Of all the ancient sources of energy that will carry us into the future, coal is the only one that is robust, abundant, and cheap. Natural gas will play a role, and I also think it could provide serious relief to crude oil used in transportation, too. Certainly it's much smarter than ethanol. Sure, China is ahead of us in solar and wind power but they are outsmarting us on crude (with contracts around the world for decades of supply), building coal power plants the way I go through a bag of M&Ms, and now are learning about fracking through high-priced stakes in U.S. companies, mainly Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK). They must love it when our Commander in Chief rails about their lead in alternative energy.
Without a doubt, they also love their newfound wealth while relishing their place in the global economic ladder in the future. Cheap labor and a lot of cash helps, but you have to be able to power an economy and you need super power to power a super economy. Flaccid wind mills and fickle solar panels are cute and will have a role in the future, but we can't stay on top without fossil fuels. So while all that stuff from yesteryear represents the next few decades, or even century, coal and crude beat out the other two and will do so again. Or, we are in a lot of trouble. That brings me to the latest buy signal on coal. Sure, the no-fly zone we got permission from the UN to enact makes coal more attractive, but it was some other news.
King George, Queen Victoria and Genghis Khan
A Chinese coal tycoon paid $1.6 million for a Red Tibetan Mastiff, breaking the record held for most expensive dog ever (previous record holder was another Red Tibetan), and making several points in the process.
Yes, the dog is a pure Chinese breed, red is a lucky color, and the dog is the ultimate status symbol, but this says to the world we are real players. If you think it's nuts that hundreds of Chinese folks have lined up at Apple stores everyday to scoop up the latest iPad to send back home at huge mark-ups just think the last Red Tibetan Mastiff that set the record for highest amount ever paid for a dog was driven home in a motorcade of 30 limos. The breed has been owned by King George, Queen Victoria, and Genghis Khan in the past and there is no doubt the new owner sees his nation as future rulers of the free world ("free" for lack of a better word).
Now that the UN has Given Permission
Oil surged last night after the UN gave a thumbs up to a no-fly zone over Libya. I guess the thinking is better late than never, but it seems to me to be disingenuous and underscores a lack of conviction and leadership on our part. Upon hearing the news, Qaddafi told rebels in Benghazi: "We are coming tonight...there won't be any mercy!" I'm not sure of the mechanics of the no-fly zone but Qaddafi will step up his assault and I'm sure he will be more reckless in his approach to retaking this important port city. I wonder what the Peace prize community at the Nobel Institute is saying.
They probably think this was well-thought out and not the cowboy approach that probably would have saved more lives if indeed we are successful.
It's very telling that the richest nations in the world abstained from voting on the no-fly zone. Outside of the United States and Japan, the top seven GDPs and hottest economies on the planet wanted no parts of military action against Libya. (I remember the scorn for the so-called collision of the willing when President Bush used to brag about the nations that joined the U.S. in the war in Iraq.) This isn't a statement about an appetite for military action; instead it's a statement about following the United States and alienating a potential source of energy. Yes, it circles back to energy. Those that abstained from voting on the no-fly zone and rank in global economy:
* China (2)
* India (4)
* Brazil (5)
* Germany (6)
* Russia (7)
Our futures are higher after the G7 intervened in the Yen crisis in an effort to keep the Japanese currency low enough to make their exports as profitable as possible. It's not TARP, but comes from the same line of thinking that governments should keep the status quo even if it means helping rich bankers avoid losing it all or rich nations from enduring abrupt hardships. It would seem the average American is at the bottom of considerations when it comes to the direst consequences of free markets.
It is amazing that intervention in Libya and Japan were pushed by France. I find it so odd we would hand over the leadership baton to France when it comes to military action and economic policies. I simply don't get it. In the meantime, the latest scene from Yemen is being called a disaster as police opened fire on thousands of protestors, killing at least 28. It's being described as a massacre. Are we going into Yemen next because a no-fly zone isn't going to do the trick and Yemen's leaders aren't going away in the middle of the night?
Have we established precedence to exert military pressure on the rulers of Saudi Arabia?
Will the Empire of the Sun Rise Again?
By: Conley Turner, Research Analyst
As the world watches the situation in Japan unfold, there is a sense, at least from the outside, that things are a lot worse that what is actually being let on. This is especially apparent when people from outside of Japan contact people who are currently in Japan. There is such a discrepancy between what is being portrayed internally and externally that it is leading many outsiders to be considered alarmists.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the situation where the Japanese authorities have called for a complete evacuation within a 12-mile zone around the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site and for people within 20 miles to stay indoors. Behind closed doors, more than a few industry insiders in other nations deem this as gravely inadequate. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo along with those of other countries such as Australia has advised their citizens currently within a 50 mile radius the power plant to evacuate or stay indoors. It is only today that the Japanese has raised the alarm at the site to a level 5 rating, up from level 4 on a 1-7 scale. This move indicates the level of seriousness similar to the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the U.S.
In contrast, a host of other nations have adopted official alarmist postures and are imploring their citizens to consider leaving the country. In fact, many have gone as far as arranging charters to airlift their populations out.
The fact of the matter is that it is very difficult to leave Japan at this time as the paths to international airports are clogged. This is especially the case at Tokyo's Narita airport which is a beehive of activity as people desperately try to leave. For those Japanese that do not have their travel documents in order, luck is not on their side and moving to a different part of the country is their only realistic option for the moment. It will get even more difficult to leave with the passage of time as many international airlines are likely to suspend operations to parts of the country.
The Japanese Emperor Akihito has even appeared on television to address the nation about the situation and expressed that he was "deeply worried." The fact that he never ever does that is in and by itself a foreboding omen.
In one sense, it is practical that the government not be an alarmist and does not create panic among the population. However, it is also incumbent upon individuals to make sense of what is occurring and get to out of harm's way.
However, this turns out in the end, there is no doubt that Japan will rise from this, perhaps even better that it was before. With over 2,000 years of history, they are a resilient people. After all, amidst all of this it is a nation with the third largest GDP on the planet.
There is nothing like a war or natural disaster to pull people together and such will be the case for Japan. There was a growing sense of nationalism even before this hat trick of disasters and chances are this will become even more cemented.
The market is poised to come out of the gate strong, although the nuclear crisis in Japan is actually not improving. It's good to see a rebound and it's good to know money is eager to go to work although the situation, as they say, is fluid.