Expect low oil prices in 2020; tendency toward recession

Energy Forecast for 2020

Overall, I expect that oil and other commodity prices will remain low in 2020. These low oil prices will adversely affect oil production and several other parts of the economy. As a result, a strong tendency toward recession can be expected. The extent of recessionary influences will vary from country to country. Financial factors, not discussed in these forecasts, are likely also to play a role.

The following are pieces of my energy forecast for 2020:

[1] Oil prices can be expected to remain generally low in 2020. There may be an occasional spike to $80 or $90 per barrel, but average prices in 2020 are likely to be at or below the 2019 level. 

Figure 1. Average annual inflation-adjusted Brent equivalent oil prices in 2018 US$. 2018 and prior are as shown in BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. Value for 2019 estimated by author based on EIA Brent daily oil prices and 2% expected inflation.

Figure 2 shows in more detail how peaks in oil prices have been falling since 2008. While it doesn’t include early January 2020 oil prices, even these prices would be below the dotted line.

Figure 2. Inflation adjusted weekly average Brent Oil price, based on EIA oil spot prices and US CPI-urban inflation.

Oil prices can temporarily spike because of inadequate supply or fear of war. However, to keep oil prices up, there needs to be an increase in “demand” for finished goods and services made with commodities. Workers need to be able to afford to purchase more goods such as new homes, cars, and cell phones. Governments need to be able to afford to purchase new goods such as paved roads and school buildings.

At this point, the world economy is struggling with a lack of affordability in finished goods and services. This lack of affordability is what causes oil and other commodity prices to tend to fall, rather than to rise. Lack of affordability comes when too many would-be buyers have low wages or no income at all. Wage disparity tends to rise with globalization. It also tends to rise with increased specialization. A few highly trained workers earn high wages, but many others are left with low wages or no job at all.

It is the fact that we do not have a way of making the affordability of finished goods rise that leads me to believe that oil prices will remain low. Raising minimum wages tends to encourage more mechanization of processes and thus tends to lower total employment. Interest rates cannot be brought much lower, nor can the terms of loans be extended much longer. If such changes were available, they would enhance affordability and thus help prevent low commodity prices and recession.

[2] World oil production seems likely to fall by 1% or more in 2020 because of low oil prices.

Quarterly oil production data of the US Energy Information Administration shows the following pattern:

Figure 3. Quarterly World Crude Oil and Natural Gas Liquids production, based on EIA international data through September 2019. This is a fairly broad definition of oil. It does not include biofuels because their production tends to be seasonal.

The highest single quarter of world oil production was the fourth quarter of 2018. Oil production has been falling since this peak quarter.

To examine what is happening, the production shown in Figure 3 can be divided into that by the United States, OPEC, and “All Other.”

Figure 4. Quarterly world crude oil and natural gas liquids production by part of the world, based on international data of the US Energy Information Agency through September 30, 2019.

Figure 4 shows that the production of All Other seems to be steady to slightly rising, more or less regardless of oil prices.

OPEC’s oil production bobs up and down. In general, its production is lower when oil prices are low, and higher when oil prices are high. (This shouldn’t be a surprise.) Recently, its production has been lower in response to low prices. Effective January 1, 2020, OPEC plans to reduce its production by another 500,000 barrels per day.

Figure 4 shows that oil production of the United States rose in response to high prices in the 2010 to 2013 period. It dipped in response to low oil prices in 2015 and 2016. When oil prices rose in 2017 and 2018, its production again rose. Production in 2019 seems to have risen less rapidly. Recent monthly and weekly EIA data confirm the flatter US oil production growth pattern in 2019.

Putting the pieces together, I estimate that world oil production (including natural gas liquids) for 2019 will be about 0.5% lower than that of 2018. Since world population is rising by about 1.1% per year, per capita oil production is falling faster, about 1.6% per year.

A self-organizing networked economy seems to distribute oil shortages through lack of affordability. Thus, for example, they might be expected to affect the economy through lower auto sales and through less international trade related to automobile production. International trade, of course, requires the use of oil, since ships and airplanes use oil products for fuel.

If prices stay low in 2020, both the oil production of the United States and OPEC will likely be adversely affected, bringing 2020 oil production down even further. I would expect that even without a major recession, world oil supply might be expected to fall by 1% in 2020, relative to 2019. If a major recession occurs, oil prices could fall further (perhaps to $30 per barrel), and oil production would likely fall lower. Laid off workers don’t need to drive to work!

[3] In theory, the 2019 and 2020 decreases in world oil production might be the beginning of “world peak oil.” 

If oil prices cannot be brought back up again after 2020, world oil production is likely to drop precipitously. Even the “All Other” group in Figure 4 would be likely to reduce their production, if there is no chance of making a profit.

