Crude Observations

Friday Fear


That’s right, finally. As far as I can tell, this is the first Friday the 13th of the year which means it’s the first time I have done a blog on a Friday the 13th since the last time I did one. Having only one Friday the 13th has to be some kind of statistical anomaly, although I’m sure if I looked, I would be able to find one in the recent past. OK, now I have to look… dang it, I was wrong. There was a Friday the 13th… in January. The day I published my Fearless Forecast. Which of course explains a lot.


At any rate, speaking of “fearless”, one thing Friday the 13th is famous for, aside from that whole “Jason” thing, is bad luck and fear. It’s a day to be wary of and bow down to all your phobias and night terrors, lest the gods who command calendar quirks take their revenge on you.


And I fear there is a lot of fear going around these days. Fear of the return of the pandemic, fear of missing out, fear of climate change, fear mongering (and a fair amount of fish mongering too!), economic fears, fears of war, fears of Trump… you get the gist.


So, with all that fear built up inside of us, and myself as well and that whole Friday the 13th superstition, my thought here is to lazily relay to you 10 (or more) things I am currently afraid of, if only to show you that a) you are not alone in your fears and b) I can be every bit as irrational and, to be honest, nutty, when it comes to fearfulness.


Note that I said things I am currently afraid of. While I do for sure have a full range of bizarre, permanent fears, I also do find myself on occasion being frightened by what is going on in the world around me – what I like to call “serious stuff”. So, I should probably do those first and then get into the more quirky and endearing terrors I harbour, to lighten the mood.


And let’s face it, it’s been a rough run, most current events should be enough to make anyone run into their lair hiding! So here you go, in no particular order, some serious fears and some … not so serious.


I am afraid of the unwinding of the World Order


I mean, who isn’t? We live in unprecedented times. The world order that has stood firm since the end of WW2 and the Cold War is bursting at the seams. Class warfare, religious intolerance, rampant nationalism, racism, economic despair, drought, disease, raging partisanship. All are taking a toll on the institutions and social compacts that have existed since the end of the last great conflagration and are being exploited by evil perpetrators of unconscionable acts to advance their agendas of hate and domination and we can all be forgiven for being in despair at anyone’s ability to halt their advances or beat them back into submission.


The events of the last week have laid bare just how vulnerable people are to those who would do us harm. Whether it’s the shocking and staggering level of violence and human suffering seen in Israel or the brain-numbing war of attrition that is unfolding in Ukraine, we have daily reminders that no one is safe.


Traditionally, it was the United States and NATO who would act as the bulwark to hold back the tide of evil always seeking to tear us down but even their capabilities are not infinite. The economic and political will is strong, as is the sense of self-preservation but it feels increasingly like we are one or two incremental conflagrations away from seeing the consensus break and each party start to retreat to its own borders to secure itself first.


Even the United States, the world’s policeman, feels stretched too thin. Joe Biden is a decent man and has been an effective president. But at his age does he have the energy to lead the US through foreign conflicts, a slowing economy and the prospect of a bruising election fight? On the other side of the aisle we have a GOP in disarray with a consensus candidate no one wants and a field of weaklings and toadies who are incapable of putting up a fight.


So yeah. It’s not good.


I am afraid we are stuck with an out of touch, ideologically anchored and disinterested federal government


This one is a little complex so bear with me. I have been talking about this for some time and the polls bear it out. Support for the Liberals in general and Justin Trudeau in particular has fallen to electoral doormat zone.


Their policy approaches are tired and out of touch. They maintain a singular focus on the environment while ignoring a world literally on fire from conflict raging all around us. They came to the housing affordability file late and have proposals to address food inflation that feel like they came from a kindergarten class or a Cracker Jack box.


They have allowed Canada’s military capabilities to degrade so far that armed forces members are forced to fundraise to buy food. We don’t live up to our NATO promises and in the face of multi-theatre aggression we are reduced to providing blankets and camouflaged women’s combat pants. Our planes don’t work, our military is 17,000 people under-manned and our ship-building contracts are political pork.


They have managed to make us a vulnerable, weak and middling former power, addicted to mediocrity yet so full of itself that we can’t see what has happened to a country that once had a seat at the table, then got relegated to the kids table and now is locked in the yard shivering while the family watches football, like that dog in the ad that makes everyone cry. Except no one feels sorry for Canada like they did the dog.


