Crude Observations

Not Knotty, Naughty

Hear ye, hear ye. I bring to you, upon this, the 10th day before Christmas, a purloined list of characters both naughty and nice, as well as some ideas for gifts for our favourite characters and influencers from the year just past. And to be fair, there is no shortage, at all, of worthy and unworthy recipients of the Big Guy’s largesse or ironic gifts intended to be lessons for one and all.


Upon review of this list, we will be able to decide whether the named individual is to be bequeathed a gift of suitable magnificence or the proverbial lump of coal. And no, not the “Lump o’ Coal” that I regularly gift and included in the loot bags I handed out at my wife’s birthday party (yes, I did that – maybe ask yourself why you didn’t?). No, we are talking about chunks of dirty fossil fuel anthracite and metalurigical coal – the kind that power half the world and make iron and steel – you know the stuff that makes the world go around. All while being nasty manifestations of emissions-spewing humanities disregard and disdain for the planet.


But I digress.


It has been an eventful year. Across the world, leaders and followers have done their best to keep us entertained if not firmly on our toes. Where 2022 gifted us the Fed wrecking ball and runaway inflation, 2023 has walloped us upside the head with Vivek Ramaswamy. Once again, one year has seen fit to outdo the prior – I shudder to think what 2024 will bring. Oh wait, I know. Another US election.


Notable this year were runaway (and not at all transitory) inflation, interest rate spikes, market gyrations, elections, insurrections, war in Europe, war and atrocities in the Middle East, Bitcoin, Trump, sky-high energy prices, collapsing energy prices. coal recovery, coal price swoons, natural gas rallies, natural gas collapses, COP28, Biden, EV production records, EV production slowdowns, Twitter takeovers, X abominations, still low valuations for energy, record highs on the Dow, SBF on trial, 91 indictments, Chinese property market meltdowns, vibecessions, waves, vacations, interest rates increasing at breakneck speed, deals aplenty at the good ship Stormont, Brexit, Wexit, Texit, Calexit, Smith, PP, Trudeau – you name it, we’ve seen it.


One thing I find interesting about the end of the year is that there is always a rush of news leading into it and then it goes quiet. And there are doozies to close out the year that either signify the coming apocalypse or that we are living in an AI simulation that is running a Monty Python skit algorithm….


Last year that sign was Trump selling NFTs to the easily grifted masses. This year he has gone one better – he is actually selling swatches of his suit that he wore when he was formally arraigned in Georgia. Each piece sells for $47 (next president will be #47, get it?) and there is a special prize that buyers can win. Funds raised go to … I don’t know – or care!


Like you could hardly lay out a grift so obvious unless you called it “This is my grift and I’m taking your money for myself”.


At any rate, people are free to do what they want with their money, even if it means buying a piece of fabric that some dude had next to his ass crack.


Fortunately, this is my last full-on blog of the year, and I am moving in to “rest mode”. You won’t see me again until 2023, when I do my Fearless Forecast self-assessment.


But first, as noted above, I stole a list. And I’m going to share it with you. Because you are all special.


Some new names, some repeat names. And as always, a tongue planted firmly in cheek.



Donald Trump – Naughty


Donald Trump is almost a permanent entry on the naughty list. This is the 953rd year in a row on the naughty list for young Donald. He was on the naughty list before he was born. It was expected that being President might soften the Don and that spending a few years under the thumb of Nancy Pelosi would bring to him a more conciliatory perspective. Nope. Or that losing an election would humble him. Nope. Or that criminal investigations and guilty verdicts would shame him. Nope. Instead we get an announced 2024 presidential run and the ridiculous grift I mentioned above. Oy. DJT’s gift is going to be a series of guilty verdicts and a much earned vacation from being president – along with a two week vacation with none other than the aforementioned Vivek Ramaswamy.



Rudy Giuliani – Naughty


I usually avoid looking up the fate of low-level stooges like this and to be honest I wish he would just go away, but Rudy has been so much fun in prior years given his prominence as the grifter in chief in trying to dig up dirt on Joe and then Hunter Biden, association with various and sundry international crooks and, bizarre press conferences. His unhinged lunacy is overshadowed only by his colossal incompetence and venal grossness. So, Rudy’s place on this list is well-earned and has now become permanent. By the end of the year he will likely be found guilty in an election interference case in Georgia and soon will be on trial for sexual harassment. Graft, corruption, grossness… Rudy’s gift is to be DJT’s tailor.



