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On low natural gas prices: Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Terry Etam

To say that “natural gas is a dying commodity” takes either some world-class mental dishonesty, disturbingly blind faith in policy over reality, or some kind of “clouds hate me” philosophical stance on life.

Is there any critical industrial material as bizarre as natural gas?

The stuff holds almost zero interest for the general public, for the same reason no one is interested in the sound of a washing machine. Both boring. Both ubiquitous. Natural gas isn’t even sold on Amazon. But forty-six percent of American homes use natural gas for heat, and surely more in Canada.

But consider the storm below the surface. Traders love it, because it is one of the most volatile commodities in existence, and volatility means trading profits. The volatility, at the slightest provocation, is almost unbelievable at times. The weather pattern shifts for three weeks out over a portion of the US and boom – the entire forward 18 months of prices can collapse or soar.

In the bigger picture though, natural gas today in North America trades at close to the same price it did a quarter century ago – not inflation adjusted, just the same old nominal dollar value, which is astonishing since global gas demand has increased by 60 percent in that time.

Natural gas is a critical fuel for much of the world, and usage is growing, particularly the relatively new field of LNG. According to the Global Gas Infrastructure Tracker website, which doesn’t even like the stuff, there are a total of 2,449 significant pipeline projects underway in the world for a total of 1.2 million kilometers (and that’s the big pipe, not the little straws that go to your house). There are 238 LNG import terminals and 189 export trains in development globally. One hundred and thirty countries either have natural gas systems or are constructing them.

Traders, consumers and businesses love the stuff even if they don’t say it often enough, while others loathe it because it is a ‘fossil fuel’. Natural gas is caught in an existential war whereby said opponents will do everything in their power to just make it go away (they really think they can). The Toronto Globe and Mail, “Canada’s news paper” (note to self: develop ethnocentric balloon head emoji, make millions), recently ran a pricelessly ludicrous opinion piece entitled ‘Natural gas is a dying commodity, and Canada needs to stop supporting it’. The article was written by one of those think tanks (International Institute for Sustainable Development) that produces nothing but ideological amplification, safely distanced from people that actually do stuff, and a mountain of impressive T4 income tax slips (latest fiscal year personnel/consultant expense: $33 million). There is no surprise that their team of political scientists would attack natural gas; their latest financials show that the Government of Canada granted them $40 million, a third of which is from climate activist/federal minister Guilbeault’s office. There’ll be no biting that little hand.

Many climate leadership icons of the world, the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan… pretty much anyone that can, is building natural gas (LNG or non) infrastructure as fast as they can. Germany, home to the world’s most advanced green energy demolition derby, built an LNG import terminal in an astounding 5 months. Many that want to import LNG but weren’t able to last year because Europe hoovered up every molecule on the market are simply doing what it takes to attain energy security, and that can mean, lord tunderin’, coal. Pakistan is the most notable example – the country plans to quadruple coal fired power output and move away from gas only because it could not obtain it: “A shortage of natural gas, which accounts for over a third of the country’s power output, plunged large areas into hours of darkness last year.” The country’s energy minister went on, “We have some of the world’s most efficient regasified LNG-based power plants. But we don’t have the gas to run them.”

For those fortunate enough to line up LNG supplies, the ante is normally a 15-20 year contract.

To say that “natural gas is a dying commodity” takes either some world-class mental dishonesty, disturbingly blind faith in policy over reality, or some kind of “clouds hate me” philosophical stance on life.

Beyond the silly messaging looking to undermine natural gas though are some very powerful undercurrents that are shaping the world in ways most don’t consider, but they should.

Thanks to the shale revolution in the US and Canada, native natural gas production exploded onto a scene that couldn’t handle the excess, leading to persistently low prices. North America is turning into an LNG export powerhouse, but until that export capacity outpaces productive capability, natural gas prices in North America look set to remain far below global prices.

It is worth remembering how significant this scenario is for North America. Cheap natural gas is an industrial godsend, enabling many strata of industries and enterprises that simply would not exist without. In May of 2022, the head of the Western Equipment Dealers Association, said that the previous winter’s high natural gas prices were unsustainable for businesses that had to heat 30-40,000 square-foot shops. The 2021-22 winter of which he was discontented saw Henry Hub prices average $4.56/mmbtu – about a third of global prices, and a fraction of what the world was to face later that year.