The big question is whether the affordability of finished goods and services can be raised in the future. Such an increase would tend to raise the price of all commodities, including oil.

[4] The implosion of the recycling business is part of what is causing today’s low oil prices. The effects of the recycling implosion can be expected to continue into 2020.

With the rise in oil prices in the 2002-2008 period, there came the opportunity for a new growth industry: recycling. Unfortunately, as oil prices started to fall from their lofty heights, the business model behind recycling started to make less and less sense. Effective January 1, 2018, China stopped nearly all of its paper and plastic recycling. Other Asian nations, including India, have been following suit.

When recycling efforts were reduced, many people working in the recycling industry lost their jobs. By coincidence or not, auto purchases in China began to fall at exactly the same time as recycling stopped. Of course, when fewer automobiles are sold, demand for oil to make and operate automobiles tends to fall. This has been part of what is pushing world oil prices down.

Sending materials to Asia for recycling made economic sense when oil prices were high. Once prices dropped, China was faced with dismantling a fairly large, no longer economic, industry. Other countries have followed suit, and their automobile sales have also fallen.

Companies operating ships that transport manufactured goods to high income countries were adversely affected by the loss of recycling. When material for recycling was available, it could be used to fill otherwise-empty containers returning from high income countries. Fees for transporting materials to be recycled indirectly made the cost of shipping goods manufactured in China and India a little lower than they otherwise would be, if containers needed to be shipped back empty. All of these effects have helped reduce demand for oil. Indirectly, these effects tend to reduce oil prices.

The recycling industry has not yet shrunk back to the size that the economics would suggest is needed if oil prices remain low. There may be a few kinds of recycling that work (well sorted materials, recycled near where the materials have been gathered, for example), but it probably does not make sense to send separate trucks through neighborhoods to pick up poorly sorted materials. Some materials may better be burned or placed in landfills.

We are not yet through winding down the recycling effort. Even the recycling of materials such as aluminum cans is affected by oil prices. A March, 2019, WSJ article talks about a “glut of used cans” because some markets now prefer to use newly produced aluminum.

[5] The growth of the electric car industry can be expected to slow substantially in 2020, as it becomes increasingly apparent that oil prices are likely to stay low for a long period. 

Electric cars are expensive in two ways:

  1. In building the cars initially, and
  2. In building and maintaining all of the charging stations required if more than a few elite workers with charging facilities in their garages are to use the vehicles.

Once it is clear that oil prices cannot rise indefinitely, the need for all of the extra costs of electric vehicles becomes very iffy. In light of the changing view of the economics of the situation, China has discontinued its electric vehicle (EV) subsidies, as of January 1, 2020. Prior to the change, China was the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles. Year over year EV sales in China dropped by 45.6% in October 2019 and 45.7% in November 2019. The big drop in China’s EV sales has had a follow-on effect of sharply lower lithium prices.

In the US, Tesla has recently been the largest seller of EVs. The subsidy for the Tesla is disappearing in 2020 because it has sold over 200,000 vehicles. This is likely to adversely affect the growth of EV sales in the US in 2020.

The area of the world that seems to have a significant chance of a major uptick in EV sales in 2020 is Europe. This increase is possible because governments there are still giving sizable subsidies to buyers of such cars. If, in future years, these subsidies become too great a burden for European governments, EV sales are likely to lag there as well.

[6] Oceangoing ships are required to use fuels that cause less pollution as of January 2020. This change will have a positive environmental impact, but it will lead to additional costs which are impossible to pass on to buyers of shipping services. The net impact will be to push the world economy in the direction of recession.

If oceangoing ships use less polluting fuels, this will raise costs somewhere along the line. In the simplest cases, oceangoing vessels will purchase diesel fuel rather than lower, more polluting, grades of fuel. Refineries will need to charge more for the diesel fuel, if they are to cover the cost of removing sulfur and other pollutants.

The “catch” is that the buyers of finished goods and services cannot really afford more expensive finished goods. They cut back in their demand for automobiles, homes, cell phones and paved roads if oil prices rise. This reduction in demand is what pushes commodity prices, including oil prices, down.

Evidence that ship owners cannot really pass the higher refining costs along comes from the fact that the prices that shippers are able to charge for shipping seems to be falling, rather than rising. One January article says, “The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index touched its lowest level in eight months on Friday, weighed down by weak demand across all segments. . .The Index posted its biggest one day percentage drop since January 2014, in the previous session.”

So higher costs for shippers have been greeted by lower prices for the cost of shipping. It will partly be ship owners who suffer from the lower sales margin. They will operate fewer ships and lay off workers. But part of the problem will be passed on to the rest of the economy, pushing it toward recession and lower oil prices.

[7] Expect increasingly warlike behavior by governments in 2020, for the primary purpose of increasing oil prices.

