BIG MAC INDEX REVEALS TRUE INFLATION

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Posted on 31st August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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The two charts below are about one year old. The current average cost of a Big Mac is $4.80 in the United States according to the Economist. The price has risen by 5.3% since last July and 11% since the beginning of 2013. Meanwhile, the government drones at the Bureau of Lies and Shams tell us that inflation is only up by 2% since last July and up only 3.5% since the beginning of 2013. Which figures do you think are more reflective of what you are paying in the real world? I grocery shop every Sunday morning and I know for a fact my bill is up by 30% since the beginning of 2013.

The propaganda spewed by the government, bankers, and media is wearing thin on the average American. Only the dumbest of asses can’t figure out that inflation is running at 5% to 10% on everything we need to live our day to day lives. The article below is from one year ago and captures the reality of understating inflation.

Why the ‘Big Mac’s’ Rising Prices Are More Alarming Than Its Fat Content

July 17th, 2013

by James Cornehlsen


Note: I’ve updated my periodic look at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) versus the Big Mac Index to coincide with The Economist’s bi-annual update of the Big Mac Index used for currency values.In a time when price hikes are commonplace, I took a step back and realized that some prices are rising more than others. The price of a Big Mac, for instance, has risen faster than the official rise in consumer prices and has been doing so since the late ’90s. In 1998, the average price of a Big Mac was about $2.50. Today, the average Big Mac is $4.56. If we were using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the price of a Big Mac today should be about $3.40.

big mac index Believe it or not, the price hikes represented by the Big Mac will impact you more than the saturated fats in popular burger. By understanding the price disparities, you can make better decisions for you and your clients. The rise in the price of the Big Mac foreshadows how the printing of money is eroding the financial system’s arterial walls. The impact is broad based:

  1. Each dollar we own is buying less.
  2. For individuals relying on Social Security, the compensation for inflation is not keeping up with the prices people actually pay.
  3. The price of bonds should be much lower if interest rates fully accounted for the rise of inflation based on the Big Mac.
  4. The official economic growth rate would be lower now if prices were based on the Big Mac index.

 

Using the Big Mac Index to Measure Inflation

 

The Economistcreated the Big Mac Index in 1986. The Big Mac Index was created to compare the price of currencies between different countries. The index is based on a theory called purchasing power parity. This theory looks at the same basket of goods in each country and then adjusts for the interest rate one would pay for a loan or get for a savings account. This adjustment for interest rates makes the price of a Big Mac comparable in each country. The Big Mac Index just has one item. However, since the one item contains beef, dairy (cheese), wheat (bun), cost of labor, and the cost of real estate, I believe it is a good representation of prices in the United States and abroad.

Rather than use the Big Mac Index for comparing the value of currencies between countries, let’s take the price of the Big Mac each year within the US to see how it changes over time. You could also use this approach to look at the trend of prices for other countries as well.

By graphing the trend of the Big Mac Index each year since 1986, we see that prices have accelerated much faster than the official prices reported Consumer Price Index (CPI) – Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, CPI is defined as “a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. The basket includes food & beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, recreation, education & communication, and other goods & services.” However, there are two broad concerns with the CPI. First, CPI accounts for the substitution effect whereby if the price of beef increases, it is assumed that fewer people will buy beef and will instead buy chicken. Second, there is a “chained” effect, meaning the basket of goods isn’t consistent from one time period to the next. The reason for this is that it is believed people change their spending habits as prices change, which is why the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised CPI to account for substitution and the “chained” effect.

Big Mac comparisons between 1986 and 2012Since 1986, the price of a Big Mac has increased 185% from $1.60 to $4.56 today. During this same time period, the CPI has increased at a much lower rate of 110%. More disconcerting is the effect of the aggressive adjustment of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, which began in 1999. This policy shift started with the Asian Crisis and Long Term Capital Management, followed by the Internet bubble, housing bubble, and Great Recession, and now the “New Normal” of zero federal funds rates and quantitative easing. In the context of these Fed policies, the rate of price increases for the Big Mac is almost three times greater than the official CPI.

In 1986, $1 would have purchased more than half of a Big Mac. Today you would have to cut the Big Mac into five pieces and only eat one of the five pieces for $1. Consequently, each dollar we have is buying a lot less.

