shale oil

What’s Next for Oil: Whiplash

roller-coaster gc2smOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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roller-coaster This is the closest we could come to a chart showing what is next for ojl and gas prices, and how it’s going to feel. (Photo by Patrick McGarvey)

Published on The Daily Impact on January 18, 2015


A savvy investor once told me that if you read something in the news, it is no longer true, if it ever was. I keep this in mind as I read over and over that the world is awash in 3 billion barrels of surplus oil. This glut — always and everywhere specified as 3 billion barrels — is present, the conventional wisdom (oxymoron alert) goes, because the crafty Saudis refused to cut production when the price of oil tanked (metaphor alert). They did this, it is said, to run the pesky American oil frackers out of business before they took over the world. This reminds me of the engraved plaque found in many Irish bars: “The Lord invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.” An endearing sentiment, but probably not true.

[“The Saudis have won,” somebody said to me the other night. Really? They’re burning cash so fast that, despite having one of the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, they’re on course toward bankruptcy in four years. They have been forced to cut back on the subsidies that up to now have bought their subjects’ loyalty by providing them with cheap gas, electricity and water; gas prices alone have shot up 50% this year. When Iran tried that a few years ago, revolution appeared in the streets like a sudden flame, and the government reversed course immediately.

To suggest that the Middle East is a tinderbox is to understate the obvious; to say that it has become immeasurably more flammable since the Arab Spring, similarly goes without saying; and to conclude from the foregoing that this is hardly the time to thrust people more deeply into worse poverty with less hope, would not challenge the reasoning powers of a candidate for US president. The Saudi royal family is terrified and rightly so by existential threats from ISIS, Iran and increasingly its own people.]

But back to the 3 billion barrel glut. Question 1 is where did that number come from that everyone is using without qualification? Why, from the International Energy Agency (IEA), one of whose jobs is to keep track of world oil stocks. That’s oil that has been pulled from the ground but has not yet made it to a refinery: it’s in tankers, in pipelines, on rail cars and in tank farms. And it is true that IEA has just estimated those stocks at 3 billion barrels.  

BUT those stocks did not just appear because prices fell — or in order to make prices fall. If you go back ten years or more in IEA records, you find that there have always been around 2.7 billion barrels in the pipeline, so to speak. So the present number, far from representing a sudden tsunami of unwanted oil, represents an uptick of just 300 million barrels, a 10 per cent increase. It represents about a three day supply of oil at current global consumption rates.

Far from being a tsunami of excess oil swamping the world, this glut is hardly enough to get our shoes wet. There are two implications to putting this excess in its proper perspective:

  1. Any return to anything like normal demand will vaporize the glut in a matter of days. Which means that’s how long it will take for prices to head back toward $100 a barrel from the current under-$40.
  2. Although encouraged to ramp production back up by the return of high prices, the oil industry will not be able to. True, they can uncap sealed wells and re-erect mothballed rigs — although even doing that, which will require finding new sources of financing and hiring workers, will take a dismaying length of time. But virtually all the oil companies in the world have for years been cutting back on the money they spend looking for new oil fields. Before the price crash they were cutting back because it wasn’t working, they weren’t finding new oil no matter how much they spent. Since the price crash they’ve been cutting  back viciously because they can’t afford it. But the result is the same: there are precious few new oil wells to drill, even at a profit.

Thus the prospect of peak oil, far from having been disproved by current events, as some are gloating, hasn’t even been much delayed by current events. And if there is to be a recovery from the current doldrums of the oil industry it will be wrenching, recession-inducing recovery because we all know what economies do when oil prices spike.

On the other hand, if the economic news continues to be as bad as it is now, and the expected global depression locks most of the world’s people into long-term poverty, and their ability to buy anything continues to wither as it is withering now, why then we will be all right. With respect to peak oil.

As long as we can’t afford to buy gas, it will remain cheap. The minute we start buying it again, it will become expensive and scarce. And it will happen so fast that the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat will be simultaneous.


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.

It’s Official: The Shale-Oil Boom is Over

Off the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Published on the Daily Impact on June 9, 2015

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It comes now from the US Energy Information Agency, and is headlined by Bloomberg Business, so yes, it’s official. As Bloomberg put it, “US Shale Boom Grinds to a Halt.” Which, actually, is overstating the case by a good bit, there isn’t going to be a “halt.” Nevertheless, as sane people everywhere have been insisting for years, the shale boom is, as it always was going to be, a bust.

This — now official — assessment is in the form of a set of projections by the EIA, which, we should remember, has pretty consistently been overly optimistic in its assessment of the oil business. Remember, they were the folks who estimated that the Monterey Shale in California held 14 billion barrels of recoverable reserves — two-third of America’s total oil wealth — until they ran the numbers again and re-estimated the Monterey at 96% lower.

So they might not be great statisticians, but they are the ones we have, and upon whom the world relies for US oil numbers. And they now say that shale oil production in the US — which for five years has been on a rocket-launch trajectory that should have punched through six million barrels per day by now — will fall to 5.58 million bpd this month and to 5.49 million bpd next month and ever faster thereafter. The trajectory of a rocket when the engine quits.crude graph

EIA’s forecasts are based on the number of rigs at work and their estimated productivity. The rig count has been dropping for 26 straight weeks, since shortly after the world price for crude oil cratered late last year. 67% of US rigs have been taken out of service. So it’s a bit of a mystery how production has been maintained this long, especially by firms that went into this crisis deeply in debt and hemorrhaging cash.

One explanation is that the rigs taken down were the least productive and the ones remaining the most fruitful. But that does not explain how insolvent companies continue to sell their product at a loss. I suggested the most likely rationale last week [Oil Money: Too Dumb to Fail]: that whacked-out investors with too much money for their own good were betting that oil will rise again (just like the South) and that all will soon be well. On that flimsy basis they have been shovelling money at some of the worst balance sheets in the history of accounting.

The popular press — including, I am sorry to see, Bloomberg — has been ascribing these events to a complex global game of market-manipulation chess being played by Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC countries. Curses! they say, Foiled again by those crafty devils! Reality check number one: those crafty devils are simply not that smart. Reality check number two: everything that is happening to the shale patch now would have happened if the price of oil had stayed above $100 a barrel. Because our crafty fracking devils aren’t that bright either.

