The Transition

 

“The chaos that one day will ensue from our 35-year experiment with worldwide fiat money will require a return to money of real value. We will know that day is approaching when oil-producing countries demand gold, or its equivalent, for their oil rather than dollars or euros. The sooner the better.”

Ron Paul

 

oil pipeline to ghawarA new oil pipeline is built in the Saudi desert… this one is apparently destined for the Ghawar oil field, one of the oldest fields in Saudi Arabia and still the largest in the world

Photo credit: Saudi Aramco

 

The intricate relationship between energy markets and our global financial system, can be traced back to the emergence of the petrodollar system in the 1970s, which was mainly driven by the rise of the United States as an economic and political superpower.

For almost twenty years, the U.S. was the world’s only exporter of petroleum. Its relative energy independence helped support its economy and its currency. Until around 1970, the U.S. enjoyed a positive trade balance.

Oil expert and author of the book “The Trace of Oil”, Bertram Brökelmann, explains a dramatic change took place in the U.S. economy, as it experienced several transitions: First, it transitioned from being an oil exporter to an oil importer, then a goods importer and finally a money importer. This disastrous downward spiral began gradually, but it ultimately affected the global economy.

A petrodollar is defined as a US dollar that is received by an oil producing country in exchange for selling oil. As is shown in the chart below, the gap between US oil consumption and production began to expand in the late 1960s, making the U.S. dependent on oil imports.

 

shaybah_from_the_dunes__by_lugh23s-d4v2i5lVillage in the desert: this compound in the Sahara houses people working at Saudi Arabia’s Shaybah oil field.

Photo credit: lugh23s

 

And while it led to the U.S. Dollar being established as the world’s premier reserve currency, it also contributed to the country’s increase in debt. The oil embargo of 1973-74 was a major hit that exposed the vulnerability of the U.S. economy.

Nevertheless, under the banner of “national security” the future policy course was firmly set: in a 1973 National Security Council (NSC) paper, it was stated that “U.S. leverage in energy matters resulted from its economic and political influence with Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two leading oil exporters”.

 

Chart-1-eia

US petroleum production, consumption and net imports – after surging dramatically from 1950 to the early 21st century, US energy imports have declined dramatically since the mid 2000ds as a result of the fracking boom. This is inter alia beginning to affect global dollar liquidity.

 

From a Gold-Based Monetary System to the Petrodollar System

Former U.S. Senator Ron Paul explains that “understanding the Petrodollar system and the forces affecting it, is the best way to predict when the U.S. Dollar will collapse.” The origins of the petrodollar system go back to the Bretton Woods system, the 1944 post-war agreement, which made the U.S. Dollar the sole reserve currency.

 

fimf_conferenceBretton Woods monetary conference at the Mt. Washington Hotel in July 1944

Photo via beforeitsnews.com

 

From then on, only the U.S. Dollar would be convertible into gold at a fixed rate of USD 35 per ounce. This also meant that only the U.S. was able to change the price of gold and, in turn, it committed to maintaining the value of the Dollar by buying and selling unlimited quantities of gold, at the agreed upon rate of USD 35 per ounce.

In 1945, the U.S. Treasury held 17,848 metric tons of fine gold, which at the time represented around 63% of official global gold reserves. The gold-backed Dollar offered the world a reliable and stable reserve currency. However, cracks in the Bretton Woods system began to emerge, as US export surpluses began to drop after 1960.

The Kennedy and Johnson administrations were rather big on money printing, be it to finance the space race, or to spend on domestic social programs. A significant burden on the U.S. budget were also the wars fought in Korea and Vietnam, which had to be paid for by resorting to the usual war funding mechanisms, i.e. by borrowing money.

Thus, the country began to live on credit and banks worldwide were  flooded with US dollars. These dollars represented gold claims on the United States though. In 1971, the US “temporarily” suspended convertibility of the Dollar into gold, and announced that the dollar would be devalued to USD 38.00 per ounce.

 

Nixon-3Richard Milhouse Nixon. Here is a link to a video of his announcement of the US gold default in 1971. It is a classical example of how governments are routinely telling bald-faced lies when imposing steps to combat “economic emergencies” they themselves have caused. These steps invariably mean that someone’s wealth is stolen or diminished in favor of the State.

Photo via epictimes.com

 

A run on gold ensued, as European states, particularly France and Germany, were skeptical and wary of another devaluation. As a result, US gold reserves eventually shrunk to about 286 million ounces. Richard Nixon then “closed the gold window” in August 1971 and the dollar was devalued for a second time by 10%.

