Analysis

Getting the Measure of Sustainable Economic Growth

Getting the Measure of Sustainable Economic Growth

(The Ecologist) The new Index of Sustainable Economic Growth shows there is a shift to strike a healthier balance between support for the economy, and care for essential social and environmental systems. But can it ever replace GDP as a measure of progress? JAMES CURRAN explores the idea.

It looks like there is a shift to strike a healthier balance between support for the economy, and care for essential social and environmental systems “It’s time to go beyond GDP” claimed Manuel Baroso, President of the European Commission in 2007, but for over 60 years GDP has remained the obsession, and some have said fetish, of most Governments and most commentators.

Report Ranks Top States for Corporate Renewable Energy Procurement

Report Ranks Top States for Corporate Renewable Energy Procurement

(Green Tech Media) Not all states are equal when it comes to renewable energy policy — particularly when it comes to how well states accommodate corporate clean energy procurements, according to a new report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Information Technology Industry Council.

The commercial and industrial renewable energy market currently totals around 5 gigawatts of contracted wind and solar power, with these large-scale customers planning to procure an additional 60 gigawatts by 2025, according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA). Whether or not companies will be able to meet their procurement goals relies heavily on state-level policies, which some leading corporations are actively trying to make more favorable .

Smaller Businesses Want Renewable Energy Developers To Spread The Green

Smaller Businesses Want Renewable Energy Developers To Spread The Green

(Forbes) Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago. Smaller enterprises want energy developers to spread the green, allowing them to get in on the renewable wave rolling through America. The dynamic has made it easier for larger corporations with more demand to buy wind and solar electricity but it has nudged out the less brawnier brands.

Atlas shrugged — and the U.S. economy is feeling the weight

Atlas shrugged — and the U.S. economy is feeling the weight

(Market Watch) The U.S. economy is being weighed down by slow growth around the world. In normal times a steady pace of hiring and consumer spending would mean the economy is doing great. But these are not normal times.

American companies continue to hire workers at a rapid clip — more than 200,000 new jobs a month. All the people now working and earning paychecks helped to boost consumer spending in 2015 to the fastest rate in a decade.

That hasn’t translated into stronger U.S. growth, though. The economy expanded at a measly 1.4% rate in the 2015 fourth quarter and it could do even worse in the first three months of 2016.

As the Debt Hits $19 Trillion, Has the US Reached a Tipping Point?

As the Debt Hits $19 Trillion, Has the US Reached a Tipping Point?

(The Fiscal Times) For several years, the growing federal debt was ignored as the economic recovery chipped away at once massive spending shortfalls of $1 trillion or more. Now, there’s an uneasy feeling among many policy makers and experts that we are beginning to slip back into risky fiscal terrain.

The last time the budget was in balance was in 2001, at the tail end of Democratic President Bill Clinton’s second term. While the government has been awash in red ink ever since, President Obama and congressional GOP leaders have rightfully crowed about a series of bipartisan deals that helped bring down the annual deficit from an astounding $1.4 trillion in 2009 – at the very worst point in the recession – to $438.4 billion just last year.

But times are changing again, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued several distress calls in recent months that the deficit is headed north again. We will return to another era of big deficits, CBO warns, unless Congress and the White House step in with some meaningful spending reforms. And that, of course, means figuring out how to provide Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to a growing army of retiring baby boomers without breaking the bank.

Renewable energy’s global growing pains

Renewable energy’s global growing pains

(ArsTechnica) The story of the US’ energy economy has become simple: natural gas has gotten incredibly cheap, wind is catching up, and solar will be competitive before the decade is out. All of this is driving a boom in renewable energy and pushing coal out of its dominant spot on the market.

But the US isn’t the world—it’s not even the largest carbon emitter anymore—and its experience doesn’t always reflect what’s happening in other countries. At the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (or AAAS), speakers had the chance to review what’s happening with renewable energy in a number of other critical countries: Germany, India, and China.

The Myth Of Expensive Nuclear Power

The Myth Of Expensive Nuclear Power

(oilprice.com) Lovering, Yip and Nordhaus (Science Direct April 2016) reviewed construction cost data for 349 reactors in the U.S., France, Canada, West Germany, Japan, India, and South Korea, encompassing 58 percent of all reactors built globally, and concluded that there is no inherent cost escalation trend associated with nuclear technology. There is however a vast variation in construction costs from one country to another. Some countries like the U.S., Canada, Japan and W Germany responded to the Three Mile Island accident by imposing regulations that pushed construction costs through the roof, while France, S Korea and India did not. S Korea and India are still able to deliver nuclear power stations for $2 billion / GW ($2010) installed capacity which remains a small fraction of the capital cost of solar PV.