Oil producers around the world need higher prices than recently have been available. This is why the US seems to be tapering its growth in shale oil production. Middle Eastern countries need higher oil prices in order to be able to collect enough taxes on oil revenue to provide jobs and to subsidize food purchases for citizens.

With the US, as well as Middle Eastern countries, wanting higher oil prices, it is no wonder that warlike behavior takes place. If, somehow, a country can get control of more oil, that is simply an added benefit.

[8] The year 2020 is likely to bring transmission line concerns to the wind and solar industries. In some areas, this will lead to cutbacks in added wind and solar.

A recent industry news item was titled Renewables ‘hit a wall’ in saturated Upper Midwest grid. Most of the material that is published regarding the cost of wind and solar omits the cost of new transmission lines to support wind and solar. In some cases, additional transmission lines are not really required for the first additions of wind and solar generation; it is only when more wind and solar are added that it becomes a problem. The linked article talks about projects being withdrawn until new transmission lines can be added in an area that includes Minnesota, Iowa, parts of the Dakotas and western Wisconsin. Adding transmission lines may take several years.

A related issue that has come up recently is the awareness that, at least in dry areas, transmission lines cause fires. Getting permission to site new transmission lines has been a longstanding problem. When the problem of fires is added to the list of concerns, delays in getting the approval of new transmission lines are likely to be longer, and the cost of new transmission lines is likely to rise higher.

The overlooked transmission line issue, once it is understood, is likely to reduce the interest in replacing other generation with wind and solar.

[9] Countries that are exporters of crude oil are likely to find themselves in increasingly dire financial straits in 2020, as oil prices stay low for longer. Rebellions may arise. Governments may even be overthrown.

Oil exporters often obtain the vast majority of their revenue from the taxation of receipts related to oil exports. If prices stay low in 2020, exporters will find their tax revenues inadequate to maintain current programs for the welfare of their people, such as programs providing jobs and food subsidies. Some of this lost revenue may be offset by increased borrowing. In many cases, programs will need to be cut back. Needless to say, cutbacks are likely to lead to unhappiness and rebellions by citizens.

The problem of rebellions and overthrown governments also can be expected to occur when exporters of other commodities find their prices too low. An example is Chile, an exporter of copper and lithium. Both of these products have recently suffered from low export prices. These low prices no doubt play a major part in the protests taking place in Chile. If more tax revenue from the sales of exports were available, there would be no difficulty in satisfying protesters’ demands related to poverty, inequality, and an overly high cost of living.

We can expect more of these kinds of rebellions and uprisings, the longer oil and other commodity prices stay too low for commodity producers.

Conclusion

I have not tried to tell the whole economic story for 2020; even the energy portion is concerning. A networked self-organizing system, such as the world economy, operates in ways that are far different from what simple “common sense” would suggest. Things that seem to be wonderful in the eyes of consumers, such as low oil prices and low commodity prices, may have dark sides that are recessionary in nature. Producers need high prices to produce commodities, but these high commodity prices lead to finished goods and services that are too expensive for many consumers to afford.

There probably cannot be a “one-size-fits-all” forecast for the world economy. Some parts of the world will likely fare better than others. It is possible that a collapse of one or more parts of the world economy will allow other parts to continue. Such a situation occurred in 1991, when the central government of the Soviet Union collapsed after an extended period of low oil prices.

It is easy to think that the future is entirely bleak, but we cannot entirely understand the workings of a self-organizing networked economy. The economy tends to have more redundancy than we would expect. Furthermore, things that seem to be terrible often do not turn out as badly as expected. Things that seem to be wonderful often do not turn out as favorably as expected. Thus, we really don’t know what the future holds. We need to keep watching the signs and adjust our views as more information unfolds.

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 financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,162 Responses to Expect low oil prices in 2020; tendency toward recession

  1. Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    IMF downgrade:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/20/davos-imf-world-economic-outlook-january-2020.html

    “The Washington-based institution forecast in October a global growth rate of 3% for 2019 and of 3.4% for 2020. The IMF has now revised down those forecasts to 2.9% and 3.3%, respectively. The downward revision was mostly due to lower growth in India. For 2021, the Fund has forecast a growth rate of 3.4%.”

    “For 2021” is quite reediculous…

    when the actual growth is much lower, the reports will say it was “unexpected”…

    • There is a video at the link called, “How Economists Make Predictions.” Perhaps if we were to watch this, we could figure out where the increases in GDP growth are coming from.

    • Davidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      I should clarify what I am seeing… the revision is now:

      2019 2.9%
      2020 3.3%
      2021 3.4%

      so I suspect the actual 2020 number will be lower than 2.9%, and the 2021 number they are just making up with no justification other than to make it higher than 2020…

      • Xabier says:

        Economists are like Soviet and Chinese psychologists: they provide the answers the politicians want to hear, pretty much pre-determined.

