Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Spike in energy prices suggests that sharp changes are ahead
Posted on October 18, 2021, by Gail Tverberg
An analysis of what is going terribly wrong in the world economy
The energy price spike that is being experienced today is a warning that something is very, very wrong. As I see the situation, the trend toward complexity has gone too far; the economic system is starting to break down. Sharp changes appear to be ahead. The world economy is shifting into contraction mode, with more and more parts of the system failing.
 If energy supplies are inexpensive and widely available, it is easy to build an economy.
 Once energy supplies become constrained, energy prices tend to spike. In the early stages of these price spikes, adding complexity allows the economy to better tolerate higher energy costs.
 There are limits to added complexity. In fact, complexity limits are what are likely to make the economic system fail.
 An increasing amount of complexity has been added since 1981 to help compensate for rising oil and other energy prices.
 Economists and analysts of many types put together models that give misleading results because they missed several important points.
The models of economists are mostly wrong. The use of carbon pricing and intermittent renewables will simply disadvantage the countries adopting them.
 At this point, ramping up fossil fuel production would be very difficult because of the long-term low prices for fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the economy cannot get along with only today’s small quantity of renewables.
Most people don’t realize just how slowly renewables have been ramping up as a share of world energy supplies. For 2020, wind and solar together amounted to only 5% of world energy supplies and hydroelectric amounted to 7% of world energy supplies. The world economy cannot function on 12% (or perhaps 20%, if more items are included) of its current energy supply any more than a person’s body can function on 12% or 20% of its current calorie intake.
 Every plant and animal and, in fact, every growing thing, needs to win the battle against intermittency.
 Any modeling of the cost of energy needs to take into account the full system needed to “bridge the intermittency gap.”
 Major changes for the worse seem to be ahead for the world economy.
The recent spikes in prices are highly unlikely to produce the natural gas, coal and oil that is required. They are more likely to cause recession. Fossil fuel suppliers need high prices guaranteed for the long term. Even if such guarantees could be provided, it would still take several years to ramp up production to the level needed.
The general trend of the economy is likely to be in the direction of the Seneca Cliff (Figure 1). Everything won’t collapse all at once, but big “chunks” may start breaking away.
Importers of fossil fuels seem likely to be especially affected by price spikes because exporters have the ability to cut back in the quantity available for export, if total supply is inadequate. Europe is one part of the world that is especially dependent on oil, natural gas and coal imports. [mais ainda Portugal!]
The combined production of hydroelectric, wind and solar and biofuels (in Figure 9) amounts to only 19% of Europe’s total energy consumption (shown in Figure 8). There is no possible way that Europe can get along only with renewable energy, at any foreseeable time in the future.
European economists should have told European citizens, “There is no way you can get along using renewables alone for many, many years. Treat the countries that are exporting fossil fuels to you very well. Sign long term contracts with them. If they want to use a new pipeline, raise no objection. Your bargaining power is very low.” Instead, European economists talked about saving the planet from carbon dioxide. It is an interesting idea, but the sad truth is that if Europe takes itself out of the contest for energy imports, it mostly leaves more fossil fuels for exporters to sell to others.
I could continue speculating on the changes ahead. The basic problem, as I see it, is that we have reached limits on oil, coal and natural gas extraction, pretty much simultaneously. The limits are really complexity limits. The renewables that we have today aren’t able to save us, regardless of what the models of Mark Jacobson and others might say.
In the next few years, I am afraid that we will find out how collapse actually proceeds in a very interconnected world economy.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
|Croissance mondiale de l'économie, de la consommation d'énergie et de pétrole.|
19 avril 2014, par Matthieu Auzanneau
Contrairement à ce qui est écrit dans tous les manuels d'économie, l'énergie (et non le capital, sans elle inerte) se révèle être LE facteur essentiel de la croissance, selon Gaël Giraud, 44 ans, directeur de recherche au CNRS et jésuite. Economistes, perpétuez-vous depuis deux siècles la même bourde fatidique ?
