Thanks, Global Warming!

“Why the sudden interest in the Arctic? There are two big reasons. First, thanks to global warming, deposits of natural resources once layered over in impenetrable ice are now easier to get at. Second, thanks to melting ice, some previously icebound shipping lanes are opening up.

“Today, the Arctic prize is a multibillion-dollar opportunity.

“As a treasure trove of natural resources, the Arctic boggles the mind. By some informal estimates, the region holds 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. It could also hold massive amounts of crystallized methane – another potential fuel source. More formal surveys are under way by the Arctic lottery hopefuls. So in time, we’ll know more about what Mother Nature has cooked up in the oven beneath the icy Arctic crust.”

Chris Mayer
October 9, 2007

Keep reading today’s guest essay here:

Thanks, Global Warming!

And some more news from Short Fuse in Baltimore…


Views from the Fuse:

Hmm…not too much going on in the markets today. Stocks are still treading water, sitting slightly higher this morning, waiting on the minutes from the last FOMC meeting. Of course, these minutes will be ripped to shreds looking for any clue to what the Fed will do in their next meeting, scheduled for October 31. Ooh, spooky.

Meanwhile, the dollar has continued its ‘rally’, which many have chalked up to yesterday’s Columbus Day holiday and the meeting of the Eurozone ministers to discuss the weak dollar, yen and renminbi (CNY).

“Some traders believe that means the ministers want the euro (EUR) to be weaker,” pens Chuck Butler in this morning’s Daily Pfennig.

“Just because the Eurozone ministers are calling out the weakness in dollar, yen, and renminbi, they aren’t saying, ‘We want them to get strong versus the euro!’ They want the Central Banks of those currencies to get a backbone, and provide price stability too!

“That doesn’t mean willy-nilly interest rate policies either!

“And while I’m at it… I might as well say that I doubt seriously that the United States would play along with any plan they come up with to strengthen the dollar! They’ll just give them that old ‘strong dollar is in the best interest of the U.S.’ speech, which will throw the Eurozone ministers off the scent of the weak dollar and onto yen and renminbi. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… ‘The U.S. loves the weaker dollar!’ U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson may write it 100 times on the board that he believes in a strong dollar policy… But he’s got his fingers crossed behind his back!

“Here’s why… Exports. Yes… Apparently we still do ‘make things’ here in the United States! But exports by U.S. companies were up 11% in the second quarter. That’s the best/biggest improvement in 20 years! And for the first half of 2007, exports grew more than twice as fast as imports!”

And we’ll end this light news day with a note from our Maniac Trader, Kevin Kerr, reporting from the other side of the pond:

“London is so expensive it is just ‘completely irrational’. On the way to Victoria to get the train to Gatwick, our cabbie told us that Gordon Brown will call for a special election so he can get another 5 years, and he better do it quick. His polls are dropping faster than George Bush’s did. Several of the cabbies told me how much they hate the ‘driving tax’ – basically a fee of 8 pounds to drive through the center of the city; Mayor Bloomberg has been sizing up the same plan for NYC. Yikes.

“Then the cabbie told us how the newly constructed condos in Knightsbridge we walked by have penthouses going for 90 million pounds…90 MILLION POUNDS. He went on to say that the condos have filtered air, and a direct link to the concierge at the hotel next door. ‘For 90 million pounds, I want someone outside my door at all times doing whatever I want them to do, mate.’ He said that nobody who ‘really works’ could ever earn enough to even consider buying one. Let’s just say the average Londoner is not feeling any benefit from the 90 million pound condo market nor the driving tax. I myself am glad to escape just a little poorer.”

“The Comeback Kids,” is this week’s headline at The Economist. On the cover of the latest issue is a photo of Bill and Hillary Clinton…arm in arm…

“Will Hillary be our next president?” we asked a friend who thinks about this sort of thing.

“Yes, most likely,” came the answer. “People don’t really like her…but those Clinton years are looking better and better. And they think that by voting for Hillary, they’ll get Bill Clinton. And with Bill will come the Clinton years again. No subprime debt problem. No housing slump. No war in Iraq.”

In other words, when the comeback kids come back, peace and prosperity come back with them.

Yesterday brought news of comebacks. For example, it almost looked as though the dollar was coming back. Anyway, that was how the financial media described Monday’s bouncing buck.

But wait…it still takes more than $1.40 to buy a pound (GBP). And the yen (JPY) is still trading over 118. And the Australian currency (AUD) just hit a 23-year high against the dollar. So, reports of the dollar’s health may be exaggerated.

Still, oil fell below $80. And gold lost ground too, when measured against the kind of money you don’t have to dig out of the earth.

We are still fascinated by the simple observation that the surest bet you could have made 35 years ago was also the most obvious one. When the dollar was cut loose from gold on August 15, 1971, that gold would rise and the dollar would fall was as certain as anything you ever get in the financial world.

“We have a little technology…the printing press…” says Ben Bernanke. Using this printing press – or even without it, in this modern, electronic age – the feds can create all the dollars they want. But unless they know something we don’t, they can’t create even a single additional ounce of gold.

“Gold is the answer,” we keep saying.

The only trouble is: we haven’t quite figured out what the question is.

What will be higher next year? Gold? We don’t know…

What is the safest place for your money? Gold? We don’t know…

What starts with a G and ends with a D and rhymes with ‘old’? Ah, there…

The Clinton Years look like golden years in many ways. Not because of anything the Clintons did. They came in at the tail end of a huge boom – and managed to avoid messing it up.