 

Hidden Cuts to Benefits

 

Big Mac index vs. CPI So how does this price disparity play out in retirement benefits? Individuals receiving Social Security benefits are provided a cost of living adjustment based on the cost of living index. This index is based on the CPI. If an individual received $1,000 per month in 1999, they are receiving $1,360 today. In contrast, if the Big Mac Index were used, beneficiaries would receive $1,770. By using the CPI, the government is paying out $410 less than they would otherwise pay based on the rise in the price of a Big Mac. Throughout history, it has always been much easier for governments to quietly inflate away their excess liabilities rather than attempt outright cuts and painful austerity. The streets of Europe are a present day example of the social difficulty of outright cuts. By understating inflation, the federal government is effectively reducing the amount owed to retirees and thereby cutting the long-term deficit.

 

Bond Prices and Inflation

 

And what about bond prices and inflation? In a normal market, the price of bonds should reflect the rate of inflation. Ed Easterling, founder of Crestmont Research, links inflation to the rate of interest rates. By printing money to buy bonds, the government has pushed the interest rate of a 10-year government bond down to about 2.61%. However, Ed Easterling shows that the 10-year government bond rate should be about 1% above inflation. The current rate of inflation reported by CPI is 1.1%. Adding 1% for the increased risk of holding a bond for 10 years gives you a rate of at least 3.7%, and that’s using official inflation estimates. However, if we base our calculation on the Big Mac Index, inflation is 5.3% and adding 1% to that for the risk of holding a bond for 10 years gets a rate of 6.3%. The current interest rate of a government bond is 2.61%, but if we were to account for inflation as seen by the rise in the price of a Big Mac, the interest rate would be 5.3%. Consequently, if 10-year government bonds were to increase from 2.6% to 6.3%, bond indices would decline by about 32%. In other words, long duration, 10-year government bonds are overvalued by about 32% mainly due to persistent intervention (manipulation) by the Federal Reserve.

 

Propping Up GDP Numbers by Underestimating Inflation

 

big mac index inflation Lastly, let’s look at Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is the measure used for the growth rate of the overall economy. GDP is adjusted for inflation. An understatement of assumed inflation makes the reported GDP headline number look better, and conversely an overstatement makes the calculated growth rate look worse. Using the Big Mac Index instead of the official CPI would reduce the latest GDP growth rate of 1.8% and cause the report to show that GDP declined. Consequently, economic growth looks stronger using CPI rather than the Big Mac Index.

As a result, investors are being penalized (mostly without their knowledge) with higher inflation, lower income from bonds and certificates of deposit and being led to believe that the economy is growing better than it really is.

The risk of too much debt around the world, but specifically in Europe, is reducing the growth outlook for companies. In China, the government has cut spending to keep inflation in check and their economy is now slowing down. In the last 13 years, three bubbles have emerged, each funded by the government and each artificially lowering interest rates by printing money. Each subsequent contraction has been worse than the last. Why should this latest bout of artificial growth, which is even steeper than the previous three, end differently?

This story originally ran in Dunn Warren Investment Advisors’ December Newsletter.

 

IF CONSUMERS ARE SO F%#KING CONFIDENT WHY AREN’T THEY SPENDING?

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Posted on 29th August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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The sheep have been told their confidence is at a 7 year high by the propaganda peddlers working at the behest of the oligarchy. The sheep are also told that 10 million jobs have been added since the GOTUS played his first round back in 2009. The sheep have been told the record highs in the stock market prove that all is well. If the .1% are doing fantastic, some of the wealth must be trickling down. The sheep are told that QE and ZIRP were really to save Main Street and not the bonuses of Wall Street (at record highs by the way). The sheep are told to fear ISIS, Iran, Assad, Putin, and China. The sheep are told U.S. energy independence is just around the corner and to ignore the fact that gas prices have tripled in the last ten years. The sheep are told drones will keep them safe and the DHS militarizing the police is just for their safety and security. The sheep are told guns are dangerous in their hands, but not in the hands of the government. The sheep passively eat their iGadgets and barely bleat while being led to the slaughter house.

The propaganda machine is working at hyper speed as the wheels fall off this out of control bus. But all the messaging, packaging, and lies can’t change the facts. Ignorance about the facts doesn’t change the facts. The oligarchs are getting pissed. You mindless consumers simply won’t consume as much as you used to, even with 7 year 0% interest subprime auto loans, $1 trillion of government loans to generate consumption disguised as student loans, and five credit card offers per week from the Too Big To Trust Wall Street cabal. WTF is wrong with you?