Meanwhile, our besocked hair man in chief carries on with nary a care in the world, his minority government propped up by a non-coalition coalition arrangement with the equally clueless and spineless Jagmeet Singh. He flits around the globe, prop child in tow, poking erstwhile allies and trading partners in the eye, randomly hosting Nazis in Parliament and play-acting at seriousness while the big boys call the shots on the international stage during what is probably the most consequential sequence of global events most of us will experience in our lifetimes.


There is no life in this government. There is no purpose. There is no nation building. There is only a mind-numbing and singular policy focus on the environment as the be all and end all of Canada’s national mission. And the Supreme Court just dumped on their signature infrastructure bill.


And we get this until 2025.


And all the while, the world burns.


I don’t care where you sit on the political partisan continuum, but this is a frightening prospect for Canada.


I am afraid that Climate Change has irreversibly crossed into New Religion Territory


This isn’t new. We have actually been there for a while. The disciples of climate fear and fear-mongering all long ago realized that they needed an army of true believers to push forward the more radical levels of change. Before we go down that road – yes, climate change is real. Yes, it is readily identifiable as man-made.


But the rhetoric, the sweeping generalizations, the endless hyping of disaster scenarios, all of this is an investment in a diminishing return and leads to inevitable backtracking and skepticism when scenarios don’t pan out as precisely predicted (snow in Texas – global warming isn’t real!) or hypocritical policy stances are put forward (no need for KXL – we are electrifying everything, stopping drilling in Texas and, oops, what’s that? Iran and Russia are colluding to support Hamas? Saudi Arabia is feeling skittish about Israeli rapprochement suddenly?).  No problem – I’m sure there’s battery storage or some fantasy clean hydrogen experiment that will solve all of that.


As the lines harden and the New Church of Her Lady of Climate Inevitability gathers more devotees and adherents, I worry that the polarization we see in seemingly every other aspect of life will continue to harden in climate land, especially as the costs of energy and climate salvation (not transition anymore) become more obvious to the income inequal proletariat.


The more strident the warnings, the bigger the doomsday scenarios, the more skeptical the fence sitters become. There is a reason the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” is so relevant at this moment.


The energy transition is a massively complex, multi-generational endeavour that will cost trillions of dollars, upend the traditional economic order and benefit/displace billions of people. Having the high priests of Global catastrophe preaching relentlessly to us regular folk from the comfort of their private jets about imminent disaster and chaos isn’t going to cut it. Look, we get it. Calm down. Back off. There is no such thing as Fiat Climate Rescue.


I am afraid that this next/last oil and gas boom may pass us by


This seems like a weird one to say for an industry participant. But ironically, it stems partly from the first two fears above. We are actually in the midst of a significant upturn in the Canadian energy sector, driven by the building out of actual infrastructure to move product, the knock-on effects of OPEC production and independent spending discipline which has stabilized prices, the sharp recovery across most consuming sectors and our unique position as a massive supplier of oil and gas.


All the pieces are lined up for a big run.


So why am I afraid?


An unopposed, NDP supported and listless Liberal government besotted by and beholden to the Necromancers of the climate movement and an unapologetically pro-industry (certain arts), stuck in the past provincial government constantly at each others’ throats and unwilling to work together to milk every last iota of rent and profit out of the molecules we are producing suggests that we may never realize our potential because neither side can get out of their own way.


In the meantime, we have a market that doesn’t seem to get it. Demand for oil and natural gas at record highs. Where’s the love? Why are we so obsessed with stocks that trade at 10 times REVENUE when you can buy a Canadian Producer for less than 3 times cash flow and pays an 8% yield.


I’m afraid of interest rates and asset bubbles


Ha – the last time I listed my fears, I was all afraid of low interest rates (free money) and central bank printing of money causing runaway inflation and massive asset bubbles.


Well go figure. That fear wasn’t misplaced at all. To combat all of this, central banks tightened rates at an unprecedented rate.


Except inflation is sticky and the bubble refuses to burst!


We have worst of all worlds. Everything is more expensive and no one can afford anything except rich people and institutions.


