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Oil Tops Inflation-Adjusted Record Set in 1980
March 7, 2008 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Oil Tops Inflation-Adjusted Record Set in 1980. Normally this would slow economies and thus slow demand for oil, forcing OPEC to loosen supplies, but things seem different this time: "we now have an oil world in which the impact of high oil prices is only really felt in the OECD countries" - high demand from China, India are keeping prices high, even as OECD economies slow.

For its part Saudi Arabia says the high prices are caused by speculation.

Oil speculators 'riding roughshod' over OPEC, say analysts

Falling Dollar Pushes Oil Prices Up, Weakening Economy (PBS, video)

Boom in Asia means oil price will continue to rise above $100 a barrel
posted by stbalbach (75 comments total)

 
Why is it up recently? Any rational reasons or just speculation?
posted by smackfu at 8:27 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


In related news, the US Presidential salary is at the lowest it's ever been (adjusted for inflation). Perhaps their money is coming from somewhere else?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2008


Too many dollars sloshing around, too little oil.

The fact that it hasn't affected the economy that much so far is because the modern American economy consists primarily of printing dollars and sending them overseas. We can do this with very little oil input, so the core of leveraged speculation in the economy hasn't been badly affected by the oil.

It HAS been badly affected by the credit crunch; as that continues to unravel, the high oil prices will ensure that the real economy, the one that makes goods with which we can pay off our enormous debts, continues to deteriorate rapidly.
posted by Malor at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2008


If only this had happened thirty years ago. If being irresponsible with energy had become prohibitively expensive after the first so-called energy crisis, we would have already done much of the work that we need to do now, perhaps even in time to actually prevent some of the problems that are now rushing at us like a freight train.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Too many dollars sloshing around, too little oil.

Too many cheap dollars sloshing around, too little oil.

Bernanke can't pump more oil, but he can continue to print more dollars.
posted by three blind mice at 8:43 AM on March 7, 2008


There are some pluses. If you have money, it's a buyer's market out there, especially for big ticket items. We just got a new (2008 model) car, with a big discount and 0% financing. They were clearly desperate for buyers. Likewise, this year may be one of the best years ever for buying a house, at least in some areas, provided you can get financing at all (or if you have the money available to just buy it outright). You'll probably always need a car and a place to live, so these are solid investments, and it's a great time to purchase them.

Personally, I don't mind high oil/gas prices. The reason that people haven't invested greatly in alternative energy sources and technologies is because oil has been available so cheaply. Now that that is changing, companies are investing much more heavily in alternative energy, because now there's no low-cost competitor; everything is expensive in terms of energy. Of course, this is easy for me to say, because between my significant other and me, we put a grand total of 35k miles in *eight years* on the previous car.
posted by jamstigator at 8:45 AM on March 7, 2008


When you write an article that relies heavily on an acronym (OECD), isn't it good practice to spell out the words upon first use of the acronym, instead of just throwing it out there like everyone knows what it is?

I'm looking at you, Jim Kingsdale.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes, mr_crash_davis, that is a basic journalistic skill, if not common sense/courtesy.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:50 AM on March 7, 2008


(Though it seems as if the blog is frequented by business types who would probably know what the acronym means.)
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:52 AM on March 7, 2008


1973: Energy Crisis? Bullshit!

"The advocates of an energy crisis believe in and continue to propagate a peculiar vision of man. According to this notion, man is born into perpetual dependence on slaves which he must painfully learn to master. If he does not employ prisoners, then he needs machines to do most of his work. According to this doctrine, the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command. This belief is common to the conflicting economic ideologies now in vogue. It is threatened by the obvious inequity, harriedness, and impotence that appear everywhere once the voracious hordes of energy slaves outnumber people by a certain proportion. The energy crisis focuses concern on the scarcity of fodder for these slaves. I prefer to ask whether free men need them."
posted by kaibutsu at 8:53 AM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


what is to be done?
the comment above mine wistfully says some 30 years ago we could have taken care of things. But 30 years ago they made VWs that got 40 miles per gallon, and the first Hondas also got that sort of mileage...then we went bigger, heavier, faster, etc and up and up and now the same name vehicles do not even get much above 30 mpg. That tells us something about how we thought about the future. And oil course 30 years ago china dn India were not pumping out cheap cars that used lots of gas and made lots of pollution as those countries got wealthier in making stuff for us. I waited in lines for gas 30 years ago. I did not worry about Chinese or Indian cars. I was often told I was unAmerican for driving a car not made in the US.
posted by Postroad at 8:55 AM on March 7, 2008


