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The Economic Crisis of 2008 Did Not End, It Has Been in Remission

The Economic Crisis of 2008 Did Not End, It Has Been in Remission

There have been many articles appearing in recent months suggesting that the economy might go into a recession within the next year. Many have focused on whether the Federal Reserve should cut interest rates to stop this from happening. There also has been a lot of speculation as to the effect that an economic downturn will have on the 2020 Presidential elections. I have not seen anyone talk about how today’s high stock prices will likely cause an economic collapse.

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There have been numerous suggestions coming at things from the opposite direction, making the case that a recession will likely cause stock prices to fall hard. But I view that way of thinking about things as a holdover from the Buy-and-Hold Era. If stock price changes are caused by rational assessments of economic developments, it would make sense that economic bad times would cause stock prices to fall. But I believe that Shiller’s research showing that valuations affect long-term returns is legitimate research. If that is so, then high stock prices are caused by irrational exuberance and the inevitable disappearance of irrational exuberance causes trillions of dollars of consumer spending power to leave the economy, causing a contraction.

If that’s the way things work, the economic crisis of 2008 never came to an end. Employment numbers improved and businesses stopped going under. So, in a surface sense, economic conditions certainly improved. But the economic numbers improved only when CAPE levels returned to the dangerous levels that applied prior to the onset of the crisis. We pumped up stock prices to make people less fearful of spending but at the cost of insuring that a follow-up price crash would be coming in not too long a time.

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Underestimating Them & Overestimating Us

UNDERESTIMATING THEM & OVERESTIMATING US

“Do not underestimate the ‘power of underestimation’. They can’t stop you, if they don’t see you coming.” ― Izey Victoria Odiase

Image result for bernanke, yellen, powell

During the summer of 2008 I was writing articles a few times per week predicting an economic catastrophe and a banking crisis. When the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression swept across the world, resulting in double digit unemployment, a 50% stock market crash in a matter of months, millions of home foreclosures, and the virtual insolvency of the criminal Wall Street banks, my predictions were vindicated. I was pretty smug and sure the start of this Fourth Turning would follow the path of the last Crisis, with a Greater Depression, economic disaster and war.

In the summer of 2008, the national debt stood at $9.4 trillion, which amounted to 65% of GDP. Total credit market debt peaked at $54 trillion. Consumer debt peaked at $2.7 trillion. Mortgage debt crested at $14.8 trillion. The Federal Reserve balance sheet had been static at or below $900 billion for years.

During 2007, a risk averse senior citizen couple (my parents) who had accumulated $200,000 of retirement savings over their lifetime of hard work, could generate $10,000 of interest income in a Vanguard money market fund yielding 5%. This supplemented their modest Social Security income of $20,000 to $30,000 per year. The interest rate on savings during normal economic times was generally 2% above inflation, which hovered around 3% in 2007 according to the data manipulators at the BLS.

As the summer of 2008 progressed, I felt more disconnected. I had been doing everything possible to support Ron Paul’s candidacy for president, but the masses weren’t ready for the truth or the reality of our situation. In my opinion the country was already off-course and headed towards a debt created disaster. 

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Bubble-Watcher, Bob Shiller Warns “We’re Primed To Repeat 2008” As Housing Momentum Slows

The US housing market is anything but healthy and even most bullish of realtors (especially since “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”) is admitting that all is not well.

As interest rates have soared, US housing data has collapsed at a pace not seen since 2008…

Construction has slowed, sales have dropped, home prices have decelerated, and sentiment in the sector has deteriorated. The sharp underperformance of homebuilder stocks suggests that investors expect the sector to continue to struggle.

And, as famed housing-watcher Robert Shiller notes, the weakening housing market is similar to the last market high, just before the subprime housing bubble burst a decade ago.

The economist, who predicted the 2007-2008 crisis, told Yahoo Finance that current data shows “a sign of weakness.”

