Monday Message Board

Back again with another 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

28 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. I am interested that the National’s McCormack has stated baldly that farmers should be exempt from any requirement to hit zero emissions by 2050. But many farmer organizations (including the National Farmers Federation) have already set targets for zero emissions by 2050 (or earlier). It seems that the farmers are ahead of their elected representatives in terms of having progressive attitudes to climate.

    The climate is the vital factor in farmer livelihoods. It is hardly surprising that they are aware of the impact of climate change.

  2. Air pollution update
    New research has doubled the estimate of global annual deaths from PM2.5 air pollution to 8.7m (Guardian report; can’t find the research paper in Environmental Research, but it’s paywalled anyway by IP-parasite Elsevier, whatever were they thinking?

    The Guardian repeats a $2.9 trn estimate of annual health costs, but it turns out this is from an earlier study commissioned by Greenpeace using a death estimate of 4.5m, so they aren’t adding anything useful here.

    The health cost problem is a methodological nightmare. We all die of something, so if we stop deaths from air pollution, they are replaced by later deaths from something else, which may involve higher or lower costs of treatment, care and lost output. For an extreme example, deaths from air crashes imply medical costs of zero. The saved passengers will go on to die later of something medically more expensive. The point applies less dramatically to untreatable lung cancer. These higher lifetime costs are not usually considered good arguments for stopping work on air safety and smoking reduction.

  3. Would be nice if one could properly short bitcoins. Bitcoin futures do exist, but they are not very liquid. Even better shorts would be overpriced funds or all those retail derivatives. Those cannot be shorted. There is one crap product that technically can be shortened – overpriced active etfs. No joke, those things do exist. And yes they have to reveal their active portfolio. So one just would have to go long the underlying assets (sampled with my budget) and short the crappy etf. Unfortunately lending fees for such exots, if it is possible at all to find any at all would be prohibitive high.

  4. hix said “Unfortunately lending fees for such exots, if it is possible at all to find any at all would be prohibitive high.” … and the providers of that capital you need to short are the same people controlling etf’s.

    I am related to one of the major etf providers brains. No one related speaks to him as I’m too busy / important and you are all too dumb – to take the money. On Tom switzers ‘money’ briefing Tom slipped in, after letting him explain etf’s “so like a ticket clipper”. Instant uncontrolled smirk by Mr etf, followed within a second by serious face. His first job – payday lender. They all scurried from Hong Kong before takeover. And took your money with them. Sa la vie.

  5. The bad news on SARSCoV-2, the pathogen which causes COVID-19 disease, just keeps on coming. The world and its people are going to continue paying a very high human cost for failing to eliminate or near eliminate SARSCoV-2 soon after its appearance. Permitting the virus to spread all over the world and infect hundreds of millions of people so far [1] has led to high chances for the virus to keep on mutating. And mutate to new and more dangerous strains it is has done so, several times already, and this is just to our knowledge. Our knowledge lags real events, so if the trend line is to the continuously worse as strongly appears, that means matters are already even worse than we think they are.

    1. The new British mutant strain is more transmissible and more deadly, latest evidence says. [2]
    2. The new South African strain is more transmissible and not prevented by AstraZeneca vac. [3]
    3. Latest indications are that SARSCoV-2 prompts an autoimmune disease response. [4]
    4. More generally, the more infectious variants are making matters much worse. [5]
    5. The new variants are prompting estimates the crisis could last another 5 years. [6]

    All the news is getting worse all the time. As I said above, our knowledge lags real events, so if the trend line is to the continuously worse as strongly appears, that means matters are already even worse than we think they are. The correct stance on this is the highly pessimistic stance and this has been so since the outbreak of the virus. If the highly pessimistic stance has been proven continuously correct for one year and the latest evidence indicates that the the highly pessimistic stance on this virus is still being borne out then the presumption must be that the highly pessimistic stance will continue to be correct.