    • denial says:

      It’s amazing how there is a totally different story on mainstream media! When I go to cnbc it is like there is a booming economy for as far as the eye can see with no real challenges other than where to spend all the money!

  2. Dennis L. says:

    For your viewing enjoyment:
    The challenge of how it all started.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA-FcnLsF1g it has to do with information, or which came first, the chicken or the egg.

    For those mathematically inclined Check out ” Enter the matrix: the deep law that shapes our reality.”
    It was published 7 April, 2010 in New Scientist, Physics and Math.
    One basic conclusion: economic predictions more than 30 days in advance are worthless.

    My guess is Gail is on to something with the idea that there is some guiding force and we really don’t have a clue.

    For myself, I am on what is hopefully a two year math journey so I can read the paper and find out what further math studies are necessary, not so easy for a 73 year old man, but one semester at a time, and no metaphorical popcorn.

    Dennis L.

    • JT Roberts says:

      Nice video

    • Very interesting. I have run into this argument before–there are way too many combinations that don’t work, for it to be possible that random changes explain how the universe is organized.

      I notice that Steven Mayers is the main speaker in this video. He has a more recent video (which I haven’t looked at).

    • Mark says:

      I’d be curious to know how Cellular Automation relates to this.

      And unrelated, Billy Strings gets it.

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The global auto industry plunged deeper into recession in 2019, with sales dropping more than 4% as carmakers struggled to find buyers in China and India. The pain is likely to continue this year.

    “The number of vehicles sold across major global markets dipped to 90.3 million last year, according to analysts at LMC Automotive. That’s down from 94.4 million in 2018, and well below the record 95.2 million cars sold in 2017.”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/20/business/global-auto-recession/index.html

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The latest report on inflation by Iran Statistical Center says foodstuff prices have climbed 30 percent compared with last year, in an unrelenting trend of rising inflation and prices in the sanctions-hit country.”

    https://en.radiofarda.com/a/food-price-inflation-in-iran-at-30-percent-according-to-latest-report/30387564.html

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Roti constitutes the staple in most households across the country [Pakistan]. Therefore, the sudden shortage of wheat flour in the country and the consequent rise in prices constitutes a massive crisis for people who depend on the item for their meals.”

      https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/601649-flour-crisis

      • Regarding the flour crisis in Pakistan, Yahoo reports Pakistan to import 300,000 tonnes of wheat to meet flour crises

        Prices of flour and bread shot up last week as the ingredient disappeared from shops and wholesale markets, while bread makers shut in protest at what they called government pressure to sell the staple at controlled prices.

        “It is not possible for me to sell bread for eight rupees a piece if I buy flour bags at high prices,” said Sheraz Khan, a shopkeeper in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad, the capital.

        “Gas prices have also shot up multiple times since this new government came into power,” he added estimating that the bill for his gas-powered oven had increased four times.

        Pakistan’s energy pricing regulator has proposed yet another hike, which officials say is likely to be approved.

        Pakistan is importing more wheat because of a poor harvest. Compared to a year or two ago, the value of the Pakistani rupee relative to the US$ is way down. This is part of why wheat and natural gas cost more.

  5. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Pictures from downtown Beirut Sunday night showed an extraordinary standoff between fed up protesters and riot police protecting a ruling class protesters say is out of touch and slowly losing control of the nation.”

    https://abcnews.go.com/International/protests-lebanon-reach-intensity-dozens-hospital-analysis/story?id=68404196

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Five protesters were killed on Monday in three Iraqi cities as demonstrators across the country ramped up pressure on the government to implement long-awaited reforms…”

      https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/iraq-baghdad-police-tear-gas-live-fire-protests-rage-200120094313266.html

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “The unrest that engulfed India last month after the passing of a new citizenship law that many believe openly discriminates against Muslims and undermines the secular foundations of India’s constitution has shown no sign of abating. Every week, millions have continued to take to the streets…”

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/21/modi-is-afraid-women-take-lead-in-indias-citizenship-protests

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “Moody’s downgraded Hong Kong’s credit rating on Monday, slashing its assessment on the Asian financial center and blaming the government’s failure to deal with seven months of social unrest that has driven the economy into recession.”

          https://www.marketwatch.com/story/moodys-downgrades-protest-torn-hong-kong-2020-01-21

          • Higher interest rates leads to less investment in Hong Kong. Businesses and the Hong Kong government will spend a greater share of their revenue on interest payments, leaving less for improving wage levels.

