Monday Message Board

A day late, but here’s the Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

27 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Left here last night with fire getting near, highway cut off one way and looking likely to be cut off the other, and advised it was unlikely any fire truck would be available to help. But they must have made a break along power line between us and fire, so everything is still here when we drove back this morning.

    Including a lot of unburned bush – with a bad fire season only just started. If not for some livestock at risk I might have counted burning some of that bush (but house and sheds saved) a blessing in disguise. Without the RFS help I think it would have been beyond our ability to defend our home – which was not sited or built with bushfire risks in mind.

  2. For our little patch I’ve set up a 4WD with1200L water tank plus pump, on standby. Over the years it’s been usedul, when my idiot neighbour started a fire by slashing in +37 heat and high wind I whipped over and put it out before it took off. Afterwards the firies turned up and sprayed water here and there, but they would have been too late. Timing is of the essence.

  3. “Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change

    “But that’s where the good news ends. Because the oceans cover three fifths of the globe, this correction implies that previous estimates of overall global warming have been too low. Moreover it was reported recently that in the one place where it was carefully measured, the underwater melting that is driving disintegration of ice sheets and glaciers is occurring far faster than predicted by theory—as much as two orders of magnitude faster—throwing current model projections of sea level rise further in doubt.”

    In case of denier emergency, quote link.

  4. Australian Crop Report: September edition

    Table 1: Winter crop production, Australia

    2016–17 – 15,510 kT
    2018–19 – 2,880 kT

    2016–17 – 9,513 kT
    2018–19 – 3,733 kT

    2016–17 – 3,159 kT
    2018–19 – 714 kT

    2016–17 – 10,661 kT
    2018–19 – 5,286 kT

    “Total area planted to winter crops is estimated to have increased by 6% in 2019–20 to around 19.1 million hectares. This reflects the large amount of crop area that was taken out of grain production in 2018–19 and cut for hay.”

    Australian wheat exports near a 50-year low

  5. Going to get worse Nick. The 2030’s will be brutal. Choose the lower estimates for world population growth after that period. A lot of people are not going to make it.

  6. Electrical storage update: advert for blog post on V2G (vehicle-to-grid battery technology). *****

    Short take: the Virginian utility Dominion is subsidising the purchase of up to 1,000 electric school buses, in exchange for V2G use of the batteries. I suggest this is major news, and shifts the status of V2G from “promising but untested idea” to “very probably workable solution to the storage problem”. Dominion are big, technically competent, greedy, and politically connected. They would not be staking up to $100m on a blue-sky long shot.

    Cf. Equinor’s rollout of the Hywind floating wind farm off Scotland, and ArcelorMittal’s investment in a pilot hydrogen DRI ironworks in Hamburg. Big incumbent capitalist companies are rarely wrong on the technical feasibility of stuff they are putting serious money into.

  7. Socialism is rife in America. Who knew? Seems to be ” not much different ” in outcome.

    “Tackling a Football Paradox.
    American Football: Run by socialists. Adored by conservatives.
    European Football: Run by capitalists. Revered by liberals.

    …”The operating principles of the respective organising bodies are in direct conflict with the prevailing doctrine of the societies that revere them.

    The NFL is a socialist collective.

    UEFA and FIFA are capitalistic free-market purists.

    How many Americans would lose their minds if their beloved NFL’s socialist governing principles were applied to their public life?

    “The team is owned not by a billionaire, but as a collective. The NFL franchise is actually owned by “Green Bay Packers, Inc.” which is a non-profit organisation owned by 360,000 individual stockholders, none of whom are allowed to personally control more than 4% of the overall shares.

    “The NFL without the Green Bay Packers would be unimaginable.

    “But, how does a non-profit org based in rural Wisconsin have any chance to compete against big market teams from New York, Chicago or Los Angeles?

    “One word: Socialism.”…

    View at

  8. Link disappeared.

    Socialism in America. Who knew?

    One word: Socialism.

  9. Thanks Nick. I heard some commentary about Australian wheat imports on ABC radio yesterday. Here’s an ABC Rural story from yesterday:

    “Key points:
    •The winter crop harvest will fall 16 per cent short of the 10-year average
    •QLD forecast to be 60 per cent less than the 10-year average, and NSW more than 50 per cent less
    •But national outlook is forecast to 11 per cent increase on last year’s 30 million tonne

    …Devastated by drought, last year’s harvest paved the way for Australia to approve the imports of foreign grown grain for the first time in more than a decade.”

    GB, it’s sad, but so likely to be true. And, boy, won’t it just rip to bits here once famine or threat of same sets in! Yet so many are flocking to crowded little Tasmania as woke climate refugees fleeing a scary big island future. As if they’ll be left alone there…

  10. From the latest CoalWire:
    “Opinion polling for the Australia Institute indicates that 64 per cent of Australians support an end to coal mining and 31 per cent oppose the establishment of new coal mines while allowing existing ones to operate to the end of their licence. Thirty-one per cent want existing coal mines shut down as quickly as possible. Only four per cent of those surveyed supported government subsidies for new coal mines.”
    4%! That’s roughly the support you’d get for a plan to fly a small plane over Canberra and dump canisters of anthrax out of the window. For practical purposes, there is no public constituency for subsidising Adani.

