Falling Interest Rates Have Postponed “Peak Oil”

Falling interest rates have huge power. My background is as an actuary, so I am very much aware of the great power of interest rates. But a lot of people are not aware of this power, including, I suspect, some of the people making today’s decisions to raise interest rates. Similar people want to sell securities now being held by the Federal Reserve and by other central banks. This would further ramp up interest rates. With high interest rates, practically nothing that is bought using credit is affordable. This is frightening.

Another group of people who don’t understand the power of interest rates is the group of people who put together the Peak Oil story. In my opinion, the story of finite resources, including oil, is true. But the way the problem manifests itself is quite different from what Peak Oilers have imagined because the economy is far more complex than the Hubbert Model assumes. One big piece that has been left out of the Hubbert Model is the impact of changing interest rates. When interest rates fall, this tends to allow oil prices to rise, and thus allows increased production. This postpones the Peak Oil crisis, but makes the ultimate crisis worse.

The new crisis can be expected to be “Peak Economy” instead of Peak Oil. Peak Economy is likely to have a far different shape than Peak Oil–a much sharper downturn. It is likely to affect many aspects of the economy at once. The financial system will be especially affected. We will have gluts of all energy products, because no energy product will be affordable to consumers at a price that is profitable to producers. Grid electricity is likely to fail at essentially the same time as other parts of the system.

Interest rates are very important in determining when we hit “Peak Economy.” As I will explain in this article, falling interest rates between 1981 and 2014 are one of the things that allowed Peak Oil to be postponed for many years.

Figure 1. 10-year Treasury Interest Rates. Chart prepared by St. Louis Fed.

These falling interest rates allowed oil prices to be much higher than they otherwise would have been, and thus allowed far more oil to be extracted than would otherwise have been the case.

Since mid 2014, the big change that has taken place was the elimination of Quantitative Easing (QE) by the US. This change had the effect of disrupting the “carry trade” in US dollars (borrowing in US dollars and purchasing investments, often debt with a slightly higher yield, in another currency).

Figure 2. At this point, oil prices are both too high for many would-be consumers and too low for producers.

As a result, the US dollar rose, relative to other currencies. This tended to send oil prices to a level that is too low for oil producers to make an adequate profit (Figure 2). In addition, governments of oil exporting countries (such as Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia) cannot collect adequate taxes. This kind of problem does not lead to immediate collapse. Instead, it “sets the wheels in motion,” leading to collapse. This is a major reason why “Peak Economy” seems to be ahead, even if no one attempts to raise interest rates.

The problem is not yet very visible, because oil prices that are too low for producers are favorable for importers of oil, such as the US and Europe. Our economy actually functions better with these low oil prices. Unfortunately, this situation is not sustainable. In fact, rising interest rates are likely to make the situation much worse, quickly.

In this post, I will explain more details relating to these problems.

Low interest rates are extremely beneficial to the economy; high interest rates are a huge problem.

Low interest rates allow consumers to purchase high-priced goods with affordable monthly payments. With low interest rates, consumers can afford to buy more consumer goods (such as homes and cars) than they could otherwise. Thus, low interest rates tend to lead to high demand for commodities of all kinds, thus raising the price of commodities, such as oil.

Low interest rates are also good for businesses and governments. Their borrowing costs are favorable. Because consumers are doing well, business revenues and tax revenues tend to grow at a brisk pace. It becomes easier to afford new factories, roads, and schools.

While low interest rates are good, a reduction in interest rates is even better.

A reduction in interest rates tends to make asset prices rise. The reason this happens is because if someone already owns an asset (examples: a home, factory, a business, shares of stock) and interest rates fall, that asset suddenly becomes more affordable to other people, so the price of that asset rises because of increased demand. For example, if the monthly mortgage payment for a house suddenly drops from $600 per month to $500 per month because of a reduction in interest rates, many more potential homeowners can afford to buy the house. The price of the house may be bid up to a new higher level–perhaps to a price level where the monthly payment is $550 per month–higher than previously, but still below the old payment amount.

Furthermore, if interest rates fall, owners of homes that have risen in value can refinance their mortgages and obtain the new lower interest rate. Often, they can withdraw the “excess equity” and spend it on something else, such as a new car or home improvements. This extra spending tends to stimulate the economy, and thus tends to raise commodity prices. Suddenly, investments in oil fields that previously looked too expensive to extract, and mines with ores of very low grade, start looking profitable. Businesses hire workers to staff the investments that are now profitable, stimulating the economy.

Businesses receive other benefits, as well, when interest rates fall. Their borrowing cost on new loans falls, making new investment more affordable. Demand for their products tends to rise. The additional demand that results from lower interest rates allows economies of scale to work their magic, and thus allows profits to rise.

