Publications: Notes at the Margin

Trying to Understand (December 9, 2019)


This issue will reflect more of a personal focus than any other report I have written. On Friday, December 6, I fell on black ice and broke my hip. The doctors put pins in it and told me I was good to go. The expression they used was "full weight-bearing is tolerated."


This sounded great while I was lying in bed. However, I soon discovered that my left side chose not to tolerate any weight. Recovery has been slow, given my age. The emails from friends and clients, though, have spurred me on. This short report should have gone out Monday, December 9.


Preparing this Notes at the Margin has been challenging, though, because I am data-driven, perhaps too much so. The process is impeded further by the general ignoring of oil by financial writers and news media. More has been written, for example, on topics such as agriculture (particularly soybeans) than oil. Matters are made worse by cable news focusing mainly on four issues: impeachment, Greta Thunberg (global warming), the Federal Reserve, and the British election. Energy and oil are not covered, making it difficult for a bedridden economist to pull out new ideas or information.


My solution is to draw away from the short-term noise and think about the longer-term issues and their oil price implications. Listed below are the topics that came to mind while I stared at the ceiling and wished for a quicker physical recovery. I will work through these over the next few weeks.


  • Greta Thunberg, global warming, global trade agreements, global growth, and hydrocarbon energy demand
  • Investor sentiment and oil firms’ write-offs and ability to raise capital
  • Product specifications, product availability, and customer sensitivity to higher prices, particularly regarding the IMO transition
  • Monopolization, competition, the breakdown of suppliers’ ability to maintain price
  • Traditional oil market supply/demand analyses, price relationships, and China’s role


I will start with the last point—traditional supply/demand analyses


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