The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Oil Page 1 of 6

EU Delusion on Sanctions and Europe’s Future

While the EU was considering more sanctions against Iran because it attacked Israel in retaliation for Israel bombing its embassy, Russia is sending Iran:

Meanwhile America is threatening China that if they don’t stop sending Russia “dual use” goods, the US will slap on more sanctions.

Boo hoo.

Let us remember the results of chip sanctions. China now owns the legacy part of the industry, and is making progress western “experts” said would take decades in years. Huawei has recovered from the sanctions and created its own OS. It is now a massive electric vehicle manufacturer in addition to everything else. BYD will soon become the largest EV manufacturer in the world, eclipsing Tesla. Something about its cars being cheaper, and Tesla gave up on building a cheap version of their cars. Maybe Tesla will survive because the US keeps all Chinese EVs out, but my guess is that if Musk stays CEO, Tesla’s best possible future is as a luxury EV manufacturer. Their “Cyber Truck” is a disaster.

Iran has built a formidable military with hypersonic missiles while under sanctions, sanctions which started at the same time the Islamic Republic was created. But now, what I’m sure happens, is that China sells Russia goods and Russia trans-ships them to Iran. That hasn’t undone the sanctions completely, but as the world moves away from using the dollar as the medium of trade and routes around US, EU and anglosphere banks, the effects of the sanctions will continue to diminish.

There’s very little that Iran needs (though still some) that China and Russia don’t make. And anything sold to Russia by, say, India, can also make its way to Iran. Cutting Russia off almost entirely gives it no reason to play by Western rules, and it doesn’t.

This is especially true now that America has taken Russian reserves and will be giving them to Ukraine. Anyone who trusts the US with their money who isn’t a complete ally, or satrapy, is a fool. There’s a reason why money used to be frozen before, but not actually taken. There’s a big difference between the two.

But let’s move back to Europe. This article from FT is to the point, German gas prices are two-thirds higher, structurally, than they were before the Ukraine war.

That’s after prices dropped massively. The simple fact is that US natural gas costs a lot more. Russia was selling Europe and Germany oil and gas for bargain prices. Russia’s still willing to sell, but Europe has its head up its ass.

The recent history of European industry is simple. When the Euro came into effect, it raised everyone’s prices except Germany’s, pretty much. Industry in all of Europe except Germany was badly damaged (this was especially bad in Italy which was more of an industrial power than most realized.) Germany, in effect, received a subsidy: the Euro was worth less than the German Mark.

Germany has (had) a lot of heavy industry: a lot of energy intensive industry. To get energy for this, Germany got cheap, below market Russia oil and natural gas. Russia got bulk sales of one of the few things it had to sell and Germany kept its industry competitive.

Those days are over, essentially permanently.

And the problem is that Germany’s dominance was in legacy heavy industry and automobiles. They aren’t creating a lot of new tech and science. They don’t have large new industries developing. They don’t have scale costs like China does. They relied on being very efficient and already dominating industries.

But those industries are leaving. A lot of them are going to America, the actual company facilities, but the production is, effectively, also moving to China and other countries.

I know I’m a bit of a stuck record on this (do youngs understand that simile?) but Europe is walking into its decline with its leaders acting as if it’s no big deal, indeed as if they are, to use my father’s crude insult still “King shit of turd island.” Sanctioning Iran, lecturing Africans and acting as if they are superior in every way: the only truly civilized people in the world.

Even as they do, the foundations of their prosperity, their “garden” are eroding out from under them at the speed of soil blowing away during the Dust Bowl.

They’re insane. Completely detached from reality, and some of the stupidest elites in the world, even exceeding America’s very high bar.

The Sun always sets. European leaders seem determined to make it set as soon as possible.

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One Relatively Bloodless Way To End The Genocide In Gaza

I’ve mentioned before the possibility of military defeat, but there’s a better way.

Simply have OPEC do another oil embargo to the West and its enablers until the situation is resolved, with a two-state or one state solution and significant restitution. Yeah, the US and Canada produce a surplus, but it’s not enough of a surplus to support all their allies.