“This is a sign of weakness that we’re starting to see. And it reminds me of 2006 … Or 2005 maybe,”

Housing pivots take more time than those in the stock market, Shiller said, adding that:

“the housing market does have a momentum component and we’re seeing a clipping of momentum at this time.”

The Nobel Laureate explained:

 If the markets go down, it could bring on another recession. The housing market has been an important element of economic activity. If people start to get pessimistic about housing and pull back and don’t want to buy, there will be a drop in construction jobs and that could be a seed for another recession.”

When reminded that 2006 predated the greatest financial crisis in a lifetime, RT notes that Shiller acknowledged that any correction would likely be far less severe.

“The drop in home prices in the financial crisis was the most severe drop in the US market since my data begin in 1890,” the Yale economist said.

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Global Banking Stocks Are Crashing Hard – Just Like They Did In 2008

Global Banking Stocks Are Crashing Hard – Just Like They Did In 2008

Global stocks are falling precipitously once again, and banking stocks are leading the way.  If this reminds you of 2008, it should, because that is precisely what we witnessed back then.  Banking stocks collapsed as fear gripped the marketplace, and ultimately many large global banks had to be bailed out either directly or indirectly by their national governments as they failed one after another.  The health of the banking system is absolutely paramount, because the flow of money is our economic lifeblood.  When the flow of money tightens up during a credit crunch, the consequences can be rapid and dramatic just like we witnessed in 2008.

So let’s keep a very close eye on banking stocks.  Global systemically important bank stocks surged in the aftermath of Trump’s victory in 2016, but now they are absolutely plunging.  They are now down a whopping 27 percent from the peak, and that puts them solidly in bear market territory.

U.S. banking stocks are not officially in bear market territory yet, but they are getting close.  At this point, they are now down 17 percent from the peak…

Monday early afternoon, the US KBW Bank index, which tracks large US banks and serves as a benchmark for the banking sector, is down 2.5% at the moment. It has dropped 17% from its post-Financial Crisis high on January 29.

Of course European banking stocks are doing much worse.  Right now they are down 27 percent from the peak and 23 percent from a year ago.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

But unlike their American brethren, the European banks have remained stuck in the miserable Financial Crisis mire – a financial crisis that in Europe was followed by the Euro Debt Crisis. The Stoxx 600 bank index, which covers major European banks, including our hero Deutsche Bank, has plunged 27% since February 29, 2018, and is down 23% from a year ago

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Comparing Crises: 1929 with 2008 and the Next

Comparing Crises: 1929 with 2008 and the Next

The business and mainstream press this month, September 2018, has been publishing numerous accounts of the 2008 financial crash on its tenth anniversary. This month attention has been focused on the Lehman Brothers investment bank crash that accelerated the general financial system implosion in the US, and worldwide, ten years ago. Next month, October, we’ll no doubt hear more about the crash as it spread to the giant insurance company, AIG, and beyond that to other brokerages (Merrill Lynch), mid-sized banks (Washington Mutual), to the finance arms of the auto companies (GMAC) and big conglomerates (GE Credit), to the ‘too big to fail’ banks like Bank of America and Citigroup and beyond. These ‘reports’ are typically narrative in nature, however, and provide little in the way of deeper historical and theoretical analysis.

Parallels & Comparisons 1929 & 2008

It is often said that the initial months of the 2008-09 crash set the US economy on a trajectory of collapse eerily similar to that of 1929-30. Job losses were occurring at a rate of 1 million a month on average from October 2008 through March 2009. One might therefore think that mainstream economists would look closely at the two time periods—i.e. 1929-30 and 2008-09—to determine with patterns or similar causes were occurring. Or to a deep analysis of the periods immediately preceding 1929 and 2008 to see what similarities prevailed. But they haven’t.

What we got post-2009 from the economic establishment was a declaration simply that the 2008-09 crash was a ‘great recession’, and not a ‘normal’ recession as had been occurring from 1947 to 2007 in the US. But they provide no clarification quantitatively or qualitatively as to what distinguished a ‘great’ from ‘normal’ recession was provided. Paul Krugman coined the term, ‘great’, but then failed to explain how great was different than normal. It was somehow just worse than a normal recession and not as bad as a bonafide depression. But that’s just economic analysis by adverbs.

