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Daily Digest 3/19 - Student Homelessness On The Rise, Food Prices Surge Due To Drought

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 7:47 AM

Economy

Homeless Students On The Rise In Vermont

Andy Snyder works for the Vermont Agency of Education. Along with many other duties, he administers the federal funding for homeless programs in schools. About 1,200 students were served in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent for which there are data. That’s up a whopping 53 percent since 2009.


Homelessness on Rise Among Long Island Students

State education department officials confirmed that Long Island had more than 8,000 homeless students during the 2012-13 school year, up from about 2,600 during 2007-08.

Japan Analysts Split on Fiscal Crisis Time as Tax Looms

Eleven of 34 analysts said the government has four years or less to put fiscal policy on a sustainable path and avoid a crisis, while seven said it has over 10 years. BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse Group AG were among five saying it’s too late to avert one. UBS AG says chances of a fiscal crisis are remote.

Food Prices Surge as Drought Exacts a High Toll on Crops

Federal forecasters estimate retail food prices will rise as much as 3.5% this year, the biggest annual increase in three years, as drought in parts of the U.S. and other producing regions drives up prices for many agricultural goods.

Default risks trigger fresh fears over China property marke

"Banks are heavily exposed to the property sector, so if there are a large number of defaults, banks would have set aside more funds for bad loans and would likely have to slow credit expansion. If those defaults make banks more risk averse, this would only slow growth further, as China's growth is funded by debt," he added.

Russia Axes 6th Bond Sale After Crimea Drove Yield to Record

Russia canceled its sixth ruble bond auction this year after borrowing costs rose to a record as President Vladimir Putin backed annexing the Crimean peninsula and western nations threatened tougher sanctions.

One-third of Americans only have $1,000 saved for retirement

More Americans are confident about their retirement prospects for the first time in seven years, but even so, more than one-third of workers (36%) have a measly $1,000 saved for their later years, according to a new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.


Detroit considers raising parking ticket fines to $45

Revenues were projected at $11.4 million and expenses at $7.8, generating $3.6 million for the city.
But Detroit Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown tells the Detroit News raising fines from $20, $30 and $100 per ticket to $45 and $150 would bring in an additional $6 million every year.

German court confirms euro zone bailout scheme is legal

The court reiterated that the 700 billion euro ($975 billion) fund did not violate the rights of Germany’s Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, to decide budgetary matters as long as it had sufficient oversight powers over the ESM.

The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it (Thomas C.)

The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

Energy, Getting it Wrong Around the World: Interview with Ed Dolan (James S.)

At a point in time when even the Chinese are having second thoughts about the balance they have struck between pollution and growth, the United States should be concerned about how much it’s willing to give up environmentally to remain competitive with energy. But there are ways to balance out this equation without further harming the environment or the economy, according to Libertarian economist Ed Dolan.

Corn-eating worm evolves to feed on GMO corn designed to kill it (Mike K.)

Aaron Gassman, Iowa State University scientists and lead author of the study “Field-evolved resistance by western corn rootworm to multiple Bacillus thuringiensis toxins in transgenic maize,” which was published in the March 17 PNAS journal, told Wired, “Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse. There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.”

Gold & Silver

Click to read the PM Daily Market Commentary: 3/18/14

Provided daily by the Peak Prosperity Gold & Silver Group

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."

11 Comments

saxplayer00o1's picture
saxplayer00o1
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cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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Solar Breakthrough!

The headline and a snippet from MarketWatch:

First Solar Sets Thin-Film Module Efficiency World Record of 17.0 Percent

NEW YORK, Mar 19, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- First Solar, Inc. FSLR +11.02% today announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, achieving a record 17.0 percent total area module efficiency in tests performed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The new record is an increase over the prior record of 16.1 percent efficiency, which the company set in April 2013. This announcement comes weeks after First Solar announced it achieved a world record in CdTe research cell efficiency of 20.4 percent.

The record-setting module was created at First Solar’s Research and Development Center in Perrysburg, Ohio, using production-scale processes and materials, and included several recent technology enhancements that are incrementally being implemented on the company’s commercial production lines.

Yeah...about that thin film...it's a good achievement....however...it is based on cadmium-telluride .... so....how much is there of that stuff?

“Tellurium is vital to thin-film cadmium-tellurium solar cells. The report from the South Africa conference noted that if the world suddenly steps up solar energy development, there could be a squeeze on tellurium, citing the figure quoted by Murray Hitzman of the Colorado School of Mines that the U.S, would need 400 tonnes of tellurium for every gigawatt of solar energy, and the known world availability was just 48,000 tonnes (although the U.S. Geological Survey cites 24,000 tonnes — but that takes into account only tellurium contained in copper deposits; after all, some 90% of tellurium used is now recovered from slimes following refining of copper)."

