The French and the rest of Europe are up in arms over soaring gas and food prices. Truckers, taxi drivers, farmers and fishermen across the continent are blocking roads and raising hell.
Gas and diesel cost 2.5 to three times more here than in North America, where prices are still a bargain compared with the rest of the developed world.
Frightened politicians from Baltimore to Bangkok are pretending they can do something about high energy and food prices, or desperately are seeking scapegoats. Evil speculators or Arabs are the current favourite.
So who is responsible for oil rising from $40 per barrel to over $140? The principal villain is the once mighty U.S. dollar.
Most of oil's price surge has been caused by the U.S. dollar's steady loss of value caused by Washington's bungled foreign policy and orgy of debt. Increased demand from India, China and other Asian nations, where gas prices are kept below world prices by government subsidies, has played an important but secondary role.
Diesel prices in China and India, which import most of their oil, are 33% to 40% cheaper than in North America.
FALLING U.S. DOLLAR
Since 2002, the U.S. dollar has fallen nearly 40% against the euro, nearly as much against the Canadian dollar, and about 15% against the Japanese yen. Canada is the U.S.'s leading oil supplier. Once the world's leading oil producer, the U.S. now imports 66% of its oil. Thanks to the eroding U.S. dollar, Americans constantly must pay more for this imported oil.
Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan admitted in 2007 that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was about seizing oil. The Bush-Cheney strategy was aimed at seizing Iraq's oil, then boosting production to break up the oil cartel, OPEC. The result was a disaster. In spite of 14,000 mercenaries guarding Iraq's pipelines, its oil production actually is lower than before the U.S. invasion, adding to the growing shortage on the world market.
In his excellent new book, Bad Money, political analyst Kevin Phillips explains how the Clinton and Bush administrations allowed and even aided the unregulated finance industry to create the giant bubble of largely worthless securities that is now bursting.
Phillips points out that finance has become America's leading industry while manufacturing has shrunk to only 12%. Public and private debt has grown from $10.5 trillion in 1987 to $43 trillion by 2005, according to Phillips. The housing bubble stimulated by the crack cocaine of absurdly low interest rates accounts for 40% of America's gross domestic product.
America's reckless debt orgy is ending, bringing recession in its wake. The collapse of Wall Street's house of cards continues, with half of bank profits going up in smoke. Soaring oil prices are so far the most painful symptom of America's economic and geopolitical decline under the Bush administration.
The next shoe will drop when oil producers start demanding payment in euros or a basket of currencies. Interestingly, Saddam's Iraq, Venezuela and Iran all began doing this, and quickly hit the top of Washington's list of enemies.
Control of Mideast oil is one of the main pillars of U.S. world power. Breaking the half-century old link between the U.S. dollar and oil will further accelerate America's decline as a great power.
Two thirds of the world's hard currency reserves are now held in Asia. China and Japan alone hold 47% of U.S. foreign debt. As the U.S. dollar weakens, Asian and Mideast nations will feel growing pressure to reduce their holdings of U.S. dollars and debt and move to stronger currencies. If this happens, the U.S. economy will be in for a huge crisis and face sharp interest rate hikes.
World oil production is stagnating while demand rises. By 2030, China will have as many cars as the U.S. Most analysts believe oil will stay above $100 from now on.
Meaning North Americans better get used to small cars, small portions, small homes and smaller waistlines.
Copyright © 2008, Canoe Inc.