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

    Musings from the Oil Patch May 30th 2017

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ report which has a number of particularly interesting items this week. Here is a section on the pace of technology adoption: 

    When the pace of adoption of technologies is examined, there are a number of interesting questions that bear on the projections of how quickly EVs and AEVs, as well as on-demand ride services, will be accepted. Are they going to be adopted as consumer technology items or truly revolutionary technologies and labor-saving devices? As shown in Exhibit 10, proponents of rapid technology adoption point to the cellphone, which took about a decade to go from zero to 60% penetration. That was about the same time span as the internet, but maybe only slightly longer than the VCR. On the other hand, the telephone needed nearly 50 years, while electricity needed only about 25 years, to reach the 60% penetration level. However, maybe we should look at these vehicle technologies as akin to those that brought significant lifestyle changes such as the stove, the clothes washer and the dishwasher, which needed between 35 and 50 years to reach 60% of American homes.

    Our best guess is that the adoption rate will be somewhere between the cellphone and electricity, 10 to 25 years, but with a bias toward the longer timeframe. Why do we say that? It is important to understand that vehicles play an important role in family evolutions, something that hasn’t changed over generations. The hyped concern about millennials not getting married, starting families and buying homes, which was very popular during the years immediately following the global financial crisis of 2008, is disappearing. We now see millennials coming out of their parents’ basements, getting married, starting families and buying homes – although maybe not of the same size or in the same locations as their parents. These millennials are, however, continuing the generational pattern of societal evolution, although they are taking longer than previous generations to take some of the steps down that road. Given the pace of this phenomenon’s development, it is important to remember that automobiles remain the second largest purchase after homes for families. These purchases are not made frequently, they usually require significant research and time to reach a decision, and the decisions are often based on economic considerations involving all aspects of families’ lives and not just social concerns, such as climate change.

    Given the factors involved in new car purchases, those forecasting the demise of petroleum must explain how those with limited incomes and wealth will voluntarily give up their perfectly functioning fossil fuel vehicle for an expensive EV, which because of battery technology may not get anywhere close to the advertised performance due to the climate where they reside. Their lives will become more complex until electric charging stations are as ubiquitous as gasoline stations, since they may not be able to afford the wait for battery recharges nor the cost of an installed charger in their home, if that option even exists for them.

    There is also the question of what happens to the economics of EVs versus ICE cars when the values of used ICE cars go essentially to zero? In that case, unless gasoline and diesel fuels are banned, which may be the next target of environmental activists, it will be much cheaper to own and operate ICE cars than EVs.

    There is also the question of how quickly the fleet of American vehicles can be converted to EVs or AEVs. For the past several years, Americans have purchased 17 million or slightly more new vehicles each year. At that pace, it will take 15 1/3 years to completely replace the approximately 260 million vehicles currently on America’s roads. To reach the magic 60% penetration rate, Americans must buy 17 million new EVs every year for more than nine years. Despite the high number of EVs in the fleet, it still leaves 104 million ICE vehicles on the roads burning fossil fuels.

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    Trouble Brews for OPEC as Expensive Deep-Sea Oil Turns Cheap

    This article by Serene Cheong, Sharon Cho and Dan Murtaugh for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    The falling costs make it more likely that investors will approve pumping crude from such large deep-water projects, the process for which is more complex and risky than drilling traditional fields on land. That may compete with OPEC’s oil to meet future supply gaps that the group sees forming as demand increases and output from existing wells naturally declines.

    Saudi Arabia’s Al-Naimi left his post shortly after his speech targeting high-cost producers, and his successor Khalid Al-Falih organized production cuts by OPEC and some other nations that are set to run through March 2018. In a speech in Malaysia this month, Al-Falih bemoaned the lack of investment in higher-cost projects and said he fears the lack of them could cause demand to spike above supply in the future.

    Warnings from OPEC of a looming shortage are “overstated and misleading,” Citigroup Inc. said in a report earlier this month. The revolution in unconventional supplies like shale is “unstoppable” unless prices fall below $40 a barrel, and deep- water output could grow by more than 1 million barrels a day by 2022, according to the bank.

    Royal Dutch Shell Plc in February approved its Kaikias deep-water project in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, saying it would break even with prices below $40 a barrel. That followed BP Plc’s decision in December to move forward with its Mad Dog Phase 2 project in the Gulf, with costs estimated at $9 billion compared to $20 billion as originally planned.

    Over the next three years, eight offshore projects may be approved with break-even prices below $50, according to a Transocean Ltd. presentation at the Scotia Howard Weil Energy Conference in New Orleans in March. Eni SpA could reach a final investment decision on a $10 billion Nigeria deep-water project by October.

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    The End of Cheap Chocolate? Cocoa Futures Surge Most on Record

    This article by Marvin G Perez for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Ivory Coast growers have sold 950,000 tons of cocoa beans from the 2017-18 main crop as of May 27, according to a person familiar with the matter. The main crop, which starts Oct. 1, is the larger of the country’s two annual harvests.

    “That’s a pretty big upfront sale, and it’s probably the reason why prices are rallying,” Jack Scoville, vice president for Price Futures Group in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.