[Rule Number One here at the Daily Impact: when an event can be explained as the result of either conspiracy or stupidity, go with stupidity. If you want to be proved right.]

Remember the talk, just a year ago, of “energy independence?” Of how we were going to be “Number one in the world in oil and gas production?” Of how we would start exporting the stuff and thus bend the rest of the world to our will? All gone now, as the EIA has just confirmed.

Reality is back. The fracking boom will be a bump on the long slide to no oil at all, and as the other, last-ditch sources of the last few drops play out, the industrial world has less and less time to execute a very hard landing, or to do nothing and, as the pilots say, augur in.

And that’s official.


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.

A Solemn Pause

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 19,2015

Events are moving faster than brains now. Isn’t it marvelous that gasoline at the pump is a buck cheaper than it was a year ago? A lot of short-sighted idiots are celebrating, unaware that the low oil price is destroying the capacity to deliver future oil at any price. The shale oil wells in North Dakota and Texas, the Tar Sand operations of Alberta, and the deep-water rigs here and abroad just don’t pencil-out economically at $45-a-barrel. So the shale oil wells that are up-and-running will produce for a year and there will be no new ones drilled when they peter out — which is at least 50 percent the first year and all gone after four years.

Anyway, the financial structure of the shale play was suicidal from the get-go. You finance the drilling and fracking with high-yield “junk bonds,” that is, money borrowed from “investors.” You drill like mad and you produce a lot of oil, but even at $105-a-barrel you can’t make profit, meaning you can’t really pay back the investors who loaned you all that money, a lot of it obtained via Too Big To Fail bank carry-trades, levered-up on ”margin,” which allowed said investors to pretend they were risking more money than they had. And then all those levered-up investments — i.e. bets — get hedged in a ghostly underworld of unregulated derivatives contracts that pretend to act as insurance against bad bets with funny money, but in reality can never pay out because the money is not there (and never was.) And then come the margin calls. Uh Oh….

In short, enjoy the $2.50-a-gallon fill-ups while you can, grasshoppers, because when the current crop of fast-depleting shale oil wells dries up, that will be all she wrote. When all those bonds held up on their skyhook derivative hedges go south, there will be no more financing available for the entire shale oil project. No more high-yield bonds will be issued because the previous issues defaulted. Very few new wells (if any) will be drilled. American oil production will not return to its secondary highs (after the 1970 all-time high) of 2014-15. The wish of American energy independence will be steaming over the horizon on the garbage barge of broken promises. And all, that, of course, is only one part of the story, because there is the social and political fallout to follow.

The table is set for the banquet of consequences. The next chapter in the oil story is more likely to be scarcity rather than just a boomerang back to higher prices. The tipping point for that will come with the inevitable destabilizing of Saudi Arabia, which I believe will happen this year when King Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz, 91, son of Ibn Saud, departs his intensive care throne for the gloriousJannah of virgins and feasts. Speaking of feasts, just imagine how the Islamic State (or ISIS) must be licking its chops at the prospect of sweeping over an Arabia no longer defined as Saudi! The Saudis are so spooked that they announced plans last week for a kind of super Berlin-type wall to be constructed along the northern border with Iraq. But that brings to mind a laughable Maginot Line scenario in which the masked invaders just make an end run around the darn thing. In any case, Saudi Arabia will already be disintegrating internally as competing clans and princes vie for control. And then, what will the US do? Rush in there shock-and-awe style? Bust up the joint? That’ll make things better, won’t it? (See American Sniper.)

Meanwhile, there will be plenty to contend with state-side. The next time there is a pratfall in the stock and bond markets and the TBTF banks — and there is sure to be — the rescue tricks are liable to be a whole lot more severe than the TARP, ZIRP, and QE hijinks of 2008-2015. Next time around, the federals are going to have to confiscate stuff, break promises, take away things, and rough some people up. The question is how much of this abuse will the public take? I take a certain comfort knowing how heavily armed America is. And not just the lunatic fringe. The thought of Hillary and Jeb out there beating the bushes for big money makes me laugh. They are so not going to happen. Just wait. For now, take this MLK holiday break to reflect on the fragility of our own country, and gird your loins for the week to come.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Crash-O-Matic Finance

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation December 15, 2014

Oil prices have dropped $50 a barrel. That may not sound like much. But when you take $107 and you take $57, that’s almost a 47 percent decline…!”
–James Puplava, The Financial Sense News Network

May not sound like much? I guess when you hunker down in the lab with the old slide rule and do the math, wow! Those numbers really pop!

This, of course, is the representative thinking out there. But then, these are the very same people who have carried pompoms and megaphones for “the shale revolution” the past couple of years. Being finance professionals they apparently failed to notice the financial side of the business, for instance the fact that so much of the day-to-day shale operation was being run on junk bond financing.

It all seemed to work so well in the eerie matrix of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) where investors desperate for “yield” — i.e. some return more-than-zilch on their money — ended up in the bond market’s junkyard. These investors, by the way, were the big institutional ones, the pension funds, the insurance companies, the mixed bond smorgasbord funds. They were getting killed on ZIRP. In the good old days of the late 20th century, before Federal Reserve omnipotence, they could depend on a regular annual interest rate churn of between 5 and 10 percent and do what they had do — write pension checks, pay insurance claims, and pay clients, with a little left over for company salaries.

ZIRP ruined all that. In fact, ZIRP destroyed the most fundamental index in the financial universe: the true cost of borrowing money. In doing so, it twerked and torqued the concept of “risk” so badly that risk no longer had any meaning. In “risk-on” financial weather, there was no longer any risk. Imagine that? It also destroyed the entire relationship between borrowed money and the cost-structure of the endeavors it was borrowed for. Take shale oil, for instance.

The fundamental limiting factor for shale oil was that the wells were only good for about two years, and then they were pretty much shot. So, if you were in that business, and held a bunch of leases, you had to constantly drill and re-drill and then drill some more just to keep production up. The drilling cost between $6 and $12-million per well. What happened the past seven years is that the drillers and their playmates on Wall Street hyped the hoo-hah out of the business — it was a shale revolution! In a few short years they drilled to beat the band and the results seemed so impressive that investment money poured into the sector like honey, so they drilled some more. It was going to save the American way of life. We were going to be “energy independent,” the “new Saudi America.” We would be able to drive to Wal-Mart forever!

