Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Links

  • PV systems have achieved grid parity already.
  • The Chinese are much wealthier but reportedly less happy than they were before reforms.
  • Air leakage resistance of different types of insulation.
  • Sharon Astyk on the 4% increase in farm count (I largely agree with her take in this piece.  Our earlier debate can be found in my 2008 piece The Fallacy of Reversability and her response Is Relocalization Doomed?  My views on the impact of peak oil on agriculture haven't really changed since then, but I've become more concerned about the implications of climate change, specifically drought, for agriculture, than I used to be). 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Links

  • Interesting paper on how oil is actually priced.
  • NYT on energy use in Internet server farms.  Once they got to the part about how data centers only use 2% of electricity, the piece started to seem overblown to me.
  • Some people want Greenland to melt.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oil Prices

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Links

  • The chart above shows that life expectancy is actually falling, and pretty rapidly at that, for white US residents without a degree.  Surprising and alarming fact.   It's also surprising that less-educated Hispanics are doing so much better than whites.
  • Background on heat-pump hot-water heaters.  Ours is being installed next week and I imagine I'll have something to say about it at some point later.
  • More on the US wind industry crisis - a mixture of China and Republicans are causing dropping sales and loss of jobs in the industry (not to mention more carbon emissions).
  • David Brooks on the importance of grandiose, ambitious but functional narcissists to society.  I kind of agree with this.  Related book: The Productive Narcissist.
  • Fascinating post on the very small number of voters who are actually undecided in the election.
  • Mostly off-topic (but not quite), fascinating essay by Sharon Astyk on the economics of foster-parenting.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday Links

  • The arresting comparison above is of the main Chinese stock market index with the Japanese one, and comes via Sober Look.
  • ConservAmerica is an organization trying to make the Republican Party greener and promote the conservative tradition of environmental protection.  I don't fully agree with their positions, but it still seems worthy to be trying to bring the GOP to a more sane place on the environment than it currently is in.
  • Sea ice minimum in?  Staring at this graph, that looks like it could well be right, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a last little jog down.
  • Scientist Julienne Stroeve just came back from a voyage through the sea ice and reported they could only find one floe big enough to moor to, and that one broke in half while they were moored to it.
  • Siemens cutting a third of the jobs in its US wind business due to lack of new orders.
  • $4/gallon?  Been there, done that.
  • Excellent slides from a July 2012 presentation on drought by Aiguo Dai in Beijing.  Note Prof Dai says: 
Larger warming over land than over ocean leads to - larger PE increases over land than over ocean - increases in water vapor transport from oceans can not match atmospheric demand over land -> drier conditions over land.
This is a suggestion I made earlier - but in email I had with him at the beginning of 2012 he didn't confirm it - so I'm happy to see him do so here.

This graph was also particularly interesting - suggesting that recent improvements to latest climate models (CMIP5 vs CMIP3) haven't changed the answer much:

The current dry conditions in the U.S. may last and worsen during the next 20 yrs as the IPO cold phase persists and global warming continues.

Off Topic Worthy Cause: American Co-operative School in Tunis

A friend of my family is the principal at the high school in the American Co-operative School in Tunis - which was recently looted and badly damaged in an attack by Islamic radicals and delinquents.  They have now launched a recovery fund to help them rebuild.  I think it would be good for American society to show a peaceful determination not to back down in the face of that kind of violent intimidation and to rebuild the school.  The staff are displaying a great deal of personal courage in sticking with the school and rebuilding it after what has happened.  I encourage my readers to both donate and share the link with others:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Party Affiliation by Income

Data/chart from here.  The location of the 47% in this chart is left as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday Links

  • The above is European industrial production, which seems to be showing some sign of stabilization.
  • Arctic sea ice gone by 2015/2016?  Prof Wadhams is one of the world's leading experts on sea ice.  Because he has been involved in measuring ice thickness for a long time, he was one of the few experts to predict the present early collapse.
  • Chinese trade data weak in August.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Links

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Links

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Links

  • The chart above is improving fuel economy of new vehicles in the US.
  • The employment population ratio no longer responding to job opportunities?
  • Thoughtful Bill Keller op-ed on a nuclear Iran.
  • Introverts unite!
  • The next Chinese leader has disappeared?
  • This next chart is from a paper by economist Robert Gordon arguing that we may be slowing toward a steady state economy and that the growth rates of the industrial revolution were a one time thing.  This comes as no surprise to those of us who think energy is foundational to the economy.  It doesn't seem to have occurred to Professor Gordon that smoothly slowing to zero growth is not the worst outcome here...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Links

Friday, September 7, 2012

Politics and this Blog

It probably hasn't escaped the attention of readers that my politics are a little left of center - with the typical meanings of "left" and "center" in current US politics.  This "leftiness" is greater on some issues (environment, social issues, civil rights), and much less so on others (education, wealth redistribution).  I have at various points been registered either Democrat or Independent.