        • This is another sign of too many people for jobs available, especially jobs that pay well. This is a chart that the Pew Research Center represents current and future population in India:

          https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/21/by-2050-india-to-have-worlds-largest-populations-of-hindus-and-muslims/ft_15-04-17_indiagrowth/

          There is clearly too much population growth in total, relative to the resources. Discriminating against Muslims is a way of holding down immigration from neighboring countries.

          I can see Muslim women protesting discrimination against rules that discriminate against Muslims. I find it harder to understand why Hindu women protesting, unless it is in general, with respect to governmental repression and frustration with the income levels for their families.

          • Xabier says:

            The first Moghul Emperor in India was delighted with the high population of India; he wrote in his memoirs that it was wonderful to have so many skilled workers, dirt cheap – coming from mountainous Central Asia he couldn’t quite believe it.

            Persecution of Muslims today is partly pay-back for the Moghul invasions, a 500-yr cycle; and also the massacres which took place when the British pulled out (both sides, of course, very, very guilty).

            I hope our friend of former days ‘Third World Person’ is OK, he hasn’t posted in some time.

      • Basic problem is that fact that the price of oil is too low for the Iraq government to collect enough funds to pay for programs that would help the Iraqi people. People are frustrated.

        • it’s not so much frustration, though that comes into it, it’s a lack of understanding of the basic laws of an oil economy.

          the same will apply to all nations who are oil-dependent

          • A country needs an abundant energy source that is much cheaper than oil. Right now, natural gas, coal, and perhaps hydroelectric (if other sources are available as well) are the only ones that qualify.

    • Lebanon is too small to be shown separately in BP data. To figure out more, I looked at the CIA world fact book for Lebanon. It seems that after World War I, Lebanon was carved out of the Former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. Lebanon is a fertile plain, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a water-surplus state, in a water-deficit region. Its borders with Syria and Israel remain unresolved.

      Lebanon imports nearly all of its energy supplies. There are natural gas resources in the Mediterranean that it might have access to, if its border with Israel is drawn the way Lebanon would prefer. 11% of Lebanon’s electricity is from hydroelectric.

      The people are 95% Arab. By religion, the population is roughly 1/3 Sunni Muslim, 1/3 Shia Muslim and 1/3 Christian.

      The main growth sectors of Lebanon’s economy are banking and tourism. The Syria conflict cut off one of Lebanon’s major markets and a transport corridor through the Levant. The influx of nearly one million registered and an estimated 300,000 unregistered Syrian refugees has increased social tensions and heightened competition for low-skill jobs and public services.

      Lebanon’s Debt to GDP ratio is very high. Most of this debt is held by Lebanon’s banks. The Lebanon’s pound’s exchange rate to the dollar is fixed. Thus, internal problems cannot be fixed by a depreciating currency.

      Lebanon’s export partners are China, UAE, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. I note that none of these countries is doing very well; this by itself does not help export prospects. Import partners are China, Italy, Greece, Germany, US, Turkey, and Egypt.

      The people of Lebanon are generally well-educated (11-12 years of schooling) and have access to the Internet.

      Looking into Lebanon’s electricity problems further, Reuters reported in March 2019, in an article called Fixing Lebanon’s ruinous electricity crisis

      Lebanon’s electricity crisis has pushed it to the brink of financial ruin, as power cuts hobble the economy and subsidies have racked up one of the world’s largest public debt burdens.

      Lebanon has not had capacity to supply 24-hour electricity since its 1975-1990 civil war, leaving many households reliant on their own generators or private neighborhood suppliers who charge hefty fees to keep a few lights on or other appliances running during regular daily cuts that can last several hours.

      It turns out that most of its electricity is from oil, either from aging plants for from diesel generators. This is a very high cost source of electricity. About 11% is hydroelectric, as noted above.

      BBC ran an article in December 2019 called Stealing Electricity to Survive. Needless to say, this tends to downgrade the operation of the electric grid. According to the article, “The country’s national grid can supply only about half the electricity people want.”

      Part of Lebanon’s problems are that its imports of goods vastly exceed its exports of goods. In 2017, Exports totaled $3.19 billon, while imports totaled $20.8 billion.

      • In a way Lebanon has been in ~suspended collapse since mid 1970s.
        The living standards before that civil war were almost om European level.
        So, I gather the Lebanon case could serve as important precursor / laboratory for collapse related phenomena..

      • beidawei says:

        “By religion, the population is roughly 1/3 Sunni Muslim, 1/3 Shia Muslim and 1/3 Christian.”

        It has not been politically possible to hold a formal census since 1932, when Christians comprised about half the population (by design). One study estimated that Christians are now down to 40 percent (with Maronites forming the largest group), and Muslims 54 percent (evenly divided between Sunni and Shi’a), with Druze making up the remainder. There are 18 recognized sectarian groupings (e.g. a Catholic might be a Latin Catholic, an Armenian Catholic, Melkite,etc.), each with its own customary law. The recent protests have been pan-sectarian, and aimed at an entrenched corruption which is abetted by the necessity of dividing every aspect of government according to ethno-religious divisions.

