Today we heard the greenhouse gas emissions had risen by 5.9% in 2010. The world is on track for an 11 degree F rise in temperature and this came from the normally conservative Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency. He had quite recently stated “We need to leave oil before it leaves us.” Something will have to happen quickly or else it will become completely irreversible.
Meanwhile our Treasury has of course stated that it has to revise the preelection forecast for economic growth, which, as I pointed out before, was predicated on three inaccurate assumptions. As I was gardening today I wondered how they managed to get it SO WRONG. Anyone with a brain who was following the developments in the Eurogeddon crisis could see there would be no smooth resolution of the debt crisis there. You can’t solve debt with more debt, it just puts off the day of reckoning. And they assumed the price of West Texas oil would not go beyond $93 a barrel by 2016. Well I looked at the trend of that and it has already been beyond $93 but has dropped back. It is the lowest of the three types of oil quoted in our paper every day. On 2 Dec it was $100 a barrel and Dubai, which is the oil we rely on, was $106. As for growth of our trading partners, forget it. I don’t know why we pay these Treasury officials so highly if they are so stupid.
This week five people from Transition Town Lower Hutt put out a warning on the Euro crisis and suggested planning for a crisis by having a store of food, money and water. Sensible people all of them. Robin Westenra does a wonderful blog.
But good news. Today we heard from two people in Nelson who want to start our first branch there so we put them in touch with each other! And some really good people have now joined including a well respected environmental economist.
I received a letter back from the Minister of Defence last Friday saying no they had not received any information on the security implications if ur oil supply is disrupted. He referred me to the Defence White Paper 2010 on www.defence.govt.nz. I haven’t had time to read it all, but once again I despair if our Minister of Defence and his officials don’t read the military reports put out in Germany and in US on the implications of oil supply for defence. Maybe there is a frustrated official somewhere in the Ministry of Defence. A job for someone?
So we await the Merkosy solution to the Europe debt issue
Well it looks as though it wouldn’t be much fun being the next Prime Minister of either Greece or Italy right now. It is a poisoned chalice. Who wants to introduce austerity measures and remain electable? Any concerned citizen can see what is coming for New Zealand when our trading partners are in this sort of trouble.
Richard Douthwaite, the green economist from Ireland, has written the most amazing chapter in FEASTA’s book Fleeing Vesuvius. He explains the connection between declining oil supplies and the trend of rich countries to run deficits. Taking Ireland as an example, he lists the cost of mineral fuel imports, the value of exports and then works out the fuel cost as a percentage of export earnings. It rose from 2.4% in 2001 to 7.6% in 2008. Exports are the only means by which the country can earn the money it needs to pay the interest on its overseas borrowings.
He explains that a country that runs a deficit on its trade in goods and services for several years will find that its firms and people get heavily in debt because a dense web of debt has to be created within that country to get the purchasing power, lost as a result of the deficit, back into everyone’s hands.
After a careful explanation, one of his conclusions is that it is dangerous and destabilising for any country, firm or individual to borrow overseas and net capital movements between countries should be prohibited. This is rather startling, but when you think about it foreign capital creates problems when it enters a country and when it leaves the country. When it comes in it boosts the exchange rate, thus hurting firms producing for the home market by making imports cheaper. It also hurts the exporters, reducing their overseas earnings when they convert them into national currency. As a result, when the loan has to be repaid, the country is in a weaker position to do so than it was when it took the loan on. And managing borders obeys one of the laws of Nature.
The late Rod Donald, former co-leader of the Greens, used to go on and on about the balance of payments in New Zealand and I can see why. Both the National Party and the Labour Party seem to be taking our country into more and more debt. We have borrowed around $40 billion in the last three years.
Someone should work out our trend over the last few years. We need to find a list of the fuel cost as a percentage of export earnings and the ratio of total external debt to exports.