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Ten Years After the Crash, We Have Survived, But Have You Prospered?

Ten Years After the Crash, We Have Survived, But Have You Prospered?

The year is 2018 and we have survived.

Despite all the fear-mongering, all the pessimism, all the chaos, the markets are still here, and they are thriving.

This has blown away many, as their are countless experts in the precious metals community and the financial world at large, who believed that this house of cards would of long ago come crashing down long ago.

Sparks have flown through the air on an almost daily basis, threatening to set blaze to this bone dry kindling that we call a financial system. Yet, time and time again, the hose is turned on and the small embers are blasted out of existence through a torrent of fiat currency.

The financial “elites” have done what many thought would be impossible, and for that, you have to give them credit, well, at least in the short term.

Endless amounts of money printing may have helped paper over the problem, and arguably, it has, as ten years after the financial crisis of 2008, we are still standing, we are still here and the modern world is still ticking by with each passing day, regardless of how dysfunctional our current political system may be.

So why do people not feel it? Why do so many people still feel like there has been no recovery, and that they are still living through the 2008 crash that is now ten years in our past?

A recent report by Betterment highlights this point and showcases, that despite the market being up a stunning 200% since the market bottom, the majority of Americans are not aware of this, and in fact believe that the market is either flat, or has moved even lower than the 2008 crash.

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When Does This Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham Finally End?

When Does This Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham Finally End?

Credit bubbles are not engines of sustainable employment, they are only engines of malinvestment and wealth destruction on a grand scale.

We all know the Status Quo’s response to the global financial meltdown of 2008 has been a travesty of a mockery of a sham–smoke and mirrors, flimsy facades of “recovery,” simulacrum “reforms,” serial bubble-blowing and politically expedient can-kicking, all based on borrowing and printing trillions of dollars, yen, euros and yuan, quatloos, etc.

So when will the travesty of a mockery of a sham finally come to an end? Probably around 2022-25, with a few global crises and “saves” along the way to break up the monotony of devolution. The foundation of this forecast is this chart I prepared back in 2008 (below).

This is of course only a selection of cycles; many more may be active but these four give us a flavor of the confluence of crises ahead.

Cycles are not laws of Nature, of course; they are only records of previous periods of growth/excess/depletion/collapse, not predictions per se. Nonetheless their repetition reflects the systemic dynamic of growth, crisis and collapse, and so the study of cycles is instructive even though we stipulate they are not predictive.

What is predictable is the way systems tend to follow an S-curve of rapid growth with then tops out in excess, stagnates in depletion and then devolves or implodes. We can see all sorts of things topping out and entering depletion/collapse: financialization, the Savior State, Chinese credit expansion, oil production, student loan debt and so on.

Since each mechanism that burns out or implodes tends to be replaced with some other mechanism, this creates the recurring cycle of expansion / excess / depletion / collapse.

I plotted four long-wave cycles in the first chart:

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Happy Anniversary

“They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”
  • Attributed to Talleyrand.

Since everybody else in financial media has been indulging in an orgy of self-reflection, selective recollection and brazen virtue-signalling on the back of the 10 year anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy in September 2008, and in steadfast keeping with our principle of ‘no bandwagon left unridden’, we reproduce below, word for word, our commentary first published on 1st October 2008. A brief update then follows..

Armageddon outta here !

“Last night, Mr Brown made it clear he was ready to increase the level at which savers’ deposits were guaranteed from £35,000 to £50,000 but indicated he did not want to act until the markets had calmed.”

– From The Financial Times, 1st October 2008.

As part of my O-level history course back in the mid-1980s, I wrote an extended essay on the topic of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. My teacher made the useful suggestion of comparing the Hiroshima experience and related issues with those of the Dresden fire bombings earlier that fateful year. Even now I’m not sure whether either action could be easily or wholeheartedly justified and as a non-combatant (and non-civilian, for that matter) of the time in question, it still seems somewhat presumptuous even to try. What I do recall is that I concluded my study with the words of historian A.J.P. Taylor:

“War suspends morality.”

