Saturday, January 30, 2016

Oil at $30 Dollars a Barrel Bodes Ill for Fossil Fuel Interests as Renewables Ramp up

First, there's no sign the present oil glut is going to go away. The inventories in the USA are bigger than ever since the Great Depression and the prices both on the spot market and at the pump just keep dropping -- with a few jumps to keep experts guessing.

From Zero Hedge via The Automatic Earth (hat tip to Raul Ilargi Meijer)

US Crude Inventories Are The Highest Since the 1930s
by Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, 27 January 2016

In case you were under the impression that oil was stabilizing, we thought this chart might help clarify just how “different” it is this time in the energy complex… U.S. crude inventories are at levels last seen when President Herbert Hoover was battling the Great Depression.

US Crude Inventories are the greatest since the Great Depression!
Source: Zero Hedge via The Automatic Earth 
After this week’s build – Crude stockpiles climbed 8.38 million barrels to 494.9 million in the week ended Jan. 22, the highest since November 1930, according to weekly and monthly data from the Energy Information Administration. It did not end well last time…

But prices will probably continue to go down. After all, according to historic data going back to 1861, today's prices, while relatively inexpensive, are no bargain.

From Market Watch via The Automatic Earth (again, hat tip to Raul Ilargi Meijer)

Chart going back to 1861 shows oil isn’t insanely cheap right now
By William Watts, Market Watch, 27 January 2016

Not insanely cheap by historic price
Source: Market Watch via The Automatic Earth.

Oil futures are hovering around $30 a barrel—not far off 12-year lows—and bears are penciling in a test of $20 or lower. It is a pretty downbeat picture, but is black gold really that cheap on a historical basis? Not really, according to the chart from Deutsche Bank, which tracks inflation-adjusted oil prices—and the average price—all the way back to 1861, just two years after Edwin Drake drilled the first productive U.S. oil well near Titusville, Pa. Over the last 150-plus years, the average oil price is $47 a barrel, according to the data. West Texas Intermediate oil futures for March delivery were down 22 cents, or 0.7%, at $31.23 a barrel in late morning trade. “So current levels are low but not exceptionally low relative to long-term history,” said Jim Reid, macro strategist at Deutsche Bank, in a Wednesday note.

The charts were published as part of an annual study by the investment bank. Interestingly, Reid did note that this was the first year that the firm’s long-term mean reversion exercise shows positive return expectations for oil since the study began more than a decade ago. But don’t get too excited over prospects for an immediate mean-reversion rally. Reid puts the findings in the context of the commodity cycle, which is on the downswing after a sharp run-up that began in the mid-1990s. He notes the “long-held belief” that commodities, such as oil, that are a factor of production can’t outstrip inflation over the long term because “if they do there will be alternatives found.”

That helps to explain oil’s pullback. This process, however, “can take years to resolve, so even if we’re correct, commodity cycles can still last a long time before they eventually mean revert,” he wrote. Meanwhile, the graph “doesn’t suggest that current levels are as extreme as many would suggest even if long term value has returned,” Reid said. “The $140 prices a few years back look especially bubble-like” from a long-term perspective.

Of course, if oil stays at a low price for *too* long, when demand comes back up, the fossil fuel companies may not be in a position to furnish the demanded supply. Prices will shoot up and demand will be destroyed again.

From Our Finite World (hat tip to Gail Tverberg)

Why oil under $30 per barrel is a major problem

A person often reads that low oil prices–for example, $30 per barrel oil prices–will stimulate the economy, and the economy will soon bounce back. What is wrong with this story? A lot of things, as I see it:

1. Oil producers can’t really produce oil for $30 per barrel.

A few countries can get oil out of the ground for $30 per barrel. Figure 1 gives an approximation to technical extraction costs for various countries. Even on this basis, there aren’t many countries extracting oil for under $30 per barrel–only Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. We wouldn’t have much crude oil if only these countries produced oil.

Source: Alliance Bernstein via Our Finite World.
2. Oil producers really need prices that are higher than the technical extraction costs shown in Figure 1, making the situation even worse.

Oil can only be extracted within a broader system. Companies need to pay taxes. These can be very high. Including these costs has historically brought total costs for many OPEC countries to over $100 per barrel.

Independent oil companies in non-OPEC countries also have costs other than technical extraction costs, including taxes and dividends to stockholders. Also, if companies are to avoid borrowing a huge amount of money, they need to have higher prices than simply the technical extraction costs. If they need to borrow, interest costs need to be considered as well.
In the above article, Gail Tverberg notes that renewables are still at a vary small fraction of total energy supply, but the graph she posts indicates that they are increasing in proportion. Enough to cause some traditional fossil fuel energy companies to try to head off the ramp-up of renewables off at the pass. Like in Nevada recently. (hat tip to Robertscribbler.)

Welcome to the Renewable Energy Renaissance — Fight to End Fossil Fuel Burning is Now On
by Robertscribbler, 27 January 2016

Beneath the dark and growing cloud of human fossil fuel emissions there are a few carbon-free lights being kindled among all the black, coal-ash soot.

They’re the lights of a new renaissance. An unprecedented period of change for governments, the energy markets, and for individuals themselves. For we are all, whether we realize it or not, now embroiled in a struggle that will determine our own fates as well as that of our children and of all the generations to follow. For this renaissance is as much about liberation — the provision of clean energy choice as means to free ourselves from a wretched captivity to fossil fuel consumption — as it is about fighting to leave those very hothouse mass extinction fuels in the ground.

It’s a new kind of vital social unrest. A global struggle for justice on a scale not seen since at least the downfall of the slave trade. The battle lines have been drawn — in courtrooms, at ports, along pipelines, and on the train tracks, in the legislative offices of cities, states and in the halls of the federal government itself. We, as a civilization, are being divided into pro-renewable energy, pro-response to climate change, pro saving life on this Earth, and anti-renewable energy, anti-response, climate change denial factions. It is a disruptive, highly dangerous period of history. One we must successfully navigate if we are to survive as a modern civilization and, perhaps, as a species living on this Earth....