The real war on coal is happening in China right now

The real war on coal is happening in China right now

(Vox) Not going away without a fight. The most important global warming story over the past two years has arguably been China’s struggle to suppress its once-insatiable appetite for coal.

Lately, those efforts have begun paying off. Recent data suggests that China’s carbon dioxide emissions fell in 2015, driven by a sharp drop in coal use. There’s always plenty of uncertainty with China’s energy stats, but this shift does look significant.

Is Oil Pushing Down The Economy, Or The Other Way Around?

Is Oil Pushing Down The Economy, Or The Other Way Around?

(oilprice.com) Conventional wisdom has long held that when oil prices drop, consumers experience an increase in discretionary income while corporations experience a boost in profit margins. At the same time, companies in the consumer discretionary sector get a boost in sales volume as consumers spend more on discretionary items.

The logical conclusion of this scenario would be record gains in the stock market as investors anticipate strong corporate profits. However, those expectations were largely shaped by past supply shocks – mostly on the negative side – and recent stock market performance suggests that we are now dealing with an entirely different dynamic.

For Once, Low Oil Prices May Be a Problem for World’s Economy

For Once, Low Oil Prices May Be a Problem for World's Economy

(Bloomberg) For the last 75 years, almost every economic crisis has been preceded by an oil price spike. The worry now is that low energy prices are pushing the global economy into a tailspin.

While the idea is counter-intuitive, it’s gaining traction because a growing share of the world’s consumers and investors are in the very places getting hammered by the rout in commodities prices. Apple Inc., for example, blamed weaker sales last quarter on lower economic growth in some oil-rich countries.

“I never thought I would wish, let alone pray, for higher oil prices, but I am,” said Han de Jong, chief economist at ABN Amro Bank NV in Amsterdam. “The world badly needs higher oil prices.”

How the world’s great oil powers became so powerless

How the world’s great oil powers became so powerless

(Washington Post) To get a sense of how much more oil the world has than it needs, look to the world’s oceans. Every day, supertankers carrying 2 million barrels apiece sit idle, in hopes that the price of oil one day will rise again. Or look at the line of ships being turned away from ports at the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea and everywhere in between. In some parts of the world, there is no more land left to store oil. Or, perhaps, look at the United States’ largest oil storage facility— a series of massive drums across the plains of Oklahoma — which is storing more crude than at any point in the past decade.

Why the Dow Is Vulnerable to Weak Oil Prices

Why the Dow Is Vulnerable to Weak Oil Prices

(The Fuse) The tight connection between the stock markets and oil prices has received a lot of attention this year, and for good reason. The correlation between the two reached the highest level in 26 years in January. In a time of financial and economic turbulence, all asset classes tend to move together—which is partly why the two are so closely aligned at this moment.

The World’s Economy Soared Last Year (or Plunged)

The World’s Economy Soared Last Year (or Plunged)

(NY Times) Did global output rise or fall last year?

It all depends on what currency you use to keep track. Measured in dollars, global growth recorded the first drop since the end of the financial crisis late in the last decade, declining by nearly 5 percent, from $77.3 trillion to $73.5 trillion. That’s largely because of the dollar’s rise, which makes the output of countries with weaker currencies seem smaller when measured in dollars.

University of Michigan study weighs efficiencies of hydrogen and pure electric vehicles

University of Michigan study weighs efficiencies of hydrogen and pure electric vehicles

(CNET) Green represents the best figure, red represents the worst, and yellow sits between the two, in case you were curious. It doesn’t take much research to realize the efficiency benefits of electric vehicles over their gasoline counterparts. However, if you want to quantify those benefits, it helps to do a little digging. The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute did exactly that in its latest study.

Things Have Changed: Low Oil Prices a Threat to the U.S. Economy

Things Have Changed: Low Oil Prices a Threat to the U.S. Economy

(The Fuse) Low oil prices are threatening the U.S. economy. Yes, you read that right. The downside of becoming a “global energy superpower” is that with lower prices come economic pain.

The effects of oil prices on the U.S. economy aren’t as straightforward as they used to be. In the past, high oil prices have helped induce economic recessions, most recently in 2008, while low prices were a significant windfall to consumers. That still holds true to a certain degree. Motorists and energy-intensive industries are seeing significant cost savings from weaker prices, and price volatility and high levels still threaten economic growth.