And if all OPEC members don’t agree, it really doesn’t matter. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and the Gulf States are enough. Since Russia’s already already under various sanctions…


That would, of course, require Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to do more than cry crocodile tears about the Palestinians, and actually do something, which is unlikely. But it’s worth remembering that it is possible and putting it on the table.

Besides, the lion should show its teeth occasionally anyway.

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German Dependence On China

So, the German central banks noted that 29% of German companies import essential parts and materials from China.

Multiple industries. Germany, much like the US, but even more so, let China pick up, among other things, much of the tool making industry, especially those related to auto manufacture.



When you consider this is an absolute terms and not relative, it’s even worse.

This comes on top of anti-Russia sanctions and the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines cutting off Germany’s access to cheap energy.

Germany is a relatively small country without a lot of natural resources. To be wealthy it needs to produce high value goods, and to do that it needs inexpensive inputs for its industries, or it needs to have much higher industrial productivity than everyone else.

Outsourcing so much of the supply chain for its manufacturers was an understandable mistake: it made those inputs cheaper.

But if you’re a small country without a lot of resources, you have to keep your supply chains and trading relationships stable. German leaders at the start of the Ukraine war expressed the most doubts about massive sanctions and they were right.

Germany is, as predicted at the time, in real trouble. Their model had flaws, and was a mean one, impoverishing and de-industrializing other EU nations, so there’s a certain irony to EU consensus Russia policy now screwing them over, but at this point if Germany goes down it’ll take the entire EU’s economy with it.

Germany cannot afford to follow the US into a cold trade war with China.

Moreover, this is a demonstration of something simple: what is good for Western EU countries and what most Eastern EU countries want (anti-Russia policies and NATO expansion) are two different things. Germany needs good relations with cheap resource suppliers and the only practical one was Russia.

It’s all very well to say, as many have, that this is the price of standing up for “freedom”, but if Germany goes down, so does the EU.

Likewise, what is “good” for the US, is not good for most European countries, and especially not good for Germany. (Ironically, Macron is the only major EU leader to be honest about this.)

The EU, if it continues on this course, will be reduced to an even weaker American satrapy than it was is the cold war period, and one with a lot worse living conditions.

China’s moving up the value chain. Sanctions against China, rather than slowing this down are speeding it up. Correct industrial policy would have been to negotiate with China about what industries or segments of industry each country is going to specialize in.

Incorrect policy is to have a cold war against both your cheapest energy supplier and the country that is now the world’s manufacturing floor.

Damn near suicidal policy, in fact.

Europeans need to get thru their heads that the European/American near monopoly on tech and high productivity is broken and that Europe, in particular, is coasting on legacy industry, without a great number of natural advantages. It was a backwater for most of history, and is reverting. The job of European leaders is to keep that reversion from happening for as long as possible and to slow down whatever reversion occurs.

Now, it could be that full commitment to a “US and Europe+Anglo countries” trade block, with full re-shoring would be a viable policy, if aggressively pursued, but that’s not what’s happening, the US is, instead, taking advantage of EU and German weakness to grab up high energy cost industries.

As for Europe’s elites, they should remember that owning overseas resources is dangerous. Britain’s “hidden empire” — its overseas investments, was a huge part of its strength, and essentially liquidated in WWI. Germany’s chemical patents and electrical patents were broken by the Allies in WWI and they didn’t reinstate them after the war was over.

Anything you own in another country doesn’t really belong to you unless you have the troops and willingness to occupy that country and the ability to then administer the country.

Germany in specific, and Europe in general, if they don’t change their policies and their commitment to being American satrapies, are on the path to ruin.

(Oh, and as I said at the time, most of the Eastern European countries should never have been let into either NATO or the EU. They offer little but vulnerability; are economic soaks, and have interests contrary to those of Western European countries. The only way they could have been absorbed effectively was if the EU decided to become a real federal nation with former countries reduced to provinces at most, and in most cases divided into multiple provinces.)

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Britain’s Bare Produce Shelves

The Daily Mail had an article on this, and it’s worth reading.

A dig down in this reveals two main factors (the Daily Mail was pro-Brexit and discounts that factor).