Be careful what you wish for, the old saw goes. The shale oil “miracle” was an epochal stunt. They goosed so much oil out of the ground in a short period of time that they killed the goose — demand for oil at a price that made it worth drilling for. Now, much of the junk financing will default, and the result of that is no more junk financing for a long, long time, meaning that a lot of planned wells will not be drilled and completed, meaning that the current crop of short-lived wells will crap out in the 24 months ahead, and production will not be replaced by new wells, which will not be there. When and if the riggers get busy again in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford, you can be sure it will be at a much lower level of activity than the glorious year 2014. Of course, it remains to be seen how much financial illness the spoiled junk bond paper will spread through the derivatives markets, not to mention the boring old stock and bond markets and the big banks that traffic there. You can only fool reality so long. Eventually risk-on returns for real and swipes the ground with its mighty tail.

Finance was the lifeblood of the global economy and scam after scam left it riddled with wormholes of fragility. That fragility has been waiting to express itself and the ability of bank wizards to squelch and conceal it may have come to an end. There will be no quick cure for cratering oil prices and the damage it will wreak among the shale drillers. Does that sound like much?

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Drilling Deeper: Interview with J. David Hughes

Off the microphones of J. David Hughes, Monsta & RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on December 1, 2014

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Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom

cover_Drilling-Deeper_300w (2)http://shalebubble.postcarbon.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/David-Hughes-debate.jpgAbout a month ago, we had an opportunity to interview J. David Hughes, author of the recent report Drilling Deeper for the Post Carbon Institute.  The report takes a detailed look at the fracking plays being made around the country which the MSM and Oil Industry shills have claimed will develop energy Independence for the FSoA.  We held onto the podcast until December 1st, at the request of the PCI media department.

In the intervening time since we recorded the broadcast, the price of Oil has further dropped from the $80 or so it was then, now down to around $69 in the last price quote I saw for WTI Crude.  This price is now down so low it is below the “Best Estimate” and is a worst case scenario for the drillers.  Oil Rigs are already being shut in in the Bakken, and the longer the low prices are maintained, the more will go down.

From the Texas Star-Telegram:

Falling oil prices could cause pullback in Texas production

Posted Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

OPEC’s decision to maintain production levels instead of cutting them caused oil prices to plummet, leading some analysts to predict a “pullback” in domestic oil production.

The price of U.S. crude fell by 10 percent Friday to $66.15 a barrel after the oil cartel decided at its meeting in Vienna on Thursday to leave production at 30 billion barrels a day. Member nations are worried they’ll lose market share if they lower production.

Shares of companies across the energy industry fell, with Chevron sliding 5 percent and Irving-based Exxon Mobil falling 4 percent. Halliburton, the oil field services company, saw its shares drop nearly 11 percent.

Bernard Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Energy Institute, said it is too early to tell the full impact of the falling oil prices. But for Texas, the No. 1 oil- and gas-producing state, it is not “good news.”

“I think we’re definitely going to see some pullback. We’ll see the rig count go down,” Weinstein said. “Wells that are already producing will not be shut down, but we’ll see less drilling activity.”

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, had told the Star-Telegram that Thanksgiving week would be a “Super Bowl week on oil fundamentals” because of the OPEC meeting. He now expects the price to fall an additional $5 or $10 a barrel before stopping.

“It’s that kind of rout,” Kloza told The Associated Press on Friday .

Partly because of the shale production boom in the U.S., the world is awash in oil at a time when demand from major economies is weak — so prices are falling. Citibank analysts wrote in a report Thursday that global supplies exceed demand by about 700,000 barrels a day now.

Overall, the slide is a boon for consumers, with gasoline prices at their lowest point since 2010.

The national average was $2.79 on Friday. Kloza expects gas to eventually be a full $1 below its June peak of about $3.70 a gallon. That would save typical households $60 a month for those that burn 60 gallons of fuel.

“It’s a nice easy calculation,” Kloza said. “These are numbers that we would have regarded three or four months ago as something from the lunatic fringe.”

The bottom should come between $2.50 and $2.70, Kloza said.

But there are some negatives to the euphoria over paying less at the pump, Weinstein said.

A decade ago, the oil and gas industry accounted for about 2 percent of the gross domestic product. Now it’s more like 8 percent, he said.

Besides the energy companies themselves, the industry includes those that provide materials needed for drilling, he said.

The companies that will immediately feel the impact are the small to midsize energy firms that started in the past few years and took on too much debt, he said.

“They went to the bank and they borrowed $100 million and so their revenue stream is down and they can’t cover their costs,” Weinstein said. “They will cut back first.”

So a big drop in the price of oil sends a “ripple effect throughout the economy,” Weinstein said.

In our interview, David also highlights the CapEx problems with natural gas, and the reason building expensive pipelines and export terminals doesn’t make economic sense given the rapid depletion of these fields, even in the “sweet spots”.

For the rest, listen to the Interview, and read the report if you have a lot of time on your hands.

The Era of Bad Feeling

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  September 15, 2014

There are times when events are in charge, not personalities. The unseen forces that hold the affairs of nations and economies in equilibrium dissolve, particles fly out of the many centers, and things heat up toward criticality.

Glance in the rear-view mirror and say goodbye to the Era of Wishful Thinking. This was the time when the USA was inspired by its Master Wish: to be able to keep driving to Wal-Mart forever. Looked at closely, the contemporary idea of Utopia was always a shabby package. On one side, all the pointless driving. For most Americans it was nothing like the TV advertising fantasy of a lone luxury car plying a coastal highway in low, golden light. More like being stuck near the junction of I-55 and I-90 in Chicago at rush hour in July in an overheating Dodge Grand Caravan with three screaming ADD kids whose smart phone batteries just died — plus your fiercely over-filled bladder and no empty Snapple bottle to resort to.

On the other side, there’s the Wal-Mart part: the unbelievable cornucopia of insanely cheap plastic goodies, like, somewhere in the 1990s America became one giant loading dock for nearly free stuff. Wasn’t that fun? Now, everybody has got the full rig, from the flatscreen to the salad shooter, but we’re tired of seeing Kim Kardashian’s booty, and nobody really liked salad, even when you could shoot the stuff into a bowl. The thrill is gone, and so is the paycheck that was your ticket to the orgy. It’s especially gloomy over in the food department, where the boxes of Lucky Charms are suddenly half the weight and twice the price. And that was going to be the family dinner! Must be Nature’s way of telling you it’s time for a new tattoo.

