So Cal home sales, Carter and the inflation of the 70’s
Up a bit vs March last year so no boom yet:
CoreLogic (formerly DataQuick data): SoCal sales up 5.0% Year-over-year
By Bill McBride
April 20 (Calculated Risk) — CoreLogic released the Southern California report today for March (CoreLogic acquired DataQuick).
The data shows 18,156 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in March.
That was up 35.6% from 13,650 sales in February, and up 5.0% from 17,638 sales in March last year.
A narrative about how Carter’s deregulation of natural gas in 1978 (not ‘monetary policy’)is what broke the ‘great inflation’ that was likewise caused by the prior rise in the price of oil. The report may be ‘over friendly’ to Carter, but it was the substitution of natural gas for oil in public utilities and other businesses that dislodged OPEC’s pricing power. Note the supply cuts as Saudia Arabia and Iran, shown here, attempted to set hold prices at over $30 as substitution reduced demand:
Miller Center – Jimmy Carter
Energy Policy Success
Carter’s main achievement involved energy policy, though he would receive little credit for it during his term. Despite the lip service paid by American presidents to reducing energy dependence, U.S. oil imports had shot up 65 percent annually since 1973. In 1976 the nation was consuming one-quarter of all Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production. The U.S. remained wasteful in energy use, with consumption per capita 2.3 times the average for nations in the European Economic Community and 2.6 times Japan’s. Carter set out to reduce this dependence.
The president got Congress to pass the Emergency Natural Gas Act, which would authorize the national government to allocate interstate natural gas. He created a Department of Energy to regulate existing energy suppliers and fund research on new sources of energy, particularly sustainable (wind and solar power) and ecologically sound sources. His Energy Security Act created the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation, which would provide $20 billion in joint ventures with private industry. Carter signed his first energy package into law on November 9, 1978. The deregulation of oil and natural gas prices that resulted would lead to a vast increase in the supply of energy in the 1980s, and consequently a lowering of prices.
During Carter’s term, however, the actions of the OPEC oil cartel (foreign oil producers) resulted in an increase in oil prices, from $13 a barrel to over $34. With America so dependent on oil, this huge price increase resulted in a run-up in inflation. Carter asked Congress to accelerate stockpiling 500 million barrels of crude oil in a national security reserve, setting target date by end of 1980 instead of 1982 (the deadline set by the Ford administration). The administration also developed new conservation measures that would sharply reduce industry’s use of fuels, as well as automobile mileage standards. Strip mining would now be regulated by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, a victory for environmentalists.
Carter had other successes in energy policy, particularly in nuclear energy policy, in which he was an expert. He got Congress to abolish the powerful Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, a step that would make it easier to block breeder reactors and move toward light-water reactors of the kind favored by the administration. Carter won his route for a soon to be constructed oil pipeline in Alaska. He killed funding for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, because the plutonium reactor technology would increase the risk of nuclear proliferation if adopted elsewhere in the world. Instead, Congress authorized and funded a shutdown of the reactor.
By April 1980, he had gotten much of his second energy package through, including a Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax (with revenues designated for the general Treasury but not for specific energy projects), which would expire in 1993 or before, if the full amount of $227 billion had been collected. But there were two major defeats: Congress overrode a presidential veto of a bill that Congress had passed repealing a $4.62 per barrel oil import fee—the first time in twenty-eight years that a Congress had overridden a veto by a president from the majority party. It also defeated the Energy Mobilization Board that Carter had proposed to cut through “red tape” in developing new sources of energy.
While Americans had to endure long gas lines during the summer of 1979 and higher prices at the pump—effects of the Iranian revolution of that same year— Carter’s program by and large worked. Consumption of foreign oil did go down, from 48 percent when Carter took office to 40 percent in 1980, with a reduction of 1.8 million barrels a day. When Carter left office there were high inventories of oil and a surplus of natural gas, delivered by a more rational distribution system. There was greater oil exploration than before, leading eventually to an oil glut and a drop in prices-which Carter’s Department of Energy had not predicted. Between 1980 and 1985, domestic production would increased by almost 1 million barrels a day, while imports of crude oil and petroleum products declined from 8.2 to 4.5 million barrels a day. His goal of reducing U.S. dependency on foreign sources succeeded, at least temporarily.