The boom had begun during the Reagan Administration, after Paul Volcker got control of inflation. Then, interest rates could fall for the next 20 years. Cheaper, more abundant credit had the usual effect; cautiously at first…then recklessly…people threw money around. The U.S. economy boomed. Stocks rose 12 times – so much that people sold their gold to get in on it. Even the central banks sold gold. The yellow metal was out of fashion.

Lately – say, for the last seven years – gold, too, has been making a comeback. It’s come back almost all the way to where it was in January…when Ronald Reagan first took the presidential oath.

Now what? What will it be? Another ‘golden era’ when the Clintons come back? A final, inflationary blowout bubble in the world’s markets? Or the comeback of tougher times…like the stagflation of the pre-Volcker years?

The big question is probably this: can the Fed now save stocks, housing and the economy by destroying the dollar?

Gold is probably the answer to at least one of those questions.

“Once upon a time, governments didn’t do rescues. The great Robert Banks Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool in a prime ministerial speech to the House of Lords during the 1825 speculative bubble, said: ‘I wish it however to be clearly understood, that those who now engage in Joint-Stock Companies, or other enterprises, enter on those speculations at their peril and risk. I think it my duty to declare, that I never will advise the introduction of any bill for their relief; on the contrary, if such a measure is proposed, I will oppose it, and I hope that Parliament will resist any measure of the kind.'”

Times have changed. Now, central banks rescue everyone. Part of the reason for this is that they think they have gotten better at it. Another part of the reason is that people expect it of them. And finally, not doing rescues got a bad name during the Hoover administration.

We will leave it to practicing economists and people with nothing better to do to argue these points, we only wish to point out that the Fed is a strange rescuer. It is like a fireman who comes with a bucket of gasoline…or a St. Bernard that arrives at an avalanche with a barrel full of snow around his neck.

How can a central bank rescue an entire economy? Of course, it can’t really. It can only make credit more or less easy to come by. If, by some strange conjunction of things, lenders and borrowers were unable to get together, maybe the Fed could help. But what can it do when an economy has had TOO MUCH credit? All it could possibly do is what Paul Volcker did – that is, not a rescue, but a burial. Anything else is a sham…just making things worse by introducing even more credit.

And much of the rescue attempts have more to do with the psychology of the markets than anything else. People see that the Fed is willing to bail out the economy, and poof! Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like such a big, bad world after all. Maybe it’s OK to go out to dinner…buy more gee-gaws and gadgets at Wal-Mart – all on the trusty credit card, of course.

Ah, then the rose-colored glasses are put firmly into place…the printing presses are a’whirling…and your money can’t buy as much as it used to.

This is why Dan Amoss is offering seven of the safest investment opportunities that may be the only protection you can count on for your money.

Each wealth-protection investment is a shield against the collapsing value of your dollar bills, as Washington prints up more of the worthless greenbacks to cover their lies and keep our borrow-and-spend economy afloat.

A note from a Dear Reader:

“Is it correct to assume that the raise of the oil price – from $20 to $80 in two years – saves the U.S. dollar from further depreciation? I assume this because more then 75% of the oil traded outside the United States is paid in U.S. dollars. So to pay for oil, you need U.S. currency.

“Because the oil price quadrupled in the last two years, it takes four times more U.S. dollars to pay for oil outside the United States; and for a foreigner to obtain U.S. dollars, they need to exchange their native currency, thus creating demand for the U.S. dollar.

“On the contrary, if oil dropped to $20 a barrel, wouldn’t that cause enormous downward pressure on the value of the U.S. dollar?”

We have never understood the argument. If oil is priced in dollars, so goes the point, then oil consumers need dollars to buy it…and demand for dollars goes up. But transactions now only take a few seconds. It is not as if oil buyers need to show up with suitcases full of $100 bills. One account is debited. Another is credited. The credited account can then be put into dollars…pounds…or whatever. It all happens electronically – at the speed of light – 186,000 miles per second. It is not the currency in which oil is priced that counts…it’s the currency that people want to hold when the transaction is completed that really matters.

Of course, oil at $20 a barrel would be a big change…it would probably mean that the world economy had entered a major depression. By definition, dollars – which would buy four times as much oil as they do today – would be much more valuable.

“You can’t say Argentina is not a democratic country,” says Paolo Pecora. “Here, even the dead get to vote.”

That’s the trouble with democracy, we remember remarking…it’s a tyranny of the living; the dead don’t get a say in things. All their wisdom…all their experience…all their suffering is lost. But now Argentina is doing something to correct this problem.

“There are one of two possibilities,” reports La Nacion from Buenos Aires, “either the official electoral census is mistaken…or there are more than 7,000 Argentines who are ready to claim the Guinness Record for longevity.”

“According to the official records, in 2001, there were only 374 centenarians in the entire country. Now, there are said to be 26,290 of them. At least, that is how many people more than 100 years old are cleared to vote…with 7,000 of them are more than 112 years old, the age of Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, the world’s oldest man.”

We don’t know, of course. Maybe there is something about the beef and wine that keeps Argentines alive. Or maybe these people are already dead; they are just being kept on the voting rolls so they can support the government’s candidates in the presidential election that will take place in a couple weeks.

Until tomorrow,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning