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What We Read Today 09 October 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • The Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to three men who revolutionized microscopy (Rachel Feltman, The Washington Post) This is another example of the overlap between sciences. The techniques developed could just as well be classified as physics while the applications could be classified as biology and medicine. The scientists awarded were trained as chemists so perhaps that is the rationale for recognizing this work as chemistry. The three chemists developed techniques of using pulsed light and processes that might be thought of as similar to time-lapse photography to resolve images of molecular structures far smaller than the theoretical limits imposed by the wavelength of light. Animal cells have dimensions of the order or 1 micron up to tens of microns for the largest cells (micron = micrometer = 10-6 meters = 4 x 10-5 inches - 0.00004 inches). See Wikipedia for a list of things with dimensions larger than 10 microns and also smaller than 10 microns.

The major substructure elements of cells are called "organelles" and many have dimensions less than 0.1 micron. At the theoretical limit of visible light resolution (0.2 to 0.4 micron, depending on wavelength with blue resolving better than red) cell images are resolvable, although often with fuzzy resolution imparted by the practical limitations of the optics elements degrading resolution to less than the theoretical limit. Very few very large organelles are detectable with visible light and only with extremely poor resolution.

The new technology can resolve individual molecules and by superposition of molecular images produce very high resolution images of even the smallest organelles. It has been used to study the operational steps in nerve cells, protein behavior in cells associated with Huntington's disease and cell division in embryos. All these studies are conducted in vivo with no interference with the natural processes taking place.



  • Articles about Scotland Independence and Similar Movements

Scottish independence: ‘Respect the result’ - PM (The Scotsman)

Basque separatists inch along, watching Catalonia closely (The Conversation)

From Kurdistan to Texas, Scots Spur Separatists (The New York Times)

Europe goes back to the Middle Ages: Map shows how patchwork continent would look if every separatist movement got their wish (Daily Mail) Interesting maps.

  • Articles about conflicts and disease around the world


WHO: no control over spread of Ebola (Al Jazeera)

Ebola crisis leaves Dallas a city on edge (Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press, MSN News)

U.S. to screen air passengers from West Africa for Ebola (Reuters)


Gaza farmers struggle in war aftermath (Al Jazeera)


Turkish-Kurdish relations threatened by ISIL (Al Jazeera)

Turkey Kurds: Kobane protests leave 19 dead (BBC News)

Turkey's clumsy politics and the Kurdish question (Al Jazeera)


Syria declares new chemical weapons facilities (BBC News)

Allies consider 'buffer zone' inside Syria (Al Jazeera)


Welcome to Donetsk: Shocking pictures show Ukrainian airport lying in tatters as UN says at least 331 have been killed since last month’s ceasefire was agreed (Daily Mail) Lots of pictures.

UN: 3,660 killed, 8,756 wounded in Ukraine conflict since April (RT)


Russia Looks to Compensate Its Sanctioned Elite (abc News)

Russians attacked in Moscow for wearing 'Western' symbols (BBC News)

Top Russian Officials Are Starting to Realize That the Country’s Economy Is in Big Trouble (Slate)

Finance minister warns Russia can't afford military spending plan (Reuters)

Russia’s borders: while Moldova shivers, is Belarus beginning to thaw? (The Conversation)

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Protest Leader Joshua Wong Pledges 'Persistent' Fight (NBC News)

Hong Kong Protest Leaders May Walk Away From Talks (Bloomberg)

Hong Kong protesters have sights set on global problems (The Conversation)


Civilians flee amid Kashmir border clashes (Al Jazeera)

There are 10 articles discussed today 'behind the wall', all about oil and solar energy topics.

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  • In the U.S., a Turning Point in the Flow of Oil (Clifford Kraus, The New York Times) With little fanfare the U.S. started this summer to export crude oil. This hadn't happened in almost 40 years. Since 2008 U.S. domestic oil production has increased by about 70% and imports from OPEC countries have been cut in half. The new oil production is high in light sweet crude from shale, the purest (cleanest) type of petroleum and in much demand around the world. The current refinery facilities in the U.S. can only process a limited amount of the new production, so it is likely that the U.S. will continue to import oil even when (and if) domestic production exceeds consumption and export the excess light sweet crude. The following graph shows the new "peak oil" graph for the U.S.: the peak in oil imports 2005-06.


  • Oil Prices Decline as Supplies Build (Nicole Friedman, The Wall Street Journal) Oil prices are down 21% over the past year and inventories are up. High refinery rates over the summer have now declined for seasonal maintenance and changeover to winter product mixes (more fuel oil, less gasoline).
  • Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update (U.S. Energy Information Agency, 06 October 2014) Gasoline prices are down an average of about 10-13 cents a gallon in the U.S. from the high points a few months ago. With oil prices still falling and the seasonal price decline period still here further declines look certain. Every Tuesday GEI News reviews the national prices for gasoline and provides a connection to Gas Buddy to help readers locate the lowest prices in their vicinity.


