High Gasoline Prices and the 2012 Recession, Part II

Artificial Demand ::

“Real demand is not artificial. We should resist as much as possible the notion of providing things that are not actually demanded by anyone.” ~ American Consensus

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

The price of any product or service is normally determined by two variables, supply and demand. In economics, prices rise as demand increases, as supply decreases, or a combination of the two. It’s only when supply keeps pace with demand that the price of gasoline stabilizes or declines.

Since we know that the world’s population is increasing, not decreasing, more gasoline production is constantly required, not less. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Thus, the only way to reduce gasoline prices, in the face of rising global demand, is through greater production. Yet, U.S. oil production has been on the rise since 2009, while demand has declined. So, why is gasoline stuck above $3.25 a gallon?

Was there suddenly a great demand for solar panels, biofuels, windmills and electric cars in 2009? The answer is no. Do cars and trucks run on solar panels and wind turbines? The answer is no. Yet, the 2009 stimulus set aside $80 billion in deficit financing to subsidize politically preferred green energy projects, which had little or no demand at the time. In fact, there is little demand for such products today. What the world demanded in 2009 is the same thing it demands today, more gasoline. So why is the federal government involved in providing things that are not actually demanded by anyone?

According to the Energy Information Administration, global oil consumption declined slightly in 2008, 2009 and 2010, while global supply has kept pace with demand (see chart above). In 2010, global supply actually exceeded demand, but as of 2011, the latest statistics available, world demand set a new record of 87,421,000 barrels per day, up from 83,412,000 in 2010. Yet global supply has kept pace with demand. So why have U.S. gasoline prices climbed by more than 90% since January 2009? The answer doesn’t involve oil supply and demand, it has to do with the decline of the U.S. dollar.

The purchasing power of the consumer dollar has declined by 24.3% since 2001 (see chart below). The dollar actually strengthened for a brief 5-month period, from September 2008 to January 2009, but then resumed its decline, having fallen by 8.9% since January 2011. What happened to the price of gasoline during the five-month’s that the dollar strengthened? It declined dramatically, from $3.72 a gallon to $1.64 (see Part I). And what happened to the price of gasoline after January 2011? It shot past the $3.25 per gallon breaking point, where it remains today.

What caused the dollar to decline? The U.S. monetary base, the total amount of a currency that is either circulated in the hands of the public or in the commercial bank deposits held in the central bank’s reserves, has increased by 324.2% since 2001. The money base grew from $616.7 billion in 2001, to $2.6 trillion as of September 2012. You can see in the chart below, that $256 billion of this increase occurred between January 2001 and September 2008. But from September 2008 to January 2009 the monetary base increased by $858 billion. However, this initial increase actually strengthened the dollar, and was, evidentially, the precise temporary stimulus needed at the time. The only problem with this brilliant strategy was that it wasn’t temporary.

Instead of winding down at the end of January 2009, what had been a well timed temporary stimulus was unfortunately doubled. Since then, the monetary base has been jacked up by another $886 billion. Instead of a temporary stimulus, what we wound up with was a permanent doubling-down of the original amount. Is this what the economy needed? What was the result? This time instead of strengthening, the purchasing power of the dollar plummeted.

Thus, by the time Barack Obama was inaugurated, the economy had already received the temporary stimulus it required. How do we know? The proof is the decline in the price of gasoline, to near its historic inflation adjusted norm of $1.73 a gallon (see Part I). But ever since then, the price of gas has risen from $1.88 to $3.65. That’s the proof. What we have witnessed during the Obama Administration has been reckless and unnecessary deficit-financed spending, which not only added six-months to the Great Recession, but has lead to a prolonged period of stagnation.

The Federal Reserve should have started reducing the monetary base in February 2009, but was unable to, due to the Barack Obama’s unprecedented $832 billion stimulus plan. In addition, as a result of Mr. Obama’s $1 trillion-plus annual budget deficits for the past four consecutive years, instead of being able to control the money base, the Fed has been forced into the unlimited printing of dollars, vis-à-vis QE3.

