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Unstable world: Is it time to buy volatility?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes option sellers as people who are picking up nickels and dimes in front of a steamroller--and don't know it. They are selling options--sometimes for mere pennies--when they are risking dollars if they are wrong. Such events, they reason, are so rare that these events won't happen to them.

"Blood and Oil," North Dakota, and dreams not exactly fulfilled

Last week a new television series set amidst the North Dakota oil boom debuted. "Blood and Oil" tells the story of locals and newcomers striking it rich in The Bakken, an oil formation that has been heralded as containing more oil than Saudi Arabia--a wildly misleading but understandably alluring slogan.

Will declines in U.S. and Canadian oil production lead to a global decline?

At the beginning of this year I noted that all of the growth in world oil production* since 2005 has come from two countries: the United States and Canada. And, I suggested that since the growth in production in those two countries came from high-cost deposits--tight oil in the United States andtar sands in Canada--that the precipitous drop in oil prices would lead to declines in production in …

Kurt Cobb: Money Cannot Manufacture Resources

Author Kurt Cobb writes frequently on energy and the environment and warns that our current economic policy suffers from a fatal degree of magical thinking: sufficient new resources will emerge if the price is high enough.

Will Washington state have the nation's first carbon tax?

Washington state may implement the first carbon tax in the nation. Initiative 732 would motivate households and businesses to cut down on the burning of fossil fuels, the major source of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. By raising the price of fossil fuels it would encourage conservation and efficiency and the substitution of low-carbon and carbon-free sources of …

Truth takes a hit in the battle over U.S. oil export ban

They say that the first casualty of war is truth. And, on both sides of the fight over lifting the ban on exports of U.S. crude oil, the truth has already fallen into a coma. The ban was instituted in 1975 in order to make America less subject to swings in international oil supply after suffering the price shock associated with the Arab oil embargo in 1973.

Stock market confessions, chaos, complexity and the illusion of control

The illusion that we can control the world financial system is just one more illusion we share in an increasingly unstable world. Once that illusion is shattered, we will have to rethink carefully our assumptions about our lives, financial and otherwise.

Anxiety turns to fear: Markets, energy, Pan and the Zeitgeist

The characteristic feeling of the post-2008 world has been one of anxiety. Occasionally, that anxiety breaks out into fear as it did in the last two weeks when stock markets around the world swooned and middle class and wealthy investors had a sudden visitation from Pan, the god from whose name we get the word "panic." Pan's appearance is yet another reminder that the relative …

Counterintuitive: (Some) volatility is good for you, stability not so much

A certain amount of volatility is good for humans and the systems they build. Attempts to stifle the natural and healthy volatility of a system can lead to greater and even catastrophic volatility in the end.

What is the price of oil telling us?

Market fundamentalists tell us that prices convey information. Yet, while our barbers and hairdressers might be able to give us an extended account of why their prices have changed in the last few years, commodities such as oil--which reached a six-year low last week--stand mute. To fill that silence, many people are only too eager to speak for oil.