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Daily Digest 12/24 - Time Is Short On Fiscal Cliff Deal, How We Depend On Snow

Monday, December 24, 2012, 2:16 PM

Economy

Lawmakers Say Time Short to Reach Deal on Fiscal Cliff (jdargis)

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that it’s still possible to reach an agreement before the deadline. Obama and Boehner “were so close and then Speaker Boehner went off on Plan B. I never understood why, it had no prospect of succeeding.”

Cleaning Up Science (jdargis)

For many reasons, science has become a race for the swift, but not necessarily the careful. Grants, tenure, and publishing all depend on flashy, surprising results. It is difficult to publish a study that merely replicates a predecessor, and it’s difficult to get tenure (or grants, or a first faculty jobs) without publications in elite journals. From the time a young scientist starts a Ph. D. to the time they’re up for tenure is typically thirteen years (or more), at the end of which the no-longer young apprentice might find him or herself out of a job. It is perhaps, in hindsight, no small wonder that some wind up cutting corners. Instead of, for example, rewarding scientists largely for the number of papers they publish—which credits quick, sloppy results that might not be reliable—we might reward scientists to a greater degree for producing solid, trustworthy research that other people are able to successfully replicate and then extend.

Three Experts About The Gold & Silver Price Drops (Taki T.)

I have seen it again and again. When you have the most bullish news for the precious metals, the gold price gets whacked down. Part of it is related to psychology. Most gold and silver bulls look at this [QE] news as bullish for the metals. It is indeed bullish news long and intermediate term. Believe it or not, there are people that have the authority by law to intervene in the markets. It’s called the Working Group on Financial Markets. They can enter any market they chose and basically manipulate them. It is ridiculous that people panic on two or three down days. This is just some sort of a psychological warfare. One day does not make the market.

Greece Should Write Off Billions of Overdue Taxes, Report Says (jdargis)

More focus is needed on collection from the 1,500 biggest debtors, which make up two-thirds of the total amount owed to the state, according to an e-mailed copy of the November report from the Athens-based finance ministry today. More staff should be allocated to auditing those cases and specific targets for 2013 should be set, it said.

California's Solar Powered Prisons Help Reduce Energy Costs (James S.)

The solar arrays at the California Correctional Institution, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, North Kern State Prison, and Los Angeles County were installed by SunEdison, who also owns and maintains the panels. The CDCR then just buys the power produced off SunEdison at a pre-set rate in a long term contract. This arrangement means that the state doesn’t need to invest large amounts of money upfront to build the solar farms, and actually enables it to save an estimated $45-57 million at the five facilities over the 20 year contract.

10 Interesting Energy Statistics from 2012 (James S.)

The fuel’s growing role in the US is tied to the recent boom in gas production from previously untapped shale formations (e.g. in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas), which as of September 2012 account for 35% of the country’s dry natural gas production (compared to just 2% ten years ago). The plentiful supply of natural gas helped cause the fuel’s price to dip to a ten-year low earlier this year ($2.75 per thousand cubic feet), making it more competitive relative to other energy supply sources, including renewable energy (which now accounts for 13% of US electricity generation, mostly in the form of hydropower).

In Praise Of Snow (jdargis)

What makes snow important is not only its volume but also its relative dependability. Much of the West is in a state of drought or near-drought, with snowfall having been below normal in seven of the past eight years. In general, though, snow can be far more reliably counted upon to fall in substantial amounts in the mountains during wintertime than rain can be counted upon to fall in the spring and summertime. And snowmelt flows onto the scene at nearly the most useful time of year, having been stored at high altitudes until the weather warms and the demands of agriculture begin to make themselves felt. It is snow that powers the great rivers of the West—the Colorado, the Rio Grande, the Columbia, the Missouri—on their long journeys through sometimes parched or semi-arid terrain, ribbons of brown and silver that at times enverdure entire basins, at times support the merest Nilotic fringe of green. How much water does the West's winter snow turn into? The snowmelt that finds its way into the Columbia River alone in an average year comes to 26 trillion gallons, which is 81 million acre-feet—enough to cover all of Kansas in knee-deep water, or to raise Lake Michigan by almost six feet.

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