Friday, April 02, 2010

I thought he was "green." So what's with the sudden move to open oil fields?

Perhaps you were as surprised as I was when President Obama announced his intentions to open huge new oil fields off the coast of the United States.

You can be sure of this, writes Keith Fitz-Gerald of Money Morning, it "has nothing to do with oil. It's all about the U.S. dollar."

Fitz-Gerald reminds us of a little British history from the early 1900s--when Britain was the world's most powerful country--to 1939--at which point "England had spent itself into oblivion and the pound sterling was being abandoned en masse by the international banking community - not to mention by the Crown's own subjects. To prevent a complete breakdown in global markets, the government made it an act of treason to use anything but the pound sterling to settle debts, while simultaneously implementing strict exchange-rate controls designed to prevent an all-out currency collapse"--to the present:
By the start of the 1970s, Britain was all but bankrupt and unable to sell long-term government bonds. . . .

So what saved Great Britain from oblivion? Many historians attribute this rebirth to the leadership of the dynamic Margaret Thatcher, and the proliferation of "Thatcherism." But the truth is that the catalyst for the United Kingdom's turnabout was the North Sea oil fields, which began pumping in earnest in the latter part of the 1970s - producing a trade surplus that helped engender new support for the pound in international markets.
By the way, in case you didn't see my post of February 21, or haven't been following the story since that time:

  • Government bond auctions have continued weak and weaker and, as a result, interest rates continue to rise. Not yet front-page news, but don't be surprised when it gets there.
  • Then there's the story of the national debt.

    Some commentators keep pointing out that the U.S. debt is relatively small compared to several other countries' debts as a percentage of GDP. And that is true.

    However, we have to look not only at total quantity of debt, but when the debt is due. And a large portion of the U.S.' debt is due very soon. As Porter Stansberry points out, the federal government has about $7 trillion of debt it needs to sell in the next 30 months. It's nice that the government is so eager to "supply" all that debt. The question is, is there enough demand from the market in order to swallow it all? At what price? (After all, when there is too much supply and too little demand, prices inevitably fall . . . which, in the bond markets, means interest rates rise.)

    I think it's time to say goodbye to low interest rates!
  • And then, finally, what about exchange controls? (Did you note Keith Fitz-Gerald's comment about Great Britain in the early '70s?)

    Did you see this item in your local paper? Yep. The United States government is tightening the noose on freedom of commerce. As Tyler Durden suggests, the $17.5 billion Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (H.R. 2487) ought really to have been called the Capital Controls Act. Durden concludes,
    [V]ery soon the only option US citizens have when it comes to investing their money, will be in government mandated retirement annuities, which will likely be the next step in the capital control escalation, which will culminate with every single free dollar required to be reinvested into the US, likely in the form of purchasing US Treasury emissions such as Treasuries, TIPS and other worthless pieces of paper.

    Congratulations bankrupt America - you are now one step closer to a thoroughly non-free market.
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