Companies that have large portfolios of investments, such as insurance companies and pension funds, find that the values of their assets (stocks, bonds, and other investments) rise when interest rates fall. Thus, their balance sheets look better. (Of course, the low interest payments when interest rates are low provide a different problem for these companies. Here, we are talking about the impact of falling interest rates.)

Of course, the reverse of all of these things is also true. It is truly bad news when interest rates rise!

Wages Depend on Interest Rates and Debt Growth

When interest rates fall, debt levels tend to rise. This happens because expensive goods such as homes, cars, and factories become more affordable, so customers can buy more of them. Thus, falling interest rates are very closely associated with rising debt levels.

We find that when we look at debt levels, rising debt levels seem to be highly correlated with rising US per capita wages, (especially up until China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and globalization took off). “Per capita wages” are calculated by dividing total wages and salaries by total population. Per capita wages thus reflect the impact of both (a) changes in the wages of individual workers and (b) changes in workforce participation. Using this measure “makes sense,” if we think of the total population as being supported by the wages of the working population, either directly or indirectly (such as through taxes).

Figure 3. Growth in US Wages vs. Growth in Non-Financial Debt. Wages from US Bureau of Economics “Wages and Salaries.” Non-Financial Debt is discontinued series from St. Louis Federal Reserve. (Note chart does not show a value for 2016.) Both sets of numbers have been adjusted for growth in US population and for growth in CPI Urban.

What does oil price depend upon?

Oil price depends upon the amount customers can afford to pay for oil and the finished products it produces. The amount customers can afford, in turn, depends very much on interest rates, since these influence both wages and monthly payments on loans. If the price that a significant share of consumers can afford is below the selling price of oil, we get an oil glut, as we have today.

It is important to note that oil and other energy products are important in determining the cost of finished products, such as cars, homes, and factories. Thus, high prices on energy products tend to ripple through the economy in many different ways. Many people consider only the change in the cost of filling a car’s gasoline tank; this approach gives a misleading impression of the impact of oil prices.

Affordability is also affected by growing wage disparity. Growing wage disparity tends to occur because of growing complexity and specialization. Globalization also contributes to wage disparity. These are other problems we encounter as we approach energy limits. Demand for commodities is to a significant extent determined by the wages of non-elite workers because there are so many of them. High wage workers tend to influence commodity prices less because their purchases are skewed toward a greater share of services, and toward the purchase of financial assets.

Because interest rates, debt, wages, and oil prices (and, in fact, commodity prices of all kinds) are linked, the system is much more complex than what most early modelers assumed was the case.

Hubbert’s Theory Underlies Many Mainstream Energy Beliefs 

Today’s mainstream beliefs about our energy problems seem to be strongly influenced by Peak Oil theory. Peak Oil theory, in turn, is based on an analysis by geophysicist M. King Hubbert. This view does not consider interest rates, debt, or prices.

Figure 4. M. King Hubbert’s symmetric curve explaining the way he saw resources depleting from Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, published in 1956.

In this view, the amount of any exhaustible resource that we can extract depends on the resources in the ground, plus the technology we have to extract these resources. In general, Hubbert expected an approximately symmetric curve of extraction, as illustrated in Figure 4. The peak is expected when about 50% of the resource is extracted. Hubbert believed that improved technology might allow more exhaustible resources to be extracted after peak, making the actual extraction pattern somewhat asymmetric, with a larger share of a resource, such as oil, being extracted after peak.

With this theory, we can expect to extract a considerable amount of resources in the future, even if the energy supply of a particular type starts to fall, because it is “past peak.” With the relatively slow decline rate shown in Figure 4, it should be possible to “stretch” supplies for some years, especially if technology continues to improve.

At some point, the standard view is that we will “run out” of energy supplies if we don’t make substitutions or conserve the use of these nonrenewable resources. Thus, an increase in efficiency is viewed as one part of the solution. Another part of the solution is viewed as substitution, such as with wind and solar energy.

In the mainstream view, the major influence on commodity prices is scarcity, not affordability. The expectation is that scarcity will cause oil prices will rise; as a result, expensive substitutes will become cost competitive. The higher prices will also encourage more conservation and more high-cost technologies. In theory, these can keep the economy operating for a very long time. The very inadequate models that economists have developed have encouraged these views.

The Usual Energy Model Is Overly Simple

Hubbert assumed that the amount of oil extracted would depend only upon the amount of resources available and available technologies. In fact, the amount of oil extracted depends on price, in part because price determines which technologies can be used. It also governs whether oil can be extracted in areas that are inherently expensive–for example, deep under the sea, or heavily polluted with some other material that must be removed at significant cost. Because of this, if oil prices are high, new technologies can be brought into play, and resources that are expensive to reach can be pursued.

If oil prices are lower than really needed, for example in the $40 to $80 per barrel range, the situation is more complex. The problem is that taxes on oil are important, especially for oil exporters. In this range, many producers can continue to produce, but their governments collect inadequate taxes. Their governments find it necessary to borrow money to maintain programs upon which the populations of the countries depend. Governments with inadequate tax revenue tend to get into more conflicts with other countries, such as is happening today with other Middle Eastern countries fighting with Qatar.

