Scarcity

Collective Insanity

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on August 13, 2014

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…I toyed with some other titles for this Rant, like “Collective Stupidity” and “Collective Ignorance” which are both in abundance these days, but as you observe the spin down progress its way around the Globe, as vast as the Stupidity and Ignorance are, both are overwhelmed by sheer INSANITY. There is insanity everywhere you look nowadays. So today’s Rant is on Collective Insanity.

Let’s start with the Stock Market. While millions more Amerikans drop out of the Labor Force every year, the Market levitates to ever more stratospheric heights. The “Smartest Guys in the Room” invest in Dogshit companies like Facepalm and PoopOn that have never turned a profit in their entire existence. Since these guys are Certified Smart with Ph.Ds from MIT, Harvard and the London School of Economics, you can’t attribute this to Stupidity, so it must be Insanity.

Where do the Smartest Guys in the Room GET the money to invest in this Dogshit? From other certified Geniuses like Helicopter Ben Bernanke and his successor, Dammit Janet Smellin Yellin, who seem to think that paying par prices for absolutely worthless collateral with freshly printed FRNs so that the Smart Guys trading have still more Funny Money to play with will somehow get the economy rolling again back to the Holy Grail of Perpetual Growth. Since you can;t have perpetual growth in a finite world, this concept is flawed from the get go, and also here since Helicopter Ben and Dammit Janet are also cetified as smart, stupidity can’t be the answer, so it must be Insanity again…

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California Drying and Peaked Oil: Daily Impact Double Feature

From the keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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Palestinian_refugees

This hasn’t happened yet in California (it happened in Galilee in 1948). But this is what it will look like on the Oregon border if the historic drought continues (Wikipedia photo)

California Drying: “We May Have to Migrate”

First published at The Daily Impact  August 1, 2014

The only category of drought higher than the one now assigned to nearly 60 percent of California (the USDA’s Drought Monitor calls it “exceptional”)  is “Biblical.” Three years in, there is no relief in sight — the much-anticipated El Nino pattern of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, which usually increases rainfall in California, has not materialized. It would take a full year of normal rain and snowfall to restore surface waters to normal levels. A UC Davis study just out finds the amount of surface water available to California agriculture has been reduced by 6.6 million acre-feet(yes, that’s enough water to submerge 6.6 million acres to a depth of one foot). Groundwater has been pumped to replace five million acre-feet, but the shortfall remains a jaw-dropping 1.6 million acre-feet.

It is, right now, one of the worst droughts in the history of North America. Bad enough, says Lynn Wilson, chair of the School of Arts and Sciences at Kaplan University and member of a UN delegation on climate change, that “we may have to migrate people out of California.”

Which immediately led to a post on the aptly named Lunatic Outpost ( I am not making any of this up) titled “UN panel recommends moving people out of California.”  In black transport helicopters, one assumes.  (For the record: Dr. Wilson’s UN service is not her day job, and her observation had nothing to do with the UN.)

But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you might not have to leave California. “Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought,” says Dr. Wilson, and although heroic measures can be expected before any such decision is reached, she says, “it can’t be taken off the table.”

Ominously, heroic measures are already being taken. Californians can now be fined $500 for washing their car or watering their ornamentals. Time to move to Phoenix. Oh, wait….

Like an earthquake far out to sea, the California catastrophe has raised a tsunami of consequences that has not yet reached the doorsteps of the rest of the country. Except for much higher prices for lettuce and, one assumes, arugula. California industrial agriculture produces half of America’s produce — fruits, vegetables and nuts — and to do it sucks up 80 per cent of the available water. (Which is why, when the drought gets really, really bad, the government cracks down on car-washing.)

With half a million acres of farmland idled for lack of irrigation water, with lettuce wilting and fruit trees dying, the hurt will soon spread beyond the region’s devastated farmers. Just this year, the California Farm Bureau estimates, the average American family should expect to spend $500 more on food because of the California drought. And next year, it’s going to get serious.

Next year, or soon thereafter, they are going to start running out of groundwater to pump onto their fields. And while the effects of that will be obvious and immediate, there’s more: they have already pumped so much water out of the Central Valley’s deep aquifer that the Sierra Nevada has rebounded upward by a half inch just in the last decade — six inches in the last century-and-a-half — and the massive San Andreas Fault has been twitching with unusual clusters of earthquakes nearby.

The UC Davis study went to great lengths to monetize the costs of the drought just this year to the state ($2.2 billion), to agriculture ($1.5 billion), and so on. But it may not be until we see the first battalions of climate refugees trudging across the Oregon border in search of rain that we comprehend the true cost of screwing around with Mother Nature.

________________________________________

Peaked Oil: Waiting for the Swords to Drop

Damocles learned that when you know about the sword up there, it’s hard to enjoy a life of luxury.