In this weird liminal time since the so-called Crash of 2008 leadership has depended on lies and subterfuges to prop up the illusion of resilience. One biggie is the shale oil revolution, kind of a national parlor trick to wow the multitudes for a long enough moment to convince them that their troubles with the national energy supply are over. Even people paid to think were hosed on this one. Wait until they discover that the shale oil producers have never made a buck producing shale oil, only on the sale of leases and real estate to “greater fools” and creaming off the froth of the complex junk financing deals behind their exertions. Expect that mirage to dissipate in the next 24 months, perhaps sooner if the price of oil keeps sinking toward the sub $90-a-barrel level, where there’s no economically rational reason to bother drilling and fracking.

The lies, frauds, and cons run between the axis of Wall Street and Washington had two fatal consequences with still-lagging effects. 1) They destroyed the capacity for markets to establish the real price of anything — rendering markets useless. 2). They disabled capital formation to the degree that we might not have the money to rebuild an economy to replace the “financialized” matrix of rackets that currently pretends to function. A lot of observers like myself have been waiting for the moment when the fog of pretense lifts and exposes all the broken machinery within. We may be so close now that you can smell it.

Change is in the air, literally, as we wake this still-summer morning with the thermometer so low you wish the furnace was prepped and ready to run. Much is in the air, too, where the news of events near and far provoke swirls of transformation in the disposition of people, nations, and affairs. Who would have guessed a few years ago how nervous Scotland would make the whole Western world? The sharpies at the Pentagon, and the White House, and the CIA may be waiting with indigestion and palpitations for the next ISIS decapitation video, but maybe you have to wonder instead which of five thousand shopping malls across this land will be visited by black-flagged desperados armed with automatic rifles and RPG’s.

Finally, there are the people themselves of this sclerotic polity: too dumb and distracted to help themselves, full of inchoate grievance and resentment, tending ever deeper into darkness. Welcome to the season of the witch in the Era of Bad Feeling. Somewhere “out there” there is a light of virtue waiting for us, but we are a long way from finding our way to it.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Interview with Ron Patterson: Peak Oil

Off the microphones of Ron Patterson, Monsta and RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on July 31, 2014

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Discuss this Interview at the Energy Table inside the Diner

Ron Patterson has a long history following the Peak Oil phenomenon, know by many veterans of The Oil Drum as Darwinian.

Since the demise of TOD, Ron has been running PeakOilBarrel.com, where he presents current analysis of what is coming down the pipe, literally.

Based on his current analysis, Ron expects that Peak Production on Crude Oil is current in 2013-15, and decline will begin seriously in 2016.  Below you find the most recent list charts from Ron.

In the interview, we look at the data and projected possibilities and effects as the decline in production accelerates over time.

Further discussion with Ron on the possible outcomes of Peak Oil are explored in Part II, coming soon on the Diner.

Here is the most recent list of charts from Ron:

Anticipating the Peak of World Oil Production

These are indeed good times to be a Peak Oiler. All the  peak oil deniers are dancing with wild exuberance, pointing to that spike of US shale oil production that they believe drives the final nail in the “Peak Oil Theory” coffin. And it is all happening right before reality slaps them in the face.

There is no doubt that world Crude + Condensate production, without that tight oil spike, has been on a ten year bumpy plateau.

World Less USA A

But, you may ask, when the shale bubble burst, won’t that only mean we will still stay on that bumpy plateau? No for several reasons. First the bursting of the shale bubble will likely cause a decline in US production of perhaps half a million barrels per day per year for three to four years. Second Russia, whose production increase of over 1.5 million barrels per day over the past ten years has kept us on this bumpy plateau, is now in decline.

And third, five nations that have shown considerable increase over the past few years now seem to have peaked.

China et al

These five nations, who’s 2 million barrel per day increase since mid 2004, have also kept us on that plateau. Their combined production plateaued a year and a half ago. I don’t expect them to decline very fast but they will not add anything to world production in the next few years.

 

The only nations that are not at or near their peak are Canada, Kazakhstan and Iraq. Kazakhstan hopes to bring the much delayed and way over budget Kashagan field on line in 2016. The once hoped for 1.5 million barrels per day output from Kashagan now appears to be greatly downgraded. Downgraded perhaps to well under .5 million barrels per day.

Iraq, in light of the ongoing conflict there, is unlikely to increase very much if any at all in the next five years or so. In fact Iraq’s production will very likely fall in the near future. Canada will likely continue to increase tar sands production at a slower rate.

But back to Russia!

Russia CDU TEK

Jodi has Russia peaking in November 2013 at 10,127,000 bp/d. The EIA has them also peaking in November at 10,209,000 bp/d. The Russian web site CDU TEK has them peaking at 1,458,000 tons per day. Figuring 7.27 barrels per ton that comes to 10,602,000 barrels per day. I think the EIA figures are the closest but anyway….

Russia CDU TEK

This is a daily chart of 2014 using 7.27 barrels per ton. Both this and the monthly chart are through July 24th. The spikes down in July are an anomaly, most likely caused by pipeline shutdowns due to Siberian wildfires. However I expect the August numbers to be considerably lower than the June production numbers.

Bottom line, there is no doubt that Russia is now in decline and with the political problems there now the problem is likely to get worse, perhaps a lot worse. Here is what Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writing in The Telegraph says, bold mine:

The proposed sanctions will target both the debt and equity of Russia’s major banks, effectively severing access to global capital markets. It also targets the technology for drilling in the Arctic and for opening up the Bazhenov shale basin, both needed to replace Russia’s depleting oil reserves.

Russia has a lot of gas, but gas trades at an oil-equivalent price of $60bn a barrel in Europe. It is not very profitable. Analysts suspect that Gazprom’s pipeline deal with China is at or below the break-even cost of production, assuming it ever happens.

The International Energy Agency says Russia needs $750bn of fresh investment over the next 20 years just to stop oil and gas output declining. This has already become unthinkable. Who is going to wager so much money, for such questionable returns, in the face of so much political risk?

Unthinkable indeed, and then this: Russia Oil Exports by Sea to Reach 6-Year Low

Seaborne crude shipments from the world’s biggest energy exporter via the state-run pipeline system in August will fall 9.2 percent from this month to 2.215 million barrels a day, according to loading programs obtained by Bloomberg News. That’s the lowest since Bloomberg began tracking the data in 2008. Russia’s two biggest crude terminals, Primorsk and Novorossiysk, will both export the least on record.