An example of this struggle in microcosm took place during December through January of 2015 in Nevada. Emboldened by similar decisions in Arizona, monopoly utilities moved to protect their carbon-polluting infrastructures by pushing the state government (made up of a majority of republicans to include the governor — Sandoval) to impose restrictive fees on solar energy use throughout the state. Targeting rooftop solar energy systems, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUCN — also made up entirely of republicans) voted to, across the board, increase costs for rooftop solar users by both slashing incentives and imposing draconian fees. The decision negatively impacted 12,000 current solar customers using rooftop power to include families, schools and even public libraries....

Nevada’s PUC decision smacks of a monopoly power generation protection scheme. One that has made it impossible for solar installers to operate in the state. As result, Nevada’s two other top solar installers (Vivint and Sunrun) have now followed Solar City’s example [of stop doing business in Nevada] and decided to halt operations in Nevada. The jobs impact from just these three solar providers closing shop is a net loss of 6,000. But with hundreds of small solar installers active in Nevada before the ruling, the economic and environmental damage is likely to be ongoing and long-term....

As if Nevada’s war against rooftop solar industry within its own state wasn’t bad enough, a group of 26 states currently governed by fossil fuel industry funded republicans are now submitting a Supreme Court challenge to Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The group has re-stated the now typical and jaded republican claim that the EPA doesn’t retain the legal authority to regulate carbon emissions. The new claim is predicated on the statement that EPA will force fossil fuels out of business, stating that the federal government does not retain the authority to effectively ban the use of a particular set of fuels.

It’s a convoluted appeal that smacks of past states rights arguments regarding every kind of dangerous, toxic or nefarious trade from slavery, to firearms, to tobacco. The appeal letter demands an ‘immediate stay’ on the Clean Power Plan (a cessation of implementation). It seeks to sanctify as ‘legal right’ the ability of coal plants to remain open and to continue pollution. It attacks federal government decisions that would support renewable energy as a solution to climate change (without using the words climate change once in the document, which itself required a supreme manipulation of legalese to achieve). And it uses language that implies state policy directives and goals supersede those of the federal government.
It is folly to oppose the growth of Renewables and further increasing it. Because we don't have an infinite amount of fossil fuels within the Earth's crust and eventually, sooner rather than later due to the insanely low prices compared to the costs of extraction, there will be no more fossil fuels that will be brought to market, and an ever-increasing reduction in supply prior to that. Better to build out renewables as much as we can, and perhaps build ourselves a bridge to a better future, even with a lower standard of living, than to collapse, bit by bit, headlong into a new Dark Age and all the misfortunes and unpleasantlesses that would accompany it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Weird Weather: What the Hell Is Going On!?

Ya know, what we need is someone with the “charisma” of Donald Trump to rise up and say, “We need to stop, just stop, burning fossil fuels until those in charge can tell us what the hell is going on?”

I'm reblogging two posts from Robertscribbler about the weird weather that's been going on.

First, a new item about how the mangled Jet Stream has permitted so much warm air into the Arctic, it's forcing its way into NW Siberia and causing an Arctic Vortex invasion into East Asia, even Southeast Asia.

NW Siberian Warm Snap and East Asian Cold Snap
Source: Earth Nullschool via Robertscribbler.

Arctic Heatwave Drives Deadly Asian Cold Snap
by Robertscribbler, 26 January 2016 Link

In the Arctic today, there’s a warm wind howling over Siberia. It’s a wind blowing from the northwest. A wind originating from the Arctic Ocean. Siberia is warming up today because warm air blew in from the direction of the North Pole. This should strike everyone as ridiculously, insanely odd.

In Okinawa it snowed for the first time since 1977 this weekend. In Taiwan, a cold snap turned deadly killing 85 as tens of thousands more huddled in homes that lacked any form of central heating. In South Korea, 500 flights were grounded due to unseasonable weather. In Hong Kong, the temperature was 3 C — the same temperature as a region near the southwestern coast of Svalbard east of Greenland and above the Arctic Circle.

What the hell is going on? In short, a global warming driven heat-up of the Arctic has punched a hole in the Jet Stream and driven chill, Arctic air all the way into portions of Southeast Asia that seldom ever see temperatures go below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 Celsius).

Nested in the comments thread there is a video "What's Going on with El Nino?" posted by commenter dtlange:

 Which leads into the second post by Robertscribbler, concerning El Nino and why the massive storms that accompanied previoous El Ninos haven't shown up in California so far this year.

Polar Amplification vs a Godzilla El Nino — Is the Pacific Storm Track Being Shoved North by Arctic Warming?
by Robertscribbler, 26 January 2016 Link

It’s an El Nino year. One of the top three strongest El Ninos on record. The strongest by some NOAA measures. And we are certainly feeling its effects all over the world. From severe droughts in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America, to Flooding in the Central and Eastern US, Southern Brazil, and India, these impacts, this year and last, have been extreme and wide-ranging. During recent days, Peru and Chile saw enormous ocean waves and high tides swamping coastlines. Record flooding and wave height events for some regions. All impacts related to both this powerful El Nino and the overall influence of human-forced warming by more than 1 C above 1880s temperatures on the whole of the hydrological cycle.

Amped up by a global warming related 7 percent increase in atmospheric water vapor (and a related increase in evaporation and precipitation over the Earth’s surface), many of these El Nino related impacts have followed a roughly expected pattern (you can learn more about typical El Nino patterns and links to climate change related forcings in this excellent video by Dr Kevin Trenberth here). However, so far, some of the predicted kinds of events you’d typically see during a strong El Nino have not yet emerged. A circumstance that may also be related to the ongoing human-forced warming of the globe.

Storm Track Not Making it Far Enough South

NE Pacific Storm, 26 January 2016.
Source: Earth Nullschool vis Robertscribbler.

Particularly, there has been an absence of powerful storms running in over Southern California then surging on into Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. During strong El Nino events, heat and moisture bleeding off the super-warmed Equator have typically fed powerful storms racing across the Pacific. These storms have tended to engulf the entire US Pacific Coast from San Diego through to Seattle. However, much of the storm energy is often directed further south toward Central and Southern California.

Crossposted with 2016 is strange!

Monday, January 25, 2016

From before the Paris Summit -- Top Climate Expert: Crisis is Worse Than We Think & Scientists Are Self-Censoring to Downplay Risk

The following video below is from Democracy Now!, and is available on You Tube here.

