Interesting & Important News & Analysis, August 15, 2019

Trump Plans to End Methane Curbs That Oil Companies Want to Keep

… methane accounts for roughly 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it’s been blamed for up to a quarter of the planet’s warming as it has more than 84 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide the first two decades after entering the atmosphere. Methane’s warming potential over a 100-year time span is at least 28 times that of carbon dioxide.

Natural gas produces half as many carbon dioxide emissions as coal when used to produce electricity, but methane leaks undermine that benefit, providing fodder [evidence] to activists fighting to block the construction of new pipelines and power plants using the fossil fuel.

Tech Suppliers Shift Away From China Despite Trump Tariff Delay

Motels as homeless shelters? More local governments are housing people in motel rooms

Did I miss it, or did the article not mention cooking facilities?

The following is a great argument for organic farming.

How a Little Known Government Board Decimated Gulf Coast Fisheries

Toxic algae closed all 21 of Mississippi’s beaches after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a Louisiana spillway, pouring more than 10 trillion gallons of freshwater laced with fertilizer, pesticides, sewage and other pollutants into the Mississippi Sound.

From Madagascar to Brazil, researchers pick best spots to replant forests

Researchers have identified swathes of lost tropical rainforests as the best places to replant trees, hoping to redress some of the damage done by deforestation and limit climate change.

A four-year study used high-resolution satellite imagery to pinpoint more than 100 million denuded hectares (247 million acres) – from South Sudan to Brazil and India – that would deliver good results if reforested.

“Globally, more than half of the tropical forests in the world are gone – most of that in the last 50 years,” said Robin Chazdon, a professor at the University of Connecticut ….

IKEA to use only renewable and recycled materials by 2030

Inter IKEA, the owner of the brand best known for its low-cost flat-pack furniture, said on Thursday it aimed to reduce the climate impact of each of its products by more than two thirds by the end of next decade.

Currently, 60 percent of the IKEA range is based on renewable materials, while nearly 10 percent contain recycled materials, an Inter IKEA spokeswoman said.

Chattanooga’s airport is now 100% solar powered

Explainer: ‘Desertification’ and the role of climate change

The IMF’s Latest Victims [cached]

The IMF’s bizarre belief in “expansionary austerity” would be laughable if it were not so damaging. How can the IMF justify an approach with such a poor track record? One explanation could be a lack of accountability that permeates the institution’s bureaucracy, right up to the very top. If that’s the case, boosting accountability should be the next IMF managing director’s first order of business – that, and aligning the Fund’s lending approach with economic realities.

CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978

From 1978 to 2018, CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5% (940.3% under the options-realized measure), far outstripping S&P stock market growth (706.7%) and the wage growth of very high earners (339.2%). In contrast, wages for the typical worker grew by just 11.9%.

… rising CEO pay does not reflect rising value of skills, but rather CEOs’ use of their power to set their own pay.

Subprime Auto Loans Blow Up, Delinquencies at 2009 Level, Biggest 12-Month Surge Since 2010

The auto industry depends on subprime-rated customers that make up over 21% of total auto-loan originations. Without these customers, the wheels would come off the industry. And tightening up lending standards to reduce risks would cause serious damage to the undercarriage. Subprime lending is very profitable – until the loans blow up – because interest rates can be high. But those subprime auto loans are blowing up at rates not seen since the worst days of the Financial Crisis ….

The 5 Most Frustrating Turnkey Rental Issues Investors Face

I can say that every bad tenant I’ve ever had in my properties came from a bad property manager. …
… My biggest mistake has been waiting too long to fire the PM and hire a new one.

Technology, Services Drive Apartment Tenant Retention

New technologies and community gathering spaces are the necessities for apartment buildings today. Properties appropriately leveraging technology, including smart home features, and integrating community gathering spaces and events, are seeing better tenant retention and faster lease times.

“Today’s renters are demanding service-based amenities,” Max Sharkansky, managing partner at Trion Properties, tells “In 2019 for example, one emerging trend is the prioritization of health and wellness amenities within communities. Residents have a choice in the current market, and they will select communities with upgraded gym equipment, fitness classes with trainers, and other wellness-focused offerings.”

How To Increase Your Multifamily Profits Through Tax Abatement

Tax abatement is a discount on your taxes realized when you make capital improvements to a property. Typically, when you update a property, the property taxes rise. But cities, towns, and municipalities incentivize some types of improvements–from energy efficiency to the creation of affordable housing–through tax abatement.

World’s largest urban farm to open – on a Paris rooftop

The 14,000m² farm is set to open in the south-west of Paris early next year.

