Feb 7th 2020

Cramer: “We’re in the Death Knell Phase” of Big Oil, as 44% of Norway New Autos are Electric

by Juan Cole

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Commentwebsite.

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – CNBC stock picker Jim Cramer startled his conservative fan base this week by refusing to push ExxonMobil and other petroleum stocks. He solemnly informed his audience that he is “done” with fossil fuel securities. He pointed out that pension funds all over the world are divesting from them because of pressure from a younger generation of investors who do not believe you can ever make a fossil fuel company sustainable. (This is true, you cannot. Their business model is to have us burn the fossil fuels, which releases billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, which is wrecking the planet.)

We are, he said, “in the death knell phase.” He adds, “It is actually happening pretty quickly. You’re seeing divestiture by a lot of funds. It is going to be a parade that says, ‘These are tobacco, and we’re not going to own them . . . We’re in a new world.”

CNBC: “Jim Cramer: ‘I’m done with fossil fuel’ stocks”

Jim Cramer is not a liberal. He isn’t saying these things to be politically correct. He is being hard-nosed and realistic. Most people under 40 don’t want those stocks.

In comparing petroleum securities to tobacco, Cramer is admitting that a large segment of the public now sees them as injurious to public health. This conclusion is correct. Sixty percent of Americans want to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Such attitudes are changing rapidly. The Australian establishment was wedded tightly to climate denialism until it was shaken by having the whole continent go up in flames this winter (their summer). The likelihood is that the Australian public will begin finally to turn against coal in the aftermath. As countries are badly hit by climate crisis effects, the public will start voting to outlaw fossil fuels.

There is, however, another reason to get out of petroleum stocks right now, besides environmental consciousness.

Petroleum isn’t going to be needed much longer. The world over the next few years will rapidly experience a technological disruption, as millions of families buy electric vehicles and fuel them from the sun and wind. Petroleum will still have some minor uses. Petrochemicals are useful as soil fertilizers, but the demand isn’t such as to drive a high price for it. Oil is used to make plastics, but we probably should outlaw that, too. Petroleum securities will likely soon be a penny stock.

Investing in them is like investing in zeppelins just before the Hindenburg disaster, or like investing in Blockbuster video stores just before video streaming came along.

China is causing jitters with its goal of having 25% of new car sales be electric in only 5 years. Not only would that development vastly reduce China petroleum demand, but some analysts worry that the Chinese manufacturers will be driven by government directives and incentives to over-produce EVs. In that case, inexpensive Chinese electric vehicles would flood the world market, as well. The government has reduced consumer incentives to go electric since last summer, causing a dip in EV sales. But if the Communist Party really wants 25% of new cars to be electric, it probably can make it happen.

In Norway in January, 44 percent of new car sales were electric. This is up from a 2019 average of 42 percent. Admittedly, Norway has high tariffs on imported cars, but exempts electric cars from those taxes, so it is actually cheaper to get a really nice electric car than a gas guzzler. But the fact is that governments will increasingly use taxes and other policy tools to get rid of gasoline vehicles, as with China. What we’re seeing in Norway is not artificial, it is just the future.

Even the erratic Tory Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, announced Tuesday that his government would bring forward the date on which it would ban new gasoline vehicles to 2035. Nor is that likely the last word. I’d personally be surprised if anyone was buying vehicles powered by fossil fuels in 2035.

In fall of 2020, a whole raft of new electric vehicles will be on sale, and preference for them will begin ticking up. Volvo’s relatively affordable new all-electric SUV, the XC40 Recharge, is in my view likely to be a star. And lots of sedans are coming.

The “electrifying” stock surge for Tesla recently demonstrates that the Market knows where the world is going, though obviously this process will have its ups and downs. (Caveat: I own a little Tesla stock.)

Electric cars are just on the verge of being a technological disruption for societies. I wrote a few years ago,

  • Rapid falls in price of materials and installation because of mass production will produce a technological disruption, as Tony Seba of Stanford calls it. There are tipping points in technology adoption such that sometimes old technologies are superseded with lightning speed. Seba shows a photo of the Easter Day parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1900, and it is almost all horse and carriages with one automobile.

     

    Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 4.08.56 AM

    He shows another slide, of the same parade in 1913 after the Model T came out. It is all automobiles.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 4.11.23 AM

So all that is why Cramer is talking about the death knell of petroleum stocks. We probably agree on almost nothing else, but when people are right, you have to give them credit. He is right.