British climate scientist Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester is interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!. In the interview Dr. [or Mr.] Anderson states that the Earth Changes in its climate constitute much more of a crisis, i.e. are much worse, than most people think. And he is not at all surprised that the USA negotiating team refused to agree to anything in the agreement that would be binding.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

No Ice Age for 100,000 Years.

Back in the 1600s through the beginning of World War One, we were in a slightly icehouse climate called The Little Ice Age. And by rights, we really should be going into another one right now. Just as the news media told us we would be back in the 1970s. But with 405 ppm CO2 (485 ppm CO2e) in the atmosphere we should consider ourselves lucky if it comes about. Because at 280 ppm in the 1880s towards the end of the LIA, which would still be the approximate CO2 content if we hadn't burnt all those fossil fuels, especially coal and petroleum, we would instead be heading headlong into yet another major ice age -- when all of Canada, the USA northern tier, and much of Northern Europe including Russia and Siberia -- would become glaciated: covered with ice up to three miles thick.

We narrowly missed a new ice age, and now we won’t see one for a long time.
by Scott K. Johnson -
13 January, 2016

Before fossil fuels rendered this moot, conditions were nearly right.

Recorded human history has played out within one type of climate—an interglacial period. During the glacial periods of the last million years (commonly referred to as “ice ages”), great ice sheets grew to cover Canada and some points south, as well as Northern Europe and much of Russia.

In the 1970s, we learned there was a consistent 100,000-year heartbeat to this back-and-forth cycle governed by subtle patterns in Earth’s orbit. The thing is, it’s about time for the next heartbeat. We’re at the part of the cycle where the interglacial period should be wrapping up and the slow but inexorable descent into another ice age would begin.

But that hasn’t happened, and it’s not going to any time soon. Our current breakneck emissions of greenhouse gases will see to that. Still, the scientific question is worth asking: what, exactly, does it take to start off an ice age?

We are currently at a low point in summer sunlight reaching the northern high latitude region, which is how the orbital cycles turn into glacial cycles. Because there are several orbital cycles involved, the peaks and valleys in that sunlight are complex—it’s not as simple as a sine wave oscillating between a constant high and a constant low. But there were two interglacial periods in the last million years (one 400,000 years ago and one 800,000 years ago) with a similar combination of orbital cycles. Both crossed the threshold into an ice age when they hit this low point in sunlight.

Now we're going to have a super-long interglacial period for at least 50,000 years, perhaps 100,000 years. And it might include a second Permian Exstinktion [sic!].

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Renewables Ramp Up as Financial Crisis Looms.

Greetings, again! I have a few bits of information from Robert Scribbler, Raul Ilargi Meijer and James Kunstler on the state of fossil fuels, renewables, and the general economy.

First, about the problems fossil fuel companies are encountering due in no small part to the switch to renewables.

From Robertscribbler:

The Carbon Bubble is Bursting
11 January 2016

I admit it. I felt sorry for those poor, duped oil, gas and coal company investors back during the early part of 2015. Many of these guys, fed a constant stream of bad information from the financial news sources, at the time were still enraptured by the notion that fossil fuel stocks were then cheap and that the situation was nothing more than some kind of golden buying opportunity.

Now, six months later, 41 US oil and gas companies have gone bankrupt, powerful major oil companies like Exxon and BP are in the range of 20-40 percent losses in stock price year-on-year, most gas companies have seen even more severe losses, and most coal companies have been reduced to junk stock status (see Arch Coal declares bankruptcy). TransCanada, the parent company of the canceled Keystone XL Pipeline, is challenging United States sovereignty with its 15 billion dollar lawsuit. But it’s questionable if the company will even exist long enough to see the results of its NAFTA-based legal challenge.

Typical example - Stock price of Arch Coal.
Source: CNN Money via Robertscribbler
It’s like the curse of Solyndra has been revisited on the entire fossil fuel industry. But while the renewable energy industry is undergoing its biggest boom ever, the fossil fuel industry’s own bad investments, bad performance, bad decisions, and overall bad impacts on pretty much everything from the increasingly wrecked global climate, to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, to Oklahoma fracking earthquakes, to the debacle that is the Porter Ranch gas leak, are sinking it even faster than its carbon emissions are melting the Arctic sea ice.

Back during 2013 and 2014 we warned that continued investment in oil, gas and coal companies was a really bad idea — one that probably represented the worst malinvestment in the history of finance. A carbon bubble that was worse even than the bad real estate investments that led up to the financial collapse of 2008. Trillions-upon-trillions of dollars encouraged by more than 500 billion dollars worth of subsidy support globally from the world’s governments each year. And to what end? Producing fuels which, contrary to wind and solar, increase in price the more you use them even as they wreck the very natural wealth that is the basis for healthy economic systems the world over.

And now the markets are being driven to the brink by just such a terrible malinvestment.

But it's not just the switch to renewable energy (i.e., wind, solar, hydro, biomass) that's causing solvency problems for the fossil fuel energy companies.  In case no one's been paying attention, there's been a severe slowdown in China.  Couple the slowdown and renewables with the austerity craze in Europe, the backfire of the China slowdown into the emerging market countries, US/UK/EU sanctions against Russia, and the current oversupply of oil on the market, and the papered-over global financial crisis of 2008, and you've got a whole network of troubles.

From Raul Ilargi Meijer of The Automatic Earth:

Debt Rattle January 13 2016
Raul Ilargi Meijer
The Automatic Earth

“Deflation is upon us and the central banks can’t see it.”

Beware The Great 2016 Financial Crisis, Warns Albert Edwards
Larry Eliot Economics Editor
UK Guardian 12 January 2016 (bolding mine)

The City of London’s most vocal “bear” has warned that the world is heading for a financial crisis as severe as the crash of 2008-09 that could prompt the collapse of the eurozone. Albert Edwards, strategist at the bank Société Générale, said the west was about to be hit by a wave of deflation from emerging market economies and that central banks were unaware of the disaster about to hit them. His comments came as analysts at RBS urged investors to “sell everything” ahead of an imminent stock market crash. “Developments in the global economy will push the US back into recession,” Edwards told an investment conference in London. “The financial crisis will reawaken. It will be every bit as bad as in 2008-09 and it will turn very ugly indeed.”