While China 's need for energy is booming, I wonder whether that will continue if their big export markets - Europe and the US - diminish. Is China's domestic market big enough to consume (and more importantly, pay for) China's manufacturing output?
posted by zippy at 8:55 AM on March 7, 2008


Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'
posted by blue_beetle at 9:03 AM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm sure other more market savvy people will chime in, but I would like to point out that the oil chart since about 2003, and in particular since 2006, looks awfully parabolic. Short-term parabolic rises tend to reverse, eventually.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:09 AM on March 7, 2008


blue_beetle -- what's absolutely uncanny about that article is that it was written before he even took office.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:15 AM on March 7, 2008


But 30 years ago they made VWs that got 40 miles per gallon, and the first Hondas also got that sort of mileage...then we went bigger, heavier, faster, etc and up and up and now the same name vehicles do not even get much above 30 mpg.

30 years ago cars didn't have power steering, automatic transmissions, antilock brakes, air bags, crumple zones, air conditioning, etc. Among other things, that stuff is heavy.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:22 AM on March 7, 2008


Last night's Daily Show had a clip of Bush slamming Clinton's alleged lack of an energy policy.

This, back when oil was around $30 per barrel.

I can't wait to use the outhouse they build over Bush's tomb.
posted by mullingitover at 9:22 AM on March 7, 2008


"30 years ago cars didn't have power steering, automatic transmissions, antilock brakes, air bags, crumple zones, air conditioning, etc. Among other things, that stuff is heavy."

I'll give you the airbags and ABS, but come on. Even my mom's '74 Pinto had an automatic and A/C.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:40 AM on March 7, 2008


I can't wait to use the outhouse they build over Bush's tombcell.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2008


My comment was not to suggest that some of the newer addition to cars are bad but rather that 30 years ago there was little reason most people would get serious about mpg and the cost of fuel. In fact that shortage, though seriously annoying did not last long and the prices stabilized. An odd fact: OPEC is essentially a cartel, controlling prices by what they do or do not supply (though of course there are cheaters), and yet in our own country the govt would not allow for this manipulation. Why do we merely accept it instead of demanding free market on oil?
posted by Postroad at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2008


fleetmouse wrote:

I can't wait to use the outhouse they build over Bush's tombcell.


Expect a full pardon from President McCain. McCain backed Bush's war so Bush would back McCain's installment as his predecessor provided he understands that any attempt at indictment against Bush is to be thwarted with severe prejudice.
posted by any major dude at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2008


They had power steering back then too.

Car companies have invested efficiencies from new technologies into more power rather than good gas mileage. Anyone that has driven the aforementioned cars can attest to the fact that they were lacking in performance. I would argue the weight issue is negligible.
posted by Eekacat at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2008


I meant successor...
posted by any major dude at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2008


Bubble. Looks likely to end up stabilizing at $40 - $50 a barrel in a few years.
posted by rusty at 10:02 AM on March 7, 2008


I assume you've put your money where your mouth is, rusty? There is some serious, serious money to be made if you think you are correct.
posted by Justinian at 10:08 AM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


1973: Energy Crisis? Bullshit!

Could you give the basis thesis of this essay? It seems interesting but his writing just comes off as a bunch of high-faluting babbling, maybe thats what it is or maybe I need lunch.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2008


Justinian: Would you loan me some money so I can put it where my mouth is? :-)

Seriously, who am I? Some internet know-it-all. I'm just guessing. That said, if I had some money I could afford to lose, I would probably short oil futures. I'd probably do some more research first though.
posted by rusty at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2008


> Why do we merely accept it instead of demanding free market on oil?

"Uh, Mr. OPEC?"
"Yeah?"
"Me and some of the other debtor nations got together and decided that you're not being fair."
"Not being fair?"
"Uh, yeah. You got all this oil in your back yard but you don't let us decide what to do with it."
"Well, it's my oil."
"But we waaant it."
"I'm fully aware of that. I am selling all you're capable of buying. So what do you propose?"
[Biggest debtor nation pulls folded up sheet of notepaper out of a back pocket, begins to read:] "Me and the other debtor nations want you to let us tell you how much the oil costs and then you sell it to us for that, and if we can pay more then you can make a little more that way. The end."
"So, basically, you want me to surrender my control over prices."
"Yeah."
"And what's in it for me?"
"Well, we get to buy more of your oil that way. Isn't that good?"
"But I don't get to decide how much money I make any more."
"Yeeeaaah. I guess. But you make more over all, right? 'Cos you sell more when prices are low!"
"Honestly, I don't see any advantage to me over how things are going now. Thanks for your visit, but please get off my lawn. I'm busy."
[Debtor nations exit, pursued by bears.]
posted by ardgedee at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


What Eekacat said. Significant (though far from revolutionary) improvements have been made to both the strength and weight of materials and to the available power from any given quantity of gas, but these gains and more have all been plowed into making cars bigger and faster, not to making them more efficient for miles traveled; and the net progress has been in the opposite direction.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:19 AM on March 7, 2008


Bubble. Looks likely to end up stabilizing at $40 - $50 a barrel in a few years.