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More Current Affairs

Apr 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Locking down the economy is correctly viewed as a way to buy time to expand capacity and reduce the peak-load demand on health systems. But it is not a complete strategy. Even when combined with monetary accommodation and a large fiscal program geared toward protecting vulnerable people and sectors, an economic deep freeze cannot be sustained without eventually imposing unacceptable costs on individuals and society."
Apr 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s behavior over the past two weeks is exactly what’s wrong with America’s response to COVID-19. Paul has a compromised lung, so he decided that he should be tested for the disease out of an abundance of caution. From the time of his test until he was confirmed positive six days later, Paul did nothing to protect those around him. On the contrary, he met with other senators, cast votes on the Senate floor, played a round of golf at a private club, and even squeezed in a few laps at the Senate pool. In the countries that have contained the coronavirus outbreak, such irresponsible behavior has not been tolerated, and even could have landed Paul in jail. As a physician (ophthalmologist), he, more than anyone, should know that if he was concerned enough about COVID-19 to be tested for it, he should have been equally concerned about the risk he was posing to others."
Mar 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "The absence of effective federal oversight and management of the COVID-19 crisis will undoubtedly be judged by historians as the biggest US governmental calamity of all time."
Mar 29th 2020
EXTRACT: " South Korea is one of the world’s most advanced countries........... But so, too, is the United States. Why, then, has the US lagged so far behind in its response to the pandemic? The short answer is that the US has a president who is fundamentally unfit for the job, both intellectually and temperamentally."
Mar 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "A large part of the fallout to date – particularly on stock markets – has actually been from negative sentiment rather than real effects."
Mar 24th 2020
EXTRACT: ".........every component of aggregate demand – consumption, capital spending, exports – is in unprecedented free fall. While most self-serving commentators have been anticipating a V-shaped downturn – with output falling sharply for one quarter and then rapidly recovering the next – it should now be clear that the COVID-19 crisis is something else entirely. The contraction that is now underway looks to be neither V- nor U- nor L-shaped (a sharp downturn followed by stagnation). Rather, it looks like an I: a vertical line representing financial markets and the real economy plummeting..............The risk of a new Great Depression, worse than the original – a Greater Depression – is rising by the day."
Mar 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "President Donald Trump and US policymakers have thus far favored piecemeal measures, especially when it comes to the state directing – indeed, reorganizing – the private sector. Their instinctive belief in the superiority of the market and private initiatives, regardless of the circumstances, leads them to recoil from the scale of government intervention needed to save our lives and livelihoods."
Mar 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "Back in July 2019, while in Michigan for one of the early Democratic Party presidential debates, I was invited to a small dinner with Bernie Sanders. Toward the end of the meal, those who remained at the table included actor/activist Danny Glover, Dr. Cornel West, former Mayor Gus Newport, Jane Sanders, and a few key campaign staffers. What ensued was a free-flowing discussion of the agents of social and political change, sprinkled with personal recollections of and lessons learned from historical figures – many of whom had been known by my dinner companions.......I came away from that evening seeing Bernie Sanders in a different light. He was, and still is, a candidate for the presidency of the United States. At the same time, he must also be seen as a transformative figure in modern American political history."
Mar 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Why are we more scared of what is less likely to kill us? The psychological principle that makes us fear swine flu, avian flu, or COVID-19, but not the common flu is called fear of dread risks. It is easy to elicit fear of episodes in which many people die within a short interval, such as plane crashes or epidemics. But when just as many or more people die over a longer period – as with car accidents or the seasonal flu – it is difficult to scare the public into wearing seatbelts or getting vaccinated."
Mar 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "But if containment measures fail – as we are seeing in Italy just now – the banks may still end up in trouble. They may also stop lending again, in which case the asset bubbles would collapse and a long-term recession would become a certainty. Central banks and governments would have to step in with more assistance: as well as further interest rate cuts, they look likely to try more QE and potentially bailouts like in 2007-09 if necessary. But given the limited scope this time around, if the global economy stalls for the long term, these measures might still fail and central bankers could potentially lose control of the marketplace altogether. In such a situation, we would be in truly uncharted territory." PICTURE BELOW: WORLD DEBT.
Mar 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "The Russian resistance appears to have derived from fears that if they cut back exports and OPEC managed to keep the price high, US petroleum firms using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) would simply rush in to grab Russian markets in Europe........So the theory that Russia provoked the price fall to harm US fracking companies is incorrect. They provoked it to avoid being harmed by the American producers, as they saw it."