Quels sont d'après vous les indices d'un lien intime entre consommation d'énergie et croissance de l'économie ?
Depuis deux siècles, depuis les travaux d'Adam Smith et de David Ricardo par exemple, la plupart des économistes expliquent que l'accumulation du capital est le secret de la croissance économique inédite que connaissent les sociétés occidentales, puis une partie du reste du monde. Marx était, lui aussi, convaincu de cette apparente évidence. Or, historiquement, l'accumulation du capital (au sens moderne) n'a pas commencé au 18ème siècle avec le début de la révolution industrielle, mais au moins deux cents ans plus tôt. Inversement, la première “révolution marchande” des 12ème et 13ème siècles, qui permit à l'Europe de sortir de la féodalité rurale, coïncide avec la généralisation des moulins à eau et à vent. Une nouvelle source énergétique, en plus de la photosynthèse (agriculture) et de la force animale, devenait disponible. De même, qui peut nier que la découverte des applications industrielles du charbon, puis du gaz et du pétrole (et, plus récemment, de l'atome) a joué un rôle décisif dans la révolution industrielle, et partant, comme moteur de la croissance ? De 1945 à 1975, les “trente glorieuses” ont été une période de croissance accélérée et aussi de consommation inédite d'hydrocarbures. Depuis lors, la planète n'a jamais retrouvé la vitesse de consommation d'énergies fossiles qui fut la sienne après guerre. C'est une bonne nouvelle pour le climat. Mais cela n'est pas étranger au fait que nous n'avons jamais retrouvé non plus les taux de croissance du PIB des trente glorieuses.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
|Figure 6. Figure by Steve Kopits of Westwood Douglas showing trends in world oil exploration and production costs per barrel. CAGR is “Compound Annual Growth Rate.”|
by Gail Tverberg
Posted on July 22, 2015
Why are commodity prices, including oil prices, lagging? Ultimately, the question comes back to, “Why isn’t the world economy making very many of the end products that use these commodities?” If workers were getting rich enough to buy new homes and cars, demand for these products would be raising the prices of commodities used to build and operate cars, including the price of oil. If governments were rich enough to build an increasing number of roads and more public housing, there would be demand for the commodities used to build roads and public housing.
It looks to me as though we are heading into a deflationary depression, because the prices of commodities are falling below the cost of extraction. We need rapidly rising wages and debt if commodity prices are to rise back to 2011 levels or higher. This isn’t happening. Instead, Janet Yellen is talking about raising interest rates later this year, and we are seeing commodity prices fall further and further. Let me explain some pieces of what is happening.
Read more @ Our Finite World.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Posted on January 21, 2015
– Part 1 – Generating economic growth
What if oil prices are artificially low, on a temporary basis? The catch is that not all costs of oil producing companies can be paid at such low prices. Perhaps the cost of operating oil fields still in existence will be fine, and the day-to-day expenses of extracting Middle Eastern oil can be covered. The parts of the chain that get squeezed first seem to be least essential on a day to day basis–taxes to governments, funds for new exploration, funds for debt repayments, and funds for dividends to policyholders.
Unfortunately, we cannot run the oil business on such a partial system. Businesses need to cover both their direct and indirect costs. Low oil prices create a system ready to crash, as oil production drops and the ability to leverage human labor with cheaper sources of energy decreases. Raising oil prices back to the full required level is likely to be a problem in the future, because oil companies require debt to finance new oil production. (This new production is required to offset declines in existing fields.) With low oil prices–or even with highly variable oil prices–the amount that can be borrowed drops and interest costs rise. This combination makes new investment impossible.
If the rising cost of energy products, due to diminishing returns, tends to eliminate economic growth, how do we work around the problem? In order to produce economic growth, it is necessary to produce goods in such a way that goods become cheaper and cheaper over time, relative to wages. Clearly this has not been happening recently.
