These 11 companies are leading the way to a circular economy

The circular economy is more than just a buzz phrase. With the global population predicted to approach 9 billion people by 2030, we are using more resources than the planet can provide. Our future depends on reusing what we have in a sustainable way. Fortunately one resource that is unlimited is innovation, and many companies are developing ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

I found these ideas not only fascinating but encouraging.

New Mexico Senate Passes 100% Carbon-Free Electricity Target

... As of November, coal supplied 50 percent of New Mexico's electricity, natural gas produced 30 percent and renewables 20 percent.

State-level efforts to take greenhouse gas emissions out of the electrical grid have become increasingly common.

Hawaii passed its law first, followed by California and Washington, D.C. At least a dozen other states are considering policies to achieve either 100 percent renewable or 100 percent carbon-free electricity. The latter allows for a broader range of technologies, such as nuclear or carbon capture and sequestration. [Source]

Evidence Grows That Trump's Trade Wars Are Hitting U.S. Economy [hold your water]

President Donald Trump regularly declares that he’s winning his trade wars. Yet evidence is growing that the U.S. economy is a net loser so far.

"So far" is irrelevant. Trump's not gauging his negotiating position and the end result on "so far." The longer term is what will matter. Trump may quit too soon. I hope not. He may not hold out for any democratic changes in China. I hope not.

The criticisms of Trump's tariffs are coming from "free trade" globalists (international corporations) with a vested interest in the anti-tariff mantra because tariffs work if done correctly. They don't want you knowing it. Tariffs are regulations. "Fee traders" are anti-regulation so they can run over the top of everyone else and become even more obscenely rich. I think Trump's position is not against them but that he thinks they don't know what's best even for themselves as greedy people. Remember, calling them greedy is factual and no insult to them. "Greed is good" actually works for them.

In two separate papers published over the weekend, some of the world’s leading trade economists declared Trump’s tariffs to be the most consequential trade experiment seen since the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariffs blamed for worsening the Great Depression. They also found the initial cost of Trump’s duties to the U.S. economy was in the billions and being borne largely by American consumers.

Smoot-Hawley tariffs were not responsible for worsening the Great Depression. Don't buy the narrative until you've thoroughly researched it. Also, the Chinese are bearing the costs even more so. Both Trump and Xi know that. That's why Trump says he's winning.

In a study published on Saturday, economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Princeton University and Columbia University found that tariffs imposed ... also were causing the diversion of $165 billion a year in trade leading to significant costs for companies having to reorganize supply chains.

There's nothing wrong with having to reorganize supply chains if the cost will be worth it in the longer run. It's why Trump has said he's in no hurry to finalize a deal. He knows that the longer the tariffs run (and he will raise them if necessary), the more the Chinese will cave to his demands. If he plays his cards correctly, the US will come way out ahead relative to where the US has been vis-a-vis China.

Significantly, the analysis of import price data by Mary Amiti, Stephen Redding and David Weinstein also found that almost all of the cost of the tariffs was being paid by U.S. consumers and companies. That contradicts Trump’s claim that China is paying the tariffs.

They did not look at Chinese costs in terms of lower prices and higher subsidies. If China weren't being hurt, China wouldn't be negotiating and changing things up, which they are.

Nobody has any patience. Everybody so geared to quarterly reports. The Chinese think in terms of five years at the least.

After accounting for the impact of higher tariff revenue and the benefits of higher prices to domestic producers the study found the aggregate annual loss for the U.S. economy fell to $6.4 billion, or 0.03 percent of GDP.

Perspective please! We have a $22 Trillion GDP. I'm not losing any sleep.

At a minimum, Trump said, tariffs were “the greatest negotiating tool in the history of our country,” pointing to talks now underway with China which appear increasingly likely to result in a deal in the coming weeks.

He's practicing the American School of Economics instead of the Austrian School of Economics. I'll take the American over the Austrian every single time, and so should you. I'm not saying he'll do the best job of using tariffs, but tariffs, per se, definitely are not some inherently evil thing.

