Numlock News: April 2, 2020 • Water, Wyoming, Weddings
By Walt Hickey
The federal government seized $29.6 million worth of illegal drugs — 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of meth, 17 pounds of heroin, 3,000 pounds of marijuana, and two pounds of fentanyl — from a tunnel that smugglers used to traffic drugs from Mexico to San Diego. The 2,000-foot long 31-foot deep tunnel connecting the metropolises, which was sophisticated, with ventilation, an underground rail system, and electrified lighting throughout likely cost the cartel responsible millions, and it’s just one of seventy such tunnels discovered in the San Diego area. The implications of the sophisticated and profitable tunnel project could not be more stark or clear: with Andy Byford stepping down, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo must immediately appoint a Mexican drug cartel to operate the New York City Subway system.
The Federal Trade Commissions will sue Altria, the tobacco company, in an attempt to undo their $12.8 billion investment into Juul. That investment — which valued Juul, whose key innovation was turning one of the most addictive substances on the planet into something sweet, sleek, candy-flavored, and otherwise attractive to teens and children, at $38 billion and gave the tobacco giant a 35 percent stake in the company — went pretty badly, as the nicotine juice company was regulated eventually and has since fallen to a $12 billion valuation. The FTC complaint says that the investment eliminated competition between the companies and violates anti-trust laws.
There are 2.2 million weddings performed annually in the U.S. every year, and due to cancellations and statewide lockdowns the $54.4 billion wedding business is in a tailspin and couples are forced to make impossible choices around their special day. According to surveys from Wedding Report, it’s estimated 6.5 percent of couples are cancelling their weddings, 28 percent are trying to move the dates back to the back half of 2020, 22.5 percent are pushing it back to 2021, and 43 percent are not doing anything at this time. The average cost of a wedding in 2020 was estimated at $24,675, so the 5 to 15 percent rebooking fees can be a serious blow.
In times of crisis, businesses and nations thrive or fail based on their capacity for planning, their ability to tap into strategic reserves, and the foresight to prepare a rainy-day fund of necessary assets to endure even the most difficult of situations. From this point of view, the most prepared and savvy operators in American commerce are television networks that produce basic cable reality television, who have enough material banked to ride out months of production shutdowns. Discovery’s Deadliest Catch? 26 episodes, in the bank. Exhausted by event cancellations? Guess what people, Shark Week is happening. E! viewership is up 35 percent, Bravo is imminently readying three seasons of Real Housewives for a nation involuntarily turned into real housebound wives, Food Network has more stuff banked up in storage than a hypochondriac with a Costco card (Chopped is good until 2021!) and TLC ratings in the demo are up 111 percent compared to this time last year.
According to Nielsen, U.S. sales of alcohol are up 55 percent in the week ending March 21, with spirits up 75 percent, wine sales up 66 percent and beer sales up 42 percent. Most interestingly is that online sales absolutely exploded. Typically, online sales of liquor are only for desperate journalists in Astoria, Queens who ran out of whiskey, and are just trying to do a night in, and they don’t feel like getting up because this season of Top Chef just got to the Restaurant Wars week and the stores close in an hour. But now everyone’s muscling in on it, with Nielsen reporting online alcohol sales were up 243 percent.
Google has spent years attempting to make its data centers more energy efficient, but that comes with a trade-off. Computer room air conditioners are intense consumers of energy, but an alternative strategy — evaporative cooling — evaporates water to cool the air around processing units, which is not only cheaper than running an air conditioner, but also more energy efficient. The problem comes in areas where water is scarce, because the data centers need a lot of it and since it evaporates it’s not coming back directly. Google has 21 data centers right now — it spent $13 billion on offices and data centers in 2019 and will spend another $10 billion this year — and in 2019, in three states alone Google requested or was granted 2.3 billion gallons of water for its data centers. For its new data center in Red Oak, Texas, Google wants 1.46 billion gallons of water a year, but that entire county will use 15 billion gallons this year.
When dreaming up a perfect possible state to capitalize on wind energy, Wyoming — with serious gusts over the prairie, wide open spaces with little habitation, proximity to energy-hungry states like Nevada and California, and a historical reputation as an exporter of energy — really couldn’t be a better fit. That is until their government got involved. Coal accounts for about 24 percent of energy consumed in the United States, and specifically Wyoming’s coal is responsible for 11 percent of United States energy consumption. That’s been a pretty good business for the state until recently when coal costs — $66 to $152 per megawatt hour — rose above natural gas ($44 to $68) and wind ($28 to $54). Wind development in Wyoming was stymied by a rare $1-per-megawatt-hour tax on wind generation specifically, an exception in a country otherwise giving credits to wind development. So while wind investment was massive in other states, nobody set up shop in Wyoming. That will change soon: PacifiCorp is adding 2,000 megawatts of wind in Wyoming by 2024, and Power Company of Wyoming is installing 896 turbines starting sometime around 2022.
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Correction: An earlier version of this misstated the proportions of a tunnel, it is 31 feet deep not 31 feet wide.
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