Rising Energy Costs and the Economy

            There is a lot going on globally that will, in my view, create some additional headwinds for the US economy moving ahead.

            This week, I’ll discuss one situation that has the potential to be especially impactful on the US economy.

            It’s the world energy situation.

            As we all are aware, energy costs are moving higher, even here in the United States.  This past week, I had the unpleasant experience of paying my September electric bill which was noticeably higher than it was one year ago.

            A quick visit to the file that holds my paid utility bills told the story.  Based on usage from one year ago and presently, my electric costs escalated more than 16% year-over-year.  Despite the fact that my usage was slightly lower, my check to the power company was higher.

            It could be worse.

            I could live in Europe where energy costs are literally off the charts.  Desperate politicians in some European countries are now threatening to legislate usage including passing laws mandating the maximum temperature at which a thermostat can be set and banning the use of portable heaters.

            This from Michael Snyder (Source:  http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/this-winter-europe-plunges-into-the-new-dark-ages/):

Could you imagine being sent to prison for three years if you dared to set your thermostat above 66 degrees Fahrenheit?  As you will see below, this is a proposed regulation that is actually being considered in a major European country right now.  If you have not been paying much attention to what is happening in Europe, you need to wake up.  Natural gas in Europe is seven times more expensive than it was early last year, and that is because of the war in Ukraine.  Over the past few decades, the Europeans foolishly allowed themselves to become extremely dependent on gas from Russia.   In fact, more than 55 percent of the natural gas that Germany uses normally comes from Russia.  But now the war has changed everything, and Europe is facing an extremely harsh winter of severe shortages, mandatory rationing, and absolutely insane heating bills.

Things are going to get very cold and very dark all over Europe in the months ahead, and those Europeans that choose to rebel against the new restrictions that are being implemented could literally find themselves in prison

Switzerland is considering jailing anyone who heats their rooms above 19C for up to three years if the country is forced to ration gas due to the Ukraine war.

The country could also give fines to those who violate the proposed new regulations.

Speaking to Blick, Markus Sporndli, who is a spokesman for the Federal Department of Finance, explained that the rate for fines on a daily basis could start at 30 Swiss Francs (£26).

            19 degrees Celsius is just 66 degrees Fahrenheit.

            If you live in Europe, prepare to dress very warmly this winter.

            Some may be anticipating that they will just use portable radiant heaters to keep things toasty, but apparently using such heaters “would not be allowed” under the new regulations that Switzerland is considering…

Blick also reported that radiant heaters would not be allowed and saunas and swimming pools would have to stay cold.

            This is serious.

            We have never seen anything like this before, and the longer the war in Ukraine stretches on the worse the energy crisis in Europe will become.

            What many financial analysts are missing is that rapidly escalating energy costs feed inflation in other areas of the economy and inevitably lead to economic contraction.  Snyder offers some perspective as it relates to Europe.          

            An end to the era of cheap energy also means that a severe economic slowdown is in the cards, and this is already starting to show up in the numbers…

Europe is showing signs of heading into a recession as multiple economic surveys show the region’s services and manufacturing sectors slowing down while a large number of the continent’s citizens are struggling to cope with rising prices.

The S&P Global Eurozone Composite Output Index fell to an 18-month low in August at 48.9, according to a Sept. 5 news release.

The eurozone private sector “moved further into contractionary territory” in August. Both services and manufacturing output fell for the month.

            Of course, what we have witnessed so far is just the beginning.

            Things are likely to get really bad this winter.

            In fact, German Economic Minister Robert Habeck has publicly admitted that some parts of the German economy will “simply stop producing for the time being”.

            Wow.

            And the truth is that this is already starting to happen

In yet another truly astonishing announcement that demonstrates the desperation of this hour, German steelmaker ArcelorMittal, one of the largest steel production facilities in Europe, has shuttered operations due to high energy prices.

“With gas and electricity prices increasing tenfold within just a few months, we are no longer competitive in a market that is 25% supplied by imports,” said CEO Reiner Blaschek.

This comes after announced closures of aluminum smelters, copper smelters, and ammonia production plants over the last few weeks. Ammonia — necessary for fertilizer — is now 70% offline in the EU.

            Many more factories will be forced to shut down in the coming months.

            Deeply alarmed by what is taking place, 40 CEOs from Europe’s metals industry have jointly issued an open letter in which they warn that their companies are facing an “existential threat to our future”

Ahead of Friday’s emergency summit, the business leaders of Europe’s non-ferrous metals industry are writing together to raise the alarm about Europe’s worsening energy crisis and its existential threat to our future. Our sector has already been forced to make unprecedented curtailments in the last 12 months. We are deeply concerned that the winter ahead could deliver a decisive blow to many of our operations, and we call on EU and Member State leaders to take emergency action to preserve their strategic electricity-intensive industries and prevent permanent job losses.

50% of the EU’s aluminum and zinc capacity has already been forced offline due to the power crisis, as well as significant curtailments in silicon and ferroalloys production and further impacts felt across copper and nickel sectors. In the last month, several companies have had to announce indefinite closures and many more are on the brink ahead of a life-or-death winter for many operations. Producers face electricity and gas costs over ten times higher than last year, far exceeding the sales price for their products. We know from experience that once a plant is closed it very often becomes a permanent situation, as re-opening implies significant uncertainty and cost.

            This is what an economic collapse looks like.

            Things are already so bad that scientists are even considering shutting down the Large Hadron Collider

Europe’s energy crisis is being felt by everyone – including the scientists working deep underground in Switzerland at the Large Hadron Collider.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, is even considering taking its particle accelerators offline.

This is due to the accelerators’ high energy demands, and the organization’s desire to keep the region’s electricity grid stable.

            So at least one good thing could potentially come out of this crisis.

            But overall, the months ahead are going to be an immensely uncomfortable time for Europe.

            As conditions become tougher and tougher, ordinary Europeans are going to become angrier and angrier.

            NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is openly admitting that there will be “civil unrest”, but he insists that Europeans must make sacrifices in order to support the war in Ukraine…

Vladimir Putin’s ‘energy blackmail’ over Europe could lead to ‘civil unrest’ this winter, the NATO Secretary General has warned.

Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that winter ‘will be hard’ as ‘families and businesses feel the crunch of soaring energy prices and costs of living’ in the coming months.

Writing in the Financial Times, the boss of the Western security alliance said that it is worth paying the price to support Ukraine.

            Eventually, there will be tremendous civil unrest in major cities in the United States as well.

            We are still only in the very early stages of this new global energy crisis, and it is going to turn all of our lives upside down.

            Meanwhile, we are also plunging into a horrific global food crisis.  As I detailed a few days ago, even the head of the UN is admitting that there will be “multiple famines” in 2023.

            Life as we know it is about to change.

            Right now, all eyes are on Europe because things are starting to get really crazy over there.

            Europe is going to descend into “the new Dark Ages” this winter, and the entire world will experience extreme pain as a result.

            Rapidly rising energy costs will create economic conditions that I believe are currently being overlooked.  These economic conditions will eventually have to evolve into the deflationary environment that I have been warning about for several years.

            I believe that time is now getting closer.

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