Based on the current trajectory, what we can expect with another four years of Barack Obama is a continued decline in the purchasing power of the dollar, and higher gasoline prices, in spite of improved U.S. supply and falling demand. The problem with high gasoline prices is they lead to recessions, while lower prices foster economic expansion. The target price for gasoline is the 1992 inflation adjusted price, $1.86 a gallon. The current price is $3.65.

In the midst of the Great Recession, the average price of gasoline only exceeded the breaking point ($3.25 a gallon) for a total of 31 weeks. In contrast, the current price has remained above the breaking point for a total of 86 consecutive weeks, from February 28, 2011 to present. What does that tell you? It leads me to believe that the U.S. is currently in recession. The cause: Inflation due to excessive money printing, necessitated as the result of an $832 billion stimulus, and unprecedented trillion dollar budget deficits due to Barack Obama’s inability to govern. Is there a witness?

One month ago, the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI), the same organization which successfully predicted the last recession, and which over the last 15 years has gotten all of its recession calls right while issuing no false alarms, declared that the U.S. is in recession. In an article entitled, The 2012 Recession: Are We There Yet?, ECRI stated, “Back in December, we went on to specify the time frame for it [the recession] to begin: if not by the first quarter of the year, then by mid-2012. But we also said at the time that the recession would not be evident before the end of the year. In other words, nine months ago we knew that, sitting here today, most people probably would not realize that we are in recession – and we do believe we are in recession.”

The policies of Barack Obama didn’t deliver us from the Great Recession, they prolonged it. The $832 billion stimulus plan merely created an artificial demand for U.S. dollars, and is directly responsible for re-inflating the same imbalances that existed prior to the recession. How can we tell whether or not we’re better off than we were four years ago? Well, here’s what’s different today. We are more than $16 trillion in debt, 25 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed, instead of reducing the money base the Federal Reserve is printing more money to purchase mortgage-backed debt on an unlimited basis, our tax and regulatory structure is mired in uncertainty, we are suffering from a foreign policy meltdown, and the price of gasoline has remained over $3.25 for a record 86 consecutive weeks.

The Obama Administration has done everything in its power to hide the truth from us, but we’re just not going to take it anymore. Americans can take a lot, but one thing we won’t tolerate is government officials who try to deceive us. The federal government can easily manipulate unemployment statistics, since the numbers are basically made-up anyway, but it cannot so easily engineer the price of gasoline. To do so would entail releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is in place to mitigate national emergencies, not sway elections.

Four years of Barack Obama’s policies solved nothing. We are currently teetering somewhere between back where we started from, to worse off than we have ever been. And with a looming fiscal cliff, another four years of Obama will only make things worse. America can’t take another four years of trifling rhetoric, high gasoline prices, or another government-prolonged recession. It’s time to wash our hands of the Obama Administration, and time to turn toward mature, experienced, and responsible leadership. You know what time it is!

“A lie hides the truth. A story tries to find it.” ~ Paula Fox


Weekly U.S. All Grades Conventional Retail Gasoline Prices | U.S. Energy Information Administration

The 2012 Recession: Are We There Yet? | Economic Cycle Research Institute

The Malaise of 2012 | Part IV

High Gasoline Prices and the 2012 Recession, Part I

Truth is not easily hidden.

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

Conventional retail gasoline averaged $3.65 a gallon in the most recent week ended October 22, 2012, yet when Barack Obama was sworn into office the price averaged $1.88. When questioned about the 94.2% increase which occurred on his watch, Mr. Obama remarked that the reason gasoline prices were so low when he entered office was because the U.S.was “in the middle of an economic depression.” However, the question wasn’t why prices were so low when he entered office, but rather why they ballooned by 94.2% on his watch. We’re still awaiting his answer.