Greta Thunberg, Sophia Kianni – Nice. Sorry


No. Not sorry. I like Greta (environmental Greta – I don’t much care for “political cause Greta”). I don’t agree with everything she says or stands for. And to be honest, she wasn’t much of a newsmaker this year. It actually appears that the baton has been transferred to the fashionable and much more photogenic Sofia, who appears to be the new spokesperson. I like how easily they both trigger and make the old white guy cohort squirm and bleat and run around in circles in cataclysmic self-righteousness.


Anyway, Greta, Sophia – I think there is a depth to the issues that they miss, but seriously folks, is it really that terrifying to have a young person so engaged in the major issues of the day? Is climate change a problem? Yes. Is it man-made? Kinda! Are politicians hypocritical? Are you new here? Should fossil fuel companies panic? No! Carbon-based energy will be required for decades. Should we listen to them? Absolutely.


Our kids are being raised to be activists. Social media connects them. They are less than a decade away from kicking us to the curb. Pay attention. The gift to these two polar opposite activists? People listening and engaging. And an apology on behalf of old white guys everywhere. We aren’t all thin skinned and frightened. I can defend my industry, hear your words and take action. Sometimes all in one day. Gift to these two? A seat at the table and 100 shares each of CNQ.


Justin Trudeau – Naughty.


Where does he fit? Great socks, fabulous selfies, but… a giant mess on both the left and the right when it comes to policy implementation, pipelines under construction, an energy sector wondering which way is up with carbon taxes and renewables, relations with China, India and the US completely off the rails and an economy that is seriously underperforming its developed world peers.


Now with the economy and real estate values likely heading down a mine shaft, there is absolutely NO BUSINESS CASE for Trudeau to be anywhere near the nice list. This year’s gift? The freedom to leave office on his own terms – just do it soon so we can move on with our lives.


Stephen Guilbeault – Naughty


Canada’s current Environment Minister and thorn in the side of Alberta has certainly outdone himself this year. Not only has he pissed off pretty much every province in Canada, but he has also managed to create a one-of-its-kind in the world energy industry killing policy that will not only cap emissions (maybe) in the oil and gas industry but will also leave a national unity crisis in Canada of such proportion that even Trudeau the elder and the ghost of Rene Levesque would be impressed. Except this crisis won’t even involve Quebec. Rather, it will be entirely Alberta based and would have been entirely avoidable with sensible and cooperative policy making, avoiding the ineffective targeting of a specific industry and skipping the shallow virtue-signalling and posing for an international community that doesn’t care about us anyway. His smug and condescending attitude is only outdone by his dismissive and uncooperative hubris. Stephen’s gift? The legacy he deserves and giant steamy bag of methane emitting manure.


Joe Biden – Nice


How can you not put Joe on the nice list? He’s Grandpa Joe! Joe is the epitome of the nice list. Everyone’s go-to for empathy, hugs and a socially-distanced shoulder to cry on. He slew the dragon against all odds and, crises notwithstanding, is achieving a historic amount of legislative success (yes, it can be called a success even if you don’t like the policy). He delivered historic mid-term electoral success against all precedent. He is boring. He is quiet. He rocks his aviators and drives a vintage Corvette. Sure, he drained the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to secure the mid terms, but who among us wouldn’t? This year he has poured money into infrastructure than any president in history. The unemployment rate remains at historic lows. The Dow Jones just hit a record high! The economy grew by an annualized 5% in the last quarter and the inflation rate keeps coming down. He doesn’t put up with any malarkey and he is the one person of prominence trying to hold the US together from the centre. By any objective measure, he’s doing pretty good.


Joe’s gift? A Trump suit swatch, some good old-fashioned Canadian oil to help keep those gas prices low and re-election – there, I called it.


Jason Kenney – Naughty. If you can find him.


“Where did it go?” said my youngest daughter at age 3 in a quiet terrified voice whilst taking a bath and watching a small toy go shooting down the drain. I feel much the same fate may have befallen our once-upon a time premier who went from ever-present thorn in everyone’s paw to “where’s Waldo, Alberta premier edition” in record time. Like he had barely hung up the phone after personally calling everyone in Ontario to exhort them to move to Alberta before he packed up his Wonston Churchill portraits from his legislative office, tossed the keys to the parliamentary cat, flipped everyone the double bird and beat it out of dodge.


Being so hard to find, it’s maybe not fair to have him on the naughty list, and I guess it’s punishment enough that he has to live with lasting legacy being delivering unto us Danielle Smith, but everyone is on the list.


Gifts for Jason this year includes time to reassess and an evergreen job offer from the hated CBC to become a panelist on a political talk show with long lost parliamentary foil, Thomas Mulcair.



Pierre Poilievre and the Conservative Party of Canada – Naughty


I don’t know what to make of PP. He is the parliamentary manifestation of fingernails on a chalkboard. Channelling the sneering condescension that I had thought only achievable by climate zealots, he pontificates and gesticulates and orates at a near non-stop breakneck pace about “inflation” and “money printing” in such a bizarre and misinformed fashion that it boggles the mind.


Yet here we are – he won an overwhelming victory in the leadership race, so he’s the guy. He got himself a makeover and discovered housing affordability and the economy are the twin issues that can sure fire sink the Liberal ship such that he has ridden the dissatisfaction with Trudeau and the LPC to wipe out territory on the electoral map – except that we may not see an election until 2025 – will the momentum carry? He can’t count on Jagmeet.


The CPC shows signs of becoming more serious but still can’t avoid pulling parliamentary stunts that please the base but just annoys the F out of middle of the road centrists you need to actually win. Look, most of us are done with Trudeau. Present a credible and stable alternative to the Liberal money puking machine and politics of gesture. Accountability and jobs. The economy. That should be your singular mantra. You aren’t going to flank the Liberals on social issues. Get it together. Rein in the clown-show.


Gift for PP is simple: A refresher course from Joe Biden on how boring is better.



Shale Oil – Naughty and Nice


Wait. What? How can shale be on both lists? Well, shale, as a general rule, has been on the naughty list since 2014 when runaway production growth upended the energy market and catalyzed a seven year and counting disaster. In particular, the Permian has been a blackhole for capital, sucking up investment that might otherwise have gone elsewhere (Oh Canada!) all in the relentless pursuit of production growth at all costs, right here, right now.


But the light tight oil moment, such as it was, appeared to have finally come to an end. Which would be nice. Look, production and investment in US light tight oil plays is going to continue, but the go-go days should be in the rear-view mirror. Now it’s all capital discipline, production maintenance and gradual reinflation – which is good! Except – suddenly we have record production from LTO. And it’s holding prices back. What in the actual F? Well it appears that in the current M&A craze, a bunch of private companies worked really hard to goose production and price. And it worked. Now what? A gradual deflation of production. Again. But the damage is done to a lot of portfolios and the associated gas from all these wells has created a natty surplus that will take months to work off unless it gets super cold, which it won’t because, well, climate change. WTAF.


Anyway, shale’s gift? A gusher of cash. An eye roll. And a lump of coal to plug every unneeded well in the Permian. Come on guys. Work with me.


Canadian E&P’s – Nice


It has been a tough go for the Canadian oilpatch, there is no way to sugar coat that. The pandemic started with layoffs and the current market isn’t exactly a job-creating machine, notwithstanding prices. That said, we have managed to achieve some much-needed consolidation to achieve market scale, a renewed “Canadianization” of our little patch of oil (second largest in the world, ahem) and some long overdue attention from the markets who have suddenly come to the realization that Canadian oil and gas companies, in particular oil sands companies and, to a lesser extent, natural gas players are cash flow vomiting machines. Not even Stephen Guilbeault can dampen our enthusiasm. OK, he can. But it’s Christmas. Gift – TMX, Coastal Gas Link, bought deals, institutional interest, stable prices and money CCUS. Is it finally time to load up on Canadian oil and gas? No! Are you crazy? But if you own good names, keep them. They pay well.


Oil and Gas Investors – Nice


After suffering through what is arguably the worst seven years any investor anywhere has ever seen, the energy industry has been, a relatively bright if annoyingly blinking light since the election of Joe Biden. Go figure. While I am sure most investors have simply ridden their growth stocks to glory and avoided any inflation correlated commodities, for the ones who decided they were masochistic enough to stick with it, they could be now anticipating what may be the greatest value play in history. Gift? Positive annual returns and cash – very quiet double-digit returns. If not next year, then the year after, for sure.



Saudi Arabia and OPEC/OPEC++++++ – Nice


Despite annoying Joe Biden by not swamping the world with oil to facilitate his mid term win, Saudi Arabia has since done a fine job this year being respectful of the tenuous and uncertain status of the energy market and the need for stability in the face of war, inflation, potential recession, China meltdown and energy transition headfakes like fusion and mega-trillion dollar solar investments that never materialize. Secular decline disguised as production and quota cuts have helped to stabilize prices and draw down inventories. And they have kept the greater OPC and OPEC + crew in line and the resulting stability has allowed the energy sector to survive and thrive. An appropriate gift in return for keeping prices steady? How about the highest oil and gas receipts to Aramco… ever. Does anyone actually ever expect the Saudis to let prices collapse again?