First, increases in energy prices.

Tony Montalbano, a director of Green Acre Salads in Roydon, Essex, typically produces a million kilograms of baby cucumbers a year, but his glasshouses were empty last month.

He delayed growing his crops to avoid rocketing winter fuel bills of up to £500,000 a month. He expects his production to be cut by up to half this year.

‘It’s sad and frustrating but I can’t afford to grow,’ he said. ‘I must make a profit. If I don’t, there’s no point in me going on. Lots of growers are closing their doors and selling up.’

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, added: ‘Up and down the country, we’ve got empty glasshouses. People who would grow two or three crops of cucumbers a year may cut that to just one, because they want to avoid using more expensive energy.’

Eggs are also being rationed as farmers cannot afford the costs of keeping laying hens warm in energy-guzzling sheds.

Second, crop failures due to poor weather (aka. climate change) in Spain and Morocco have had a big effect, as Britain imports a lot from them.

Now, the thing about energy prices is that they have been raised far more than fuel prices have. The UK system has producers of energy, suppliers (the people who run electricity lines and ship fuel to retail customers) and the retail customers of energy.

Let’s take oil:

Unveiling its latest results, Shell said the price of the barrels of oil it sells rose from $62.53 a year ago to $101.42. Gas prices rose from $4.31 to $13.85 per thousand standard cubic feet over the same period.

So, their costs increased about 62%, and they about tripled the prices they charge.

In electricity, there is a price cap. The companies are not allowed to earn more than thirty-five pounds more than they sell the electricity to households. That cap, however, only applies to households, it doesn’t apply to business. So on the business side, they’ve been massively raising prices.

Thus the empty green (glass) houses, which grow far more than just cucumbers. Likewise vertical farms have been hit hard. If you want produce during the non-harvest season you have to buy from other countries or you have to grow in controlled environments. Add in climate fluctuations from climate change and high energy prices making it impossible to make a profit growing produce and you have shortages.

Price increases from Russia, in other words, are only an excuse to raise prices, not the reason for most of the price increase.

The solutions have been discussed even by the mainstream press: either re-nationalize the energy sector or put in a windfall profit tax so they don’t get to keep excess profits. And it’s worth noting that many energy companies did go under due to increased costs when they were regulated to be unable to pass them on. Some companies made way more than their increased costs, while others went under.

In the post-war liberal era private utilities were highly regulated, but a cornerstone of proper regulation was that they would always make a decent profit: enough for proper maintenance, which had to be done (remember all the fires in California because the privately owned utility won’t maintain power lines and poles), and to expand capacity as necessary. Utility stocks were “widow and orphan stocks” because they would make the same every year. Genuine price increases were passed on, but profits could not either rise or fall.

So, if you want to keep them private the best way isn’t so much a windfall tax, which is a response to a crisis, but proper regulation. Or you can just make them public again.

Energy prices in France have risen far less than in Britain for the simple reason that France owns its own generators and grid.

The other obvious factor is that if you have a cap on households for political reasons (they vote) you need a cap on the costs to farmers and to industry. But if you’re going to put all these caps in place, it’s better to just move to proper regulation, and a flat cap makes little sense, it should always be in percentage terms. When prices went up 60%, someone has to pay that. That either means end-users, or it means the government subsidizes. Those subsidies could be broad, if the increase is expected to not last long, or they could be targeted at specific industries and people with low income.

While generally means targeted subsidies are a bad idea, there are specific cases where they make sense, and this is one of them.

Anyway, Britain doesn’t have bare produce shelves “because of Russia” it has bare produce shelves because energy companies gouged the customers they could gouge using Russia as an excuse and because the government refused to step in and ensure prices which allow the “free” market to work properly, because there is no free market and never has been, and it always requires intervention to keep it working.

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Dog Bites Man: The US (With Foreign Allies) Did Blow Up The Nord Stream Pipelines

I mean, I feel kind of lame for even posting about this because unless you were stupid (or on the payroll) you knew it was either the US or an ally, and if an ally the US was involved.

Turns out it was the US and Norway. Seymour Hersh.