Fears of a second serious financial crisis within a decade have been heightened by the turbulence in markets since the start of the year. Share prices have fallen rapidly and a slump in the cost of oil has left Brent crude trading at barely above $30 a barrel. “Can it get any worse? Of course it can,” said Edwards, the most prominent of the stock market bears – the terms for analysts who think shares are overvalued and will fall in price. “Emerging market currencies are still in freefall. The US corporate sector is being crushed by the appreciation of the dollar.” The Soc Gen strategist said the US economy was in far worse shape than the Federal Reserve realised. "We have seen massive credit expansion in the US. This is not for real economic activity; it is borrowing to finance share buybacks."

Edwards attacked what he said was the “incredible conceit” of central bankers, who had failed to learn the lessons of the housing bubble that led to the financial crisis and slump of 2008-09. “They didn’t understand the system then and they don’t understand how they are screwing up again. Deflation is upon us and the central banks can’t see it.” Edwards said the dollar had risen by as much as the Japanese yen had in the 1990s, an upwards move that pushed Japan into deflation and caused solvency problems for the Asian country’s banks. He added that a sign of the crisis to come was the collapse in demand for credit in China. “That happens when people lose confidence that policymakers know what they are doing. This is what is going to happen in Europe and the US.”

The Royal bank of Scotland shouted the day before, "Sell EVERYTHING!"

Debt Rattle January 12 2016
Raul Ilargi Meijer
The Automatic Earth

As things shape up the very way we always said they would, others claim ownership of the story.

“China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the ‘Goldlocks love-in’ of the last two years..”

RBS Cries ‘Sell Everything’ As Deflationary Crisis Nears 
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph UK 11 January 2016

RBS has advised clients to brace for a 'cataclysmic year' and a global deflationary crisis, warning that major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may plummet to $16 a barrel. The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the turbulent months before the Lehman crisis in 2008. "Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small," it said in a client note. Andrew Roberts, the bank’s credit chief, said that global trade and loans are contracting, a nasty cocktail for corporate balance sheets and equity earnings. This is particularly ominous given that global debt ratios have reached record highs. "China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the "Goldlocks love-in" of the last two years," he said.

Source: The Telegraph UK via The Automatic Earth

Mr Roberts expects Wall Street and European stocks to fall by 10pc to 20pc, with even an deeper slide for the FTSE 100 given its high weighting of energy and commodities companies. "London is vulnerable to a negative shock. All these people who are ‘long’ oil and mining companies thinking that the dividends are safe are going to discover that they’re not at all safe,” he said. Brent oil prices will continue to slide after breaking through a key technical level at $34.40, RBS claimed, with a “bear flag” and “Fibonacci” signals pointing to a floor of $16, a level last seen after the East Asia crisis in 1999. The bank said a paralysed OPEC seems incapable of responding to a deepening slowdown in Asia, now the swing region for global oil demand Morgan Stanley has also slashed its oil forecast, warning that Brent could fall to $20 if the US dollar keeps rising.

It argued that oil is intensely leveraged to any move in the dollar and is now playing second fiddle to currency effects. RBS forecast that yields on 10-year German Bunds would fall time to an all-time low of 0.16pc in a flight to safety, and may break zero as deflationary forces tighten their grip. The European Central Bank’s policy rate will fall to -0.7pc. US Treasuries will fall to rock-bottom levels in sympathy, hammering hedge funds that have shorted US bonds in a very crowded “reflation trade”. RBS first issued its grim warnings for the global economy in November but events have moved even faster than feared. It estimates that the US economy slowed to a growth rate of 0.5pc in the fourth quarter, and accuses the US Federal Reserve of “playing with fire” by raising rates into the teeth of the storm. “There has already been severe monetary tightening in the US from the rising dollar,” it said.

It is unusual for the Fed to tighten when the ISM manufacturing index is below the boom-bust line of 50. It is even more surprising to do so after nominal GDP growth has fallen to 3pc and has been trending down since early 2014. RBS said the epicentre of global stress is China, where debt-driven expansion has reached saturation. The country now faces a surge in capital flight and needs a “dramatically lower” currency. In their view, this next leg of the rolling global drama is likely to play out fast and furiously. “We are deeply sceptical of the consensus that the authorities can ‘buy time’ by their heavy intervention in cutting reserve ratio requirements (RRR), rate cuts and easing in fiscal policy,” it said.
Of course, James Howard Kunstler predicted this past Monday that what is coming up is a era of discovery, in which investors, particularly the big players on Wall Street, and the people in general find out just what financial assets are sound and which are very, very dodgy -- so dodgy as to be a bill of goods, like Collateral Debt Obligations (CDOs) and Collateral Debt Obligations of Collateral Debt Obligations (CDOs, Squared) which recently have been reinvented as Bespoke Tranche Opportunities. And with the recent beginning of the 2010s junk bond debacle, the bursting of the fracking bubble and other financial and economic reversals underway or looming just ahead, these new financial shenanigans are going to end up in an extremely bad way.

James Howard Kunstler
Clusterfuck Nation 11 January 2016

It looks like 2016 will be the year that humanfolk learn that the stuff they value was not worth as much as they thought it was. It will be a harrowing process because a great many humans are abandoning ownership of things that are rapidly losing value — e.g. stocks on the Shanghai exchange — and stuffing whatever “money” they can recover into the US dollar, the assets and usufructs of which are also going through a very painful reality value adjustment.

Of course this calls into question foremost exactly what money is, and the answer is: basically a narrative construct. In other words, a story explaining why we behave the way we do around certain things. Some parts of the story have a closer relationship with reality than other parts. The part about the US dollar has a rather weak connection.

When various authorities — the BLS, the Federal Reserve, The New York Times — state that the US economy is “strong,” we can translate that to mean giant companies listed on the stock exchanges are able to put up a Potemkin façade of soundness....

I suppose the loss of faith in value of all kinds will play out sequentially. It is starting in financial “assets” because so many of these are just faith-based stories, and in this quant-and-algo age it has gotten awfully hard to tell what is good story and what is just a swindle. One wonders, for example, how many well-dressed young people at the bond desks have been able to pawn off sub-prime car loans bundled into giant, tranched bonds with attractive yields to hapless counterparts at the asset allocation desks of the pension funds and insurance companies. My guess is the situation is at least just as bad as it was 2007.