    Of course, the point of an active, highly pessimistic stance is not to give up. The point is to increase all efforts and intensify all protocols to fight and eliminate COVID-19 country by country and eventually globally. The persistent stance of all nations since the start of this pandemic bar a few (albeit that few including the world’s most populous nation) has been denial, minimization, laxity and overconfidence by governments and populations. This attitude has led to an ever worsening disaster. Out TV screens show crowds celebrating the absurd NFL extravaganza in the US. That will likely prove to be another superpseder event across that nation.

    People need to stop celebrating… anything. There is nothing to celebrate. Of course, it is always true as the chant goes and is quoted at funerals: Media vita in morte sumus – In the midst of life we are in death. In times of non-contagion a modicum of celebration is permissible and understandable; though by and large my observation is that our (modern Western) culture celebrates far too much and is far too self-congratulating. In a time of an uncontained epidemic growing ever more uncontained it is extremely unwise to continue on the merry, inane way which has become our cultural norm.


    [1] Over 107 million known cases to date – Worldometer. True number likely several times that.
    True number of global COVID-19 infections much higher than reported, Australian research estimates – ABC. This is a months old report but the reasons behind under-counting will still clearly hold.

    [2] “Fauci warns UK COVID-19 strain could ‘cause more damage’” – NY Times,
    Fauci said that British officials initially indicated that the new variant wasn’t more lethal, but have now reversed course following a study that suggested it was around 30 percent more deadly in older adults.

    [3] “Covid: South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine rollout over new variant.” – BBC.
    South Africa has put its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after a study showed “disappointing” results against its new Covid variant.

    “South Africa has put its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after a study showed “disappointing” results against its new Covid variant.”

    [4] “The COVID Virus May Prompt the Body to Attack Itself” – WebMD.

    Jan. 29, 2021 — An international team of researchers studying COVID-19 has made a startling and pivotal discovery: The virus appears to cause the body to make weapons to attack its own tissues.

    “The finding could unlock a number of COVID’s clinical mysteries. They include the puzzling collection of symptoms that can come with the infection; the persistence of symptoms in some people for months after they clear the virus, a phenomenon dubbed long COVID; and why some children and adults have a serious inflammatory syndrome, called MIS-C or MIS-A, after their infections.

    “It suggests that the virus might be directly causing autoimmunity, which would be fascinating,” says lead study author Paul Utz, MD, who studies immunology and autoimmunity at Stanford University in Stanford, CA.”

    Yes, fascinating and even more dangerous and insidious.

    [5] “Covid-19 deaths are the highest they’ve ever been — and the more infectious variants could make things much worse” By Andrew Joseph, Statnews.

    “As horrific as the U.S. Covid-19 outbreak looks right now, it is almost certainly about to get worse.

    They’ve raced through South Africa, the United Kingdom, and, increasingly, elsewhere, and now, new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus have gained toeholds in the United States. If they take off here — which, with their transmission advantages, they will, unless Americans rapidly put a brake on their spread — it will detonate something of a bomb in the already deep, deep hole the country must dig out of to end the crisis.”

    [6] “Covid-19 mutations undercut optimism even with more vaccines rolled out” – The Straits Times.

    “WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The world could be on the verge of having two more vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, but virus variants popping up worldwide are forcing companies that make the shots to develop boosters for a disease that could remain active for years.

    Vaccines made by Moderna Inc and the Pfizer Inc-BioNTech SE partnership are already in use. Meanwhile, new studies show that two more – from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc – pack potent punches against early forms of the virus, potentially paving the way for quick authorisations in the US for J&J’s vaccine and in the UK for Novavax’s shot.

    That’s the good news, offering the promise of ending a pandemic that’s killed more than 2 million people worldwide.

    Now comes the bad news: Mutations that likely confer partial resistance to vaccines and antibody treatments are now prevalent in both South Africa and Brazil, and threatening to spread worldwide.”

  6. 2021 might be better described as the year of the Roost (chicken coming home to)

    – the US rejoins Paris agreement.

    – Trump’s trial is before the Senate and the result is not a foregone conclusion.