Damocles learned that when you know about the sword up there, it’s hard to enjoy a life of luxury.

First published at The Daily Impact  July 28, 2014

In the fable that bears his name, Damocles was unnerved in the midst of luxury and power by the threat of a single sword (representing the ever present possibility of failure) hanging precariously over his head. We, who because of cheap oil enjoy luxury and power in our ordinary lives beyond the imagination of the kings of old, live beneath a veritable forest of deadly blades, all of which are just about to fall. Unlike Damocles, we refuse to look up, let alone move out of the zone of impact. When they tell our fable, nobody’s going to believe it.

1. The Price Sword. The world is paying just over $100 a barrel for the 90 million barrels of oil it needs to get through a day. If the price goes any lower, it will be less than the cost of production from fracking, tar sands and deep ocean wells, which is where all the new oil is coming from. If we have to depend on the old legacy fields of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the like, which are all in decline, the price will quickly go up, and when it gets much above $100, experience shows it will drive industrial economies into recession. So that’s two swords — one sticks you if you stand up, the other if you sit down.

2. The Demand Sword. The recession of +/- 2009 drastically reduced our consumption of oil, hence dropped oil prices and then kept them from rising as fast as they would have. As we recover, demand increases, prices go up, pushing us back into recession. As the masses of China, India and Asia have the audacity to try to live like us, with cars and air conditioners, they increase demand for oil, which increases prices, which makes it highly unlikely they will ever get to live like us, which, of course, we will soon not be doing either.  So this is really two swords, too — one sticks you if you step forward, the other takes a slice if you step back.

3. The Capital Sword. The oil bidness has done a very good job of not letting us see them sweat. But they are sweating. Not because they have to spend a lot of money to find and develop new sources of oil years ahead of getting them on line — that has always been the case. They are sweating because despite spending more and more on exploration and development, they are finding less and less oil. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard observed in the London Telegraph recently:

Data from Bank of America show that oil and gas investment in the US has soared to $200bn a year. It has reached 20pc of total US private fixed investment, the same share as home building. This has never happened before in US history, even during the Second World War when oil production was a strategic imperative.

This is of course otherwise known as a bubble, a stampede of money started by the irrational exuberance of the hydraulic frackers. It continues, amid talk of “energy independence” and “America Numbah One,” but not for long. Look around. All the shale operators are under water. Not a single major oil company is involved in the American Fracking Revolution: Shell was, but bailed at the end of last year after taking a $2 billion dollar loss.

The same situation obtains worldwide, for deepwater, Arctic, and traditional sources. Global capital investment by oil companies doubled in just eight years (2000-2008), is running near a trillion dollars a year, and is finding virtually nothing. The major oil companies have already, quietly, begun cutting back on their capital expenditures for exploration and development, which may be the scariest single fact about the oil situation today.

4. The Depletion Sword. The Achilles heel (Too many classical allusions? Okay, I’ll stop.) of the fracking business is the hideous decline rates of the wells. Traditional oil wells lasted for 20 years. These super-expensive, water-guzzling, radioactive and toxic waste-generating  babies last for five. That means if you’re an operator and you want to show your investors steadily rising production, you had better bring a new well on line nearly every year. The good times roll on, as long as everybody believes the good times will last forever. But it’s always amazing how fast a party that everybody wanted in on can disperse when it runs out of booze.

5. The Stock Market Sword.  With the country’s economy manifestly unrecovered from the Great Recession (or the Minor Depression, whichever you prefer), it makes no sense that the stock market is dancing in the stars, wearing silly hats and blowing on noisemakers while millions sink into poverty. That which makes no sense, collapses. Reality, it turns out, is not just a good idea, its a prerequisite for persistence. (See the Enron Bubble, the Savings and Loan Bubble, the Dot-Com Bubble, the Housing Bubble, and on and on….) So it is not only conceivable, but likely, that within the next few months a standard, garden-variety stock-market correction (the other word for it — “crash”) could suck all the money out of all the fracking plays, at once. Or, the dawning realization that we have been led up a blind alley by the American Fracking Revolution could trigger the market panic that finishes fracking. Either way, it’s a lose-lose scenario.

And to think Damocles freaked out at the sight of one sword.

***

 

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

 

 

F7 Print Button in Lock Up

Discuss this article inside the Diner 

For those hoping for a rapid response from CBs to the gathering storm here, at least according to the MSM a massive coordinated Global Printfest does not seem in the cards, at least for next week. At the same time, without a massive intervention here, it is hard to see how the Spanish will survive through to the end of next week either.

Super Mario Dragon, head of the ECB is getting more strident in his calls for Eurobonds and a Transfer Union with full fiscal and monetary integration, with all the concomitant loss of National Sovereignty and elimination of Democratic political control that implies. HUGE pressure now on the Krauts to pick up the Tab for the cascading debt Tsunami surrounding them, but of course in reality the Krauts can’t afford to pick everybody’s tab here either.

