Shocked and Persuaded

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Separating Fact From Fiction

Let Them Drink Vodka and Eat Sushi

In reading the latest global census data one thing popped in my head: Is it possible that per capita global CO2 footprints may decline in the coming year(s)?

The answer is essentially yes and we have countries like Japan and Russia to thank. For example, Russia’s population of 140.7 million is projected to decline by 0.49% annually and when considering The Reds 10.5 tons of CO2 per capita per year it turns out Russian per capita emissions could potentially decline by 7.28 Million Metric Tons in the next year.

Additionally, Japan is expected to lose 0.10% of it’s 127.3 million people (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/business/economy/18charts.html?ref=todayspaper), which when combined with their per capita footprint of 9.8 tons of CO2 per year we see a potential net decline of 1.25 MMT annually. Furthermore, the eastern european/former Soviet Union states will experience an average net population decline of 0.68% annually resulting in a decline of 790 thousand tons of CO2 from this region in the next year. Russia’s near-abroad neighbor will lessen it’s footprint by 2.57 MMT in the next year given it’s annual population decline of 0.80%

Is this fact? Of course not but it is quite probable, because Russians and Japanese, two significant contributors to atmospheric CO2, are getting older fast and in the case of the latter incapable of staying away from their beloved national spirit. Conversely, our footprint here in the US will increase by 55.83 MMT, Canada and Mexico 5.31 each,  Argentina 1.60, Brazil, 4.24, Venezuela 2.60,  France and the UK 1.65-1.90. Interestingly BBC (Big Bad China) will increase by 32.12 MMT. However, the overwhelming good news is that our global per capita Co2 emissions will increase marginally (+0.023%) in the next year, a trend indeed deserving of attention but not plaudits. The estimates above for China may actually be conservative given that they have gone from producing 1 coal fired power plant a day to 1 per week, which itself is a 14.3% change in energy strategy. Couple this with the fact that China had originally planned to have only 5,000 megawatts (MW) of wind online by the end of next year, but now project 30,000 MW, which essentially replaces the need for forty-eight 625 MW coal plants. This 30,000 figure is 118% of the current US wind power generating fleet (25,400 MW) (reliability_factsheet1).

The cumulative affects of the aforementioned population declines will be a decrease of 12.25 MMT in Russia, Japan, and the Eastern European block. This is equivalent to 48.3% and 21.2% of Canadian and Australian emissions, respectively, or put another way would cancel the annual emissions from the state of Vermont and our nation’s capital combined. Not bad but again just a start. Now get out there and buy some vodka to wash down your nightly serving of sushi! The planet thanks you and your children will thank you as well!

One and the Same

Take a guess what this quote was referencing:

“It is a threat to the foundations of our free society when government officials, acting in the midst of a crisis, use dire predictions of imminent disaster to justify their encroachment on our individual liberty and the rule of law,” said Darrell Issa (R) Congressman from San Diego, CA.

No it isn’t Iraq, it isn’t Afghanistan, or WMD or anything related to killing lots of folks for no reason.

Give up? This is congressman Issa lambasting Hank Paulson last week (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/16-10) as he appeared before a committee investigating the nefarious actions underlying the mega bailout of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America…..and BofA by the US Government………and the US Government by us the taxpayer.

I find it hard to lend any credibility to the congressman’s concern given that such a quote could easily be attributed to Dennis Kucinich or Russ Feingold during the lead-up to and subsequent complete disaster that was/is the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Does he not see that it is his party (primarily but not completely!) that gave way to this kinda hubris on the part of regulators, bankers, Defense Secretaries, Vice Presidents, and Presidents?

This is nothing new and I find it amazing that San Diego is dumb enough to vote for a guy who is just now realizing what he so eloquently stated last week. Jesus I mean these words are the very same words we could use when describing the motives for Iraq, torture, warrantless wiretapping, mass ousters of states Attorneys Generals, WMD, etc etc. Come on we are asked to pretend like we were born yesterday and it is quite insulting.

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.

This is a quote used more now than everything sans “Green Shoots” right now and it is purported to have been spoken by former Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, although there is no question as to whether he ever said or wrote such words. Regardless of whether Mr. Dirksen did or did not construct this phase it seems an interesting thought given that the Obama administration is now discussing upping US food and agricultural aid to nations around the world to $5 billion annually.  Under the Bush administration this figure was about $2.3-2.7 billion. Now given the quote attributed to the late senator from Illinois this sum should real $$.

