Thursday, April 16, 2015

Saving the Environment by Burning Trees


I suppose this would fall under the law of unintended consequences. 

American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare

 The expansive forests of the Carolinas, Georgia, and other nearby states have survived many human threats over the last few centuries, but the latest is one of the most unexpected. The rapid growth of Europe’s biomass industry, driven by the region’s renewable energy targets, is chipping away at southeastern forests.
Not only is there local and regional concern regarding the longevity of valuable forests, there is also evidence showing that woody biomass is actually an overall contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, at least when viewed on a 20 or 30 year timescale. According to many scientists, that is all the time we have to start dramatically reducing emissions in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

For thousands of years man moved from low density power sources to high density power sources. It's why we abandoned wood for coal during the industrial revolution. But now with policies like Renewable Energy Standards policy makers suggest we go back to the middle ages and burn wood.

Here's my favorite part of the story:
 burning wood pellets releases as much or more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal. 
 If environmentalists really wanted to reduce carbon emissions they would stop advocating self-defeating polices like RES and let the market work which will result in the substitution of natural gas for coal. That more than anything else will lower carbon and particulate matter.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Orthodontia, CEO Pay and Hillary


The blogosphere/twitterverse is having fun with Mrs. Clinton's criticism of CEO pay.

Striking a populist note, Clinton, who announced on Sunday she was running for president in 2016, said American families were still facing financial hardship at a time “when the average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes.”

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting comparison recently:
The average U.S. orthodontist earns $196,270. The average CEO makes $178,400.
Turns out anesthesiologists earn even more and and are the country's highest paid profession. I'm sure they are next on Hillary's complaint list.

Know who made even more than orthodontists and anesthesiologists?

Hillary Clinton Book Advance, $8 Million, Is Near Record
That was 14 years ago for her memoirs on being married to the President. She got $14 million for her memoir as Secretary of State. The Washington Post reports her "special University rate" for a speech is $300,000. 

I have nothing against CEO's, orthodontists,  anesthesiologists and politicians earning money. Their ability to earn high wages doesn't have any impact on my, or any else's  ability to earn a living, as far as I can tell. This whole conversation is silly.


Energy Independence

I think US energy independence is about as important as banana independence or iPhone independence, but others place greater import on it.

The DoE released its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 today and estimates in its reference case scenario energy independence between 2025 and 2030. If energy independence is a worthy goal the DoE shows some scenarios where the US can achieve that faster and even become a next exporter:
1) Low Economic Growth
2) High Oil Price
3) High Oil and Gas Resource
Which is one of the reasons I place little import on energy independence: The US can achieve that goal by suffering through low economic growth, high oil prices and high usage. How does that help?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How to Make the Apple Watch Boring


My wife and I went to the Apple Store yesterday and ordered an Apple Watch for her. We saw lots of interest in the product for the hour we spent testing, wearing and talking to others about the watch. Mrs. Knabe wants the watch because she thinks it looks cool and trusts Apple and the developers will come up with productive apps for her to use.

Economists are often characterized as stodgy and boring. Doing his best to prove that true is Paul Krugman who sucks all the fun out of the Apple Watch.

Apple and the Self-Surveillance State


Reusable Bags Linked to Junk Food


Another reason to keep using plastic bags. Plus I need to pick up after my dog.

From the Harvard Business Review:
Reusable Bags Make People Buy Organic—and Junk: An Interview with Uma Karmarkar
The research: Uma Karmarkar, an assistant professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, and her research partner Bryan Bollinger, of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, studied the grocery bills of thousands of California shoppers. Because the receipts noted small discounts given to people who had provided their own reusable bags, it was possible to study whether their purchases differed from those of other shoppers. Comparisons showed that people who brought their own bags were more likely to buy organic goods—but were also more likely to load up on high-fat, high-calorie junk.