HAHAHA.

We will never again see $50 dollar a barrel oil for any length of time. Forget it. Those days are over. If we do it will be due some kind of desperate political manipulation of price . It won't last.

Demand is rising way faster than supply and just about every single reserve on the planet is grossly overstated. Short of some kind of major technological breakthrough prices are never "stabilizing" again.
posted by tkchrist at 10:29 AM on March 7, 2008


tkchrist: Actually, I disagree. Prices will eventually stabilize at the cost to produce synthetic oil with the fischer-trope or similar process. Right now that's more expensive than sucking oil out of the ground; eventually it won't be.

But certainly there is a cap on what the price of oil can reach. If sucking oil out of the ground reaches $200/barrel and I can make oil for $150/barrel at the required volumes then the price will stabilize at $150/barrel.
posted by Justinian at 10:34 AM on March 7, 2008


(I have no idea what the current cost per barrel for synthetic oil is)
posted by Justinian at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2008


Bubble. Looks likely to end up stabilizing at $40 - $50 a barrel in a few years

Rusty: have you got any idea about what $50 actually buys out here in the rest of the so called first world? I'll give you a clue - less every fucking day. The greenback is rapidly becoming akin to junk bonds.
posted by adamvasco at 10:40 AM on March 7, 2008


How about a compromise: €50 or $200 / barrel ?
posted by Free word order! at 10:47 AM on March 7, 2008


Bubble. Looks likely to end up stabilizing at $40 - $50 a barrel in a few years.

Is this in current USD or the new dollar that is revalued after it costs $200 to buy a loaf of bread?
posted by birdherder at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


norabarnacl3: In a nutshell, the essay posits that we have collectively decided to create a culture with spectacularly high energy consumption. Notice first that there is choice involved; it is easy to imagine (and indeed, history is filled with examples of) successful communities with a much lower energy consumption.

Second, notice that our choice to create a high-energy society shapes the way we live to match the available ways to produce said energy. Our dependence on automobiles is a sterling example. We designed our cities and entire culture around cars, which are designed around the notion of limitless cheap oil. And now, in many ways, we are start paying the price for this choice.

Third, there are numerous benefits to be had in a low-energy society, measured by the things we've lost over the last hundred or so years.

As such, the energy crisis is only a crisis if you accept the premise that a high-energy society is a net positive for the people living in that society (or the rest of the world, for that matter).

Read on for more; most of the article focuses on transportation policy.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2008


The US is in a deeping recession -- the only reason it hasn't been declared yet is that you need to have back to back quarters of negative GDP growth, and we've only had four months.

Normally, recessions cause commodity prices to fall -- recession lower demand, lowering demand lowers prices. This one, so far, has show no signs of doing so. Why?

Simple: The US is no longer the demand center. China and India are booming, they're buying like mad. While US demand is slipping, global demand isn't.

Thus, oil increases, and continues to do so. Given my very real doubts about our ability to increase oil production significantly -- the easy stuff is tapped out, the hard stuff is too slow -- what I think we're looking at is a demand curve that's driving prices up.

Should production fall, prices will skyrocket.
posted by eriko at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2008


it is easy to imagine (and indeed, history is filled with examples of) successful communities with a much lower energy consumption.

Did those communities have microprocessors? Did they have air travel? Chemotherapy? MRI machines? Cell phones?

I'm not willing to go without those things to reduce energy consumption and neither is virtually anyone else who has them. You're more than welcome to live in a mud hut without a television or whatever, but as a society we aren't going to. We just aren't. Talking about it is stupid; it's not going to happen.
posted by Justinian at 11:19 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"So, basically, you want me to surrender my control over prices."
"Yeah."
"And what's in it for me?"


I suspect that at some level the oil-rich countries of the middle east are aware that the higher the price of oil goes, the more their land is a prize to be taken by someone else, and that the pissier they are about keeping prices high the less likely the world will be to give a shit when someone finally does take it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:23 AM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


justinian - one thing that you should take into account tho, is that making synoil for $150 per barrel might be taking into account the current price of oil/energy. As well, it's one thing to be able to make synoil at $50/bbl . It's quite another thing to do that 85million times a day.