Of course he had to post this on his substack because not a single mainstream outlet will publish it.

A Dalek commented how surprising the CIA’s competence was in this operation, but what I find interesting is how effective media control is now: if no one will cover it, did it even happen? The level of control over the media is astounding, and the majority of it is tacit, I doubt the CIA had to call outlets and say “don’t publish Hersh”, the people in charge know what their job is and do it without any threats, then see themselves on the same side as the CIA and if a truth is too inconvenient, well, it isn’t important.

It really does remind me of the early post 9/11 and Iraq War period, where you just couldn’t tell the truth and be heard on anything mainstream, and trying was a career death sentence.

And yeah, I do think this is worse than it was in the past. The old media was corrupt and often complicit, too often, but it wasn’t this bad. A combination of almost every media asset being owned by just a few companies and the Ivy League takeover of journalism jobs, which used to be working class, has made the vast majority of the media little more than collaborators with the powers that be.

I’m a bit of a broken record on this, but I still find it extraordinary that they lied about Corbyn about 80% of the time. Amazing.

Anyway, Norway (who made 40 billion more a year from taking sales from Russia) and the US who has also made a mint selling Europe natural gas, turn out to be the nations responsible for destroying Nord Stream, which I’d say was an act of war. Turns out the nations with the most to gain were the criminals. What a surprise. (Though I did think Poland might have been involved, as they had other things to gain. Turns out greed was the primary factor, not ideology.)

Dog bites man. It is tedious that this had to be proved. The amount of cycles wasted by intelligent people proving what is obvious to anyone who isn’t a moron or dishonest is pathetic. (And this nonsense is why I rarely bother proving the obvious any more. It’s just meant to waste cycles and anyone asking for proof of the obvious is not an honest interlocutor.)

Note: corrected “cover” to “publish”, which was my original intent.

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America Defeats Germany Again, Europe Foolishly Helps

(I’m aware others have made the same US defeats Germany point before this. Just becoming super obvious.)

There’s a good article in Der Spiegel on the German energy/industrial crisis which is worth your time.

Basically industries which have high energy costs are being crushed. In particular this means chemical and automotive, both big in Germany, but extends far further.

(Indeed, the chemical industry was essentially invented by Germany in the 19th century, and American industry exists because the patents were broken in WWI and not reinstated after the war.)

This has a lot of knock-on effects, not only in price increases (which are big), but shortages. For example:

The coronavirus pandemic showed how easily modern production processes can get out of sync. Supply chains interlock like the insides of a clock, and if one cog fails, the entire machinery can grind to a halt.

An example is a small company from Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany, which has made it onto the prime-time news broadcasts in recent days because its products are needed almost everywhere. “Our production has been halted completely,” says Torsten Klett, the co-managing director of SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz. “And we will only be able to restart if the gas price drops significantly or if politicians provide us with massive support.” The chemical company is one of Germany’s largest producers of fertilizers and AdBlue. Natural gas has also become too expensive for SKW. If political help doesn’t arrive soon, the company could be forced to send its 860 employees into a work furlough program in October.

Few modern diesel engines can be operated without AdBlue – not those of the fire department, not those used in public transportation and, above all, not the 800,000 or so trucks that transport goods of all kinds across Germany’s roads every day. Should companies no longer receive the products they need for their own production, the result wold be devastating, and almost all sectors would be affected.

The national association representing the logistics industry has begun warning of potential bottlenecks, even though AdBlue is also manufactured by BASF and the Norwegian firm Yara. But BASF began cutting back on ammonia production last year due to increased gas prices. The world’s largest chemical company can still compensate for the shortfall by buying on the world market, though the costs continue to rise.

So, logistics crisis intensifies because of lack AdBlue.

Meanwhile increased energy prices are hammering every single business and homeowner just for electricity, heating and cooling, so much so that it’s causing many retailers to become non-viable. Employment is actually tight (whisper after me “Covid deaths and Long Covid”), so there’s pressure on wages, but prices are increasing faster than wages so consumers don’t want to spend.

Industries that Germany has been powerful in for over a century are being hammered.

