Daily Digest

Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's Hidden Debt, An Extra Decade Of Nuclear Power

Monday, August 30, 2010, 10:57 AM
  • Policy Options Dwindle as Economic Fears Grow
  • Bernanke Manages Expectations for Fed Role 
  • The Age Of Mammon
  • America's Hidden Debt
  • Hygroelectricity: A New Type Of Alternative Energy, Extracted From Air’s Electrical Charge
  • Hydrogen Tank Exploded in Green Fuel Station. Is The Technology Safe Enough for Cars?
  • The Rechargeable Solar Lightbulb
  • Newly Discovered Chlorophyll Scavenger Could Lead to Cheaper Biofuels
  • Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With A Nuclear Dash For Thorium
  • Backlash Over China Curb On Metal Exports
  • Merkel Eyes An Extra Decade Of Nuclear Power
  • Risk-Taking Rises as Oil Rigs in Gulf Drill Deeper
  • China: Rare Earth Export Cuts Protect Environment

Crash Course DVDThe Crash Course DVD: in-depth analysis on peak oil, debt, demographics, only $24.99 in our store (NTSC or PAL)

Economy

Policy Options Dwindle as Economic Fears Grow (jdargis)

Yet even as vital signs weaken — plunging home sales, a bleak job market and, on Friday, confirmation that the quarterly rate of economic growth had slowed, to 1.6 percent — a sense has taken hold that government policy makers cannot deliver meaningful intervention. That is because nearly any proposed curative could risk adding to the national debt — a political nonstarter. The situation has left American fortunes pinned to an uncertain remedy: hoping that things somehow get better.

Bernanke Manages Expectations for Fed Role (jdargis)

The Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, who has assiduously avoided taking sides in fiscal debates, said on Friday that the central bank stood ready to use a variety of tools to forestall deflation, a broad decline in prices. But he made it clear that the Fed could not simply conjure up a recovery by manipulating interest rates and the money supply.

The Age Of Mammon (JimQ)

After having his firm bailed out by the American middle class taxpayer at the behest of fellow Goldman alumni Hank Paulson, Lloyd practiced his version of austerity by cutting compensation for his flock to only $16.2 billion ($500,000 per employee) in 2009. I’m all for people making as much money as they can for doing a good job. But, I ask you – What benefits have Goldman Sachs, the other Wall Street banks, and hedge funds provided for America?

America's Hidden Debt (Hubbs)

The aftermath of the housing bubble is causing Washington’s twin lending giants to apply much more immediate pressure to the federal balance sheet. Combined, they have over $5 trillion in liabilities that government officials have repeatedly insisted are not obligations of the taxpayers. With Fannie and Freddie debt trading at prices nearly identical to Treasury debt, however, the markets seemingly assume that the taxpayers are on the hook — which means that somebody has to lose big.

Energy

Hygroelectricity: A New Type Of Alternative Energy, Extracted From Air’s Electrical Charge (pinecarr)

In their search of alternative energy resources, scientists have stopped at a phenomenon that, although known for ages, brought them surprises. They want to harvest electricity by profiting from the fact that air is loaded with electric charges, and work on a prototype for such a harvester.

Hydrogen Tank Exploded in Green Fuel Station. Is The Technology Safe Enough for Cars? (pinecarr)

Hydrogen, the most clean fuel in the universe, has been seen with skepticism by many. Although bad events involving exploded hydrogen tanks are rare, Monroe County’s (NY) Green Fuel Station on Scottsville Road experienced the explosion of two tanks filled with hydrogen.

    Crash Course DVDThe Crash Course DVD: in-depth analysis on peak oil, debt, demographics, only $24.99 in our store (NTSC or PAL)

The Rechargeable Solar Lightbulb (pinecarr)

A day’s-worth of charging in the sun will produce 2 to 4 hours of light from the bulb’s 5 LED’s. Purported to be durable, rainproof and shatter-resistant. Many of its parts are replaceable. Bummers: price and battery life. A single bulb costs $15 and the replaceable NiMH battery has about a 2 year life span with daily use.

