Crude Observations

Top 10 Movies Plus 1

Well what an eventful week or so it has been. We had Andrew Scheer step down as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Boris Johnson winning an unprecedented and bizarre mandate to wreck the United Kingdom via Brexit and good old Donald Trump getting the bad news that he is only the third president in the long and illustrious history of the United States to be impeached (I’m not orange, I’m peach!). Topping it all off was the Alberta War Room getting caught red-handed in a case of amateur hour logo theft. Ouch!


Given all of the preceding it was nice to also receive some good news during the week. What good news you may ask? Well there was approval of the USMCA trade deal which was important to take some volatility out of the Canadian economy and this was followed up by the great capitulation, I mean the Phase one China deal wherein the US agreed to freeze or lift tariffs on Chinese imports and China agreed to maybe buy some stuff. This of course was all positive for oil prices which, following on the heels of the OPEC deal are now at their highest level in several months. How long this will last is anyone’s guess, but I’ll take it for now.


On the other hand, there was some additional bad news for Alberta, as the Federal government has still not given any indication that it will provide some retroactive payments under the Fiscal Stabilization Program, but hey, there are shovels in the ground on TransMountain, so pipe down ya whiners! For those unaware, the Fiscal Stabilization Program is a federal transfer designed to provide budget support to provinces that experience sudden drops in revenues, like when oil prices collapse. Under the program as currently constituted it is capped at a certain level per capita and the provincial UCP feels that this cap should be lifted and more money flowed to Alberta retroactively (as opposed to when the Conservatives were in power and failed to proactively raise the limit). At any rate, Alberta figures it is due $2.4 billion and there is a good argument for that. The problem is they are disingenuously calling it an equalization rebate and it is unlikely the Federal Liberals are going to allow them such a cheap and easy Christmas gift victory. Stay tuned to see how this movie plays out, but I think I know the ending.


Speaking of movies and endings, I hear the Star Wars saga is finally over. Spoiler alert – Disney wins!


I was thinking in light of this I would rank the Star Wars movies from worst to first, but that’s too easy – everyone knows Episodes 1-3 are awful, 4 and 5 are great, Return of the Jedi is OK and the 7-9 are slick.


Instead, given the season, I am going to take the easy way out and make this blog about Christmas movies since as everyone knows, I have a weak spot for Christmas and holiday movies.


Wait, let me restate that. I have a Christmas and holiday movie problem. Pretty much the day after American Thanksgiving the binge begins, with our home television tuned nightly to the Women’s Network, Lifetime (Canada’s answer to Hallmark Channel) and Bravo watching a virtual non-stop barrage of such timely holiday classics as Hats Off to Christmas, Christmas in <<insert generic small-town name here>>, Sharing Christmas, A Cookie Cutter Christmas, A Holiday Engagement, A Royal Christmas, A Wish for Christmas, Crown For Christmas, Family for Christmas, A Cheerful Christmas (this seems mailed in to be honest) – I could go on forever. And most of these movies have one of two generic plots – either a scrooge-like, non-Christmasy city-slicker is dumped into small-town America where they discover the true meaning of Christmas or some “commoner” American (usually a dress-maker or a teacher) discovers that her boyfriend/prince charming is in fact a real honest to goodness prince of some made-up European principality and she has to battle both a grouchy queen and bad Christmas mojo to secure her rightful place at his side as he discovers the meaning of love and Christmas at the same time.


Where am I going with this? Well since I am an expert and all, I am going to count down the Top 10 holiday movies of all time (in my EXPERT opinion) and, since this is in theory an energy blog, I am going to provide plot synopses for each as if they were set in the energy industry.


10 – Trading Places


As the Christmas season begins, upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine are the subjects of a bet by successful brokers Mortimer and Randolph Duke. An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn’t commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.


Two old school oil and gas tycoons – let’s call them the “Koch Brothers” bet each other a dollar that a down and out homeless man will be as successful predicting the price of oil as the multi-million dollar analyst and hedge fund manager they are currently paying. As the contest plays out over Christmas, it turns out it’s a draw – no one can predict the price of oil. The Koch brothers fire them on Christmas Day.