(Source

 

Hmmmmm...total potential world availability is maximally 48,000 tonnes and 400 tonnes = 1 GW (installed, not delivered energy, by the way)...

...this means that this process could maximally deliver 120 GW of installed solar which ain't chump change but it ain't a Godsend either...

Here's why.  Note that Germany has 35.8 GW of installed solar which provided 18 TWh of electricity in 2011, or ~ 3% of their total electricity.

So if FSLR somehow got their hands on ALL of the remaining tellurium, they could boost Germany's solar PV system by 4x and get that one country up to ~ 15% of their total electricity consumption/production via solar.  

Which means that 100% of the world's tellurium would make about 60 TWhrs of electricity in Germany, probably more in other sunnier places like LA.  So let's be generous and say we can install those thin films in a place 100% better than Germany, which means all of the world's tellurium would provide 120 TWhrs of electricity.

Meanwhile China grew their electricity production/consumption by nearly 400 TWhr in 2013.  Compare the 400 to 120 and you can see why I always react in a muted fashion to these screaming headlines of awesomeness.  

But it also means I'll have to look into tellurium as an investment as I am thoroughly convinced that sooner or later (and hopefully sooner) us humans will decide that burning coal and natural gas for electricity is simply not worth the eventual costs.

Doug's picture
Doug
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further to that

New advances in solar tech may not be necessary to make it competitive with fossil fuel generation:

http://climatecrocks.com/2014/03/19/solar-from-disruptive-to-the-obvious...

It is becoming competitive anyway.

Quote:

Australia is embarking on a radical transformation of its electricity system that will see solar PV transition from being “disruptive” technology to the “incumbent” technology, displacing coal and sparking a radical change in the way that electricity is provided.

Quote:

It was clear, he said, that solar PV has been taken up more rapidly in lower-income suburbs than higher income – because of the attraction for lower-income households to get a lower, fixed rate of electricity.

Now, new financing models – such as leasing and community ownership, as well as models for renters – was likely to spark a third wave of investment in solar PV.

“Further innovation in the business models will potentially unleash still more waves of investment until solar PV has fully transitioned from disruptive technology to the new incumbent technology,” Green says. (You can read the whole presentation here)

Quote:

Business Insider:

Goldman Sachs has set an estimated date for when they believe residential solar power becomes competitive with existing electric across the U.S.

It’s relatively soon.

And it’s mostly thanks to Elon Musk.

Here’s the timeline from Cleantech analysts Brian Lee and Thomas Daniels, included in Goldman’s latest note on Tesla:

  • First, assuming the Gigafactory — the giant manufacturing facility that will soon begin pumping out lithium ion batteries to be used in both Tesla vehicles and renewable energy storage units — reaches its potential, the cost of said batteries should drop to $125/KWh by 2020, from a current price of more than $200/KWh, and dropping 3% each year thereafter.
  • The cost of solar panels continues to fall. Goldman says we can expect an average reduction of 3% annually here as well. That is extremely ambitious — cost reductions have stalled a bit of late — but it does jibe with this famous chart.

solarprice

Finally, if electricity prices continue to climb in-line with historical increases — something that assumes a steadier economic recovery — prices for existing forms of electricity will increase 3% annually.
“This puts LCOE at $0.20 by 2033 which would be at parity with the US grid price,” Goldman says.

I am copying this in the climate change thread as it is obviously connected.

Doug

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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The opportunity....

The opportunity in the solar electric story for me, the really big obvious opportunity, is in the manufacture and sale of vastly more efficient appliances.

For example, it burns me that when I go to buy a freezer my two main choice sets are either traditional or so-called 'solar freezers.  The former come in a narrow band of efficiencies because almost none of them come with more than 2" - 3" inches of surrounding insulation.  

The latter (solar freezers) come with up to 6 inches of foam and correspondingly smaller compressors and other hardware but are, paradoxically, enormously more expensive even though foam is cheaper than hardware.

So the opportunity here seems to me to be for someone, anyone, to begin to put a bit more foam around the boxes, use lighter and cheaper hardware, and sell a less expensive freezer (or fridge) that consumes a lot less energy.

Why there is very little middle ground between the mass market 2"-3" foam and specialized (expensive) 6" foam freezers is really very odd to me.  Seems like an opportunity to me.

 

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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The Yacht Model.

The latter (solar freezers) come with up to 6 inches of foam and correspondingly smaller compressors and other hardware but are, paradoxically, enormously more expensive even though foam is cheaper than hardware.

