Will cheap gas last? The answer and nine other predictions for 2015

December 11, 2014

A customer fills up his tank in a gasoline station in Nice

It’s something of a tradition in journalism to gaze into the crystal ball and give readers a view of what we believe will come with the New Year. Below are my 10 predictions for 2015.

  1. Scraping the bottom of the barrel: It’s great to have lower oil prices; greater still to have oil. In the past five months, oil prices have fallen 40 percent, and that will fuel economic growth. But oil extraction and exploration aren’t getting cheaper, and prices need to be higher than below $70 a barrel to pay for them. Middle East oil producers are suspected of flooding the market with oil to make shale-oil extraction in North America uneconomical — but they won’t want to cause another slump. If we get more growth, oil demand will increase again – and so will prices. Make the best of the cheaper times.
  2. No more Mr. Nice Party: The faltering pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong mean a win for the Chinese Communist Party and for Hong Kong’ chief executive, CY Leung. Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party leader, has had no patience with protests of any kind since becoming president in March 2013. With Hong Kong pacified, he won’t change his mind in 2015, either. But the desire for more democracy won’t just lie down before him.
  3. My enemy’s enemy is my …? This year’s trend in the Middle East is the hardening of the region’s main actors. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has killed or locked up thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and is fighting Hamas-backed rebels on the country’s eastern and western borders  with the full support of Saudi Arabia’s leaders. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is targeting Islamic State, which is expanding into Libya to try to destabilize the fragile, embattled government there. Israel’s next parliament after new elections will again take up a controversial proposal that would emphasize the state’s Jewishness over its democratic character, leaving a quarter of Israel’s citizens, who are Arab, in a deeper state of limbo. Iran is suspected of smuggling in nuclear components, which bodes ill for a deal. Things might get really bad soon.
  4. Sticking to one’s own: The trend in Europe to erect higher and higher barriers against immigrants will continue. British Prime Minister David Cameron has set parliamentary elections in 2015 and faces a resurgent populist anti-immigrant party, the UK Independent Party, which is hoovering up his votes and a few of his MPs, too. Anti-immigrant parties are also surging in France, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands. Even in Germany, the anti-euro Alternativ fur Deutschland is growing more militantly anti-foreigner. Such hostility is in part fueled by low, stagnant or negative growth everywhere in Europe except in Poland and the United Kingdom. It won’t get much better next year.
  5. The cross they bear: Christianity got a boost from the election of Pope Francis in March 2013. His openness and relative liberalism appealed to most of the world’s media — and does so still. But the limits of his approach are becoming more obvious: no to women priests, to married clergy, to gay unions, to contraception. These positions are at variance with many Catholics’ daily practice. The church is losing followers to resurgent Pentecostalists in Africa and South America — or to agnosticism. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently warned that the Anglican Church is likely to break up. And all Christianity will suffer more from growing intolerance, attacks, burnings and murders in Muslim areas — especially in Pakistan.
  6. To him that hath, more shall be given: The very rich will get even richer. The poor will stay poor, and the working and middle classes may rise a notch (it’s happening, at last, in the United States). But there are too many engines working to increase the wealthy’s wealth to moderate the matter. Thomas Piketty, author of 2014’s bestseller “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” wrote that “capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” That is, greater wealth now produces greater wealth tomorrow, but hard work leaves you — if you’re lucky — only a little better off each year. And that means next year, too.
  7. The passing of a dynasty: India’s election in May brought to power a lower-caste man who had become the most dynamic politician in that vast nation — Narendra Modi. The first minister of the state of Gujarat for 13 years and a strong Hindu nationalist accused of at least shirking his duty to care when anti-Muslim riots in his state claimed many lives in 2002, he barnstormed at the head of his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to win the prime ministerial office with a vote large enough to command a majority in Parliament and to administer a possible coup de grace to the failing Congress — the party of Nehru. Modi has dedicated himself to returning India to strong economic growth and to begin to act more like the second most populous — soon to be the largest – country in the world. He’s backed by nearly all India’s big corporations and most of its news media. He may do it.
  8. The Coming Slav crash: Ukraine is near economic “meltdown” — its reserves are dwindling fast; its currency (the hryvnia) fell from 13 to16 to the dollar last month and will fall further; its banks are suffering large losses from the hryvnia’s fall, and its budget deficit is more than 10 percent of gross domestic product and rising. Anders Aslund, an expert on the Ukrainian and Russian economies at the Petersen Institute of International Economics, wrote last month that “it appears only a matter of time before [Ukraine’s] banking system freezes. Output and the standard of living would plummet.” Russia is in better shape, but Aslund sees its economy “heading to disaster” and forecasts a meltdown, too, but more slowly. Sanctions are battering Russian banks and businesses, the fall in oil prices battering its population. Does this mean President Vladimir Putin will start disengaging from Ukraine in order to get his economy back? Don’t hold your breath.
  9. The worst system, except for all the rest: Democracy has had bad press these past few years. Its economic system, capitalism, hasn’t delivered for the masses; authoritarian rulers, led by China’s, remain in charge, and in its heartland, Europe, populism threatens centrist parties that have ruled since World War Two. In every Western state, the social contract between governors and governed, once lubricated by fairly steady growth, is fraying. Next year should — must — see the democratic politicians get serious: They must put to their electorates — and to each other — the scale of the challenges a globalized world now poses, and seek their informed consent to strategies that no longer pretend that everything can go back to how it was. Will they? They must.
  10. And now for something completely different: A ray of light, in our trade, journalism. It’s getting better all the time, as even newspapermen, like me, realize the times are a-changing and the Internet   is where we — with much of the rest of the world –live and learn. Journalism is just a way of telling people what’s going on in the world, in their nation, in their town. Now, you can get more information about all these areas in a few minutes than you can read in a weekend — for free. Add to that, kindly folks in lots of places have started neighborhood websites, so everyone can learn what’s happening on their street. It’s not all good: Authoritarians who don’t like democracy don’t like an independent press, either. But we can see something of a future for the news media, and it’s richer, more varied and more politically empowering than it’s ever been.