The gold price shot up to USD 42.22 in one go. This essentially meant that the U.S. Treasury defaulted on its promise to back the dollar with gold and thus, the financial system as it was constituted at the time was no longer sustainable.

 

Chart-2-Gold, 67-73Gold price from 1967 to 1973. In the late 1960s there was an attempt by governments to keep the gold price under control through the “London Gold Pool” – they lost gold so fast in this market manipulation effort that they soon gave up again. It foreshadowed the eventual default. Monetarist economists like Milton Friedman told Nixon that the gold price would fall to $6 if the US were to “demonetize” gold – once again proving that the forecasts of most economists aren’t worth much – click to enlarge.

 

1973 was an important year for oil: the oil embargo was imposed as a reaction to the Yom Kippur war, but it also related to the closure of the gold window. The Dollar became nothing more than a fiat currency and the Fed was free to pursue monetary expansion completely unhindered. The main problem the US faced was how to motivate other countries to hold and use US dollars. Saudi Arabia became the lynchpin of this effort.

According to leaked documents, there were other interested parties that helped to “orchestrate” these developments in 1973-74. Henry Kissinger held a meeting in Bilderberg in the Netherlands with an influential group of men: Lord Greenhill of BP, David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank, George Ball of Lehman Brothers and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The came to the conclusion that OPEC “could completely disorganize and undermine the world monetary system” and so they decided to target the commodity it controlled. Oil was to save their banks and financial interests from the collapse of the dollar.

 

Kisser and FaisalKissinger meets with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. At this point, the latter seemed not quite convinced yet. In the end, the Saudi royals realized what a great deal this would be for them.

Photo credit:Bettmann / Getty Images

 

Shortly thereafter, Kissinger negotiated with the Saudi monarchy,  and helped steer events in the direction that would eventually lead to an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United States. It has only recently been disclosed that there was another covert meeting between the Saudis and newly appointed U.S. Treasury secretary, William Simon.

The objective was to find a way to convert the then hostile Saudis to US allies and by doing so create the petrodollar so as to reanimate the ailing US economy. Nixon would not take no for an answer – not only was it a matter of economic security, but he also wanted to block the Soviet Union from getting a toehold in the region.

 

William SimonFormer US treasury secretary William Simon – it has only recently emerged that he actually went on a secret mission to Saudi Arabia to persuade the Saudis to take dollars for oil and recycle them into treasury debt

Photo credit: Ira Schwartz / AP

 

Simon knew how to sell the idea: America was the safest place for the Saudis to invest their petrodollars and no one would know about it (Saudi investments were not disclosed separately, instead they were grouped with other oil exporting countries). As shown in the chart below, today Saudi Arabia is the largest US creditor among oil exporting countries, holding about USD117 billion in treasury securities.

 

Chart-3-treasury bonds held by oil exportersUS treasuries held by oil-exporting countries. In this group, Saudi Arabia is the largest creditor of the US – click to enlarge.

 

And so, a partnership and a strategic alliance were formed: The US agreed it would guarantee the survival of the House of Saud, provide military security for the Saudi oil fields, as well as sell arms weapons to the Saudi government.

In return, Saudi Arabia would use its leverage in OPEC to ensure all oil transactions would be in USD, invest its own Dollars generated from oil sales in US investment vehicles, maintain influence over price levels and prevent another oil embargo.

This alliance marked a paradigm shift, the transition to the “petrodollar system”. It enabled the US to fill the vacuum that was left by the closure of the gold window. The oil conglomerates and financial oligarchs secured the flow of funds by creating a new wave of demand for US dollars.

Though artificial and baseless, it was backed by the increasing demand for oil worldwide. And this, also artificial, demand has successfully supported the continuation of expansionary US monetary policy for decades – at least until the beginning of the global financial crisis and the point where we find ourselves now.

 

Is Another Paradigm Shift Underway?

Similar to the paradigm shift that followed with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, there is another major shift underway today. According to Ron Paul, we will know its consequences in full, the day oil-producing countries demand gold for their oil rather than dollars.

 

RosneftRosneft facility in Siberia

Photo credit:Efim Krelish / Kommersant

 

We have already seen changes in oil sale agreements made in recent years. In 2013, Russia’s Rosneft agreed to supply China with oil worth USD 270 billion, the largest agreement to date. Additionally several OPEC nations are allowing oil transactions to be carried out in a currencies other than the dollar.