I don’t understand why these Russian oil production and export problems are not all over the news? They should be headlines but using google news “Russian Oil Production” you get almost nothing.

Okay we have discussed Russia, the USA, Kazakhstan, Canada and Iraq, and the five countries in the second chart up top, China, Colombia, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE, but what about the rest of the world? What can we expect from them?

Rest of the World

We can expect them to keep doing what they have done for since peaking in 2005, they will continue to decline. Combined they have declined 6 million barrels per day in the past nine years. I don’t expect that decline rate to slow.

I will close this post with one of Gail Tverberg’s charts from her latest post:
World Oil Production at 3/31/2014–Where are We Headed?

Gail's Graph

See that little green spike on the very right of the chart? That is what the peak oil deniers are all cheering about. That little spike is responsible for the death of peak oil, or so they think. Boy are they in for a shock.

World Oil Production at 3/31/2014–Where are We Headed?

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on July 23, 2014

oilwell

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

The standard way to make forecasts of almost anything is to look at recent trends and assume that this trend will continue, at least for the next several years. With world oil production, the trend in oil production looks fairly benign, with the trend slightly upward (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Quarterly crude and condensate oil production, based on EIA data.

If we look at the situation more closely, however, we see that we are dealing with an unstable situation. The top ten crude oil producing countries have a variety of problems (Figure 2). Middle Eastern producers are particularly at risk of instability, thanks to the advances of ISIS and the large number of refugees moving from one country to another.

Figure 2. Top ten crude oil and condensate producers during first quarter of 2014, based on EIA data.

Relatively low oil prices are part of the problem as well. The cost of producing oil is rising much more rapidly than its selling price, as discussed in my post Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending. In fact, the selling price of oil hasn’t really risen since 2011 (Figure 3), because citizens can’t afford higher oil prices with their stagnating wages.

Figure 3. Average weekly oil prices, based on EIA data.

The fact that the selling price of oil remains flat tends to lead to political instability in oil exporters because they cannot collect the taxes required to provide programs needed to pacify their people (food and fuel subsidies, water provided by desalination, jobs programs, etc.) without very high oil prices. Low oil prices also make the plight of oil exporters with declining oil production worse, including Russia, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Many people when looking at future oil supply concern themselves with the amount of reserves (or resources) remaining, or perhaps Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). None of these is really the right limit, however. The limiting factor is how long our current networked economic system can hold together. There are lots of oil reserves left, and the EROEI of Middle Eastern oil is generally quite high (that is, favorable). But instability could still bring the system down. So could popping of the US oil supply bubble through higher interest rates or more stringent lending rules.

 

The Top Two Crude Oil Producers: Russia and Saudi Arabia

When we look at quarterly crude oil production (including condensate, using EIA data), we see that Russia’s crude oil production tends to be a lot smoother than Saudi Arabia’s (Figure 4). We also see that since the third quarter of 2006, Russia’s crude oil production tends to be higher than Saudi Arabia’s.

Figure 4.  Comparison of quarterly oil production for Russia and Saudi Arabia, based on EIA data.

Both Russia and Saudi Arabia are headed toward problems now. Russia’s Finance Minister has recently announced that its oil production has hit and peak, and is expected to fall, causing financial difficulties. In fact, if we look at monthly EIA data, we see that November 2013 is the highest month of production, and that every month of production since that date has dropped from this level. So far, the drop in oil production has been relatively small, but when an oil exporter is depending on tax revenue from oil to fund government programs, even a small drop in production (without a higher oil price) is a financial problem.

We see in Figure 4 above that Saudi Arabia’s quarterly oil production is quite erratic, compared to oil production of Russia. Part of the reason Saudi Arabia’s oil production is so erratic is that it extends the life of its fields by periodically relaxing (reducing) production from them. It also reacts to oil price changes–if the oil price is too low, as in the latter part of 2008 and in 2009, Saudi oil production drops. The tendency to jerk oil production around gives the illusion that Saudi Arabia has spare production capacity. It is doubtful at this point that it has much true spare capacity. It makes a good story, though, which news media are willing to repeat endlessly.

Saudi Arabia has not been able to raise oil exports for years (Figure 5). It gained a reputation for its oil exports back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and has been able to rest on its laurels. Its high “proven reserves” (which have never been audited, and are doubted by many) add to the illusion that it can produce any amount it wants.

Figure 5. Comparison of Russian and Saudi Arabian oil exports, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 data. Pre-1985 Russian amounts estimated based on Former Soviet Union amounts.

In 2013, oil exports from Russia were equal to 88% of Saudi Arabian oil exports. The world is very close to being as dependent on Russian oil exports as it is on Saudi Arabian oil exports. Most people don’t realize this relationship.

The current instability of the Middle East has not hit Saudi Arabia yet, but there is increased fighting all around. Saudi Arabia is not immune to the problems of the other countries. According to BBC, there is already a hidden uprising taking place in eastern Saudi Arabia.

US Oil Production is a Bubble of Very Light Oil

The US is the world’s third largest producer of crude and condensate. Recent US crude oil production shows a “spike” in tight oil productions–that is, production using hydraulic fracturing, generally in shale formations (Figure 6).

Figure 6. US crude oil production split between tight oil (from shale formations), Alaska, and all other, based on EIA data. Shale is from  AEO 2014 Early Release Overview.

If we look at recent data on a quarterly basis, the trend in production also looks very favorable.

Figure 7. US Crude and condensate production by quarter, based on EIA data.

The new crude is much lighter than traditional crude. According to the Wall Street Journal, the expected split of US crude is as follows:

Figure 8. Wall Street Journal image illustrating the expected mix of US crude oil.

There are many issues with the new “oil” production:

  • The new oil production is so “light” that a portion of it is not what we use to power our cars and trucks. The very light “condensate” portion (similar to natural gas liquids) is especially a problem.
  • Oil refineries are not necessarily set up to handle crude with so much volatile materials mixed in. Such crude tends to explode, if not handled properly.
  • These very light fuels are not very flexible, the way heavier fuels are. With the use of “cracking” facilities, it is possible to make heavy oil into medium oil (for gasoline and diesel). But using very light oil products to make heavier ones is a very expensive operation, requiring “gas-to-liquid” plants.
  • Because of the rising production of very light products, the price of condensate has fallen in the last three years. If more tight oil production takes place, available prices for condensate are likely to drop even further. Because of this, it may make sense to export the “condensate” portion of tight oil to other parts of the world where prices are likely to be higher. Otherwise, it will be hard to keep the combined sales price of tight oil (crude oil + condensate) high enough to encourage more tight oil production.