 

PHOTO: A customer fills up his tank in a gasoline station in Nice, France, Dec. 5, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

11 comments

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Journalism doesn’t exist. What we call journalism is a spin process that is intended to make the masses more attuned to what the owners want them to be. Let me list some untruths.

We have a just society.

ISIS is an existential threat to the US. (more broadly, the terrorist are going to kill us all)

We cannot exist without oil.

We are free.

The illegal immigrants are taking our jobs.

We have a capitalist economic system.

We have a war on drugs.

We have a democratic political system.

And on it goes. Some can read between the lines however, and some information is exposed accidentally, but history shows us the falseness of the past and the present scams.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The push to destabilize Russia ,Iran and Venezuela will continue next year so we will enjoy cheap gas for at least a year. The Ukrainian spring did not spread to the east as planed so the most respected president in the world Vladimir The Righteous is still doing what he is supposed to do keep the Motherland safe from the hands of the western neocons.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Macedonian, I don’t know how much of the Kool Aid you can drink before the after taste of BS finally hits you. But I can assure you this: Putin is a fool, this so called “Righteous” is a fool playing an aged game that affects the population of his country, much like Chavez and Maduro played and consequently lost. Russia cannot survive on struggling oil prices, because too many people are willing to pay more for gas than to live under a Russian bully. The saddest part of this game is that the loser is the Russian population and not the tyrant behind the chess pieces.

Posted by TheGreenWeenie | Report as abusive

brotherkenny4 just restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.

Posted by Cru | Report as abusive

The Low price of oil is a good news for the common people except of Russians,especially for the american who are suffering the pretty frosty winter .But i think the price tendency of oil will depend on the struggle between Russia and West in future .By far ,the low price of oil is the effective weapon against Russian whose economy is facing collapse and their currency has dropped 40% since sanction imposed by US and EU in months before.But up to now ,there is little symbol indicate the Bear would retreat or show compromise in this case .so ,most of the economists predict that standoff will last substantial long time until the counterparts can find a balanced point in Ukraine crisis .In the words ,the oil’s price will hover in the low level for at least 10-12 months from now on .One research estimated Russia revenue will lose $100 billion if the average price of oil under $80 in a whole year .

Posted by 6652911636 | Report as abusive

Too much Democracy,with unlimited govt,is our problem.You can’t set up a socialist system if most people aren’t socialists.Most vote to receive more from govt than they give back in taxes.So,we end up with large deficits.Would be better if we had a limit on govt,so that voters couldn’t abuse their privilege of voting.I would suggest 1)No govt borrowing.That would effectively end deficits.2}A flat tax,same % for everyone,that would stay the same for decades and 3)An honest,money based currency,that govt couldn’t devalue,to pay for it’s spending.

Posted by jrj906202 | Report as abusive

Does anyone really buy this scenario? Instead of allowing ourselves to be lulled into thinking that there is plenty of oil after all, thinking people are looking at ways to LOWER their need for oil- another facet in the supply and demand model, and one which gives power to the end user.

