Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why Travel Matters.

Back in November of 2012, I ran across this article in the Economist, arguing that the United States was on pace to become the world's largest producer of oil by 2020, and would be able to produce enough energy to be self sufficient by 2035. I recall thinking how dramatic a change that would be -- and I saved the PDF, meaning to blog about it.

"Alberta Energy Firms Face Harsh New Reality"
Jeffrey Jones, Jeff Lewis, Carrie Tait
The Globe and Mail, November 28, 2014.
I wasn't quite sure what to say, though. But spending a little bit of time in Calgary really focused the issue for me. The Alberta business section of the Globe and Mail is on the right (the oil price was also front page news).  I've linked to the main article here.

The recent oil price slide will probably completely eliminate the Canadian federal budget surplus. That creates serious problems for a government that has fixed expenses (salaries, pensions, debt service) but falling revenues. Most of the world at this point has, or soon looks to have, the same problem as Canada.

A nice way to understand this situation is to read a brief blog post of Paul Krugman's from October 15, entitled "1937." He noted that markets are signaling that "once again the big risk is deflation or at least very sub-par inflation."  He measured deflation in that post by looking at the market for Treasurys, specifically the 10-year, showing the yield had fallen below 2%, potentially a sign of recession, deflation, or both.

When I tucked the Economist article away for future reference in 2012, I never would have thought that a falling nominal oil price could be a bad thing.  Today, though, I'm not so sure.

And I'm not the only one.