In the second presidential debate, Barack Obama stated that, “oil imports are at the lowest levels in 16 years.” But as I pointed out in Debate 2 | Obama’s Oil & Gas Rhetoric, the gasoline I need to fill my tank only cost an average of $1.23 a gallon in 1996, the equivalent of $1.81 today. And later in the same debate, Obama proclaimed that, “oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years.” Well, which is it Mr. President? I pointed out in the same post, that the 1992 price of regular unleaded averaged $1.13 per gallon, the equivalent of $1.86 today. Is the price of gasoline $1.81 to $1.86 today? No. So then what was Obama’s point?

Are we supposed to believe that it took an economic depression to bring gasoline prices down to $1.88 in the week ended January 19, 2009, when that would actually have been higher than the average inflation adjusted price of $1.73 at that time? I don’t know what that tells you, but it tells me that gas prices were in a bubble before the Great Recession, a bubble which finally burst during month 8 of the 19-month downturn. High gasoline prices were actually one of the factors leading to the Great Recession, the subsequent decline merely brought prices in-line with the historic norm.

If this is true, then hasn’t the price of gasoline been in the midst of another bubble since 2011 (see chart below)? And if a bubble currently exists, does that mean the U.S. is either in or near recession? To know the answers, we must venture back in time and analyze what actually took place prior to the Great Recession. The following analysis focuses on all grades of conventional retail gasoline.

Gasoline Prices and the 2001 Recession

Gasoline prices generally rise during the first six months of the year, and fall during the remainder. The 2001 recession began in March and ended in November, as indicated by the first shaded area in the chart above. Going back to January 1, 2001, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we find that conventional grades were selling for an average of $1.42 per gallon. Once the recession commenced prices peaked at $1.70 in May, before the normal seasonal decline. But due to the recession, followed by a post-911 reduction in demand, prices continued to fall reaching a low of $1.08 by the week ending December 18, 2001. This represented a decline from the peak of roughly 36%, over 32 weeks.

Based on the 1992 price per gallon of $1.13, the 2001 equivalent price should have been $1.43 (as represented by the solid blue line). Due to the recession, gasoline prices temporarily declined below the inflation adjusted level, but would eventually regain equilibrium, reaching $1.46 towards the end of 2002. All in all, gasoline prices remained at or near equilibrium between 2001 and 2003. It was in 2004 when prices began to spin hopelessly out of control. The reason for the subsequent price hike was initially blamed on a significant number of refineries being offline, and later by rising crude oil prices.

Prior to the Great Recession, a record high of $3.25 per gallon was set in the week ended May 21, 2007. The chart above contains a green dashed-horizontal line at the breaking point, the pre-Great Recession record of $3.25 a gallon. The solid blue line represents the annual inflation adjusted price of 1992 gasoline. Although gas prices may currently be on the decline, until they dip below $3.25 a recession threat remains. At the same time, any price above $1.86 is not optimal. So where are we today?

Gasoline Prices and the Great Recession

The Great Recession commenced in December of 2007. At the time, gasoline was averaging $3.03 per gallon, but within the first eight months the price would set a new record of $4.10 per gallon in the weeks ending July 7 and July 14, 2008 (see chart above). But then something phenomenal happened. From the peak, prices declined to $3.17, or to below the $3.25 breaking point within just 14 weeks. And prices continued to fall all the way to a low of $1.64 by the week ending December 29, 2008, within another 11 weeks. So from peak to trough, gasoline prices declined by 60% in just 25 weeks, a notable difference from the 36% decline over 32 weeks at the end of the 2001 recession.

After the 2001 recession prices remained relatively stable for two years, but that wasn’t the case with the Great Recession. This time, when prices hit bottom the recession wasn’t over. It probably should have been over at that point, and perhaps it would, had it not been for artificial demand, induced by an unprecedented amount of deficit-financed government intervention. By the time the Great Recession ended, the price of conventional gasoline had risen from a bottom of $1.64 to $2.64. So from an early Great Recession surge to $4.10, prices finally flushed out at $2.64.

To summarize, during the Great Recession, gasoline prices rose by 35% before declining by 36%. By comparison, during the 2001 recession, prices rose by 20% before declining by 36%. That seems fairly harmless on its own, but what’s missing is the fact that gasoline prices doubled, from $1.50 to $3.08, during the previous recovery, between January 2004 and December 2007. That’s the key. There’s the bubble. So what was the cause?