Mar 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "I was recently walking along East 29th Street in Manhattan, after visiting a friend at Bellevue Hospital, when I was roused from my thoughts by a middle-aged white male screaming at an old Chinese man, “Get the fuck out of my country, you piece of Chinese shit!” The old man was stunned. So was I, before I bellowed back (deploying the full range of my native Australian vocabulary), “Fuck off and leave him alone, you white racist piece of shit!”  The pedestrian traffic stopped. A young white guy with dark hair came storming toward me. As a non-pugilist by instinct and training, I braced for what was coming. He stopped just short of me and said, “Thank you for standing up for him. That’s why I fought in Iraq; so that people like him could be free.” "
Mar 6th 2020
EXTRACTS: "Dreyfus was originally arrested and convicted on charges of selling military secrets to Germany – France’s historical enemy. But because he was a Jew, his guilt was assumed from the start, particularly by most of the French officer corps. To ensure that the charges would stick, various conspirators fabricated evidence against Dreyfus, including a secret file that only the judges who handed down the conviction and prison sentence were allowed to see........In the Dreyfus Affair, a savagely right-wing press fanned the flames of anti-Semitism and intrigue among elites, just as Fox News does today against Trump’s enemies. Owing to these malign efforts, truth itself becomes blurred,........Most depressing of all, though, is the fact that no senior figure in the US has come forward to stand alongside Vindman. There has been no Zola to issue the equivalent of the famous “J’Accuse!” pamphlet, shaming the country’s complicit elites for their lies and corruption. Instead, men like former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton have put their personal interests first, remaining mostly silent......"
Mar 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "After nearly four years of inveighing against the US intelligence officials and analysts who revealed Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump is finally acting fully on his paranoia by carrying out a purge. "
Mar 3rd 2020
EXTRACTS: "........the next global recession could be around the corner – and that it may look a lot different from those that began in 2001 and 2008.........unlike the two previous global recessions this century, the new coronavirus, COVID-19, implies a supply shock as well as a demand shock. ..........In contrast to recessions driven mainly by a demand shortfall, the challenge posed by a supply-side-driven downturn is that it can result in sharp declines in production and widespread bottlenecks. In that case, generalized shortages – something that some countries have not seen since the gas lines of 1970s – could ultimately push inflation up, not down."
Feb 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "The EU must ask itself if it is prepared to do what is necessary to remain an independent player, united in the common interest of all Europeans. Otherwise, Europe’s viability as a democratic, sovereign entity in control of its own destiny will be called into question – and therefore tested by adversaries – like never before."
Feb 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "The world economy has clearly caught a cold. The outbreak of COVID-19 came at a particularly vulnerable point in the global business cycle. ...........This matters little to the optimistic consensus of investors. After all, by definition shocks are merely temporary disruptions of an underlying trend. While it is tempting to dismiss this shock for that very reason, the key is to heed the implications of the underlying trend. The world economy was weak, and getting weaker, when COVID-19 struck. The V-shaped recovery trajectory of a SARS-like episode will thus be much tougher to replicate – especially with monetary and fiscal authorities in the US, Japan, and Europe having such little ammunition at their disposal. That, of course, was the big risk all along. In these days of dip-buying froth, China’s sneeze may prove to be especially vexing for long-complacent financial markets."
Feb 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that this new coronavirus is likely to do much more damage than SARS. Not only has COVID-19 already caused more deaths than its predecessor; its economic consequences are likely to be compounded by unfavorable conditions – beginning with China’s increased economic vulnerability.................So far, US investors seem unconcerned about these risks. But they may be taking too much comfort from the US Federal Reserve’s three interest-rate cuts last year. Should the US economy falter, there is nowhere near enough room for the Fed to cut interest rates by 500 basis points, as it has in past recessions."
Feb 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "Beyond the usual economic and policy risks that most financial analysts worry about, a number of potentially seismic white swans are visible on the horizon this year. Any of them could trigger severe economic, financial, political, and geopolitical disturbances unlike anything since the 2008 crisis."
Feb 18th 2020
Extract: "In late 2019, Zogby Research Services (ZRS) once again had the opportunity to poll public opinion across the Middle East and North Africa about many of these issues that are of such critical concern to the region and its peoples..............One of the more intriguing results in our 2019 survey were the changes in Arab views toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Arabs still blame the US and Israel for the absence of peace and have little confidence that the conflict can be resolved in the near future. Maybe as a result of this despair, this issue now ranks low as an Arab priority. Also noteworthy is the fact that majorities in most Arab countries now say that normalization with Israel, which they acknowledge is already happening, may be a good thing. This development shouldn’t be overstated, however, since there is still no love for Israel. It appears, from our survey, to be born of frustration, weariness with Palestinians being victims of war, and the possibility that normalization might bring some economic benefits and could give Arabs leverage to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians."