Numlock News: June 27, 2022 • Elvis, Nuclear, Jumbo Kingdom
By Walt Hickey
In a rare occurrence, this week the winner of the box office appears to be a tie, with Baz Luhrmann's Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick each bringing in $30.5 million domestic. In good news for cinemas, 88 percent of respondents to a National Research Group survey said they were comfortable going to the movies, the highest of the pandemic era and significantly higher than the 59 percent who said as much this time last year. Indeed, Top Gun: Maverick has now made a domestic total of $521 million and, factoring in overseas revenue, has now grossed $1.006 billion, meaning they're a ninth of the way there to buying Paramount their very own Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Manufacturing titan 3M is facing a potentially massive liability over a tiny slice of its business, specifically the military-grade earplugs it sold the United States government for about $7.63 a pair. Veterans are suing 3M over hearing damage that they allege the earplugs failed to protect them from, with about 107,000 active cases and a further 127,000 cases that could move to the active list if filing fees get paid. The suits began after 3M settled a case with the federal government in 2018 in which it admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay $9.1 million to the government to settle allegations that it sold the equipment to the military without flagging defects in the earplugs. From the early 2000s to 2015, the military bought $32 million worth of earplugs, a minute drop in the bucket that is the $35.36 billion revenue 3M posted in 2021. Already, it seems like the earplug business was a net loss for 3M, given they're out $63 million in legal fees in 2022 alone over the earplug suit and another about industrial masks, and $249 million in legal fees in 2021.
Fascinating news on the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant situation, as the 80-meter-long Hong Kong restaurant barge’s owners are slightly walking back their claim that the entire restaurant sunk when they towed it out into the South China Sea. The story, that the ship capsized in 1,000-meter-deep water and that salvage works were untenable, began to change amid pressure from Hong Kong authorities for more information about the conditions under which the massive seafood restaurant went down. Marine insurers remarked that it was extremely unlikely that any insurer would bear the risk of hauling a 50-year-old barge 1,000 kilometers into open ocean during typhoon season, thus tentatively eliminating the funniest possible motivation for the sinking of the tourist attraction.
The annualized consumption of Bitcoin has collapsed pretty much overnight, down from 204 terawatt-hours per year as of June 11 to an estimated 132 terawatt-hours per year as of June 23, which is a major drop but like still about the entire annual energy use of Argentina, which, not great. This power consumption collapse is directly linked to the fall in the price of bitcoin down from its peak of $69,000 to about $21,000 today. As long as the price stays above $25,200, the mining operation would use about 180 terawatt-hours of energy per year.
In February, there were 968 aircraft in the Russian commercial jet fleet, a figure that as of the end of May stood at just 876 aircraft. The source of the attrition? They can’t get parts from Boeing and Airbus because of sanctions, and airplanes need constant maintenance. Tires, for instance, need to be replaced every 120 to 400 landings. Still, that’s not the only thing grounding Russian planes: In January of 2020, there were 493 Russian aircraft flying international flights, a level that as of June 10 was down to merely 179, in large part due to the fact that most of Aeroflot’s planes are leased by a company that called their aircraft back in, and if those land at a European airport they could be confiscated.
Two of the biggest winners in the electric vehicle space are Hyundai and corporate cousin Kia, which respectively launched the Ioniq 5 and the EV6 to massive impact in the U.S. Through May, the pair have sold 21,467 of the electric vehicles this year, beating even the 15,718 Ford Mustang Mach-E vehicles that have been considered a solid hit in their own right. They’ve hit a good time in the market, as there’s lots of interest in EVs, but out of the two and a half dozen models on the market the number that can be got for south of $45,000 is relatively few, giving Hyundai and Kia’s models a leg up.
Right now the Borssele Nuclear Power Station in the Netherlands provides about 3 percent of the electricity in the country, and after 49 years of solitary service it may be getting something fairly unconventional in the European nuclear power industry: a friend. Yes, while the Germans and the Belgians have decommissioned their clean nuclear energy generation infrastructure to swap to coal and Russian gas, the Netherlands is a country actually planning to build at least two new reactors to green their grid. While nuclear energy has been controversial, amid the demands of climate change right now 51 percent of the Dutch support new nuclear energy investments and just 14 percent oppose. There’s a solid upside to nuclear investment: Romania has two nuclear power complexes and plans to build two more, and aims to be an energy hub for the central region of the continent.
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