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

21 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Probably more power over the first quarter mile; although that depends on the mass of a quarter horse compared to the mass of another fast breed, say that of a thoroughbred champion stayer, usually best at or over distances of 11 furlongs (1.38 miles). The quarter horse name “is derived from its ability to outrun other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less”. [1] It is not named a quarter horse because it is 1/4 of horse. 😉

    1. Wikipedia.

  2. MMMM??? Did the horsepower measurement use the standard mine pony ?? My faulty memory says the first big uses for steam was to dewater mines.

  3. It’s rarely worthwhile to single out individual companies pushing the energy transition ahead: the progress is on a very broad front, and even Tesla has real competitors in electric cars. I make an exception for Canadian geothermal startup Eavor, which has just raised $40m from inter alia the venture arms of BP and Chevron. SFIK their approach is unique.

    Hot-rock geothermal is a great idea: fully despatchable 24/365 zero-carbon electricity and heat, in huge potential volumes, with a very low environmental footprint. But early attempts to go commercial left a lot of burnt fingers. Creating the reservoir by cracking granite deep underground can be done, but it won’t scale and costs too much.

    Eavor’s approach is a step backwards: forget about the reservoir of hot water, just use the rocks to heat a working fluid in sealed pipes. The one good legacy of the fracking bubble is the technology to drill and seal deep horizontal bores at very high accuracy, so Eavor does not need to invent this. The pilot they are drilling should work, and is readily scalable.

    As you would expect from a cash-hungry tech startup, the website is slick and the résumés of the managers impressive. They do one thing I’ve not seen before: the photos of the managers are black-and-white studio portraits, very probably professional.

  4. China update

    A disappointing Five-Year-Plan with no freeze on new coal generation plants and timid green targets:

    Interestingly, the fudge has taken the form of downgrading the Plan as such. There is no 5-year GDP target any more, which counts as a win because the fixation on GDP has encouraged provincial leaders to push coal regardless of the stranding risk.There is a one-year 6% GDP target for 2021, so the the covid recovery will continue not to be green. Beyond that, policy is still up for grabs.

    Kicking the can down the road seems to be Xi’s speciality. For a would-be strongman, he’s a bit of a ditherer.

  5. China’s argument is that coal is needed to power the post COVID recovery.

    Always the pragmatist.

  6. Beware of slick brochures from any kind of company. The true expertise, competence and honesty of a company probably exists in inverse proportion to the slickness of its brochures and its advertising campaign. Trade organizations exist to protect the interests of the trades and not the customers. Government consumer protection is either non-existent or functionally inoperable or inaccessible to a person of average means. That at least is my experience as a recent, dissatisfied and disgruntled consumer of landscaping (hard-scaping and soft-scaping) services. (I figure I will be laboring for months to rectify their oversights and mistakes.)

    There is a lot of evidence that building and engineering standards have declined in Australia (which is fairly representative of the Western world). I may write about this topic sometime. Suffice it to say here that I believe that small and large building and engineering projects (domestic, commercial and industrial) are now producing sub-standard work and substandard outcomes pretty much across the board. Our legacy infrastructure keeps us running. A large proportion of new stuff just built will not last very long. The spate of cracked buildings, cracked slabs of houses, and other engineering and indeed electrical, works failing before the end of proper, intended or expected operational life will increase. The deregulation under neoliberalism is an institutional and civilizational cancer which is now extended into an infrastructural cancer, The white-anting of the system and its catabolic collapse (if I may switch metaphors here) is now well advanced and incurable under this system. It will never be remedied under capitalism. If we continue to choose capitalism we are choosing complete collapse.

    The link below references end-of-life failures which is another issue of course. However, it also goes to the lack of attention to infrastructure, in terms of rebuilding old insfrastrcuture.

    My argument is that much of what is built today is substandard and will fail before end-of-life claims and projections. It is all part of the pattern of the decay of late stage capitalism.

  7. In relation to China (and India). They are going to insist on their right to develop and extend the middle class lifestyle to 2.8 billion people in total. They are going to use as much coal and oil as they want to use to achieve that objective and nobody is going to stop them. Nobody CAN stop them. The reasons they will press forward are;

    (a) big economies enable big militaries and they both want big militaries; and
    (b) even modern dictators / populists like Xi Xinping and Modi base part of their legitimacy on delivering economically to their population base or at least support which expects a middle class lifestyle.

    These movements or developments are unstoppable by human means. Ask a man to stop his appetite and eat no more food. He cannot do so. Ask a spoiled man (spoiled by his burgeoning appetite for material goods, to then stop or reduce this appetite. He cannot, or at least will not, do so. We in the West are the evidence for this. We refuse to retreat to a sustainable lifestyle. China, India and their populations in turn will insist on, are insisting on, their material rights, as they see them, to emulate and surpass the West. In a sense, they have that right. In another (physical realist) sense, all humans insisting on such rights simply puts the last nail in the coffin of catastrophic climate change and catastrophic biosphere disruption. The momentum to catastrophe is unstoppably great. I wish I could see matters another way. I cannot. The plain facts and plain trends point to complete catastrophe.