The situation of inadequate tax revenue is inherently unstable. It can eventually be expected to lead to the collapse of oil exporting countries.

Factors Underlying the Rise and Fall of Historical Oil Prices

The fundamental problem regarding the cost of resource extraction is that we tend to extract the cheapest-to-extract resources first. Thus, the cost of extracting many types of resources, including oil, tends to rise over time. Wages grow much more slowly.

Figure 5. Average per capita wages computed by dividing total “Wages and Salaries” as reported by US BEA by total US population, and adjusting to 2016 price level using CPI-Urban. Average inflation adjusted oil price is based primarily on Brent oil historical oil price as reported by BP, also adjusted by CPI-urban to 2016 price level.

This mismatch between wages and oil price tends to cause increasing affordability problems over time, even as we switch to cheaper fuels and increased efficiency. Part of the reason why affordability problems get worse has to do with our inability to keep reducing interest rates; at some point, they reach an irreducible minimum. Also, as I mentioned previously, there is a growing wage disparity problem caused by growing complexity and globalization. Those with low wages find themselves increasingly unable to afford goods such as homes and cars that require oil products in their construction and use.

Looking at Figure 5, we see two major price “humps.” The first of these is in the 1970-1998 period, and the second is in the 1999 to present period. In the first of these two periods, we often hear that the run up in oil prices was the result of an oil supply problem. This occurred because the US oil supply peaked in 1970, and the Arabs made the situation worse with an oil embargo.

In fact, I think that at least half of the problem in the 1970-1981 period may have been that wages were growing rapidly during this period. The rapid run up in wages allowed oil prices to increase in response to a fairly small oil shortage. Thus, the run up in prices was caused to a significant extent by greater demand, made possible by greater affordability. Note that timing of wage increases is slightly ahead of the timing of increases in CPI Urban. This suggests that wage growth tends to cause price inflation. It seems likely that globalization reduces the influence of US wages on oil prices, and thus on price inflation, in recent years.

Figure 6. Growth in US wages versus increase in CPI Urban. Wages are total “Wages and Salaries” from US Bureau of Economic Analysis. CPI-Urban is from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The large increases in wage payments shown in Figure 6 were made possible by growing total population, by rapidly growing productivity, and by an increasing share of women being added to the workforce. Figure 6 shows that the big increases in wages stopped after interest rates were raised to a very high level in 1981.

Economists hope that rising oil prices will bring about new supply, substitution, and greater efficiency. In the 1970s and 1980s, oil prices did seem to come back down for precisely these reasons. I explain the situation in more detail in the Appendix. Rising inflation rates and interest rates were a problem during this period for insurance companies. One insurance company I worked for went bankrupt; another almost did.

We have not been able to achieve the same new supply–substitution–efficiency result in the 1999 to 2016 period, partly because whatever easy efficiency and substitution changes could inexpensively be made were made earlier, and partly because we are reaching diminishing returns with respect to extracting energy products, especially oil. Also, the wage disparity of workers is growing. Growing wage disparity makes debt growth increasingly ineffective in raising wages. Instead of debt growth funding more wages and more affordable goods for the working poor, the additional debt seems to go to the already rich.

The decreases in interest rates since 1981 have given the economy an almost continuous upward lift. This long-term decrease tends to get overlooked because it has gone on for such a long time. The major exception to the long-term decrease in interest rates since 1981 was the big increase by the Federal Reserve in target interest rates in the 2004-2006 period (shown indirectly in Figure 7).

Figure 7. Three-month treasury rates. Graph prepared by the St. Louis Fed.

The problem started when Alan Greenspan dropped target interest rates very low in the 2001-2004 period to stimulate the economy, and then raised them in the 2004-2006 period to cut back growth (Figure 7). This seems to have been one of the major causes of the Great Recession. The other major cause of the Great Recession was fact that oil prices rose far more rapidly than wages during the 2003-2008 period. More information is  provided in the Appendix.

Where We Are Now

We have many leaders who do not seem to understand what our real problems are, and how successful programs have been to date in keeping the system from crashing. Way too much of their understanding has come from traditional models regarding “land, labor and capital,” “supply and demand,” and “higher prices bring substitution.” These models are not suitable for understanding how the economy, as a self-organized networked system, really works.

These leaders seem to believe that QE worldwide is no longer working well enough, so it should be removed. In addition, securities currently held by central banks should be sold. Also, the growth in debt should be slowed, because it is getting too high. Whether or not debt is too high, this strategy will lead to “Peak Economy.” As I explained in an earlier post, debt is what pulls an economy forward. It is the promise (which may or may not actually be kept) of future goods and services. These goods will be made with energy resources and other resources that we may or may not actually have in the future. Once we pare back our expectations, the system is likely to spiral downward.