The excellent academic economist, James K. Galbraith, reiterates my thoughts on MMT versus Kenneth Rogoff

I'm not the only one:

... “deficits don’t matter”? I know of no MMT adherent who has made such a claim. MMT acknowledges that policy can be too expansionary and push past resource constraints, causing inflation and exchange-rate depreciation – which may or may not be desirable. (Hyperinflation, on the other hand, is a bogeyman, which some MMT critics deploy as a scare tactic.) [Source]

MMT related articles on this site

Concerned about the health of your tenants? How's the air-pollution, and what are you doing about it?

Last week scientists put the number of early deaths caused worldwide by air pollution at double previous estimates: 8.8 million a year, according to research published in the European Heart Journal, meaning toxic air is killing more people than tobacco smoking. [Source]

I'm surrounded by neighbors with old fireplaces, old wood-burning stoves, old fireplace inserts, oil-burning heaters, and who knows what else. When the temperature drops, the smoke greatly increases. No-burn days are not nearly good enough to stop it. They help, but simply don't kick in quickly enough.

Lately, we've had some of the worst air on the planet during our summers due to forest fires. Is really bad pollution going to become constant?

The freeway isn't far off and neither is the airport. The noise levels are unhealthy; but, when the air is still and cold, the jet fumes are much worse than the fireplace smoke.

Replacing heating sources and paying for fuel or energy can be a real difficulty. That's why I advocate government mandating upgrades and means-tested subsidies for the upgrades and clean energy.

We can pay now or pay much more later due to ill-health and stunted minds.

China’s GDP growth could be half of reported number, says US economist at prominent Chinese university

In a speech in Shanghai this week, Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Peking University, warned that China’s debt is closely linked to the government’s perceived overstatement of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The government is accused of perpetuating the existence of “zombie companies”, by granting loss-making companies loans. Banks in turn treat these companies as creditworthy, whereas in reality they should be written off as bad debt, Pettis said.

“If you believe there is bad debt that has not been sufficiently written down, you must believe that China’s GDP is overstated, relative to what it would be in any other country. That must be true,” Pettis said.

“If we are able to calculate GDP correctly, it would probably be half of the recorded number.” [Source]

Cover crops & no-till are environmental farming practices, but farmers who want crop insurance aren't allowed to use them.

Last year, a few days before Christmas, Gail Fuller drove me out to the middle of a wind-whipped field just north of Emporia, Kansas. “This is really where it started for me,” he said as he climbed out of the truck, spade in hand. With a thunk, he drove the spade into the ground and pulled out a hunk of earth, holding it up so I could see the texture, which he described as like “chocolate cake” and “black cottage cheese.”

Pointing to a wriggling earthworm, a sign of good soil health, Fuller explained that conventional, tilled fields would be too cold for earthworms to be that close to the surface. Tilling rips up and compacts soil, compressing the air pockets that would otherwise insulate earthworms from temperature extremes. But because Fuller never tills and maintains a continuous living root system, which provides additional insulation, his field has earthworms year-round.

Fuller’s approach is part of the broader “regenerative agriculture” movement, a way of farming that prioritizes soil health and has a host of other benefits, from carbon sequestration to reducing nutrient runoff. [Source]

New Study: Climate Concerns Affect Kids' Mental, Physical Health

... the Green New Deal activates meaning-focused coping because the resolution looks comprehensively at the full scale of the problem. In contrast to problem-focused coping, which can lead to disillusion[ment] and [feeling] overwhelm[ed] because individual efforts don’t match the scale of the problem, people stay committed because “they know it’s the right thing to do and nothing else makes as much sense,” Burke said. “They continue to fight whether or not success is guaranteed.” That behavior is anchored by what psychologists call “grounded or authentic hope.” Not surprisingly, Ojala's research found that meaning-focused coping is related to high levels of environmental engagement and efficacy. [Source]

Mushrooms Clean Up Toxic Mess, Including Plastic. So Why Aren’t They Used More?