9 – A Christmas Story


This movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker, who spends most of his time dodging a bully and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad but comforted by his doting mother, Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact. Most memorable line of course is “you’ll shoot yer eye out” which he almost does.


In the oil patch version, Jason Kenney desperately wants a “Red Pipeline Shovel” for Christmas and spends his time dodging a bully named Trudeau. Ultimately, he receives the longed for gift, except of course it comes with a catch and that’s a carbon tax that ends up almost shooting his eye out – careful! As the movie ends we’re still not sure what will happen, but Kenney and Trudeau are eating Peking Duck together at a Chinese restaurant.


8 – The Nightmare Before Christmas


The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. Chaos ensues.


The oil patch version follows our protagonist Vlad Putin, the uncrowned king of Russialand who has become bored of incarcerating journalists and enriching himself amid the cold Moscow winters. When he discovers OPEC, the Middle East and Saudi Arabia and all the gold plated cars and riches he can have, he hijacks the group and appoints himself defacto influencer. Chaos ensues


7 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife, Ellen, and children, as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations. However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin Eddie and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.


Clark is the CEO of a major US energy player operating in the Permian Basin and he wants to drive his stock price up so he can get paid a massive bonus. Clark overpays for land, borrows indiscriminately and squeezes all his suppliers and service providers to drop their costs as much as possible so he can show great numbers. Eventually however, the overworked completions crew based in Midland decides they are tired of working for 1992 day-rates so things go sideways fairly quickly and Clark ends up with a bunch of DUCs. Ultimately, the board realizes that Clark has spent a billion dollars in capex in less than 5 years and has never made a dime while cashing obscenely high paycheques. So they turf him and he loses his bonus. Not very Christmasy, I know – maybe this one is more of a documentary.


6 – Prancer


Refusing to give up her belief in Santa Claus, a little girl discovers a hurt reindeer in the woods, which she believes to be Prancer. With the help of a sympathetic veterinarian (played by Abe Vigoda!), the girl takes care of the wounded creature. It’s supposed to be a secret, but eventually a store Santa Claus, the girl’s dad and the entire town find out about Prancer, leading to big problems for the girl, her family and, of course, the poor exploited reindeer.


Rachel refuses to give up her belief that if only she does the right thing, then good things will happen for her province’s energy sector. One day, she discovers a slightly broken carbon levy and thinks that this just the ticket to get good results, so she nurses and nurtures it to the point where it should be fully functional. However she discovers much to her chagrin that nobody really cares what her province does and that by and large people are jerks and just in it for themselves. Ultimately the townsfolk turn on her and Kenney comes along and gets her run out of town and ditches the carbon tax only to discover that when you cut revenue you can’t buy nice things.


5 – Miracle on 34th Street


An old man going by the name of Kris Kringle fills in for an intoxicated Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Kringle proves to be such a hit that he is soon appearing regularly at the chain’s main store in midtown Manhattan. When Kringle surprises customers and employees alike by claiming that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and, more importantly, his authenticity which is proved once and for all through all the letters he receives from children everywhere thanks to, of all things, the Post Office.


In this scintillating re-imagining of the holiday classic, a skeptical energy sector is revived when a country called Saudi Arabia kicks an over-extended tight oil sector to the curb. Subsequent to this, the benign oil power uses its market heft and leverage to calm oil prices, reduce inventory overhang and deliver a goldilocks oil price environment to the world just in time for Christmas. A skeptical analyst community is quickly placated and distracted by the IPO of yet another Canadian cannabis firm with no operations, the impeachment of a US president and the IPO in a closed market with minimal liquidity of a giant oil company. Saudi Arabia is once again proven to be the Santa Claus of the energy sector thanks to its overwhelming market power, acknowledged by no less an authority than yours truly.


4 – Elf


Buddy was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa’s elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn’t fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs, a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results and eventually helps Buddy save Christmas.


A once proud and iconic home grown Canadian oil and gas company decides that it isn’t cutting it in Canada so it packs up its management and capital and decides to head south into the United States in search of an acceptable short cycle play to sink all its money into. Now firmly in drilling mode, the company overpays for two acquisitions, changes its name to something incomprehensible and relies on some seismic data provided by the same shady local who sold them their for $167,000 an acre. Drilling well after debt-financed well, the company finally realizes that this isn’t for them, so they eventually decide to retry their luck as close to the North Pole as many of them ever want to get. So they return to the Great White North and the infusion of cash saves the Canadian oilpatch.


