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Art Berman: Houston, We Have A Problem

Art Berman: Houston, We Have A Problem

The surplus energy that powers the world is declining

Every week in our Off The Cuff Series, we interview expert minds on the premium side of PeakProsperity.com. These discussions are unscripted and informal, where my partner Chris Martenson and his guest react to recent macro developments and predict the likeliest repercussions.

Every once in while, when we have an exceptionally timely conversation, we’ll make it available to the public. And we’re doing that this week.

Chris caught petroleum geologist Art Berman right before he went on stage to deliver a presentation on the limitations of shale oil (his excellent slides can be found here). The world is finally starting to realize that the profit-making potential of this space was drastically over-hyped.

But more important, warns Art, is that the souring sentiment on shale oil is a reflection on the bigger challenge ahead of us: How we will power the world in a future of declining net energy?

When we reflect upon the material progress of humankind over the hundred and fifty years, it seems very clear to me that much, if not most, of it happened because humankind moved basically from wood to coal to oil/natural gas. To increasingly more dense sources of energy.

And the result is that we get a whole lot more work out of whatever energy we expend. Less and less of that is done by manual labor.

Everything works to live. Look at the African savanna: it’s all about energy. The animals spend all day long getting food one way or another.  That’s the way life on earth works.

But not so much for us, because we’re fortunate — we humans have all this fossil energy at our disposal. You and I can sit and chat on Skype here without having to do very much.

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

The Phantom Mania

The Phantom Mania

There’s nothing of substance underlying the current market melt-up

Well, stocks are back at all-time highs. Ignited by the Fed’s “Not-QE” program and endless Trump administration teases of an “imminent” China deal, the S&P 500 has been propelled above its upward Bollinger band — a hyperextension only seen one other time since 2007:

Every week since Not-QE was announced has seen the S&P close green (this week finally ending the streak, barely). We’re officially in a melt-up, where both good news and bad news are accepted as valid reasons to push stocks even higher.

But what’s notable about this melt-up is that it’s missing a compelling narrative. Every past asset price mania required a feel-good mantra that convinced the masses “This time is different!”.

The South Sea bubble promised access to the untapped riches of the vast Asian sub-continent. Dotcom companies were going to unlock tremendous value previously trapped by the inefficiency of the old analog way of doing business. In 2017, Bitcoin looked like it just might replace fiat currencies overnight.

During the price melt-ups accompanying each of these manias, the public fell for the siren song of a radically better future, available RIGHT NOW if you just jump on the party train before it’s too late.

But today? What’s the radically better future being promised? Where’s the party train headed to?

A Parade Of Horribles

As best I can tell, it seems the rationale (I’m using that term very generously) for the current market melt-up is that:

  1. The Fed is backstopping the market again
  2. A trade deal with China is going to happen, likely soon

Let’s dig into each of these. But before we do, let’s be clear that neither of these promises a “radically better” future.

The Fed, and its central bank brethren around the globe, have been backstopping the market for the past decade. There’s really nothing new in that.

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

Should You Relocate To A More Resilient Area?

Should You Relocate To A More Resilient Area?

 What factors to look for when considering relocating

Likely a symptom of growing social unease, we’re seeing a surge in interest amongst our readership in relocation.

Many are folks living in urban and suburban areas worried that local resources and/or rule of law will not hold up well during a serious economic crisis, civil disorder or natural disaster.

Others have watched Peak Prosperity readers successfully transition to more resilient destinations or even build their own self-sufficient homesteads.

Specifically, we’re seeing a hunger for guidance on the key factors to assess when asking:

  • How resilient is my current location?
  • Should I relocate?
  • If so, where to? And what criteria should I prioritize in making my decision?

Several years ago, we recorded an interview with SurvivalBlog founder and former US Army intelligence officer James Wesley Rawles addressing these exact questions.

It remains one of the best discussions we know of on the topic of relocation, and it’s this week’s recommended listening for anyone wondering if a fresh start in an area with better natural and community resources might be one of the single best ways to improve their future prospects:

(Full transcript available here)

For those motivated to action by this podcast, Peak Prosperity is now offering Consultations specifically-designed to help you think through & execute on the relocation process. 

Given your specific situation, does it make sense? Given your unique goals and needs, what requirements matter most when targeting communities and properties? How should you be structuring your search efforts?

As an output of the planned cohousing project he’s leading, Chris is now exceptionally knowledgeable on both the strategic and tactical realities of intentionally relocating to an area richer in resilience.