        • Tim Groves says:

          Average wealth among Lebanese residents should have increased last month with the homecoming of Carlos Ghosn (estimated net worth of $120m but he spent quite a bit on moving expenses). Given the current population, Carlos could afford to give away $18 to $20 to every person in the country before running out of assets.

      • Yoshua says:

        I have been following the financial crisis in Lebanon. It is basically a Ponzi scheme involving the banks and the central bank.

        The banks offered a high interest rate on dollar deposits, which attracted dollars from abroad. The banks then lent those dollars to the central bank, who paid an even higher interest rate on those dollars to the banks. The central bank became the borrower of last resort.

        The dollars were the used to finance the government and all the imports. In two decades they took in $175B, which is way about Lebanon’s GDP.

        It worked fine as long as the dollars kept flowing in. When the tide turned the Ponzi imploded.

        • Thanks for that update on timing, that seem to hint the Ponzi imploded also because of the Syrian war. Simply “the machine” wants to continue longer term Ponzis in that region from now on only in Turkey and Israel.. (+Gulfies area which is little bit distant). And the first one is increasingly getting closer to get shafted as well, but as second largest NATO army, they are not bold to do it fully for now.

        • Interesting! When I read that Lebanon’s two big industries were banking (with the banks taking on most of Lebanon’s high quantity of government debt) and tourism, I could see the handwriting on the wall. A temporary Ponzi scheme in would be all too possible in the banking industry.

          Their other big industry of tourism looks just as vulnerable. If the banks collapse and electricity becomes even less available, how long will tourism hold up? Lebanon is a big mess.

    • ssincoski says:

      And if I was a betting man, I would put money down that we are going to see a lot more of this in the near future around the world. People have just had enough.


  6. Migrants run towards the banks of the Suchiate River in hopes of evading the Mexican National Guard [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/chaos-guatemala-mexico-border-caravan-advance-200120223801182.html

    Well, I didn’t want to see this by myself — “overshoot”?

    • A lot of people thought that we were doing poor people everywhere a favor by helping them greatly reduce the deaths of children by cleaner water and a few antibiotics. Better/greater nutrition through the use of fertilizer and modern methods also contributed to exploding population.

      Most people greatly opposed explaining to these people that mothers would need to have many fewer children than their parents, if population was not to overshoot. Needless to say, having outsiders come in and explain that fewer births were needed would not be popular anyhow. So now we have this mess, a generation or two after we should have been thinking about the problem we were helping to create.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      Look how fit those people are. Says something for being on the run vs. being in the lap of out of shape luxury.

    • On one level we are just not accustomed to fast & large pop movements anymore.
      These people bet on the short horizon window opportunity before Donald completes the Wall construction. Many of them will make it into the US on time, the next migrating waves might not be that successful.

      Who knows perhaps one of the younger kids of the swarm will make it big eventually, shaped deeply by such personal history.. If the collapse scenario is correct, expect all sorts of very unusual characters “getting ahead” in such volatile situation.. don’t be shocked or foolishly trying to stop that historically trued process..

  7. Herbie R Ficklestein says:

    The pre- End of the World Party is warming up just fine, folks…
    Are you ready to RUMBLE?!😜👍

    French workers cut power to world’s largest food market in pension protest

    https://news.yahoo.com/french-workers-cut-power-worlds-090901773.html
    PARIS (Reuters) – French energy workers protesting against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform cut power on Tuesday to the world’s largest wholesale fresh food market, Rungis near Paris, the hardleft CGT union’s energy branch said.
    A spokeswoman for Rungis International Market said emergency power kicked in when the outage began 0530 GMT and that there was no disruption to trade. The power cut lasted 90 minutes.
    “The power source to Rungis is cut this morning,” the local CGT energy branch wrote on Facebook

    What till the Homeland Guard restores order and security to make everyone safe!

  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    Trump is like the physical embodiment of the infinite growth paradigm:

    “Donald Trump urged world leaders at Davos to ‘reject the environmental prophets of doom’ during his keynote address to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday.

    “The US President branded climate activists ‘the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers’ while rattling off a list of projections that he said failed to come true, including overpopulation in the 1960s and the ‘end of oil’ in the 1990s…

    “He then touted America’s fossil fuel revolution in the form of shale gas and oil, inviting European leaders to invest.”

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7910695/Greta-Thunberg-tells-world-leaders-fight-climate-change.html

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      There is such a huge schism now between those who say there are no environmental limits and those who say we are bumping up against them ever more dangerously.