  • EIA Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (U.S. Energy Information Agency, 07 October 2014) Winter heating costs will be lower for most this winter compared to last, and much lower for just about everybody if it is a mild winter.


  • Here's a 'sinister'-looking oil chart (Lawrence Lewitinn, CNBC, Yahoo Finance!) Actually the article shows two bearish charts. Downside targets for crude oil are 87.50 in 2014 (hit yesterday 08 October, see Bloomberg) and 77.50 which some think could be reached in the next month or two. With production costs for shale ($65), oilsands ($70) and Arctic ($75) not far below the 77.50 target, reduced production from those sources would ensue at lower prices and support North American oil. While mideastern oil is much cheaper to produce OPEC has a history of cutting production as prices decline. So the bottom for oil is likely not to go any lower than the $70s unless there is a global economic collapse. See also The Middle East Has A Huge Advantage In The Global Oil Market (Sam Ro, Business Insider). But not all the future will depend on oil (and natural gas as well): See the following three articles.



  • Kurzweil: Solar Energy Will Be Unlimited And Free In 20 Years (Ajai Raj, Business Insider) The production of solar energy has doubled every two years over the last three decades. The cost per kwh (kilowatt hour) has come down orders of magnitude due to technological evolution and economies of scale. Today about 1% of global energy is produced from solar devices. If the production of solar energy continued to grow at the same rate as over the past 30 years the amount of energy produced would be ten times the current global consumption of electricity in another 20 years. Kurzweil thinks that the entire electrical power needs of the planet will be provided by solar by 2035. That is not just all of what electricity is used for today, but all the uses to be added for electricity as well. Others agree. See next two articles.

  • Solar Energy Revolution: A Massive Opportunity (Peter Diamandis, Forbes) Peter Diamandis is bullish on solar. Not only does he see the cost of solar continuing to come down but also the cost of storage, which is necessary to smooth mismatches on the timelines for generation and usage. For example he cites lithium battery storage with cost already down by almost 2/3 since 2010 and projected to decline by another 70-75% by 2025.


Econintersect note: Ultimately other forms of storage other than batteries may become very important, such as thermal storage, hydrogen, pumped hydroelectric storage, mechanical storage (such as fly-wheels), capacitive storage, etc. Some of these will find applications for centralized power generation and others will be better for distributed systems.

Diamandis shows the cost-payback projections (global averages) for rooftop solar plus battery storage with electric vehicles for transportation. Diamandis says these projections are without the government solar subsidies in place today.


  • Solar at Scale (Elon Musk, Solar City Blog) Elon Musk sees a world with more electricity from solar than any other source, possibly more than all other sources combined, with 25 years. His company has come up with leasing plans and "lease to buy" plans for homeowners to install solar photovoltaic systems. Econintersect questions whether long-term lease to buy plans will make sense. One such plan is for 30 years. If the rapid evolution of solar technology predicted by Peter Diamandis (previous article) comes to pass, a solar panel system installed in 2014 or 2015 will be worthless in well under 30 years, probably in less than half that time. Payback in less than 10 years seems the only good bet and that exists today in only selected areas of the U.S.
  • Why WSJ Is Wrong About Peak Oil (Gail Tverberg, EconMatters) Tverberg sees the problems for the future of the global economy as resource limited in general and solving the energy portion will not address the overall problem. Just the opposite of the Peter Diamandis vision of abundance example above) Tverberg has a vision of diminishing resources. She sees a limit to growth that can be obtained from added population, integration of disconnected parts of the planet into the global economy and productivity improvements. Her view is one of ever diminishing returns with the result being growth slowing to zero, leading to collapse. She states that technological change can delay reaching the ultimate limits, but not indefinitely. She cites what she terms the historical "Secular Cycle". And she dismisses the possibility that wind and solar can extend the current growth cycle which she maintains requires increasing wages and decreasing costs of goods.


  • Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

IMF trims forecast for global economic growth (

EU lawmakers endorse Moscovici for economics chief (Reuters)

Economics: A Dismal Profession, Not Dismal “Science” (telesur)

Totally…like…bogus: the world’s worst travel advice (MSN)

Why History Should Replace Economics in the 21st Century (i09)

Life or Death (Peter Diamandis, Forbes)

Cave paintings change ideas about the origin of art (BBC News)

HHS Says Obamacare’s New Website Will Work. For Real This Time. (National Journal)

Economics Daily Digest: Wall Street profits off public debt, UN development goals, and tax cuts (Daily Kos)

Photographer gang-raped in Mumbai (Reuters)

19 Of The Most Evil Women In History (Rant Lifestyle)

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