  8. Anyone else here think that Australias vaccine rollout has been anything other than pathetic? Israel with a population 1/3 of ours was vaccinating hundreds of thousands per day within a few weeks of starting. Australia is lucky to be doing 6,000. Less than last week! Zero pushback by the media as well. Lets hope for an uneventful winter because at this rate hardly anyone will be protected.

  9. Joe, we are willing to let worse affected countries get vaccines first. People do argue that we can outbid other countries and that’s the only measure that matters, but I think our governments have made the right call in not doing that. It would be even better if we were more willing to supply vaccines to our client states foreign aid recipient nations like Nauru and PNG.

    I note that the Israeli’s are focussing very much on their Jewish population and pushing even non-Jewish Israelis out of the line, let alone the subject populations in the occupied territories that they are also responsible for. When the harsh glare of foreign scrutiny briefly hit them they issued some press releases about vaccinations in the occupied territories but as soon as that passed the talk stopped.

  10. On a more economic-policy front: the new-ish ATO “single touch payroll” system has made it impossible to fix mistakes. Our payroll muppet regularly makes mistakes with leave taken or accumulated, and we’re now being told that those have to be patched in next month’s pay slip because the ones issued can’t be amended once 24 hours have passed.

    This compounds problems as much as creates them, but it does mean companies have to run two sets of books more often than I think is ideal. “what actually happened” vs “what we told the ATO and how we submitted a later false return to fix that up”.

  11. James Wimberley, March 10, 2021 at 3:54 am Re: China update

    The policy proposal of a “boarder adjustment” for ghg emission content is, as JQ had mentioned, primarily directed at the issue raised in your post.

    The continuing treatment of China as a developing country is untenable now.

  12. Iko: “The true expertise, competence and honesty of a company probably exists in inverse proportion to the slickness of its brochures and its advertising campaign.”. No offence meant. but I don’t believe you ignore appearances in practice.

    Of necessity, we all go by them to a considerable extent. Your landscaper plants a tree for you. It’s badly staked. You don’t know what he’s done with the root ball, but you naturally have doubts. Appearances are a negative *filter*, not positive evidence. The applicant for a job who shows up at the interview with a three-day beard or unwashed hair and egg on their tie or dress does not get the job, as they are signalling they do not care about it. If they lie on their résumé about their credentials, even years in the past, they won’t get any job. Our esteemed host will check the proofs of his book for typos.These are meaningless by themselves, but promote doubt whether more significant claims of fact are true. The English Guardian newspaper (“the Grauniad”) used to be notorious for typos: not a laughing matter, as readers wondered whether millions were really billions. Eventually the editor fixed this, and quite right too.

    Apply this to my Canadian geothermal startup. Their core claims are untestable by you and me: for instance, the ability to drill long horizontal boreholes in hard rock accurately enough to intersect 2 km underground. So we go by what we can see. Do the managers have professional credentials in oilfield drilling? Check. Do they have relevant experience? Check. Is the technology story plausible in the light of current general public knowledge about geothermal energy? Check. And today, is the website well-designed and informative? Check. The portrait photos indicate that they put more thought into it than is usual. None of this is a guarantee their risky and innovative project will succeed. But startups that do succeed look like this. Ask your capitalist son.

  13. Moz: the inability to correct mistakes is one of the great disadvantage of cryptocurrencies and other blockchains.

  14. James Wimberley,

    You are correct to a point but I will still claim that brochures and advertising campaigns fit my claim. Full disclosures by the company (meeting probity and regulatory standards) and due diligence by my capitalist son do go well beyond my specific claim about brochures and advertising simpliciter. The canny investor investigates the former, the naive consumer or at least overloaded-by-choices consumer does find it harder to get beyond the latter.

    Your example of “Your landscaper plants a tree for you. It’s badly staked.”, is close to appropriate. My landscaper planted several saplings (incipient trees) of the wrong species in the wrong positions (specifically over pipes and/or too near my house). The contract with the landscaper did not cover precise positions of all plants. It had a clause permitting plant substitutions within certain parameters due to certain species being in supply or not in supply at the time of build. The landscaper went ahead and planted substituted species (of pipe-invading and over-large ultimate growth habit characteristics) in precisely the most inappropriate places.

    I had foolishly assumed that they had enough plant knowledge, applied intelligence, common sense and concern for future negative consequences to the client to not do this. I also avoid coming on to a site (even though it is my property) and continually getting in the way of the foreman, workers and machinery. There are of course safety limits to a customer/property owner coming on site, not to mention the issue of irritating by micro-management and gratuitous customer interruptions to the work process. It also took me a little while to spot the odd species and identify it, by which time it was already in and the job was wrapping up. I’ve already had some examples of how difficult this company is to deal with in practice (something one cannot discover until one experiences it). I have resigned myself to spending scores of my own hours and a thousands more dollars remedying their stuff-ups myself and paying their extra concocted charges; all of which issues sail that nice line of being not quite big enough for litigation.