  11. The flip side od UBI…

    Universal Basic Income + Automation + Plutocracy = Dystopia

    …”…imagine what will happen with a system of the kind Yang and the tech billionaires are proposing. Imagine what will happen in a society where people are no longer necessary and have nothing the powerful need. Imagine what will happen when people become dependent on a subsistence UBI set up by the already plutocrat-controlled government to sustain them when plutocrat-owned technologies render their labor completely moot. Imagine a world where a few increasingly consolidated automation firms produce more and more of the goods and services once provided by human labor and re-collect all taxes they have to pay into the UBI from a public forced by their subsistence wages to buy automation-made products and services.”…

  12. KT2 – I can’t help but recall “Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut, where UBI is combined with (pointless) work for the dole in a future where automation replaces human skills, supporting a ruling class of wealthy, privileged technocrats.

    I think the attraction of UBI is that, by applying it to everyone, those who are unemployed are less likely to be vilified – only I’m not sure that will actually work; those that work and pay taxes can still be induced to resentfulness.

    My own surmise is that the economic costs of income support – even the sort we already have – exceeds the costs of not having it; the costs that can be generated by a poor and desperate underclass should not be underestimated, let alone presumed not to exist. Which is how opposition to funding welfare is promoted – a win for working taxpayers with no downsides. The need for policing, gaols, home and business security measures all rise, and then there can be serious social disruptions and potential for militancy, riots and growth of terrorism. And longer term, their is loss of productivity from lost opportunities for economic advancement by a significant portion of the population.

  13. Err… that came out backwards! That should be… the economic cost of NOT having income support exceeds the costs of HAVING it.

  14. mrkenfabian

    Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut, now on my reading list. I have chronic Tsundoku!

    Selective data collection and externalities make “the economic cost of NOT having income support exceeds the costs of HAVING it.”… a hidden but necessary argument.

    I’ll ask – what ARE the externalities both supply and demand side of ubi.

    The jobs vs ubi mantra is like the crappy argument for drug dependency ” get off drugs first” instead of ” here is a safe space first”.

    And philisoohically. ..

    Here are the two paras by Alison Ritter I think are in need of further exposition and dissemination. And used against every wedge, dog whistle, vacuous moral policy evaluation and individuals trying to lead us with paternalistic moralising.

    “Three moral positions sit behind the proposal to drug test welfare recipients: contractualism, paternalism and communitarianism.”

    …”… critics come from a different philosophical standpoint.”…

    …” Their arguments are largely focused on using evidence to argue the potential harms to testing outweigh the benefits. Philosophically speaking, this would be a consequentialist, utilitarian moral position”

  15. Advert for wonkish blog post on problem industries for the energy transition (steel, cement, aviation and shipping), with a Cunning Plan for steel – actually iron – as an example. I assume a global carbon tax is out of reach, so sectoral levies and subsidies are worth a look. Still difficult to achieve, but these are hard problems in any event.

  16. Subsidies are NOT worth a look at. They always fail. Long-term tax exemptions on retained earnings can create good results. Zero interest loans could potentially create good results if they come out of surplus budgets. Subsidies are always a disaster since they take the focus away from long-term reinvestment for cost-effectiveness, and they change the situation into a gold rush without the emphasis on patient business renovation.

    Low-cost communist pioneer undertakings should be considered. Long-term tax exemptions for retained earnings with strings attached, and zero interest loans with strings attached. No subsidies. For one thing they destroy price signals.

  17. Interesting article though. Worth reading. Hydrogen very much has to be made and used on the spot. Pretty dangerous stuff.

  18. Graeme: It’s untrue that subsidies “destroy price signals”. The FITs created by the first German Renewable Energy Law were carefully designed to leave incentives for efficiency and cost reduction in place. Owners of solar panels and wind turbines were guaranteed a feed-in price for electricity. This was calculated using estimates of standard costs. But if owners could buy the equipment for less, they kept the extra profits. I think my levy-and-rebate scheme similarly leaves efficiency incentives in place. It’s not a price-fixing cartel.

  19. How do we know we haven’t created an energy sink to compound grid instability? Since there are subsidies, then that translates backwards to usage of brown coal to heat silicon up to 1400 degrees in China, and manufacturing and transport costs here. Unless the solar panels are functional for a long time its really just burning more coal but with a greater nuisance factor. We cannot really tell one way or another unless the subsidies are ended.

  20. There is a Swedish project to build an emissions free iron and steel smelting pilot plant that uses Hydrogen from renewable sources.

    Should have begun a couple of decades ago, but at least we are seeing some serious efforts begun on making Iron and Steel zero emissions. It looks like Australia would have good opportunities given solar potential and abundance of iron ore.

  21. Ken Fabian: Hybrit (the name for SSAB’s project) is one of the three pilot hydrogen DRI plants I linked to in my post.

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