Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Category Archives: Economics

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gets a “B” from Cato

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 29, 2014:

In a remarkable display of pure unadulterated pragmatism, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law in 2014 an unheralded tax reform bill that has won approval from two conservative think tanks: the Cato Institute and the Tax Foundation. In Cato’s “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors” released earlier this month, the authors were positively ecstatic about him:

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OPEC’s Hegemony is over

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 27, 2014:

English: Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Tim Treadgold, a Forbes contributor who watches the world’s energy markets, decided to break the journalist’s unspoken rule: never forecast the demise of an individual (or an institution) until he is holding the coroner’s report (or bankruptcy judgment) in his hand:

At grave risk of committing [that] cardinal sin … this time it might be different because OPEC is steadily losing control of the oil market….

The irony, he said, was staggering:

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The Inevitable Demise of the OPEC Cartel

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Sunday, October 26, 2014: 

English: Flag of the Organization of Petroleum...

Flag of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries

Following the death of Total SA’s CEO, Christophe de Margerie, on October 20, OPEC sent this letter to the board of the multinational oil and gas company expressing sorrow over the loss:

It is with the deepest regret that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) learned of the tragic death of Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of French oil major, Total SA, who died when his corporate jet struck a snow plough on a runway at Moscow’s Ynukovo airport late on Monday 20 October.

Missing from the letter was any mention of the demise of OPEC, which has been slowly imploding for years. Recent events have significantly speeded up the process, which

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CBO’s Funny Math

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 22, 2014:

National debt clock

National debt clock

The Congressional Budget Office’s August update to the federal budget and outlook for the next 10 years released last week was so filled with questionable assumptions as to make their conclusions completely unrealistic. As expected, the mainstream media focused only on the parts of the report that fed and supported their worldview. For instance, the CBO said that revenues were expected to increase by about 8% over last year to a world record $3 trillion, thanks to increases in individual income taxes, payroll taxes, and corporate income taxes.

This was understood by the White House and establishment economists to

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Safety Records Show Pipelines Best Method for Transporting Oil

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 20, 2014:

The combination of the Obama administration’s intransigence in approving the Keystone XL pipeline and the exponential explosion in the production of crude oil, especially from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, has put increasing pressure on alternative modes of transportation to get that crude to refineries and customers. But with the increasing use of alternative modes such as barges, rail cars, and over-the-road tanker trucks has come a growing concern about safety.

A series of rail accidents over the last several years has caught the attention of the Department of Transportation, and CNBC has tried its best to question the viability of oil transport safety. Since 2008, at least 10 incidents involving freight trains hauling crude across North America have spilled almost

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The Keystone Pipeline Delay: Killing People; Saving the Environment

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 20, 2014:

Some contend that the Keystone pipeline delay is having consequences that were intended from the beginning. Others contend that those urging the president to delay approval of Keystone weren’t smart enough to anticipate the negative consequences that delay is having.

But there they are, nevertheless. In an ironic coincidence, the Manhattan Institute published its report claiming that pipelines are far safer for the transportation of oil and gas than railroads in June 2013, the same month of the tragic

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National Debt to be $27 Trillion in 10 Years, Says the CBO

This article was first published at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, October 16, 2014: 

English:

There was something for everyone in the release last week by the Congressional Budget Office of its August update and outlook. The federal government’s revenues are expected to top $3 trillion this year for the first time in history, thanks to individual income taxes rising by six percent, payroll taxes by eight percent, and corporate income taxes by 15 percent. Those infatuated with big government are celebrating the event as a reflection of an improving economy resuscitated by government spending and stimulus programs. Small government advocates, on the other hand,

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Canada’s Energy East Pipeline to make the Keystone XL Pipeline Irrelevant

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 15, 2014:

Keystone XL demonstration, White House,8-23-20...

