Surprising? I Think Not

While riding metro yesterday, I flipped through the Express, and stumbled on an article titled Officials Say $4 Gas Is Here to Stay (oddly enough, the article isn't on Express's website, but I link to a more verbose version of the same story). What a news flash. A google search shows that papers all over the country are running with that story. Are people really shocked by this? I'm only shocked that it is happening now, instead of 3-4 years ago.

Later, while sitting flipping through an automotive magazine (I didn't pay attention to which one, nor can I find the article online), which featured an article titled something like "The Cars of the Future: A Sneak Peak at 2009 and Beyond". I couldn't wait to see all the cool new technologies, the hybrids, the all electrics, etc. Wrong. The article featured V8 sports cars, the Hummer H4, etc. Was the Tesla mentioned? The Aptera? No.

I find this a bit weird. And worrisome. Finally, the government is starting to chime in on the things many of us have been talking about for years now, but there still seems to be an attitude that this is a temporary blip. Why else would manufacturers continue to slate future vehicles to guzzle petrol? There are signs of hope though. The very fact that the government has perked its ears, and started backing the stories of the looming oil/fuel crisis, lends more credibility to the forecasts. And, I've personally noticed more pedestrians, more metro commuters, more bikers, and more motorcyclists the past few months. Last month a guy wanted to buy something I listed on Craigslist, but decided I lived too far to justify the cost in fuel to come get it.

So maybe our behavior will change. Is it in time? Who knows. I've read a fairly convincing argument that we will face a pretty severe recession or depression due to the prices of oil we've already seen. The theory goes something like this... When oil prices are up 80% or more from the previous year, the following 18 months the S&P 500's average maximum declines match average maximum gains. When Oil prices are up 100% or more, the following 18 months the S&P 500's average maximum decline is -27%, while the average maximum gain is only 4%.

So where do we stand now? We've gone over the 100% mark several times recently (see Chart). It doesn't look like prosperous times are ahead, that seems for certain.


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