You’ve ruined the storyline used for months about horrific winter weather being the cause of non-spending in the 1st quarter. Once it stopped being cold you were supposed to spend like drunken sailors again. Just like the old days. How could you spend less in July than you did in June? You’ve only increased your spending by a mere 1.8% so far this year. With real inflation on stuff you need to live running above 5%, you’re actually spending far less than last year. No wonder confidence is skyrocketing.

 

A little examination into the facts behind the Commerce Department report might shed a little light on the truth about the good old American consumer:

  • 25% of all personal income in the country is either a transfer from the government to someone or from a government job. That is $3.7 trillion taken from producers and given to takers. In 2000 this figure was 21%. The relentless increase in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits and Other will drive this percentage to 30% by 2020.
  • Real personal income (excluding government transfers) has gone up 2.6% over the last year and this is using the false CPI figure of 1.6% to reach that pitiful number. Using a true inflation figure of 5% yields lower real personal income than last year.
  • These numbers also fail to recognize the 2.2 million increase in population. On a per capita basis, real personal income is up 1.9% in the last year.
  • Senior citizens and conservative savers are earning $120 billion less today than they did seven years ago. All the grandmothers eating cat food thank you Ben and Janet. If interest rates were allowed to adjust to market levels consistent with inflation, savers would be generating $500 billion to $700 billion more interest income that could be used to propel economic growth. Per capita real disposable income was $37,582 in May of 2008. It is currently $37,553. Again, this is using the fake BLS inflation numbers, so it is even far worse.

Is it really a shocker that Americans are spending less? The MSM is so captured by the organizations providing their advertising revenue that their faux journalists don’t even attempt to examine the facts and reach logical conclusions. Their job is to cheer lead and make excuses for why their storyline of improvement never plays out. The snow storyline is history. The surge in consumer confidence storyline has been proven false by the actual spending data. Now we move onto the surge in jobs storyline that is proven false by the personal income data. I’m sure back to school season will be a resounding success. Just wait until the holidays. The consumer will surely be back this year. And the beat goes on.

The chart below tells you all you need to know about why this recovery is false. The people who are supposed to be in their peak earnings and spending years have seen their real household incomes decline dramatically since the END of the recession in June 2009. Think about that for a moment. The only people who’ve seen their real incomes rise are those who no longer spend. I wonder if it is a coincidence that government transfers since June 2009 are up 18% and the grey hairs have seen their incomes rise?

The consumer is not back. They are not coming back. The decades long debt fueled orgy of consumption has long since peaked and we are on the long road to perdition. Confidence can’t cure our disease. More debt to cure a disease caused by too much debt will not save the patient. Our disease is terminal.

U.S. Wants to Bomb ISIS In Syria … Maybe We Should (cough) First Stop ARMING THEM?

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Posted on 23rd August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Via Washington’s Blog

 

If We Stop Arming, Funding and Training Terrorists, then Maybe We Won’t Have to Bomb Them Later

U.S. foreign policy is schizophrenic.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we need to attack the Sunni militants in Syria.

The deputy national security adviser to President Obama says we should go after ISIS in Syria.

Okay …

But the U.S. and our closest allies have long supported Sunni militants.

And the U.S. and our closest allies have been arming and training Islamic jihadists in Syria for years. And see this, this, this and this.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a fortune-teller to have known this was a bad idea.

As Michael Shank – Adjunct Faculty and Board Member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation – warned a year ago:

The Senate and House Intelligence committees’ about-face decision last week to arm the rebels in Syria is dangerous and disconcerting. The weapons will assuredly end up in the wrong hands and will only escalate the slaughter in Syria. Regardless of the vetting procedures in place, the sheer factionalized nature of the opposition guarantees that the arms will end up in some unsavory hands. The same militant fighters who have committed gross atrocities are among the best-positioned of the rebel groups to seize the weapons that the United States sends to Syria.

Congress can still join with the 70 percent of Americans who oppose arming Syria rebels and heed former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s caution against arming the rebels (he called the Obama administration’s decision to do so “a mess in the making“) ….

Arming one side of Syria’s multi-sided and bloody civil war will come back to haunt us. Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.

