Numlock News: April 13, 2022 • World Cup, Timber, AriZona Iced Tea
By Walt Hickey
One issue pushing prices up is the higher than typical costs of moving boxes across the Pacific Ocean, which are getting pretty ridiculous. This time in 2019, it cost $1,584 to send a 40-foot container from China to the West Coast of the United States. This time last year, that had quadrupled to $5,893. But even though the price of freight is down over the past several weeks, the current price to get a 40-foot box from China to the West Coast was $15,817 as of Friday. That’s inevitably going to hike up the costs of everything inside that box when it gets to retail.
Large buildings made out of mass timber, which is composed of wood that’s glued together and compressed that makes its strength similar to that of concrete, are increasingly popping up around the world, including in the United States. The key appeal is that the carbon footprint of such a building is considerably smaller — up to half — than that of a similar building made of concrete and steel, and that’s attractive in countries with lots of wood. The number of multi-story mass-timber buildings in the U.S. being built was 1,300 as of December of last year, up 50 percent since July 2020. Companies are looking into 70-story wood buildings in Tokyo and 80-story buildings in London. The global market for mass timber was $956 million in 2020, and is expected to grow 13.6 percent annually from 2021 to 2028.
Despite three decades of inflation, the classic 23-ounce can of AriZona iced tea continues to hold steady at 99 cents a can, which is the exact same price it cost 30 years ago. It’s cheaper than soda, than canned coffees, and by the gallon, it’s cheaper than gasoline. The reason is that the company’s founder and owner, Don Vultaggio, has stubbornly stood at 99 cents a can, eating any cost increases as one of the only remaining independent beverage companies in a non-alcoholic space mostly owned by either Coke, Pepsi or Keurig Dr Pepper. The man isn’t hurting exactly — his empire of tea has reaped a combined familial net worth north of $4 billion — and they move 1 billion of the 99-cent cans of AriZona Iced Tea a year, which is just 25 percent of revenue, the rest being fruit drinks, energy drinks and more. When they started, Snapple also charged 99 cents a bottle, a figure that has since snapped to $1.79. Never losing the common touch pays off: AriZona had 16 percent of the ready-to-drink tea market in 2020 and some 255 million gallons of AriZona sold that same year.
The USDA Wildlife Services is tasked with killing or removing animals that threaten livestock and crops. In 2021, they killed 1.76 million animals, of which 1,352,827 were invasive species, 404,532 were native species that threatened crops, human health and livestock, but 2,795 were unintentional kills, thousands of animals that were taken down by the various traps, snares and poisons used by the service in the USDA’s deadly duties. Those traps include the M-44 cyanide capsules that spray quick death on a coyote who tugs and pulls on it, but which a Sacramento Bee investigation found also killed some 1,100 dogs from 2000 to 2012. Unintentional deaths from USDA traps and poisons included 589 river otters, 482 raccoons, 255 snapping turtles, 361 foxes, 194 muskrats, 166 coyotes, 73 peccaries, 67 porcupines and 42 opossums.
As of mid-March, 29 percent of baby formula products were out of stock in the United States. The out-of-stock rates were between 2 percent and 8 percent in the first seven months of 2021, but since then they’ve been growing steadily, hitting 23 percent in January 2022. Walgreens has gone so far as to cap purchases at three per transaction. Anyway, if you’re also one of the childless friends in a friend group that is rapidly becoming parents, you’re welcome to this future conversation piece that you can trot out when you realize your incredibly tired friends obviously haven’t had the chance to see Everything Everywhere All at Once yet and you are thus completely out of possible conversation topics.
November’s World Cup in Qatar is going to present a number of viewing challenges in the United States, best known as the country where for decades the sport of soccer has perpetually been five years away from actually being popular. When the United States missed the World Cup in 2018, ratings averaged just 5.04 million per game, down from the 8.06 when the U.S. men’s team made it in 2014. As it stands, just 21 percent of American respondents said they planned to watch some or a lot of the games, but those in the 18 to 35 bracket were much higher, with 31 percent planning to tune in. The games will be in Qatar, which isn’t great for time zones as many of the games will begin at 5 a.m. ET. However, the U.S. group stage games are scheduled to air at 2 p.m. ET, which I’m sure is 5 o’clock somewhere.
The typical wind turbine has a maximum power of 2.75 MW, which roughly approximates to 2,160 homes. Wind near the ground is slowed by friction of trees and topography, and the higher you get the faster and more reliable the breezes move, so at 500 meters the wind moves 3 to 7 kilometers per hour faster on average than the wind at 100 meters. How to get at that wind is a difficult question, but one proposal — using retractable kites to turn powerful earth-bound turbines — is being studied. The SkySails PN-14 uses a steerable 180-square-meter kite with an 800-meter tether linked basically to a shipping container, and its movements generate around 80 kW, which is enough to power about 60 homes. One proposed system could generate 3.5 MW, hypothetically better than your typical turbine. There are issues: Are rapidly moving cables in the sky bad for birds? Probably! But there are also advantages, namely in the far smaller amounts of material a kite-based system requires, and in their portability.
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