According to information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there was a notable rise in U.S. petroleum demand, and a corresponding decline in U.S. supply from 2004 to 2007, as indicated by the shaded area in the chart below. In fact, the phenomenon of rising demand and declining supply actually commenced in 1986.

A quick study of the chart leads to two questions. Is the U.S. currently producing more oil than it did in 1985? The answer is no. Is the U.S. consuming more petroleum than it did in 1985? The answer is yes. Yet in 2009 there was a noticeable decline in demand and a corresponding uptick in supply, the combination of which contributed to lower prices at the pump. And, it appears that U.S. oil supply is continuing to trend upward, while demand has leveled off. So since demand is stable and supply is increasing, gasoline prices should be dropping like a rock, but instead we have witnessed a 94.2% price increase since January 20, 2009.

So was Obama right to blame the 94.2% price hike, on what he refers to as the extraordinarily low prices he inherited as a result of an economic depression? No, because by inauguration day the price of gasoline had settled right about where it should have, on an inflation adjusted basis. Recall that in 1992 the price of regular unleaded gasoline was $1.13 per gallon, which would have been equivalent to $1.73 in 2009; and the national average was $1.64 on December 29, 2008, and $1.88 on January 19, 2009. Thus, at that time, the price of gasoline was barely above its inflation adjusted value (see the first chart).

Going back to the original question, the reason prices have risen on Obama’s watch has nothing to do with supply and demand. The root cause is unprecedented government intervention vis-à-vis his $832 billion stimulus plan (see Part II). The stimulus program merely re-inflated a price bubble that existed prior to the recession, the first caused by lack of supply, and the second by devaluation of the dollar. It was this artificial deficit-financed demand that caused gasoline prices to rise from the $1.88 he inherited to $2.64 by the end of the recession, so that by June of 2009, gasoline was only 19% below its pre-recession record of $3.25.

Gasoline would remain below $3.00 from June 2009, until the week ending December 27, 2010. It was during this period that the economy showed its most promising signs of recovery. But ever since then, the price of gasoline has never fallen below $3.00. Instead, in the week ended February 28, 2011 the price once again accelerated past the $3.25 breaking point, where it has remained for the last 86 consecutive weeks.

With regard to 2010 being the end of the Obama recovery, the proof is that Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by -3.1% in the year 2009, as gasoline prices surged from $1.64 to $2.62. Then in 2010, GDP grew by 2.4% as prices stabilized and remained below $3.00. But economic growth again slowed to a rate of 1.8% in 2011, as prices climbed above $3.25. GDP further slowed to a growth rate of just 1.3% through the second-quarter 2012, as gas prices remained above $3.25.

Note: The third-quarter 2012 advance estimate that GDP grew by 2.0% is just that, an estimate. In fact, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, “the third-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency. The “second” estimate for the third quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on November 29, 2012.”

Continued: High Gasoline Prices and the 2012 Recession, Part II


Weekly U.S. All Grades Conventional Retail Gasoline Prices | U.S. Energy Information Administration

The 2012 Recession: Are We There Yet? | Economic Cycle Research Institute

The Malaise of 2012 | Part IV

Photo Via: Midwest Energy News

Resignation of David M. Walker

The most important economic indicator of things to come: The Fall of Rome

Posted by sakerfa on June 18, 2009

Since the global financial meltdown seems to be the main concern with our corporate world, let’s begin with this topic.

David M. Walker and the Fall of Rome

There have been a few major economic events in the last few years, but I consider the resignation, in March 2008, of David M. Walker from his commission of Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office to be the harbinger of what is to come.

Walker resigned 5 years before the end of his 15-year term expired. His reasons for resigning were that he was limited to what he could do and that the United States was in danger of collapsing in much the same manner as the Roman Empire.

“Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were ‘striking similarities’ between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including ‘declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government’.”