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

Grant Williams: A Reset Of The System Is Inevitable

Grant Williams: A Reset Of The System Is Inevitable

We need to clear the malinvestment that never got addressed during the GF

While at the New Orleans Investment Conference this past weekend, Chris and I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Grant Williams, publisher of the economic blog Things That Make You Go Hmmm and principal of Real Vision TV.

There will be no smooth transition back to sustained economic growth, he warns

Instead, the distortion of today’s excessive asset prices will require a systemic reset to fix. Either by a deflationary event that destroys the malinvestment, or by an inflationary event that destroys the currency.

Either way, a shock to the system awaits us:

When the 2008 crisis hit, we were “at the brink”. Guys like Jamie Dimon will tell you that we were *this* close to the banking system not functioning, people being unable to get cash out of the ATMs.

If you live in Cyprus, if you live in Greece, you’ve seen this movie play out in real-time over the last few years. You’ve had your savings confiscated by the government or a bail-in.

It may not happen here in the US until the very end, but to say “it couldn’t happen here” is clearly wrong. There’s nothing that says the United States is exempt from the laws of finance and thousands of years of historical precedent. Even though it happens to be in the ascendancy globally at the moment, those things change.

Ask Portugal who used to be the holders of the world’s reserve currency centuries ago. Today they’re just one part of the euro. These things ebb and flow. They rise and fall.

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

Essential Bug-Out Resources

Essential Bug-Out Resources

Solutions that have proved surprisingly essential during California’s wildfires

In my post yesterday Survival Learnings From A California Fire Evacuee, I promised to share the specific resources that have proved especially valuable during my family’s emergency evacuation due to the Kincade fire. So I’d better get to it…

Gas & Cash

Having now been surprised by two massive fires within the past two years, in both instances, the preparation I was most immediately grateful for — hands down — was having sufficient on-property stores of gasoline and cash.

The moment your community realizes that flight may be necessary, forget going to the gas station. In my area, the lines were 20+ cars deep.

Waiting in those kind of lines (when there’s no guarantee there will be gas left when your turn finally comes) can easily cause you to miss your window of safety. As I mentioned yesterday, my friends who tried to evacuate just 45 minutes after I did eventually had to turn back home because the roads out of town had become hopelessly gridlocked.

So get in the habit of keeping your cars’ fuel tanks topped off, especially during times of seasonal risk (fire season, hurricane season, flood season, etc). Make it a point never to return home with the gauge below half-full.

Also, keep at least a tank’s-worth of gasoline stored on your property. In my case, I have four 5-gallon gas cans. This ensures I can get to safety even if I’ve forgotten to keep the car tank full. And if I’ve remembered, I can throw the cans in the car for an extra 300+ miles of range.

Similarly, once the electricity goes out, the ATMs stop working. Having $500-$3,000 of emergency cash on hand to take with you makes a huge difference.

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

The Future Of Better FarmingSustainable practices + smart technology = thriving soils

The Future Of Better FarmingSustainable practices + smart technology = thriving soils

While it’s *soooo* tempting to write about the stomach-churning drop/spike/dive thrill ride the financial markets have embarked on after this week’s Federal Reserve rate cut, I will resist and instead direct your attention to a topic much more important to our future.

Here at PeakProsperity.com, we’ve long warned about the dangers of inflation and of devaluation of the purchasing power of fiat currency over time. And the past decade has done nothing but validate our concerns, as the world’s central banks nearly quadrupled the money supply by printing roughly $14 Trillion out of thin air since 2008.

We’ve long encouraged investors both big and small to invest in tangible wealth (aka “hard assets”). These are assets that have intrinsic value that can’t be inflated away to nothing by a runaway printing press.

One of most desirable forms of tangible wealth is productive farmland. No matter what happens to the dollar, the Euro, the yen, or the yuan, people will always need to eat; and will trade cash, goods, services or labor for the farmer’s output.

But farmland, especially quality farmland, isn’t easy to own.

Not many folks can realistically purchase a farm. Few have the (substantial) capital to buy one, and way fewer have the expertise, energy and temperament to manage and operate one.

There aren’t many other options for investors besides purchasing shares of the publicly traded mega-producers.

But for those deeply troubled by the extractive and rapacious nature of most modern conventional farming practices — which are ruining our priceless topsoils, depleting aquifers, killing off the insects, creating toxic algal blooms and dead zones in our rivers and oceans, and producing unhealthy foods, to boot — how can you avoid supporting the evils of Big Ag?

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

We’ve Arrived At The End Of The Road

We’ve Arrived At The End Of The Road

Decades of central bank intervention have left us with an unavoidable insolvency crisis

When Richard Nixon closed the gold window in August 1971, fully severing the US dollar from its gold standard, the Federal Reserve and other world central banks found themselves liberated. No longer was their ability to provide liquidity constrained by the physical limitations of the gold supply.

