Numlock News: September 8, 2022 • Steak, Freight, Mitigate
By Walt Hickey
California deftly avoided rolling blackouts this week amid an energy surge through a novel innovation in the green energy space that researchers are calling “text everyone in the state and ask them to cool it.” It worked phenomenally well. At 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday, power demand hit a new record of 50.6K megawatts, and at 5:50 p.m. the state sent a text message alert mentioning that heat is straining the energy grid, and that there might be outages unless people turn off nonessential power until 9 p.m., please. It worked pretty much instantly. Power demand dropped 1.2 gigawatts within five minutes, immediately mitigating the issues, and by around 8 p.m. the emergency level was cancelled without a blackout. Wow, it’s almost as if slight collective action can have a meaningful impact addressing the ramifications of climate change if a state is willing to intervene; who could have possibly seen this coming.
Roughly 60 percent of the cattle in the United States are currently affected by drought, which is going to have long-term ramifications on food prices and agriculture in the United States. The immediate impact is that the price of beef is surprisingly low in the U.S., but that’s because some ranchers are deciding to slaughter livestock early amid the drought, which long-term is going to likely lead to higher prices for beef. More beef cows were slaughtered in July than in any month on record going back to 1986, and the issue is that likely means there are simply going to be fewer calves next year than otherwise. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way to communicate these upcoming price increases to many Americans, as the agriculture community — with its arcane jargon such as “reaping” and “sowing” — lacks a way to express that eventually there are going to be long-term consequences for the actions you’re taking right now.
A new study of 200 popular television series that aired in 2018 and 2019 found that just 1 percent of the 8,885 speaking characters on television are Muslim, and of those only 12 of the characters are series regulars. Indeed, 87 percent of the series just didn’t contain a single speaking Muslim character. About half the time — 45.9 percent of the time — they were shown only in Muslim-dominated countries, which the report flags as an issue in that they’re overwhelmingly represented as “foreigners,” and 30.6 percent of the time they were perpetrators of violence.
The big four banks in China — Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China — reported having ¥136.6 billion ($20 billion) in overdue property loans on their books at the end of June, up from ¥90 billion overdue last year. The four banks have 36 percent of the country’s deposits, and bad loans are beginning to pile up. The Agricultural Bank of China saw bad loans in the real estate sector up 152 percent compared to a year ago, and the China Construction Bank saw bad loans up 97 percent year over year.
Football starts tonight, and already Fox is saying they’ve sold over 95 percent of the available ad units for the Super Bowl for around $7 million per 30 seconds. Most Super Bowl deals are inked in September and October, and the best record for the total sale of ad inventory was Halloween in 2010. Sometimes the networks have been known to keep a few ad slots in their back pocket waiting around for a particularly deep-pocketed buyer willing to shell out, often a studio eager to snag the last available unit for a movie.
The price to ship a 40-foot container from China to the West Coast of the U.S. is coming back to reality, and is now down to $5,400 per container, down 60 percent from January. To get a box from Asia to Europe now runs $9,000, which is also down 42 percent from the beginning of the year. Last September rates peaked on both routes north of $20,000 per box. To be clear, prices are still very much abnormally high, as the spot price to ship a container from China to the West Coast was just $3,756 in September of 2020 and as low as $1,400 in February of 2020, but there is some seasonality at play here. That hasn’t stopped the shipping companies from making out like bandits: A.P. Moeller-Maersk posted earnings of $8.59 billion last quarter, which is what they normally would make in a year.
Motor vehicle tires are made out of a bunch of petrochemicals these days, and they basically spend their existence gradually shedding microplastics every time a car moves or brakes. This isn’t great, and adds up: One study estimated that per capita Americans are responsible for about 4.7 kilograms (10 pounds) of tire-related microplastic emissions per year. Electric vehicles aren’t going to help this, either; they’re heavy and so they actually will make this specific type of pollution a little worse, in fact. A gas car sheds 73 milligrams per kilometer from four new tires compared to an EV, which will shed 88 milligrams per kilometer. Until there’s a technical or materials component, the best way to mitigate these emissions is the same way you’d reduce normal tire wear: drive gently.
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