3 – Scrooged


In this modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Frank Cross is a wildly successful television executive whose cold ambition and curmudgeonly nature has driven away the love of his life, Claire Phillips. But after firing a staff member, Eliot Loudermilk, on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.


Justin Trudeau is a wildly successful politician whose dismissive attitude to the energy sector threatens to send his economy into a decades-long funk of stagnant economic growth. After being reduced in an election to a minority government (an outcome completely due to his government’s own incompetence), Justin is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.


The first ghost (played ironically by his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau) shows his father and then Energy Minister Marc Lalonde drafting the National Energy Program and laughing about those suckers from Alberta while an eight-year old  Justin plays with a Tonka toy excavator and bulldozer in the background.


The second ghost (Ralph Klein) shows present day Trudeau taking selfies, changing his socks, blandly promoting a progressive agenda while jet-setting abroad and completely ignoring unemployment and game changing capital projects at home. Then the ghost shows Justin all the pipeliners who are out of work because he was too soft to push the agenda, and the slow deterioration of the Canadian standard of living.


The third ghost – who is really just an apparition, shows a scene that opens with newly minted Alberta Emperor Jason Kenney opening the first border crossing station between Alberta and BC, before climbing on a tank and leading a hearty rendition of the new Alberta national anthem “Alberta #1 Dammit”. Then it shows an apocalyptic scene in Ottawa where a broke Canadian government is being taken over by the new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his deputy Ezra Levant. A look of terror shows on young Justin’s face as he is shown the interior of the House of Commons and realizes that his Liberal Party in 2024 has been completely obliterated in the election, winning only one seat, ironically that of the still-embattled Finance Minister, Bill Morneau.


Waking in a cold sweat, Trudeau gives his friends at SNC and Bombardier each a billion dollars and commands them to fetch him the finest pipeline in the land!


2 – Die Hard


New York City policeman John McClane is visiting his estranged wife and two daughters on Christmas Eve. He joins her at a holiday party in the headquarters of the Japanese-owned business she works for. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise, and everyone in it. Very soon McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages — but him.


Canadian pipeline foreman Johnny Canuck is doing integrity work and a cutout on a live mainline natural gas pipeline somewhere in the Canadian Northern hinterland when his crew is attacked and taken hostage by dozens of non-descript environmental terrorists on Bombardier snowmobiles. Canuck realizes there is no one there to help rescue the hostages except himself so he takes on the whole lot of them – carefully emptying their gas tanks into jerry cans, collecting their jackets and putting them in the cab of his truck – the usual. In the closing scene, Canuck has been chased to the end of a side-boom where the chief eco-warrior tries to convert him by yelling at him with a bullhorn. “Repent now you fossil fuel exploiting freak” but he slips into the bell hole while he’s doing it and only the fast reflexes of Canuck grabbing his wrist saves him from getting crushed by a length of pipe. “Hey” yells Canuck, “where’s your helmet, your safety tickets and your cover-alls?” before getting him a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa (our hero has both safety skills and training!). In the last scene, we see Canuck with a lot of concern loading the last of the frost-bitten and chastened attackers into an F350 Crewcab for the long, but warm, drive back to civilization and a Christmas celebration with friends and family.


What? Well seriously, what did you expect to happen? It’s the Canadian oil patch. Safety first. Look out for each other. Everyone goes home.


1A – Diner


Five friends gather to reminisce about the old days in preparation for one of the crew’s impending wedding. Much conversation ensues, there is a football quiz, an incident in a manger, popcorn, alphabetization, some horseback riding and, of course, the locus of their existence, the diner, where they gather food and conversation as well as debate the eternal questions of their time. As the movie ends, hope seems elusively around the corner along with adulthood.


Five friends gather to reminisce about the good old days of the oil patch in preparation for one last shot at industry glory. Much conversations ensues, business plans are discussed, pipelines started, Sandwiches are consumed by the main protagonists along with some good wine, football is watched and discussed, not so much quizzed. As the movie ends, prices are on the rise, but hope is still just out of reach – maybe next year.


