Predicting another unpredictable year

Here’s a cautionary tale for those eager to forecast what will occur in 2009. It involves a prediction made just six months ago by an expert in his field — not one of those New Year’s prognostications from a year ago.

From a Reuter’s dispatch dated July 3, 2008:

“Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said on Tuesday crude (oil) prices will not fall below $100 a barrel again.”

Hmmm. If you can’t trust a billionaire who made his fortune in the oil business on energy prices, who can you trust?

Apparently, not anyone, since oil is now hovering around $40.

Pickens made his prediction about crude oil prices as part of his pitch for the so-called
Pickens Plan. Under it, the nation would replace gasoline with natural gas as the primary fuel for its vehicles, and it would turn to wind power for much of its electricity needs. In fact, Pickens announced he was personally investing heavily in wind power throughout Texas and the Midwest.

But long before crude oil dropped to $40 a barrel, the Pickens Plan was in shambles and T. Boone has significantly scaled back his own investments in wind power.

That doesn’t mean oil prices will continue to tumble indefinitely, of course. Far be it from us to make such a prediction. Some experts foresee a resurgence in energy prices beginning in the second half of the year. Others say it could come sooner and still others predict it will be much later. Pick your favorite.

Want more reason to be cautious in forecasting?

Who would have thought, a month ago, that Norv Turner would be headed to the playoffs with the San Diego Chargers and Mike Shanahan would be looking for a new job?

Also, remember that just one year ago, the leading contenders for their respective parties’ presidential nominations were Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani. John McCain had been virtually written off by pundits because of the state of his finances and turmoil within his campaign organization, and Barack Obama was still a tremendous underdog.

Many people a year ago thought the economy was on shaky ground and that housing prices especially were due for a fall. But no one was predicting that by year’s end the government would be shoveling billions of dollars to everything from banks to insurance firms to auto companies, just to keep them from collapsing.

Colorado state lawmakers and other folks in January 2008 were looking at how to divide the ever-exploding revenue from our natural gas boom, and many businesses were trying to figure out how they could recruit and keep employees when the lure of the gas fields was so strong. They weren’t expecting cutbacks.

And just a year ago, those of us at The Daily Sentinel were busy working out the details of a new building we expected to begin constructing last fall, not contemplating the possibility of the paper being sold and that we might be working for a new company.

In short, T. Boone Pickens wasn’t the only one caught by surprise. 2008 proved to be a very unpredictable year for everyone.

When people write the epitaph for 2009 a year from now, we expect it will be filled with as many unexpected twists and turns as 2008. We only hope they are more fortuitous for this region and our nation than the surprises of last year.

We wish all of our readers a Happy New Year. Just don’t ask us to predict what’s going to happen in the coming 12 months.


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