I recall these words because I am now reminded of advice given me a year ago when the crumbling of the credit markets first became manifest to a financially less literate world. While I was personally wrestling mentally with the moral hazard issues surrounding banking bailouts and the like, a South African fund manager friend made the following pertinent observation: in a shooting war, don’t waste time scrupling over moral hazard – the objective is survival.

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What Keeps Them Up At Night

WHAT KEEPS THEM UP AT NIGHT

“Government has coddled, accepted, and ignored white collar crime for too long. It is time the nation woke up and realized that it’s not the armed robbers or drug dealers who cause the most economic harm, it’s the white collar criminals living in the most expensive homes who have the most impressive resumes who harm us the most. They steal our pensions, bankrupt our companies, and destroy thousands of jobs, ruining countless lives.” – Harry Markopolos, Madoff Whistleblower

Image result for bank ceos in front of congress

The tenth anniversary of the Wall Street created financial catastrophe brought back some bittersweet memories this week. I wrote my first articles during the summer/fall of 2008 for Seeking Alpha. They included: Is The U.S Banking System Safe? (Aug 2008), The Great Consumer Crash of 2009 (Aug 2008), Looming Financial Catastrophe: A Real Inconvenient Truth (Aug 2008), Is Wachovia the Worst Run Bank in America (Sept 2008), The U.S. on the Precipice (Sept 2008), On Board the U.S.S. Titanic (Sept 2008), Our Coming Depression (Oct 2008), among others. I was pumping out 5,000 word articles every 2 or 3 days.

I was full of piss and vinegar. I was outraged by the actions taken by Paulson, Bernanke and Bush in bailing out criminal bankers with our money. This ensemble of accurate and acerbic articles led to requests for appearances on Glenn Beck’s CNN show, Neil Cavuto’s show, and several others. My need for my day job led me to turning down the invitations. I did several radio interviews, but kept a relatively low profile.

Ten years later, I’m running low on piss and vinegar. Irrationality reigns. Abnormal is the new normal. Delusions and new paradigms rule the day. During manias it is virtually useless to try and use facts and rational arguments against propaganda, misinformation and hype. The delusional will have to be clubbed like a baby seal once again to regain some sense of reality.

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The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessa

The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary

Photo Source Xavier | CC BY 2.0

This week marked 10 years since the harrowing descent into the financial crisis — when the huge investment bank Lehman Bros. went into bankruptcy, with the country’s largest insurer, AIG, about to follow. No one was sure which financial institution might be next to fall.

The banking system started to freeze up. Banks typically extend short-term credit to one another for a few hundredths of a percentage point more than the cost of borrowing from the federal government. This gap exploded to 4 or 5 percentage points after Lehman collapsed. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke — along with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner — rushed to Congress to get $700 billion to bail out the banks. “If we don’t do this today we won’t have an economy on Monday,” is the line famously attributed to Bernanke.

The trio argued to lawmakers that without the bailout, the United States faced a catastrophic collapse of the financial system and a second Great Depression.

Neither part of that story was true.

Still, news reports on the crisis raised the prospect of empty ATMs and checks uncashed. There were stories in major media outlets about the bank runs of 1929.

No such scenario was in the cards in 2008. Unlike 1929, we have the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC was created precisely to prevent the sort of bank runs that were common during the Great Depression and earlier financial panics. The FDIC is very good at taking over a failed bank to ensure that checks are honored and ATMs keep working. In fact, the FDIC took over several major banks and many minor ones during the Great Recession. Business carried on as normal and most customers — unless they were following the news closely — remained unaware.

