Sunday, August 11, 2019

The wheels come off shale oil

A flurry of coverage about the gloom and outright calamity in the shale oil business appeared last week. Low prices continue to dog the industry. But so does lack of investor interest in financing loss-making operations for yet another season. Plunging stock prices portend more bankruptcies if circumstances don't change.

I received considerable pushback last January when I asked whether U.S. shale oil had entered a death spiral. The almost constant refrain of the cheerleaders for the shale oil industry has been that increasing production demonstrates there is something wrong with my analysis and that of others who have been skeptical of the industry's claims.

We skeptics have certainly been wrong about how long the boom could go on. We could not fathom why investors kept funneling capital into businesses that were consistently consuming it with no hope of ever providing a long-term return.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

What happened to individual empowerment in the internet age?

Apple Computer's 1984 Superbowl commercial—one of the most iconic television commercials ever made—announced two things: the introduction of the Macintosh computer and that this computer could in some fashion allow each of us to escape a future of tyranny and social control prophesied in George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984.

The computer age and the coming of the internet have certainly moved more power into the hands of the individual, giving him and her access to social and professional connections around the world, information on every conceivable topic, and awareness of events in real-time or near real-time across the globe. The possibilities of the combined computational power of the modern computer and the connectivity of those computers across the globe are still being explored and expanded every day.

So, how is individual empowerment faring? Not so well. It turns out that practically every device, piece of software and internet platform not only holds the promise of enhancing the individual's power but also can be weaponized to undermine it.