Category Archives: economics

As the Congress prepares to cut Social Security from poor old widows, while cutting taxes on millionaires, and we support the apartheid and starvation of innocents in the Middle East, it may be time to think about where this “great experiment in democracy” is going as “the greatest country in the world”:

SPIEGEL: Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation: The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair.

As an American expat living in the European Union, I’ve started to see America from a different perspective through the prism of the European media.

The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less — right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical — the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.

The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 45 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane, particularly as 2 million long-term unemployed Americans are getting ready to lose their jobless benefits as America approaches the year end fiscal cliff.
The sobering assessment of America’s unemployment rate isn’t really 7.9 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.

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Yes, gasoline costs more, because easily-obtainable oil is depleted.

Get yourself a Chevy Volt; this isn’t going away.

The simple truth of the matter is this: most of the world’s easy reserves have already been depleted — except for those in war-torn countries like Iraq. Virtually all of the oil that’s left is contained in harder-to-reach, tougher reserves. These include deep-offshore oil, Arctic oil, and shale oil, along with Canadian “oil sands” — which are not composed of oil at all, but of mud, sand, and tar-like bitumen. So-called unconventional reserves of these types can be exploited, but often at a staggering price, not just in dollars but also in damage to the environment.

In the oil business, this reality was first acknowledged by the chairman and CEO of Chevron, David O’Reilly, in a 2005 letter published in many American newspapers. “One thing is clear,” he wrote, “the era of easy oil is over.” Not only were many existing oil fields in decline, he noted, but “new energy discoveries are mainly occurring in places where resources are difficult to extract, physically, economically, and even politically.”

Further evidence for this shift was provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a 2010 review of world oil prospects. In preparation for its report, the agency examined historic yields at the world’s largest producing fields — the “easy oil” on which the world still relies for the overwhelming bulk of its energy. The results were astonishing: those fields were expected to lose three-quarters of their productive capacity over the next 25 years, eliminating 52 million barrels per day from the world’s oil supplies, or about 75% of current world crude oil output. The implications were staggering: either find new oil to replace those 52 million barrels or the Age of Petroleum will soon draw to a close and the world economy would collapse.

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GOP, Iran, Obama and gas prices.

Juan Cole:

As prices in February hit a historic high for this time of year, presaging perhaps $5 a gallon gasoline this summer in the US, Iran is still sitting pretty. The fragile European and US economies, however, may take a hit from higher transportation costs (the US will likely see a fall in summer travel and internal tourism). The same Republicans who complain that President Obama hasn’t been hard enough on Iran are cynically planning to campaign against him on his having caused higher petroleum prices, ignoring the role of sanctions on Iran and tensions with that country in the price run-up! I hate to say it but I told you so.

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Shifting the world to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 – here are the numbers

wind-power
Stanford Report

Study: Shifting the world to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 – here are the numbers
Wind, water and solar energy resources are sufficiently available to provide all the world’s energy. Converting to electricity and hydrogen powered by these sources would reduce world power demand by 30 percent, thereby avoiding 13,000 coal power plants. Materials and costs are not limitations to these conversions, but politics may be, say Stanford and UC researchers who have mapped out a blueprint for powering the world.

Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.

To make clear the extent of those hurdles – and how they could be overcome – they have written an article that is the cover story in the November issue of Scientific American. In it, they present new research mapping out and evaluating a quantitative plan for powering the entire world on wind, water and solar energy, including an assessment of the materials needed and costs. And it will ultimately be cheaper than sticking with fossil fuel or going nuclear, they say.

The key is turning to wind, water and solar energy to generate electrical power – making a massive commitment to them – and eliminating combustion as a way to generate power for vehicles as well as for normal electricity use.

The problem lies in the use of fossil fuels and biomass combustion, which are notoriously inefficient at producing usable energy. For example, when gasoline is used to power a vehicle, at least 80 percent of the energy produced is wasted as heat.

With vehicles that run on electricity, it’s the opposite. Roughly 80 percent of the energy supplied to the vehicle is converted into motion, with only 20 percent lost as heat. Other combustion devices can similarly be replaced with electricity or with hydrogen produced by electricity.

The Scientific American article provides a quantification of global solar and wind resources based on new research by Jacobson and Delucchi.

Analyzing only on-land locations with a high potential for producing power, they found that even if wind were the only method used to generate power, the potential for wind energy production is 5 to 15 times greater than what is needed to power the entire world. For solar energy, the comparable calculation found that solar could produce about 30 times the amount needed.

If the world built just enough wind and solar installations to meet the projected demand for the scenario outlined in the article, an area smaller than the borough of Manhattan would be sufficient for the wind turbines themselves. Allowing for the required amount of space between the turbines boosts the needed acreage up to 1 percent of Earth’s land area, but the spaces between could be used for crops or grazing. The various non-rooftop solar power installations would need about a third of 1 percent of the world’s land, so altogether about 1.3 percent of the land surface would suffice.

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Countrywide COO cashes in bigtime

I know that there’s a good reason for this….I just know there is….

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bank of America Corp said it has agreed to pay $28 million to Countrywide Financial Corp Chief Operating Officer David Sambol to induce him to run the merged companies’ consumer mortgage operations.

The amount, which vests over three years, is 37 percent higher than the $20.4 million that Bank of America Chairman and Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis was compensated in 2007 to run the second-largest U.S. bank.

Bank of America disclosed the amount in a Thursday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Cheap Chinese basketball players fall apart after a couple of years

HOUSTON—Reports from several NBA teams indicate that cheap, flimsy Chinese basketball players frequently break down and fall apart when faced with the normal wear-and-tear of an NBA season. “We got one a couple years ago, but the foot broke,” said Rockets GM Carroll Dawson about Chinese center Yao Ming. “Now it just sits there. We don’t even use it anymore.”

The Onion 

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So I guess straight anal sex is expensive and not very safe….

“In the end”, there must be something wonderful about it, that I don’t get.

Then there was this headline:

Sources: Spitzer’s seen at least seven prostitutes.

“seen”? hey, they’re hookers, not proctologists…. how about “jumped” or “screwed” or ….well, you get the idea…

But the most dangerous thing he did was being a Democrat who prosecuted crooks on Wall Street. That’s why he’s going down. Hiring hookers doesn’t get prosecuted otherwise.

That’s what wiretaps are for, if you’re a Republican.

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