It is not entirely clear the extent to which interest rates have already started to influence the economy. Long term interest rates, such as 10 year Treasuries, have not yet changed in yield (Exhibit 1). But short-term interest rates clearly have increased (Figure 7). An increase from 0% to 1% is a huge increase, if someone is using very short-term interest rates to fund highly levered investments.

Worldwide, the International Institute of Finance reported an increase in debt of $70 trillion, to $215 trillion between 2006 and 2016. This sounds like a huge increase, but it only amounts to a 4.0% increase per year during that period. It is doubtful this is enough to support the GDP growth the world needs, plus the increase in commodity prices demanded by diminishing returns.

There is evidence the economy is already headed downward. A recent report indicates that in the US, the smallest increase in consumer credit in 6 years took place in April 2017.

Another worrying area is auto loans. This is an area where interest rates have already begun to increase a bit, making monthly payments on cars higher.

Figure 8. Finance rate on 48-month new car loans through February 2017. Chart by St. Louis Fed.

The average finance rate in February 2017 was 4.52%, compared to an average finance rate of 4.00% in November 2015 (the low point). We don’t yet have information on what the increase would be to May 2017. A person would expect that if finance rates are following the interest rates on short to medium term US government securities, the finance rate would continue to rise. This interest rate rise would be one of the things that discounts provided by auto dealers would act to offset.

Because of the higher cost to the buyer of rising auto financing rates, a person would expect such a rise to adversely affect new auto sales. Higher interest rates would also affect lease prices and auto resale prices. We don’t yet know the extent to which higher interest rates are currently affecting auto sales, but the kinds of changes we are seeing are precisely the kinds of changes we would expect to see from higher interest rates. We have had a long history of falling interest rates (plus longer maturities) helping to prop up auto sales. Simply getting to the end of this cycle could be part of the problem.

Peak Economy is likely not very far away. We do not need to encourage it, by raising interest rates and selling securities held by the Federal Reserve. We badly need more people to understand the connection between interest rates and oil prices, and how important it is that interest rates not rise–in fact, more QE would be better.

Appendix – More Detail on Changes Affecting Oil Prices

(a) Between 1973 and 1981. Our oil problems started when US oil production began to decline in 1970, and Arab countries took advantage of our problems with an oil embargo. We immediately started work on extracting oil from other locations that we knew had oil available (Alaska, North Sea, and Mexico). Also, Japan was already making smaller cars. We started building smaller, more fuel-efficient cars in the US, too. We also began to substitute other fuels for oil in home heating and in the making of electricity.

(b) Between 1981 and 1998. In 1981, Paul Volker decided to force oil prices down by raising target interest rates to a very high level. He knew that such a high interest rate would lead to recession, which would reduce demand and thus prices. Also, earlier efforts at new oil supply and demand reduction approaches began to be effective. The new oil supply was somewhat higher priced than the pre-1970 oil. Falling interest rates made it possible for consumers to tolerate the somewhat higher oil prices required by the new higher priced oil.

(c) Between 1999 and 2008. Oil prices rose rapidly during this period, in large part because of rising demand. Globalization added huge demand for oil. Also, Alan Greenspan reduced target interest rates at about the time of the 2001 recession. (Target interest rates affect 3-month interest rates, shown in Figure 7.) At the same time, banks were encouraged to be more lenient in lending standards, and to offer loans based on the very favorable short-term interest rates available at that time. This combination of factors led to rapidly rising housing debt and much refinancing activity. All of this activity also added to oil demand.

Fortunately, these demand increases coincided with an increase in the cost of oil extraction. The world’s supply of “conventional oil” was becoming limited in supply, and began to decline in 2005. The higher demand raised prices, thus encouraging producers to pursue more expensive unconventional oil production.

(d) The 2008 Crash occurred after the Federal Reserve raised target interest rates in the 2004-2006 period, in an attempt to damp down rising food and energy prices. This interest rate rise made home buying more expensive. Oil prices were also increasing in the 2002-2008 period. The combination of rising interest rates and rising oil prices reduced demand for new homes and cars. Home prices fell, debt levels fell, and oil prices fell. Many people blamed the problems on loose mortgage underwriting standards, but the basic issue was falling affordability of oil, as oil prices rose and as higher interest rates took away the huge boost the economy previously had received. See my article, Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis.

(e) 2009-2011 ramp up in prices was enabled by QE. This QE brought a broad range of interest rates to very low levels.

(f) 2011-2014. Oil prices gradually slid downward, because there was no longer enough upward “push” created by QE, since interest rates were no longer falling very much.

(g) Mid to late 2014 to Present. The US removed its QE, leading to a sharp reduction in carry trade in US dollars. Many currencies fell relative to the US dollar, making oil products less affordable in these currencies. As a result, oil prices fell to a level far below that needed by oil producers, especially oil exporters.

