Thursday, October 28, 2010

Future of Drought Series

This post is for the purpose of maintaining a list of my blog series on the science of drought and global warming.

It's probably fair to have a disclaimer here. These are mostly written to be somewhat accessible for the lay reader. However, it should be borne in mind that I am not a climate scientist, and in particular, I haven't completely figured out what's going on here. There seem to be some notable inconsistencies in the science, and this series is really the process of me trying to get to grips with the situation. So caveat lector, as always...

Anyway, in order that they were posted:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rare Earths Again

The New York Times reports:
HONG KONG — China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday.

The Chinese action, involving rare earth minerals that are crucial to manufacturing many advanced products, seems certain to further intensify already rising trade and currency tensions with the West. Until recently, China typically sought quick and quiet accommodations on trade issues. But the interruption in rare earth supplies is the latest sign from Beijing that Chinese leaders are willing to use their growing economic muscle.

“The embargo is expanding” beyond Japan, said one of the three rare earth industry officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of business retaliation by Chinese authorities.

They said Chinese customs officials imposed the broader restrictions on Monday morning, hours after a top Chinese official summoned international news media Sunday night to denounce United States trade actions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010


That's the annualized month-over-month change in the CPI-U ex food and energy (for the just released September number over August).  The above graph is the month-over-month changes (annualized) since the beginning of 2008.

Mortgage Rates

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Global Oil Production Still Going Sideways

Say What?

The Energy Information Agency of the United States of America can't provide information on the current price of oil?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3.6 Million Jobs at Risk!

Strange to say, that is not the headline of this piece in the New York Times.  Instead it's titled "Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic", and starts out like this:
Anyone driving the twists of Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles recently may have glimpsed a Toyota Prius with a curious funnel-like cylinder on the roof. Harder to notice was that the person at the wheel was not actually driving.

The car is a project of Google, which has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.

With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.

China Rare Earth Exports Still Stalled

According to Japanese officials (via AP):
Japanese officials said Tuesday they have not seen any easing of China's de facto ban on exports of rare earth minerals — crucial for advanced manufacturing — despite a thaw in tensions over a territorial row between the two Asian powers.

China has denied that it has halted exports of the materials. But Japanese companies have said shipments of rare earths have virtually stopped since around Sept. 21, held up at Chinese ports by increased paperwork and inspections.

"The reality is, the situation has not at all returned to normal," trade and industry minister Akihiro Ohata told reporters Tuesday. Ohata said he is considering sending senior trade officials to Beijing for talks if the problem persists.

China produces 97 percent of the global supply of rare earths. To cope with growing demand at home, China has been reducing export quotas of rare earths over the past several years, causing concern about the minerals' supply long before September's restrictions to Japan.

Shaken by the potential threat of supply disruptions to its manufacturers, Japan is considering becoming a global center for rare earth recycling and is partnering with Mongolia to develop new rare earth mines.
I should think so. This incident is a wake-up call to governments everywhere that the current situation of China producing 97% of rare earths is a massive strategic vulnerability. The US and Europe ignore this at their peril.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Personal Note

Yesterday, we entered into a sales contract on a pretty old farmhouse with a barn, a pond, and ten acres or so of mostly pasture.  It's a gorgeous piece of land right next to a lovely unspoiled creek that the beavers have turned into a wetland, and with state forest and land-trust land on either side.  We weren't really planning to buy until the spring, but I biked past the For Sale sign on my Sunday bike ride a couple of weeks ago, we fell in love with the land, and the FHA is willing to make the thing happen (at least so our bank tells us).  Yes we can.

The five year plan is to build our straw-bale super-insulated home next to the existing buildings, retrofit the farmhouse to a higher building performance standard, heat both with geothermal sourced out of the pond, install PVs on the barn roof (or wind if we have enough, but I doubt it), replace our cars with electrics, and get to overall fossil-fuel-free carbon negativity for our extended family.

The long term plan is to have our kids grow up with dogs, goats, mountain bikes and cross country skis, and fishing in the pond, and to help shepherd this particular very beautiful piece of a very beautiful planet through all the changes that are coming.  So far, my telecommuting arrangement is working great and I am convinced I can make it work long term.  So I propose to stay on this land until I can't ride my bike any more and they wheel me off to the nursing home.

The short term will involve a few compromises including an existing coal stove, a riding mower for the extensive lawn, longer drives to school, etc.  But you have to have a short term to get to the long term.

As a weak agnostic, I request those of my readers who are religious to pray that nothing comes unglued during the sales process, just in case it helps!

Male Employment Population Ratio Going Sideways

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


White House to put solar panels on roof after all.  Consider my prior gripes apologetically withdrawn.  And, yeah, yeah, I know it's only symbolic, but symbolism matters.

Iraq Increases Oil Reserves

Monday, October 4, 2010


This morning, I finished going through the Congressional Budget Office report The Long Term Budget Outlook that I mentioned last week.  Readers may recall that my main interest was to know how sensitive the forecasts were to assumptions about future economic growth, and whether the CBO was being more optimistic than I would be on that score.

Well, the interesting, if slightly disturbing, thing is that there is no documentation whatsoever in the document of the CBO's assumptions about the future path of economic growth, or of inflation.  There is no chart or table of the assumptions, nor is there any sensitivity analysis.  I would have liked to see a couple of cases like "what if the US economy looks like Japan after 1990" and so forth, but there is nothing quantitative about macroeconomic assumptions.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Maliki Government Back In?

Sounds like there's hope of an end to the long Iraqi government stalemate:
BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq appeared almost assured of a second term in office on Friday after winning the support of an anti-American Shiite Islamic movement whose return to political power could reshape relations with the United States.

Mr. Maliki’s renomination to the post he has held since 2006, announced in a garden beneath a mosque’s minaret, was a breakthrough after nearly seven months of bare-knuckle, back-room bargaining that have followed the country’s election in March.

State of the Blog, Q3 2010