So, a EZ breakup now seems pretty inevitable, and as usual it is the timeline question which is the most tricky. The Greeks are in such Dire Straits now that if they don’t pull out and at least TRY issuing Drachma the only thing that will keep anything moving around that economy at all is Barter systems. Same with the Spics, they have to try the Peseta route.

So it is time for a Thought Experiment here about exactly how such a fracture back into multiple currencies in Eurotrashland would be handled on an International Trade level, administered of course by the BIS in Switzerland.

They probably do have Legacy Software they used back in the day to track all these currencies, but of course also back then there was a market for the debt each of these countries sold as well. The big problem here is that even with a Debt Jubilee of all the current MOUNTAINS of debt, there isn’t a market for NEW debt either! If you actually have some money, why would you lend it to anybody when there is no reasonable expectation you would ever be paid back for it? The funniest one in this regard are the investors currently buying Kraut debt, who actually are PAYING the Krauts for the priviledge of holding their debt! LOL. This on the theory of course that it is better to only trickle away your money than to risk losing it all at once. This situation is an anomaly however, and would not apply to any other nation in the EZ than Krautland once they move to separate currencies.

So then the question is, could these countries issue NON-DEBT money that would function to buy stuff at least inside their own borders? Possibly and it would certainly be an interesting experiment, but even if they do that they will still need to try to earn some FOREX, namely Dollars right now that still will buy them some Oil. Or they could try the Nazi trick of doing Direct barter of something they produce which an OPEC nation needs for their Oil, which generally speaking is mostly Food of course.

However, run that idea out in the case of Spain for instance. They have good arable land there and can certainly grow more food than say the Iranians can on their patch of desert. Even if the Spics have surplus food to barter with the Towel Heads though, can they grow ENOUGH to both feed their own population AND trade with the Iranians for enough Oil to run their Carz? This of course returns us to the Choice Steve presents all the time on EU, is do you feed the Carz or feed the People?

So you say, “But the Nazis did it! They produced Railroad Cars and got Raw materials from the Argentinians!” Indeed they did, but of course at the time the Nazis had one of the few industrial apparati necessary for producing railroad cars AND there was a ton of excess Oil out there for them to do that with. The Spics don’t have industrial apparatus to build anything the Towel Heads want that the Chinese can’t build cheaper. So bartering Finished Goods with the Towel Heads won’t work for the Spics.

On the Grand Scale across the EU this is pretty much true for everybody except the Krauts, who still do produce some finished goods the Towel Heads want. However, since the price of their Oil is going up, it costs a lot more for the Krauts to produce the finished goods, so they have to raise the prices on them high enough to make some Value Added profit from burning said Oil. As they raise those prices, the Towel Heads then cannot afford to buy the BMWs unless of course they divert some of their Oil revenue from buying Food to buying BMWs. Again the choice is between feeding the Carz or feeding the Peoples.

When the market drops off the map for the BMWs, the Krauts of course also will be in the same situation as the Spics and everybody else in Eurotrashland. They also will have only Food to trade for Oil. Once you take away the advantage in production that Industrialization powered by cheap energy has, just about everybody can produce inside their own society the finished goods that they need. They don’t NEED to trade for them. Trade only results when various cultures all have surplus and so begin to produce non-essential items other people also in surplus covet for one reason or another.

In the situation we find ourselves in NOW, after years of resource depletion and expanding population overshoot is that in fact nobody really is in surplus anymore and the vast pool of stored thermodynamic energy to prduce so much suplus is petering out here. Not disappearing overnight, but rapidly becoming to expensive to burn for the purpose of driving Carz around willy nilly or even making Iphones that nobody REALLY needs, they just WANT them. The monetary system implosion is just a representation of the fact that there is not surplus and there is not a future expectation of ROI by buying anybody’s debt. You won’t be paid back, so why invest in anything or loan money to anyone? If you HAVE money or control over resources, you keep them for yourself and try not to LOSE them or have them taken from you. Both of which get more difficult all the time of course, both on the Micro level of the Individual and the Macro Level of the Nation State. Far as the OPEC Nations are concerned, at this point their problem is that since Industrialized nations cannot afford to BUY their Oil from them anymore, now they are trying to STEAL it instead, using the Big Ass Military. For the Individual, the issue is that since their is no Growth, instead of trying to sieve profit off a growing economy, those in control are STEALING the money through Taxation to bailout TBTF Banks, reneging on Pension Plan agreements and selling Trash for Cash like Facepalm to INCREDIBLY stupid Investors who just are ASKING to be bilked and deserve the fate they got for that stupidity. Always a SUCKER out there of course. I don’t feel sorry for any of those people, but for the people who have Pension Plans they have no control over who Invested in such trash, I do feel sympathy. Their money and their futures are being stolen from under them from gimmicks like this, and they have no control over that. The money from doing these deals is being pocketed here by a few very BIG Thieves at the top, and it is time now to STOP this theft once and for all time, by whatever means is necessary to do so.