 

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply.
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1,634 Responses to Falling Interest Rates Have Postponed “Peak Oil”

  1. Cliffhanger says:

    It’s a ‘scary’ time with a global crisis on the way, LVMH CEO says

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/15/be-careful-a-global-crisis-is-coming-says-lvmh-ceo.html

  2. Cliffhanger says:

    The US Senate has demanded that sanctions against Russia needs to increased in an obvious attempt to replace Russian fossil fuel with American. Merkel now clearly sided against this move: Foreign Minister Gabriel accuses the US Senate of interfering in the European energy supply.
    http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/us-sanktionen-gegen-russland-angela-merkel-unterstuetzt-sigmar-gabriels-kritik-a-1152445.html

    Merkel is no dummy she knows that the US will never be able to supply Europe’s needs of energy from the US shale industry. lol

    • Bergen Johnson says:

      Russia interfered with the US presidential election and that is technically an act of war, so any kind of minimal sanctions pales in comparison to what should happen. If Europe suffers indirectly due to those sanctions then that’s the collateral damage that needs to take place. If it were me, I’d pull out every diplomat in Russia and exile all Russian diplomats, put a 10 year moratorium on any Russian products sold in the US and that would become permanent if there is a 2nd attempt to alter our elections. As it stands Russia has not been served the feedback equal to the benefits they receive from getting Trump into office, who is the chaos president just like Marco Rubio said he would be. That’s Russia’s goal when interfering with elections, i.e. to cause chaos in those countries. It’s working, and if people don’t think Russia made a difference, then just look at the reports of their hacking of voter information – all they had to do was affect 2-3% of the vote in several key swing states and that would change the election. Also their timing of releasing email information on Hillary and other associated with her was assisted from this end by the Trump campaign. Between purposeful leaks and voter tampering Russia got their guy, Trump into office. I’m outraged and every American should be but what we are getting is a lot of stonewalling by the Republicans because they just want power and don’t care how they get it. If they had their way, they’d link up with Russia for every election and that may still happen.

      • Cliffhanger says:

        If Russia really did interfere then why doesn’t our intelligence departments release the evidence of that? The same intelligence agency that lied about Iraqi leaders involvement with Oil-Queda and had WMD’S? The same intelligence agency that lied TWICE about Assad gassing his own people. The same intelligence agency that recently blamed the conflict between Qutar and Saudi Arabia on a Fake news story planted by russian hackers. Even though Al-Jazera released hacked emails months prior that showed the US and UAE and Israel were planning the whole thing well in advance. Its obvious that if there was any election hacking it was most likely done by our own government.

        • Duncan Idaho says:

          Clapper perjured himself twice before congress (we know from Snowden).
          When the head of the NSA is a known liar, it is hard to have confidence in the fidelity of information being released, especially when they give no evidence, and say “Believe US, we are the NSA”.

      • Time for you to widen your reading…. Russia is at, or near the point, of not being beholden to soon-to-be-has-been Dumberica and its crumbling alliances in order to support its economy or hinder its growing hegemony.

        I won’t elucidate further. By the likes of your posts to date, you lack the alacrity which would qualify you as deserving of my time. I am not about to go start kissing frogs hoping a prince will appear!

      • Duncan Idaho says:

      • dolph says:

        The Israelites don’t control Russia anymore, that’s why they are so intent on getting you to be angry at them for no reason.

        Even smart ones like B9K9 missed this.

      • Lastcall says:

        Pot and ketle nonsense

      • Fast Eddy says:

        If I wanted to read regurgitated US propaganda I would click cnn.com

        Here’s the thing…

        There is a comment limit on each of Gail’s articles… so unless you have something to post that is useful interesting or at least amusing …. then you should refrain from posting … because most are ignoring your posts — and you are bringing us closer to the comment limit.

        And that no doubt causes Gail anxiety — as she will feel that she has to come up with another article sooner than she otherwise wanted to.

      • Joebanana says:

        Bergan-
        How did you ever end up here? Your post is so crazy I actually saved it to show people. I’ve never done that here before.

        There is a certain level of political sophistication you would expect when thinking about energy scarcity.

      • Jesse James says:

        Bergen…utter rubbish.

      • Tim Groves says:

        I’m outraged and every American should be

        Lack of control over one’s emotions to the point where one bawls like a six-year-old who’s mummy won’ buy him another ice cream, plus expression of certainty that all 320 million of one’s fellow citizens should share the emotion and emulate the behavior. Has that behavior ever worked for you?

        You may be right that Russia interfered in the US elections. How you could possibly know that is beyond my comprehension. But I grant it’s not beyond the bounds of credibility. Putin, that crafty old fox, may well have fixed it for Brexit and then shifted last week’s UK election to weaken May. He may also have hacked Macron into Office. He could well be controlling Merkel like a Manchurian candidate and have orchestrated the current crisis between the GCC nations and Qatar—all as part of a dastardly underhand plan to get all of his adversaries at each other’s throats.