The same article pointed out how the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade group whose members include smelters, plastics and paper-goods makers, wanted the US to stop permitting new LNG export terminals because “The manufacturing sector cannot invest and create jobs without assurances that our natural gas and electricity prices will not be imperiled by excessive LNG exports.”

Those guys aren’t crazy. The US gas market is balanced on a knife edge. A change in next month’s forecast can create havoc in forward prices even up to several years out.

The rise of LNG is making things even more unstable. The Freeport LNG terminal had an 8 month outage due to an accident, removing 2 bcf/d of demand from the market (in a 100 bcf/d market); this single event caused a storage surplus in the US that has depressed natural gas prices ever since. All else being equal, the US natural gas storage scene would be in a deficit to the five year average as opposed to today’s surplus if Freeport had not gone down, and both spot and futures prices would most likely be significantly higher. The Freeport outage probably knocked US natural gas prices down by at least $1/mmbtu for a period of 8 months, and actually probably much more. But even at that level, in a 100 bcf/d market, where 1 bcf is equal to 1 million mmbtus, the cost savings to US consumers totaled $100 million per day. (Of course, had the price stayed higher, we might have seen far more drilling, which may have caused a collapse as well, just a bit further down the road.)

That $100 million per day cost saving came out of the hide of North American natural gas producers selling into that market, and you’d think they wouldn’t like that one little bit. And they don’t. But gas producers have their own realities and game plans which don’t generally involve sacrificing any of their sales for the good of all other producers, as economically sensible as that strategy may be.

US producers find themselves in an odd situation. Every one of the large producers knows that they could cut production by 5 percent and double their profits; the market is that tightly balanced. Doing so would single handedly drive up NG prices substantially – just observe how the gas market goes ape over a change in weather forecast.

But driving up prices, even if it is in their own self interest, will mean a spike in production, because at sustained $4 US gas, the market becomes flooded. EQT president Toby Rice, the largest US gas producer (EQT, not Toby), says at a sustained $4/mmbtu natural gas price, the US could export 60 bcf/d of natural gas. Keep in mind that $4 gas is a fraction, anywhere from a third to ten percent of global LNG prices.

Mr. Rice may very well be correct, but glosses over the reality of natural gas prices: we will never see a sensible sustained price like $4, even though we may average it – we will see 2 and 8 and 3 and 9 and so on and so on.

On top of this, solution gas from oil plays like Permian is providing massive amounts of gas in itself. The Permian, primarily an oil field, produces more solution gas than the entire country of Canada. Permian solution gas, if a stand alone country, would be one of the world’s top five largest producers.

So who cares? Well, you all do. We all do. The goofballs that wrote the Globe & Mail article do, though they either won’t admit it or simply refuse to understand.

Natural gas is the bedrock of most economies, and cheap natural gas is a special elixir to North America. It is absolutely crucial to the level of industrial activity we enjoy. There is no substitute for the clean burning capability of the stuff. Wander into a typical big box store or more crucially try to wander into an industrial building that you won’t be allowed to because it is unsafe… drive around an industrial park and look at all the magnificent industrial activity that gives us the life we live. Now imagine those being heated by wood stoves. Or solar panels in dead of winter. Geothermal? Sure, if you plan on drilling into the earth’s mantle. And if you live on an appropriate acreage. And have enough money. I guess there’s always coal.

And that sums up a lot of the world’s population’s situation: If countries aren’t building LNG, it’s likely because they are building coal, as in the countries that Europe outbid for LNG last winter in a shocking me-first display of hydrocarbon-swilling (accompanied by fossil-fuel-subsidizing self-loathing?) hypocrisy.

There are storm clouds on the horizon. The drilling efficiency that these companies boast about relentlessly in IR presentations and every 90 days in conference calls consists to a large degree on drilling longer horizontal wells. Do the math on that one. Reservoirs are finite in size. If you increase the length of wells by another mile or two, you’re just draining the reservoir faster. One day we will see true sweet spot exhaustion, which is not a laughing matter when one considers that three fields – Appalachia, Haynesville and Permian – account for more than 70 percent of US gas production, and about a fifth of global production.

But for now, North America reigns supreme with respect to the world’s most coveted heating and industrial fuel. The US, Canada and Mexico remain more or less isolated from global natural gas prices for now, which brings incalculable benefits to North American businesses and citizens, a benefit that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Terry Etam is a columnist with the BOE Report, a leading energy industry newsletter based in Calgary.  He is the author of The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity.  You can watch his Policy on the Frontier session from May 5, 2022 here.