Now a lot of Europeans hate Germany, and with good reason. The Euro has been less than Germany would have had given its own currency with their level of exports, but higher than it should be for most other European countries, meaning that German industry was subsidized and other nations like Italy and Finland were penalized.

Germany aggressively policed other European countries, making it near impossible for them to protect their industry thru other means like subsidies, generally under the rubric of “fiscal discipline” and when countries were in crisis engaged in a fair bit of looting.

Meanwhile Eastern Europe was never properly integrated into Europe, remaining primarily a source of cheap labour and not properly moving up value chains.

To Eastern Europeans Germany is a traitor who made deals with the evil Russians to keep their energy prices low and didn’t really share the ensuing prosperity. (Germans would mostly disagree, noting the subsidies. But countries want their own prosperity, not welfare.) To Western Europeans Germany has repeatedly abused its economic and political power to keep its industry strong, even as others lost theirs.

So Germany has a lot of power in the EU, but few true friends, and there’s a lot of resentment.

Still, whatever the causes, Germany is the industrial powerhouse of Europe and Europeans who are laughing at Germany’s loss of industry during this energy crisis are being foolish, because what’s happening is that Europe as a whole is becoming weaker.

But the beautiful icing on the cake (if you’re an American oligarch) is:

A big winner from the energy crisis in Europe: the U.S. economy.

Battered by skyrocketing gas prices, companies in Europe that make steel, fertilizer and other feedstocks of economic activity are shifting operations to the U.S., attracted by more stable energy prices and muscular government support.

As wild swings in energy prices and persistent supply-chain troubles threaten Europe with what some economists warn could be a new era of deindustrialization, Washington has unveiled a raft of incentives for manufacturing and green energy. The upshot is a playing field increasingly tilted in the U.S.’s favor, executives say, particularly for companies placing bets on projects to make chemicals, batteries and other energy-intensive products.

“It’s a no-brainer to go and do that in the United States,” said Ahmed El-Hoshy, chief executive of Amsterdam-based chemical firm OCI NV, which this month announced an expansion of an ammonia plant in Texas.

Some economists have warned that natural-gas producers from Canada to the U.S. and Qatar may struggle to fully replace Russia as a supplier for Europe in the medium term. If so, the continent could face high prices, at least for gas, well into 2024, threatening to make the scarring on Europe’s manufacturing sector permanent.

It’s not other Europeans who are going to win out of this, everyone’s being hurt to some degree and any gains are relative, not absolute. “Well this hurts the Germans so much more than us” is only a relative win. But it weakens Europe overall: the production mostly isn’t moving to other European countries This is the wrong way to deal with a real problem, in other words, and the right way was political and a rejection of neo-liberalism. But since neo-liberalism is religion to Eurocrats, that wasn’t possible. Dealing with Germany couldn’t be done rationally and sensibly, so instead it has been done stupidly and harmfully, so that no one benefits except the US.

As I have said since the start, anti-Russia sanctions primarily hurt Europe and help America. They make Europe weaker and re-enforce the European political position as American satrapies. Since they do very little harm to Russia, the rational course would have been to continue to buy Russian oil while only putting on targeted sanctions (no military or dual use sales), and spend the next 2-4 years gracefully moving to alternatives in a way that would not deeply damage Germany and Europe’s industrial base and wouldn’t cause a general economic crisis in Europe.

Longer term, my forecast is that Europe as a whole will move to second world status. Their decisions around Ukraine have made that a certainty, since they make it a virtual certainty they will also wind up going along with the US in the cold-war against China. Europe has less and less tech and industry that the world must have: there are other consumers available and they no longer have a military worth worrying about.

Europe’s massive living standard was based technological, industrial and military superiority which is going away. The rise of China ends that: there are now 4+ major industrial/technological powers and Europe isn’t needed. As China climbs the tech chain, there will soon be nothing significant they, or anybody else, must get from Europe (jets may be the last holdout, but even that will not last.)

Mishandling of Ukraine, the war and sanctions is Europe’s decision to go ugly into its twilight.