In January 2016, India and Iran agreed to settle their oil sales in Indian rupees. In 2014, Qatar agreed with China to be the first hub for clearing transactions in the Chinese yuan. In December 2015, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China created a new currency swap agreement for the yuan. Both steps strongly indicate that the Gulf states are taking measures to reduce their dependence and exposure to the US dollar.

It is therefore clear why all eyes are set on the geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East. Concerns have intensified after a failed military intervention by the US, the slowly weakening strategic position of Saudi Arabia in the region and the increasing strength of Iran after the removal of economic sanctions.

 

obama-salmanPresident Obama and Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman find something to laugh about. In reality, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have steadily deteriorated in recent years, official proclamations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Photo credit:Jim Bourg / Reuters

 

In addition, U.S.-Saudi relations are currently on shaky ground. In April Saudi Arabia warned it could proceed to sell off billions worth of US treasury bonds if Congress passed a bill that would allow the kingdom to be held liable in U.S. courts for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

That bill indeed passed the Senate in May and is now in the hands of the House of Representatives, but a vote is yet to be scheduled. The Saudi threat has not yet materialized, but if it did, it would pull billions of dollars out of the US treasury bond market – it would be a move of great moment, symbolically ending more than 40 years of cooperation in the petrodollar system.

 

Charts by: EIA, ShareLynx, Bloomberg

 

Chart and image captions by PT

 

This article appeared originally at the Gold And Liberty blog.

 

Claudio Grass is the managing director of Global Gold, a Swiss bullion depository. Acting Man is an affiliate of Global Gold (here is our landing page at Global Gold, where you can get additional information about the service).

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA

   
 

3 Responses to “End of an Era: The Rise and Fall of the Petrodollar System”

  • zerobs:

    Selling a portion of their UST’s now would book a nice profit. Don’t know when the bubble’s going to end but the profitability of the UST’s is there now if the Sauds want it.

  • alexaisback:

    .
    Also – the Saudi Threat of selling US Treasury is indeed true. But is In Deed Silly.

    Saudi already has to sell to support their own bloated budget.
    .
    And the amount they own currently is effectively meaningless if they were to sell more
    dramatically.
    .
    It is indeed an empty threat.
    .

    BUT At the end of the day you must ask HOW Stupid is the US to permit lawsuits against the Saudi’s which will only
    turn them to Russia and China and will only make the lawyers wealthy
    and which will tie up US Courts for years ?

    Rest assured it is stupid people voting for money for votes.

  • alexaisback:

    .
    Frankly, it is quite clear Saudi Arabia is doing Everything in their power
    to Keep Market Share. Including driving oil production and decrease in price.
    .
    A demand for Gold instead of dollar would have the opposite effect,
    it would reduce Market Share. This is exactly what the Saudi’s would Not do.
    .
    The Saudi’s are not going to demand gold.
    .
    The Saudi’s have their own horrible financial issues, they do not just need to sell oil
    they Must Sell Oil, it is a must, their Country collapses without it.

    What the Saudi’s
    really need is austerity/budget planning.
    .
    But then again, don’t we all require austerity ? Politicians as you have noted play
    short term game for votes, and could care less about the debt they have run up.
    Austerity means you lose power ( in the US you don’t get votes, In China you may disappear
    in Saudi Arabia maybe you get shot ?).

    No One does anything unless forced to, irresponsibility and lack of morality is key, no one was re-elected by saving money.

    And all the central bankers will continue to bail out the banks one way or another.
    .