The problem is that when this sucker goes down, to paraphrase the immortal words of George W. Bush, you have to wonder how much other stuff of everyday life for everyday people it will take down with it. The discovery phase of our predicament began ever so crisply in the very first business week of the new year.

"Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy ride!" (Bette Davis as Margo Channing in Applause)


Monday, January 11, 2016

They Opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway Yesterday. Morganza to Open as Soon as the Day after Tomorrow.

Third time since 2008 (inclusive). Before that it was opened only once a decade.

Jeff Masters reports:

At 10 am CST January 10, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the gates on the Bonnet Carré Spillway in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana to allow flood waters from the swollen Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain. This is the earliest that the Corps has been forced to open the spillway, and just the 11th time since it became operational in 1931 that it has been used. The only other time the spillway has been opened in January was back in 1937. All of the other openings have come in spring or early summer. Opening of the spillway is expected to keep the Mississippi River below its 17-foot flood stage in New Orleans–just 3 feet below the tops of the levees. The river is expected to crest in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 12.
There is also chance that the Corps will be forced to open the Morganza Floodway in Pointe Coupee Parish northwest of Baton Rouge, which would divert water from the Mississippi River down the Atchafalaya River. This floodway has been opened only twice–in 1973 and 2011–and has a considerably higher cost of being opened than opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, due to the large amount of agricultural lands that would be flooded below the Morganza Floodway. The Sunday morning forecast from the NWS River Forecast Center predicted that the Mississippi River would crest at Red River Landing, just above the Morganza Floodway, on January 18. The predicted crest of 61.0′ is just 2.4′ below the all-time record crest of 63.39′ set on May 18, 2011, when the Corps was forced to open the Morganza Floodway in order to relieve pressure on the Old River Control Structure. The earliest the Corps would open the Morganza Floodway would be Wednesday, January 13.

If We Can Build and Operate Nuclear Power Plants without Screwing Things up Even More, then Let's Build-out Nuclear!

The life cycle GHG emissions per kWh from nuclear power plants are two orders of magnitude lower than those of fossil-fuelled electricity generation and comparable to most renewables (EC, 1995; Krewitt et al., 1999; Brännström-Norberg et al., 1996; Spadaro et al., 2000). Hence it is an effective GHG mitigation option, especially by way of investments in the lifetime extension of existing plants.
We humans can't still have our power and GHG too. Building out nuclear is not ‘effective GHG mitigation’ – unless we reduce our total energy footprint and we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels even more rapidly than that. Because using more energy people say is "better" but it isn't especially if it’s still creating GHG (and still oil-derived and oil-dependent – something that usually is conveniently forgotten). The whole life-cycle of site preparation, construction, maintenance, power production, decommission and disposal of radioactive wastes and what this ‘enables’ for the human community needs to be taken into account. Without reducing consumption and energy use in toto It’s still BAU. It’s not "mitigation" – just more emissions and creation of wastes – which we still haven't properly figured out how to get rid of or handle safely.
But if we can jump these hurdles (i.e., solve these problems and break these bad FF-dependency habits), then we should use nuclear power to replace the equivalent of fossil-fuel-derived power.
Hat tips to Tom Bond and J.R. at Robertscribbler.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thirty-nine TRILLION!?

Yes, that is the amount of funds that must be scared up to keep oil extraction going over the next few or several decades decade.  There is a very informative article at, originally posted at, which explains the present status of the Oil and the Global Economy.  It starts off with this money quote:

"By our calculations it will require additional debt formation of $39 trillion over the next decade to keep petroleum production operating.  Where that funding will originate from, when it is very unlikely to ever be repaid, will be of tantamount importance.  It will take very strong-willed societies to make such sacrifices.  If those sacrifices are not made, the integrated global production system will have disappeared by 2026.  2016 will be witness to the beginning of this event with dramatically increasing closures and bankruptcies throughout the world’s petroleum industry."

The Hill’s Group — “an association of consulting petroleum engineers and professional project managers”

The Hill's Group isn't just a group of bloggers who write about Peak Oil. I know these bloggers have all written about this before, but from what I remember when I read about future oil supply investment needs at Life after the Oil Crash back in the mid-twenty-noughts, the figure was something like $20-25 Trln through 2030. Which means something is afoot.

Because obtaining those thirty-nine trillions may be a tad difficult to come by. And even if not, at today's prices, exploiting the remaining petroleum reserves (1,482 bln barrels at the end of 2011) might not be a profitable enterprise, because the remaining oil is very expensive to extract compared to easy-to-obtain conventional crude oil. So here is this tidbit from Raúl Ilargi Meijer of The Automatic Earth:

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s developments in markets and economies so far, it’s that they are all linked, they’re all part of the same thing. If you can’t see that, you’re not going to understand what’s happening.

Looking at falling oil prices as a separate thread is not much use, and neither is doing the same with Chinese stocks, or the yuan, or the millions of Americans who are one paycheck away from poverty, for that matter. It’s all one story.

And the take-away from that, in turn, is that focusing too much on ‘narrow’ conditions in your particular part of the globe has only limited value. We’re very much all in this together. In the UK today, it matters very little what George Osborne says or does, or Mark Carney, because they don’t shape the future of the economy.

The same goes for all finance ministers and central bank governors across the planet, Yellen, Draghi, Koruda, the lot: the influence they exert on their own economies, which was always limited from the start, is running into the boundaries imposed by global developments....

And with the exposure of the limits to their abilities to make markets and economies do what they want, come the limitations of the mainstream financial press to make their long-promoted recovery narratives appear valid. Before we know it, we might have functioning markets back.

Oil -both Brent and WTI- have breached the $32 handle, and are very openly flirting with the $20s. China’s stock market trading was halted for a second time this year, just 14 minutes after the opening. This came about after the PBoC announced another ‘official’ devaluation of the yuan by 0.5% (stealth devaluation has been a daily occurrence for a while).

$2.5 trillion was lost in global equities in three days this year even before the Thursday China trading stop and ongoing oil price decline. Must be easily over $3 trillion by now. And counting: European markets look awful, and so do futures.

For the first time in years, markets begin to seem to reflect actual economic activity. That is to say, industrial production, factory orders, exports, imports and services sectors are falling both in China and the US. Many of these have been falling for a prolonged period of time. In fact, Reuters quotes a Sydney trader as saying: The Chinese economy actually contracted in December....

