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Losing our Balance? Some Predictions…

Jeff Vail, The Oil Drum
Interesting times, indeed. Oil (NYMEX WTI front month future) closed at record intraday trading high of $78.77 per barrel on August 1st, but has since fallen back to near $70. The markets are clearly shaken, and suddenly people are realizing that the recent explosion of derivatives has created as much hidden rigidity as resiliency in our financial markets (as I wrote about here). Is this the beginning of economic collapse, or just another minor perturbation?

There are several stories worth following at the moment:

Mexico continues to reveal how deep its problems run.

…So that’s a brief, annotated wrap-up of a few key stories . . . but what does it all mean? Are we about to permanently plunge into the civilizational abyss and return to a hunter-gatherer existence? While civilization seems to be stumbling on its balance beam at the moment, predictions of total doom may be premature–and this comes from someone who continues to predict general economic collapse.

I tend to think that Bernanke’s resistance to giving in to public calls for the Fed to lower rates and “fix” this problem stand a decent chance of inflicting more short-term pain but buying a temporary reprieve from outright collapse. If, however, the Fed decides to “refinance” this bubble with rate cuts, they may achieve temporary victory, but will worsen and quicken much greater problems down the road.

I called 2006 the year of the balance beam–meaning that everything would be fine as long as nothing “significant” happened. I called 2007 the year of Trends, as I predicted that it would be the period where trends like Peak Oil become clear–and, keeping with the metaphor, where the balance beam grows steadily narrower. We are drawing precariously close to losing our balance–arms are flailing and we’re collectively making those funny gyrations as we try to stay up. That said, we will likely find a way to regain our balance in ’08, and in ’09, and ’10.

Robert Anton Wilson’s concept of “Maybe Logic” seems well suited: anyone who says that they KNOW that (or when) the economy will collapse, or that they KNOW that human ingenuity will provide a solution is speaking from faith, not reason. That said, it certainly seems to me, at the moment that we’re getting steadily closer to the edge. At the new year, I predicted that we wouldn’t “fall off” our balance beam until 2008. Maybe that’s too early.

But, if current trends continue, I have a hard time seeing how we haven’t hit the mat by 2012. What does “hitting the mat” look like for our global economy? I don’t pretend to know, but I’m guessing it will make the troubles of the past few weeks look like a walk in the park. I don’t put much stake in Mayan prophecies, but in my grand notebook of semi-accurate predictions 2012 is shaping up to be a very interesting year…
(10 August 2007)

ODAC News – Wednesday 08 Aug

Douglas Low, The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre

1a/ Oil Falls on Concern Subprime Debacle Will Reduce U.S. Growth (Bloomberg, Mon 06 Aug)
1b/ Fallout from U.S. subprime market widens, costing the job of a top banker (International Herald Tribune, Mon 06 Aug)
1c/ Subprime fallout deepens in Germany (International Herald Tribune, Mon 06 Aug)
1d/ Mortgage renewals set to prick U.S. property bubble (International Herald Tribune, Wed 01 Aug)

Electricity – USA
2/ Ageing US infrastructure (Financial Times, Sun 05 Aug)

Solutions – Transition Towns
3/ Towns prepare for ‘peak oil’ point (BBC News, Mon 06 Aug)

Peak Oil and Dentistry
4/ Peak Oil and Dentistry (Transition Network, July 2007)

Russia – Various

Reports from FC Novosti
5a/ Nord Stream’s Underwater Part to Be Built within One Season (FC Novosti, Mon 06 Aug)
5b/ Sakhalin-1 Gas to Be Sold Domestically (FC Novosti, Fri 03 Aug)
5c/ RAO UES, Gazprom Close to Signing Gas Supply Agreement (FC Novosti, Wed 01 Aug)
5d/ Russia Needs $275bn to Develop Road Network (FC Novosti, Fri 27 Jul)
5e/ GAZ to Produce “People’s Car” Worth $3,000 (FC Novosti, Thu 26 Jul)

Russia in the Arctic
6a/ Russia claims North Pole (The Independent, Fri 03 Aug)
6b/ Professor Peter Wadhams: A shrewd political move for a planet of finite resources (The Independent, Fri 03 Aug)
6c/ Arctic energy (The Financial Times, Mon 06 Aug)
6d/ Russia Explorers Snub Critics in North Pole Row (Planet Ark [Reuters], Wed 08 Aug)

Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan field
7/ Development of Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan field (Energy Intelligence, Fri 03 Aug)

Natural Gas – South America
8/ Cold snap prompts Chile to seek gas deal with old foe Bolivia (Christian Science Monitor, Wed 08 Aug)

Oil Prices – 2007 V 2006
9/ Oil Prices for 2007 – comparison with 2006 (Energy Intelligence, Wed 08 Aug)

Food Prices / Biofuels
10/ Wheat prices surge to 11-year high (Financial Times, Tue 07 Aug)
(8 August 2007)

The latest EBA Forum – Is “peak oil” real?

Afternoon – Is “peak oil” real? And what happens when peak oil and climate change converge? Are there really solutions that can be deployed in time to deal with current, let alone growing energy demand? And is climate change more serious than we have been led to believe?

Two international experts Dr Graeme Pearman and Ian Dunlop speak frankly about the foreseeable challenges we face, and the solutions that could pull back us from the brink of economic, environmental and social collapse. An ‘in the round’ event (limited to 70 people) to take an in-depth look at how Australia will be affected and the additional implications for developing countries in the region. These are the issues that governments, business and the community need to be seeking answers for. ..
(13 Aug 2007)
Interesting mainly for $160-a-head charge to hear about peak oil. -LJ

Bart Anderson on The Reality Report

Jason Bradford, Global Public Media
Bart Anderson of Energy Bulletin recaps recent news related to resource depletion, climate change and more.

Jason Bradford hosts The Reality Report, broadcast on KZYX&Z in Mendocino County, CA.
(10 August 2007)