    Some growing regions in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the second-largest producer, have been dry and need moisture to aid early crop growth, according to Gaithersburg, Maryland-based MDA Weather Services. Trees are also stressed from a lack of moisture in Indonesia’s Sulawesi region.

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    We'll Live to 100 How Can We Afford It?

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report from the World Economic Forum. Here is a section:

    In Japan, which has one of the world’s most rapidly ageing populations, retirement can begin at 60. This could result in a retirement of over 45 years for those who will live to the current life expectancy of 1071 (see Figure 2). What is the impact of a population that will spend 20%-25% more time in retirement than they did in the workforce? How do we rethink our retirement systems that were designed to support a retirement of 10-15 years to prepare for this seismic shift? 

    One obvious implication of living longer is that we are going to have to spend longer working. The expectation that retirement will start early- to mid-60s is likely to be a thing of the past, or a privilege of the very wealthy.  

    Absent any change to retirement ages, or expected birth rates, the global dependency ratio (the ratio of those in the workforce to those in retirement) will plummet from 8:1 today to 4:1 by 2050. The global economy simply can't bear this burden. Inevitably retirement ages will rise, but by how much and how quickly demands urgent consideration from policy-makers. 

    Given the rise in longevity and the declining dependency ratio, policy-makers must immediately consider how to foster a functioning labour market for older workers to extend working careers as much as possible. Employers also have a key role to play in helping workers reskill and adapt their work styles to support a longer working career. 

    This paper focuses on the sustainability and affordability of our current retirement systems. To protect against poverty in old age, we believe that retirement systems should be designed to provide a level playing field and equal opportunity for all individuals. A well-designed system needs to be affordable for today’s workers and sustainable for future generations to ensure that all financial promises are met. 

    Healthy pension systems contribute positively towards creating a stable and prosperous economy. Ensuring that the public has confidence in the system, and that promised benefits will be met, allows individuals to continue to consume and spend through their working and retired years. If this hard-earned confidence is lost, there is a significant risk that retirees will moderate their spending habits and consumption patterns. Such moderation would have a negative impact on the overall economy, particularly in countries where the size of the retired population continues to grow. 

    Action is needed to realign our existing systems with the challenges of an ageing population. Those who take proactive steps will be better equipped in the years ahead.

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    The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China's social habits

    Thanks to a subscriber for this article from the South China Morning Post which may be of interest. Here is a section:

    Chen said what seems like disruptive technology today eventually will be diffused into society and become an element of normal life tomorrow.

    “The younger generation in China will grow up in a world full of two-dimensional barcodes,” he said. “They may develop a new understanding of money.”

    “Maybe, in their eyes, money [will be seen as] not just a means to purchase commodities and services, but also socialise.”

    Mobile payments began to grow in China as people increasingly used social media platforms such as WeChat to distribute the red money envelopes known as hongbao in Mandarin, or lai see in Cantonese, to friends and relatives in the traditional Spring Festival. Last year, the average WeChat user sent out 28 packets of hongbao every month, according to the platform. Much of the money was used to compliment a well-taken photo or well-written post.

    Such behavioural changes are poised to profoundly affect the Chinese economy, according to Chen.

    “When the credit card emerged, consumers were found to spend more than when they used cash. The QR code is even more convenient than the credit card, so we have good reason to expect it will increase consumption,” he said.


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    Email of the day on North Korea

    First of all: thank you for a terrific service! It is an indispensable part of my day! There is an increasing tension around North Korea, this article from Zero Hedge is an example: I wonder: what is going to happen if the situation blows up? What are the threats, and what are the opportunities in your opinion?  

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    Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee

    This transcript may be of interest to subscriber. Here is a section on how the balance sheet will be run down: 

    Participants continued their discussion of issues related to potential changes to the Committee's policy of reinvesting principal payments from securities held in the SOMA. The staff provided a briefing that summarized a possible operational approach to reducing the System's securities holdings in a gradual and predictable manner. Under the proposed approach, the Committee would announce a set of gradually increasing caps, or limits, on the dollar amounts of Treasury and agency securities that would be allowed to run off each month, and only the amounts of securities repayments that exceeded the caps would be reinvested each month. As the caps increased, reinvestments would decline, and the monthly reductions in the Federal Reserve's securities holdings would become larger. The caps would initially be set at low levels and then be raised every three months, over a set period of time, to their fully phased-in levels. The final values of the caps would then be maintained until the size of the balance sheet was normalized.

    Nearly all policymakers expressed a favorable view of this general approach. Policymakers noted that preannouncing a schedule of gradually increasing caps to limit the amounts of securities that could run off in any given month was consistent with the Committee's intention to reduce the Federal Reserve's securities holdings in a gradual and predictable manner as stated in the Committee's Policy Normalization Principles and Plans. Limiting the magnitude of the monthly reductions in the Federal Reserve's securities holdings on an ongoing basis could help mitigate the risk of adverse effects on market functioning or outsized effects on interest rates. The approach would also likely be fairly straightforward to communicate. Moreover, under this approach, the process of reducing the Federal Reserve's securities holdings, once begun, could likely proceed without a need for the Committee to make adjustments as long as there was no material deterioration in the economic outlook.

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