Newly Discovered Chlorophyll Scavenger Could Lead to Cheaper Biofuels (pinecarr)

A team of scientists from Australia and Germany has discovered what could be a new, previously unknown form of chlorophyll. As we all know chlorophyll is the green-pigmented substance that plants and certain forms of bacteria use to convert sunlight into energy. This new form appears to be a kind of “scavenger” that harvests part of the light spectrum that other forms of chlorophyll don’t absorb.

Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With A Nuclear Dash For Thorium (pinecarr)

Muddling on with the status quo is not a grown-up policy. The International Energy Agency says the world must invest $26 trillion (£16.7 trillion) over the next 20 years to avert an energy shock. The scramble for scarce fuel is already leading to friction between China, India, and the West.

Backlash Over China Curb On Metal Exports (pinecarr)

China's draconian export curbs on rare earth minerals needed by the rest of the world for frontier technologies is escalating into a serious diplomatic and trade clash with the United States and other leading powers.

Merkel Eyes An Extra Decade Of Nuclear Power (Johan V.)

The chancellor, citing an independent consultants' report set to be published this week, said such a time frame would ensure Germany's energy needs are met as the country transitions to renewable energy sources. Energy prices would remain under control and goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be reached with an extra 10 to 15 years of nuclear power, Merkel added.

Environment

Risk-Taking Rises as Oil Rigs in Gulf Drill Deeper (jdargis)

Major offshore accidents are not common. But whether through equipment failure or human error, the risks increase as the rigs get larger and more complicated.

Yet even as regulators investigate the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the broader dangers posed by the industry’s push into deeper waters have gone largely unscrutinized.

China: Rare Earth Export Cuts Protect Environment (Ben Johnson)

"Mass extraction of rare earth will cause great damage to the environment and that's why China has tightened controls over rare earth production, exploration and trade," Chen was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying on Saturday.

China issued export quotas for 30,258 tonnes by the end of July, down 40 percent compared to last year, following a nationwide campaign to consolidate the sector and clamp down on illegal production.

Article suggestions for the Daily Digest can be sent to [email protected]. All suggestions are filtered by the Daily Digest team and preference is given to those that are in alignment with the message of the Crash Course and the "3 Es."

8 Comments

saxplayer00o1's picture
saxplayer00o1
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 30 2009
Posts: 4169
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

"Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Gold held by exchange-traded funds in India, the world’s biggest buyer of bullion, may surge as much as 17 times in the next three years as investors seek a refuge from financial turmoil and inflation.

Assets may reach “100 tons to 200 metric tons” from 12 tons now, said Rajan Mehta, executive director of Benchmark Asset Management Co., which runs the nation’s first and biggest gold exchange-traded fund. “The growth will definitely be faster than what we have seen in the past.” "

"WASHINGTON — Government anti-poverty programs that have grown to meet the needs of recession victims now serve a record one in six Americans and are continuing to expand.

More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, the federal-state program aimed principally at the poor, a survey of state data by USA TODAY shows. That's up at least 17% since the recession began in December 2007."

 
 COSTS RISE WITH CASELOADS

"FRANKFORT, Ky. — The largest pension fund for state workers is considered one of the most troubled public employee pension funds in the country, with administrators having to cash out investments each month to pay benefits.

The Kentucky Employees Retirement System — which covers 84,000 retirees and workers in jobs that don't involve hazardous duty — faces a roughly $6billion shortfall."

" The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. The system has approximately 40percent of the assets it needs to cover benefits now. By 2017 that figure will be at a dangerously low 16percent, according to a recent report from a consultant hired by the system."

"Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort."

"More than a fifth of the nation's 5,000 hospitals are owned by governments and many are drowning in debt caused by rising health-care costs, a spike in uninsured patients, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and payments on construction bonds sold in fatter times. Because most public hospitals tend to be solo operations, they don't enjoy the economies of scale, or more generous insurance contracts, which bolster revenue at many larger nonprofit and for-profit systems.

