The week's off to a good start when news like this hits the cycle Monday morning. In summary:
"Right now it looks like the "slowdown, but no double dip call" was correct (it is still early), and now I'm becoming a little more optimistic and taking the "over" on 2011 GDP growth (still no v-shape recovery though)."
-- Calculated Risk
Job creation is ramping up. Unemployment claims are declining. GDP is still growing. Commercial real estate should even stop contracting in the foreseeable future, so say the data. Maybe it's a post-holiday bout with optimism, but a lot of economic indicators seem really encouraging to me.
Cape Wind, an offshore wind farm currently in development off the Nantucket Sound, raised a minor fracas in the recent past.
Although it's tempting to attribute the opposition to a group of faceless billionaires who object to the view from their beach houses and yachts being inconvenienced by an intense need for energy from the shivering masses, it's instead reportedly the work of a only a few such billionaires, including Oyster Harbors' Coal and Oil billionaire Bill Koch, who, it is of this blog's editorial opinion, is a sad, sad little man.
Anyways, there is an organization that exists solely to make sure Cape Wind never happens, and fortunately, it is currently broke! Boston.com reported:
Raising an average of $3.6 million a year in 2003, 2004, and 2005, the organization aired television ads, paid a public relations firm, and staged a $1.5 million lobbying drive to try to persuade Congress to kill the controversial plan, which has become central to a national debate over the future of clean energy.
But last year, after losing the fight in Washington and focusing its attention on a crucial battle before state regulators, the alliance was falling into debt, raising only $1.4 million — a 50 percent drop compared with 2008 and its lowest yearly fund-raising total since 2002, the year the group was founded. By December, according to recently released tax returns, the organization’s balance sheet showed more than $500,000 in red ink.
I suppose this counts as a bit of cautious optimism, although I can't imagine what exactly has kept the money from rolling in from Koch and his ilk.
"You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."
There can be no stronger signal that U.S. cap-and-trade policy is dead than some news out of Chicago today: the Chicago Climate Exchange said this morning it is calling it quits.
The opt-in, voluntary exchange had more than 400 members and an aggregate supply of 680 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of the annual carbon output of every U.S. household for the next six years. (Caveat: This kind of accounting is really, really hard.)
The environmental blog of The New York Times explained:
Activity on the exchange surged last year as Congressional Democrats [in the House] crafted and then passed comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation, as the exchange was regarded as well positioned to serve as a central vehicle for the emissions trading envisioned by the law. But when a similar bill failed to gain traction in the Senate and was abandoned this year, interest dwindled and the price of its carbon credits crashed.
According to Canadian Energy Law, there has been no trading activity on the exchange since February. In contrast, trading on the European Climate Exchange, which, like the CCX, is owned by Intercontinental Exchange Group (NYSE: ICE), has steadily grown during the past few years because of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, the cap-and-trade program for members of the EU.
Lest anyone think I'm perpetuating the things this video says -- I'm not. It's overly reductive and not even entirely right on its facts. But it is on-point about a few general themes -- the Fed's recent history as an economic fixer is dubious, and enlisting Goldman Sachs to deploy the funds is profoundly ridiculous (update: Matt Taibbi explains this thoroughly) -- and that's what makes it funny. Find me some better comedy about monetary policy.
Those who think an economy can either grow or shrink miss an important third option: economic equilibrium, where growth is completely flat. Like a global currency, a no-growth economy is an entirely academic subject -- but interesting to model, nonetheless.
First, he created a computer model replicating the modern Canadian economy. Then he tweaked it so that crucial elements—including consumption, productivity, and population—gradually stopped growing after 2010.
To stave off unemployment, he shortened the workweek to roughly four days, creating more jobs. He also set up higher taxes on the rich and more public services for the poor, and imposed a carbon tax to fill government coffers and discourage the use of fossil fuels.
The upshot? It took a couple of decades, but unemployment eventually fell to 4 percent, most people's standards of living actually rose, and greenhouse gas emissions decreased to well below Kyoto levels. The economy reached a "steady state." And if the model is accurate, then something like it, say some ecologically minded economists, may be the only way for humanity to survive in the long term.
Victor's research is just the lede to the Mother Jones article linked above, an excellent piece of magazine reporting about economic growth cycles that I missed when it came out during the summer.
To overcome the initial cost of photovoltaic technology, SELF has pioneered a variety of financing mechanisms which enable families to purchase solar home systems over time, paying only slightly more than what they previously spent on kerosene, candles, and dry-cell batteries. More could be done if the cost of the solar cells became part of the cost of the house.
The second approach involves the use of solar micro-grids — powering an entire village of $300 Houses with a micro-solar power plant. This is a newer concept. At SELF, we're examining both the technology and the payment options, including micropayments made through mobile phones to access the micro-grid, to see how best to introduce them across the world.
-- Bob Freling, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Solar Electric Light Fund, on powering a $300 house in poverty-stricken areas.
The biggest piece of geopolitical news yesterday didn't involve the mid-term elections in the United States. As reported in The Guardian (U.K.), Britain and France signed an historic, unprecedented treaty to cooperate on national defense and security matters.
At a joint press conference at Lancaster House, [Prime Minister David] Cameron repeatedly stressed that the agreement strengthened British sovereignty as he said it opened a new chapter in Anglo-French relations.
Seeking to defend himself from a Eurosceptic assault, with one Tory MP describing the French as "duplicitous", Cameron stressed the treaties would not weaken British sovereignty and did not amount to a sharing of the UK's nuclear deterrent.
He said: "Britain and France will be sovereign nations able to deploy our forces independently and in our national interest when we choose to do so.”
One would think having such a strong allied relationship would open up all sorts of diplomatic opportunities for a country, not to mention the costs saved in relation to the defense expenditures of other global powers. Such an arrangement would be a political impossibility in the United States, and yesterday's news highlights the sharp contrast in how the world's superpowers approach diplomacy and security.
Outsourcing defense and military activity to private companies isn't a practice that's exclusive to the United States; both the U.K. and France hire private security firms to support their military programs as well. I'd be curious to know if an aim to roll back reliance on those firms contributed to getting the treaty done.
“An ideal partner for us would be a RV, motor home, aircraft, train or bus manufacturer with production facilities in the U.S. who is looking to diversify. We hope to leverage not only their manufacturing capabilities, but also their domestic and export sales channels. In return, we’ll deliver the design and fully developed concept.”
-- U.S. Elevated High-Speed Bus spokesperson Mark Shieh.
Up All Damn Night is the web site and blog of Andrew Graham, a media strategist and public relations practitioner in New York, NY who specializes in the finance and environmental sectors as well as with matters involving global affairs and public policy. It reflects what news he's reading and, sometimes, what he's thinking about or working on.
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