As well, you might want to give some consideration to the scales that things can be accomplished at. For good examples, look at Canadian oiltarsands. There's a lot of them, but it keeps getting more expensive to process, as natgas and steel become more expensive. Plus, we're not likely to live to see 10Mbbl/d come from the tarsands, even if they do start moving to insitu methods, rather than trucking the sands from all over.

Then there's the issue that growth has been stagnant at around 85Mbbl/d for 5 years now; but demand of china/india keeps rising. That means that someone's either doing more/as much with less, or someone's getting outbid. If someone's getting outbid, of course the price goes up. Visit news.google.com and ask about power shortages. Heck, ask about Venezuela and Colombia.
posted by nobeagle at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2008


I'm not willing to go without those things to reduce energy consumption and neither is virtually anyone else who has them. You're more than welcome to live in a mud hut without a television or whatever, but as a society we aren't going to. We just aren't. Talking about it is stupid; it's not going to happen.

... wow. However, I'd change your last sentence to "it's not going to happen voluntarily."

"You can have our guns ... after you pry them from our warm crisp dead hands." - Waco Branch Davidian compound members. (not a real quote)
posted by nobeagle at 11:30 AM on March 7, 2008


kaibutsu - Thanks for the summary. It seemed some of his language was intended to argue that the more 'non-metabolic' energy a society uses the more oppressive to individual liberty the society necessarily becomes. That raised an eyebrow.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2008


Did those communities have microprocessors? Did they have air travel? Chemotherapy? MRI machines? Cell phones?

I'm not willing to go without those things to reduce energy consumption and neither is virtually anyone else who has them. You're more than welcome to live in a mud hut without a television or whatever, but as a society we aren't going to. We just aren't. Talking about it is stupid; it's not going to happen.


None of those things require oil, not even Air Travel
posted by delmoi at 11:38 AM on March 7, 2008


that the pissier they are about keeping prices high the less likely the world will be to give a shit when someone finally does take it.

now if only there were an asymmetric approach to fighting back.

One thing I realized rather early on with the PV producers is that alternative energy is not going to lower energy prices significantly.

When OPEC is happy to sell all they can produce at $150, and you can produce 0.1% of OPEC's rate at $30, you're not going to market your product at $35, you're going to charge $150 too.
posted by panamax at 11:38 AM on March 7, 2008


Did those communities have microprocessors? Did they have air travel? Chemotherapy? MRI machines? Cell phones?

If "those communities" "with a much lower energy consumption" includes the developed Pacific Rim and Western Europe (and I would argue that it does), then: Yes.

You propose a false dichotomy. It's possible to live on a lot less energy than the typical American does without reverting to oxcarts.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:41 AM on March 7, 2008


Justinian:
Cell phones and air travel are incredibly culturally expendable. We simply don't need them.

As for chemotherapy, I would posit that a good deal of the chemotherapy our society requires is the direct result of byproducts of the society. Making millions of microprocessors, you might recall, has some nasty side effects that don't show up in the sticker price. But this is tangential, at best.

To my mind, the main question is would you or I be happier living a life lived at lower velocities. If thinking about the society seems complteley unrealistic to you, put the question in terms of your own life, or people you know. Is flying to DC for a meeting worth the indignities of dealing with the airport? For that matter, does working in an office for X hours a day with lots of microcomputers and cell phones sound like more fun than working outside without computers and cell phones? Does income measure happiness? If the answer is yes, then I have a lot to worry about with the skyrocketing price of oil, because it means the money I make is worth less, meaning I'm a less happy person. If I've established for myself a life in which the number of bits I occupy in a computer somewhere is of less importance, then the price of oil matters quite a bit less.

Thinking about economy and how to live well is never stupid. Identifying oneself entirely with the industrial economy on the other hand... Well, let's just say that if you ever find yourself living where the industrial economy feels there should be a new coal plant, you might not identify with it quite so readily.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:42 AM on March 7, 2008


Blue beetle at the top of this thread wrote that the president's salary (adjusted for inflation) was the lowest ever (citing this page). I think this comment makes for an interesting misreading of statistics. The day before presidential salary doubled in 1873 it would have been half of what it was before the adjustment. Just saying.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:45 AM on March 7, 2008


When you write an article that relies heavily on an acronym (OECD), isn't it good practice to spell out the words upon first use of the acronym [...] ?

