Intro / Preface / Extra Words
So after a growing streak of back to back weekly issues we felt we needed to give you just a little bit of space lest you tire of our company. But not too much space...
This isn't a themed issue, per se, but it has a little bit of a lean towards the topic of environmental stewardship.
We want to provide your synapses with content that is interesting, diverse, cerebral, and surprising. We want to give you things we disagree with or that you disagree with but that are well thought out. We want to engage in a way that is empathetic and charitable. That challenges. That doesn't thicken the soap walls of our bubbles. And maybe we like to try to make each other laugh from time to time.
Hopefully we can meander in that direction this week.
Feel free to forward us along to your smart and good looking friends. And as always, we want to hear your opinions; hit us up via that Reply button. Also please note we've got a lot of text in this issue. If your email client clips off the back end you can find an online, gloriously un-clipped version here.
You Fancy, Huh
TAUR: The Electric Road Scooter
Potholes are a thing of the past thanks to our 12.5” kevlar-reinforced, puncture-resistant Continental® tyres. Impressive for a car, let alone a scooter.
The designers of this scooter have not driven it down Park or Poplar. I double dog dare ya to do that and then revisit this claim. -C
The Secret Diary of a ‘Sustainable Investor’ — Part 1
Editor's Note: This link is an extremely long read. If you want a shorter, rantier, more uncouth take on the same topic feel free to skip to the Bonus Link down below.
I worked in B2B marketing for a long time. I never saw evidence that Americans would actually pay for "Made in America". They would express a preference for it and if there was no cost premium they would choose it. But at approximately +$.01 they were OUT. In the meantime I constantly saw evidence that Canadians would pay an enormous premium for "Made in Canada". It costs twice as much as the imported version? No problem, as long as it was made in St. Jean sur Richeliu or Edmonton or Goderich.
The venn diagram of the location of Canadian mouths and Canadian monies is a circle. America's is an 8.
Environmental, Social Responsibility, and Governance (ESG) is the new hot buzzword in corporate America these days. The theory is that investors are preferencing their capital towards companies that have strong ESG programs, which would indicate a willingness to accept lower returns as long as the company is a good steward in these areas. Are Americans really becoming Canadians? Or is this all window dressing? -B
Sweet Meteor of Death 2020
The Cotton Tote Crisis
An organic cotton tote needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its overall impact of production, according to a 2018 study by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. That equates to daily use for 54 years — for just one bag.
Although… don’t forget about plastic in the ocean so do use cotton totes. Although... many cotton dyes are made of plastic so don't use them…. Anyway, be wary of simple solutions! The world is complex and almost nothing is driven by a single variable. Tweaking variables in a complex system will have offsetting reactions that dampen any movement you create downstream.
Anyway, since nobody asked, here's my condensed list of things I personally believe would actually make a difference. These are my priors, as the Bayesians say, and I hold them loosely and could easily be convinced what I believe is stupid.
We should do these things, globally, and not much else:
- Build nuclear plants like crazy.
- Convert anything coal powered (especially in China!!) to natural gas. This means we need to frack for gas aggressively as well as build additional liquefaction trains and export/import terminals. Relax, it is temporary, as a bridge energy source.
- Build renewable generation anywhere you can. Build the associated HVDC power grids.
- THIS IS IMPORTANT- Build Direct Air Capture (DAC) to pull carbon of the air anywhere you can scrape off extra funds from a governmental budget. Pay companies from the public funds per ton captured. Build the associated Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) and any sort of industrial adjacent CCS you can find a reasonable case for.
- Subsidize low cost energy OF ANY KIND in the developing world. Wood burning, coal burning, oil burning, whatever. Getting the developing world developed will pay off in reduced carbon very quickly. Leaving the developing world undeveloped is unequitable and unproductive in terms of our long term goal.
- Subsidize R&D into eliminating single use plastics.
Almost anything else you can think of doesn’t seem to matter much or has negative externalities and or knock on effects. Or that's my ignorant take based on what I know now. -B
Editor's Note: Since Brian tends to overconfidently shoot his mouth off about stuff, we've asked someone who actually knows something about these things, technically, to chime in with a "counterweight". Welcome guest author 'Wes B'.
I'm going to start with the bullet about developing the developing world. Because I wholeheartedly agree. But the thing is, the whole world is developing all the time, places are just at different points on that curve. Here in the US, we are on the cusp of an explosion in renewables and storage (batteries). Prices for Solar PV panels and Li-ion batteries are projected to fall precipitously in the next 10-15 years. That is in large part because we have subsidized the heck out of them for a decade or more. They're all grown up now and are ready to stand on their own.
So if I were making long-term planning decisions for electric utilities, I would put a ton of value on retiring old, uneconomic generating units and replacing them with solar and storage in that 10-15 year horizon. I would not want to be making 40-60 year decisions today. A Nuclear plant will provide you with cheap, carbon-free energy for at least 60 years. The upfront price tag for nuclear is HUUUUUUUGE and they take about 10-15 years to site, permit, and build. For me, that's just off the table. If I was making capital investment decisions today, and renewables and storage were just a little too uneconomical, then I would be making short-term (10-15 year), low-cost bets. Either that's retrofitting old coal units to burn gas, or dumping more money into existing nukes to get a few more years, or buying existing investor-owned assets at a discount that are nearing the end of their lives, or whatever I can do to get to that future where renewables and storage are economic.
Today is the time to be reaping what you sowed with all those subsidies on renewables and storage. It is not the time to double down on new versions of old technology, and it's not the time to be making big bets on the next big thing (advanced nuclear, direct air capture, hydrogen fuel). There's a future for nuclear and DAC and CCS and H2, but we have to develop those technologies more. They're 10-15 heavily-subsidized years behind renewables and batteries. If we play our cards right, we'll be ready for those problems that start popping up 20-30 years from now because we over-built renewables. -Wes
A dude made a song. Someone else reacted to it. Then a third guy reacted to that. And the song is a banger tbh... -B
All Geek To Me
The hydrogen colour spectrum
So the main ones as I'm aware are green hydrogen, which is produced using wind or solar type energy. There's blue hydrogen which is made using fossil fuels but the carbon produced is captured and sequestered. And there is grey hydrogen which is some sort of already existing by-product of another industrial process. I've never heard of Pink or Turquoise hydrogen before though. -B
Phineas & Ferb @ Lollapalooza
Honestly I feel guilty including a "tok" in a newsletter in which we said we were going to try to be cerebral. As far as I can tell Tik Tok is weaponized dopamine addiction. I deleted it off my phone after 30 minutes in shear terror. But also I love Phineas and Ferb and made my kids watch every episode with me growing up. Here the creator reacts to a band playing his theme song to a huge crowd of people. Super heartwarming. -B
We have not had to resort to writing in nothing but a shawl yet, but I almost had to go there this week in order to get this issue out the door. Here's to hoping the next issue requires less gumption.
Also let's be honest, Brian really had everything dialed in and there was very little for me to do. I hope y'all enjoyed reading the content and commentary as much as I did. What were your biggest takeaways?