    Modern businesses who deal with domestic client contracts have developed all of this to a fine art. I can vouch to this from several recent bitter experiences. Every modern business dealing is now a confidence trick to some extent. Being oldish (66) I can say that the world, or my jurisdiction, has changed significantly from say 25 years ago. There is less honesty, less probity, less good faith and less dependable work to proper standards now occurring under neoliberalism. I’ve lived long enough to see real changes and they do augur ill for our society. My case is minor in the scheme of things but buildings crack and infrastructure crumbles as dishonest and poor pratices and profiteering eat away at our economy and society.

  15. Tweeted earlier this morning, by Robert Fanney:

    “… @hausfath is testifying before the House Science, Space, and Tech Committee on Friday. He’s posted a link to his google drive presentation here:”

    Zeke Hausfather is the Director of Climate and Energy at The Breakthrough Institute, who’s scheduled to be testifying to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the hearing titled: “The Science Behind Impacts of the Climate Crisis” on Mar 12. The 37-page written testimony can be found from the link.

  16. “The continuing treatment of China as a developing country is untenable now.” – Ernestine Gross.

    Absolutely. China’s middle class surpassed that of the United States to become the world’s largest, according to the 2015 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report.

    “In 2000, China’s middle class amounted to just three percent of its population. By 2018, this number had climbed to over half of the population, constituting nearly 707 million people. ” – ChinaPower.

    In 2020, China’s e-commerce market was $2,090 billions of US dollars and 53.4% of global share.

    A behemoth of China’s size and power cannot claim it is still developing when it has over 700 million middle class people (that’s like 10 times Germany and 3 times the USA whose middle class is collapsing) and over half of the world’s e-commerce. China is a behemoth massively destroying the world’s environment. It’s not the only one of course but it no longer merits special treatment of any kind.

    “Greenhouse gas emissions by China are the largest of any country in the world both in production and consumption terms, and stem mainly from coal electricity generation and mining.[1] When measuring production-based emissions, China emitted over 12 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2eq of greenhouse gases in 2014;[2] almost 30% of the world total.[3] This corresponds to over 7 tonnes CO2eq emitted per person each year, slightly over the world average and the EU average but less than half the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States, with its 16 tonnes. In consumption terms, China emits slightly less, with over 6 tonnes in 2016, slightly above the world average, but less than the EU average (close to 8 tonnes) and less than the United States by more than a half, with close to 18 tonnes per person.” – Wikipedia.

    China has exploited, is exploiting and will exploit, any special treatment to expand economically, militarily and territorially in an effort, as a totalitarian power, to completely dominate the world. Of course, that is what the USA did historically. No argument there. All superpowers in history have done the same thing. China is no different. This is not an anti-China argument. It is an anti-superpower domination argument: especially when that superpower is an expansionist totalitarian power. The USA has finally realized it will need the EU, UK, India, Japan, Canada, Australia and others allied with it just to approximately match the terrifying power of expansionist totalitarian China.

  17. “China… to completely dominate the world.” – Are you Baháʼí?

    “The USA has finally realized it will need the EU, UK, India, Japan, Canada, Australia and others allied with it just to approximately match the terrifying power of expansionist totalitarian China.”

    The USA (Boston Brahmins and suchlike) never need nor want actual allies. They occasionally merely seek some or other cover.

    China in decades has done most of what the West (or global north, etc) took centuries to grow into, ie., relative wealth. Grown-ups, having both sense and sensibility may more often deal with any associated adolescents with better mutual outcomes than those without. And they would be aware that much of the tumult often acted out in adolescence was nurtured in earlier adverse developmental environs.

  18. Treatment in which context? China tends to insist on that formal status when it suits them in international trade legalese. Considering the hardcore realpolitik approach for example the US uses vs China it does not seem to me that status really helps them. Maybe the EU is sometimes idealistic enough. That should be about it. When it is not convenient in legalese to make oneself small, China sometimes tends to overshoot into the other direction, showing quite a lot of confidence in its own status.


    A team led by Paul Brockway at the University of Leeds, UK, looked at 33 studies on the economy-wide impact of a phenomenon known as the rebound effect. First comes the direct rebound: for instance, when someone buys a more efficient car, they may take advantage of that by driving it further. Then comes the indirect rebound: fuel savings leave the owner with more money to spend elsewhere in the economy, consuming energy. This contributes to the macro effect of growing the overall economy.

    Although the 33 studies used different methods to model the rebound effect, they produced very consistent estimates of its impact, leading Brockway and his colleagues to conclude that the effect erodes, on average, 63 per cent of the anticipated energy savings.

    So efficiency gains need to be offset by a carbon tax high enough to offset the “more money to spend” problem.

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