        We have just as much evidence that Vlad did all these things as we have that he put Trump into office. But who needs evidence when we have feelings of outrage and certainty and cartoon scenario? Indeed, I know exactly how Putin did it.

      • Jesse James says:

        Bergen you are full of it.

  3. Duncan Idaho says:

  4. xabier says:

    Of course, the Greeks bought much on their own heads.

    But I find the complacency of Northern Europeans and others rather disgusting and uncivilised: most people seem to forget that their grandparents were mostly hard-pressed and ill-nourished peasants and workers fearful of what tomorrow might bring……

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Greece is a macro example of the $20 offer challenge…

      Greece as a country was quite happy to join the EU which resulted in the country’s borrowing rates dropping close to the level of that of Germany (because it was implied that if Greece got into trouble the rest of the EU including Germany would be forced to back stop Greece)…

      And then Greece ran up massive debts….

      It’s kinda like if I were to co-sign a loan for 250k for my heroin addicted relative….

      As Greece is a ‘democracy’ this cannot be blamed on the government — the people of Greece were quite happy to live large while the good times rolled….. basically they voted for the ‘$20m’ option ….

    • Van Kent says:

      Xabier,

      When I look at the debt graph of Greece through the years. I see that Greece is just a year or two ahead of Italy. And just three or four years ahead of France, UK, Ireland and Finland. (If we have the time to go there)

      The smug northern europeans dont remember that everything was indeed fine in Greece, untill 2010. Then the interest rates on the sovereign debts started to rise and created the present situation.

      If we took any government in the EU and made their sovereign debt interests four times higher from present levels.. Pop Quiz; what would happen?

  5. Bergen Johnson says:

    http://peakoil.com/consumption/expect-the-longest-economic-expansion-since-wwii-says-economist

    “Expect the ‘longest economic expansion’ since WWII, says economist”

    “The U.S. will not be going into recessions anytime soon,” Thorpe said.

    This goes to what dolph an I have been writing about – no collapse apparent in our neck of the woods and apparently not in the US per se’. Those holding their breath expecting disaster may want to exhale and draw in a fresh breath of air. Keep those lungs inflated and respirating, the kidney’s processing fluids, the liver pulling out toxins, keep the heart timed well via the autonomic system, consume healthy food, drink water, get some exercise for your body and mind, make some more money, stash away some more freeze dried food and go out and have a good time! This is your life and until the fat lady sings the game is still on, the clock is ticking and you just have to ask yourself; “What do I want to do today and all the rest of my exciting tomorrow’s?”

    • Cliffhanger says:

      well according to the Federal Reserve and CBO in DC they are projecting the US economy to grow at no more than 2% annually for the next decade.

    • You, Dolt and some other dupe all agree. That settles it. You have successfully controverted years of studious arguments presented by Gail with your meticulous research to find a quote you like.

      Remember this one?

      Alan Greenspan circa 2007: “The U.S is not about to enter recession anytime soon”

      • dolph says:

        I haven’t forgotten that. It’s just that our system is now on life support until the end.

        You see, the next drop is going to be game over for the entire system. That’s why the managers are working overtime to keep everything intact. All of you even agree on that.

        But the drop just keeps getting postponed and postponed. You think it will happen tomorrow, I’m reminding you all it’s going to be decades.

        • Snorp says:

          Not decades (plural) unless we stumble on a huge cache of NNR’s. We’d be lucky with 5 or 10 years tops.That is widely accepted by those not in De-lu-is-stan.

          And NNR’s are just one of many systems nearing collapse.

          http://www.populationinstitutecanada.ca/keypapers/SCARCITY-by-C-Clugston-19-pg-summary-by-John-Bermingham-May-2012.pdf

          • ITEOTWAWKI says:

            Yeah Snorp I really can’t see us having a lot of time left….no matter how you approach the predicament, everything is effed up….I just came back from a nice golf game and I was thinking to myself why did this have to end in this period..I would have been so happy with 2040-2050…but the laws of physics don’t give two shi.ts about us humans…I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles..

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I’d chop off my left hand if it meant 2030….

            • ITEOTWAWKI says:

              You’re right FE, even 2030 would have been amazing…

            • Joebanana says:

              ITEOTWAWKI and Eddy-
              Do you remember the Cadbury Secret commercial? Anything….????;-)
              I think we should give that!

            • ITEOTWAWKI says:

              Joe u mean the Caramilk Secret ads from the 80s? If so remember this one from ’82….man time flies..I remember seeing this ad while watching “You can’t get more Canadian than that show” The Littlest Hobo (remember that show)…man how the eff does 11 years old become 45 in no time 😉

            • Joebanana says:

              ITEOTWAWKI-
              Lol, you got it!!!!. Awesome! And the Littlest Hobo….F**K yeah, the most Canadian show ever;-)

              Wish we could sit around a campfire;-)

          • Jesse James says:

            Not to worry about the NMRs Snorp.We’ll just launch all those asteroid mining ventures. You know….solid iron asteroids, solid cobalt asteroids….

