Tag Archives: economy

Californians create record-low trash in 2011 – still more than national average

From a high of 6.3 pounds of trash per day in 2005, Californians have lowered their output in 2011 to a record-low of 4.4 pounds/day. Good news for the state with the highest population, and yet compared to the national average – 4.4 pounds – that’s not much of a drop, more like stopping the excess.

But don’t count out Californians yet – the numbers show strong a downward trend that may leave the rest of the country behind. The state diversion rate (recycling, compost) is 65% – among the highest in the country – with plans for 75% by 2020. In comparison, the country is only at 34% – meaning some states must have horribly low rates.

There is also a strong downward trend among Californians and their trash. The drop was 30% – 1.9 pounds – in the last 5 years, while the rest of the country dropped 0.24 pounds in that same time. And the government is hoping to continue this decline – as the economy bounces back – by signing into law AB 341.

Which among many new rules, forces businesses to start recycling – the only sore spot in this story. At work Californians produce 11.3 pounds of trash – much more than at home. This is largely due to workplace practices that don’t promote recycling and state laws that let office buildings avoid recycling. This new law should remedy that.

 

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Good news – United States greenhouse gas emissions are declining (graph)

I hate the doom-and-gloom focus of global warming. For an issue that asks people to make big changes, there couldn’t be a worse message. And so I’m proud to present another piece good news:

  • As our economy grows we are lowering our emissions (blue lines)
  • As our population our emissions are remaining steady or decreasing (orange lines)

 

source: EPA

 

This makes it look like we are cleaning up our economy and our habits, and we are. Good news.

And, one piece of bad news. The declines aren’t strong enough to stop climate change. For that we need a much steeper decline. So keep up the great work and double your efforts!

Here are some ways to do so:

Are you happy this month? – Consumer sentiment rises to 2008 level

Maybe it was all those vacations people took?

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. consumers in early September felt better about the economy as their expectations brightened, according to data released Friday.

The Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index rose to 79.2 early this month from the 74.3 final reading for August.

 

Of course, nothing beats the roaring Clinton years and those enthusiastic Bush years. From Calculated Risk:

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Could Mexico grow bigger than Brazil in the next few decades?

What if Mexico were to become a bigger economy than Brazil?

In recent years Brazil has outplayed Mexico, growing at 6% or more as Mexico bumped along in the slow lane. But lately that has changed. Last year Mexico grew by 4% and Brazil by 2.7%. This year Mexico is expected to get close to 4% again, whereas some economists reckon that Brazil’s rate could dip below 2%. A recent report by Nomura predicted that Mexico’s economy, currently half the size of Brazil’s, could end up the bigger of the two within the next decade. – The Economist

To get into some detail, in 2011 Mexico had a GDP of $1.15 trillion and Brazil with $2.48 trillion. It seems like a tall order for Mexico to more than double its economy.

 

Google Public Data

 

But, if you look at certain sectors, like automobiles, Brazil is starting to face some growth problems. Originally, the country grew by exploiting is size, natural resources, and population. In order to keep up growth they will need to expand internationally with products and services.

Last year, Brazilians created 3.4 million cars and exported only 540,000. That is worth $372 million.  Mexico, on the other hand, created 2.6 million cars and exported 2.1 million of them. That is worth $2 billion and reflects a growth of 40%. (The Economist)

Mexico may be more ideally situated for growth in the next few decades than Brazil is.

A refreshing look at climate change in America – what are we doing about it?

A refreshing, well-balanced look at climate change in America.

 

You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record…Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

 

Keep reading: N.Y. Times - There’s Still Hope for the Planet

 

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United Kingdom unemployment matches ours – and they use funny terms to describe it

Read this for news on the world economy, or just enjoy the interesting words the Brits use to describe their unemployment: Jobseekers Allowance (unemployment benefits), shadow work (?)…

 

UK unemployment total falls to 2.58m

The unemployment rate fell to 8.1% in the period, down from 8.3% in the previous quarter.