What we are looking at is debt deflation, in which virtual ‘wealth’ is being wiped out at a fast pace, and it’s taken some real wealth with it for good measure. It’s not going to be one straight line down, for instance because there are a lot of parties out there who need to cover bets they carry from last year, but it’s getting very hard to see what can stop the plunge this time. Volatility will be a popular term again.
And the present debt overhang, individual, corporate, and governmental, will make it very uncertain that there will be sufficient capital to get at enough oil to get us through the next decade at today's rate of consumption of about 33 bln barrels of oil. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oil companies getting in a big heap of trouble...

Big Oil and the small oil extraction companies too are getting in a heap of trouble. Big Oil is in scandal over dissassembling the truth over Climate Change while they KNEW the truth, and both Big Oil and the small fry are in trouble over their debts. The latter troubles do not bode well for the oil companies when the supply tightens up again, because of investors issues with the companies' debts that went bad before that point in the future.

Tips o' th' hat to Abel Adamski, Apneaman[1] [2],  Griffin, Ryan in New England, Robert Scribbler [1], [2]dtlange, and  of The Automatic Earth.

Big Oil braced for global warming while it fought regulations
By Amy Lieberman and Susanne Rust of the LA Times
Dec. 31, 2015 Link

“A few weeks before seminal climate change talks in Kyoto back in 1997, Mobil Oil took out a bluntly worded advertisement in the New York Times and Washington Post.

“Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil,” the ad said. “Scientists cannot predict with certainty if temperatures will increase, by how much and where changes will occur.”

One year earlier, though, engineers at Mobil Oil were concerned enough about climate change to design and build a collection of exploration and production facilities along the Nova Scotia coast that made structural allowances for rising temperatures and sea levels.
The problem is it’s not just AGW-Deniers and Republicans. It’s pretty much the entire political apparatus. Congress puts poison pills in must-pass bills and Obama signs off on them. Every. Fracking. Time.

During Paris Climate Summit, Obama Signed Exxon-, Koch-Backed Bill Expediting Pipeline Permits
By Steve Horn of Desmog Blog
December 31, 2015 Link

Just over a week before the U.S. signed the Paris climate agreement at the conclusion of the COP21 United Nations summit, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law with a provision that expedites permitting of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.
The legal and conceptual framework for the fast-tracking provision on pipeline permitting arose during the fight over TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. President Barack Obama initially codified that concept via Executive Order 13604 — signed the same day as he signed an Executive Order to fast-track construction of Keystone XL's southern leg — and this provision “builds on the permit streamlining project launched by” Obama according to corporate law firm Holland & Knight.

That 60-page streamlining provision falls on page 1,141 of the broader 1,301-page FAST (Fixing America's Surface Transportation) Act (H.R. 22 and S. 1647), known in policy wonk circles as the highway bill. The provision is located in a section titled, “Federal Permitting Improvement.”
And right after, he lifted the export ban. Big Oil didn't take long exploiting it, either. First ship was already on the way on December 31st.

First U.S. Oil Export Leaves Port; Marks End to 40-Year Ban

The first U.S. shipment of crude oil to an overseas buyer departed a Texas port on Thursday, just weeks after a 40-year ban on most such exports was lifted.

The Theo T tanker has left NuStar Energy LP’s dockside facility in Corpus Christi, Texas, along the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico, Mary Rose Brown, a spokeswoman for NuStar, said in an e-mail. The ship is carrying a cargo of oil and condensate to Italy from ConocoPhillips’s wells in south Texas that was sold to Swiss trading house Vitol Group.

A campaign by oil explorers including Continental Resources Inc., Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. to lift the 1970s-era export prohibition culminated in a Dec. 18 congressional decision to end the ban.

Well whaddya know! Lots and lots and lots of oil can be materialised into existence using accounting parlor tricks! And then disappeared when the tricks are corrected. The investors and creditors won't won't be happy, tho'.

Billions of Barrels of US Oil Set to Disappear. Poof
Tom Lewis of The Daily Impact Link

In a few weeks, several billion barrels of American oil will vanish in an instant. (I am not making this stuff up: the headline is right there on Bloomberg Business, hardly a chicken-little medium.) This is — shortly to be was — the oil that just a few months ago (Remember? When we were young, and happy?) was to return us to energy independence, to make us the number one oil producer in the world, to bring the happy days here again for good. 

But much of that oil is about to disappear, not with the boom of an oil-train explosion or deep-well blowout or terrorist bomb, but with the quiet click of a computer mouse. And this time it’s not (as it often has been before) the Energy Information Administration revising downward a previous guess about oil reserves.   

As the American shale-oil boom, a.k.a. American Oil Revolution, was accelerating back in 2009, the Masters of the Oil Universe demanded and got an accommodation from the Securities and Exchange Commission: it was made easier for the oil companies to claim as hard assets, for purposes of valuing their companies and borrowing money, the value of all the oil they estimated to be “in reserve,” which is to say lying somewhere under the ground they had under their control.

The oil companies’ estimates of their own “proven reserves” were astronomical, of course. In the careful words of one expert observer, David Hughes, “There was too much optimism built into their forecasts.” Translation: They lied. 
Richard Heinberg gives a presentation here that focuses on the false promises of fracking, and how since the mid-2000s the major oil companies have invested tens of billions in expanding oil production without hardly any increase in the amount extracted. They are seeing rapidly diminishing returns, and need to maintain production levels. It’s why there is so much fracking and digging up of tar sands and drilling in the deepwater ocean and the Arctic. The low-cost, easy-to-get oil is depleting now but our dependency on oil remains.

Robert Scribbler has this to say about Prof. Heinberg's conclusions:

The old, cheap oil is a diminishing fraction of current production. Growth comes from the expensive unconventional a which is one major reason why we have so many companies facing bankruptcy. From the point of view of strategic use of money to reduce future carbon emissions, now is prime time for divestment. But given a still general lack of strong government policy, the energy markets will face a long series of shocks as a result. Laissez faire again and the result is mass malinvestment in fossil fuels and assets stranded in wave after wave.
And as the floods come down the Mississippi like a million tractor trailers barreling down the Mass. Pike, Exxon is able to close a refinery to minimize flood damage in Memphis due to lack of demand because of the weird, warm weather we've been having. The weird, warm weather that's being caused by too much Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere due to combustion of fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil.

