2014, Oct 15
By Chris Hamilton
Production of crude oil has nearly stalled despite a near quadrupling in the price since ’01 and it seems likely the world has entered the Peak Oil phase and the governments nor central banks (try as they may) can paper this over. Without the growing supply of adequate cheap energy, there isn’t adequate GDP growth, and without the GDP growth, there is no way to outgrow, pay off, or service the huge debts incurred but by interest rate suppression. The dual occurrence of peak oil with ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) is a truly unfortunate state of affairs. But whether or not they happened in tandem, both were inevitable. Still, governments and central banks are attempting to maintain the pre-peak oil system and avoid the pain of free market corrections to supply, production, and price. It is in this light that the centralization and “intervention” of stock, bond, and real estate markets and the manipulation of commodities growing in scale and frequency since ‘09 should not be shocking. Free markets are the enemy of fraud, the punisher of bad fiscal and economic behavior and thus free markets will not be allowed to facilitate true price discovery (i.e., REALITY).
The story of energy, particularly cheap and plentiful crude oil, has been the foundation of rapid economic global growth since WWII. The Global story of crude oil is integral to understanding the world of 2014. Crude oil matters so much because there is no readily available replacement for its energy and chemical uses and any likely eventual replacement will be at significantly higher costs. Ever higher costs of energy are negatively impacting GDP growth the world over and absent GDP growth there is no way to service or grow our way out from the great debts that have been incurred.
In 2010, the hole left behind by fracking was only $18 billion. During each of the last three years (’11-’13), the gap was over $100 billion/yr. This is the chart of an industry with apparently steep and permanent negative free cash-flows: This is the huge problem with Fracking shale oil and gas. Due to the extremely high annual decline rates of the typical shale oil or gas well, companies must continue to spend a great deal of capital expenditures to replace what was lost. It’s known as the DRILLING TREADMILL…. once you start, you can’t get off.
In one year the top 127 oil and gas companies spent $110 billion more on capital expenditures than they received from operations. So, they acquired $106 billion in additional debt (a large percentage through the Junk Bond Market) and sold assets to make up the difference.
This is not a sustainable business model, just like the same nonsense taking place in the broader stock markets as corporations buy back massive amounts of their stock to give the ILLUSION that everything is fine and BAU- Business As Usual will continue.
Not only are many of these oil and gas companies hiding the fact that their balance sheets are hemorrhaging debt, they also have a cozy situation with the Federal Government. Basically, the Fed’s allowed them to defer more than half of their tax bill… and it’s a lot of money. In a nutshell, the top 20 oil and gas companies still owe $16.5 billion (more than 50%) to Uncle Sam in tax revenue.
See more at: Biderman's Money Blog