The Fed started intervening more and more during times of slowing growth to goose the economy back to vigor. Cheered and further egged on by politicians happy for easy solutions and desperate to avoid having to make tough calls, central banks have been increasingly willing to provide liquidity in good times and bad.

Akin to removing the limit on a teenager’s credit card, with access to so much cheap money, the US went on a debt bender. One that has lasted for nearly half a century:

FRED chart Total Us Debt Outstanding

Here we stand today with the national debt at over $22 trillion, total US debt outstanding of $70 trillion (shown in the above chart), and unfunded national liabilities of over $200 trillion. And we add to this every year with an annual deficit now exceeding $1 trillion.

This gigantic accretion of debt will never be repaid. And as the pile grows higher, the burden of servicing it — even at today’s historically low interest rates — is placing an increasingly heavy drag on economic growth.

To date, the central banks have gotten away with their easy money policies because they could. The day of reckoning could always be pushed further out via a fresh round of liquidity. But, as Brien Lundin says in the video below, the reckoning is “no longer simply inevitable, it is imminent. We are reaching the End of the Road.”

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

Bizarro World: The Herd Has Truly Gone MadYou’re not crazy. The world we now live in is

Bizarro World: The Herd Has Truly Gone MadYou’re not crazy. The world we now live in is

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

~ Charles Mackay (1841)

Like me, you may often feel gobsmacked when looking at the world around you.

How did things get so screwed up?

The simple summary is: the world has gone mad.

It’s not the first time.

History is peppered with periods when the minds of men (and women) deviated far from the common good. The Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the rise of the Third Reich, Stalin’s Great Purge, McCarthy’s Red Scares — to name just a few.

Like it or not, we are now living during a similar era of self-destructive mass delusion. When the majority is pursuing — even cheering on — behaviors that undermine its well-being. Except this time, the stakes are higher than ever; our species’ very existence is at risk.

Bizarro Economics

Evidence that the economy is sliding into recession continues to mount.

GDP is slowing. Earnings warnings issued by publicly-traded companies are at a 13-year high. The most reliable recession predictor of the past 50 years, an inverted US Treasury curve, has been in place for the past quarter.

Yet the major stock indices hit all-time highs earlier this week. And every one of the 38 assets in the broad-based asset basket tracked by Deutsche Bank was up for the month of June — something that has never happened in the 150 years prior to 2019.

It has become all-too clear that markets today are no longer driven by business fundamentals. Only central bank-provided liquidity matters. As long as the flood of cheap credit continues to flow (via rock-bottom/negative interest rates and purchase programs), keeping cash-destroying companies alive and enabling record share buybacks, all boats will rise.

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

Somebody’ Finally Cares About Gold

Somebody’ Finally Cares About Gold

Grant Williams pithily summed up the situation that has been plaguing gold since 2013: Nobody Cares.

Yes, it’s highly likely that the price has been suppressed. But not enough buyers cared to fight the bullion bank/central bank cartel or make life difficult enough for the politicians — and thus, the regulators — to change things.

So gold languished. For years.

But last August, gold quietly entered a bull market after breaking above $1200.

As the price began rising (for both fundamental & technical reasons), we’ve been tracking its progress closely.  We do so on a daily basis via Peak Prosperity’s Precious Metals Daily Commentary updates (outstandingly authored by user davefairtex), as key developments happened via our premium reports (like this prediction), and via expert interviews such as our recent in-depth discussions with TFMetals and Incrementum’s Ronni Stoeferle.

As we entered 2019, the increasingly dovish/desperate policy retracements of the central banks — which now appear will NEVER normalize their balance sheets — have boosted the bull run.

Lower real interest rates are gold price-positive. And not only are real rates falling right now, there’s alreadycurrently $12 trillion in negative *nominal* debt trading worldwide right now:

Negative-yielding debt hits new record (Bloomberg)

And based on this week’s further dovish announcements from both the Fed and the ECB, we can expect more $trillions to be added to that pile soon.

On Tuesday, Mario Draghi apparently went rogue on his fellow policymakers and launched into a swan song version of his all-time hit “Whatever it takes”. The next day, Jerome Powell at the Fed confirmed his willingness to ease and let the market know he stands ready to cut rates multiple times over the next year.

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

Pain Is Inevitable; But Suffering Is Optional

Pain Is Inevitable; But Suffering Is Optional

How to avoid becoming collateral damage in the coming crash.

Sometimes you really do find enlightenment at the top of the mountain.