The other issue with “tight oil” production (that is, production from shale formations) is that its production seems to be a “bubble.”  The big increase in oil production (Figure 6) came since 2009 when oil prices were high and interest rates were very low. Cash flow from these operations tends to be negative. If interest rates should rise, or if oil prices should fall, the system is likely to hit a limit. Another potential problem is oil companies hitting borrowing limits, so that they cannot add more wells.

Without US oil production, world crude oil production would have been on a plateau since 2005.

Figure 9. World crude and condensate, excluding US  production, based on EIA data.

Canadian Oil Production

The other recent success story with respect to oil production is Canada, the world’s fifth largest producer of crude and condensate. Thanks to the oil sands, Canadian oil production has more than doubled since the beginning of 1994 (Figure 10).

Figure 10. Canadian quarterly crude oil (and condensate) production based on EIA data.

Of course, there are environmental issues with respect to both oil from the oil sands and US tight oil. When we get to the “bottom of the barrel,” we end up with the less environmentally desirable types of oil. This is part of our current problem, and one reason why we are reaching limits.

Oil Production in China, Iraq, and Iran

In the first quarter of 2014, China was the fourth largest producer of crude oil. Iraq was sixth, and Iran was seventh (based on Figure 2 above). Let’s first look at the oil production of China and Iran.

Figure 11. China and Iran crude and condensate production by quarter based on EIA data.

As of 2010, Iran was the fourth largest producer of crude oil in the world. Iran has had so many sanctions against it that it is hard to figure out a base period, prior to sanctions. If we compare Iran’s first quarter 2014 oil production to its most recent high production in the second quarter of 2010, oil production is now down about 870,000 barrels a day. If sanctions are removed and warfare does not become too much of a problem, oil production could theoretically rise by about this amount.

China has relatively more stable oil production than Iran. One concern now is that China’s oil production is no longer rising very much. Oil production for the fourth quarter of 2013 is approximately tied with oil production for the fourth quarter of 2012. The most recent quarter of oil production is down a bit. It is not clear whether China will be able to maintain its current level of production, which is the reason I mention the possibility of a decline in oil production in Figure 2.

The lack of growth in China’s oil supplies may be behind its recent belligerence in dealing with Viet Nam and Japan. It is not only exporters that become disturbed when oil supplies are not to their liking. Oil importers also become disturbed, because oil supplies are vital to the economy of all nations.

Now let’s add Iraq to the oil production chart for Iran and China.

Figure 12. Quarterly crude oil and condensate production for Iran, China, and Iraq, based on EIA data.

Thanks to improvements in oil production in Iraq, and sanctions against Iran, oil production for Iraq slightly exceeds that of Iran in the first quarter of 2014. However, given Iraq’s past instability in oil production, and its current problems with ISIS and with Kurdistan, it is hard to expect that Iraq will be a reliable oil producer in the future. In theory Iraq’s oil production can rise a few million barrels a day over the next 10 or 20 years, but we can hardly count on it.

The Oil Price Problem that Adds to Instability

Figure 13 shows my view of the mismatch between (1) the price oil producers need to extract their oil and (2) the price consumers can afford. The cost of extraction (broadly defined including taxes required by governments) keeps rising while “ability to pay” has remained flat since 2007. The inability of consumers to pay high prices for oil (because wages are not rising very much) explains why oil prices have remained relatively flat in Figure 3 (near the top of this post), even while there is fighting in the Middle East.

Figure 3. Comparison of oil price per barrel needed (Brent) with ability to pay. Amounts based on judgement of author.

When the selling price is lower than the full cost of production (including the cost of investing in new wells and paying dividends to shareholders), the tendency is to reduce production, one way or another. This reduction can be voluntarily, in the form of a publicly traded company buying back stock or selling off acreage.

Alternatively, the cutback can be involuntary, indirectly caused by political instability. This happens because oil production is typically heavily taxed in oil exporting nations. If the oil price remains too low, taxes collected tend to be too low, making it impossible to fund programs such as food and fuel subsidies, desalination plants, and jobs programs. Without adequate programs, there tend to be uprisings and civil disorder.

If a person looks closely at Figure 13, it is clear that in 2014, we are out in “Wile E. Coyote Territory.” The broadly defined cost of oil extraction (including required taxes by exporters) now exceeds the ability of consumers to pay for oil. As a result, oil prices barely spike at all, even when there are major Middle Eastern disruptions (Figure 3, above).

The reason why Wile E. Coyote situation can take place at all is because it takes a while for the mismatch between costs and prices to work its way through the system. Independent oil companies can decide to sell off acreage and buy back shares of stock but it takes a while for these actions to actually take place. Furthermore, the mismatch between needed oil prices and charged oil prices tends to get worse over time for oil exporters. This lays the groundwork for increasing dissent within these countries.

With oil prices remaining relatively flat, importers become complacent because they don’t understand what is happening.  It looks like we have no problem when, in fact, there really is a fairly big problem, lurking behind the scenes.

To make matters worse, it is becoming more and more difficult to continue Quantitative Easing, a program that tends to hold down longer-term interest rates. The expectation is that the program will be discontinued by October 2014. The reason why the price of oil has stayed as high as it has in the last several years is because of the effects of quantitative easing and ultra low interest rates. If it weren’t for these, oil prices would fall, because consumers would need to pay much more for goods bought on credit, leaving less for the purchase of oil products. See my recent post, The Connection Between Oil Prices, Debt Levels, and Interest Rates.

Figure 4. Big credit related drop in oil prices that occurred in late 2008 is now being mitigated by Quantitative Easing and very low interest rates.

Because of the expectation that Quantitative Easing will end by October 2014 and the pressure to tighten credit conditions, my expectation is that the affordable price of oil will start dropping in late 2014, as shown in Figure 13. The growing disparity between what consumers can afford and what producers need tends to make the Wile E. Coyote overshoot condition even worse. It is likely to lead to more problems with instability in the Middle East, and a collapse of the US oil production bubble.