Posted by terrefirma | Report as abusive

Lots of food for thought but mostly wishful thinking imho. Sure, oil prices will bottom out but it’s far from uncommon for those prices to be below production cost, and whenever they rise there’s a lot of screaming over “oil company profits,” therefore counterpressure. With Russia and Venezuela in dire need of hard currency, and players like Libya, Nigeria, Iraq (and Mexico) in disarray, OPEC’s two biggest secure members are Saudi Arabia and Iran. With no love lost between those two, expect gameplay to be tuned to the demands of the biggest secure NON members – the US, China, and Canada, with Brazil playing the nonaligned role.

Xi Jinping is running an “anticorruption drive,” i.e. a major party purge, in China. Expect pro-Democracy activism there to be treated brutally next year – together with any sympathetic party functionaries.

“Things might get really bad soon” in the Mideast. No s***, Sherlock. Let’s suppose, though, that with power-players Iran and Saudi Arabia at loggerheads, Turkey and oh, say Algeria are going to become big players – their historic national socialism becoming increasingly altered by Islamic fundamentalism. What does THAT portend for, say, Europe?

Higher immigrant barriers in Europe? A bit misleading. Europe has always had tight requirements for immigration. What’s going on currently is either an anti-diversity backlash or a resurgance of nativism – either way, the issue is how democratic Europe’s “democratic” ideals are – and who gets to set them. In France, the answers are crystal clear – the government decides what a Frenchman is and who gets to be one. There’s some issue of national identity in France, but the immigant-issue there is between those who see themselves as French and those THEY see as not integrating. In Britain, and elsewhere in Europe, there’re bitter disagreements between citizens who believe they have the right to set the national agenda and those who feel that belief springs from arrogance and not enlightenment. Either way, the question is whether European politics is struggling toward a progressive ideal or cycling through an unending, and unyielding, right-left dialectic.

The paragraph on Christianity is a muddle – unless we’re being asked to read between the lines. CHRISTIANITY didn’t get a boost from the election of Pope Francis, the liberals did. Catholicism has been losing followers to Protestants (particularly fundamentalists) for years, and that hasn’t changed under Francis. If the Episcopal church is in danger of a split, it’s because of disaffection of conservative factions with liberal administrations. Why yes, intolerant Islamists have been increasingly victimizing Christians – hmmm, what could all this portend… However I doubt we’ll see Pope John Wayne emerging in 2015, no matter how badly the wagons are being attacked.

Capitalism… I get a kick out of Piketty, but come on, “the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based”? Seriously? Where, in China? Russia? Iran? Oh, France. Right.

Er, the passing of a dynasty happened in India back in 1991 (though members of the family, and of course Sonia, are still big players.) Congress Party has taken some heavy hits, and it’s a safe bet Priyanka won’t be Prime Minister next year. Modi may return India to strong economic growth (what does “begin to act more like the second most populous country in the world” mean?) However I draw your attention to your paragraph 6, and suggest that even if prosperity bears fruits of love between Modi, big corporations, and India’s news media, that won’t deliver a coup de grace to the Congress Party. Permit me to predict a modest bounce back for Congress in 2015 and something a lot stronger within the next five years.

The coming Slav crash? America may be unaffected, but too much of Europe would be for that to happen hard. In any event Putin will keep playing the nationalism card, and who’s his likely replacement? “The shortage will be divided amoung the serfs,” economic disaster in the Ukraine will simply play into his hands, while the impact of the sanctions on Europe’s wobbly economies will undermine support for them, such as it is. Putin will press on at least through 2015. After that, we’ll see!

Oh, democracy has had bad press these past few years? When do you graduate high school? Boy, I hate to talk cynically in front of a kid. Here’s hoping democratic politicians get serious, and seek their electorates informed consent to policy – maybe even to existing laws…

Journalism… It’s almost as exaggerated to say it’s getting better all the time as to say “journalism is a spin process that is intended to make the masses more attuned to what the owners want them to be.” Almost. Journalism has always been as much about opinion and ego as about information. What’s new is that journalism is now competing with the street, which can now speak directly from its own platforms. The street doesn’t always know the truth and isn’t necessarily trying to tell it, but at least journalists can’t get away with pretending to speak for it, anymore.