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper must not have been happy following receipt of a phone call from President Obama on November 10, 2011, telling him that he was going to put the Keystone XL pipeline approval on hold. Obama no doubt claimed that the pending environmental lawsuit in Nebraska gave him plausible deniability in delaying his approval.

An immense part of the Bakken shale formation is under Canadian soil, and Harper was hoping that its development would continue to strengthen Canada’s economy. Estimated at up to some 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil, the Bakken formation is one of the top two or three largest oil discoveries in history. Not only was Obama’s call a reflection of his pandering to his environmentalist supporters, it also, no doubt, infuriated Harper that a foreigner

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Canadian Workaround to Make Keystone Pipeline Irrelevant

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 14, 2014:

Within days of President Obama’s surprise phone call on November 10, 2011 to Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling him that he was going to put approval of the Keystone XL pipeline on interminable hold, Frank McKenna, the former Canadian ambassador to the United States, said: “The best way to get Keystone XL built is to make it irrelevant.”

What’s nearly approved is the plan to send the crude oil that’s pouring out of the Bakken formation at the Keystone Hardisty terminal in Alberta coursing through an underused natural gas pipeline stretching from Hardisty to Québec. From there it’s a relatively short hop to New Brunswick’s Irving oil refinery, where the refined product will easily and efficiently find its way to thirsty countries such as India. The beauty is that, as investigative journalists writing in the Montréal Gazette last week expressed it:

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OPEC Continues to Unravel

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 13, 2014:

With oil production from the Bakken formation in North Dakota now exceeding one million barrels a day and the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin oil fields in Texas producing more than three million barrels per day, prices for crude are dropping worldwide and pushing gasoline prices down along with them.

Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange hit a 52-week low of $83.59 a barrel last Friday, while Lundberg just reported average prices for gasoline across the country have dropped to $3.26 per gallon. As recently as May 2, gas in the United States cost $3.72 a gallon.

In response to these falling prices, Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in OPEC, earlier this summer

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Robots Everywhere

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, October 10, 2014:

First generation Roomba (Roomba is a trademark...

First generation Roomba (Roomba is a trademark of iRobot). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next wave of technological robots is here. When the Roomba iRobot made its grand entrance a few years ago, it was considered clever but expensive. Now, however, it is taking a big bite out of the $12 billion annual vacuum cleaner business as its technology continues to improve and its prices come down. According to Roomba, there is

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China’s Economy Now Number One? Not Quite

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, October 10, 2014: 

English: Roadside billboard of Deng Xiaoping a...

English: Roadside billboard of Deng Xiaoping at the entrance of the Lychee Park in Shenzhen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following the announcement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that China’s economy has just surpassed that of the United States, headline writers and establishment economists had a field day. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Business Insider, “China Just Overtook the US as the World’s Largest Economy,” while London’s Daily Mail chortled, “America Usurped: China Becomes World’s Largest Economy — Putting USA in Second Place for the First Time in 142 Years.”

A cursory glance at the charts and graphs provided by these worthies shows the size of the U.S. economy at $17.4 trillion by the end of this year compared to China’s, which is predicted to be $17.6 trillion. The IMF estimated that as recently as 2005 China’s economy was less than half that of the United States, and forecast that

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Robotic Pizza Delivery, Banking, and Now Over-the-road Trucking

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, October 9, 2014:

Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines

Last month, Mercedes-Benz unveiled its “Future Truck 2025,” an essentially driverless over-the-road tractor-trailer rig that the company expects will revolutionize the trucking industry within the next 10 years, if not sooner. While only a prototype, the company is investing millions in the concept expecting that inside the next decade driverless rigs will be commonplace not only in the United States but across the world.

The advantages are obvious:

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Saudi Arabia Capitulates, Cuts Oil Prices

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, October 65, 2014:

Saudi Arabia’s announcement last week that it was cutting prices to its Asian, European, and US customers by between $.40 and $1.00 a barrel represents a major capitulation and recognition of reality. It also represents a major departure in its role as the leading member of the OPEC cartel, proving once again that every cartel eventually blows up as its members seek their own interests over those of the cartel.