Trans Mountain Expansion – Nice


Think of all that the TMX had to go through in its formative years. File an application for a project, spend a billion dollars, get denied for political reasons, spend another billion, become a political football, get denigrated, demonized, misrepresented and otherwise vilified for years and still be at the table with a smile on your face, ready to spend capital to create jobs, opportunity and prosperity for the biggest set of ingrates that exist. And that was before the Federal Government bought it. But buy it they did, and the project is full speed ahead. That’s right, the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Memorial Pipeline is underway, not even close to on budget or on schedule. It is expected that we could see (hear? smell?) oil through this project in the first half of 2024. Gift? A safe operating environment, high prices and even higher tolls. And grudging acknowledgment of why this stuff is important.


LNG – Nice


So, this is the year that the great LNG build out in Canada started to feel real. Once Vlad (the Impaler) Putin invaded Ukraine it was all bets off for an already undersupplied European gas market. Enter LNG. Replacement for Russian gas. Replacement for domestic coal. Baseload for intermittent, renewable power. The underpinnings of a modern industrial economy. Cooled to minus a bajillion and shipped around the world, LNG has been a game -changer for countries producing it and those importing it. At least those with the foresight and the b*lls to get on with it. Gift: A universal business case that can be shared near and far, also in Ottawa. And money from the sky for all the new LNG projects proposed for the West Coast.


Vladimir Poutine – Naughty


Where to start. Vlad (the Impaler) Putin spent 2022 and 2023 mired in a pointless land war in Ukraine that is currently at a bloody stalemate. Russian casualties are estimated to exceed a staggering 300,000 which is almost six times what the Americans suffered in Vietnam. It is amazing to me that there isn’t more blowback on this in Russia. Look, the naughty list is all about redemption – every year is a fresh start, well except for Trump. But there is no redeeming Putin. Trump is an egomaniacal clown. Putin is a modern day Hitler. So, for Christmas this year Vlad gets absolutely nothing while we wait for him to get what he deserves.


People in Calgary and the Energy Sector in Western Canada in general – Nice


It’s been a long eight years. We can’t give you another boom, but I think it’s fair to say that the pieces are in place for a recovery. Seriously, cautious optimism folks! Things are looking up! Gift – jobs and investment.


Danielle Smith – Naughty


Alberta’s new premier is having a bit of a rocky start. If it isn’t apologizing for the latest slip of the tongue, it’s having to defend a bunch of cockamamie schemes or ideas that are the flavour of the day with her most virulent and rabid base. Oh, I know there are lots of people who think the sovereignty act shtick is a genius plan that will give Alberta everything it wants. I’m just not one of them. I am of the firm belief that it is an economy impacting sideshow that gets us nothing, except eye rolls and mockery. Much like the Republicans in the US who have spent years investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop, this is a distraction from the very real issues that are confronting Alberta including health care, education, cost of living, the opioid crisis, energy, economic diversification. We don’t need an Alberta Pension Plan.



It feels like Danielle Smith is running her government like she ran her talk show – all controversy all the time.


That said, she is OUTSTANDING in calling out the Trudeau government on anything and everything. Even when her defenses are somewhat suspect, she perfectly and effectively encapsulates the frustration felt by a majority of the province that can’t shake the inescapable feeling that if our local economy completely collapsed there are people in the federal government who would be just fine with it, as long as the IPCC and the UN approved.


It remains to be seen how far she allows herself to go down the sovereignty road – as I said earlier, national unity is set to be shaken to its core.


Gift for Danielle? A chance to spend some time with moderate voices. A biography of Rene Levesque.


Elon Musk – Naughty


That’s it. Can’t say anymore or he will suspend my account. Gift. A copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People.


Me – Nice


This is obvious. I am always on the nice list.


My gift? All of you. (barf, right?)


That’s it folks. I hope I didn’t miss anything!


As many of you know, this is my last blog of the year, when you next hear from me, I will be reviewing my disastrous forecasts from last year before rolling the dice on my 2024 Fearless Forecast (hint – Oil! And gas!).


I do of course reserve the right to send out a note on the Night Before Christmas – it’s kinda my thing.


But if I don’t or you don’t see it…


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from us to you. Stay safe, stay warm, be kind.

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