RE

Central Banks to hold fire… for now

By Richard Hubbard

LONDON | Sat Jun 2, 2012 7:39am EDT

(Reuters) – The intensifying euro zone crisis and uncertain global growth outlook have raised hopes for a policy response from major central banks but, while it could be a close call, they are likely to resist pressure to act in the coming week.

The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Reserve Bank of Australia are all due to meet as data emerges on the euro zone’s service sector, and the manufacturing and trade performances of the big German and U.S. economies.

The main focus will be Wednesday’s ECB meeting, and whether dramatic selling of peripheral European government debt by investors in May and a flight into safe-haven U.S. Treasuries and German government bonds will prompt it to act.

One reason to doubt a major shift in policy is that, even after U.S. Treasury 10-year notes hit yields not seen in more than two centuries of record keeping, and investors began paying the German government for the right to hold its debt, the move across all markets may not warrant it.

“The stresses appear not yet to be big enough across all asset classes for the policymakers to react,” said Richard Batty, global investment strategist at Standard Life Investments.

“It all seems to be playing out in investor’s appetite for triple-A government bonds and for the dollar, but there doesn’t seem to be the volatility or sharp falls in equity markets or other stresses in the system, such as the funding market.”

In Europe, the spread between three-month Libor rates and overnight rates, seen as a measure of health of the banking system, has been stable throughout May – mainly due to the more than one trillion euros of cheap funds injected into the system by the ECB in December and February.

And while May was a bad month for equity markets everywhere and Spain and Italy in particular, the widely watched Dow Jones .DXY and S&P 500 .SPX indexes remain in positive territory for the year to date.

Those gains were under threat on Friday, however, as disappointing May U.S. jobs data sparked heavy selling, sending the MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS back to where it started the year.

The VIX index .VIX, often referred to as the market’s fear gauge stood at 25 points, in line with its levels of last December but well below the 48 points seen at the height of last year’s market turmoil in August and September.

POLITICAL MOVES

A heavy calendar of events throughout June which could help determine how the euro zone crisis unfolds may also encourage Europe’s key monetary policymakers to hold fire.

Greek elections are due on June 17, following a first round of French parliamentary elections on June 10. The heads of the G20 group of nations will hold a summit on June 18 and 19, while Europe’s leaders gather at the end of the month to decide their next response to the crisis.

But pressure is growing for action from the ECB to calm acute nervousness about a potential Greek exit from the currency bloc, and fears that the cost to Spain of saving its fragile banks will mean the country itself has to be rescued.

“The ECB is currently the only institution that can credibly counter a collective loss of confidence on the scale we’re now witnessing,” said Nicholas Spiro, Managing Director at debt consultancy Spiro Sovereign Strategy.

Spanish bond yields have surged in the past week to near their highest level since the launch of the euro, raising questions about the country’s ability to fund itself over the longer term without outside help.

Spain will provide a big test of investor sentiment when it auctions more government bonds on Thursday as its 10-year bond yields hover around 6.5 percent – close to the 7 percent level at which other indebted countries have been forced to seek aid.

The latest Reuters poll of economists found most still expected the ECB to resist pressure to cut interest rates before the end of next year, but that majority has shrunk from previous polls as gloomy economic data rolls in. Just 11 of the 73 respondents expected the bank to cut rates on June 6.

The Bank of England is also expected to resist calls to pump more money into the depressed UK economy when it meets on June 7, according to a separate Reuters poll, although it found there was an even chance the central bank would restart the printing presses at some point in future. POLL3

A slim majority of economists expect Australia’s central bank to keep interest rates unchanged on Tuesday, but this is an even closer call as a growing number of banks, including the nation’s top four, are calling for a cut. AURATE1

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s mid-month policy meeting and the end of its current easing policy, known as ‘Operation Twist’, could also bring changes.

“With dark clouds gathering over the global economy and the euro area crisis intensifying, the ‘Great Monetary Easing Part 2′ looks set to accelerate again as many major central banks around the globe are gearing up for more action in the next month or two,” said Manoj Pradhan of Morgan Stanley.

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Climate change imposes great challenges on the built heritage sector by increasing the risks of ener [...]

Deterministic–stochastic empirical mode decomposition (EMD) is used to obtain low-frequency (n [...]

At the sub-national level, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) proposes [...]

The recent droughts in the American Southwest have led to increasing risks of wildfires, which pose [...]