Southern states brace for surging Mississippi River flooding
By Victoria Cavaliere of Reuters
Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis, Erwin Seba, Justin Madden and Mary Wisniewski
Bernard Orr and Tom Brown, eds.
Fri Jan 1, 2016 Link

Officials in Louisiana are checking levees daily, and Exxon Mobil Corp has decided to shut its 340,571 barrel-per-day refined products terminal in Memphis, Tennessee, as floodwaters threatened to inundate the facility just south of the city’s downtown.

“All that water’s coming south and we have to be ready for it,” Louisiana Lieutenant Governor-Elect Billy Nungesser told CNN. “It’s a serious concern. It’s early in the season. We usually don’t see this until much later.”
And Robert Scribbler finds it "very ironic and more than a little disturbing that the same oil companies that have been shoring up their own infrastructure to deal with climate change keep blocking policies that are now much needed to prevent damage to an undefended public."

Of course, the falling oil prices are going to force oil companies big and small to cut costs any way they can, or face defaults on their debts. We should expect plenty of oil company defauts and bankruptcies in 2016 which could potentially shut-in a lot of oil reserves underground (good news for Climate Change!) due to investors, including big banks, who were once bitten and will be twice shy.

Oil drops 31% in 2015 on global crude glut
By William Watts and Jenny W. Hsu
Dec 31, 2015 Link

Oil futures ended higher Thursday in the final trading session of 2015, but posted a steep annual drop for the second year in a row as markets continue to wrestle with a global glut of crude. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in February rose 44 cents, or 1.2%, to finish at $37.04 a barrel. For the year, the U.S. benchmark dropped 30.5% and has lost 62.4% over the last two years. Crude hadn’t dropped two years in a row since 1998. February Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 82 cents, or 2.3%, on London’s ICE Futures exchange to settle at $37.28 a barrel. Brent fell 35% in 2015, marking its third straight yearly drop. Oil trimmed gains somewhat after oil-field services firm Baker Hughes said the total number of U.S. oil rigs fell by two this week to 536.

Oil’s bounceback on Thursday likely reflected some short covering ahead of year-end and a three-day weekend, said Phil Flynn at Price Futures. U.S. markets will be closed Friday for the New Year’s Day holiday. Flynn said traders might be nervous about maintaining short positions amid rising tensions within Iran that could threaten the implementation of a nuclear accord that was expected to result in the lifting of sanctions that have prevented the country from exporting oil. Iran’s president has ordered his defense minister to expedite the country’s ballistic missile program following newly planned U.S. sanctions, he said Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal. With U.S. production “growing for the last few weeks and global inventories being near storage limits, this is yet another reminder that the supply glut could take a long time to clear, which may mean even lower oil prices in the near term,” said Fawad Razaqzad at

Looks like we'll be in interesting times!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Peak Groundwater

All over the world, the groundwater tables are declining. In places like the Central Valley of California, the Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains, the Floridan Reservoir, and in other places in South America, Europe, Russia, China, water tables are dropping.

  From The Desert Sun:

Farmer Jay Garetson surveys drying-out land on his property in SW Kansas. Source: Steve Elfers, The Desert Sun.

Pumped beyond limits, many U.S. aquifers in decline.

by Ian James and Steve Reilly, The Desert Sun(in cooperation with USA Today)
10 December 2015

Time is running out for portions of the High Plains Aquifer, which lies beneath eight states from South Dakota to Texas and is the lifeblood of one of the world’s most productive farming economies. The aquifer, also known as the Ogallala, makes possible about one-fifth of the country’s output of corn, wheat and cattle. But its levels have been rapidly declining, and with each passing year more wells are going dry.

As less water pours from wells, some farmers are adapting by switching to different crops. Others are shutting down their drained wells and trying to scratch out a living as dryland farmers, relying only on the rains.

In parts of western Kansas, the groundwater has already been exhausted and very little can be extracted for irrigation. In other areas, the remaining water could be mostly used up within a decade.

The severe depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is symptomatic of a larger crisis in the United States and many parts of the world. Much more water is being pumped from the ground than can be naturally replenished, and groundwater levels are plummeting. It’s happening not only in the High Plains and drought-ravaged California but also in places from the Gulf Coastal Plain to the farmland of the Mississippi River Valley, and from the dry Southwest to the green Southeast....

Aquifers are being drawn down in many areas by pumping for agriculture, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s use of fresh groundwater. Water is also being drained for cities, expanding development and industries. Across much of the country, overpumping has become a widespread habit. And while the symptoms have long remained largely invisible to most people, the problem is analogous to gradually squandering the balance of a collective bank account. As the balance drops, there’s less of that resource to draw on when it’s needed.

At the same time, falling groundwater levels are bringing increasing costs for well owners, water utilities and society as a whole. As water levels drop, more energy is required to lift water from wells, and those pumping bills are rising. In areas where aquifers are being severely depleted, new wells are being drilled hundreds of feet into the earth at enormous cost. That trend of going deeper and deeper can only go on so long....

In places, water that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is being pumped out before many fully appreciate the value of what’s lost. The declines in groundwater in the United States mirror similar decreases in many parts of the world.

NASA satellites have allowed scientists to map the changes underground on a global scale for the first time, putting into stark relief a drawdown that has long remained largely out of sight. The latest satellite data, together with measurements of water levels in wells, reveal widespread declines in places from Europe to India, and from the Middle East to China.

“Groundwater depletion is this incredible global phenomenon,” said Jay Famiglietti, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and the senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We never really understood it the way we understand it now. It’s pervasive and it’s happening at a rapid clip.”

Famiglietti and his colleagues have found that more than half of the world’s largest aquifers are declining. Those large-scale losses of groundwater are being monitored from space by two satellites as part of the GRACE mission, which stands for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment.
Since 2002, the orbiting satellites have been taking detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field and recording changes in the total amounts of water, both aboveground and underground. Using that data, the researchers have created a global map showing areas of disappearing water as patches of yellow, orange and red. Those “hotspots” mark regions where there is overpumping of water or where drought has taken a toll.