The Attacks On Nord Stream I & II

Let’s point out the obvious. Russia had no reason to attack its own pipelines. If it doesn’t want gas to go thru them it just turns off the tap. Sabotage to the pipelines weakens Russia’s position, since it will be months before they can offer to turn fuel back on, if they ever can (I’m seeing reports the damage is truly epic), which they would have wanted to offer during the winter in order to pressure Germany in specific and Europe in general. Anyone who says or believes that Russia did this is a moron, a propagandist or has had their mind so twisted by Russia-hatred they can no longer think straight.

Who did attack? Who knows. One possibility is the US.

Radek Sikorski is a Polish MEP, and married to Anne Applebaum.

On the other hand, Naked Capitalism published a piece suggesting Poland did it. They recently opened their own pipeline, and are rabidly anti-Russia. Germany needs Russian gas and oil to run its industrial economy, but Poland wants Germany to not push for a peace deal with Russia.

I don’t know who did this, but what I do know is that it almost certainly wasn’t Russia. If you thought it was, check yourself, you’ve gone off the rails into propaganda-land and your emotions are ruling your reason.

Oh, and this is an attack on Germany and other countries who get gas from Russia, even more than on Russia and a reminder of how fragile international logistics links are. In the event of a real war, expect far more than this to go down.


When Is the Next Oil Driven Inflation Spike In the US? December to March.

Recently read a smart lad who noted a few simple things:

  1. Biden’s been releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
  2. The SPR has basically two types of oil: sour and sweet.
  3. Biden has been releasing almost all sour since that’s what most US refineries need.
  4. At the current rate of release, the SPR runs out of sour crude to release around March.

A Bloomberg article from June noted the same issue (just prior to Joe’s begging visit to Saudi Arabia.)

OilX, a consultant, estimates that by the end of October, the SPR will hold only 179 million barrels of medium-sour crude. To put that into perspective, during the period June 2021 to October 2022, the US is likely to sell about 180-190 million barrels of medium-sour crude from the reserve. Clearly, Washington is running out of firepower to repeat that exercise.

Of course, when Biden stops releasing oil, either because he’s out or because he chooses to stop after the election or the holidays are over, then prices are going to spike if sanctions are still in place against Russia and/or Russia is unwilling to sell to the West. As a bonus, the government will need to buy oil itself to stock the reserve back up.

This means you have to ask yourself whether or not the Ukraine war will still be going on thru the winter. It’s hard to say, but unless the US tells the Ukrainians to give Russia enough of what it wants to get peace, the answer appears to be yes, especially as winter is the best time to wage war in Ukraine, as it is when the ground is most solid and many rivers are likely to iced over. Putin needs a decisive, obvious win and if he can’t get it diplomatically, he has to get it on the ground.

Putin’s happy with slowly grinding forward militarily in part because he’s also aware of what sanctions are doing to the West. The most rabid anti-Russia country outside of Eastern Europe has been Britain, and energy price increases which are often 500% or more are taking Britain apart. More of this later, and I want to see what new PM Truss’s plan is, but if Britain doesn’t get its act together soon, this could be the year its descent into 2nd world status becomes unstoppable.

Russia can get most of what it needs from sources other than Western nations, but energy and inflation issues are kneecapping much of the West. Why not drag things out and see how much damage is done?

Remember that the entire previous post-war order was essentially destroyed by stagflation caused by oil price shocks back in the 70s (that gave us neoliberalism.) This order can be destroyed the same way.

What this means for Americans is that there’s a very good chance of a big inflation spike after the election. It might hold off for as long as spring, it might start a few weeks after the election. It won’t just hit gas prices, oil is important for much more than driving cars, so it’ll rip thru the entire economy. Stock up on what you need before the election if you can.

And let this be a lesson that GDP means very little when the chips are down. Who cares if you have Hollywood and lots of fast food stores and Google and FaceBook? What matters is what you grow, dig up, refine and make.

Russia has enough energy and food and can buy the manufactured goods it needs from India and China.

The West, with a few exceptions, does not have enough energy and the primary manufacturing power is China. In certain ways we’re in a weaker position than we were during the last oil shocks.


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