There is no unified command or control in the Syrian opposition, as was the case of the Afghan mujahideen. And due to the United States’ long history of diplomatically isolating Syria, we know even less about the nature of Syria’s opposition. The excuse that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is often invoked to justify anti-Assad forces. This short-sighted excuse has gained the U.S. enemies around the world, undermining U.S. national security. The same justification was used by the Bush administration in its collaboration with the Assad regime to torture suspected militants in Syria. Arming the enemies of our enemies hasn’t made the U.S. more friends; it has made the U.S. more enemies.

***

Some armed opposition factions, including powerful Islamist coalitions, reject negotiation altogether. Yet these are the same groups that will likely seize control of U.S.-supplied weapons, just as they’ve already seized control of the bulk of the rebels’ weaponry.

***

When you lift the curtain on the armed groups with the most formidable military presence on the ground in Syria, you find the Al Nusra Front and Al Farough Brigades. Both groups are closely aligned with Al Qaeda and have directly perpetrated barbaric atrocities. The Al Nusra Front has been charged with beheadings of civilians, while a commander from the Al Farough Brigades reportedly ate the heart of a pro-Assad soldier.

Shank’s warning was ignored, and his worst fears came to pass.

And the U.S. is still financing the jihadis in Syria. For example, the government is pushing an additional $500 million in arms to the jihadis.

We are literally bombing our own weapons.

A similar dynamic is operating in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. is now arming the “Peshmerga” (i.e. the Kurdish soldiers).

But the Wall Street Journal notes that there are reports that Peshmerga are fighting side-by-side with the PKK  … a group designated as terrorists by the U.S.:

A U.S. defense official couldn’t confirm whether the meeting took place and stressed in response to reports that the PKK was fighting alongside the Peshmerga that “it’s hard to tell from Washington who’s on the front line in a Kurdish-Iraqi fight.”

The U.S. has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, and the U.S. “doesn’t do business with them,” the official added.

By arming the Peshmerga, the U.S. is also putting weapons into the hands of the PKK.

If we stop arming, funding and training terrorists, then maybe we won’t have to bomb them later.

RIDICULOUS HOUSING PROPAGANDA FROM NAR & MSM

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Posted on 21st August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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I’ve told myself to not even look at the highly manipulated statistical drivel put out by the government, corrupt organizations, and regurgitated and spun in a positive manner by the captured corporate media. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I see Marketwatch with this blaring headline:

 

Existing-home sales rise 2.4% in July

 

They are breathlessly describing how this was better than expected, as if it proves we are in a housing recovery. Existing home sales always rise in July versus June because people need to move before school starts. This is a meaningless data point. The important data point is how it compares with the prior July. That is buried deep in the NAR press release.

Surprise, Surprise. Existing home sales FELL by 4.3% versus July of last year. That means the housing market is in decline.

Of course the scumbags at the NAR touted the 4.9% price increase over last July. They use annual data when it suits them. 

What they did not report is that home prices FELL between June and July from $223,300 to $222,900. They have been falling for months. Housing inventory grew by 3.5% over June and by 5.8% over last July. So you have declining sales and rising inventory on a year over year basis. That sure sounds like a recovery to me.

Investors still account for 29% of all sales, but that percentage is declining. The hedge funds are exiting and the flippers are panicking. Wait until prices fall another 5%. The rush for the exits will be on. First time buyers are still near historic long-term lows and will remain there for years.

Yes the MSM and the NAR are actually cheering for negative year over year sales results that put existing home sales at 1999 levels. Yippee. Let’s buy the all-time fucking high in the stock market.

 

SHALE FRAUD CREATED BY WALL STREET

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Posted on 12th August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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http://shalebubble.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ShaleMonster-lg.png

U.S. energy independence, we’re told, is at our fingertips thanks to the so-called “shale revolution”. Offsetting declines in conventional oil and gas production, shale gas and tight oil (shale oil) are being heralded as the means by which the U.S. will become energy independent – a net exporter of natural gas and once again the world’s largest oil producing nation. But two new reports by Post Carbon Institute and Energy Policy Forum show that the hype simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

 KEY FINDINGS, SHALE GAS

      • High productivity shale gas plays are not ubiquitous: Just six plays account for 88% of total production.
      • Individual well decline rates range from 80-95% after 36 months in the top five U.S. plays.
      • Overall field declines require from 30-50% of production to be replaced annually with more drilling – roughly 7,200 new wells a year simply to maintain production.
      • Dry shale gas plays require $42 billion/year in capital investment to offset declines. This investment is not covered by sales: in 2012, U.S. shale gas generated just $33 billion, although some of the wells also produced liquids, which improved economics.