Local officials also predict an expensive future as new requirements—for technology, quality accounting and care coordination—start under the overhaul, which became law in March.

Moody's Investors Service said in April that many standalone hospitals won't have the resources to invest in information technology or manage bundled payments well. Many nonprofits have bad credit ratings and in a tight credit market cannot borrow money, either. Meantime, the federal government is expected to cut aid to hospitals. "

"After admitting twice that the July home sales numbers released last week were “clearly worse than we expected,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan did not rule out the prospect that the Administration will revive the homebuyer tax credit that expired April 30.

Sales of existing homes in July dropped 27.2 percent in July to the lowest rate in 15 years. U.S. new homes dropped in July to the lowest level on record, signaling that even with cheaper prices and reduced borrowing costs the housing market is retreating. Purchases fell 12 percent from June to an annual pace of 276,000, the weakest since the data began in 1963.

Donovan said on CNN’s State of the Union show yesterday that it is “too soon to say” whether the administration’s $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit tax credit, which expired April 30, will be revived.

“All I can tell you is that we are watching very carefully,” Donovan said. “We’re going to be focused like a laser on where the housing market is moving going forward, and we are going to go everywhere we can to make sure this market stabilizes and recovers.”

After Donovan’s remarks, two out of the three Florida candidates for the Senate announced their support for reviving the tax credit. On the same CNN show that Donovan appeared on, Republican-turned-independent Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said reviving the tax credit “would be a great lift” that “would stimulate the economy, it would increase home sales in Florida.”"

....................5A) Obama Administration Plans Mortgage Aid, HUD's Donovan Says

"Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration plans to set up an emergency loan program for the unemployed and a government mortgage refinancing effort in the next few weeks to help homeowners after home sales dropped in July, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said.

“The July numbers were worse than we expected, worse than the general market expected, and we are concerned,” Donovan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program yesterday. “That’s why we are taking additional steps to move forward.”

The administration will begin a Federal Housing Authority refinancing effort to help borrowers who are struggling to pay their mortgages, and will start an emergency homeowners’ loan program for unemployed borrowers so they can stay in their homes, Donovan said."

"Donovan said on CNN yesterday that it is too soon to say whether the administration’s $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit tax credit, which expired April 30, will be revived."

  • Other news and headlines:
 

Japan eases policy to shore up weak economy

Japan announces 920 billion yen stimulus package

Bank of Japan Seems `Powerless' to Halt Yen's Climb, Sumitomo Mitsui Says

China's Mutual Funds Post Second-Biggest Six-Month Loss on Property Curbs

Being broke costs state $550 million (Illinois)

Banks' bad debt ratio for SME loans hits record high in Q2 (South Korea)

Romania May Abandon Yield Cap as Investors Balk as 'Illusion'

German bank's property woes crystallized at Snowmass Village

Scottsdale may stop subsidizing retirees' insurance

 

investorzzo's picture
investorzzo
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 7 2008
Posts: 1182
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

Neither Party Deserves to Lead - Opinion

Americans may be dissatisfied with the economy but don't look for Republicans to sweep control of the House and Senate.

Voters have good reason to not be enamored with both parties.

Democrats have pushed through President Obama's agenda -- more than $800 billion in stimulus spending, health care reform and new financial regulations -- yet the economy remains sluggish and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tells us unemployment will linger near 10% for many months.

The Republican chant of less regulation and lower taxes is just not credible after the Wall Street meltdown of 2008, and with a $1.5 trillion budget deficit.

Voters want a clear plan to balance the budget and create decent jobs, and to win their confidence one or the other party must come clean about what that takes.

Spending is more the problem than taxes -- Congress has no self-discipline.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Neither-Party-Deserves-to-tsmf-3206713700....

Russ_H's picture
Russ_H
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 28 2008
Posts: 18
Interesting lecture

 

 

http://www.khanacademy.org/video/bailout-13--does-the-bailout-have-a-chance-of-working-

Maybe preaching to the converted but....