    – without obtaining legitimate climate credentials Morrison is facing incurring trading penalties from ROW.

    – Packer’s Sydney casino is now a shaky house of cards.

    – ANZ has pulled out of the coal Port of Newcastle – to protect shareholders interests.

    – Adani’s name change to Bravus (a crook, or a bandit, or a cut-throat) has further detracted from their marketing image

  7. Iko: Your point on the AZ vaccine and he SA variant (footnote 3) goes beyond he evidence – your pessimism bias at work. The low-efficacy finding (n=2,000) only applies to minor symptoms; the preprint study was too small to catch efficacy against hospitalization and death, which are what matters. The latter is higher for all vaccines than for flulike symptoms. If you ask me or the WHO, the SA government are overreacting to a non-conclusive finding. The vaccine is (a) some good anyway, and (b) like the others is completely safe, so the rational policy is to keep injecting it until they know more or have enough of better vaccines.

  8. Well, hrmmmm.

    (a) The Paris agreement has not changed the world’s trajectory yet. But we have to keep trying and the Paris agreement is the best mechanism we have set up to date. The US move seems a hopeful development.

    (b) Impeachment (from British Law and US precedent) is not only to remove a person from office but also to prevent their re-entry to office AND to prevent office-holders doing something impeachable and then resigning or leaving office swiftly to avoid the consequences. There are legal and democratic reasons (very good reasons) to find Trump guilty of an impeachable offence: namely incitement to insurrection (with intent to perform an autocoup in my opinion).

    However, the Republicans are a 100% ethics-free zone and will vote on partisan lines to prevent the impeachment. Trump and his supporters (which means most of the Republican Party) still remain fully intent on destroying democracy (such as it is) in the USA, taking power and putting that power in a dictator’s hands. That’s their game and they have not changed their goal one iota. Impeachment would send a strong signal against their agenda. Without that signal, US democracy remains very shaky and could fall in about 2025 to 2029.

  9. JQ said “John Quiggin terms this a “basic first””(^1.)

    When do we get a full blown trial?

    “About the BC Basic Income Panel

    “In July 2018, the Province of BC announced the creation of an expert panel to explore the idea of a basic income guarantee in British Columbia.

    “The researchers’ mandate was to study basic income as a potential policy tool for poverty reduction, assessing its feasibility and its relation to existing income and social supports in BC.

    “The panel concluded their work in December 2020 and their findings are now publicly available on this website.”

    Click to access Final_Report_BC_Basic_Income_Panel.pdf


    “Talking About Being Decent To Each Other – Paths To A UBI
    By Tim Hollo • August 19, 2017

    …” Other papers, such as by Sydney Uni’s Troy Henderson and Macquarie Uni’s (and Greens stalwart) Ben Spies-Butcher, looked at what they term “stepping stones” approaches, introducing universal and unconditional payments to large segments of society, and slowly but surely expanding those segments until we cover everyone. This has the key advantage of immediately reversing the stigma of welfare and turning it into something people will start demanding. University of Queensland’s John Quiggin terms this a “basic first” rather than “universal first” approach. It was pointed out that, to avoid the pitfalls of trials, stepping stones have to large enough to develop strong support and demonstrate societal benefits, as well as be introduced explicitly with the long term goal of full coverage in view.”

    “Universal Basic Income: What to aim for and how to get there

  10. James Wimberley,

    The evidence on balance is pointing where I go with this. The evidence on balance is not pointing where you go with this. However, you may be proven right and I may be proven wrong. Probabilities can work that way. But I argue that the probabilities are still that the situation will get worse from this point and there is a significant and concerning probability that vaccines will prove relatively non-effective against a continually mutating virus or impossible logistically to supply up to 16 billion manufactured doses made annually and indefinitely (remembering boosters and wastage rates).