So far, on the blog I have been pretty careful to avoid outright partisanship.  Partly this is a matter of personality: it comes more naturally to me to play the disinterested analyst role than the role of an activist and partisan.  At the same time, it's impossible not to notice that for the issues I most care about - climate, energy, environment, and future of society - the Democratic party (while far from perfect) is currently a lot better than the Republican party.  This is so overwhelmingly true at present that I don't feel a need to make an argument in detail: it's become so extreme that Republican politicians almost uniformly have to be delusional on climate change (or at least pretend to be).  Thus I've struggled with whether I'm being too coy in not taking an explicitly partisan position: actively urging readers to political action, or endorsing Democratic candidates, for example.

For now, at least, I have decided not to do that.  My reasoning is as follows: I think in the deepest part of its soul, what the Republican party is about is protecting the interests of the most economically successful members of society: hence the focus on lightening their taxation burden, reducing regulations that might impede their enterprises, promoting their right to pass their wealth to their children, etc.  I don't lack all sympathy for this agenda: I think the most economically successful people are particularly important to society at large and it is possible for a society to go too far in the direction of impeding them (though that is not my diagnosis of the main problem for the US in 2012).

And I note that climate change, drought, running low on energy or food (with the resulting instability, riots, etc) are not in the long-term interests of the wealthy either.  Wealth is a social construct that is entirely dependent on a reasonable degree of political and economic stability.  During times of disorder, the wealthy are at risk of losing everything they have gained, ranging from those families that lost the family fortune in the Great Depression - or the 90% marginal tax rates and high estate taxes that followed - to the extremes of the French Revolution when much of the elite were slaughtered in a genocidal frenzy.  I'm not aware of a single Roman Villa that evolved smoothly into a medieval manor.

So, if we are to have any hope of some kind of fairly orderly transition into a carbon-neutral sustainable society, at some point our millionaires and billionaires have to come to their senses and recognize that destabilizing key planetary systems on which we all depend is not going to do them and their children the slightest bit of good.  In fact, we need talented green entrepreneurs and investors to be brilliant and wildly successful perhaps more than we need any other single thing.

And so I want this blog to be a hospitable environment for successful individuals who can be persuaded that these problems are important and should be worked on.  And, at least for the time being, I think that is best served by continuing to avoid explicit partisanship.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday Links

  • The latest sea ice area from Cryosphere Today.  If you didn't believe in abrupt climate change before: think again.  Incredible that we are living through this.
  • Weathergirl goes rogue on climate (humor - but it sure does feel like this sometimes. h/t Ugo Bardi).
  • Fleeing Spain for better economic climes.
  • What hope for a country where the accountants are one of the least honest professions?  Not much, I'd guess.
  • German voters have written them off, anyway.
  • California set to approve driverless cars (h/t Kevin Drum).  Note the rare bipartisan agreement - new technology always tastes great on the first bite.
  • Dry-ship R-22 units.  This sounds appalling.  If true, the administration should not be tolerating this, and if you're buying a heat-pump or an A/C unit, ask if it uses R-22.
  • Major scientific breakthrough in genetics - sounds like Nobel prizes in the making...
  • Late breaking addition: ECB can do unlimited amounts of bond buying to keep short term rates of Spain/Italy within reason.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

European Retail Trade

The latest data show that consumers in Europe as a whole seemed to have reached the steady state economy.  However, inside the Eurozone, retail spending continues to slide slowly.  Combined with the unemployment data, we can see that Europe continues to stagnate - it has not solved its fundamental problems, but nor has it slid into acute crisis.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Collapse in Minimum Arctic Sea Ice Area

European Unemployment

In what has to pass for excellent news these days, it didn't get worse in July!  Data from Eurostat.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weekend Links

  • Israel needs to put up or shut up about attacking Iran, says the NYT.
  • More big cyber attacks on oil and gas concerns.  My day job and my morning moonlighting are starting to overlap and I don't like it...
  • Why you should care about disappearing sea ice.
  • Wettest summer since 1912 in the UK (h/t Michael R.  I was there for much of July and I can attest that the weather sucked).
  • The 2010 collapse in sea ice thickness.
Feel free to add anything else of interest to the blog.