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Weekly Commentary: Approaching the 10-year Anniversary

Weekly Commentary: Approaching the 10-year Anniversary

We’re rapidly Approaching the 10-year Anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. Exactly one decade ago to the day (September 7, 2008), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into government receivership. And for at least a decade, there has been nothing more than talk of reforming the government-sponsored-enterprises.
It’s worth noting that total GSE (MBS and debt) Securities ended Q3 2008 at $8.070 TN, having about doubled from year 2000. The government agencies were integral to the mortgage finance Bubble – fundamental to liquidity excess, pricing distortions (finance and housing), general financial market misperceptions and the misallocation of resources. GSE Securities did contract post-crisis, reaching a low of $7.544 TN during Q1 2012. Since then, with crisis memories fading and new priorities appearing, GSE Securities expanded $1.341 TN to a record $8.874 TN. Of that growth, $970 billion has come during the past three years, as financial markets boomed and the economy gathered momentum. A lesson not learned.Scores of lessons from the crisis went unheeded. The Financial Times’ Gillian Tett was the star journalist from the mortgage finance Bubble period. I read with keen interest her piece this week, “Five Surprising Outcomes of the Financial Crisis – We Learnt the Dangers Posed by ‘Too Big to Fail’ Banks but Now They Are Even bigger.”

Tett’s article is worthy of extended excerpts: “What are these surprises? Start with the issue of debt. Ten years ago, investors and financial institutions re-learnt the hard way that excess leverage can be dangerous. So it seemed natural to think that debt would decline, as chastened lenders and borrowers ran scared. Not so. The American mortgage market did experience deleveraging. So did the bank and hedge fund sectors. But overall global debt has surged: last year it was 217% of gross domestic product, nearly 40 percentage points higher – not lower – than 2007.”

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10 Years Later–No Lessons Learned

10 YEARS LATER – NO LESSONS LEARNED

“A variety of investors provided capital to financial companies, with which they made irresponsible loans and took excessive risks. These activities resulted in real losses, which have largely wiped out the shareholder equity of the companies. But behind that shareholder equity is bondholder money, and so much of it that neither depositors of the institution nor the public ever need to take a penny of losses. Citigroup, for example, has $2 trillion in assets, but also has $600 billion owed to its own bondholders. From an ethical perspective, the lenders who took the risk to finance the activities of these companies are the ones that should directly bear the cost of the losses.”John Hussman – May 2009

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Wall Street/Fed/Treasury created financial disaster of 2008/2009. What should have happened was an orderly liquidation of the criminal Wall Street banks who committed the greatest control fraud in world history and the disposition of their good assets to non-criminal banks who did not recklessly leverage their assets by 30 to 1, while fraudulently issuing worthless loans to deadbeats and criminals. But we know that did not happen.

You, the taxpayer, bailed the criminal bankers out and have been screwed for the last decade with negative real interest rates and stagnant real wages, while the Wall Street scum have raked in risk free billions in profits provided by their captured puppets at the Federal Reserve. The criminal CEOs and their executive teams of henchmen have rewarded themselves with billions in bonuses while risk averse grandmas “earn” .10% on their money market accounts while acquiring a taste for Fancy Feast savory salmon cat food.

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Carmot Capital: “The Next Crisis Won’t Be A Flash Crash; It Will Be A Flash Flood”

THE STRAIGHT FLUSH CRASH

AN ILLUSION OF SIMPLICITY, AN ENTANGLEMENT OF COMPLEXITY

Lately, there has been talk of so-called “elevated” markets. Equity markets, real estate markets and bond markets are indeed reaching new highs regularly. But how long will this last? Can it last indefinitely? Or as is often said, “It’s different this time,”; is it really? We posit that it is not different this time. In fact, there are very real parallels that should concern every investor. What could catalyze the next global financial crisis (“GFC II”)? We suggest that it won’t be a “Flash Crash.” Instead it will be a flash flood that could be caused by very real systemic risk. In other words, the system will flush itself of the market detritus accumulated over the last 8-9 years. We are calling it The Straight Flush Crash. This paper will explain why.

