Links for the Week Ending May 19th

  • The central theme of this blog is that global economic growth will likely fall over the long term due to climate change, resource depletion, demographics, declining technology driven productivity gains and falling demand as technology concentrates earnings and wealth into an ever-shrinking winner’s enclosure. Fed Governor Ben Bernanke just presented the opposing argument against some (but not all) of my concerns in a commencement speech entitled “Economic Prospect for the Long Term” here.
  • Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has written a beautiful take-down in The Atlantic of all those who argue that renewable electricity provision is a utopian dream (price, intermittency, lack of transportability, blah, blah, blah). The article is actually a response to Charles Mann’s previous article in the same magazine titled “What If We Never Run Out of Oil?”, the gist of which has found much favour in the financial press, especially The Wall Street Journal. Germany will provide a battleground for this particular argument. Renewable energy pessimists point to the uptick in coal production there, while renewable optimists see this is a short-term blip on an otherwise smooth progress toward a renewables-dominated electricity future. I intend to post about this controversy going forward.
  • New pipeline capacity means that the days of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude being at a substantial discount to Brent crude oil are ending. Accordingly, Brent, which is now used as the global benchmark reference rate, will more closely determine gasoline prices in the U.S. For details on what is happening in the U.S. see this Reuters article by Robert Campbell here.
  • One of The Financial Times big beasts, Martin Wolf, gave climate change risk a well-earned airing on Wednesday. The FT, to its credit, sometimes treats the problem of global warming with the seriousness it deserves, unlike The Wall Street Journal in the U.S.
  • And staying with climate change, there has been a bit of ‘has it, or hasn’t’ with respect to the reporting over whether average daily atmospheric CO2 concentration had passed the 400 parts per million (ppm) level. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates the Mauna Loa Observatory that collects the benchmark data in Hawaii, originally reported 9 May as the day the world exceeded 400 ppm based on Coordinated Universal Time (UCT), better known to Brits as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which publishes the daily data here, uses Hawaiian local time, and ended up recording the 400 pm mark a number of days later. Regardless, this record is now officially established and it is not a good one for humanity.

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