    • Third World person says:

      Bergen you remind me of a guy

    • Ken Barrows says:

      If government figures reported inflation (CPI) 2% higher, we’d be in a chronic recession.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      And here we have on exhibit a human donkey — whatever he reads in the MSM he takes it as truth… no questioning .. no application of common sense…. feed it to him and he will eat it.

      Alas 99.9999% of all humans are donkeys…. so don’t feel so bad Bergen.

  6. Fast Eddy says:

    While hopeful about the future for France following Macron’s election victory and “optimistic” about the longer-term future, luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault warned that business is in a “very strange period” due to low and negative interest rates and “companies like LVMH are paid to borrow money, which is dangerous.”

    A financial crisis could be just around the corner, according to the chief executive of LVMH, who has described the global economic outlook as “scary”.

    “For the economic climate, the present situation is…mid-term scary,” Bernard Arnault told CNBC Thursday.

    “I don’t think we will be able to globally avoid a crisis when I see the interest rates so low, when I see the amounts of money flowing into the world, when I see the stock prices which are much too high, I think a bubble is building and this bubble, one day, will explode.”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-06-16/lvmh-ceo-warns-economic-crisis-unavoidable

    Yes … explode…. one day…..

  7. dolph says:

    The system has already gone exponential, people. Everything we see around us has been in the making for 100, possibly 200 years.
    The American and French revolutions scared the TPTB our of their minds. Those are the only real examples of successful revolutions. They decided to never again allow a popular rebellion in the core. Russia tried one but we all know they bungled it from the onset, and only became a superpower by large scale repression and militarization to defeat Nazi Germany, which itself was something of a failed revolution.
    What that means is that most of what we discuss here is moot. I come and comment because it’s interesting.
    We don’t have any power over the forces of global corporatism. Look at what they did to JFK, the only president to challenge them. Look at how they have completely captured the working classes in America and China. Look at how they have securitized the oil of the Gulf Arab states in perpetuity, until every last field is exhausted.

    Enjoy your food and entertainment and whatever else you can! After this it’s a return to feudalism, forever.

  8. Cliffhanger says:

    Prepping is Futile

    Myth: We have prepared successfully for disasters in the past, and we will prepare successfully for resource scarcity.

    Reality: Disasters with which we are familiar and for which we are accustomed to preparing— either natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes, or manmade disasters such as oil spills and nuclear leakages—are • Precipitated by a single, well-defined, catastrophic event; and • Limited in terms of frequency and geographical scope. Preparation for natural and manmade disasters has been possible because:
    • The preparatory requirements associated with each disaster type are generally well understood (although not always fully implemented); and • Sufficient surplus human resources and natural resources have been available during our era of “continuously more and more” to enable thorough preparation and effective response—i.e., rapid emergency response and eventual total recovery. Disaster victims have known that “help is on the way”, typically within days, if not hours. They have also known that “things will return to some semblance of normalcy”, typically within months, if not weeks or days—almost always through tremendous contributions of “outside assistance”(surplus resources).

    As a result of our preparatory efforts, disaster related disruptions to critical societal support systems—such as water distribution, food distribution, energy generation and distribution, sanitation, healthcare, transportation, communications, and law enforcement—have been limited in terms of severity and duration. Imminent disasters related to ever-increasing NNR scarcity, with which we are totally unfamiliar, will be: • Precipitated by a currently unpredictable series of increasingly severe shortages associated with an ever-increasing number of NNRs, goods, and services; and • Continuously increasing in terms of frequency, geographic scope, severity, and duration. Attempts to prepare for disasters related to NNR scarcity are therefore futile because: • The specific “unraveling” scenario associated with ever-increasing NNR scarcity cannot possibly be known in advance; and • Surplus resources, especially NNRs, will not be available during our new era of “continuously less and less” to address ever-worsening shortages, outages, disruptions, and resulting conflicts. As disasters related to NNR scarcity become increasingly prevalent and severe, and as the general public becomes aware of the fact that “help is not on the way” and that “things will not return to normal”, social order will completely disintegrate and societal collapse will ensue. Disruptions resulting from disasters that occurred during our historical era of “continuously more and more” were temporary—impacted populations recovered, and preparation facilitated the recovery processes. Disruptions resulting from ever-increasing NNR scarcity will be permanent— humanity will not recover, and no amount of preparation will alter that reality or its inevitable consequences.

    MYTH Post-collapse Preparation Is the Answer Well-prepared individuals, groups, and communities will survive our impending collapse and maintain healthy, fulfilling, and productive lives in its aftermath.