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Automotive

Taxpayers call on Ford and Trudeau to rule out any additional EV handouts

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Jay Goldberg

“Only politicians and government bureaucrats could think it’s a good idea to blow millions of dollars of taxpayer cash per job to build cars that people don’t want”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the Ford and Trudeau governments to rule out any additional EV manufacturing handouts.

“Canadians are struggling to put gas in their tanks and food on their tables,” said CTF Ontario Director Jay Goldberg. “The last thing governments should be doing is looking at borrowing billions more on the backs of taxpayers to hand over to wealthy auto giants.”

Ontario Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli says there are as many as three more EV corporate welfare negotiations ongoing, according to the National Post.

The Ford and Trudeau governments have thus far handed out $57 billion in electric vehicle manufacturing subsidies to wealthy auto giants like Volkswagen, Stellantis, Honda and the Ford Motor Company.

Each handout has worked out to cost taxpayers millions of dollars for every job directly created.

Recent news has shown that gambling on EVs is a risky bet for taxpayers.

The Ford Motor Company is losing $132,000 on every electric vehicle sold, according to recent reports. Tesla has missed sales targets, with sales down by more than 13 per cent in the first quarter of 2024. AutoTrader says Canadian interest in EVs is down by 10 per cent compared to last year.

“Only politicians and government bureaucrats could think it’s a good idea to blow millions of dollars of taxpayer cash per job to build cars that people don’t want,” said Goldberg. “Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau need to put down the taxpayer credit card. There must be no more EV handouts, full stop.”

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Economy

The wall of death for western economies

Published on

From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Elizabeth Nickson

This is an easy fix – you just have to demand it

When I drove 20,000 miles through rural America a few years back, I was struck by the dilapidated nature of, well, just about everything. The towns were rundown, there were thousands of abandoned farms and ranches and family houses.  Sidewalks broken, every other shop was abandoned. Fields ran untended, forests filled with brush and fire ladders, hangers-on in trailers with a junkyard dog and rifle racks on trucks. Hunting was a necessity, not a sport.

In sharp contrast I grew up in a country village of 500 surrounded by tidy productive prosperous farms, and we were a going concern with stone and brick buildings, and beautiful crafted family houses, lawns and weirs, a village pond with ducks, mature trees.  Some estates, but not vulgar monstrosities like today. Everyone adult chipped in. It was vivid, active, close-connected, multi-generational and I never wanted to leave.

What the hell happened?

I didn’t fully understand until a hydrologist in Denver, retired from a career at the Department of Interior, told me at lunch in an Olive Garden, that in the mid-70’s, the blanket instructions coming down from DC switched from enabling business and development to preventing it. He, in his retirement, had a small ranch and on his wells, four meters from four different federal and state bureaucracies, indicating just how closely he was being surveilled. Over the years, regulations had come down so thick and punitive, near everyone operated in a catch-22 situation. You might hurdle one set of regs, only to discover that your success meant another set of regs cancelled you. It was so irrational it was fiendish, I thought to myself. Now of course, I see it as actually fiendish, the work of evil. The government was deliberately ruining peoples’ lives, drawing them down, impoverishing them, with malice.

The only prosperity to be seen was in the rather splendid buildings of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the palatial “farmhouses” owned by what I came to recognize as government farmers, the ones who had lobbied hard and got all the subsidies. Oh yes, and ethanol plants, one of the first green scams. They ate money.

Last week I was in the provincial capital near me, picking up something in Oak Bay Village, ultra-posh in a villagy Englishy way, half-timbered buildings, human-scaled, friendly. And found it to be in the same state, everything covered in a wash of grey, empty shops, abandoned stores, people shriveled and tired. I used to take my mother shopping there, and since she died, hadn’t had the heart to go back. Therefore I was disturbed, even shocked at the change. If the prettiest street in the prettiest city in Canada, visited by millions of tourists a year was dying….I’m sorry, Leading Indicator.

If the prettiest street in the prettiest city in Canada, visited by millions of tourists a year was dying….I’m sorry, Leading Indicator.

In fact, in Canada, even the food banks are running out of food. Bodies are piling up in mortuaries because people can’t afford to bury their dead. Chronically injured soldiers are offered Medically Assisted Dying in lieu of treatment. MAID has saved the “free” health system $90 million in end-of-life care, since it began. So we have to expect more of that.

