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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS:

Thinking about Dependence

by Fred Cederholm

Domestic energy consumption may be contracting, but the continued erosion of the purchasing power of the US dollar relative to other currencies gives the “appearance” of our spending more.

I’ve been thinking about dependence. Actually I’ve been thinking about the forthcoming July 4th holiday, the April 2008 trade numbers/our trade deficits, the April 2008 energy numbers/our energy deficits, and observances. Official numbers for our trade deficits, cumulative trade deficit(s) for the calendar year thus far, and our energy import sources for this past April were released a week ago. The results and implications for US/us were both startling and depressing.

You see, four years ago (on June 29th, 2004), I wrote a column about the forthcoming July 4th holiday and how it is supposed to be a celebration of American Independence. In objectively looking at the US situation, I chronicled how much we were depending on foreign imported goods, foreign energy sources, and foreign money to keep the good old American economy chugging along. I had growing reservations about whether we are still the "land of the free," in the sense that the freedom of our choices and actions were more and more governed by our dependencies. When you are "dependent," the options that are open to you to choose from become constrained and colored by the very nature of the dependency.

Moving ahead four years (and 208 weekly columns) later, it appears this sorry situation has not corrected itself one bit. Things are still as dire for US/ us—or worse.

Our eight largest trade deficits for the month of April 2008 (and 2008 Year to Date) are as follows: China $20.239 Billion ($74.984 Billion YTD), Canada $7.611 Billion, ($26.409 Billion YTD), Japan $7.562 Billion ($28.521 Billion YTD), Mexico $6.824 Billion ($23.437 Billion YTD), Germany $4.438 Billion ($15.246 Billion YTD), Saudi Arabia $3.406 Billion ($12.995 Billion YTD), Nigeria $3.382 Billion ($12.962 Billion YTD), and Venezuela $2.983 Billion ($11.757 Billion YTD).

Our hands-down overall biggest dollar denominated imports are for crude oil and petroleum distillates—but note that our first, third, and fifth largest deficits are with countries who sell us no energy-related products whatsoever. Our trade surpluses grew by a record $5 Billion in April 2008, but our trade deficits grew by a record $9.4 Billion for the month! April imports of crude oil ($29.3 billion) and the April average price per barrel of crude oil ($96.81) were records as well.

The top eight sources of Uncle $ugar’s crude oil imports for April 2008 were: Canada (1.952 Million barrels per day—MBPD), up 8.7% over March; Saudi Arabia (1.453 MBPD), down 5.3%; Mexico (1.259 MBPD), up 2.2%; Nigeria (1.115 MBPD), down 3.4%; Venezuela (1.019 MBPD), up 18.8%; Iraq (0.679 MBPD), down 12.2%; Angola (0.5.79 MBPD), up 50.8%; and Algeria (0.393 MBPD), up 59.1%. Uncle $ugar’s top eight sources of total petroleum imports for April 2008 were: Canada (2.476 million barrels per DAY--MBPD), down 2.6%; Saudi Arabia (1.462 MBPD), down 5.2%; Mexico (1.357 MBPD), no change; Nigeria (1.214 MBPD), up 3.4%; Venezuela (1.176 MBPD), up 13.8%; Iraq (0.679 MBPD), down 12.2%; Algeria (0.628 MBPD), up 42.4%; and Angola (0.591 MBPD), up 52.3%. Crude imports averaged 9.921 MBPD.

While the average April price was a record at $96.81, it should be noted that the Monday, June 30 pricing was approaching $143. Domestic energy consumption may be contracting, but the continued erosion of the purchasing power of the US dollar relative to other currencies gives the “appearance” of our spending more.

I’m very much looking forward to the July 4th observances. In my little home community of Creston, Illinois, we are having our first “make your own parade” featuring kids, adults, bikes, wagons, and pets “people-powering themselves” down Main Street. There will be patriotic singing and readings by the fire station with hot dogs, chips, and lemonade provided by the Creston Methodist Church. Later... the holiday observances will continue for me in nearby Rochelle, at Atwood Park, for the concert and the fireworks.

Happy 232nd Birthday, America! May you finally address your “dependencies,” and have many more birthdays as a result.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.

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This story was published on June 30, 2008.