      Of course Trump’s worldview (or perhaps even a greenwashed version of it) will win out because that is what the global economy needs to continue growing (until it simply no longer can).

      “Utter the term “black swan” in financial circles and it will conjure images of an economic catastrophe triggered by a rare event people should have seen coming, if only they had opened their eyes.

      “On Monday, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) published its riff on that theory.

      “In a paper titled “The Green Swan” the Basel-based institution warns climate change could unleash “potentially extremely financially disruptive events,” that could trigger the next global financial crisis.”

      https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/green-swan-climate-event-financial-crisis-bis-200120143239211.html

      • Xabier says:

        Green Swan’? We are on the way towards my own prediction: the ‘Pink Flamingo of Doom’. Tremble when you hear its wings beat…….

      • Tim Groves says:

        The Inner Man
        by Jack Hardy

        i have lost my coat on the road today
        cries the man of constant sorrow
        ruin has him in the wind at last
        cries the wolf of time
        merchant make a cloth for a sinner man
        finer than the one that he lost
        but it is nothing to the state of the inner man
        though the wolf goes hungry again
        cries the wolf of time tomorrow

        my house has burned down to the ground
        cries the homeless man of sorrow
        ruin has him in the wind at last
        cries the wolf of time
        build a new house for a sinner man
        stronger than the one that he lost
        but it is nothing to the state of the inner man
        though the wolf goes hungry again
        cries the wolf of time tomorrow

        i have lost my gold in the river drowned
        cries the wealthy man of sorrow
        ruin has him in the wind at last
        cries the wolf of time
        but the boatman has hope for a sinner man
        says you still got you your health
        but it is nothing to the state of the inner man
        though the wolf goes hungry again
        cries the wolf of time tomorrow

        i have lost my son my only son
        cries the worldly man of sorrow
        ruin has him in the wind at last
        cries the wolf of time
        but he’s gone to the father of all sinner men
        in a far far better world
        but it is nothing to the state of the inner man
        though the wolf goes hungry again
        cries the wolf of time tomorrow

        i have lost my name my only name
        cries the vagabond of sorrow
        ruin has him in the wind at last
        cries the wolf of time
        but the mirror don’t frighten no sinner man
        blood blackens on hope’s last door
        but it is nothing to the state of the inner man
        though the wolf goes hungry again
        cries the wolf of time tomorrow

      • Tim Groves says:

        This is one of the loveliest folk songs that almost nobody has ever heard of.

        Five years on YouTube and just 6 likes including me.

    • At least Shale Oil has a chance of benefit. If oil prices were higher, shale oil production might even be able to scale up a bit.

      Wind and solar don’t have that much going for them, I am afraid. They are simply add ons to the current system that provide no benefit at all, when indirect costs are included.

      Everyone looks for some solution that might work. Some are sold on Solution A; some are sold on Solution B. In fact, probably no solution will work. But whichever solution is chosen, there is a chance to add more debt, and thus keep the world economy going a little longer.

      • Curt Kurschus says:

        As you have yourself pointed out, Gail, there are particular circumstances where wind turbines and solar panels can be useful. Such as for someone or some community living off-grid. However, I certainly agree that wind and solar are not going to save the day where civilisation as a whole is concerned. The are more inclined to make matters worse in some respects. The current push for wind and solar to replace fossil fuel power stations globally is utter nonsense.

        • Even the off-grid use of wind and solar is a temporary situation, made possible by other types of energy products. Folks living off grid generally have lots of other things: gas fired stoves; an automobile to drive to town; perhaps some agricultural equipment that requires oil products. The solar that these folks have likely was purchased at subsidized prices. Otherwise it likely would be too expensive for them.

          The long term benefit of the off-grid solar is iffy. The area certainly would need fire protection, or it would likely burn down with the next wildfire hitting the area. Solar panels and wind turbines don’t provide fire protection. Replacement inverters would be needed as well. The family would likely not be providing all of its food in most cases. The family would need to take any food they grows to market, buy whatever they have need of, and bring it back home again. These are not services that the off-grid solar by itself provides.

          It would be hard to make a living with off-grid solar as the only source of energy–no petroleum; no goods (such as inverters) purchased elsewhere.

          • You can look at offgrid systems installation as essentially prepaying the comforts of grid connection for a reasonable forward looking time span (quality product) say at best ~5-15yrs max or completely unknown (non)reliability (cheap product ver)..

            At its core it’s very emotionally driven decision making as opposed to the very hard down to earth focus on the buildup of baseload grid more than century ago and their ideas and realities of life back then..

            Today, if you have the money to spend (among other priorities) it’s certainly nice thing to have, but you build up only a slightly different dependency vs your legacy grid connection.

            • Left out to stress the obvious “prepaying the comforts of the grid” but at much higher price point, especially in terms of three phase power (running high power – amperage demand spikes) etc..

