David P. Goldman writes at Asia Times Green bubbles threaten to pop stock markets. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
Magical US thinking of a Green agenda financed by endless amounts of printing-press money will only end in tears
Prices for all energy commodities jumped during the past month, some by record margins, as a global energy shortage set off a scramble for gas, coal and oil. Brent crude has doubled in the past year, Newcastle coal has quadrupled, and Netherlands natural has risen seven-fold. There are many small reasons for the global energy squeeze, and one big one:
Investment in hydrocarbons has collapsed under pressure from the Green agenda adopted by international consensus.
Energy investment in the United States has dwindled as large institutional investors boycott fossil fuel investments. China’s critical electricity shortage is the result of draconian regulation of coal mining, exacerbated by Beijing’s punitive ban on Australian coal imports.
The idea is fanciful that the world can re-direct US$100 trillion in capital investment during the next 30 years to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, as the International Energy Agency has proposed. . . To put in context what this number implies, the entire free cash flow of the world’s private corporations would barely make up a third of the Global Reset investment budget.
The political pressure of the Green agenda has virtually wiped out investment in the US oil and gas industry. Capital expenditures for US exploration and development companies during 2021 (and projected for 2022) are only a fifth of the 2015 peak of $150 billion.
Meanwhile, oil and gas companies are sitting on mountains of cash. The free cash flow of the oil and gas industry will rise to $50 billion next year, the highest on record. In 2015 the oil and gas industry showed negative free cash flow because it borrowed to expand production.
Now oil and gas companies are paying down debt and returning cash to shareholders rather than take hydrocarbons out of the ground.
Virtually the whole of the world’s political elite has signed on to the carbon neutrality agenda, including the government of China, which appears to believe that support for carbon neutrality (which China has pledged by 2060) will mitigate hostility to China in the West.
But the energy market suggests that the hard reality of supply constraints will overwhelm the Green agenda before it gets started.
The cost of shelter, which comprises about two-fifths of the US Consumer Price Index, continues to rise at a record pace in the United States. This hasn’t turned up in the official data, because it takes time for old rental leases to expire and new leases to be written.
But several additional percentage points of inflation are now programmed into US inflation for the next two years.
As the Fed forced down the “real” interest rate, by reducing its overnight rate to zero and by purchasing hundreds of billions of dollars in TIPS, investors were forced into stocks.
At some point, the Fed’s game is going to come to an end. The magical thinking of a green agenda financed by endless amounts of printing-press money will be followed by a nasty hangover. Rates will rise and the asset bubble will pop.
Exactly when that will happen is beyond anyone’s capacity to forecast, but the unpleasant September in US equity markets was a foretaste of what we can expect.
A worker installs polycrystalline silicon solar panels as terrestrial photovoltaic power project starts on November 17, 2015 in Yantai, China. Photo: Getty
via Science Matters
October 2, 2021