Oil Excessive Consumption Disorder. Duh.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:38 PM on March 7, 2008


On second thought, Obsessive Energy Consumption Disorder would work a little better.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2008


If "those communities" "with a much lower energy consumption" includes the developed Pacific Rim and Western Europe (and I would argue that it does), then: Yes

Western Europe's energy consumption isn't "much lower" per capita than the United States, particularly when you take into account all relevant factors like where products are actually made (which takes energy) rather than just where they are used.

I don't know about the Pacific Rim, but I suspect the same.

Cell phones and air travel are incredibly culturally expendable. We simply don't need them.

We don't need electricity, automobiles, or computers either. I'm not giving up any of them and neither is anybody else. Except for automobiles if you live in an appropriate place, of course.
posted by Justinian at 12:51 PM on March 7, 2008


Heh. It's THE LONG BOOM again! China is burning oil now! Conditions are fundamentally different! Oil will never go down in price again!

Now, I'm not willing to even let go of the trunk, is how far I won't go out on a limb to defend my $50 guess. I don't know. I do know that major players in the oil market are saying that current prices are batshit insane and bear no relationship to production or consumption. That is, we have plenty of oil on hand, there is no immediate reason to think every well is suddenly going to run dry next month, and there isn't an unusual spike in demand to account for the spike in prices.

So why do we have such expensive oil? 1) Weak dollar. 2) Speculation. And 2 is much more of a driver than 1.

adamvasco: have you got any idea about what $50 actually buys out here in the rest of the so called first world?

You wanna bet that doesn't change some time in the near future? I mean, people, do you all really believe the US economy is permanently fucked from now on? It's not. I know it seems that way if you watch a lot of TV news, but it's just not. Settle down, hang tight for a year or two, and watch.

Also, in general, hey, look what happened last year.
posted by rusty at 12:51 PM on March 7, 2008


Thinking about economy and how to live well is never stupid.

No, of course not. But wedding yourself to unrealistic goals instead of moving forward with ways to actually address problems is dumb. Concentrating on how to reduce per capita energy consumption or help the environment by getting people to give up stuff like air travel doesn't work.

Hey, it's the "empty planes" thread again.

Concentrate on ways to produce greener power and to reduce power consumption on a mass scale by increasing efficiency and the like. Looking at reducing power consumption by arguing against consumer culture is setting yourself up for failure.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on March 7, 2008


The Daily Show: The Price of Oil
posted by homunculus at 1:28 PM on March 7, 2008


30 years ago cars didn't have power steering...crumple zones. Among other things, that stuff is heavy.

Actually, a lightweight car doesn't need power steering unless it's being marketed to a consumer who doesn't want to do any work whatsoever (or is elderly or handicapped.) The need for power steering came more directly from the increase in weight driven by three factors:

1. People want to be comfortable;
2. People want to be safe;
3. People want to be able to carry people and stuff.

All three of those things add weight; power must go up in order to lug that extra weight around, and to compensate for additional climate control and other parasitic losses; and so mileage goes down.

The thing is, you can increase safety and comfort significantly without huge weight penalties, but that costs money. It's cheaper to let the weight go up, increase the power to compensate (which consumers like anyway) and then let mileage fall by the wayside.

But as gas mileage becomes a concern -- and it is, evidentally, based on the number of billboards in the US touting highway MPG as a big number, larger than the car -- you have to invest that money. An unwillingness to do so means car companies that already invested this money (think Asian and European markets) have a huge competitive advantage over you. Of course, even if you do invest the money, you have that same disadvantage in the short term rather than short and long term.

The gas "crisis" of the 70s drove domestic automakers to start moving in the right direction, but then the resurgence of cheap gas killed that drive. Now it's back, and it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Incidentally, there's no easy way to increase passenger and cargo capacity, cheap or otherwise; the only fix there is for people to change their habits and expectations.
posted by davejay at 1:43 PM on March 7, 2008


Postroad : But 30 years ago they made VWs that got 40 miles per gallon, and the first Hondas also got that sort of mileage...then we went bigger, heavier, faster, etc and up and up and now the same name vehicles do not even get much above 30 mpg.

As indicated above, a lot of the more modern safety features and environmental controls add to the weight of the car which reduces efficiency, but there is one very important difference between a 40mpg car of 30 years ago and one of today: 100,000 miles was amazing in a car from the '70's, nowadays, I expect my cars to be able to do 250k before they die. That is a direct result of the intervening 30 years worth of effort; they are safer, and last longer.

