Saturday, December 30, 2006

trade "deficit"?

there is always fear-mongering about our trade deficit. that's the wrong question. even if we buy more goods from others than we sell, it is what you do with it that matters. we have a net trade deficit with China. however, we derive more value for goods we buy from china, than the value china creates with the cash we give them (which is basically to buy US treasuries at low yields, putting capital back in american hands who create far more value again with that cash).

again everyone is obsessed with what is measurable and ignore the intangile values.

US as the NY of the world

others make our stuff and buy our stuff, while we do all the high value work such as R&D, marketing, design, and distribution. that's why the bulk of the profit stays here.

convenient lies

global cooling
peak oil
market bubbles
rising tigers of the east
decline of the american empire

many are probably aware of our skepticism with "peak oil" theories. was the second conversation stephanie and i had in 2004 when she joined our firm. "peak oil" theory, like the oil industry itself, is a cyclical industry with a 10 to 20 year cycle time that leads to spasms of panic, self-righteous gas conversation movements, momentary infatuation with hideous electric vehicles, and doomsday scenarios. let's get some facts straight:

1) earth is awash in energy, through the one-time deposit by the sun to make the earth and the constant showering of energy. our planet is a reservoir for energy, waiting to be converted.

2) hydrocarbons are not made from dead dinosaurs. we are not using up dead biomass faster than biomass is dying and being compressed into hydrocarbon stores.

3) we have not tapped out on accessible stores of earths hydrocarbons. data that supports this view gets tons of air play during peak periods of "peak oil" fanaticism, and countering views get squashed.

4) gas conservation movement is one of emotional feel-good rather than actual do good, similar to recycling. it should be encouraged since it reflects the best of human intentions, but it is not obvious it acheives its end. the amount of gas saved driving a prius for one-year is less than the pro-rata portion of gas consumed by taking one extra cross country flight on a commercial jet per year.

5)amount of excess energy spent to develop, deliver, install, and maintain solar panels could offset it's savings. plus, this robs the earth of the increment of sunlight that would have been captured by the planet in some other way to provide energy in the future.

6) the highest value use of energy will be the powering of medical devices that allow humans to continue to function at a high level. specific example would be neurostimulators. information would be the second highest use.

7) i personally would welcome the end of the petroleum age, as it would eliminate the communication and transportation age. what would be left is a tribal society that is oriented around walkable communities, kindness, accountability, attention to people in front of you, better health related to increased walking. if only "peak oil" were true. sigh.....