I spent this week hiking in Montana’s Bitterroot mountain range, as a participant in the pilot run of a new personal-growth-through-adventure-travel startup.

In our group was a famous professional cyclist, who had been a superstar on the Tour de France for many years.

He has a fascinating life story, both on and off the bike. His tales of the super-human efforts required to prevail at the most elite level of this punishing sport are mind-blowing.

The relentless and gruelling training covering thousands and thousands of kilometers. The near-starvation state cyclists exist in to maximize their power-to-weight ratio. Endless travel. Horrific crash injuries. Sponsor pressures. The money and politics driving the sport. Overbearing regulators. Cut-throat teammates. And of course, the pervasive doping.

When we asked him how he managed to persevere at the top of such a demanding sport for so long, despite the huge toll it took on his health and his marriage, he thought for a moment then said: “I suppose I’m just really good at suffering”.

It’s clear that, in addition to some truly amazing experiences, his cycling days have left him with a legacy of damage that he’s still working through.

As he shared this with us, one participant wisely advised him to remember: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Yes, he’ll still need to deal with the aftereffects of his racing years. But it’s up to him how much power he wants to give them over his happiness and life path from here.

From Mountains To Markets

I’m struck by how relevant the above advice is to investors right now.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the end of the ten-year bull market has arrived.

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

The Bull(y) Rally

The Bull(y) Rally

Something unnatural is going on.

“A bully is always a coward.”~ Thomas Chandler Haliburton

The current market rally is like a playground bully; shoving to the ground anyone in its path.

But like all bullies, the braggadocio belies an underlying cowardice.

Those in charge of the status quo must be absolutely terrified to resort to the unnatural lengths they are going to right now to keep the current rally intact.

Unnatural Acts

In reaction to the brief market correction that occurred at the end of 2018, emergency measures were enacted to get stocks moving higher again.

Notably among the scramble to rescue the markets, the Fed pulled a very public and embarrassing policy U-turn, abandoning its short-lived program of planned interest rates hikes designed to start ‘normalizing’ its balance sheet after a decade of flooding the economy with stimulus. Quantitative Tightening, we hardly knew ya …(sniff)

In response to the efforts of the Plunge Protection Team, the Fed, its siblings in the global central banking cartel, the cheerleading media, and the Trump administration, the markets roared back strongly at the start of 2019. 

So strongly, in fact, that 2019 has seen the best start to the year for stocks EVER IN HISTORY.

At this point, the major indices have recouped all of their losses from their December lows and are now back touching their all-time highs.

So…mission accomplished, right? Surely the financial swat team deployed at beginning of the year can stand down and go celebrate over a few well-deserved brewskis?

Not if you’re watching closely. In fact, the efforts to prop up stocks continue to become more frequent, more overt, and more extreme.

Daily Fed Jawboning

As mentioned, the Fed has executed a complete 180-degree policy turnaround in light of the market’s feinting swoon last year. Suddenly, it can’t appear dovish enough:

Fed comments over past 6 months

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

Ted Siedle: The Greatest Retirement Crisis In The History Of The World

Ted Siedle: The Greatest Retirement Crisis In The History Of The World

The pension crisis is even worse than we imagine.

“We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. And that makes perfect sense because, first of all, we have the largest elderly population in the history of the world.

Just focusing on the United States: our elderly are woefully unprepared to retire. And in the decades to come we will witness millions of elderly American’s, Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. ‘Too frail to work, too poor to retire’ will become the new normal for many elderly Americans.”

So warns pension fraud whistleblower Ted Siedle.

Siedle’s firm, Benchmark Financial Services, Inc. has pioneered over $1 trillion in forensic investigations of the money management industry. He’s nationally recognized as an authority on pensions and investment management matters, having testified before the Senate Banking Committee regarding fund scandals and is an expert in various Madoff-related and other litigations.

In 2017, he secured the largest SEC whistleblower award in history of $48 million, and in 2018, the largest CFTC award in history at $30 million. 

Siedel rings a loud warning bell regarding the solvency of today’s public pension system. Specifically, his investigations show that most of them:

  • Are much too under-funded to meet their future payout obligations (e.g., Kentucky’s state pension plan is only 12% funded)
  • Are experiencing annual returns far below the required 7% average the plans assume in their forecasts
  • Have oversight boards making portfolio allocation decisions that are staffed by individuals with zero experience managing financial securities (e.g., policemen, kindergarten teachers)
  • Have little transparency. Many are rarely audited. And many have moved their capital off-shore without accounting for where it’s been moved to.

