Daniel Yergin on Energy Markets

Get your fill.
  • The price of gasoline is determined by the price of crude oil. The world oil market is fine tuned and all prices are registering the “fear factor”.
  • People are “self-sanctioning” and rejecting Russian oil. USA natural gas now competes with Russian natural gas.
  • “The Big Three”: #1 is the USA by far (it’s self-sufficient), #2 is Russia and #3 is Saudi Arabia.
  • Even before the current crisis oil prices were rising because of low supply.
  • In 2003 it was thought thought that the USA would start importing more natural gas but then fracking started.
  • LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is a very expensive process, it costs 10 billion to build a facility.
  • Putin shouted at Yergin at an oil conference Q&A because he didn’t want the USA to do fracking/shale and compete with Russian LNG.
  • Putin regards the energy business as his business and has a level of mastery over it (knowledge, savvy).
  • BUT he miscalculated in thinking that there was limited supply and that Europe would bend in the context of Ukraine.
  • The German view (Merkel’s view) is/was peace through trade.
  • LNG is a process where gas is frozen into liquid, then transported and finally unfrozen and put into the importing country pipelines.
  • LNG/shale has been a huge strategic boon for the USA. The USA is going to be the biggest exporter of LNG.
  • The oil market is a truly global market and has been for many decades. Natural gas was a much more regional market (Europe had a Dutch gas field for ex.).
  • But there’s been LNG innovation and increasingly it is a global market.
  • The shale revolution made Iran sanctions work as Iran didn’t understand that there wasn’t unlimited demand for their oil.
  • Until the early 1990’s China was an exporter of oil and then they became an importer (now import 75% of oil). They have developed energy companies that are world players. China’s status as an importer is the basis of the Xi-Putin alliance.
  • The intimate Xi-Putin relationship has its basis in overturning the world energy balance. Putin has said “the future is in Asia” and he calls Europe and USA decadent countries in decline. Do the Chinese step back from Putin’s behaviour?
  • The Russians have dethroned the Saudis as the #1 oil supplier to China.
  • That said, China is signing long term contracts for USA LNG.
  • The Chinese and USA economies are integrated (prescription meds etc.). China is the “workshop of the world”.
  • That said, the language and feeling of the China-USA relationship have changed.
  • There was once the notion of peeling Russia away from China but it’s over.
  • “So often history is writing about people’s miscalculations”. Putin miscalculated with regards to European determination/resolve.
  • Putin has “taken steps to impoverish Russia”.
  • Oil and gas had been as high as 46% of Putin’s budget and he will not have those earnings. Russia’s infrastructure is built into Europe so India/China are not as easy to sell to in any event.
  • Russia’s days as an energy super power are over and Putin “signed the death warrant”.
  • Canada is the largest supplier to the USA.
  • The Ukrainian military gets diesel fuel from Russian oil (or at least it’s critical).
  • It takes 7 years to get a permit for an on shore wind turbine (according to one wind turbine executive).
  • Solar costs have dropped dramatically but China is the manufacturer. China also controls the supply chain for electronic vehicles. Electronic vehicles use lots of plastic (a petroleum product). Electric vehicles use a lot of copper.
  • It’s hard to open a new mine in the USA.
  • The view of energy politics and policy should be of a “war footing”.
  • Batteries and energy storage are key for renewables.
  • The USA could be exporting more natural gas to China, displacing coal.

juicy meat #3: Alone with Vladimir Putin on TikTok

“juicy meat” is an ongoing series analyzing media content. This instalment reflects on Vladimir Putin’s TikTok presence.

Vladimir Putin on TikTok
Putin on TikTok in a Tweet within another Tweet

Putins In My Hand Thanks to China

I’ve got a new Twitter account that only follows two people: Elon Musk and a Canadian journalist. Since my timeline would be boring otherwise, Twitter crams it with topical Tweets and other filler. Yesterday I logged on and was served the above Tweet. In the Tweet a finance influencer “quote Tweets” an anonymous account that posted a TikTok video. In it, Vladimir Putin faces the camera and talks about the global financial system and the supposed diminished standing of the US Dollar.

Curious about the TikTok account that originally posted the clip, I opened the app and navigated to @president.putin.fanpage. The page has over 900,000 followers and features flattering snippets of the Russian president. More recent clips are of the straight-to-camera public statement genre and almost mimic selfie-video, partly because they are on TikTok. One thumbnail preview displays the caption “I want ordinary Western people [to] hear me”.

None of this is particularly revelatory and this is not a mis/disinfo scare-post. A few fairly obvious things are still worth noting, however. The account has a huge following but doesn’t interact at all and there’s no public manager (added context: the “bio” says it’s not an official page). Since it seems to be a simple matter of adding english captions to highlights of pre-existing video clips, occasionally with bare minimum contextualization, the account’s propaganda value to resources expended ratio is incredible. Many of the videos have millions of views.

Another thing worth noting is that TikTok is a Chinese-owned application. There’s endless talk in the current moment about Chinese-Russian relations and a Chinese firm facilitating the distribution of Russian propaganda to Western palms and eyeballs during a hot conflict seems novel.

To sum up: by logging in to a fresh Twitter account and following Elon Musk as well as the “Business and finance” vertical my attention was directed at a Putin-propaganda effort to undermine confidence in the USA financial system that bore the watermark of a Chinese-owned platform. In an unpredictable smartphone and social media instant you can end up face-to-face with a major political figure’s fount of massaged information. As far as Russia and China, it’s surprising that all this is tolerated, to the extent that it is, by the Western establishment.

China, global trade, finance and the “Internet of Things”

“The real threat to American financial hegemony comes not from the digital currency as such, but from the integration of so-called smart logistics and the ‘Internet of Things.’ China is racing to lead a revolution in transport and warehousing that will allow counter parties to track all goods at every stage of production and shipment around the world, making global supply chains transparent. This will drastically reduce the banking system’s role as intermediary and shrink the working capital required for trade.”

“Chips that cost a few cents to produce will be embedded in every traded product and communicate in real time with servers that direct them to automated warehouses, driverless trucks, digitally-controlled ports, and ultimately to end users. Artificial Intelligence will direct goods to the cheapest and fastest transport and allow buyers to find the cheapest prices. 5G communications between servers and goods will verify the production, transit, and storage status of trillions of items in trade. The working capital required for transactions in international trade will shrink.”

“…China is several years ahead of the United States in deploying 5G networks and building out the manufacturing and logistics technology that 5G enables. The technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, moreover, may give China a degree of influence in huge swaths of the world unimaginable within the framework of existing industrial organization. Billions of people in the developing world live on the margins of the global economy, working subsistence plots, engaging in petty commerce, with little access to information, education, medical care, and social services. Cheap mobile broadband is connecting them to the world market, integrating them into what Huawei calls its ‘ecosystem’ of telecommunications, e-commerce, e-finance, telemedicine, and smart agriculture. . . . China tore out traditional society at the grass roots and urbanized 600 million people during the past 35 years, and it believes that it can integrate billions more into its virtual empire during the next decade.”