KEY FINDINGS, TIGHT OIL (SHALE OIL)

      • More than 80 percent of tight oil production is from two unique plays: the Bakken and the Eagle Ford.
      • Well decline rates are steep – between 81 and 90 percent in the first 24 months.
      • Overall field decline rates are such that 40 percent of production must be replaced annually to maintain production.
      • Together the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays may yield a little over 5 billion barrels – less than 10 months of U.S. consumption.

KEY FINDINGS, THE FINANCIAL PICTURE

    • Wall Street promoted the shale gas drilling frenzy which resulted in prices lower than the cost of production and thereby profited [enormously] from mergers & acquisitions and other transactional fees.
    • Industry is demonstrating reticence to engage in further shale investment, abandoning pipeline projects, IPOs and joint venture projects.
    • Shale gas has become one of the largest profit centers in some investment banks, in direct parallel with the decline of natural gas prices.
    • Due to extreme levels of debt, stated proved undeveloped reserves (PUDs) may have been out of compliance with SEC rules at some shale companies because of the threat of collateral default for some operators.
    • With natural gas prices far higher outside the U.S., exports are being pursued in an effort to shore up ailing balance sheets invested in shale assets.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OIL

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Posted on 12th August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Funny how the MSM hasn’t reported that the Kurds captured the Iraqi oil fields in Kirkuk. The US oligarchs like the Kurds today and don’t like Maliki so much anymore. Despite the propaganda about 100 years of shale oil under our feet, Obama and the rest of our ruling class know they need the Middle East’s oil. They have decided the Kurds are a better bet today. They don’t care that the Kurds and the Turks hate each others guts. TPTB aren’t so hot on the leader of Turkey anymore. No matter what cover stories about humanitarian aid and imminent threats to our homeland from evil Muslim terrorists are spun by the politicians and MSM pundits, it’s all about the oil. Our empire depends upon the continued flow of the black gold. Whoever steps in our way will be obliterated by the bombs of our arms industry.

Via Automatic Earth

 August 11, 2014  Posted by  

 

John Vachon General store and post office in Little Creek, Delaware Jul 1938
 

Boy, what a day so far; hard to keep up. tell me, is it just me, or has the US really started another round of regime change in Iraq?

Washington wants a new government in the capital, Baghdad, a national unity one, ostensibly to respond to the Islamist State threat.

PM Maliki doesn’t want to go, but also can’t lead such a government (nobody likes him). Iraqi President Fuad Masum then tells him off, so does a court. Maliki sends loyal troops into Baghdad, threatens to take the President to court, and the latter names deputy parliament speaker Haider Al-Abadi as new PM.

Meanwhile, the US pulls their support from Maliki, and the Islamist State conquers another city not far from the capital, and not anywhere near where the Americans are bombing them.

And most of that was before America had even woken up.

BTW, the President is Kurd, Maliki is Shi’ite, and the parliament chairman is Sunni. Lovely. National unity? You would need a nation first.

The US yesterday started directly arming the Kurds under siege where they are indeed bombing, and the Kurds took back some ground from the IS.

Wait a minute! The US is arming the Kurds? For real? Did they forget the longstanding fight between the Kurdish PKK and the Turks over Kurdistan? The Turks who yesterday elected Erdogan as their president?

That’s the same Erdogan who is hated by all his neighbors, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and who’s said some ugly things about America too, but who they need to keep the IS from moving north.

Erdogan might be at least a little bit nervous that these US arms may someday be used against him to make Kurdistan a sovereign nation after all.

Kurdistan, which for many decades has been a nation on paper only, stretches across Iraq and Turkey (where 18% are Kurds). And Iran, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

 

 

In the middle of the – clickable – map, you see Mosul (the dam the IS took), Erbil (the town the US is shelling) and Kirkuk, near which one of the world’s main mega oilfields is located.

And isn’t it interesting to know that the Kurds forcibly took control of that oilfield on July 11, 2014, from the Iraqi government? It all adds to the intrigue. Who shall we support today? If today is Monday …

Wikipedia on Kurdistan and its oil and gas reserves, in particular the Kirkuk field:

• Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan are estimated to contain around 45 billion barrels of oil, making it the sixth largest reserve in the world. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007. Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 2,800 km3. Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil. In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil.

