Tag Archives: oil

Oil Drops: Cheap Gas for U.S. Consumers; Rising Prices for Russians

Gas.Below2As an American, it has been nice to go the pump and find gas under $2.00 a gallon. In fact, the last time we saw prices at these levels was in the fall of 2008.

Yet what has been saving me money has been a major factor in the slowdown in the Russian economy, and the decline in the value of their currency, the ruble. This in turn has been hurting my friend Vasily. When reading economic data and statistics, it is easy to dismiss others pain by following an “out of sight, out of mind” way of thinking. However, if we both, whether American or Russian, seek to follow the teachings of Christ, then we should want to understand if our neighbor is hurting from something that is benefiting me.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36 –40 [NIV]

I contacted Vasily right before the New Year and asked him to give me some details about how the sharp drop in the ruble had impacted their daily lives. As you can see, the changes have been substantial recently.

“For many people in Russia, life for recent weeks has been filled with fears and concerns about their future. The ruble plunged, losing about 72% of its value to the US dollar since the beginning of the year [2014]. In the beginning of the year it was 35 R/$, currently it is about 60 R/$, but in the middle of December it fell down to 85 R/$.”

If you are not familiar with currency conversations, consider what Vasily is saying. As the Moscow.Russiaruble devalued, anyone exchanging dollars for rubles had to come up with more and more rubles to exchange for 1 US dollar. The impact has been dramatic on the people in Russia.

“No wonder people rushed to the stores to buy various things from smart phones and flat-screen TVs to furniture and cars. People tried to use the fact that the prices in the stores stayed the same during those days, and buying could protect their money from fast devaluation. Stores, however, caught up within a week or two, and now many prices reflect the devaluated ruble. Milk went from 32 rubles per liter to 53 rubles per liter; meat from 240 rubles per kilogram to 480 rubles per kilogram; bananas from 35 R/kg to 65 R/kg: apples from 35 R/kg to 80 R/kg. Not as many people bought new furniture, TV, or a new car, but all people buy milk, meat or fruit on a weekly/daily basis. Many retail prices even though not directly connected with a dollar, began to reflect the increased dollar rate. So people now have to either spend more rubles if they can afford it, or buy less. People’s salaries stayed the same so far, although the government promised to increase pensions on 7-10% in 2015. It is clear that this crisis has cut in half the standard of living that people had become accustomed to over the last 5 years. The Russian government, the Central Bank, and the President work hard now to stabilize the situation on the financial and stock markets, but so far the prognosis people hear is not too positive, at least for 2015.”

His story could be seen by anyone keeping up with current events too.

Russians flock to stores as ruble remains volatile, Fox News, Dec 17 ‘14

“The Russian government looked at ways of easing the selling pressure on the ruble Wednesday amid fears the country may face a full-blown bank run and as consumers look to buy big-ticket items before prices rise.
Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the government is going to sell foreign currency “as much as necessary and as long as necessary.” That, the hope is, would relieve the pressure on the ruble, particularly against the dollar.
The ruble has lost more than 50 percent of its value this year.”

Vasily also shared with me some illustrations, that make it clear that his work with other Russians doing missions work inside and outside the country has been greatly impacted by rising prices.

“Our short term mission trips to Israel became more expensive. For a group we took to serve in Israel for 10 days in November 2014, people paid 28,000 rubles. As the year progressed, a March 2015 trip was going to be more like 45,000 rubles. Some people decided not to go because the cost became prohibitive for them especially with the increased cost of their daily lives. So it is harder now to mobilize Russian believers for foreign missions with a weaker ruble.

Historically we have seen that such crises would lead to a cheaper ruble at first, but in 1-2 years the ruble would catch up and inflate prices in dollars too. That can be seen historically in the cost of e3 trips; for instance, it was $1,100 in 1992, then $1,800 in 1998, then $2,800 in 2004, then $3,800 in 2012.

Currently we are sadly observing panic in the financial markets because of the fall of the ruble, plunge in oil prices, sanctions, and speculative currency trading. We trust the Lord will help us through all this now and in the future.”


As nations the world over are impacted by a slowing global economy, struggling under increasing trillions in additional debt, most of which has gone toward unsustainable behavior in global markets, may we all remember our neighbors, not only next door, but especially those struggling under conditions far worse than our own in other nations.

May the people of Macedonia under the Roman Empire during the 1st century AD inspire us today. I hope the world of 2024 will read this, and immediately think of examples of this type of behavior by those who claimed to be followers of Christ.

“Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints…” II Corinthians 8:1-4

On a cold day in January,

A Curious Mind

PS – If you would like to make a financial impact on the lives of people in Russia, I encourage you to check out Vasily’s web page. I continue to believe that an investment in the lives of people is more rewarding that an investment in financial markets.

Starting at the End of the Story

Shackleton's Ship in 1914Several years ago, I was told about a book called Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. The book is about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic adventure in August 1914 to  Antarctica. As you read these opening words, consider whether you think things are going to go well for these men. Remember, this is the world of 1914, not 2014.