1B – It’s A Wonderful Life


After George Bailey wishes he had never been born, an angel is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.


After Greta Thunberg, environmentalist and climate change warrior priestess, wishes that oil had never been discovered, an angel is sent to earth to show her what a world without oil would like.


After wandering around in the dark and choking on the smoke from all the wood fires required to maintain warmth for 8 billion people, Greta stumbles upon a town where infant mortality is well in excess of 20%, life expectancy is less than 50 years, there are no computers, crop yields are a quarter of what they were, there are no airplanes, war is a constant and what is with these itchy hemp clothes! Topping it all off, Greta discovers that in this world, Donald Trump is the co-emperor of the world Vladimir Putin. Crying out in desperation, a chastened Greta is heard to exclaim toward the end of the film: “I had it all wrong, surely there is a way we can all co-exist!”


As the movie closes, a smiling Greta is seen driving a Tesla battery-powered sideboom as part of Spread #2 for the Nebraska portion of Keystone XL as a bell rings – another oil angel got its wings.


So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas movies of all time, absolutely ruined by twisted metaphor.


And I know you all wanted Die Hard as the number one, but I just couldn’t do it. To me, the Christmas movie is all about the sappy/happy ending and what could be better than Greta Thunberg acknowledging that oil has made life wonderful? Diner is included this year because, well, it’s one of my favourite movies and, well, I felt like it.

Prices as at December 20, 2019

  • Oil prices are up for the week. WCS gap still high at ~ $22
    • Storage posted an increase week over week
    • Production flat week over week
    • Natural gas storage above last year; approximately 5-year avg
  • WTI Crude: $60.33 ($59.93)
  • Western Canada Select: $38.38 ($39.27)
  • AECO Spot: $2.460 ($2.477)
  • NYMEX Gas: $2.310 ($2.272)ss
  • US/Canadian Dollar: $0.7626 ($0.7578)



  • As at December 13, 2019, US crude oil supplies were at 446.8 million barrels, an decrease of 1.1 million barrels from the previous week and an increase of 5.3 million barrels above last year.
    • The number of days oil supply in storage is 27 compared to 25.3 last year at this time.
    • Production was flat for the week at 12.85 million barrels per day. Production last year at the same time was 11.650 million barrels per day.
    • Imports increased to 6.411 million barrels from 5.259 million barrels per day compared to 7.549 million barrels per day last year.
    • Crude exports from the US rose to 3.633 million barrels per day from 3. 400 million barrels per day last week compared to 2.325 million barrels per day a year ago
    • Canadian exports to the US increased to 3.675 million barrels a day from 3.510 million barrels per day last week
    • Refinery inputs fell during the week to 16.573 million barrels per day
  • As at December 13, 2019, US natural gas in storage was 3,411 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is 9 BcF lower than the 5-year average and about 21% higher than last year’s level, following an implied net withdrawal of 107 Bcf during the report week
    • Overall U.S. natural gas consumption rose by 7% during the report week.
    • Production was flat for the week. Imports from Canada rose 17% from the week before. Exports to Mexico were flat from last week
    • LNG exports totaled 51 Bcf
  • As of December 13, 2019, the onshore Canadian rig count was down 4 at 147 (AB – 102; BC – 9; SK – 33; MB – 3; Other – 0). Rig count for the same period last year was 172.
  • US Onshore Oil rig count at December 20, 2019 is at 685, up 18 from the week prior.
    • Peak rig count was October 10, 2014 at 1,609
  • Natural gas rigs drilling in the United States is down 4 at 125.
    • Peak rig count before the downturn was November 11, 2014 at 356 (note the actual peak gas rig count was 1,606 on August 29, 2008)
  • Offshore rig count increased 1 to 24.
    • Offshore peak rig count at January 1, 2015 was 55

US split of Oil vs Gas rigs is 84%/16%, in Canada the split is 59%/41%


Trump Watch: Setting records – 3rd US President ever to be impeached by the house!

Kenney Watch (new!)Energy War Room – Go time! (please ignore the logo)

Trudeau Watch (for balance): Pretty quiet. Met with Kenney. Wore rainbow socks.

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