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

David Stockman: The Undrainable Swamp & The Inevitable Recession

David Stockman: The Undrainable Swamp & The Inevitable Recession

What the future of the post “Peak Trump” era holds.

Love it or hate it, the potency of the Trump Administration is on the wane, soon to be stuck in the mire of the Swamp it has deepend instead of drained, while the economy falls into one hell of a recession — so claims former Regan-era Cabinet member and Congressman David Stockman.

In his new book Peak Trump, Stockman notes how the wide divergence between Trump the campaigner and Trump the president appears to be proving to be his undoing.

Rather than fight to dismantle the institutions he railed against as a candidate — most notably the Deep State and the Federal Reserve — Trump has embraced them.

Now, when this latest asset bubble bursts (and Stockman believes the markets saw their peak back in Fall 2018), Trump will ‘own’ that. Having chosen to tie his administration’s success to the rising price of the S&P 500 since taking office, he won’t be able to foist the blame of a market crash on his predecessors.

Similarly, the Deep State — especially the military industrial complex — is experiencing a bonanza under the Trump administration. As a result, the Swamp is deeper than it has ever been:

I learned a long time ago as Budget Director and even before that as a member of Congress that the real deep end of the Washington swamp is on the Pentagon side of the Potomac. What Trump has done is basically taking a defense budget at $600 billion that was already swollen with waste and extending it far beyond anything you need for a homeland defense.

I have a whole section in the book about how a homeland of defense wouldn’t cost $600 billion that he inherited or now the $700 billion that we have. $720 billion actually, that after two huge Trump increases.

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

A Survival Guide For 2019

A Survival Guide For 2019

How to safely navigate the ‘Year Of Instability’ 

As the first month of the year concludes, it’s becoming clear that 2019 will be a very different kind of year.

The near-decade of ‘recovery’ following the Great Financial Crisis enjoyed a stability and tranquility that suddenly evaporated at the end of 2018.

Here in 2019, instability reigns.

The world’s central banks are absolutely panicking. After last year’s bursting of the Everything Bubble, their coordinated plans for Quantitative Tightening have been summarily thrown out the window. Suddenly, no chairman can prove himself too dovish.

Jerome Powell, the supposed hardliner among them, completely capitulated in the wake of the recent -15% tantrum in stocks, which, as Sven Henrich colorfully quipped, proved what we suspected all along:

The global tsunami of liquidity (i.e. thin-air money printing) released by the central banking cartel has been the defining trend of the past decade. It has driven, directly or indirectly, more world events than any other factor.

And one of its more notorious legacies is the massive disparity and wealth and income resulting from its favoring of the top 0.1% over everyone else. The mega-rich have seen their assets skyrocket in value, while the masses have been mercilessly squeezed between similarly rising costs of living and stagnant wages.

How have the tone-deaf politicians responded? With tax breaks for their Establishment masters and new taxes imposed on the public. As a result, populist ire is catching fire in an accelerating number of countries, which the authorities are anxious to suppress by all means to prevent it from conflagrating further — most visibly demonstrated right now by the French government’s increasingly jack-booted attempts to quash the Yellow Vest protests:

Meanwhile, two other principal drivers of the past decade’s ‘prosperity’ are also suddenly in jeopardy.

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

Art Berman: Exposing The False Promise Of Shale Oil

Art Berman: Exposing The False Promise Of Shale Oil

Estimates of recoverable oil are proving wildly wrong
Art Berman, geological consultant with over 37 years experience in petroleum exploration and production, returns to the podcast this week to debunk much of the hopium currently surrounding America’s shale oil output.

Because the US is pinning huge hopes on its shale oil “revolution”, so much depends on that story being right. Here’s the narrative right now:

  • The US, is the new Saudi Arabia
  • It’s the swing producer when it comes to influencing the price of oil
  • The US will be able to increase oil production for decades to come
  • New technology is unlocking more oil shale supply all the time

But what if there’s evidence that runs counter to all of that?

We’re going to be taking a little victory lap on this week’s podcast because The Wall Street Journal has finally admitted that shale oil wells are not producing as much as the companies operating them touted they would produce — which is what we’ve been saying for years here at PeakProsperity.com, largely because we closely follow Art’s work:

The Wall Street Journal did some research and they got the general point that the wells are not as good as advertised.

But what they missed is just how much farther off many of these reserves are than even the discounted reserves that they’ve reported.

Bottom line: if the understatement is only 10%, that’s a rounding error and it’s not that much of an issue to the average person. But I’ve been trying for a decade to get the number that I independently develop to get anywhere close to the published numbers. In most cases, I can only get near 60% or 70% of them. So, the gap, I think is much more substantial.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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