“The order to abandon ship was given at 5 P.M. For most of the men however, no order was needed because by then everybody knew that the ship was done and that it was time to give up trying to save her. There was no show of fear or even apprehension. They had fought unceasingly for three days, and they had lost….

She (the ship) was being crushed. Not all at once, but slowly, a little at a time. The pressure of 10 million tons of ice was driving in against her sides.

Frank Wild, the second in-command, put his head inside the crew’s quarters. ‘She’s going boys,’ he said quietly. ‘I think it’s time to get off’.”

When I had read the first chapter I was ready to stop. Here was a crew of men, who in 1914, found their wooden hulled protection from the brutal outside world being crushed. The ship that brought them to Antarctica would not be taking them home.

Why read the rest of this story? How could anything good come out of this beginning?

Still, the title intrigued me. I quickly went to the final pages of the book and read the ending. Yes, victory!

Now I knew I could go back and read the rest of what today is one of the greatest stories of determination, faith, and courage against all odds to survive.

What Gets Inflated, Can Get Deflated: Remember 2008?

It is also a story, that most of us, including myself, can not relate to at all. We have so many safety nets around us; so many things we depend on every day as though its continuation were as certain as the air we breathe. Yet, if we see any article or news report that scares us, we merely “close the book”, and ignore a larger developing story.

The story coming is the next massive deflationary period of money and financial resources, due to trillions in debt at virtually zero interest, most likely followed by a shift away from the dollar in the global system. The international currency unit, the Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund has had many white papers written about it as a replacement on the global level for the US dollar.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, world central bankers have told us that with trillions upon trillions to “temporarily” assist global markets, things would return to “normal”. As we close out 2014, with history once again breaking many records in extreme behavior and a string of “all time highs” over the last 2 years, deflating financial assets is not the majority view.

Yet powerful forces have been underway during the 4th quarter, producing hundreds of billions in losses already. Let me illustrate my point with two examples. This should be a harbinger to everyone worldwide, that once the largest financial bubble is over, the largest financial bust must commence.

Oil and Argentina

Oil was $94 a barrel at the end of September, and now 11 weeks later, it is in the $50s. This is a massive loss of revenue for major nations around the world, and one of the largest industries in my nation, the United States.

Economic War Goes Mainstream – Oil’s Price Drop is Seen as Proof, Global Economic Warfare,      Dec 7 ‘14


Argentina has seen its stock market plunge 34% since the fourth quarter started.
How quickly the headlines changed from September to October.

Sizzling: Argentina’s stock market is up 100%, CNBC, Sept 10 ’14

Argentine Stocks Plunge As Oversight Tightens on Parallel Market, Bloomberg, Oct 9 ’14


These developments impact so many lives, so many nations. For millions this brings cheaper gas, or is taking place in a country that we think has nothing to do with our own daily life. However, for millions this means a lost of revenue for an entire nation or industry that threatens their own day-to-day lives. These events are also large enough in and of themselves, that they have already started impacted other parts of the global economy and markets.

Where’s The Encouraging Ending?

So let’s jump ahead in this story. Let’s look past elaborate computer models, reams of statistics, and thousands of experts. Let’s look past a debt based currency system that connects us to events across the world, and is necessary for our daily survival.

Is there any story from the ancient world for today’s complex world, that points to a time where headlines and book titles could be 180 degrees opposite of what we are seeing today?

They will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war – Micah 4:3


Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his own staff in his hand because of his age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing. – Zechariah 8:4

I know, I know, none of us alive today have seen a time when the world has been at peace, and certainly not the most controversial religious city in the world, Jerusalem. I know that this is taking the discussion far away from a world the “money makes the world go round” dominant theme of today.

But remember, in 1914, influenza was life threatening, while most strands today are treated like a short term cold. In 1914, Shackleton’s men were closed from the outside world. Today, they would use satellite communications to send out a May Day signal.

So as frightening headlines keep increasing, telling everyone that man has not been able to create a nirvana world free from pain, is it not possible that the historical writings of several Jewish writers could provide hope of a time when the entire world finds what we really ultimately want, peace on earth and true unity between men?

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace –  Isaiah 9:6-7

The writings of these Jewish men, translated into more languages of the world than any other writings, have been ones I have read repeatedly over the last ten years of my own life, as I have written about the many “first in history” events. They continue to give me peace, even when the world around me is not.

A path to a time of incredible world peace like no one has ever seen, is fraught with many painful scenarios none of us even wants to consider.  Yet without an ending that is more  triumphant than the frightening trends facing us all today, it is easier to close the book, and live in a world of illusion until the sound of breaking timbers forces us out on the ice.

Deep things to think about in a world that has taught us that the experts, thinkers, and planners will make sure our world doesn’t shake our own personal plans. But what if trillions more in debt, and legions of people to centrally plan life for the rest of us started breaking apart again? I know, this time it will be different.
A Curious Mind

December 15 2014