Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Is CNN suggesting that oil traders woke up this morning and said "Hey, look at this on the calendar--Thanksgiving! People might drive, and stuff, to, like, go places to eat Turkey. I totally didn't expect this major driving holiday to just pop up out of nowhere!"
This is a great example of the Narrative Fallacy--after the fact, it seems easy to explain why something happened. Before the fact it isn't quite so easy. I could have told you yesterday that people may drive places for Thanksgiving--I could have even told you when Thanksgiving would appear on the calendar--but I didn't have CNN's crystal ball to realize that this would be the reason oil is up today.
I wasn't around at the time, but I'm told that in 1938 people thought Neville Chamberlain was doing a fine job--it wasn't until 1945 that it was obvious to those same people that they knew all along that he had royally screwed up.
Peak Oil For Our Time!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Alternate Title: It’s the Demand Inelasticity, Stupid.
Oil prices again. Tapis (Malaysian Crude) just broke $100 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate breached $98 briefly in after hours trading. I can already hear tomorrow’s cries from the pundits and purveyors of financial “news” that the fundamentals don’t support these prices.
Let me back up and explain what’s happening here. We have a generation of financiers who were trained in a very specific methodology to analyze stocks. They are now applying that reality tunnel of how stocks behave to deliverable commodities, and in the process are making a huge error. This error culminates in their thinking that speculators and geopolitical threats are artificially inflating the price of oil beyond what the “fundamentals” support as if that’s possible. Here’s the problem: oil futures are deliverable. Every owner of a future contract on the NYMEX can hold that contract to expiration and actually take delivery of 1000 barrels of oil at
It’s like the house near me that has a big “For Sale” sign with a banner saying “Priced Below Market!” No, actually the definition of price is the value at which a buyer and seller come together to affect a transaction—that’s the “market” price. Similarly, the fundamentals support $100 oil because society is happily filling their gas tanks at that price. The issue isn’t geopolitics or speculation, it’s pure inelasticity of demand. Speculator’s can’t drive prices up on a deliverable commodity without highly inelastic demand. Geopolitics can’t create a “threat premium” without highly inelastic demand (setting aside for the moment the issue that we wouldn’t be trying to get oil from