Does anyone really think their kids will ever be able to afford a house? I’m afraid they will be living in mine forever!


How long until the bubble bursts? Housing needs to keel over. I’m sorry for all the boomers and Gen X’rs with housing millions – it’s going to disappear. The prices are unsustainable. It typically takes 12-18 months for interest rate hikes to fully impact markets – the day of reckoning is coming.


The bubble’s not filled with anything as benign as warmed-up air – think instead something highly volatile, like hydrogen. Like the Hindenberg. Remember what happened to that one? The spark?


I’m sure glad I locked in when I did. At 1.5%. Wow. My parents first mortgage was at 18%. Looking forward to my renewal at 10%.


I am Afraid that Danielle Smith won’t be able to rein in the TBA Storm Troopers


Danielle Smith rode to the UCP leadership on the backs of the Take Back Alberta takeover of the UCP membership and voting process and similarly the UCP and Danielle Smith won re-election in no small part thanks to the rural vote and the influence of the TBA movement.


This means she is beholden in many ways to them and their ideas, most of them bad. We have already seen what happens when you transgress their deeply held conspiratorial ideas. They threaten to take over school boards and effect their agenda that way. The UCP party leadership race is now likely to end up with a clean slate of “TBA approved” candidates.


Alberta has lots of problems that need fixing, we don’t need to belabour them here. I don’t believe for a second that Danielle Smith is unaware of what they are and doesn’t want to fix them (methods aside). The problem as I see it is that not a single policy plank advanced by the TBA crew effectively addresses any of them. And they are more than a distraction to proper governance, they are an impediment.


Someday they will call in their favour and I hope that Premiere Smith is in a position to say “sorry, not sorry”. Otherwise we may not like what results.



I am terrified of wasps.


Not, not that kind. The flying ones. That are insects. And sting. You can ask my wife. A bee or wasp flies by my face and I turn not a frantic, arm-waving lunatic. Which of course just triggers the flying hypodermic needle to come back at me with renewed furour, whereupon I will throw anyone I happen to be with to the proverbial wolves and seek shelter until the offending yellow-jacketed evil swine has moved on. It is often suggested that these fears come from some deep-seated repressed memory, but let me assure you that the memory I have that started this fear is crystal clear. It was a bee. I was a kid. It somehow crawled in my pants overnight. I put said pants on in the morning. The rest is paranoid history.


I have a pathological fear of mustard and mayonnaise.


Yes. It’s true. I sometimes pretend it’s an allergy. It’s not. It’s an embarrassing aversion. And I know it’s weird. Don’t try and convert me. Or hide it. I’ll know. It’s a thing. Sue me.


I am afraid of turbulence


Not flying. Not taking off and landing. Not helicopters. Not planes. Not heights. Just turbulence. The aeronautic equivalent of a bumpy country road. Yup. Turbulence. Speaking of roads, here’s a recent fear.


I am afraid of driving with my soon to be 16 year old daughter.


As anyone who has taught a kid to drive can attest, this one is real. I suspect it won’t last long because she gets better every time we go out, but it can be a little, how shall I put it, taxing on the old ticker. This is also the second kid I have taught to drive. At least the other one wanted to drive and get her license. This one is bored and distracted. And thinks that you should be able to drive with two feet. God help me.


Then when she gets her license I can be afraid for her driving by herself, which ironically will be a lot less terrifying than the prospect of her being driven by anyone aside from me. I’m told this is a dad thing.


I am afraid that my natural gas weighted stock will never return to the price I paid and that it will be stuck in my portfolio for eternity because I have no sell discipline.


Go figure. I bought Tourmaline when gas prices were about $2.50.Mcf. Price today? $3.75??? Think I’m riding at least a 50% return in that stock? Think again. Well, at least they are perpetually profitable and vomit dividends. Thank you, Mr. Rose, for your largesse and Kevin for whatever it is you do.


Bonus extra fears:


I am afraid the Leafs will win a Stanley Cup before my favourite team does….


Who am I kidding? This is absolutely not a fear.


I am afraid that within ten years Murray Edwards will own the balance of the Canadian oilpatch he doesn’t already and we will all be working for him.


Admit it, aren’t we all a little afraid of this?


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