    Some current estimates are that it will take about 7 years to immunize the world just once with one shot and a booster if needed. How long will it take to immunize the world comprehensively if we all need shots every year? I don’t know but I am guessing 15 years. And that’s if the shots work well and don’t generate a later epidemic of autoimmune diseases. I am not an anti-vaxxer. However, I am a scientific realist and I have some idea of how complex this science is and how little we still know about this virus and all its aspects including it and its vaccines’ potential relation to autoimmune effects.

    I hope we can just all get our shots and everything will be hunky-dory. I don’t have high expectations that that will be the case. The whole world needs to put social distancing, test, trace, isolate and quarantine in its repertoire and keep it there I suspect for 5 to 10 years minimum. To put all our bets on the vaccines being silver bullets would be very unwise.

  11. I unreservedly withdraw the following sentences from my above post. “And that’s if the shots work well and don’t generate a later epidemic of autoimmune diseases…. However, I am a scientific realist and I have some idea of how complex this science is and how little we still know about this virus and all its aspects including it and its vaccines’ potential relation to autoimmune effects.”

    There is not enough evidence to suggest autoimmune disease response is a significant danger to the COVID-19 vaccines. There is evidence to suggest that COVID-19 itself is an autoimmune disease response danger. Thus, on balance it appears to a high degree of likelihood that the correct decision is to take the offered approved vaccine at the offered time subject to medical advice on your own age and preconditions, including any preexisting autoimmune diseases and allergies.

    I have “some idea” but clearly not nearly enough idea about this science. Mea culpa. I withdraw the quoted sentences above. It’s a bad slip. I will self-ban from any comments for the rest of this month and then review that self-ban.

  12. Following above re ETF’s, I noticed JQ on twitter, posted a rise of 186% for an ETF.

    JQ’s tweet:

    Image source:

    Article above image from:

    A wag tagged a uranium price rise graph underneath.

    What do others see in these tweets pls. Saviour? Profit? Money to spend? Wise investment? Reflection of financialisation of stocks? Inequality reduction? Inequality increase? Markets working well? Perverse incentives? EFT’s as capital market indicator? Luck? Smarts?

    Un / fortunately I see all those things. I need input to ease my cognitive dissonance.

  13. ExxonMobile announced earlier today the closure of its Altona oil refinery plant in Melbourne’s west. Per ExxonMobile, the refinery produces up to 14.5 million litres of refined products per day, which it says is enough to fill more than 330,000 cars. After an “extensive review”, the company now says the refinery is no longer economically viable. The site will be converted into an import terminal. The future of 350 workers is uncertain.

    That means there will be only two operating Australian refineries remaining:
    * Geelong, Victoria
    * Lytton, Queensland
    See my earlier comments:

    That means Australia will need to import more finished fuels. From where?

    Matt at CrudeOilPeak asked the same question, tweeting earlier today (including a graph of Australian diesel imports by country from Jan 2004 to Nov 2020, ML/month):

    “@Jess_Longbottom Means more fuel imports from where?

  14. In case you missed it: On ABC TV’s The Drum on Tuesday (Feb 9), Tim Buckley (IEEFA) said:
    “Coal is dead man walking… it’s absolutely beholden on Australia to manage this risk, and diversify our economy into industries of the future.”

    Tim Buckley says big business cutting investment to coal isn’t virtue signalling – it’s managing risk.
    See IEEFA’s tweet:

    I wonder whether the NSW Government is listening?
    I wonder whether the Queensland Government is listening?
    Are they worried?
    I’d suggest they should be.

    It seems at least one senior member of the Australian Government isn’t worried. Deputy
    Prime Minister and Nationals leader, Michael McCormack MP, has reportedly recently said:

    “We are not worried, or I’m certainly not worried, about what might happen in 30 years’ time.”

    “The concentration at the moment, indeed for me, for the National party and, indeed, for regional Australia is getting back on our feet after what’s been a very challenging year.”