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Stock Market Manias of the Past vs the Echo Bubble
      The Big Picture The diverging performance of major US stock market indexes which has been in place since the late January peak in DJIA and SPX has become even more extreme in recent months. In terms of duration and extent it is one of the most pronounced such divergences in history. It also happens to be accompanied by weakening market internals, some of the most extreme sentiment and positioning readings ever seen and an ever more hostile monetary backdrop.   Who's who in the zoo in...
  • All the Makings of a Major Economic Fiasco
      Mud Wrestling: Trump vs. Xi About 6,940 miles west of Washington DC, and at roughly the same latitude, sits Beijing.  Within China’s massive capital city, sits the country's paramount leader, Xi Jinping.  According to Forbes, Xi is currently the most powerful and influential person in the world.   Papa Xi, the new emperor of China. [PT]   Xi, no doubt, is one savvy fellow.  He always knows the right things to say.  He offers the citizens of his nation the...
  • How the Global Trade Contraction Begins
    Historical Evidence The world grows increasingly at odds with itself, with each passing day.  Divided special elections.  Speech censorship by Silicon Valley social media companies.  Increased shrieking from Anderson Cooper.  You name it, a great pileup is upon us.   It was probably Putin's fault (just a wild guess) [PT]   From our perch overlooking San Pedro Bay, the main port of entry for Chinese made goods into the USA, facets of the mounting economic catastrophe come...
  • TARGET-2 Revisited
      Capital Flight vs. The Effect of QE Mish recently discussed the ever increasing imbalances of the euro zone's TARGET-2 payment system again in response to a few articles which played down  their significance. He followed this up with a nice plug for us by posting a comment we made on the subject. Here is a chart of the most recent data on TARGET-2 available from the ECB; we included the four largest balances, namely those of  Germany, Italy, Spain and the ECB itself.   The...
  • When the Freaks Run Wild
      Conditioned to Absurdity The unpleasant sight of a physical absurdity is both grotesque and interesting.  Only the most disciplined individual can resist an extra peek at a three-legged hunch back with face tattoos.  The disfigurement has the odd effect of turning the stomach and twisting the mind in unison.   Francesco Lentini, the three-legged man. Born in Sicily in 1881 with “three legs, four feet, sixteen toes and two pair of functioning genitals” he made a career of...
  • Gold Sector – An Obscure Indicator Provides a Signal
    The Goldminbi In recent weeks gold apparently decided it would be a good time to masquerade as an emerging market currency and it started mirroring the Chinese yuan of all things. Since the latter is non-convertible this almost feels like an insult of sorts. As an aside to this, bitcoin seems to be frantically searching for a new position somewhere between the South African rand the Turkish lira. The bears are busy dancing on their graves.   Generally speaking bears have little to...
  • Separating Signal from Noise
      Claudio Grass in Conversation with Todd “Bubba” Horwitz Todd Horwitz is known as Bubba and is chief market strategist of  Bubba Trading.com. He is a regular contributor on Fox, CNBC, BNN, Kitco, and Bloomberg. He also hosts a daily podcast, ‘The Bubba Show.’ He is a 36-year member of the Chicago exchanges and was one of the original market makers in the SPX.   Todd “Bubba” Horwitz and Claudio Grass   Before you listen to the podcast, I would like to...
  • What Have You Done For Me Lately? Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Aragorn's Law or the Mysterious Absence of the Mad Rush Last week the price of gold dropped $8, and that of silver 4 cents.  There is an interesting feature of our very marvel of a modern monetary system. We have written about this before. It sets up a conflict, between the perverse incentive it administers, and the desire to protect yourself in the long term.   Answer: usually when it is too late... [PT]   Consider gold. Many people know they should own it. They...
  • The Midas Touch Gold Model
      Introductory Remarks by PT Dear readers, we are hereby beginning to publish material from a new author, Florian Grummes of Midas Touch Consulting. Some of you may already know Florian from his contributions to recent issues of the annual “In Gold We Trust” report by Incrementum. He is a well-known and highly respected market analyst (particularly of gold and cryptocurrency markets) in the German-speaking parts of the world and we hope we will be able to contribute a bit to making his...
  • An Inquiry into Austrian Investing: Profits, Protection and Pitfalls
    Incrementum Advisory Board Discussion Q3 2018 with Special Guest Kevin Duffy “From a marketing perspective it pays to be overconfident, especially in the short term. The higher your conviction the easier it will be to market your investment ideas. I think the Austrian School is at a disadvantage here because it’s more difficult to be confident about your qualitative predictions and even in terms of investment advice it is particularly difficult to be confident in these times because we...
  • Climbing the Milligram Ladder - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
    FRN Muscle Flexing Shh, don’t tell the dollar-paradigm folks that the dollar went up 0.2mg gold this week. Or if that hasn’t blown your mind, the dollar went up 0.01 grams of silver. It’s less uncomfortable to say that gold went down $10, and silver fell $0.08. It doesn’t force anyone to confront their deeply-held beliefs about money. But it does have its own Medieval retrograde motion to explain.   Even the freaking leprechaun is now offering government scrip...  this really...
  • Introducing the Seasonax Web App
      Closing the Affordability Gap Up until recently, the Seasonax app was only available to users of Bloomberg or Reuters terminals, putting it out of reach of most non-institutional investors. This has now changed. A  HYPERLINK "https://app.seasonax.com/"web-based version has become available which anyone can use, and it comes at a much lower price point as well. When visiting the site where the app is hosted, this is the welcome screen:   Featured patterns at the Seasonax web app...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides

j9TJzzN

The Review Insider

Dog Blow

Austrian Theory and Investment

Archive

350x200

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

Mish Talk

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com