The ONS figures showed that the number of people in employment rose by 181,000 to 29.35 million.

However, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 6,100 to 1.6 million in June.

The number of long-term unemployed also increased, with those out of work for more than two years rising by 18,000 to a total of 441,000, the highest since 1997.

The shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “You’ve seen another big rise in the number of long-term unemployed… nearly half the people on the dole have been out of work for more than six months.”

Average total earnings were 1.5% higher in the year to May, the ONS said. When bonuses are excluded, regular pay rose 1.8% from a year earlier.

On average, UK workers earned £442 per week excluding bonuses.

UK unemployment rates

  • North East England 10.9%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber 9.7%
  • North West England 9.5%
  • Wales 9.0%
  • London 8.9%
  • West Midlands 8.6%
  • East Midlands 8.3%
  • Scotland 8.0%
  • Northern Ireland 6.9%
  • East of England 6.6%
  • South East 6.3%
  • South West 5.9%

 

Source: BBC - UK unemployment total falls to 2.58m

 

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Venture capital investment had its biggest quarter (Q2 2012) of the decade

U.S. venture capitalists put $8.1 billion into 812 deals in the second quarter of 2012, their single largest quarter in more than a decade, according to CB Insights.

It’s clear that factors like the greater American economy and the bumpy tech IPO market don’t necessarily have a direct and/or timely correlation with venture capital spending.

Funding was up 37 percent from the first quarter, and 5 percent from a year ago. Number of deals were up 3 percent from the past quarter, and 4 percent from the past year.

Photo and video start-ups accounted for 29 percent of mobile funding dollars.

 

Keep reading: All Things D - U.S. Venture Capital Has Its Biggest Quarter Since Dot-Com Days

 

 

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Forget the BRICs it’s the CIVETS now – the new developing world

The past decade was all about the BRICs, the massive economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, which kicked off at the beginning of the new century, boomed and are now slowing like the rest of the developed world. Taking their place is a new group of fast-rising economies promising businesses outsized returns.

The next decade could belong to the CIVETS – Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa – whose rising middle class, young populations and rapid growth rates make the BRICs look dull in comparison.

Hardly emerging economies anymore – China is the world’s second largest economy and Brazil will take seventh place this year – that their pace would slow down was inevitable.

Now more connected by trade to the developed economies, the BRICs are feeling the same slowdown effects as the developed economies.  And, in the case of China and Brazil, they are also wrestling with the strains of their rapid ascensions. Real estate bubbles, currency control issues and hyper-wage inflation are sending global companies elsewhere for growth.

Brazil is forecast to grow a mere 3% this year. China, while still targeting a strong GDP growth rate of 7-8% in 2012, is well off its double-digit rates of the past decade. Russia, meanwhile, which can’t kick its dependency on oil exports and endured the retrograde re-election of Vladimir Putin, may grind out 3.2% growth this year. India is also slowing, with a GDP target of 6.9% growth in 2012, a sharp decline from its 2010 pace of 9.6%.

The CIVETS, meanwhile, are at the lift-off point…

 

Keep readingThe decade of the CIVETS

 

 

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Soon cars will be ultra-light-weight and made out of carbon-fibre composites

The race is on to replace steel cars with carbon-fibre cars. All of the major automakers have inked deals to make the switch. The reason being that carbon-fibre is:

Interior view of a production line for carbon fiber heavy tow.

“10 times stronger than regular-grade steel and one-quarter of steel’s weight.”

“Using carbon fiber in lieu of conventional steel can lower the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting a car’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by as much as 8 percent.”

via Reuters

Weight is a big deal in cars. The heavier the car, the bigger the engine and, typically, the lower the fuel economy. This is especially true for electric cars who face limited mileage on one charge, reduce that weight by 10% and you can go an extra 50 miles.