In the aftermath of the fires, federal and state workers removed much of the toxic debris. But then, in Sonoma County, a coalition of fire remediation experts, local businesses, and ecological activists mobilized to cleanse the foundations of burned-out buildings with … mushrooms. The Fire Remediation Action Coalition placed more than 40 miles of wattles—straw-filled, snakelike tubes designed to prevent erosion—inoculated with oyster mushrooms around parking lots, along roads, and across hillsides.

Their plan? The tubes would provide makeshift channels, diverting runoff from sensitive waterways. The mushrooms would do the rest.

The volunteers, led by Sebastopol-based landscape professional Erik Ohlsen, are advocates for “mycoremediation,” an experimental bioremediation technique that uses mushrooms to clean up hazardous waste, harnessing their natural ability to use enzymes to break down foreign substances. [Source]

The Hip New Teen Trend Is Leading the Climate Movement to Save the World [trend, no fleeting fad]

I marched against the Vietnam War in my teens. I really get these kids: "The Hip New Teen Trend Is Leading the Climate Movement to Save the World."

I've been an environmentalist all my life and no compromiser on it. However, the "system" always made it harder to function in everyday society while being strictly environmental. They literally stole the opportunity for electric cars from us when they yanked the EV1.

Thanks to this new generation, we're finally going to win. I will eventually be transported everywhere via non-carbon-burning means (unless we figure out how to sequester it all while also not polluting in other ways).

The Rights of Wild Rice

This is interesting and may well alter quite a few things going forward:

In U.S. case law, corporations are protected legally because they are considered natural persons by law. In the meantime, much of the “commons” or natural world including water, sacred places, and sacred landscapes have not been protected. [Source]

For a non-MMTer, David Andolfatto does an excellent job of defending MMT from the Chicago Booth Survey on MMT

David Andolfatto states correctly as follows:

Mainstream economists, like myself, like to point out what matters is not technical default but economic "default." An unexpected inflation whittles away the purchasing power of those caught holding old money as new money is printed to pay for whatever. I think it's clear that MMTers understand this too. This can be seen in their constant reference to an "inflation constraint" as defining the economic limits to government spending. [Source]

The Chicago School of economics is extremely libertarian-capitalist leaning. That they would design a survey on MMT without including MMT economists in the formulation of the questions is rather manipulative, whether intended or not, because they did get the questions completely wrong, as David points out very well.

"The Dangerous Absurdity of America’s Trade Wars," by Jeffrey D. Sachs [Close, and still a cigar]

Trump's secular error is not tariffs but almost exclusively taxes. There is no doubt whatsoever that trade deficits are fiscal deficits if the fiscal side is mismanaged, which it is. That is only made worse by imperialistic ambitions run amok for being win-lose propositions for everyone else, which Trump's typically are.

Jeffrey D. Sachs says the following:

A deficit on the current account is purely a macroeconomic measure: the shortfall of saving relative to investment. The US external deficit is not in any way, shape, or form an indicator of unfair trade practices by Canada and Mexico, the European Union, or China. [Source]

"The US external deficit is not in any way, shape, or form an indicator of unfair trade practices...." By itself, that's correct. However, unfair trade practices can still make the US external deficit worse and do. The fact that they don't necessarily have to doesn't mean they can't or aren't. Sachs has failed to think it through enough. He's only looked at it from one angle at best.

The reason Trump's tariffs on China haven't resulted in no deficits (trade or fiscal federal budget) is because of his stupid corporate-tax cut. The cut was completely misplaced. However, Trump's economic advisors knew that. They were deliberately misplaced so corporate CEOs and shareholders could be further enriched while Federal revenues shrink so the deficit hawks could call for more privatizations (to further enrich the top end of the private sector) and slashing of the welfare state (to weaken and hold down the bargaining position of workers).

The right tax cuts would have been to eliminate taxes altogether for those at the bottom and to increase those cuts until the economy is humming as a result, which it would. That would have further enriched the rich but not at the expense of anyone else. Trump probably knew that but wanted an immediate payoff to CEOs and others so they'd get behind him and want to donate to his reelection. He wouldn't have wanted to risk alienating them by running contrary to the privatizers' mindless, mind-numbing mantra.

