The $5 Trillion Downside to Lower Oil Prices, & 4 More Things You'll Want to Know Today

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The Midland/Odessa part of West Texas still supplies much of the USA with oil.
Here's a quick rundown from the world of business and economics this morning: the things you need to know, and some you'll just want to know.

• If oil prices fall by 25 percent or more, as some analysts predict they will next year, most Americans would cheer. But there's a downside to $70 a barrel oil: At that price, it would become too expensive to pump the crude out of Texas' Permian Basin, the second-richest oil field left in the world, thus derailing a $5 trillion energy boom. Joe Carroll and Edward Klump of Bloomberg explain what that means to us.

• China's strong growth is the biggest driver of the world economy right now: If Beijing sneezes, we're all going to get the fiscal flu. So this should worry everyone: Researchers now say the Chinese banking system is propping itself up with more and more hidden debt and "quasi-money," supported by a rapidly growing shadow banking system that is also headed for a fall. China, it seems, is barreling toward its own "Lehman Brothers moment," when a major bank collapse pushes its entire financial system over the edge.

• Just in case anyone was concerned that some federal employees might end up getting paid twice for their down-time during the recent government shutdown, this report: Because Congress approved back pay for the furloughed workers, those who got unemployment benefits will have to return the money, the Labor Department says.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%• We all know by now that there are academic scientists being quietly paid by energy companies to say global warming is still a question. And we've long since learned that tobacco companies had their own stables of researchers paid to cast doubt on the health risks of smoking. Well, Wall Street has some academics in its pockets too, and they're getting paid to write columns, produce academic studies and testify, all in the name of obstructing financial reforms like the Dodd-Frank law, and to do anything they can to weaken the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- all while keeping those connections to the banking industry hidden.

• And finally, we end with a little good news: If you're one of the many who can't get through your morning at work without a cup or three of coffee, you might sometimes wonder if your caffeine habit is, perhaps, unhealthy. Fear not: Researchers from Italy have found that drinking coffee cuts the risk of the most common type of liver cancer by 40 percent. And more is better: Drinking three cups a day reduces the risk by more than half.
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