• Kirkuk Field is an oilfield near Kirkuk, Iraq. It was discovered by the Turkish Petroleum Company at Baba Gurgur in 1927. The oilfield was brought into production by the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1934. It has ever since remained the most important part of northern Iraqi oil production with over 10 billion barrels of proven remaining oil reserves in 1998. After about seven decades of operation, Kirkuk still produces up to 1 million barrels per day, almost half of all Iraqi oil exports. Oil from the Kirkuk oilfield is now exported through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline, which runs to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.

On 11 July 2014 Kurdistan Regional Government forces seized control of the Kirkuk mega oilfield, together with the Bai Hassan field, prompting a condemnation from Baghdad and a threat of “dire consequences,” if the oilfields were not returned to Iraq’s control.

That’s right, Iraq lost – control over – about half of its oil exports one month ago. To an army that belongs to that part of the population the President belongs to!

And that takes us right back to why the US is meddling in Iraq. And Ukraine too, of course. Kirkuk is in Kurdish hands now, and it must be a nightmare for all of those oil companies active in Kurdistan to even ponder the IS conquering those parts of Kurdish Iraq that they are active in. A nightmare, but by no means impossible. They’re just about literally on the doorstep:

 

 

Oil and gas were always important, they’ve been the reason for the majority of all US and European wars and invasions of the past 150 years, But control over fossil fuels has gotten a lot more important recently, ever since everyone (well, everyone …) has acknowledged that conventional peak oil indeed happened in 2005, and that shale oil and gas won’t last long (less people understand this last bit, admittedly, but TPTB do).

The fight over oil has now literally become the fight for power, as I’ve said more than once recently. That is what we see develop here. The 2003 invasion of Iraq gave Big Oil access to a lot of oil and gas, but it also left behind an unparalleled chaos. And now they’re forced back in. I see Washington plan a lot of mayhem and chaos, but I doubt they wanted this at this particular point in time. This is not a powder keg, this is Pandora’s box.

But there’s no way back. The US doesn’t want Putin in control of Russian resources, even though, as I said yesterday, they’re going to need him dearly if they want to prevent Iraq from blowing up in their faces, and they don’t want the Islamist State in control of 45 billion+ barrels of oil in Kurdistan and the greater Iraq area.

By the by, when I read reports of children being buried alive etc., I think of patterns. These accusations are always used against new enemies. I don’t know how out there the IS is, but it does make me wonder.

In my view, America doesn’t sufficiently understand the region, and therefore chooses the Wrong Friends, Wrong Enemies, Wrong Fights . And I think that is due to pure American hubris and arrogance.

Washington thinks it has the by far best, most expensive, most advanced army, and that that alone will make it ultimately victorious no matter what happens. So why then pay too much attention to what happens? What that idea disregards is that the US hasn’t actually won a war or an invasion since 1945, though it had the numero uno army the whole time.

Creating chaos may be a tried and tested approach, but not if you yourself get confused and no longer oversee what is going on. Then you’re merely yet another part of the chaos.

The only way left to go then is ever heavier weapons, trying to spread ever more death and fear among the ‘enemy’. But Washington doesn’t even always now who the enemy is. And if you don’t know that, you can’t win.

Still, we’re in it for keeps. Here are two things from a few days ago that tell you why; they come on top of countless other examples The Automatic Earth has served you lately. BusinessWeek:

China’s 2020 Shale Gas Production Target Cut In Half

Tapping China’s vast shale-gas reserves has proved more difficult than government planners in Beijing once hoped. In 2012, China’s National Energy Administration projected that, by 2020, from 60 billion to 80 billion cubic meters (bcm) of domestic shale gas would be pumped annually. Earlier this week the country’s energy chief, Wu Xinxiong, slashed the goal in half, to 30 billion bcm by 2020.

In the US, the Monterey play was cut by 90-odd%. In Poland, no.1 EU shale prospect, close to nothing was ever found. China’s just getting started cutting expectations and targets.

And from the Wall Street Journal:

Statoil Fails to Make Commercial Discoveries in Arctic Drilling Campaign

Norwegian energy company Statoil said Thursday it was disappointed by the results of an Arctic drilling campaign in the Barents Sea after making no commercial discoveries of oil or gas. Statoil said it had ended its three-well drilling campaign in the Hoop area, and the Apollo, Atlantis and Mercury wells all contained noncommercial volumes of oil and gas.

