Business as Ususal: Death, Depletion and Derivatives

Last week was a typical one for the world’s human population. About a million people died world-wide (and more than a million were born), even though the media would have us believe the collective grief of 7 billion people should focus exclusively on a handful of entertainers, athletes and politicians rather than friends and relatives.

Meanwhile it’s business as usual in two key sectors that matter far more to all of us than celebrity deaths.

The Wall Street Journal reports that energy companies are making big strides in pumping natural gas out of shale deposits. Some consultants say this technology could quadruple natural gas reserves (we have no idea if this is true – we’ll ask a few trusted experts later this week). Exxon has a particularly big play in Horn River, northern British Columbia. The race is on to delay the ‘peak’ in peak oil. Can new drilling technologies do it? The big energy companies are pouring a lot of money into exploration right now, and a little into renewables.

In any case, the overall picture for peak oil doesn’t appear to have changed that much. We’ve either passed the peak or we’re about to hit it.


Meanwhile, how are we doing on cleaning up markets so that they can give us straight-forward valuations on real things like houses and energy and companies that actually make something? Uh, not so well. In the same issue of the Wall Street Journal, manufacturers like Caterpillar, Boeing and 3M, have sent a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight for …derivatives. That’s right, not brokers, not investment banks, not Wall Street, but Main Street is fighting to keep Washington from regulating derivatives. Turns out many large companies depend on derivatives as, well, insurance against risk (really!).

Sure, derivatives brought our financial system to its knees. But worrying about unregulated financial instruments too complex to understand is so 2008. And peak oil – well that’s positively ancient (like, Permian) news, so why worry? Apparently what we really want is synthetic grief (thank you George Will), and the media are all too happy to meet that demand.


One response to “Business as Ususal: Death, Depletion and Derivatives

  1. Just an fyi, the world’s population is 6.8 billion people. I so wish Illahee would schedule a series to discuss the human population and why it might make sense to try to slow our growth and perhaps even move towards reducing our numbers to a more sustainable level.

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