            • Good points! In many cases, the rich can have these purchases subsidized by the tax payments of the poor as well, making this a good deal for the rich who want to try to do better than others, for a little longer.

  9. MG says:

    Today, I have read a blog in Slovak that talks about the increasing amount of the liabilities in our lives, about the fackt that what was an asset in the past, like money on the bank account, a house, a car, a company inventory etc., is now a liability:

    https://blog.etrend.sk/rudolf-hauzer/vsade-pasiva-kde-len-oko-dovidi.html

    It is a very good observation: we live in the world which contains more and more liabilities and less and less assets. That is a very good description of our current situation.

    • Hubbs says:

      Your biggest liability these days ( if you are a decent, honorable high wage earning male living in KY) is your spouse.
      https://www.archwaypublishing.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=761645

      Just check the “Free Preview.” It only scratches the surface. Sorry for the shameless plug. I couldn’t resist. But check out the KY Bar Association on Yelp and go from there.

      • MG says:

        It is true. Marriage is a big energy consumer. The family you are born into is an energy consumer. That is why when e. g. Jesus Christ called his apostles they readily abandoned their families.

        Not only celebrating all those family events is a big energy consumer, but also being a religious practices follower.

        One feels like being a wear and tear part of a machine.

      • Robert Firth says:

        “Your biggest liability these days ( if you are a decent, honorable high wage earning male living in KY) is your spouse.”

        It is your biggest liability if you live anywhere in the US, and I know whereof I speak. Enough said.

  10. Tim Groves says:

    For all those Greta fans out there, here’s an except from the young lady’s latest speech at the World Economic Forum.

    Greta is becoming to Davos what Ricky Gervais is to the Golden Globes and Tom Jones is to Vegas. Last year she was sixteen and full of fire, this year she’s seventeen and a lot calmer, although every bit as demanding. On behalf of “the children”, she is demanding demanding an immediate end to all investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, calling for a drastic reduction of emissions to zero.

    We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments:

    Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

    Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies.

    And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.

    We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.

    It may seem like we’re asking for a lot. And you will of course say that we are naïve. But this is just the very minimum amount of effort that is needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.

    So either you do this or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target. Giving up without even trying. Well I’m here to tell you that, unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.

    II don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m giving up on the 1.5 degree target so that hopefully, future generations of Swedish children won’t know what hypothermia, chilblains and frostbite are.

    • The Magus says:

      Either Greta is very stupid, or she has just not bothered to think this through.

      Or could it be that she knows that there are no remaining fossil fuels that can be extracted profitably anyway, so this is issue is fait accompli

    • Chrome Mags says:

      Yeah, I’m a fan of hers. She’s tough to stand by her convictions in spite of all the hatred from the right. At the same time I’m not sure there’s any easy answer for the conundrum we’ve gotten ourselves into. Probably why so much is being spent on fusion research even if it’s a long shot.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Is this “hatred from the right” anything like that “race-ism” directed by the British establishment and press at Meghan? As far as I can see, both these “hatreds” seem to be manifest in insufficient affirmation, adoration, admiration and approval of the young celebrities rather than on any feelings of disgust or any wish to do them harm.

        There is a lot of hatred in the world in the sense of extreme dislike or disgust that oozes out of people who have “issues” with things such as anger, aggression, disgruntlement, envy, resentment, and low self-esteem. In such cases, there is often something inside the hater—a personality?—that his primed to hate and attack others on sight for no other reason than they’ve been imprinted as targets and are in range.

        That’s not what we see in the case of GretaHate. The vast majority of the widely expressed criticism about what Greta is doing and also about the vast majority of the gentle mocking or ridicule directed her way is not rooted in hatred at all. Where you see “all the hatred from the right”, I see lots of ordinary sensible responsible, hard-working people who quite reasonably object to being lectured on how they should live their lives by anyone, let alone a junior high-school dropout with her own anger issues who hangs around with the global elite.

        From where I stand, most of the hatred visible in the political world emanates from the left end of the field. And vicious and rabid hatred it is too. From folks like the guys pictured below. Have you heard anyone say they want to shoot, decapitate Greta, punch her in the face? Or, as ex-boxer Mickey Rourke quipped about POTUS, “l would love 30 seconds in a room with the little bitch”?

    • The future generations of Swedish children are more pressingly going to deal with the multitude of urban no go zones or even self ruled caliphates growing on their former territory, not mentioning the ongoing relative material and social impoverishment vs ALL their Nordic neighbors.. and eventually even in comparison to much poorer countries as well..

    • cashisking says:

      She will have to change her name and her hairstyle in a decade when “her generation” is still using abundant fossil fuel. Us fat old boomers WILL BE WATCHING Greta. :0

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