My energy inputs to my yacht are solar, wind and diesel. Obviously I am going to phase out diesel, but it's high calorific value is irresistible.

Anyway, each joule of energy is jealously guarded. My yacht icebox has a very thick layer of insulation, so instead of buying an off-the-shelf fridge freezer I will be installing the gubbins myself.

It is easy to be wasteful if the energy is cheap(?), abundant, ubiquitous and invisible.

As an electrician I have a lot of trouble trying to convince people that energy is a substance. They think that energy conservation is all about turning off the lights. I did an exercise at a medium sized hospital in which we measured the consumption of energy of all the utilities. In the days when lighting was inefficient, the total lighting load was 5%. In other words, if we disconnected all the lights we would have saved 5% of the bill.

The big killer was heating and cooling. I tried, without success, to get management's support to install phase change materials. I demonstrated that we could have saved the taxpayer $5 million per year. (In a regional hospital no less). This would have enabled us to triple the number of nurses.

What a bunch of careerist seat warmers!

Mots's picture
Mots
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Business "news" about "technology breakthroughs" are NONSENSE

I have not seen a single business news article  about a breakthrough in technology that was not self-serving misleading nonsense designed to promote the  authors's (or author's employer's) financial interests.  Accordingly, we are wasting our time exploring and debating the so called facts in such articles.

Case in point is this article about world record 17 % solar module efficiency that Chris Martenson correctly pointed out has a flaw in relying on exotic materials.

for some time now, you can buy off the shelf  (Module HIT® HD-series with 250W output Panasonic VBHH250), 20.8% cell efficiency and 18.0% Module efficiency without going into exotic materials (and arguments about their depletion).  AND, the superior efficiency of the existing off the shelf modules that lack exotic materials arise  from advances in silicon technology (not rare earth usage).  And these guys who sell such superior panels NOW, will cheerfully replace the most expensive material: (silver) in their panels with something like copper (gee whiz, 30% more needed due to lower conductivity: the real challenge being the electron tunneling from the silicon to the metal facilitated by lead and silver oxide: a topic that no one is willing or able to discuss since technology is difficult to understand for even people  in the field, much less an educated college business/psychology/journalism/biology major who writes breathtaking news articles to get you to click on their websites).

the reason WHY the MSM and industries are excited about "thin film" solar panels in the first place (the subject article) is because the thin film approach is supposed to be lower cost by NOT HAVING to USE (SEMI-)EXOTIC MATERIALS (such as crystalline or polycrystalline silicon), so the entire purport of the business article (get around exotic material usage) referred to is ridiculous.

and by the way, another reference posted today exhorts that "cost of said (lithium) batteries" will drop much from present 200$ per KWh to allow lithium battery backup and make solar competitive for present life style by 2020 (see above article "Business Insider" posted by Doug.  NONSENSE.  The present cost of AGM lead acid batteries is 200$ per Kw hour and lithium is about 100 times higher than  this.  I dont have time to comment on other, numerous wrong facts on techno-whimsy  presented on this blog.  

Virtually every article on technology in the MSM is filled with nonsense and it is not worth paying attention to.  How about this: if you want to know something about technology developments, why not take an engineer in the field to dinner and ask for an informed  opinion, and be careful not to shout MSM slogans at them when you disagree based on your superior knowledge obtained from your education from advertisers and MSM pundits.

The basic problem is that the writers and readers of such articles are in the dark and people that understand are living in a different  world.   In their  world, you cant learn technology by replacing the "hard" and arduous engineering and science  courses that everyone else assiduously avoided in college with a few hours of surfing the internet and watching Utube videos.  

Despite all of the misleading nonsense one thing I like the best about this  blog is that real  off the wall stuff is filtered by the editors and CM himself takes the time to point out problems or contradictions occasionaly in what is posted.  This theme (sifting truth from MSM technology) can and should be the basis of a pay-for view blog, in my opinion.
Mots

 

 

 

cmartenson wrote:

The headline and a snippet from MarketWatch:

First Solar Sets Thin-Film Module Efficiency World Record of 17.0 Percent

NEW YORK, Mar 19, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- First Solar, Inc. FSLR +11.02% today announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, achieving a record 17.0 percent total area module efficiency in tests performed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The new record is an increase over the prior record of 16.1 percent efficiency, which the company set in April 2013. This announcement comes weeks after First Solar announced it achieved a world record in CdTe research cell efficiency of 20.4 percent.

The record-setting module was created at First Solar’s Research and Development Center in Perrysburg, Ohio, using production-scale processes and materials, and included several recent technology enhancements that are incrementally being implemented on the company’s commercial production lines.

