David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - Energy

    Global surge in air-conditioning set to stoke electricity demand

    Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Ed Crooks for the Financial Times which may be of interest. Here is a section:

    Over the next 30 years, air-conditioning could increase global demand for electricity by the entire capacity of the US, the EU and Japan combined, unless there are significant improvements in the efficiency of the equipment, the IEA warned.

    In a report released on Tuesday, the agency urged governments to use regulations and incentives to improve the efficiency of air-conditioning units, to avoid a surge in demand that could put strains on energy supplies and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

    Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, said: “This is one of the most critical blind spots in international energy policy.”

    Air-conditioning has had an enormous effect on the quality of life in hot regions, but its use is unevenly distributed around the world. About 90 per cent of homes in the US and Japan have air-conditioning, compared with about 7 per cent in Indonesia and 5 per cent in India.

    Electricity used for cooling in the US is almost as great as the entire demand for power in Africa.

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    Email of the day on the high cost of electric vehicle subsidies

    I just returned from a very eye-opening trip to Arizona, visiting Scottsdale (in the Sonoran desert) and the mountains of Northwestern Arizona. We flew into Phoenix and drove a lot. We saw zero Teslas. I'm told there are a few around Phoenix. But with the poor performance of electric vehicles in both cold and hot environments, it probably should not be shocking.

    Going to Arizona from California is like going from lala land, where the majority of people are drinking weird kool-aid, to the real world, where people work for a living, dislike taxes, and are really concerned about the massive influx of Californians who are oddly leaving their dream state.

    Electric car enthusiasts here in CA get the pleasure of paying $0.38/kwh for their electricity, FAR above the advertised $0.12/kwh, thanks to tiered billing and some of the highest real electric rates in the nation. When an electric car is parked in every driveway, neighborhood power distribution systems will be grossly overloaded (recharging typically starts after 6pm and finishes before 8am, compressing the "average" load on power networks). So, these systems will have to be replaced at taxpayer or ratepayer expense, with lower income people getting no benefits but definitely sharing substantially in the costs.

    All this means that one of the highest tax states in the Union will become far higher taxed, both in direct taxes and indirect taxes like state mandated burdens on electricity ratepayers. Meanwhile gas taxes remain some of the highest in the nation, and will only go higher, putting yet more burden on the lower income folks. 

    Meanwhile, the exodus of retirees naturally accelerates.

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    Elysis: A New Era for the Aluminum Industry

    This press release today announcing a joint venture between Rio Tinto and Alcoa, with technical input from Apple, may be of interest to subscribers. Here is the key point apart from being carbon free:


    There’s a new, revolutionary way to make aluminum. It eliminates all direct greenhouse gases. And it produces pure oxygen.

     The technology can create more aluminum in the same size smelting cell as the traditional process. And it can be installed in new facilities or retrofitted for existing ones.

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    War on coal making the world's top mine owners a lot richer

    This article appeared in Mining.com and may be of interest. Here is a section:

    Some of the more significant declines are occurring in China, the top mine operator, and financing for new supplies is drying up. That’s creating a windfall for the producers who remain.

    “It’s a perverse consequence” of policies intended to combat climate change, said Julian Treger, co-founder of activist investor Audley Capital Advisors LLP. “It’s going to be very difficult for funders to provide capital to bring new coal assets online. We have a very interesting supply and demand picture being set up.”

    Anglo American, which not long ago wanted to unload its coal assets, has seen income from the business triple since 2015 to become the mining company’s most profitable commodity. Last year, Glencore reported earnings from the fuel more than doubled, while BHP Billiton said it surged sixfold.

    While global coal use and mine output has been dropping, production failed to keep pace with demand in 2016 for the first time in seven years, data compiled by BP Plc show. As supplies continue to drop, the amount available for export is shrinking. BMO Capital Markets says the 1 billion-metric-ton seaborne market will have a small deficit by 2021 and expand to 15 million tons in 2022.

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    Musings From the Oil Patch May 1st 2018

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section:

    The Bloomberg article highlighted the plight of Big Oil.  Its weighting in global equity indices is at a 50-year low.  Of the MSCI World Index’s 100 biggest stocks, only six are oil producers.  Within the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM-NYSE), which a decade ago was the largest company, has fallen to ninth place, and investors are requiring higher dividend yields to sustain the share price.  So, what’s the problem for Big Oil?  Simple.  There is a perception that the world is awash in oil at the same time its long-term demand may be falling due to the public’s embrace of climate change policies promoting renewable energies and electric vehicles.  

    Institutional money manager Kevin Holt of Invesco Ltd. was quoted in the Bloomberg article saying, “Earnings have started to come through but no one believes it’s sustainable.  That’s why the stocks haven’t worked even though the commodity has gone up.  Everyone’s saying they don’t believe it.”  

    Stock market valuations are the collective view of investors as to the future earnings and dividend prospects for companies.  Current low valuations are a manifestation of the industry’s negative perception.  Mr. Holt is certainly correct about oil prices.  Since the start of this year, Brent/WTI prices have climbed 12.2%/13.3% through April 23rd.  If we go back to the oil price low of 10 months ago, prices have soared by 66.7%/61.4%.  In the past, an increase in oil prices of those magnitudes would have sparked a meaningful recovery in oil company and oil-related company share prices.  

    A report by the oilfield service research team at Barclays delivered a similar message about their universe of stocks as cited by Bloomberg about Big Oil.  The most telling chart shows a nearly complete correlation (0.96) between the movement in oil prices and the value of the Philadelphia Oilfield Service Stock Index (OSX) between January 2012 and January 2016.  However, from June 2017 to April 2018, the correlation has fallen to only 0.06.  And, June 2017 marked the low price for crude oil!  

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    Email of the day on the long-term outlook and potential for inflation

    In your 10/April long-term themes review, you said: "So, the big question many people have is if we accept the bullish hypothesis how do we justify the second half of this bull market based on valuations where they are today? ..... However, the answer is also going to have to include inflation. "

    My thoughts, not in any particular order:

    If we look at Robert Shiller's research ~1870-now, on the US share market, his studies show that historically, extreme valuations in the US share market (as assessed by cyclically adjusted P/E ratio) have always been followed by poor average real return over the following 10-20 years."
    You point to inflation as to how a secular bull market (in nominal terms implied) can now occur for the US share market (by implications I think you are reflecting on the US share market) over say the next 10-15 years (say).  You use the experience of Argentina and Venezuela as justification for your argument - where from memory, there was hyperinflation in the periods to which you refer.

    First, I do not think you are suggesting hyperinflation for the USA .... mismatch 1.
    For Argentina and Venezuela, I think their currencies also crashed. I do not think you are suggesting the US dollar is going to crash. Possible mismatch 2.
    Rather than a comparison with Venezuela and Argentina, perhaps a better analogy is to the period in the USA following the late 1960s, when US share markets where at quite high valuations (though not nearly as expensive as now on a CAPE basis). Following the peak valuations of the late 1960s, the US share market went sideways (with some large dips) over the next 16 years or so.

    In summary, I am not sure that your argument is particularly robust.  Yes, the technological revolution is a critically important new phase which will have a huge impact over the next 10 and 20 years..... and there may well be a secular bull market in that sector ... but does that really mean that the technology sector by itself will take the whole S&P500 with it in a secular bull market for the next 10 or 20 years?

    Your thoughts?

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