I and others contend that no where is this statement more false than with respect to international aid. Should we look to solve all the developing world’s problems, whether they be health or technology? Absolutely not these folks need to stand on their own 2 feet and it is time to clip their wings with respect to funding for weapons and war related infrastructure. However, the figures mentioned above account for 0.0181-0.0335% of our GDP ($14.93 Trillion FY 2008). At the ultra-macro level the US donates about 0.2-0.4% of GDP in toto (http://www.globalissues.org/article/35/us-and-foreign-aid-assistance#ForeignAidNumbersinChartsandGraphs).This is markedly less than the 0.7% of GDP agreed to by rich nations at the UN General Assembly……..in 1970! Yes it is true we donated $25 billion in 2008 as Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is Germany and the UK combined and realistically dwarfing every nation on an absolute scale. However, as any economist or pragmatic person would admit absolute values don’t say much, while relative figures say a ton.  The US ranks dead last among the 22 rich nations as a % of GDP. Pekka Hirvonen called this Stingy Samaritanism. The only nations that exceed the 0.7% target are Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands (0.8-0.99% of GDP)……………..Damn Socialists!

Lets just quickly contrast this with Defense spending, which was 4.7% of GDP last year and has a 45yr average of 5.3% ($702-792 billion annually) (http://www.heritage.org/research/features/budgetchartbook/obama-budget-would-return-defense-spending-to-pre-911-levels.aspx). So, why don’t we just take 0.4% of defense and transfer it to international aid. This would still leave 3.73-4.33% of GDP for making tons of bombs, guns, missiles, tanks, etc. allowing us to continue to engage in mismanaged, ill-conceived, spineless, and pointless wars. How can you argue with that Bush, Cheney, et al?

defense-gdp

Further folks like Peter Orzag the Director of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget has noted that if we don’t get healthcare under control it will mushroom from 5% in 1960 to 20% of GDP sometime between 2020 and 2040. If we were to actually shear some of the fat from this beast we could give more generously, but that might actually require a national healthcare option that would apparantly run private industry out of business. However, this is hard to reconcile given that most in the private sector feel the US government would do a horrible job if they got in the business of healthcare. If this is so than what’s the problem?

We have a TRUE Axis of Evil in this country  Defense, Banks, and Healthcare/Big Pharmaceutical. Cutting these folks down to size even if that meant a 5-10% decrease in their nefarious profits, would permit the US government to cut taxes for Joe the Plumber (ie The Common Man and Woman!) and permit more giving to those around the world in desperate need of real aid. Not food in boxes or finished product but rather the tools and knowledge to make their own stuff and feed themselves by themselves.

I must admit rather reluctantly that I did a rough calculation of how much I gave in aid/donations last year and it came out to approximately 1-2% of my income. That is a figure that I really don’t know how to square with others as the data for individual households in this country is scant with respect to charitable donations.

So, it seems to me that a billion here, a billion there does not equal real money when it comes to international aid. This country owes it to the world to stop exporting so much defense related technology and get going on the stuff that makes countries function in the interim. That includes alternative NRG, agriculture, smart-growth, etc. and the myriad skill-sets they need to stop relying on external aid. Its the least we could do.

Outlier! Who me?

I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers: The Story of Success” and couldn’t help but recall that the U.S. itself is an outlier. Below I have wrapped up where it is we sit on the outlier gradient across a variety of not so complimentary indices relative to other G8 or G20 nations.

1. 20 sq. ft. of retail space per person Vs 13 for Canadians, 6.5 for Australia, 3 in Sweden (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/magazine/14FOB-Consumed-t.html?ref=todayspaper).

2. 9 of 10 people own a cell phone Vs 4 of 10 in China

3. 19.4 tons of CO2 per person Vs 11.8 in Russia, 8.6 in EU, 5.1 in China, and 1.8 in India

4. 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners not to mention along with 3% of the world’s resources while consuming 25% of the world’s  $69.70 trillion in GDP.

5. US debt will be 78% of GDP by the end of 2009 Vs 67% in France, 63% in Germany and Canada, 52% in Norway, 38% in Spain, 20% in Mexico, 16% in China, 7% in Russia (http://natereport.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/country_debt1.png)

6. $6,102 spent on Health Care per person in 2004 Vs $3,165 in Canada, 3,150 in France, 3,043 in Germany, and 2,508 in Russia.

7. #29 for infant mortality Vs #3 for Japan, 4 for Sweden, #7 Spain, #9 France, #11 Germany and Italy, # 27 Cuba. Furthermore, we have fallen from #12 in 1960.

So there you have it. We are the global outlier on many fronts and will only be allowed to regain the head of the table a/o be taken seriously by the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) when we accept our faults, heavily modify them, and emerge stronger and more cooperative.