Currently, carbon-fibre is expensive to make and only really used in racing cars. BMW, the first company to invest heavily in carbon, has already found ways to cut production costs.

“The carbon fiber fabric is placed in a mold, and resin is injected under high pressure and temperature. The process, which once took 20 minutes per part, now requires less than 10 minutes. Robots cut and handle the material and components, which previously were made by hand.

The robots will help BMW achieved big savings. A pound of carbon fiber now costs only a third as much as a pound used in the M3 CSL coupe’s roof when the limited-edition car was introduced in the 2004 model year.”

via c|net

50K carbon fibers can be shaped and cured to produce spars for wind energy blades, golf shafts, compressed natural gas tanks, and pultruded beams.

 

Much of this production will happen in Germany or China, with both Volkswagon and BMW working with Germany’s SGL Carbon and General Motors signing with Teijin Ltd. But, just last month, Dow Chemicals signed a deal with Ford to begin research and production.

It’s exciting to think what this technology can do, not only for cars, but trucks, planes, boats, etc.

Energy researcher Amory Lovins, in this TED talk, thinks that when we fully start using carbon-fibre vehicles fuel economy in cars will shoot up to 200 miles/gallon. He says that halving the weight of the car creates compound effects: lighter car, requires a lighter engine, which makes the car even lighter.

 

Carbon aircraft brake disc.

 

// Photos – SGL Carbon

The long-term unemployed make up half of those unemployed

4 important facts about unemployment from economist Lee Ohanian:

  • The economy should be creating 500,000 jobs/month, instead of 200,000.
  • Long-term unemployed makes up half of those unemployed, and they have little or no value in our economy.
  • The retirement age is certainly going to rise.
  • Those with only a high school degree or less are not competitive in the global economy.

 

More than 200,000 new jobs were created in January, 2012. What do you make of the pace of job growth?

The major puzzle about the U.S. economy has been the remarkably slow job growth. The U.S. economy should be creating about 500,000 jobs per month now, given high worker productivity, the large pool of available workers and the fairly high level of corporate profits. While 200,000 jobs sounds really positive, it is only about half of what we should be seeing.

The long-term unemployed — those who have been out of work for more than six months. It seems that new jobs are going to people who have just entered the workforce or to those who were unemployed for a short time. What’s going on here?

Long-term unemployment is at a record level of nearly 50 percent of the unemployed. The market value of these workers is very low, because many simply don’t have the specific skills required to compete in today’s economy. It becomes the problem of retraining construction workers to become health care workers. It can’t be done overnight, but this process needs to move forward. Those construction jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon. Reforming unemployment insurance to include retraining funding would be useful.

What is your view on the retirement age in the U.S.? Is it too low, too high or just right?

The retirement age is now, depending on what year you were born, between 65 and 67 for full benefits. This will almost certainly rise in response to dealing with the upcoming shortfall in Social Security associated with baby boomers [more than 70 million of them ] who are now approaching retirement. The aging of the baby boom cohort will increase the share of the population who is 65 and older from its current level of 13 percent to about 19 percent of the population. This will put enormous pressure on the underfunded Social Security system — so get ready for a gradual increase in the full retirement age.

How has unemployment differentially impacted workers?

Education level is a major differentiator. Workers with high levels of education and training — those with bachelor’s degrees and beyond — have very low unemployment rates, about 4 percent. In contrast, those with no post-high-school education and very young workers have unemployment rates of more than 20 percent. The message is very clear: A good career starts with a solid education that includes training beyond high school.

Low-skilled and unskilled workers were hit very hard by the recession and continue to suffer. Is anything going to change for them?

This again points to education. Many of these unemployed have only a high school degree or never graduated from high school. These workers are, for the most part, no longer competitive in the global economy. Many may not be competitive even at current minimum wages, and some probably wouldn’t work for minimum wages. Fundamentally, they need to retrain in order to successfully re-engage in the labor market.