But yeah, it would be nice if more emphasis was otherwise placed of fuel economy over massive power, and we are finally starting to see that with the advent of some of the hybrids. I just wish it hadn't taken this long.
posted by quin at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2008


Looking at reducing power consumption by arguing against consumer culture is setting yourself up for failure.

Wait. NO it is not.

Consumer culture, as we know it (the last thirty five years or so) IS failing. It absolutely will fail. Societies cannot carry huge debts, consume cheap energy wantonly and rely on constant unimpeded growth for much longer. 6 billion people cannot live like we do. WE can't live like we do. Not for much longer.

Seriously. We would have to invent dilithium crystals or fusion power or some such miracle sci-fi shit to sustain contemporary consumer economics more than a half a century longer. I think the math is solid on this.

Now I suppose you can argue that we let it fail becuase trying to fix it may be worse that just letting it go— and then we hope to pick up the pieces. But I think that's a bad strategy.

Nobody has to devolve to living in huts (though "mud" is a surprising good material that could employ in the scarcity of wood and other material). Your hyperbole is devise and self defeating. It's just not true.

As collective social action, we have done EXACTLY what you say is impossible before. During WWII our entire society mobilized and our economy shifted completely. In mere weeks. American automakers STOPPED making cars. They stopped. Nobody bought cars. And those industries shifted to war production. People willingly sacrificed and lived on much less. In some ways they lived on less than they had even in the depression. Capitalism still functioned. It merely functioned differently.

Now we still have YEARS to prepare for our future problems. Years. What we lack in the honesty in leadership to outline the problems and the will to tackle them. We don't lack in smart people. We don't lack in social integrity or potential social will. We lack in LEADERSHIP. So that means we have to lead. Waiting for policy makers will not work. Once WE demonstrate that we are willing to sacrifice and that sacrifice won't ruin our living standards—in fact it WILL improve them where it counts— then the policy makers will come into play. It won't be perfect. It wont be paradise. But less people will die.

Otherwise we wait for systemic failure. And when that happens people tend NOT to obey the better angels of their nature... they tend to not collectivize or act socially. Not at first. And we will have more war. More corruption. More social and class division. More death.

We have absolutely nothing to lose by encouraging and pursuing a course of individual consumer responsibility and conservation.
posted by tkchrist at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


Western Europe's energy consumption isn't "much lower" per capita than the United States ... I don't know about the Pacific Rim, but I suspect the same.

"Much lower" is somewhat subjective, but "about half" counts in my book.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:38 PM on March 7, 2008


"Safety features" in automobiles often are not a coincidental addition of weight, but simple and pure added weight. We can manufacture a plastic/carbon-fibre/whatever vehicle that easily weighs ~1000 pounds and approaches 100mpg (note the date.... *sigh*), but it's "unsafe" because when that drunk driver in a Hummer slams into you, you are roadkill.

It's the same kind of "safety" you get from a loaded gun.
posted by mek at 3:47 PM on March 7, 2008


From the reading I've been doing, this is my layman's take on the situation:

The runup in oil prices due to China and various other countries industrializing probably accounts for about $85-90/bbl. The rest (about another $16/bbl, as of today) has been speculative. Too many dollars chasing too few opportunities. Pension plans, hedge funds, etc. It may be the next new housing market, in which case I think $150 is easily reachable.

But, it's a bubble. My gut is we will see $75 (or lower) again.

That's my personal take. YMMV.

pun intended
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:51 PM on March 7, 2008


Bubble. Looks likely to end up stabilizing at $40 - $50 a barrel in a few years.

HAHAHA.

We will never again see $50 dollar a barrel oil for any length of time. Forget it. Those days are over. If we do it will be due some kind of desperate political manipulation of price . It won't last.


I was a bit confused listening to NPR's commentary on this very issue on the way home today. The guy was claiming it was "pretty likely" that the price would crash to $30 in the near-term, which seems to be counter to all real evidence.
posted by odinsdream at 3:54 PM on March 7, 2008


The guy was claiming it was "pretty likely" that the price would crash to $30 in the near-term, which seems to be counter to all real evidence.

Sure. And people take that to be a relief of some sort. But it's not.

In fact prices will fluctuate wildly for the foreseeable future. Down to $30 for a few months up to $75. Down to $50 up to $115. Like that. But the mean price will always be climbing over all.

That's what the next twenty years or so will look like. Barring, like I said, some huge technological breakthrough— which is possible but not probable.

Prices will never really stabilize like we are used to until until demand flattens... and that is not going to happen any time soon. Decades. Stability will be a slow solid line UP.