Shale Bubble Creates Financial Risks, But Fallout Will Be Contained

Shale Bubble Creates Economic Risks, But Fallout Will Be Contained

(The Fuse) Cheap credit, irrational exuberance, an overvalued industry, banks taking on too much debt, assets losing value quickly. It all seems like a recipe for disaster, and that’s what’s happened in the shale oil sector over the past several years. As news coverage links the recent stock market tumbles to the sharp decline in oil prices , there have been comparisons between the collapsing oil price and the housing crisis that brought down the U.S. economy in 2007-08.

What Low Oil Prices Mean for Electric Vehicles

What Low Oil Prices Mean for Electric Vehicles

(The Fuse) Oil prices declined more than 70 percent over the past 15 months, recently closing below $30 a barrel for the first time in 12 years. Consequently, over the same period, gasoline prices plummeted from $3.14 a gallon in October of 2014, and now hover around just $2.00.

Low prices, which are expected to persist through at least 2016 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration , propelled automakers to a record year in which they sold 17.5 million cars and light trucks. Over half of all vehicles sold in 2015 were either light trucks or SUVs, and while low fuel prices may nudge consumers toward such vehicles, it is less obvious how a sustained low-price environment will affect the growing market for electric vehicles.

Can lower oil prices cause a recession?

Can lower oil prices cause a recession?

(EconBrowser.com) Donald Luskin writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The global economy is slipping into recession. The evidence is showing up in all the usual ways: slowing output growth, slumping purchasing-manager indexes, widening credit spreads, declining corporate earnings, falling inflation expectations, receding capital investment and rising inventories. But this is a most unusual recession– the first one ever caused by falling oil prices.

The Oil Conundrum

The oil conundrum

(The Economist) OIL traders are paying unusual attention to Kharg, a small island 25km (16 miles) off the coast of Iran. On its lee side, identifiable to orbiting satellites by the transponders on their decks, are half a dozen or so huge oil tankers that have been anchored there for months. Farther down Iran’s Persian Gulf coast is another flotilla of similarly vast vessels. They contain up to 50m barrels of Iranian crude—just what a world awash with oil could do without.

Who’s Afraid of Cheap Oil?

Who’s afraid of cheap oil?

(The Economist) Along with bank runs and market crashes, oil shocks have rare power to set monsters loose. Starting with the Arab oil embargo of 1973, people have learnt that sudden surges in the price of oil cause economic havoc. Conversely, when the price slumps because of a glut, as in 1986, it has done the world a power of good. The rule of thumb is that a 10% fall in oil prices boosts growth by 0.1-0.5 percentage points.

How Energy Efficiency Can Help Manage the Duck Curve

How Energy Efficiency Can Help Manage the Duck Curve

(Greentech Media) Distributed generation is changing the load shape of the grid. Increasingly, the traditional afternoon peak is being replaced by an afternoon valley, when solar generation is at its highest. The valley period is in turn followed by a steep and problematic peak in the late afternoon, as power from solar generation decreases, people return home from work and school, and residential loads increase.

Why the falling oil price may not lead to boom

Why the falling oil price may not lead to boom

(The Guardian) There was a time when Blue Monday meant a song by New Order. These days it is the third Monday in January, allegedly the most depressing day of the year.

Whether there is any scientific basis for this claim is debatable, but for what it’s worth the argument is that people feel miserable because Christmas is over, the credit card bills are arriving, it’s dark when you go to work in the morning and it’s dark when you head home.

The Problem With Rooftop Solar That Nobody Is Talking About

The Problem With Rooftop Solar That Nobody Is Talking About

(Mother Jones) To understand his hang-up, you need a bit of Electricity 101. If you have solar panels on your roof, the electrons they produce flow across the electric grid like water, following a path of least resistance. As they whiz around, electrons are impossible to track and look identical, whether they’re coming from solar panels, a coal plant, or whatever. But there is value in keeping tabs on the renewable ones, so energy wonks came up with renewable energy credits (RECs) , a tradable financial instrument that corresponds to a certain amount of energy produced by a certain renewable source like solar or wind.

Why clean energy is now expanding even when fossil fuels are cheap

Why clean energy is now expanding even when fossil fuels are cheap

(Washington Post) The latest evidence that 2015 was a breakout year for clean energy is in, and it’s particularly telling.

In a new analysis , Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that 2015 was a record year for global investment in the clean energy space, with $ 329 billion invested in wind, solar panels, biomass plants and more around the world.

The latest evidence that 2015 was a breakout year for clean energy is in, and it’s particularly telling.