China July Industrial production +4.8% y/y (expected 6.0%) + other July activity data

SF school board votes to save Depression-era murals

The Life of Washington paintings depict America’s first president as a slave owner and architect of violent American expansionism, intended as a critique not just of Washington’s life but by extension all of American history.

However, for decades some students and staff have alleged that the murals themselves promote racist imagery of black slaves and Native Americans. An advisory panel recommended painting over the scenes earlier this year.

WPA murals were always anti-racist, always progressive, by definition. To think otherwise, is to be ignorant of US history. To act on that ignorance is to diminish the efforts of anti-racist progressives of the New Deal era. It’s harmful, not helpful. Teach the children properly! Covering the murals is absolutely the wrong thing to do. The KKK loves it that the murals will be covered up.

The word democracy doesn’t show up anywhere in the article. That’s a serious problem.

Are U.S. Tariffs Turning Vietnam into an Export Powerhouse?

Within Asia, Vietnam appears to be picking up market share from China, but it remains too small to replace China in a significant way any time soon. Indeed, total U.S. imports from Vietnam amount to about $50 billion, equivalent to only one-fifth of the value of imports from China already on the tariff lists, and one-tenth of China’s total imports. Clearly, a shifting of suppliers from China to other countries will have to be broader than just Vietnam, with Malaysia and Thailand also potential beneficiaries. Still, the fact that Vietnam’s export gains to the United States are of similar magnitude to Mexico’s is quite impressive, since Vietnam’s GDP is only about $250 billion, one-fifth of Mexico’s $1.15 trillion. This means that the same dollar-value gain would represent a much larger proportional increase for Vietnam than for Mexico.

Sustaining this trend will pose challenges for Vietnam. Labor costs are likely to rise, and the country will face pressure to boost postsecondary training to increase the supply of high-skilled labor as it seeks to attract higher value-added manufacturing. In addition, for Vietnam to truly benefit from technology diffusion via FDI, further restructuring of state-owned enterprises will be important to allow more space for private companies to scale and link up to global value chains. Finally, as Vietnam’s prominence as an exporter grows, scrutiny on its currency practices will increase, to ensure that Vietnamese exporters are not gaining unfair competitive advantage.

New Orleans passes restrictions on short-term housing rentals

The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed last week two ordinances to overhaul the short-term rentals, such as through Airbnb or HomeAway.
The first ordinance bans all short-term rentals in the French Quarter (except on Bourbon Street) and the Garden District. It prohibits full-house rentals unless the owner resides on the property and can provide a homestead exemption as proof, and it caps the number of rentals allowed in commercial and mixed-use buildings. The second ordinance establishes a structure for permits and fees, operating regulations and enforcement penalties.
The new regulations, permitting structure and fees, take effect on December 1.

Short-term rentals have proven to be a contentious issue. Residents consider them a source of income and many governments want to protect the right to conduct business. But they’re also viewed as a contributor to cost of living increases and housing supply shortages because they eliminate units that could be used to house full-time residents.

800 women live without shelter in Skid Row. Now 25 have a safe place to sleep

Adani beware: coal is on the road to becoming completely uninsurable

Why are insurers abandoning coal?

By the nature of their business, insurers cannot afford to indulge the denialist fantasies still popular in some sectors of industry. Damage caused by climate disasters is one of their biggest expenses, and insurers are fully aware that that damage is set to rise over time.

Even so, a sufficiently hard-headed company might choose to work both sides of the street – continuing to do business with fossil fuel companies, while also writing more expensive insurance against climate damage.

The bigger problem insurers face is the risk of litigation holding fossil fuel companies responsible for climate-related damage.

Indonesia president makes moratorium on forest clearance permanent

… permits for palm-oil, pulp wood, logging and mining had been granted on 1.6 million hectares from the original moratorium.

Human-caused global warming deniers get more media play than scientists: study

… deniers have garnered far more media attention than prominent climate scientists over the years, fuelling public confusion and slowing the response to global warming, researchers reported Tuesday.

The reason the deniers have been given more time and coverage comes down to one thing: money. The moneyed interests have purchased the time and coverage one way or another. They almost always put money before everything else. The only time they don’t seems to be when the problem hits them personally. That means they are the opposite of empathic. They have a serious mental deficiency that’s causing great damage to the Earth and to humanity.

The next linked article appears to me to misunderstand the ability of Xi to undercut everything cited in the article in favor of the protesters. The protesters are no match for Xi’s forces. If Xi were to decide to have the thing over with in less than 24 hours, he could do it. His forces could put so much fear into the protesters that nobody would step out of line. It’s happened before, and Hong Kong is not positioned to prevent it from happening there. It’s all entirely up to Xi and whether he wants to risk butting heads with what would be justified, consensus, Western public opinion against him.

A Tiananmen Solution in Hong Kong? [cached; paywall]