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What We Read Today 10 February 2015

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.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Saudi Historian Says U.S. Women Drive Because They Don't Care If They're Raped (Ed Mazza, The Huffington Post)  Rationalization of the ridiculous is a human condition?

Today our reading lists and discussions are focused primarily on:

  • Tax evasion
  • Carbon emission and pollution issues
  • Student loan debt

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Tax Evasion









Airpocalypse:  India vs. China (The Economist)  Air pollution in northern China reduces average live span by 5.5 years.  In India, approximately 700 million suffer 3 years loss of life expectancy from the same cause.  In India indoor pollution (mostly from burning for heat and cooking) "is thought to cause 1m deaths a year".  But the fastest growing sources of pollution are outdoors and the problems of Beijing, for example, are well documented in the news.  The Guardian recently had Inside Beijing's airpocalypse – a city made 'almost uninhabitable' by pollution.  But The Economist says that things are actually worse in India's cities, "with Delhi being the worst, by far".


China has been growing carbon emissions at a much faster rate than India and, even though China has greatly improved the economic efficiency of its carbon footprint, it has about 60% greater CO2 emissions per unit of GDP than does India.  This is down from ratio greater than 500% 35 years ago.  From The Economist:

Both China and India, with big populations and economies, are already big emitters of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause climate change. Per person, Indians and Chinese are less responsible for carbon emissions than those in the West, but as incomes rise and consumer habits change, this will also shift. India is less well-off than China and has relied more on growth in some of its service industries, whereas in China industrialisation has driven development. As a result, China's economy is more energy intensive, and thus emits more carbon, for every unit of GDP, though it is steadily becoming more efficient. India now plans to industrialise faster, with a big push for manufacturing to create jobs. One challenge is  to remain energy efficient. A second is to find cleaner sources of energy than burning coal.

See also next article.


A Real Deal (Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Slate)  Last November the U.S. and China entered into a long-term agreement to control and reduce carbon emissions.  While some have criticized the agreement as not requiring enough of China, Pierrehumbert says that the specifications break the current "the world exponential growth rate" for CO2 and temperature increases.  China is the driver of the exponential curves and they have agreed to curtail that and flat-line CO2 emissions by 2030 with the objective of reducing (unspecified amount) emissions after 2030.  The author says this is "a very big deal, at least if both parties fulfill their commitments".

The U.S. has committed to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.  This may seem not equivalent to the Chinese commitment but it might appear easier to achieve because the U.S.reduced CO2 emissions by than a third of the objective (10%) between 2005 and 2013.  But the U.S. will have to make further changes in energy uses beyond what is now underway to achieve the commitment.  See next two articles.

The two graphs below compare the current Chinese growth rate (average of 7% a year since 1940, red curve) with two scenarios (first graph):  Scenario 1 has China continuing the 7% growth until 2030 and no change thereafter, while Scenario 2 has China tapering down its growth rate over the next 15 years and then making no change after 2030.

The second graph below shows the relative CO2 output projections for the "big three" polluters with China following Scenario 2.



After years of decline, U.S. carbon emissions rose 2 percent in 2013 (Brad Plummer, The Washington Post)  The date of this report is 13 January 2014.

The United States has been one of the few bright spots for climate-change policy in recent years. Thanks to the recession, improved efficiency measures and the shale-gas boom, the nation's carbon-dioxide emissions from energy fell 12 percent between 2005 and 2012.

But the U.S. "backslid" in 2013 with a 2% increase in CO2 emissions.  See next article for 2014 data and projections for 2015 and 2016.


Renewables and CO2 Emissions (Short-Term Energy Outlook, U.S. Energy Information Agency)  The "backsliding" from the 2005-2012 CO2 emission reduction continued in 2014 according to the estimates from the U.S. EIA, with an increase of 0.9%.  Increases are also projected for 2015 (0.3%) and 2016 (0.5%).  This yields a new CO2 reduction objective of 2.0% a year for 2017 through 2025 to meet the objective committed in the agreement with China (first article above).  If natural gas remains at it's low price of recent decades it is difficult to imagine that a rapid shift from that fuel to renewables is likely which puts the commitment in jeopardy.


EPA and NHTSA Set Standards to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Improve Fuel Economy for Model Years 2017-2025 Cars and Light Trucks (, 12 August 2012)  These standards are projected to result in an average industry fleetwide level of 163 grams/mile of carbon dioxide (CO2) in model year 2025, which is equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) if achieved exclusively through fuel economy improvements.  For reference, the fleetwide average for 2013 was 24.1 mpg.  The graph below shows the CO2 and fuel economy history for the U.S.  Note the lack of progress (actually some backsliding) from 1985 to 2004.


The amount of change that will be needed to meet the 2015 objectives is huge.  More than 95% of the vehicle production in 2014 did not meet the future standards.


Fuels Used in Electricity Generation (Adam Sieminski, U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council, U.S. Energy Information Administration)  This report shows that there are projected to be no significant uses of renewable sources for additional electricity generation needed between now and 2025.  This means that the electrical generation industry will be a net added to U.S. CO2 emissions over the next 10 years.  The commitment made to China will require that not only will a greater use of non-CO2 producing technologies be required for expansion of our output; also at least 2% a year replacement of carbon producing technologies will required if the electrical sector is to contribute a proportional share of the CO2 reduction.  The commitment no longer seems as achievable as it did a few articles above.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Today we are focused on articles about student loan debt.

Flip Side of Reducing Student Debt Is Increasing the Federal Deficit (The New York Times)

A Quiet Revolution in Helping Lift the Burden of Student Debt (The New York Times)

The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget (Politico)

Democratic Senators Highlight Obscene Government Profits Off Student Loan Program (Elizabeth Warren)

Oops—White House Loses $22 Billion on Student Loan Plans (The Fiscal Times)

This Millennial Paid Off $23,375 in Student Loans in Just 10 Months (Time Money)

More than a dozen Massachusetts doctors have defaulted on their student loans (

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

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