The map shows that, just as scientists have been predicting due to climate change, some areas in the tropics and the higher latitudes have been growing wetter, Famiglietti said, while many dry and semi-arid regions in the mid-latitudes have been growing drier. In those same dry regions, intensive agriculture is drawing heavily on groundwater.

More at the link:
And by experience, when it becomes more and more difficult and expensive to extract water from a groundwater well, eventually one will encounter diminishing returns -- first it costs more both in terms of energy and money, and later on no matter what the well owner does,  he is finding that he can pump out less and less water over time, until the water runs out. And then he has to either find a new watersource, or just depend on rainfall, like some farmers in Kansas are now doing.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Top Scientists Don't Hold Back on Weird Weather and Anthropogenic Global Warming.

From Robertscribbler.

Top scientists from all over the world are now speaking out about climate change: that yes, the present weird weather including the El Diablo (El Nino on streroids) is linked with the increasing carbon content in our atmosphere, brought to you by our Happy Motoring!(TM) lifestyle.

UK Floods. Source: Her Majesty's Government of the UK (Hat tip to dtlange)
 Amidst Disasters Around the World, Top Scientists Declare Links Between Extreme Weather and Climate Change
By Robertscribbler
31 December 2015

Andy Lee Robinson said it all-too-well — “El Nino + Climate Change = El Diablo.”
And as the Washington Post so cogently notes — the world is now experiencing a rash of Freakish Weather from the North Pole to South America. It’s what appears to be happening as these two major record weather makers fire off simultaneously. A grim tally that includes the highest river levels ever seen in Missouri, the worst floods England has seen since the Middle Ages, the first time the North Pole has seen significantly above freezing temperatures during Winter in modern record keeping, city and region-crippling droughts spanning Central and South America, and seemingly everywhere, but especially in the North Atlantic where Greenland melt outflow has backed up the Gulf Stream, storms that seem to laugh in the face of our weather history.

Dr. Jeff Masters, at Weather Underground, yesterday made this grim observation:
This isn’t the climate I grew up with. We didn’t see this kind of weather in the 20th century. It’s just a continuation of the crazy weather we’ve seen over the course of the 21st century so far.”
Attributing Single Extreme Weather Events to Climate Change

But Dr. Masters will be the first to tell you that it’s tough to scientifically prove that any one storm or weather system was altered by climate change. In essence, it’s like trying to prove that this home-run or that shut-out was caused by a baseball player taking steroids. We know that the steroids result in a changed performance by the athlete, just as we know that climate change alters the overall performance of weather. But it’s devilishly difficult for scientists to pin down the exact climate change mechanisms going into this or that monster storm or mega-drought. It doesn’t mean that climate change or steroids aren’t at work, because they are. It’s just hard to pin down exactly when.

It’s this gray area that climate change deniers and fossil fuel backers have exploited to generate doubt that climate change is happening at all. They’ve hyper-focused on this storm or that drought, rather than the larger extreme weather and temperature trend — which is clearly changing and worsening. It’s almost as if a group of baseball fans got together to defend the use of steroids in the sport and placed the burden of proof on whether or not an individual home run was caused by the stuff. A false analysis that puts both scientists and those concerned about the environment into the ridiculous position of having to prove the existence of climate change in one storm or a single drought. The ludicrous assumption being that, otherwise, climate change doesn’t exist at all.

But merchant of doubters didn’t count on one thing — the advancement of science.
And it's not just Dr. Jeff Masters (two tips o' th' hat to todaysguestis). Several other scientists weighed in on the link between global warming and our weird weather, according to the UK Independent:
“There is no doubt in my mind that climate change is partly responsible for the flooding across the north of England. These floods are in part due to greenhouse gas emissions.” 
Climate scientist Professor Piers Forster, University of Leeds
“Simple physics tells us that warmer air can hold more water vapour. The global warming that we have experienced so far has increased the atmosphere’s moisture storage capacity by about seven per cent. This is undisputed science and it clearly increases the potential for extreme rainfall and flooding.”
Paul Williams, meterologist at Reading University (UK)
It is undeniably true that warmer air can hold more moisture, just as warmer oceans increase the moisture content of the atmosphere by about six per cent for every 1C warming. In simple terms, the more moisture there is in the atmosphere, the more additional energy it contains. “So from basic physical understanding of weather systems it is entirely plausible that climate change has exacerbated what has been a period of very wet and stormy weather arising from natural variability.”
Dame Julia Sligo, the chief scientist at the Met Office

"We found that global warming increased the likelihood of the heavy precipitation associated with a storm like Desmond. An event like this is now roughly 40 per cent more likely due to climate change than it was in the past, with an uncertainty range of five to 80 per cent.”

Friederike Otto of Oxford University

(Dr. Otto is a co-author of a study already submitted to a peer-reviewed journal suggesting that climate change has increased the chances of Desmond-like storms by about 40 per cent and prepared by a team of scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the University of Oxford.)

"The armchair meteorologists who continue to insist this is all just weather are starting to sound a little bit like Aunty Mabel expressing surprise at her remarkable luck in boardgames. The weather has changed, and we have changed it: get used to it. Those with more open minds are asking, ‘Is this the new normal?’ Unfortunately, the answer is ‘No’ – ‘normal weather’, unchanged over generations apart from random fluctuations, is a thing of the past."

Professor Myles Allen of Oxford University

And Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State University, co-author of Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change and creator of the "infamous" hockey-stick curve weighs in on this, too, in an interview with MSNBC on the 2 January concerning El Niño, climate change and the recent extreme weather events (tip o' th' hat to dtlange).

And NASA says El Niño’s worst is yet to come!
NASA scientists are saying the warm weather cycle is expected to unload its biggest punch in early 2016.

According to its latest satellite imagery, the strong El Niño that’s been brewing in the Pacific Ocean has shown “no signs of waning” and is on pace to match or even surpass the 1997–98 El Niño event—the biggest ever recorded.

“In 2014, the current El Niño teased us—wavering off and on,” Josh Willis, project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “But in early 2015, atmospheric conditions changed, and El Niño steadily expanded in the central and eastern Pacific.”;_ylt=AwrTccn1hIlWezMA0nEnnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTEyYXAwN25lBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjExMTVfMQRzZWMDc2M-

So in the words of the immortal Margo Channing (Bette Davis): "Fasten your seatbelts! It's going to be a bumpy ride."