Conclusion

I explained earlier that we live in a networked economy, and this fact changes the way economic models work. Many people have developed models of future oil production assuming that the appropriate model is a “bell curve,” based on oil depletion rates and the inability to geologically extract more oil. Unfortunately, this isn’t the right model.

The situation is far more complex than simple geological decline models assume. There are multiple limits involved–prices needed by oil producers, prices affordable by oil importers, and prices for other products, such as water and food. Interest rates are also important. There are time lags involved between the time the Wile E. Coyote situation begins, and the actions to fix this mismatch takes place. It is this time lag that tends to make drop-offs very steep.

The fact that we are dealing with political instability means that multiple fuels are likely to be affected at once. Clearly natural gas exports from the Middle East will be affected at the same time as oil exports. Many other spillover effects are likely to happen as well. US businesses without oil will need to cut back on operations. This will lead to job layoffs and reduced electricity use. With lower electricity demand, prices for electricity as well as for coal and natural gas will tend to drop. Electricity companies will increasingly face bankruptcy, and fuel suppliers will reduce operations.

Thus, we cannot expect decline to follow a bell curve. The real model of future energy consumption crosses many disciplines at once, making the situation difficult to model.  The Reserves / Current Production model gives a vastly too high indication of future production, for a variety of reasons–rising cost of extraction because of diminishing returns, need for high prices and taxes to support the operations of exporters, and failure to consider interest rates.

The Energy Return on Energy Invested model looks at a narrowly defined ratio–usable energy acquired at the “well-head,” compared to energy expended at the “well-head” disregarding many things–including taxes, labor costs, cost of borrowing money, and required dividends to stockholders to keep the system going. All of these other items also represent an allocation of available energy. A multiplier can theoretically adjust for all of these needs, but this multiplier tends to change over time, and it tends to differ from energy source to energy source.

The EROEI ratio is probably adequate for comparing two “like products”–say tight oil produced in North Dakota vs tight oil produced in Texas, or a ten year change in North Dakota energy ratios, but it doesn’t work well when comparing dissimilar types of energy. In particular, the model tends to be very misleading when comparing an energy source that requires subsidies to an energy source that puts off huge tax revenue to support local governments.

When there are multiple limits that are being encountered, it is the financial system that brings all of the limits together. Furthermore, it is governments that are at risk of failing, if enough surplus energy is not produced. It is very difficult to build models that cross academic areas, so we tend to find models that reflect “silo” thinking of one particular academic specialty. These models can offer some insight, but it is easy to assume that they have more predictive value than they do.

Unfortunately, the limits we are reaching seem to be financial and political in nature. If these are the real limits, we seem to be not far away from the simultaneous drop in the production of many energy products. This type of limit gives a much steeper drop off than the frequently quoted symmetric “bell curve of oil production.” The shape of the drop off corresponds to (1) the type of drop off experienced by previous civilizations when they collapsed, (2) the type of drop-off I have forecast for world energy consumption, and (3) Ugo Bardi’s Seneca cliff.  The 1972 book Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows et al. says (page 125), “The behavior mode of of the system shown in figure 35 is clearly that of overshoot and collapse,” so it tends to come to the same conclusion as well.

Coasting Toward Zero

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Founding Father George Freda
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  June 2, 2014

In just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. We don’t know what to do about our own culture and its traditions, the useful and the outworn. We surely don’t know what to do about relations between men and women. And we’re baffled to the point of paralysis about our relations with the planetary ecosystem.

To allay these vexations, we just coast along on the momentum generated by the engines in place — the turbo-industrial flow of products to customers without the means to buy things; the gigantic infrastructures of transport subject to remorseless decay; the dishonest operations of central banks undermining all the world’s pricing and cost structures; the political ideologies based on fallacies such as growth without limits; the cultural transgressions of thought-policing and institutional ass-covering.

This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it. The nostrum of an expanding GDP is just statistical legerdemain performed to satisfy stupid news editors, gull loose money into reckless positions, and bamboozle the voters. If we knew how to act we would bend every effort to prepare for the end of mass motoring, but instead we indulge in fairy tales about the “shale oil miracle” because it offers the comforting false promise that we can drive to WalMart forever (in self-driving cars!). Has it occurred to anyone that we no longer have the capital to repair the vast network of roads, streets, highways, and bridges that all these cars are supposed to run on? Or that the capital will not be there for the installment loans Americans are accustomed to buy their cars with?

The global economy is withering quickly because it was just a manifestation of late-stage cheap oil. Now we’re in early-stage of expensive oil and a lot of things that seemed to work wonderfully well before, don’t work so well now. The conveyer belt of cheap manufactured goods from China to the WalMarts and Target stores doesn’t work so well when the American customers lose their incomes, and have to spend their government stipends on gasoline because they were born into a world where driving everywhere for everything is mandatory, and because central bank meddling adds to the horrendous inflation of food prices.

Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots. What kind of foolish Popular Mechanics porn fantasy is this? If human beings have only a minor administrative role in this set-up, what do two hundred million American adults do for a livelihood? And who exactly are the intended customers of these products? You can be sure that the people of China, Brazil, and Korea will have enough factories of their own, making every product imaginable. Are they going to buy our stuff now? Are they going to completely roboticize their own factories and impoverish millions of their own factory workers?

The lack of thought behind this dynamic is staggering, especially because it doesn’t account for the obvious political consequence — which is to say the potential for uprising, revolution, civic disorder, cruelty, mayhem, and death, along with the kind of experiments in psychopathic governance that the 20th century was a laboratory for. Desperate populations turn to maniacs. You can be sure that scarcity beats a fast path to mass homicide.

What preoccupies the USA now, in June of 2014? According to the current cover story Time Magazine, the triumph of “transgender.” Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate sexual confusion as the latest and greatest achievement of this culture? No wonder the Russians think we’re out of our minds and want to dissociate from the West. I’ve got news for the editors of Time Magazine: the raptures of sexual confusion are not going to carry American civilization forward into the heart of this new century.

     In fact, just the opposite. We don’t need confusion of any kind. We need clarity and an appreciation of boundaries in every conceivable sphere of action and thought. We don’t need more crybabies, or excuses, or wishful thinking, or the majestic ass-covering that colors the main stream of our national life.