  15. Hi all, haven’t been around for a while but my article with Charles Livingstone about ‘economism’ vs ‘socio-ecological care’ has finally been published and it’d be great if any of you have the time to read it and comment.
    Interestingly one of the issues we’re talking about (why it’s misguided to value health in monetary terms) has been touched on in a comment above. (Sorry on mobile so cant scroll back to see whose comment it was).
    ‘Economism’ isn’t about economics per se (though the article looks at some problems with mainstream economics) but rather the use of economic terms and concepts for political purposes, which both our major parties do.
    In contrast, we are proposing a ‘socio-ecological discourse of care’ which we saw emerging in our research project at community level, and which has values in common with First Nations’ values of ‘look after the land and the children’.
    In this approach, rather than focusing on economic growth (ie growth in goods and services exchanged for money) politics would focus on sustainable use of natural resources and creating fairer, more egalitarian societies.
    We are planning to write plain language versions eg for The Conversation, so any comments you’d like to make would be very valuable.

  16. Autocrats ,dictators and despots can remain in power long term if they keep the middle class happy and/or scared enough .Likewise here Labor has very little chance of gaining government before problems of incumbency mean an unstoppable mood for change might set in anyway. We are a democracy so that is a decent chance eventually despite the overwhelming force of wealth and power on the right. Therefore I think Labor should do more truth telling and less parroting of conservative positions. That only moves the party and the electorate to the right and then they lose anyway .Have faith that they will get a go eventually and that a lot of good ,that is hard to undo, can be done in a short amount of time .They will only get a short time because the capitalist class will declare war on them .The rights big problem is that they are trying to impose fundamentally unpopular undemocratic policy that is 40 years old , they must always keep the left out or this will be revealed – that is all they do now.

  17. Published yesterday at The Citizen was an article by Benjamin Silvester titled “Forget 2050, experts say it’s 2030 or bust for net zero emissions”, reporting on the proceedings of the first forum of National Climate Emergency Summit.

    Professor Sir David King, founder and chair of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge University and a former advisor to both the Blair and Brown governments, said at the forum:

    “What we do over the next three to four years, I believe, is going to determine the future of humanity. We are in a very, very desperate situation.”

    The article also reported:

    “The panellists agreed that the science was disturbingly clear and that a failure by key decision makers to acknowledge the depth of the crisis was preventing adequate goals and timeframes being set.”

  18. US petroleum geologist tweeted earlier today (including an instructive graph from Jan 2000 to Jan 2021 of world crude + condensate production):

    “World crude oil + condensate production has returned to 2005-2011 plateau.
    Almost all incremental supply growth since 2011 is from the United States.”

    US operating drill rig count and DUCs are currently much too low to allow a return to 2018 US production rates.

    I’d suggest the proverbial will hit the fan when attempts at returning to business-as-usual play out.

    Time to leave oil before oil leaves us. Is anyone paying attention?

  19. The weirding of weather continues.

    “US cold snap: Why is Texas seeing Arctic temperatures?”

    “According to the US National Weather Service (NWS), this is down to an “Arctic outbreak” that originated just above the US-Canada border, bringing a winter snow storm as well as plummeting temperatures.

    Cold air outbreaks such as these are normally kept in the Arctic by a series of low-pressure systems, the NWS said. However, this one moved through Canada and spilled out into the US last week.”

    Disturbances to the polar vortex and other climate change effects are exacerbating these events. Of course the denialist dodos (those about to be extinct and take us with them) will say this is proof AGW is not happening. Actually, it is more proof that it is (polar vortex disturbances) but the story is also complicated by our poor memories.

    Look up this article about a 2014 cold snap.

    “The Cold Snap Wasn’t Actually That Extreme, Global Warming Has Just Made Us Wimpy
    The recent cold snap wouldn’t have been so unusual in the past” – Smithsonian Magazine.

  20. JQ,
    I spotted your tweet posted yesterday:

    “China is by far the world’s biggest net consumer of oil, while the US is virtually self sufficient. So, why is the supply of oil from Saudi Arabia and ME generally a key US policy concern ?”

    The EIA link you provide in your tweet includes for note 1:
    “Oil includes crude oil, all other petroleum liquids, and biofuels.”