And all of this is ever more complicated by the Dollar losing so much value.
posted by tkchrist at 4:15 PM on March 7, 2008


"Much lower" is somewhat subjective, but "about half" counts in my book.

If you look at the numbers you'll see the pattern; Iceland has a per capita energy consumption much higher than the United States. Finland, Sweden, and Norway are roughly the same as the USA. France and Spain are less than half.

The obvious inference is that much of Western Europe has lower per capita energy consumption because they have milder climates. Let's make a testable hypothesis: Canada should have a slightly higher per capita energy consumption than the USA because their lifestyle is roughly the same but they have a slightly, on average, colder climate.

Lo and behold, Canada does have slightly higher per capita energy consumption.

So unless you propose that we evacuate the colder parts of the world, this is a bullshit metric.
posted by Justinian at 4:15 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you look at the numbers you'll see the pattern; Iceland has a per capita energy consumption much higher than the United States. Finland, Sweden, and Norway are roughly the same as the USA. France and Spain are less than half.

The capacity of the human brain to see patterns that don't exist, or to attribute to them far more than they can really explain if they do exist, is always amazing to observe. I believe Scandinavia is much colder than the vast majority of the US. England and France would seem to be closer from what I've seen of them. You might try comparing energy consumption in California to that of Spain.

The imaginary pattern I'm looking at tells me that crude oil could well decline to $80, some time this year. That's my forecast, based largely on unjustified hope for another opportunity to do some speculative buying to help drive the price back up to these remarkably high levels that of course are entirely to be blamed on all those crazy speculators, speculating on things that might not even happen.
posted by sfenders at 4:44 PM on March 7, 2008


I can't wait to use the outhouse they build over Bush's tomb.

I myself have been eagerly awaiting the construction of the George W. Bush presidential library in Texas (whose existence in and of itself will be somewhat ironic), so that I can visit it, locate the most prominently featured portrait of Mr. Bush, and hawk and spit a big loogie onto his visage. I know it won't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it'll make me feel a little better, dammit.

Somewhat more on topic: tkchrist, we don't need dilithium crystals. We just need wind.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:01 PM on March 7, 2008


I believe Scandinavia is much colder than the vast majority of the US. England and France would seem to be closer from what I've seen of them.

You'd have to pick and choose your numbers carefully to make these sentences remotely true. What part of England has a climate comparable to Phoenix, Arizona or Mobile, Alabama (for example)? And while Scandinavia is much colder, on average, the majority of the population lives in the most temperate areas.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on March 7, 2008


Average annual temperature in Stockholm, warmest of the capital cities of the northern countries mentioned: 5.8. Coldest of the US cities that happen to be listed on that particular page, which is undoubtedly colder than most of the USA, Milwaukee: 7.9.

You'd have to pick and choose your numbers carefully to make these sentences remotely true.

Nope, my sentences were literally true. Not particularly useful for making any positive statements about per capita energy use, but accurate enough. I wasn't trying to draw any grand conclusions from them, just trying to point out that one really shouldn't do so with such flimsy generalizations.
posted by sfenders at 5:56 PM on March 7, 2008


I do know that major players in the oil market are saying that current prices are batshit insane and bear no relationship to production or consumption. That is, we have plenty of oil on hand, there is no immediate reason to think every well is suddenly going to run dry next month, and there isn't an unusual spike in demand to account for the spike in prices.

No. For every expert full of reassurance aimed at not talking down the economy, another will admit that the world is producing and refining oil at pretty much full capacity. And any fool can see that with both prices and demand at record high, you don't restrict your production, you open the spigots and make an absolute killing. This is not an OPEC artificial shortage.
With prices AND demand at record high, AND demand rising AND showing no signs of slowing that rise, you start building additional refining capacity to handle the future increase in crude production... unless you know that crude production is not and can not substantially rise to fill any additional refining capacity you might make. No-one has even started building additional capacity. Odd, that.
Production is maxed out, production is failing to sate demand. Demand is not only unsated, but continues to rise. As the gap between supply and demand rises, so does the price. Sure, speculation also adds to the price, but a major reason speculation is adding to the price is because the people with the money are betting their money on a future which makes today's oil prices look cheap.
The days of cheap oil are gone.
The longer it takes for this to sink in, the rougher the correction will be. But the more time those in the know have to position themselves to gain. Much like the housing bubble, those ahead of curve come out with the most.