The temptation businesses face in trying to produce this effect is to eliminate workers completely–just automate the process. This doesn’t work, because it is workers who need to be able to buy the products. Governments need to become huge, to manage transfer payments to all of the unemployed workers. And who will pay all of these taxes?
The popular answer to our diminishing returns problem is more efficiency, but efficiency rarely adds more than 1% to 2% to economic growth. We have been working hard on efficiency in recent years, but overall economic growth results have not been very good in the US, Europe, and Japan.
Read more at Our Finite World.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
By Chris Hamilton
Production of crude oil has nearly stalled despite a near quadrupling in the price since ’01 and it seems likely the world has entered the Peak Oil phase and the governments nor central banks (try as they may) can paper this over. Without the growing supply of adequate cheap energy, there isn’t adequate GDP growth, and without the GDP growth, there is no way to outgrow, pay off, or service the huge debts incurred but by interest rate suppression. The dual occurrence of peak oil with ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) is a truly unfortunate state of affairs. But whether or not they happened in tandem, both were inevitable. Still, governments and central banks are attempting to maintain the pre-peak oil system and avoid the pain of free market corrections to supply, production, and price. It is in this light that the centralization and “intervention” of stock, bond, and real estate markets and the manipulation of commodities growing in scale and frequency since ‘09 should not be shocking. Free markets are the enemy of fraud, the punisher of bad fiscal and economic behavior and thus free markets will not be allowed to facilitate true price discovery (i.e., REALITY).
The story of energy, particularly cheap and plentiful crude oil, has been the foundation of rapid economic global growth since WWII. The Global story of crude oil is integral to understanding the world of 2014. Crude oil matters so much because there is no readily available replacement for its energy and chemical uses and any likely eventual replacement will be at significantly higher costs. Ever higher costs of energy are negatively impacting GDP growth the world over and absent GDP growth there is no way to service or grow our way out from the great debts that have been incurred.
In 2010, the hole left behind by fracking was only $18 billion. During each of the last three years (’11-’13), the gap was over $100 billion/yr. This is the chart of an industry with apparently steep and permanent negative free cash-flows: This is the huge problem with Fracking shale oil and gas. Due to the extremely high annual decline rates of the typical shale oil or gas well, companies must continue to spend a great deal of capital expenditures to replace what was lost. It’s known as the DRILLING TREADMILL…. once you start, you can’t get off.
In one year the top 127 oil and gas companies spent $110 billion more on capital expenditures than they received from operations. So, they acquired $106 billion in additional debt (a large percentage through the Junk Bond Market) and sold assets to make up the difference.
This is not a sustainable business model, just like the same nonsense taking place in the broader stock markets as corporations buy back massive amounts of their stock to give the ILLUSION that everything is fine and BAU- Business As Usual will continue.
Not only are many of these oil and gas companies hiding the fact that their balance sheets are hemorrhaging debt, they also have a cozy situation with the Federal Government. Basically, the Fed’s allowed them to defer more than half of their tax bill… and it’s a lot of money. In a nutshell, the top 20 oil and gas companies still owe $16.5 billion (more than 50%) to Uncle Sam in tax revenue.
See more at: Biderman's Money Blog
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
It puzzles me how the US NG industry manage to fund development of shale gas for these years, if the adventure is deeply unprofitable?
The True Economy Of Bakken Shale Oil
I have written repeatedly on SA to warn people that the shale oil and gas developers tend to use unreliable production models to project unrealistically high EURs (Estimated Ultimate Recovery) of their shale wells. They then use the over-estimated EURs to under-calculate the amortization costs of the capital spending, in order to report "profits", despite of the fact that they have to keep borrowing more money to keep drilling new wells, and that capital spending routinely out pace revenue stream by several times.
When the capital costs are fairly amortized, most shale oil and gas development projects are deeply non-profitable. Even the Bakken shale oil, regarded as the most profitable shale play under current pricing environment, is not profitable. Let me use real data from Whiting Petroleum (WLL), the second largest Bakken shale oil developer, to demonstrate the real economy in Bakken shale.
Mark Anthony's instablog