Shell left the Arctic. Statoil now does. That leaves Exxon, in its recently announced sanction-busting deal with Russia.

Still, even that doesn’t leave much hope, as becomes clear – once again – in the following by Ambrose Evans Pritchard, who’s late to the game in reporting on the same EIA review we covered two weeks ago in Say Bye To The Bubble with help from Wolf Richter, information we expanded on last week in Debt and Energy, Shale and the Arctic.

But hey, it’s Ambrose, and he does numbers well.

Oil And Gas Company Debt Soars To Danger Levels To Cover Cash Shortfall

• The EIA said revenues from oil and gas sales have reached a plateau since 2011, stagnating at $568bn over the last year as oil hovers near $100 a barrel. Yet costs have continued to rise relentlessly.

• … the shortfall between cash earnings from operations and expenditure – mostly CAPEX and dividends – has widened from $18bn in 2010 to $110bn during the past three years. [..] .. to keep dividends steady and to buy back their own shares, spending an average of $39bn on repurchases since 2011.

• The agency, a branch of the US Energy Department, said the increase in debt is “not necessarily a negative indicator”

• … “continued declines in cash flow, particularly in the face of rising debt levels, could challenge future exploration and development”.[..] upstream costs of exploring and drilling have been surging, causing companies to raise long-term debt by 9pc in 2012, and 11pc last year. Upstream costs rose by 12pc a year from 2000 to 2012 due to rising rig rates, deeper water depths, and the costs of seismic technology.

• Global output of conventional oil peaked in 2005 despite huge investment.

• … the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programmes. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120 ..

• Analysts are split over the giant Petrobras project off the coast of Brazil, described by Citigroup as the “single-most important source of new low-cost world oil supply.” The ultra-deepwater fields lie below layers of salt, making seismic imaging very hard. They will operate at extreme pressure at up to three thousand meters, 50pc deeper than BP’s disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

• Petrobras is committed to spending $102bn on development by 2018. It already has $112bn of debt. The company said its break-even cost on pre-salt drilling so far is $41 to $57 a barrel. Critics say some of the fields may in reality prove to be nearer $130. Petrobras’s share price has fallen by two-thirds since 2010.

• … global investment in fossil fuel supply rose from $400bn to $900bn during the boom from 2000 and 2008, doubling in real terms. It has since levelled off, reaching $950bn last year. [..] Not a single large oil project has come on stream at a break-even cost below $80 a barrel for almost three years.

• … companies are committing $1.1 trillion over the next decade to projects requiring prices above $95 to make money. Some of the Arctic and deepwater projects have a break-even cost near $120.

• The IEA says companies have booked assets that can never be burned if there is a deal limit to C02 levels to 450 (PPM), a serious political risk for the industry. Estimates vary but Mr Lewis said this could reach $19 trillion for the oil nexus, and $28 trillion for all forms of fossil fuel.

• “Exxon must be doing a lot of soul-searching as they get drawn deeper into this,” said one oil veteran with intimate experience of Russia. “We don’t think they ever make any money in the Arctic. It is just too expensive and too difficult.”

“It is just too expensive and too difficult.”. Or as we say where I come from: There Is No There There.

Oil companies already lose $110 billion a year (aka ‘the shortfall between cash earnings from operations and expenditure’). They’re now committing that exact same amount to new projects, money they’ll also have to borrow. What if interest rates go up to 5%? Will they still drill? Or are we going to take someone else’s oil by force?

As I said, hardly new for Automatic Earth readers, but this is so important in understanding what is happening geo-politically these days that it bears repeating. There is no way back. Oil has become ultimate power. And will lead to the ultimate fight. Having bigger and better guns and tanks won’t win that fight.

But Washington, by the look of things, doesn’t seem to understand that. Arrogance and hubris tend to be costly. In ultimate fighting, they can be deadly. America’s not exactly making a lot of friends these days, and the ones they do make are the wrong friends. Even the New York Times now reports on the fine folk gunning down the people of east Ukraine. Will Putin let them do as they please? And if not, what will “we” do?

RON PAUL ACCUSES US GOVERNMENT OF COVERING UP MH17 INFO

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Posted on 11th August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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THE WAR PHOTO NO ONE WOULD PUBLISH

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Posted on 10th August 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.

On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.

The Atlantic, The War Photo No One Would Publish