A recent report showed the MAID drugs mean you drown to death, but are paralyzed so can’t communicate your distress. That means you can drown for 45 minutes before you actually die  – autopsies have proved it. That is how careless our health bureaucracy is. I cannot watch another single mother weeping on TikTok because she cannot feed her children and is always sick. Another once athletic mountain climber sit in a wheelchair detailing her story of neurological pain so intense after vaccine, her husband had to sit with her so she wouldn’t kill herself. Every bureaucracy is killing us.

The U.S. still has the healthiest economy in the world. The thirteen other less rich countries are in per capita recession, which means GDP per person is shrinking: Canada, France, Germany, UK, Australia. Japan just registered a -2% growth rate, but it is already a zombie economy with families living paycheck to paycheck. Like addicts.

It may be that all I have is a hammer but, to me, this is due to impossible green mandates, the choking of energy supplies, the insane expense of green energy infrastructure which doesn’t produce and doesn’t “save money” and above all regulation that means that every job in a small cap public company labors under $50,000 of government ESG mandates. For every $1 you pay your average employee, you pay the government $1.50. That’s before taxes. Not that you have any income to tax. Government is literally eating us alive.

The U.S., according to Bloomberg, is facing a Wall of Death. Or Debt. Bloomberg says 42% of small public companies are losing money; not only that they face a $832 billion wall of debt, $600 billion of which comes due at much much higher interest rates in the next two years.

Let’s be really clear about where that debt came from. It came from people like our Fed Chair who asset stripped all these companies, loaded them with debt, mis-stated their value and sold them on. This is how Jerome Powell made his $50,000,000. He ruined a widget manufacturer. That debt is his dirty-but-not illegal play; his fortune, his I got mine and now I’m in “public service”.  Suffer you peons, suffer more. And the dirty profoundly unethical play of all his associates. When Warren Buffet says he has $180 billion in cash because the market is over-valued, that is down to him and his pals loading up every small and medium manufacturer in the U.S. with debt, selling them on, whereupon another pirate buys the company, mis-states its value, borrows a bunch of money against it, raises the price, and sells it on. ALL small cap street profits in the fifteen years come from that criminal activity by our financial elites. Of course the market is over-valued. They over-valued it to steal from it.

The big companies only carry 50% of the debt of small caps. For small caps, the absolute heroes in this story, in the first quarter of 2024, their sales rose .3%, but inflation for that quarter was 1.1%. Bank of America says that small cap earnings will drop by one-third in the next year. Thanks to the miracle of Bidenomics, sales are dead other than the doom spending of hopeless millennials.

In contrast, big companies have gained 14% and big tech stocks earn 90% of all the gains. Where do you think the next play might be? That’s right, tech.

Median priced houses are now worth 7.8 times median income, twice the normal level, that ratio even above the housing bubble of 08.  Housing prices are slated to rise 20% in the next year. One in five renters are either skipping meals or selling personal belongings to make rent.  Rents will rise double digits in the coming year according to the New York Fed. Millennials have given up, reverting to a nihilistic hand-to-mouth existence.

According to economist Peter St. Onge, who aggregated many of the above states, the first twenty rungs of the ladder have been knocked out.

This is due entirely to the gutting of the heartland, the shipping of manufacturing to the CCP slave state, and the subsequent financialization of the economy. Value is now calculated on the future labor of people whose jobs are being killed off.  They are financializing something that is dying. They know it, you know it, the government knows it.

The core reason for the invasion at the border is for immigrants they can pay dirt wages to keep the whole thing going for a few more years. Your kids, your future? Forget about it.

Of course the bankers have a solution. You know they do. It’s not a sensible, compassionate, creative and exciting solution whereby your life and mine is going to get much much better. It is a solution that means your kids and grandkids are going to live in a world wrought with poverty-driven crime, and dying cities and towns. But never mind! The market will make out like a bandit. The secret lies in the fact that 90% of all gains are currently being made by the digital aristocracy.

That will continue and this is how. To make up for destroying production, the government and markets will list you, your house, yard, cars, boats etc., as a federal asset. As well as national parks, conservation areas, wildlife areas, all ecological study zones, and so on. Then they will borrow against it. Everything you own, because of our federal debt, will be theirs.

