Globalisation and its discontents


A couple of years ago, if you were protesting against globalisation, you were assumed to be an anarchist or an eco-warrior. Nearly every major political party of right and left was signed up to the idea that globalisation was a good idea and that anyone who said otherwise was a wholly eared nutter.

_43002069_ap416behind Globalisation has many opponents, anarchists, eco warriors, Trump, the far right….clowns, UKIP…..

However we now face the situation where the two major parties in the UK are essentially anti-globalisation (one hard left, the other authoritarian right). In America Trump is running on an anti-globalisation platform, while even Hilary has had to row back from her support of international trade agreements. What went wrong?

Firstly, I think it has to be acknowledged the benefits globalisation has brought. While I’d take the figures below from the world bank with a pinch of salt, it has to be…

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Slithering towards authoritarianism



If Corbyn had made an end of conference speech suggesting that he wanted to use the power of the state to make a better society, the media would quickly be rife with the usual “crazy bolshie Corbyn” articles, while half his MP’s would resign and sign a no confidence motion. But instead, Theresa May was the one who made the speech and instead she is praised as “taking the centre ground”. Wellnot quite!

A lot of people think politics is a linear one dimensional problem of right and left, when in fact it is at the very least a two dimensional issue of right and left but also liberal and authoritarian (one could argue for a third dimension to define scientific literacy, e.g. are you a global warming denying anti-vaccine type, or a hard science transhumanist, but that’s another days discussion). In effect…

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Why the Britannia’s not coming back….nor the Empire!


the-royal-yacht-britannia-in-1960-136397590004503901-150416125808 The Britannia….where the queen would wine and dine blood thirsty dictators so the UK could sell them weapons

Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and a number of the other Brexiters want to bring back the Royal Yacht Britannia. They fantasize about a future where they travel the world signing new trade agreements from its decks. Really?

Well the current yacht was built in 1952 and completely obsolete (it was declared as much when it was decommissioned 22 years ago). I mean there’s a long list of things it won’t have (such as this thing called “the internet”….Liam Fox might want to look that one up!) and you’d have to train an entire crew as to how to use it. One would have to question the logistics of bringing it up to speed and back into service.

Furthermore, its also way too small for modern trade negotiations. The days…

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The trouble with Corbyn



So labour have elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader (again). However while he’s wildly popular with his party base, many others in the party, notably the PLP have serious misgivings and perhaps for good reason. Hence a split in the labour party is now a very real possibility.

Take for example Corbyn’s stance on Brexit. He’s spent most of the last few months going around apologising for the swivel eyed loons who voted for Brexit, trying to portray it as a revolt against globalisation. Well I don’t remember once hearing that word mentioned in the campaign, I seemed to remember a lot of xenophobic screaming about migrants and some BS lies about billions to the NHS. And while yes it is known that many neo-fascist parties are opposed to globalisation (not because they want more socialism, quite the opposite!), that still doesn’t make them you’re friends. However, it…

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The greater fool fallacy and Trump



There are some who support Trump even though they know he’s a bigot and a racist, but they support him despite this, because they think he offers the possibility of significant change (same goes with quite a few who voted for Brexit). That he can be manipulated into doing certain things other politicians won’t do. Other politicians would feel the need to run things by “advisors” and “experts” and worry about public opinion (or put the idea to focus groups), then realise its not going to work and hesitate. A shoot from the hip type president will do things others won’t, because he’ll act first without thinking things through.

Examples of those looking to exploit a future president include space cadets, the far right and even some elements of the far left (Bernie Sanders types who took all that anti-Hillary stuff way too seriously). I’ve…

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America’s shale oil slow down

I’ve been watching the EIA’s Drill productivity reports for a couple of months now and they do hint at a slowdown in US shale oil and shale gas production.

Certainly it has to be said that over the last year the overall figures show production is up for gas, although down slightly for oil. However as figure 1 shows this represents drops in older legacy fields being replaced by new production in less mature fields. But in some cases the rate of replacement lags behind the rate of decline, hence why production from some fields is now down and oil is now down overall.


Figure 1: Overall production changes for various shale oil & gas fields [Source: EIA, August 2016]

One of the issues with shale oil and shale gas fields is that production rates tend to tail off much more rapidly than with a conventional oil or gas field. Often there’s a need to perform further fracking on the field at regular intervals to maintain production. So a drop in the rig count in many parts of the US would probably be the explanation for this tailing off of older fields. And of course it implies that once the younger fields complete their current growth spurt, they too will enter into decline.


Figure 2: US rig count [Source:, Feb 2016, Based on EIA data]

Indeed the situation becomes more stark when we look at the rate of change in production by field over the last year (figure 3). Looking at individual fields (figure 4) we can see there are signs that some of America’s major shale oil and shale gas basins have already peaked and are starting to enter into a state of decline.


Figure 3: Change in production output of Shale oil & gas fields [Source: EIA, August 2016]


Now, lets not get ahead of ourselves. Oil production rates do go up or down, few fields or regions show a constant upwards trend throughout their entire lives. And with oil prices so low its hardly surprising output is falling. If oil companies are already losing money on shale oil and shale gas plays, why throw good money after bad just so you can drive down prices even further? Some production growth may emerge in future, but it would require much higher prices. Of course if prices go too high, that risks an economic slow down and a fall in demand. And ultimately its clear that there is a natural limit to year on year production from shale gas and shale oil sources, which we might not be very far from exceeding.


Figure 5: US oil basins overall trend from year of first flow to April 2016 [Source: 2016]

Consider that even all of America’s unconventional oil production is only about 4 million barrels/day, while US oil consumption is closer to 16 million bbl/day. So while yes shale oil is doing a lot better than many would have thought was possible, its still not good enough. America is a long way from self sufficiency. And if current trends continue this could well be the high point of shale oil production.

The best case scenario now for the shale oil and gas industry is for something to happen that would make oil and gas prices go up. One could even present a case for carbon taxes as being pro-shale industry. Given that gas generates less carbon emissions than coal (well on paper anyway, some research would dispute these claims), it would probably benefit from any decline in coal production. Higher oil and gas prices would mean more drilling, although yes in the long run it would mean them going out of business.

But certainly what these trend do demonstrate is that Shale oil and shale gas are not the infinite horn of plenty that its long been argued they represent.

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Sunday service


A few stories that caught my eye over the last week……

Blackouts & Newspeak

With Hinkley C now hanging in the balance, the National Grid seem to be waking up to the realisation that its unlikely we’ll be getting any new power infrastructure in time to offset the likely decommissioning of the UK’s ageing coal and nuclear plants. So they seem to be putting their faith in energy efficiency measures instead.


Keep in mind a few years ago, I was scoffed at for making such a suggestion at a conference by someone from NG, who felt such measures were unnecessary or that they won’t work (he was trying to argue the case for Hinkley C and how the ground would open and swallow the country if it isn’t built). And these very measures were part of the so-called “Green crap” Cameron cut to keep his allies in…

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