Tag Archives: Europe

Europe Has…Too Much Natural Gas?

Russia has cut off Europe’s gas supplies. But despite Putin’s best efforts, it’s looking like a toasty winter on the continent.


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Ships carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) are lined up in ports across Europe. The only problem: finding a place to put it all!

From a report out this morning in Bloomberg:

Europe suddenly has more gas than it can use.

Starved of the Russian imports on which its long relied, Europe has rushed to import liquefied natural gas from around the world to fill up storage. Now, a combination of unusually warm weather and successful bidding for cargoes means facilities are almost full before Europeans have even turned the thermostats up. Gas prices have also fallen back sharply, and are less than a third of their summer peak.

Bloomberg’s index for loaded tankers on the water for 20 days or more has risen to the highest since at least 2017. Last week, Spain’s Enagas SA warned it may need to limit numbers as it has little room to absorb excess imports.

This sudden turnabout shows how well markets work. Natural gas prices spiked in Europe, so suppliers sent their gas there.

After all, why not get the best price?

But so many sent gas, the price has plummeted. It’s now lower than when the war in Ukraine began.

Russia has lost its best bargaining chip. If it can’t freeze the continent, what other options does it have?

Russia has also damaged its economic future.

Europe will never view it as a reliable supplier again. Putin may struggle to find a buyer for his gas, given his prior treachery.

Russia should keep in mind that there’s an expiration date on that gas. Solar energy is already cheaper in many circumstances.

Governments are working to limit CO2 emissions. Renewables are scaling and getting cheaper every day.

In a few decades, there may be little demand for fossil fuels.

The future for Russia looks bleak. Meanwhile, with its energy supplies diversified, Europe will be more secure than ever.

What do you think the future holds for Russia and Europe? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know.

More on markets:

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Photo: “#8962 LNG ship from BR189” by Nemo’s great uncle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

This Tiny Country Beat COVID

On the southern tip of Spain, the tiny UK territory of Gibraltar has vaccinated almost its entire population. COVID deaths have dropped to zero:

Life is beginning to get back to normal. Masks are no longer required outside, curfews are gone, and bars and restaurants are full. Even sporting events have resumed:

Events have also returned to the Rock as Gibraltar hosted what’s thought to be the first fully vaccinated major sporting fixture in the world on Saturday.

Five hundred spectators, each tested for Covid-19 prior to the event, were able to witness British heavyweight fighter Dillian Whyte claim victory over Russia’s Alexander Povetkin at Gibraltar’s Europa Sports Complex.

The fight, called the Rumble on the Rock, was originally meant to take place at the Matchroom HQ, a venue in southeastern England, but was switched to Gibraltar thanks to its Covid-19 safe environment.

Soccer fans were also allowed to witness sporting matches starting with Gibraltar’s World Cup qualifier clash against the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Victoria Stadium welcomed 600 attendees who had previously received two doses of the vaccine and tested negative for the virus on the day of the match.

Only 3% of residents refused the vaccine, which may be one reason why Gibraltar’s results are so good. That may be difficult to recreate in the US or other nations, but Gibraltar provides a welcome view of what life could look like soon as the world races to vaccinate.

I encourage you to get your shot if you haven’t already. Let’s get back to normal life!

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Photo: “Gibraltar – Rosia” by Roy McGrail (krm gib) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Tiny Village That Beat the Great Depression

Nestled in the Austrian Alps is the tiny village of Worgl. In 1932, as the world economy was in the depths of the Great Depression, Worgl too had fallen on hard times:

The Great Depression was in full swing and of its population of nearly 5000, a third were jobless, and about 200 families were bankrupt. The situation was desperate. The town would try anything.

What followed was one of the most radical economic experiments in history. The town created a new form of money. It was a lot like the standard Austrian schilling it replaced, except its value dropped by 1% every month. In a year, you’d have just 88.64 left of every 100 schillings.

This gave residents a strong incentive to stop hoarding currency, a natural reaction to a scary economic climate:

The speed that money changed hands (14 times higher than the national schilling) helped keep local businesses afloat and, in time, brought back the town’s lost jobs.

Soon, the town went from 1/3 jobless to full employment. Tax revenues boomed as people paid their bills in the new currency before it lost its value.

Worgl’s success attracted attention from its neighbors:

Things looked up for Worgl and [Mayor] Unterguggenberger. The town did so well that six neighbouring villages successfully copied the system and over 200 grew an interest in following suit.

Ultimately, the central bank shut down this experiment in a local currency. Shortly thereafter, unemployment shot right back up to where it was before Worgl’s mayor made this bold move to save his town.

It makes sense that Worgl would’ve rocketed ahead of nearby villages. Worgl essentially had (very) negative interest rates and a far more accomodative monetary policy than its neighbors.

Today too, lowering interest rates, even below zero, is a commonly used tactic to stimulate economic activity. The US Federal Reserve lowered interest rates substantially at the beginning of the COVID crisis, and Japan and much of Europe has had negative rates for years.

But despite the success of Worgl, the results of negative rates today are mixed. Negative rates might encourage consumers to spend, but they could also discourage banks from lending. After all, who wants to lend when you might have to pay for the privilege!

Worgl remains an interesting footnote to monetary policy. Whatever the applications to today may be, I applaud the bravery of those villagers who took a radical step to try to save their home.

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Photo: “File:Pfarrkirche Woergl Osten.jpg” by Thom16 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0