For anyone that has studied the sequence of events leading up to the Global Financial Crisis (“GFC”) of 2008-09, it would not be hard to put together the shape of the new crisis. The first GFC began with the New Century Financial bankruptcy that caused the first market hiccup on February 27, 2007 (when the VIX indicator jumped a record 60% in one day) and escalated to Bear Stearns, to Lehman Brothers, then to the whole GFC debacle. In our opinion, the market blip on August 24, 2015 (affectionately known as the ETF Flash Crash) was the first indication of the shape of things to come. During each crisis, a flashpoint has ignited the existing structure, which then toppled and in turn caused enormous losses for investors. For example, in the GFC of 2008-09, subprime lending was a small fraction of lending which ignited the whole structured finance pyramid and caused the liquidity crisis that bankrupted multiple banks.

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It’s Looking A Lot Like 2008 Now…

It’s Looking A Lot Like 2008 Now…

Did today’s market plunge mark the start of the next crash?

Economic and market conditions are eerily like they were in late 2007/early 2008.

Remember back then? Everything was going great.

Home prices were soaring. Jobs were plentiful.

The great cultural marketing machine was busy proclaiming that a new era of permanent prosperity had dawned, thanks to the steady leadership of Alan Greenspan and later Ben Bernanke.

And only a small cadre of cranks, like me, was singing a different tune; warning instead that a painful reckoning in our financial system was approaching fast.

It’s fitting that I’m writing this on Groundhog Day, as to these veteran eyes, it sure has been looking a lot like late 2007/early 2008 lately…

The Fed’s ‘Reign Of Error’

Of course, the Great Financial Crisis arrived in late 2008, proving that the public’s faith in central bankers had been badly misplaced.

In reality, all Ben Bernanke did was to drop interest rates to 1%. This provided an unprecedented incentive for investors and institutions to borrow, igniting a massive housing bubble as well as outsized equity and bond gains.

It’s worth taking a moment to understand the mechanism the Federal Reserve used back then to lower interest rates (it’s different today). It did so by flooding the banking system with enough “liquidity” (i.e. electronically printed digital currency units) until all the banks felt comfortable lending or borrowing from each other at an average rate of 1%.

The knock-on effect of flooding the US banking system (and, really, the entire world) in this way created an echo bubble to replace the one created earlier during Alan Greenspan’s tenure (known as the Dot-Com Bubble, though ‘Sweep Account’ Bubble is more accurate in my opinion):

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WORLD’S LARGEST OIL COMPANIES: Deep Trouble As Profits Vaporize While Debts Skyrocket

WORLD’S LARGEST OIL COMPANIES: Deep Trouble As Profits Vaporize While Debts Skyrocket

The world’s largest oil companies are in serious trouble as their balance sheets deteriorate from higher costs, falling profits and skyrocketing debt.  The glory days of the highly profitable global oil companies have come to an end.  All that remains now is a mere shadow of the once mighty oil industry that will be forced to continue cannibalizing itself to produce the last bit of valuable oil.

I realize my extremely unfavorable opinion of the world’s oil industry runs counter to many mainstream energy analysts, however, their belief that business, as usual, will continue for decades, is entirely unfounded.  Why?  Because, they do not understand the ramifications of the Falling EROI – Energy Returned On Invested, and its impact on the global economy.

For example, Chevron was able to make considerable profits in 1997 when the oil price was $19 a barrel.  However, the company suffered a loss in 2016 when the price was more than double at $44 last year.  And, it’s even worse than that if we compare the company’s profit to total revenues.  Chevron enjoyed a $3.2 billion net income profit on revenues of $42 billion in 1997 versus a $497 million loss on total sales of $114 billion in 2016.  Even though Chevron’s revenues nearly tripled in twenty years, its profit was decimated by the falling EROI.

Unfortunately, energy analysts, who are clueless to the amount of destruction taking place in the U.S. and global oil industry by the falling EROI, continue to mislead a public that is totally unprepared for what is coming.  To provide a more realistic view of the disintegrating energy industry, I will provide data from seven of the largest oil companies in the world.

The World’s Major Oil Companies Debt Explode Since The 2008 Financial Crisis

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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