For decades, the role of the OPEC cartel has been to protect the cash flow of its members by manipulating oil prices through changes in production levels. If prices got too high and demand started falling as a result, the cartel would increase the supply of crude to the world markets. If prices got too low, on the other hand, it would gladly restrict those supplies to bring prices back up to a level acceptable to the cartel.

Those days now appear to be over.

By bringing its prices down below prices charged by OPEC member Qatar and non-OPEC member Oman, Saudi Arabia is setting the stage for an international oil price war. Futures traders, who have gotten hammered as crude oil prices have dropped almost 20% since June, are holding their collective breath to see if Qatar and Oman jump ship and reduce their prices as well. Energy analysts like John Kilduff with Again Capital are estimating that crude oil prices will consequently drop to the low $80s, while Fadal Gheit at Oppenheimer is predicting prices dropping into the low $70s. Gheit explained:

It’s both supply and demand. It’s basically the perfect storm that brought all these prices down. You have plenty of supply, which you never thought possible, and all of a sudden demand is shrinking: China is slowing down [and] Europe never recovered.

Gheit is a realist. He stated what every observer already knows: the OPEC cartel “is held together by scotch tape. They hate each other.” Now that the leader of the pack has decided to leave the pack, it’s going to be much easier for other OPEC members to join the fray and drive prices down even further.

Part of that perfect storm is the shale oil fracking revolution that has driven crude oil production in the United States to levels not seen in 50 years. Part of it is Russia’s increase in crude oil production to nearly post-Soviet era records as well. In addition, production from Kurdistan over the next 15 months is expected to more than provide China’s increased demands for energy, thus assuring that world supply will continue, in the short run at least, to outpace world demand.

Saudi Arabia’s admission of reality is already having welcome impacts. Gas prices in the United States have fallen to $3.32 a gallon on average, with more than half the states having at least one gas station selling gas for less than $3 a gallon. It’s also pulling the legs out from under the foreign policy justification of adventurism abroad in order to protect the supply of energy which America is now almost capable of providing all by herself.

As prices decline, consumers are able to redirect spending into other areas, helping along the modest economic recovery from the Great Recession. It may also prove to skeptics that, once again, Warren Buffett is right. His much ballyhooed announcement of his purchase of Van Tuyl Group, the nation’s largest US auto dealership chain, should help his company, Berkshire Hathaway, ride the wave of cheaper gas and the consequent willingness of customers to replace their aging fleet of vehicles with new ones.

It is possible, however, that prices may drop too far, causing capital that is currently flooding into the energy exploration business to go elsewhere where it will be treated better in the years to come. As Stephen Leeb, a writer at Forbes, put it: “It takes energy to get energy.” In the early 1950s, it took the energy from one barrel of oil to harvest five barrels. Today, because of improvements in technology, it takes about one barrel to produce nine in conventional fields.

But in unconventional fields – i.e., shale oil fracking – it takes the energy of one barrel of oil to discover, develop, and lift just four barrels, which, according to State University of New York Professor Charles Hall, isn’t enough to keep America’s modern industrial society operating at peak efficiency. The proper ratio, according to Hall, is that one barrel of energy must generate at least five barrels of new production, preferably more.

If the Old Farmers Almanac’s prognostications are correct, the US should enjoy another relatively mild winter, reducing chances of a spike in demand that would drive crude oil prices higher. For the time being then, Saudi Arabia’s capitulation and potential blowing up of OPEC will be enjoyed by American drivers and consumers. In the longer run, however, capital may be redirected away from the oil patch to more profitable areas if the price of crude stays too low, too long. In the meantime, America will once again enjoy the view from the catbird seat.

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Sources:

Commerzbank: ‘OPEC Appears to Be Gearing Up for Price War’

CNBC: Saudi signals price skirmish as oil heads to bear market

Bloomberg: Brent Oil Falls to Lowest Since June 2012 on Ample Supply

The Old Farmers Almanac: 2014–2015 Winter Weather Forecast Map (U.S.)

