselves) start to break down.

That's our achilles heel as an economy, and a civilization. A more diverse transportation technology based on multiple fuels like electricity for trains and natural gas and biodiesel for automobiles would let us transition gracefully. Given the current slavish devotion to letting the markets handle it, I doubt this will happen. Markets don't think ahead very well. You need governments for that. Currently our own is too involved in partisan politics to bother with practical future problems. Europe is little better. China could manage it, but it's own economic downturn will probably cause the government there to lose focus.

Interesting times.

DaveyJones's picture

even assuming you are right, how"s the eroei on that? under 10 barrels. And what was it when the whole game started?  

Flakmeister's picture

Kitler... you are another person fooled by "All Liquids"... The net energy content of what is called oil is at best flat and the world net exports are down ~10% since 2005 (i.e. exporters are consuming more of their production domesitically)....

You understand the difference between NGL, refinery gains and bio-fuels? Do you?

Go back and hit the hopium pipe again... 

Jumbotron's picture




Tar sands = Very labor intensive to dig out of the ground and more costly to refine.

Shale = Very labor intensive to frak with all that extra water needed to be drilled for as well not to mention disposed of ....oh yeah.....more expensive to refine than its light sweet crude cousin.

Deep Water in Gulf of Meixco....BP....nuff sed

Deep Water in Artic.....BP again, eventually....but colder.   Oh yeah....once again more expensive to refine since this oil is cooked due to it being closer to the mantle and/or compressed more and heated from friction alone.

The very fact alone that we are inventing new technologies to scrape the sides of the toilet bowl much less drill down to the bottom of the septic system is all the proof anyone needs that Peak (CHEAP) Oil is real and here to stay in order to fuck up infinite growth.....well....for infinity.

Add higher input costs of energy into the entire manufacturing chain from acquisition, to production to distribution to the consumer driving their fat ass to Wal Mart and Safeway....add that to a self destructing world debt ponzi scheme.....well......I think you can guess the rest.

Freddie's picture

Lord "Browne" is a member of the tribe like Blankfien.  The Roth lackeys.