Yeah...about that thin film...it's a good achievement....however...it is based on cadmium-telluride .... so....how much is there of that stuff?

“Tellurium is vital to thin-film cadmium-tellurium solar cells. The report from the South Africa conference noted that if the world suddenly steps up solar energy development, there could be a squeeze on tellurium, citing the figure quoted by Murray Hitzman of the Colorado School of Mines that the U.S, would need 400 tonnes of tellurium for every gigawatt of solar energy, and the known world availability was just 48,000 tonnes (although the U.S. Geological Survey cites 24,000 tonnes — but that takes into account only tellurium contained in copper deposits; after all, some 90% of tellurium used is now recovered from slimes following refining of copper)."

(Source

 

Hmmmmm...total potential world availability is maximally 48,000 tonnes and 400 tonnes = 1 GW (installed, not delivered energy, by the way)...

...this means that this process could maximally deliver 120 GW of installed solar which ain't chump change but it ain't a Godsend either...

Here's why.  Note that Germany has 35.8 GW of installed solar which provided 18 TWh of electricity in 2011, or ~ 3% of their total electricity.

So if FSLR somehow got their hands on ALL of the remaining tellurium, they could boost Germany's solar PV system by 4x and get that one country up to ~ 15% of their total electricity consumption/production via solar.  

Which means that 100% of the world's tellurium would make about 60 TWhrs of electricity in Germany, probably more in other sunnier places like LA.  So let's be generous and say we can install those thin films in a place 100% better than Germany, which means all of the world's tellurium would provide 120 TWhrs of electricity.

Meanwhile China grew their electricity production/consumption by nearly 400 TWhr in 2013.  Compare the 400 to 120 and you can see why I always react in a muted fashion to these screaming headlines of awesomeness.  

But it also means I'll have to look into tellurium as an investment as I am thoroughly convinced that sooner or later (and hopefully sooner) us humans will decide that burning coal and natural gas for electricity is simply not worth the eventual costs.

Nate's picture
Nate
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Posts: 573
solar stirling energy systems

This isn't my field, but as I understand it PV have some fundamental efficiency limits that would make me look at other alternatives. In a Si-based cell, photons exceeding 1150 nm (1.08 eV) aren't energetic enough to raise electrons into the conduction band. Photons of shorter wavelengths (greater energy) will move the electrons, but with less than optimal efficiency since one photon will move only one electron. UV photons will provide the same output as 1100 nm photon despite the energy difference. 

More complexity can be built in to get around some of these issues, but another approach would be to utilize heat and use it to provide electricity through mechanical means. Engines also have limitations, but by comparison, the technology is relatively simply and materials less exotic.

Here is one approach:

https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2008/solargrid.html

I had a more recent link with higher efficiencies, but I can’t find it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Posts: 3936
Not Withstanding Transmutations.

Struggling with my need for approval, it would be remiss of me not to point out that Toyota has replicated Mitsubishi's efforts at Transmutation.

I do not know where this technique will go, but it might be a game changer if rare elements are required in small amounts.

I believe that the process is exothermic because not enough energy is pumped into the method for nuclear transmutation- and any nuclear transmutation will involve a lot of energy- either endo or exothermic.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Posts: 2237
ZH: The Chinese Yuan Is Collapsing

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-19/chinese-yuan-collapsing

The Yuan has weakened over 250 pips in early China trading. Trading at almost 6.22, we are now deeply into the significant-loss-realizing region of the world's carry-traders and Chinese over-hedgersMorgan Stanley estimates a minimum $4.8bn loss for each 100 pip move. However, the bigger picture is considerably worse as the vicious circle of desperate liquidity needs are starting to gang up on Hong Kong real estate and commodity prices. For those who see the silver lining in this and construe all this as a reason to buy more developed world stocks on the premise that the money flooding out of China (et al.) will be parked in the S&P are overlooking the fact that the purchase price of these now-unwanted positions was most likely borrowed, meaning that their liquidation will also extinguish the associated credit, not re-allocate it.

Rector's picture
Rector
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Posts: 490
You Could Build One

I built one at a ranch once for a guy who wanted a walk in freezer for hanging deer after they were gutted.  We created an airtight envelope, sprayed this stuff 10" thick in the wall cavity and voila! we had a seriously efficient cooler.  It really works and could be done on a freezer too.  It is already being done on traditional water heaters like this.

Rector

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 201
Doug wrote:And it’s mostly
Doug wrote:

And it’s mostly thanks to Elon Musk.

Elon Musk is interviewed on Juice Rap News at 2:17.

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