Forbes: Dangerous Times As Energy Sources Get Costlier To Extract

Auto Blog: Warren Buffet buys largest private US car dealership chain

Saudi Arabia Cuts Oil Prices, Could Spark Price War

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, October 3, 2014:

In a surprise move this week, Saudi Arabia cut the price of its flagship Arab light oil, which it sells mostly to its Asian customers, by one dollar a barrel. It also cut prices to its customers in the United States and Europe by $.40 a barrel. This brings Saudi Arabia’s prices below those offered by OPEC member Qatar and non-OPEC member Oman. Oil futures traders are holding their breaths, waiting for Qatar and Oman to cut their prices in response, setting off a full-scale oil price war.

The simple economics of supply and demand have already driven the price of oil down by almost 20 percent since June, and a number of traders and other observers are suggesting those prices have

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Stockton Bankruptcy Judge Hammers CalPERS

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, October 3, 2014:

English: CalPERS headquarters at Lincoln Plaza...

CalPERS headquarters at Lincoln Plaza in Sacramento

All Franklin Templeton Investments wanted was a fair shake. All CalPERS wanted is what it already has: exemption from bankruptcy laws. As attorneys for CalPERS – the California Public Employees Retirement System – tried to defend the country’s largest pension plan from contentions that it was getting off scot-free in the Stockton bankruptcy reorganization plan while other creditors were getting hammered, they sounded rather silly.

They claimed that a combination of state laws and statutes dating back into history protected the $300 billion that CalPERS manages from sharing the pain with other creditors in bankruptcy proceedings. They referred to something called

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Fracking Revolution: U.S. Replaces OPEC as World’s “Swing Producer”

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, October 1, 2014: 

 

After reviewing the numbers from America’s oil and gas patches, Per Magnus Nysveen of Rystad, an international oil consultancy in Norway, declared that the United States is now taking on the role of “swing producer” that used to be played by Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC, the oil producers’ cartel.

Those numbers are impressive. Fracking technology has led to a 65-percent increase in U.S. crude oil output in just the last six years and, according to Wood Mackenzie,

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Stock Market Gains Failing to Bail Out Pension Plans

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 26, 2014: 

Pension managers’ hopes that investment returns – i.e., pixie dust – would bail them out from their bad assumptions, and keep their plans solvent and fully funded so that they would be able to keep every promise made, have finally crashed on the rocks of reality. Just three months ago, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College released a study showing that the shortfall between promises and assets to pay them for 25 of the largest public defined-benefit pension plans in the country amounted to more than

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Despite Stock Market Gains, Public Pension Plans Fall Further Behind

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, September 25, 2014:

 

In its latest report on public pension plans, Moody’s announced on Thursday that, despite recent historic gains in the stock market, those plans’ liabilities are increasing even more quickly. Reporting on the 25 largest public defined benefit pension plans in the country, Moody’s Global Credit Research estimates that those plans are now $2 trillion short of where they need to be to pay out all the benefits promised to their beneficiaries. This has occurred despite record gains in the stock market, which,

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California Governor Being Challenged by Republican Upstart in November

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, September 23, 2014:

English: Photo of California Attorney General ...

California Governor Jerry Brown

In response to a challenge posed by his Republican opponent for the governorship in November, California Governor Jerry Brown said:

A lot of people forget the mess that California was in just four years ago. There were 1 million jobs that had been lost. Our budget deficit was astronomical: 27 billion. We hadn’t had a budget on time in probably 10 years.

Brown’s challenger is Republican Neel Kashkari, a practicing Hindu born of Indian parents with a background as a Bush appointee and a former executive with Goldman Sachs. While his political positions on key issues qualify him as a RINO — Republican in Name Only — he is already closing the gap on the once-invincible California governor.

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.