The secret, obviously lies in the fact that currently 90% of all gains being made by the digital aristocracy,

It’s the only way. We are de-developing; correction, we are being forced to de-develop. We are de-industrializing, and our hard assets, our water, land and mineral resources are being sequestered from use. We cannot use anything to build anything. We won’t even own our houses, our gardens. We will have a senior partner in our financial lives who tells us what we may do and how much oxygen and water and power we may use. We are finished. We are future peasants.

The Play

Earlier this year, American Stewards, a few state governors and a handful of Congress people managed to stop the SEC from installing a rule allowing for the financialization of America’s national parks. But under the radar, because no media does any work whatsoever on this file, the Biden administration has reworked the proposal. Herewith is what is happening in the U.S.

The 2030 Agenda means that 30% of America’s lands have to be turned into a nature preserve by 2030. All those withdrawals from use hold incredible natural wealth and beauty never to be used or seen by Americans. The April 22, 2024, Fact Sheet notes some of the significant land and mineral withdrawals made to help reach 30×30. That wealth could be used by Americans to build cities and companies and full-on effulgent family and community lives. But it is to be locked away. How much is being locked away? The Biden administration estimates that land held privately, one-third of the U.S. to be worth $32 Trillion. So 2030 lands are worth $32 trillion.

So the idea is to lock away at least $32 trillion worth of resources. While people can’t make their rent. While single mothers weep and beg on socials. While people are electing to die because it is too expensive to live. While an entire generation has no hope and is descending into nihilism.

American Stewards reported the two significant Earth Day announcements released from the White House

“The Administration has already protected more than 41 million acres of lands and waters, and President Biden is on track to conserve more lands and waters than any President in history. This includes establishing five new national monuments and restoring protections for three more; creating four new national wildlife refuges and expanding five more; protecting the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, the nation’s most visited wilderness area; safeguarding Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska; and withdrawing Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Thompson Divide in Colorado from further oil and gas leasing to protect thousands of sacred sites and pristine lands.”

Next, they unveiled a new website, conservation.gov that houses the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas mapping tool. The Atlas was created to track the progress of 30×30 including the protected status of the lands as well as quantifying natural processes such as photosynthesis and pollination used to manufacture an arbitrary ecosystem service value.”

This is where the digital comes in. All those lands have to be surveilled. All those assets, including you and your house and your car, have to be surveilled. The money that will require installing these surveillance tools will be made by the digital titans, because that’s where the money is, now that lands, resources, labor have been destroyed.

As American Stewards reports: in January of 2023, the White House announced the “National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental – Economic Statistics.” Since then, they have been working to establish a methodology to value the ecosystem services.

There are four accounts: Land, Water, Air Emissions and Economic Activity.

The Pilot Land Account measures the economic activity and total market value for all the land in the United States, 2.3 billion acres. They estimate that at around $100 trillion, which includes the 30% owned by humans.

In essence, the administration is conscripting private citizens’ land to secure the national debt, unbeknown to the American people and Congress. And using common land as well. Common land is owned by the people of the country, not the government and not the Nature Conservancy. It is yours. But, they are developing mechanisms to make it theirs. This is the first step.

The Pilot National Air Emissions Account “measures greenhouse gas emissions associated with specific industries on a national scale.” And you. Your CO2 emissions will be tracked and your allowance measured.

Ten years ago I sat in a rancher’s house deep in Wyoming and he told me that his land would be used as collateral for the National Debt that China holds. I felt dread in the pit of my stomach because I felt instinctively he was right. Subsequently, I don’t know how many people told me that was impossible, I was wrong, he was wrong, crazy.

No baby, we weren’t wrong. They are monetizing all public and private land to pay or support the national debt. And the way they are doing it, is by shutting down economic activity, across the board. We will be a resource to be played, monetized, surveilled and restricted for the profits of the market, and the destructive machinations of the bureaucracy.

And all the money to be made from it is digital. And that money, those resources they are stealing? They belong to us.

In my next article, I will describe in detail the players in this game, how the National Security State, Mossad, the PayPal Mafia, Drexel Burnam heirs, President Trump’s economic advisers, are working to destroy the hope of South and Central America. It is complex, fiendish and fascinating. This series starting today, points out that the Green takeover, mostly surreptitious, is driving the world’s economy into the dirt. It is based on falsified science, and convoluted financial ideas that fail repeatedly. Fix this, and we will be living in a Golden Age.

Elizabeth Nickson is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Her studies and commentaries at the Frontier Centre can be accessed here.   Follow her on Substack here.  Her best-selling book Eco-Fascists can be purchased here.

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