Friday Movie Night - The Prize

hot buttered popcorn It's Friday Night! Party Time!   Time to relax, put your feet up on the couch, lay back, and watch some detailed videos on economic policy!


This weeks film is The Prize. An 8 part series adapted from Daniel Yergin's Pultizer Prize winning Epic History of Global oil.

Contained within are dirty tricks, monopolies, Machiavellian business tactics, the break-up of Standard oil, wars, the CIA, coups and the general dictation of the oil economy. This exceptional PBS documentary is politically neutral and shows what happens when the world chases black gold. It's also a great study for any major sector corporate industry.

More Ado About Oil

This is a graphic of the near shore oil spread, just for today. Most people are aware there is now a second plume of oil. A plume is not a leak, although it could imply one, more a plume describes the shape and character of spilled oil.

This newly discovered oil plume is 22 miles long, 6 miles wide and 3300 feet deep. In other words, the oil on the surface, goes all the way down to over half a mile. The thickest area of the goo is at 1300 feet. It is drifting towards Mobile Alabama like the 1950's horror film, The Blob, but this horror show is real.

China's Quest for Oil

Is China trying to capture the oil market?

From Fueling the Dragon:

With 1.3 billion people, the People's Republic of China is the world's most populous country and the second largest oil consumer, behind the U.S. In recent years, China has been undergoing a process of industrialization and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With real gross domestic product growing at a rate of 8-10% a year, China's need for energy is projected to increase by 150 percent by 2020. to sustain its growth China requires increasing amounts of oil. Its oil consumption grows by 7.5% per year, seven times faster than the U.S.

OIl, consumer spending, and the Recession

Back in April, I crunched retail and oil price numbers and concluded that the price of oil was responsible for over half of the changes in real retail spending in the last two years. As the price of oil continued to shoot higher, on June 2, after examining the role of China's hoarding in its burgeoning strategic oil reserve, and the hoarding going on at sea by oil companies and speculators, I wrote that

Oil, the Dollar, and Speculation

Here I was, with a nice polite post set to print, when I read the related links to this article at Naked Capitalism. And what do they all say? "Oil is surging because the dollar is tanking."

So excuse me, but I have to toss the politeness out the window and shout, "IT'S NOT THE DOLLAR, STUPID!!!" Here's a graph from Worthwhile Canadian Initiative including a variety of currencies, just against Oil:

OK, smartypants, if it's all about the dollar, then why is the price of Oil surging in EVERY CURRENCY??? And don't give me that "Peak Oil" cr**....

The Continuing(!) Effect of the Oil Shock on the Recession

The effects of the Oil Shock that took prices to $100+/barrel in 2007-2008 are gone now, aren't they?

Before the Black September market/401k meltdown, aside from housing and finance, the chief drag on Main Street was the shock of Oil prices rising relentlessly from $55 dollars/barrel in January 2007 to $147/barrel in July 2008. This was the 4th such Oil Shock, the previous shocks all causing recessions in 1973-74, 1980, and 1990. Last summer people weren't talking about how their retirement accounts had been cut in half, or how unemployment was skyrocketing, they were talking about how it took $50 or $100 to fill up their cars or SUVs. Suddenly mass transit and carpooling were popular again.

Oil and Recovery

This may be the most important economic graph of the year:

Why? The above graph shows gasoline consumption in the US. The dotted blue line is April 2007-March 2008, the yellow line the remainder of 2008, and the chained red line this year's consumption.

Let us make a not unreasonable assumption that this recession is going to be somewhat "L" shaped or at least a Verizon-logo like elongated "V" with a very slow recovery after hitting bottom. Let's also assume optimistically that we are somewhere near the bottom of the cliff -- the inflection point of the "L" or "V".

How much of a recovery we get -- or worse, if we get a double-dip "W" recession -- is likely to be substantially determined by the price of Oil later this year.