The balance of Jeffery's article, which I didn't finish reading before writing the above, comes very close to taking my position. The real difference is the degree to which bad trade deals matter. I agree more with Trump as to degree but not as to remedies. Jeffery's heart is more in the right place.

China’s Still-Too-High Savings Makes China 2025 a Bigger Global Risk [Yes, but what about the rest of the article?]

I disagree with plenty of the fundamental statements/positions mapped out in Brad W. Setser's article, "China’s Still-Too-High Savings Makes China 2025 a Bigger Global Risk."

Here are my countervailing thoughts.

The tariffs are very low. The higher they go, the lower China will have to price its goods to export them. It knows that. That's why its negotiating so hard with Trump. That's why Trump is still in the power position versus Xi.

China wants to build more of what it is still importing because of the potential for US and EU sanctions. It wants to be a manufacturing and consumer economy at the same time. With the size of its population, it would continue getting considerably richer were it able to pull that off. The US is being much more politically competitive against China now, so pulling it off will be that much harder. The US will seek to undermine China's rise to US levels.

The idea that manufacturing more inherently means exporting less is nonsense. The entire economy of humanity would have to reach total saturation before that would happen. We aren't nearly there. Of course, there is the issue of the carrying capacity of the planet, but that's changed via human ingenuity and resulting technology, which isn't going to stand still.

China, under Xi, does not want to, and will not, "liberalize" its economy. That means it will not really move more and more toward the laissez-faire end of things even as it attempts to appease Western investors. Xi still wants to have his Marxist cake while eating his capitalist one. It won't work in the long run because it will be impossible for him to keep reasonably balanced even if he comes to rely upon AI, but that is what he wants and is insisting upon. A truly mixed economy is not truly Marxist. There's no way around that. Xi is simply being illogical.

"To love Europe is to change it," by Thomas Piketty

... a Franco-German Assembly, open immediately to Italy, Spain and all the countries that so desire, and qualified to adopt strong measures of fair taxation, is not a utopia. This could be set up immediately. This would permit a reduction in the tax burden of the lower income groups and the financing of the ecological transition. A detailed proposal, developed by lawyers and citizens from all over Europe has received the support of over 100,000 signatures (www.tdem.eu). It can and should be improved. The main point is that each government and political movement should publically defend specific proposals, and stop declaring that this is impossible and taking refuge behind the reluctance of the others. [Source]

The Erosion of Public Control Over Public Utilities [it's been costing us all dearly]

Real estate investors often pay a great deal to utility companies. Be aware:

... corporations have used their private market power to cheat the public. The most notorious episode was in California in 2000 and 2001: After California restructured its electric power industry, five generation companies dominated the in-state wholesale electricity market. Exploiting high demand and reduced out-of-state supplies of electricity, the “Big Five” power generation companies used their position to create an artificial shortage of power and raise prices to astronomical levels. At the same time, El Paso (a major pipeline owner) withheld gas from the California market. The collective exercise of market power transferred billions from Californians to generators’ and gas producers’ coffers, led to rolling blackouts, and drove the main utility serving Northern California into bankruptcy.

This chapter in California was extreme, but not an outlier. Since then, generators across the country have been accused of market manipulation many times.

Through their decisions, Congress, FERC, and the courts have neutered public control over public utilities. Instead of public regulators setting rates, the private discretion of sellers now governs markets for gas and electricity.
...
Given the importance of affordable and reliable energy and the existential threat from climate change, the public must reassert control over public utilities. The urgent need for transforming energy production demands nothing less. As a start, Congress should override judicial expansions of the filed rate doctrine and restore the full application of the antitrust laws in gas and electric power markets. Injured consumers and businesses should have the right to hold corporations to account for market manipulation and deter future misconduct, including the exclusion of cleaner sources of electricity. But this is merely necessary, not enough. The reassertion of public control will require other actions such as reviving public utility rules and replacing private ownership of natural monopolies with public ownership. [Source]