For months before his resignation he traveled the country educating Americans about the financial crisis and the pending bankruptcy of the United States.

60 Minutes segment with David Walker originally broadcast on March 4, 2007 Click Here.

Walker’s resignation six years prior to the end of his 15 year term was a few orders of magnitude greater than the Chief financial officer of the largest non-governmental corporation in the world resigning (more on this later). The position is so crucial to the functionality of the corporate structure of the United States of America that it’s subject to Senate confirmation.

The selection process is somewhat unusual. A commission made up of congressional leaders presents the president with at least three candidates for the job. The commission is made up of: the Speaker of the Houses, president pro tempore of the Senate, the Senate majority and minority leaders, the House majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Oversight and Government Reform committees. The president chooses one of the three candidates for the job. His nominee must be approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel and then confirmed by the Senate.”

What transpired with Walker jumping ship and in the first three months of 2008 was nothing short of the beginning of the largest consolidation of wealth in the history of the United States. Walker’s resignation removed the last obstacle for those controlling US fiscal policy to readily make available cheap money. From August 2007 to December 2008 the Federal Reserve lowered the Primary Discount Rate from 6.25% to 0.5%. What followed was a blank check to bailout and buyout banks, defusing a global financial Chernobyl in the derivatives markets some have argued, while at the same time impoverishing American citizens, and eliminating the middle class (more on these later).

Elizabeth Warren: The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

From 2007 to early 2008, when US national debt was sitting around $9 trillion, Walker compared what was happening to the US with the collapse of the Roman Empire. Let’s see what’s happened since then?

The Largest Ponzi Scheme in History

As of 2 June 2009, the US federal debt is now sitting at well over $11 trillion. This amount does not include the extra $10 trillion to $14 trillion that US taxpayers will eventually be required to pay back for buying toxic assets.

“Make no mistake – we are selling off our future and the future of our children to prevent the bondholders of U.S. financial corporations from taking losses. We are using public funds to protect the bondholders of some of the most mismanaged companies in the history of capitalism, instead of allowing them to take losses that should have been their own. All our policy makers have done to date has been to squander public funds to protect the full interests of corporate bondholders. Even Bear Stearns’ bondholders can expect to get 100% of their money back, thanks to the generosity of Bernanke, Geithner and other bureaucrats eager to hand out the money of ordinary Americans.”

Buying up toxic assets is known as The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) – “a program of the United States government to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen its financial sector.” When Congress approved this program, “Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. The Federal Reserve so far is refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return.”

In the following video “Rep. Alan Grayson asks the Federal Reserve Inspector General about the trillions of dollars lent or spent by the Federal Reserve and where it went, and the trillions of off balance sheet obligations.” The Inspector General, Elizabeth Coleman, states that her office is not tracking this information. In essence, she is confirming that we are witnessing the largest Ponzi Scheme in history unfold in real time.

These numbers, however, are a little misleading. The American public is largely unaware that the true deficit of the federal government is approximately “$65.5 trillion in total obligations”, exceeding global GDP.

The following 2008 documentary, “I.O.U.S.A. – One Nation. Under Debt. In Stress.,” does an excellent job explaining why the current fiscal policy in the United States is unsustainable, and recommends some very painful solutions to resolve the problem.

Keep in mind that all of the above debt is exclusive of the personal debt that US citizens may carry. So even though many, including myself, have compared what is happening to the United States to what happened during the Great Depression, a more accurate comparison was given by Walker, the 2008 recipient of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ highest award and the person holding the highest accounting position in the United States from 1998 to 2008, and he compared the collapse of the United States to the Fall of Rome.

Let me rephrase this another way, if you were an accountant, then professionally speaking, David M. Walker is who you would aspire to be, and he bailed ship in 2008 stating that the game was over for the United States of America.

I hope the above explains the magnitude of our current economic metamorphosis. It will be one of the main themes for our conversation.

to be continued…

Source: http://www.chycho.com/?q=Rome

The above is Part 3 of a conversation about the state of the world:

Source: The Peoples Voice