    And for note 2:
    “Production includes domestic production of crude oil, all other petroleum liquids, biofuels, and refinery processing gain.”

    “All other petroleum liquids” include *lease condensate* – i.e. mostly pentanes and other higher order hydrocarbons; and *natural gas liquid condensates* – i.e. liquified petroleum gas (LPG) – ethane, propane, and butane; and naphtha.

    The evidence I see indicates USA is NOT “virtually self sufficient” for crude oil.
    The USA consumed on average 20.54 million barrels of crude oil per day (Mb/d) energy equivalent (or 7.50 billion barrels of petroleum products in total) in 2019, but domestically produced on average only about 12.23 Mb/d of crude oil (per US EIA). Significant crude oil imports came from Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

    The lighter US tight (shale) oils produced are either extensively blended with imported heavy crude oils for refining domestically, or exported to overseas refineries that are better configured to accommodate these grades.

    US petroleum geologist Art Berman suggested in a tweet on Feb 12:

    “My forecast modified from AEO 2021:

    US oil production unlikely to regain 2019 peak of 12 mmb/d.
    Average 2022 output of 10.2 mmb/d expected to increase to 11.4 mmb/d in 2027 and then decline to 8.5 mmb/d by 2050.”

    China is importing more and more oil. Analysis suggests in future, it seems the US will be too.
    Where will the extra crude oil be sourced from (post-COVID crisis) to make up declining US and China domestic oil production, with potentially increasing demand?
    Or will we all leave oil before oil leaves us?

  21. Fauci says the US is approaching 500,000 COVID-19 disease deaths. Worldometer says the tally today is 510,988. Even I, as resident pessimist on this blog, could not have, and did not, predict a result this bad a year ago. I think serious problems from COVID-19 will continue to persist for years and even perhaps even for the rest of this decade. Problems could persist indefinitely with it becoming a continuing scourge like malaria in numbers ravaging undeveloped nations but in regions in colder climes.Since half of the USA is regressing to undeveloped status, this might give us a hint of an aspect of the USA’s future.

    Perhaps, on the other hand, we can eradicate this virus, as we should have done in the first place with a global circuit-breaker lockdown a year ago. Eradication still should be the goal. It is achievable if the vaccines work to give even 6 months viable protection before each booster. Without eradication and especially if the disease remains pandemic globally, we will be chasing mutations in an endless vaccine arms-race. If the logic of an early shutdown to prevent all the damage we have seen was and is correct (and it is) then the logic of a global zonal shutdown and global ring fencing to eradication is also correct. Global eradication still should be the goal. Then we need to move on to other great scourges like malaria (to name one).

  22. Ikonoclast,
    You state: “Global eradication still should be the goal. Then we need to move on to other great scourges like malaria (to name one).”

    Antibiotic resistance is another. Another example of genetic mutations finding ways to overcome our medical defences.
    Some key facts from the World Health Organization:

    “* Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
    * Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
    * Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
    * A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.
    * Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.”

  23. Covid eradication has about zero (pun intended) political clout. Could only work more or less by accident, if the vaccines keep working rather great on the mutations.

    I´ve signed a petition demanding eradication across Europe, that combines an eradication approach with demands to finance the necessary full shutdown with run the mill lefty stuff (asset tax on billionaires, transaction tax etc..) It´s called zero covid.

    The taz a nominal lefty newspaper has called it a semi-totalitarian phantasy. Scientists demanding severe shutdown across Europe decided to rather make their own thing called “no-covid”. While they also demand a slightly less radical approach – focusing faster on contact tracing once cases down and keeping more of industrial production running, it sounds what they really did not like about the zero covid initiative was the evil lefty stuff like financing the shutdown with redistribution. Great.

  24. If Ikonoclast says, re US covid death toll… “Even I, as resident pessimist on this blog, could not have, and did not, predict a result this bad a year ago. “…

    …we need to take note of that, and factor in when & what may happen to whom, when 10 things coincide re climate change.

    We are all planetary pilots now. Planes no. 1 cause of crash?
    “1. Pilot error “…

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