Posted by SpecialCharcter | Report as abusive

Lots of food for thought but mostly wishful thinking imho. Sure, oil prices will bottom out but it’s far from uncommon for those prices to be below production cost, and whenever they rise there’s a lot of screaming over “oil company profits,” therefore counterpressure. With Russia and Venezuela in dire need of hard currency, and players like Libya, Nigeria, Iraq (and Mexico) in disarray, OPEC’s two biggest secure members are Saudi Arabia and Iran. With no love lost between those two, expect gameplay to be tuned to the demands of the biggest secure NON members – the US, China, and Canada, with Brazil playing the nonaligned role.

Xi Jinping is running an “anticorruption drive,” i.e. a major party purge, in China. Expect pro-Democracy activism there to be treated brutally next year – together with any sympathetic party functionaries.

“Things might get really bad soon” in the Mideast. No s***, Sherlock. Let’s suppose, though, that with power-players Iran and Saudi Arabia at loggerheads, Turkey and oh, say Algeria are going to become big players – their historic national socialism becoming increasingly altered by Islamic fundamentalism. What does THAT portend for, say, Europe?

Higher immigrant barriers in Europe? A bit misleading. Europe has always had tight requirements for immigration. What’s going on currently is either an anti-diversity backlash or a resurgance of nativism – either way, the issue is how democratic Europe’s “democratic” ideals are – and who gets to set them. In France, the answers are crystal clear – the government decides what a Frenchman is and who gets to be one. There’s some issue of national identity in France, but the immigant-issue there is between those who see themselves as French and those THEY see as not integrating. In Britain, and elsewhere in Europe, there’re bitter disagreements between citizens who believe they have the right to set the national agenda and those who feel that belief springs from arrogance and not enlightenment. Either way, the question is whether European politics is struggling toward a progressive ideal or cycling through an unending, and unyielding, right-left dialectic.

The paragraph on Christianity is a muddle – unless we’re being asked to read between the lines. CHRISTIANITY didn’t get a boost from the election of Pope Francis, the liberals did. Catholicism has been losing followers to Protestants (particularly fundamentalists) for years, and that hasn’t changed under Francis. If the Episcopal church is in danger of a split, it’s because of disaffection of conservative factions with liberal administrations. Why yes, intolerant Islamists have been increasingly victimizing Christians – hmmm, what could all this portend… However I doubt we’ll see Pope John Wayne emerging in 2015, no matter how badly the wagons are being attacked.

Capitalism… I get a kick out of Piketty, but come on, “the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based”? Seriously? Where, in China? Russia? Iran? Oh, France. Right.

Er, the passing of a dynasty happened in India back in 1991 (though members of the family, and of course Sonia, are still big players.) Congress Party has taken some heavy hits, and it’s a safe bet Priyanka won’t be Prime Minister next year. Modi may return India to strong economic growth (what does “begin to act more like the second most populous country in the world” mean?) However I draw your attention to your paragraph 6, and suggest that even if prosperity bears fruits of love between Modi, big corporations, and India’s news media, that won’t deliver a coup de grace to the Congress Party. Permit me to predict a modest bounce back for Congress in 2015 and something a lot stronger within the next five years.

The coming Slav crash? America may be unaffected, but too much of Europe would be for that to happen hard. In any event Putin will keep playing the nationalism card, and who’s his likely replacement? “The shortage will be divided amoung the serfs,” economic disaster in the Ukraine will simply play into his hands, while the impact of the sanctions on Europe’s wobbly economies will undermine support for them, such as it is. Putin will press on at least through 2015. After that, we’ll see!

Oh, democracy has had bad press these past few years? When do you graduate high school? Boy, I hate to talk cynically in front of a kid. Here’s hoping democratic politicians get serious, and seek their electorates informed consent to policy – maybe even to existing laws…

Journalism… It’s almost as exagerrated to say it’s getting better all the time as to say “journalism is a spin process that is intended to make the masses more attuned to what the owners want them to be.” Almost. Journalism has always been as much about opinion and ego as about information. What’s new is that journalism is now competing with the public, which can now speak directly from its own platforms. The public doesn’t always know the truth and isn’t always trying to tell it, but at least journalists can’t get away with pretending to speak for it, anymore.

Posted by SpecialCharcter | Report as abusive

The oil companies will cook up some scare, some fake shortage soon. My bet is on another round of Somali Pirates taking the oil.

4 guys in a raft commandeering an oil tanker…. again. Because who saw that coming?

Panic! There’s no oil left for the cars!

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Nice blog and great information about the comments related to what people think about the decreasing gas and gasoline price.

gas to gasoline

Posted by austinlerwick | Report as abusive