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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Schilling Shilling

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  November 4, 2013

 

Shale-Gas--A-natural-gas--007

     Such is the power of wishful thinking that a set of fool-making memes now pulses through the word-clouds of financial chatter in America spreading the false good cheer that our economic troubles are behind us and pimping for perpetual motion in wealth expansion. A poster boy for this bundle of falsehoods is financial analyst A. Gary Schilling. Just last week, he was talking out of his cloacal vent about US “energy independence” and “the manufacturing renaissance” that will allow this country to magically decouple from the compressive contraction driving the rest of the world.

     Shilling is among the growing chorus of cheerleaders who believe that the shale oil and gas boom will make it possible for so-called “consumers” (what we foolishly call ourselves) to keep driving to Wal-Mart forever — which is the master wish behind all the current fantasies of endless expansion. That idea is going to leave a lot of people disappointed and put the nation further behind in the necessary reorganization of all the key systems that support everyday civilized life, namely: food production, commerce, transport, and the management of capital.

     Here’s what’s actually going to happen with shale oil and gas. Best case scenario: shale oil production rises for three more years to about 2.3 million barrels a day and then crashes so quickly that in 10 years the shale oil industry ceases to exist. A less rosy forecast would admit that the exorbitant costs of drilling-and-fracking will not find the necessary capital to even take the industry that far. Rather, dwindling capital will see the shocking decline rates of shale wells (commonly 50 percent the first year and double digits the following) and will run shrieking for other places to hide.

     Contrary to Gary Schilling’s blather, America is not practicing “energy conservation.” Rather, an economy engineered strictly to run on cheap oil has gotten crushed by oil that is not cheap. Does Schilling believe, for example, that American suburbia works just as well on $90-a-barrel oil as it did on $11-a-barrel oil, or that it has a future as the basic armature of daily life, or that we are doing anything meaningful to alter the burdens of living this way? My guess is that he has never thought about it.

            Likewise, as the American economy got crushed by no-longer-cheap oil, all the working classes in this country below the one-percenters got crushed, hammered, and trashed. Among other things they can no longer afford is gasoline. Total vehicle miles driven has gone down by almost 3 percent since 2007. It will keep going down, and the Happy Motoring matrix will collapse for another reason: capital scarcity will translate into fewer available car loans for Americans, and fewer qualified borrowers, and Americans are used to buying their cars on installment loans.

    The shale gas situation is also not the “energy savior” it’s cracked up to be. Because it costs so much to export the stuff, and we don’t have the export infrastructure in place — ocean terminals, fleets of special (expensive!) tanker ships — shale gas is hostage to the US domestic market. The initial boom was so extravagant that it produced a gas glut, which drove the price way below the level that makes it economically rational to drill for the stuff. Now, a lot of those drilling rigs are migrating to North Dakota, where the Bakken shale oil fields require perpetual increases in rig-counts to offset the rapid decline of existing wells.

      The shale gas regions of Barnett (Fort Worth), Haynesville (Louisiana), and Fayetteville, Arkansas, are already dwindling. The “sweet spots” turned out to be smaller than the hype suggested. The Marcellus (Pennsylvania and New York) is next. Several of the other hyped shale gas “plays” — the Antrim and the Utica — proved too unpromising to even bother with and never made it out of the wish bag.

      The problems with fracking and groundwater pollution are secondary to the economic quandaries as far as the fate of the industry is concerned. At under $8 a unit (1000 cubic feet), shale gas is not worth drilling-and-fracking for. It’s currently around $4. Above $8, Americans are going to have a hard time paying for it. So, enjoy the temporary glut and now stand back and watch the industry begin to dry up and blow away.

      As for the “industrial renaissance,” clowns like Gary Shilling can’t put together the obvious trends. The talked-about new factories will be operated by robots, so there would be no employment renaissance to go along with them. Then there is the question of who might the products be sold to? To Americans who have no jobs and no money? To Europeans who are also going broke and also have the ability to roboticize industrial production and impoverish their own working people? To Asia, which is already at industrial over-capacity — and which will only grow worse as Americans and Europeans buy less stuff? I guess that leaves South America and Africa. Well, good luck with that.

     Schilling is really only shilling for delusional stock market psychology, which tends to be a self-reinforcing racket until it reaches a threshold of credulity criticality and then implodes from a sudden loss of faith, ruining even a great many one percenters. Money may indeed keep pouring into the US stock markets, especially from other countries, where the money is frightened. I’ll tell you what it ought to be really frightened about: that it doesn’t represent genuine capital, i.e. has no real value. One day not distant, all the nations will discover that their money is only notional and that notions have a way of going up in a vapor. Foolish ideas, though, appear more durable and plentiful. They just keep coming, no matter what’s going on in reality.

     My basic wish is that we would quit all our wishing in America and get on with the job of transforming our economic arrangements to a scale and mode that are consistent with the resource and capital realities of these times — before they whap us upside the head and put and end to the project of remaining civilized.


***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on September 15, 2019, 08:08:32 [...]

Good interview.  You sounded smart. [...]

A little Political Bickering is a small price to p [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

A Window Into Our World By Cognitive Dissonance   Every year during the early spring awakening I qui [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-20http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

A Tyranny of Time"“We will move to a low-carbon world because nature will force us, or because policy will guide [...]

The Trickster's Tale"Everyone has some wisdom, but no one has all of it." Come gather 'round my children [...]

Nothing Again - Naomi Klein Renews Her Climate Prescription"By now we should all be well aware by now of the havoc being caused by climate change." I [...]

Leaves of Seagrass"Seawater is the circulatory system of Gaia"In 1855, Walt Whitman penned the free verse, “ [...]

Treeplanting Olympics"Withdrawing 700 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere could be accomplished by as early as mi [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

What I liked he was enough sport to admit that his initial "NZ relocation" reflex reaction [...]

Hint: Education is not always a capital investment. Actually, when it is, you are just in "trai [...]

This particular generational archetype is supposedly not drugs friendly nor prone to scapegoating vi [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

Barocaloric is a solid-state not-in-kind technology, for cooling and heat pumping, rising as an alte [...]

Terrestrial ecosystems and their vegetation are linked to climate. With the potential of accelerated [...]

The Antarctic Centennial Oscillation (ACO) is a paleoclimate temperature cycle that originates in th [...]