    Reality: Those who survive our collapse will be those who can obtain sufficient life sustaining essentials—especially clean water and food—on a continuous basis, both during and after collapse. Those who store large quantities of these essentials and those who attempt to produce food, either individually or in communities, will be easy targets for the vast majority who have neither the foresight to store nor the skills to produce. No matter how remote or secluded your sanctuary, somebody will know about it; and they will come to call when they become desperate; and they will be well armed and devoid of compassion. You can prepare for a last stand, but you cannot prepare for post-collapse survival. Post-collapse Life Will Be Preferable to Our Industrial Lifestyle Paradigm

    Myth: Industrialization has brought nothing but misery and degradation to the human race; our quality of life (and spiritual wellbeing) will improve substantially in a post-collapse world.

    Reality: The post-collapse lifestyle awaiting the few who survive will, under the best of circumstances, share many attributes with pre-Columbian America. Unfortunately, the realities associated with subsistence level existence bear little semblance to the Hollywood accounts. Those who anxiously await our post-collapse world will be disappointed, assuming they live to experience it. The fact that nobody is opting to jettison the amenities afforded by an industrialized way of life in favor of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle today should be sufficient proof that our future way of life is not something to be anticipated. Industrialism is not inherently “evil” or immoral; it is simply physically impossible going forward.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Nice summary – where did you find this?

    • JMS says:

      “No matter how remote or secluded your sanctuary, somebody will know about it; and they will come to call when they become desperate; and they will be well armed and devoid of compassion,”

      I guess you’re mostly right. But if you got 50 friends and family to one of these, with a huge amount of food and water, in theory you could wait calmly the dieoff (and the mounting radiation). From famished mobs, you would have nothing to fear. You would not even need weapons to defend it.
      (But of course for the military,it would be a piece of cake.)

      • ITEOTWAWKI says:

        What about at Castelo De Walt Disney in sunny Fla….any chances there? 😉

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Consider this …. if this very moment the shops closed … all of the food stored in homes was consumed already … the farms were abandoned ….and you now had to find enough food to stay alive….

        What would you eat?

        I am in a remote area of the west coast right now — not many people here — just bush and ocean…. if I were facing the above situation right now — I would not have the slightest clue where to start….

        I have fishing rods…. but fish are not that easy to catch…. I don’t have any guns here but likewise … it is not easy to find and kill animals — and there would no way to store the meat anyway so I’d need to be killing almost every day. I have no idea what can be eaten in the bush…..

        Then of course there would be the radiation pulsing through the air and water….. massive amounts of radiation

        • Slow Paul says:

          Plenty of fish in the sea… I walked down to the local “pier” and caught some cod and mackerel just last week. Brought the kids too so they could learn where food comes from…

  9. Froggman says:

    More on my own “progression of collapse” anecdotal story:

    I’m reporting from one of those middle American cities that has been booming with no sign of letting up. The past 5 years here have been GOOD. Everyone is working, making money, building, growing, and so on. I keep waiting for cracks to appear but locally we seem oblivious to all the problems in the world. It hasn’t been until the past few months that I can sense something very dark and ominous emerging.

    When municipal Q1 sales tax receipts came in low, it started a panic among city leaders. A major city planning effort we’ve been anticipating for years was put on hold just before contracting with our consulting team. This project has now been waffling for almost 2 months as management and elected officials argue about how to cut dollars out of the project, while technical staff pushes back trying to maintain the integrity of the plan. We’re now in danger of losing the project entirely, either because it’s gutted so badly we’ll have to put it off until adequate funding is available, or because our consultants may bail on us since they are losing work while we jerk them around. This effort is, by the way, extremely important to almost all of the critical issues in the community- not doing it will be a major loss.

    In my 15 years in local government I’ve never seen such a dramatic reversal and breakdown of support for a citywide community plan effort like this. Colleagues who have been here 20, 25 years say they’ve never seen it either.

    This drama is playing out against the backdrop of ongoing financial contingency planning and worry about the potential of budget cuts.

    This feels like a turning point, like clouds gathering, and the weather about to change. The whole city waits in anticipation for the Q2 numbers to arrive in July…

    • Joebanana says:

      Froggman-

      Really interesting to read how things are doing where you live. Where I live is so out of the loop on growth in the economy you can barely give a house away.

    • Van Kent says:

      Everything is just superb.. until the point it isnt.

      All the while there are some who muse, look, guys, the storm is coming, and its going to be bad. Real bad.

      But our primal insticts and our normalcy bias dont register a problem, until the sabre tooth tiger is growling his fangs, in our face.

      Then one fine morning the storm arrived. And people went nuts.

      What Gail writes about and what we comment here on OFW is an mathematical certainty. What will happen, will happen, short of a Star Trek type Zero Point energy technology and/or alien/divine intervention.

    • Slow Paul says:

      How can the Q2 numbers be any better?

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