 

LogansRun's picture
LogansRun
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 1444
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

Wow!  What a coincidence that there's an All Seeing Eye and a Picture of the Fed in a NYT article!  But as usual, there's no such thing as CT's.

idoctor's picture
idoctor
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 4 2008
Posts: 1731
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

Have to laugh as this guy really tells it like it is.

They say the stimulus wasn't big enough so the neo-Keynes won't ever be proved wrong. Krugman can sit proud as we collapse and say we failed because we didn't follow his advice by doing a more massive stimulus.

affert's picture
affert
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2008
Posts: 100
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

I had to laugh at the "hogroelectricity" article. 

"may even solve the mystery of lightnings and could serve to protect the buildings from them" (copied and pasted from original)

Didn't some guy with a kite pretty much figure out what lightening was in 1752?  Haven't we know for centuries that a lightening rod can protect a building from lightening?   (Interestingly "Some of the most ancient lightning conductors can be found in Sri Lanka in places like the Kingdom of Anuradhapura that dates back to thousands of years" from wikipedia)

Beyond that one sentence, this article shows a profound misunderstanding of what energy is, and how electricity works.  I do hope that pinecarr was kidding when he suggested this link. 

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
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Posts: 3998
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

Obama Could Kill Fossil Fuels Overnight With A Nuclear Dash For Thorium

Muddling on with the status quo is not a grown-up policy. The International Energy Agency says the world must invest $26 trillion (£16.7 trillion) over the next 20 years to avert an energy shock. The scramble for scarce fuel is already leading to friction between China, India, and the West.

HERE's what someone I trust thinks of this...

Thorium is not a fissile material, so it can't be used as a nuclear fuel. First it has to be put in a conventional U-235 or Pu-239 reactor and irradiated, during which time a tiny fraction of the Thorium-232 is converted to U-233 and whole lot of other crap that you don't want, so the U-233 has to be refined out of the crud (all highly radioactive). The unchanged Thorium-232 can be extracted and reused, (techniques are "still under development"), but there are 5 other Thorium isotopes that don't occur in nature but could be created in the irradiation process, so you would need to do isotope purification as well. U-233 is fissile, but doesn't occur in nature, so all the fuel will have to be made this way.

Then you can run the U-233 reactor with Th-232 around it to be irradiated. The intention is that this will breed more U-233, and it probably will breed some, but again it also produces a lot of other crap and so the refining has to be done every cycle. Given that all the U-233 has to be created in existing reactors, and then all the U-233 reactors have to be built it will take decades to get off the ground.

The first such reactor was built in the US (Oak Ridge) in 1960 and discontinued in 1976. I should add that to a certain extent, the U-233 fission reaction can occur alongside conventional U-235 reactions, so putting Thorium-232 in conventional fuel could add to the heat produced. It is misleading to call these "Thorium fuelled" as it is the U-233 that acts as the fuel. And finally, isn't it funny how when it suits their argument, the limitations on the abundance of Uranium is taken for granted, and the abundance of Thorium is assumed to be limitless.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Posts: 2247
Re: Daily Digest 8/30 - Growing Economic Fears, America's ...

Affert and Damnthematrix, my bad.  I tend to focus on suggesting economically related articles in the DD, and wanted to try to make an attempt to be more balanced in also posting for the other two E's.  But I am not an expert in energy areas.  So while an energy-related article may appear "interesting" to me, for one reason or another, I don't necessarily have enough knowledge on that subject to make an informed judgement call on it's credibility. 

Given that, combined with both your feedback, I may need to re-think my well-intentioned (but possibly ill-advised) attempt to increase the proportion of energy-related articles that I submit.  At a minimum, I will try to be more careful in just suggesting straight news stories (if they can be distinguished!), and/or be more careful about assessing the reliability/credibility of the sources. 

Sorry 'bout that!

pinecarr

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