Numlock News: July 8, 2021 • Thriving, Lithium, Mineshafts
By Walt Hickey
Large animals cause 20 crashes a day on California’s state highways, amounting to about 7,000 collisions per year. Animals just want to cross the road, but lack an opportunity to do so safely; deliberately building bridges and underpasses for animals to traverse freeways reduces the number of collisions. Utah saw a 98.5 percent decrease in deer mortalities after two new underpasses were installed along migratory routes, and Colorado saw vehicle collisions drop 89 percent after two bridges for mule deer and elk went up across a highway. California seeks to follow that model, funding its very first animal overpass for $7 million in Liberty Canyon, plus $2 million for a tunnel under Highway 17 and another $52.5 million for other crossings.
GM has cut a deal with a company called CTR to supply them with lithium from the Salton Sea, the first contract of its kind for a major American automaker. The California Energy Commission has spent $16.5 million on grants to develop the Salton Sea for lithium mining, and estimates it could supply 40 percent of global demand for the metal. By the first quarter of 2024, CTR aims to produce 20,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide, eventually scaling up to 300,000 tons of lithium across 7,000 acres of industrial buildings. This is a challenge because the lithium is present at 250 parts per million in the area.
A new survey of Americans gauging preferences in returning to the office found that while 48 percent of employed respondents can currently work in-person, 12 percent of them said they never want to return to in-person work. That latter data point has an interesting crosstab: while 7 percent of men who responded said they never wanted to return to the office, fully 19 percent of women indicated they had no desire to ever return to an office to work in-person. Huh, yeah, guess you kind of reap what you sow when it comes to the thermostat and also pretty much all the other stuff that comes bundled up in office politics, eh?
The percentage of Americans who said they considered themselves to be “thriving” has hit an all-time high according to Gallup, with 59.2 percent of American respondents indicating to the pollster that they rated their livelihoods between a seven and 10 on a 10-point scale. This is by far the highest mark in the 13 years of ongoing polling, and a significant rebound from the sub-50 percent lows notched over the course of the 2020. At press time, the percentage who considered themselves either “thirty” or “flirty” was as yet unclear.
The outdoor furniture business is mired in chaos right now, with prices rising 11 percent year-over-year as the concept of “having people over for a party on the patio” goes from stress dream back to solid Saturday. One issue is that the Texas freeze from earlier this year shut down two of the plants that make the foam in upholstery, and they were unable to reopen until March. Meanwhile, Chinese suppliers have also hiked prices of the patio furniture that’s shipped over due to rising costs of transportation, with prices of Chinese outdoor furniture imports increasing 26.5 percent since January.
Monsolar IQ, a solar energy company, leased about 40 acres of land from Woden Park Ltd. outside of Cardiff. The 25-year lease included a provision that the annual rent — which started at £15,000 — would increase yearly based on the Retail Price Index, a consumer price index made by the U.K. Office for National Statistics. The formula to determine the new rent was first to divide the RPI for the month of May of the current year by the May 2013 RPI, and then to multiply that figure by last year’s rent. Read that again. Effectively, this adjusted the rent up by the cumulative inflation every single year, which assuming a 2.855% percent annual increase in RPI would make the £15,000 annual rent in year one into £76,000,000 per year rent by year 25, a 507,000 percent increase. While judges in the U.K. tend to prefer to stick to contracts-as-written, in this case, the court found in favor of the solar company and the Court of Appeals just dismissed the landowner’s appeal.
Britain is pockmarked with vestigial coal mines, and renewable energy companies see potential promise in using the flooded mines for heating. Right now there are 2 billion cubic meters of warm water estimated to occupy old mine shafts across the U.K., and about 70 different mine water heating projects are looking into how feasible it is to use that water for residential heating given that the water is a pretty nice 15 degrees Celsius (or 59 degrees Fahrenheit). Nine out of 10 of Britain’s largest urban centers are above a former coal mining area, and an estimated 2.2 million GWh of heat are stored in the water in the flooded shafts.
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