As such, by writing this, I'm shooting myself in the foot :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:04 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


(Ok, more realistically, being aware of the end of cheap oil, today, is being about as far ahead of the curve as if it were 2007 and you had only just then discovered you could make your fortune "flipping" houses :-) But there are still benefits to be had)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:15 PM on March 7, 2008


I believe Scandinavia is much colder than the vast majority of the US.

The real fun of North American cities is in both extremes. Chicago, say, has winters almost as bad as Oslo or Stockholm. But it sure as fuck doesn't have Oslo or Stockholm's summers. Instead, it combines a Scandinavian winter with a summer as hot as *google* Athens.

Or to flip it around, Dallas has summers as hot as *google* Cairo, but it sure as hell doesn't get Cairo's winters. Instead, it gets winters similar to *google* Paris.

Americans might tend to run a/c when they don't need to, and Lord only knows we drive *everywhere*. But western Europe really does have a freakishly mild climate, which surely plays into lower per-capita energy use.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:28 PM on March 7, 2008


If you look at the numbers you'll see the pattern...

You're trying to explain away something you can no longer simply deny.

The page consolidates "developed world" as a single data point, and it's just over half of the US figure as well. Yes, colder countries use more energy. On average, though, even when you include the colder places, the rest of the First World gets by on much less than we do.

This should be good news to people who don't want to give up their industrialized first-world lifestyle as energy prices go up, shouldn't it?
posted by Western Infidels at 7:34 PM on March 7, 2008


Blaming OPEC is like blaming a baby for soiling his diaper. All commodity prices are based on the "futures" market.
Here is an oversimplification of how these markets work (someone correct me if I mispeak)
A farmer needs to know how many acres of soybeans he should plant this year. A futures trader purchases a contract for a specific date in the future to purchase X number of bushels of soybeans at a specific price. By doing so the trader controls the right to those soybeans.
Lets say the weather or some blight affects the yield of the farmers soybean harvest. The farmer is stuck. He has to deliver his soybeans at the time and price he had agreed upon. This may result in a tremendous lost to the farmer but the trader that purchased that "futures contact" is now in the drivers seat. If he purchased enough contracts he sets the price for soybeans. This being the case he will maximize his profit by creating a shortage greater than the actual harvest shortfall.
The same rules apply to oil.

Make sense. Thoughts?

The futures traders are making a killing right now.
posted by ghostdog at 8:11 PM on March 7, 2008


On average, though, even when you include the colder places, the rest of the First World gets by on much less than we do.

You can't look at averages. People have been picking at what I said like I believe that the climate is the only thing that makes the U.S. use more energy. Of course that's not the case; it is, however, one fact. All else being equal, we would use more energy than places with more moderate climates.

All other things aren't equal. The U.S.A. is a much bigger country than European nations. Of course we use more energy per capita; our population is spread out more and our population densities are much less outside of a few places like the New York corridor. That's another factor.

So no there are two factors to pick at; climate and population density. I'm not saying those are the only reasons. But I could keep listing more and more and you could keep picking at them.

The simple truth is that just look at "per capita energy use" in the U.S. and Spain or Germany or whatever just doesn't tell you much because there are so many other factors at work.
posted by Justinian at 9:49 PM on March 7, 2008


Rusty: 'That is, we have plenty of oil on hand, there is no immediate reason to think every well is suddenly going to run dry next month'

I think that there are some very informed people who will disagree with you about the medium term prospects!

Key sentence - "After 2015, easily accessible supplies of oil and gas probably will no longer keep up with demand."
posted by Duug at 7:31 AM on March 8, 2008


The simple truth is that just look at "per capita energy use" in the U.S. and Spain or Germany or whatever just doesn't tell you much because there are so many other factors at work.

It doesn't tell the whole story, sure. There have been many efforts over the years to look at some of these various factors. According to the IEA (pdf page 90, data is a bit old from 1998), the difference due to climate in residential energy use per capita between the US and the UK is actually quite small. France isn't that far off, either. Of course if you're looking for the big reasons why US energy use per capita is a bit on the high side, don't miss the section on passenger transport. Passenger car fuel use per capita, for example, appears to be some 60% higher in the US than in the next highest of the listed countries, which has even more in the way of excuses due to climate and geography, Canada. And of course passenger transport is the largest single use of energy in the US, accounting for some 29% of the total. This does put the world's largest importer of oil in an enviable position really, as it has so much room to improve.
posted by sfenders at 7:39 AM on March 8, 2008


The US is in a deeping recession -- the only reason it hasn't been declared yet is that you need to have back to back quarters of negative GDP growth, and we've only had four months.

I wish people would stop perpetuating this falsehood.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2008


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