- Professor Jim Hamilton is one of the few economists to give peak oil considerations a proper hearing. Moreover, as one of the world’s leading econometricians and author of the popular text book “Time Series Analysis” he cannot be accused of not knowing his numbers. This last week he has posted twice on oil (here and here) on his blog Econbrowser that he co-authors with Menzie Chin. Frequently, in any discussion of resource depletion, the standard economics response is that ‘price begets supply’. Hamilton points out that such logic only extends so far for an exhaustible resource.
- Dana Nuccitelli has a good post at Skeptical Science entitled “A Glimpse at Our Possible Future Climate, Best to Worst“. It delves into two of the major climate risk parameters: climate sensitivity and emission paths. Other major determinants of climate risk are changes in the carbon cycle, methane release and the extent of climate-related economic impacts themselves. And that is just the ‘known knowns’ and the ‘known unknowns’.
- Veteran observer of the Chinese economy Michael Pettis has long argued that China’s supercharged growth rate is unsustainable. Here and here are recent restatements of his belief that we face a great re-balancing. This has major implications for both climate change-related CO2 emissions trajectories and resource depletion rates.
- The Washington Post asks why monetary policy no longer works and economies fail to grow around the world. Personally, I think the answer is no longer solely to be found in the study of monetary and fiscal policy. Jeremy Grantham, the ever-thoughtful Chief Investment Strategist at GMO is squarely in my camp, with his firm predicating strategy on a U.S. long-term growth rate of 1.5%. Against this background his analogy is “of the Fed beating a donkey (the 1% growing economy) for not being a horse (Bernanke’s 3% growing economy)”. Read his last GMO letter on decelerating growth and the impact on investment here.
- Grantham references an article by Chris Brightman of Research Affiliates which pegs long-term U.S. growth rates at 1% due to trends in population, employment and productivity. If true, and we then add in the impact of resource depletion and climate change over the next two decades (the pivot decades for me), we could easily be looking at a no-growth U.S. economy by 2030-2040.
Once upon a time when we talked about oil, the presumption was we were talking about crude oil (or perhaps crude oil plus condensate if you were a petroleum wonk). Nowadays, when BP, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) or the International Energy Agency (IEA) publish their flagship yearly reports (see here, here and here) the lead-in charts highlight ‘All Liquids’ (click for larger image).
I’ve taken the numbers below from Table 3.4 in the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2012 (click for larger image). Apologies for the lack of a link since the report needs to be ordered and is not freely available on the web.
As can easily be seen, traditional conventional crude oil is making up an ever smaller share of total liquids in percentage terms, falling from 88.8% in 1990 to 63.1% in 2035 under the IEA’s Current Policies scenario (basically business as usual).
This would be irrelevant if all liquids are perfectly substitutable amongst themselves; i.e., they are fungible. Unfortunately, they are not. The EIA released a great graphic yesterday showing two key determinants of fungibility (there are others): energy content per unit volume and energy content per unit weight here (click for larger image):