Wednesday, October 18, 2017

California invested heavily in solar power

California invested heavily in solar power. Now there's so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it

JUNE 22, 2017

Not long ago, solar was barely a rounding error for California’s energy producers.
In 2010, power plants in the state generated just over 15% of their electricity production from renewable sources. But that was mostly wind and geothermal power, with only a scant 0.5% from solar. Now that overall amount has grown to 27%, with solar power accounting for 10%, or most of the increase. The solar figure doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of rooftop solar systems that produce an additional 4 percentage points, a share that is ever growing.
Behind the rapid expansion of solar power: its plummeting price, which makes it highly competitive with other electricity sources. In part that stems from subsidies, but much of the decline comes from the sharp drop in the cost of making solar panels and their increased efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity.
The average cost of solar power for residential, commercial and utility-scale projects declined 73% between 2010 and 2016. Solar electricity now costs 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour — the amount needed to light a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours — to produce, or about the same as electricity produced by a natural gas plant and half the cost of a nuclear facility, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Was the fall of Rome a biological phenomenon?


An interesting article from LA Times
The most devastating enemy the Romans ever faced was Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague and that has been the agent of three historic pandemics, including the medieval Black Death. The first pandemic interrupted a remarkable renaissance of Roman power under the energetic leadership of the emperor Justinian. In the course of three years, this disease snaked its way across the empire and carried off perhaps 30 million souls. The career of the disease in the capital is vividly described by contemporaries, who believed they were witnessing the apocalyptic “wine-press of God’s wrath,” in the form of the huge military towers filled with piles of purulent corpses. The Roman renaissance was stopped dead in its tracks; state failure and economic stagnation ensued, from which the Romans never recovered.

Recently the actual DNA of Yersinia pestis has been recovered from multiple victims of the Roman pandemic. And the lessons are profound.

In the first place, the biological agent of the great plague was a relatively young species. Y. pestis was not a germ that had existed for hundreds of thousands of years. To use our contemporary terminology, when it struck the Roman Empire it was an “emerging infectious disease.” As old germs evolve new molecular tools, or entirely new germs arrive on the scene, the results can be tremendously destabilizing — a reminder to modern societies that we must do more than keep track of known threats.

Second, the Roman pandemic was no parochial affair. The closest known relatives of the strain that caused the Roman outbreak have been found in western China. This fact is consistent with the detail provided by ancient sources that the pandemic erupted on the coast of Egypt, at an entrepĂ´t of the bustling Red Sea trade. The deadly package was ferried into the empire across the vast Indian Ocean trade network that brought silk and spices to Roman shores. The plague was, then, an unintended side effect of incipient globalization.

Tourism and Traffic

when you try to see 20 years ahead, always useful to look at China today.
While Delhi and Mumbai are hosts to 4.5 million international travellers each, there are 7 7 Chinese cities in the top 100, and 35 Asian Cities figure in the top 100 destinations.
Mark the growth rates for Indian destinations. Agra (28%), Jaipur (21%), Chennai (10%) and Kolkata (11%) also figure in the top 100 and have explosive growth rates.
These are the highest growth rates among the top 100 cities

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The economics of Richard Thaler

Thaler along with his pioneering colleagues showed that the mistakes that people made—contrary to what mainstream economists believed—were not random. Instead, some such mistakes were predictable and led to systemic society-wide issues, which could be corrected by correcting incentives, or “nudging” people to slightly modify their behaviour.

Thaler’s dissertation supervisor, the renowned economist Sherwin Rosen, despite co-authoring the 1976 paper with him, was not quite impressed with the young economist, later telling The New York Times, “We did not expect much of him.”

The Making of Richard Thaler’s Economics Nobel

In the world of mainstream American economics, Richard Thaler’s study of behavioral quirks like loss aversion and the status-quo bias was seen as subversive.

Kahneman isn’t the only one celebrating. Many economists believe that Thaler’s award was long overdue. The Nobel announcement credited Thaler, whose work has explored mental quirks such as loss aversion and the status-quo bias, for building “a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making.” That’s true. But Thaler’s greatest achievement may have been in persuading economists—a notoriously hidebound lot—to question the “rational economic man” assumption that they once held so dear. These days, most decent universities offer classes in behavioral economics, and some of the top schools in the U.S., such as Harvard and Berkeley, have made major commitments to the field. Meanwhile, governments around the world, and multinational institutions such as the World Bank, look to behavioral economics to inform policymaking.

Socialism with a spine: the only 21st century alternative

A good read.

Soft neoliberalism has exhausted its appeal. The best progressive alternative is an explicit embrace of socialism
by John Quiggin

there’s no detectable enthusiasm for a centrally planned economy like that of the former Soviet Union or Mao’s China. Communism is a distant and discredited memory, even for those old enough to recall the days when it seemed like a possible alternative.
As it is used today, the term socialism does not reflect a well-worked ideology. Rather it conveys an attitude that could be described as “unapologetic social democracy” or, in the US context, “liberalism with a spine”. It’s expressed in support for proposals that break with the cautious incrementalism of the past, and are in some cases frankly utopian: universal basic income, free post-school education, large increases in minimum wages, and so on.
The combination of a job guarantee and a universal basic income would free workers from dependence on employers. But this would only be feasible if society could ensure adequate production of crucial goods and services, without dependence on the wishes of big business.
The first step in this regard is to revive a term that was widely used and is still relevant to describe the economy of the mid-20th century: the mixed economy. This phrase refers to an economy with major roles for both public and market provision of goods and services. Typically, the public sector provided infrastructure such as electricity, water and road networks, and human services such as health and education. Most of our existing assets in these fields were built up under public ownership. The market sector provided consumer goods, and the wholesale and retail trade networks needed to distribute them, along with a wide range of services.