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What We Read Today 17 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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A start-up that's solved fracking's dirty problem (Andrew Zaleski, CNBC) A tiny start-up in Boston is pioneering a revolution in the wastewater treatment industry that could turn it on its head: a forward-osmosis technology to purify the water used in fracking. The firm, Oasys Water, has 45 patents and 60 full-time employees and $35 million in backing. The process is a low-cost application of osmosis that produces potable water from brine. The process involves simply pumping the contaminated water through a system with a semi-permeable membrane boundary. The process is called forward osmosis and is much less costly than the commonly used high pressure reverse osmosis process that has been used for decades for water purification. See also next article.

Forward Osmosis: A New Approach to Water Purification and Desalination (James E. Miller and Lindsey R. Evans, Sandia Report) This 2006 research paper describes the forward osmosis process being applied by Oasys Water (previous article). Here is part of the abstract:

Fresh, potable water is an essential human need and thus looming water shortages threaten the world's peace and prosperity. Waste water, brackish water, and seawater have great potential to fill the coming requirements. Unfortunately, the ability to exploit these resources is currently limited in many parts of the world by both the cost of the energy and the investment in equipment required for purification/desalination. Forward (or direct) osmosis is an emerging process for dewatering aqueous streams that might one day help resolve this problem. In FO, water from one solution selectively passes through a membrane to a second solution based solely on the difference in the chemical potential (concentration) of the two solutions. The process is spontaneous, and can be accomplished with very little energy expenditure. Thus, FO can be used, in effect, to exchange one solute for a different solute, specifically chosen for its chemical or physical properties. For desalination applications, the salts in the feed stream could be exchanged for an osmotic agent specifically chosen for its ease of removal, e.g. by precipitation.

The process works by creating a more concentrated solution of an "osmotic agent" which is easily removed after the contaminated water has been processed by transferring pure water through the membrane from a less concentrated contaminated solution by the osmotic pressure that exists (water flows through the membrane spontaneously from the less concentrated solution (which is the "fracking" or other contaminated water) into the more concentrated solution containing the "osmotic agent". Agents could be dissolved salts which can then later be easily removed by precipitation of an insoluble salt product with an added chemical.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world






The harsh realities of the Greece-Eurozone game of chicken (Walter Kurtz, Sober Look) Everyone is focused on the euro 315 billion Greece owes to the Eurozone, the IMF, and others, the damage to the euro area would actually be much greater because it would really be "a complete failure to pay on obligations by the Greek government, its banks, corporations, and households." All the obligations would be converted from current euros (and some Swiss francs) to the drachma at some preset conversion rate. Then, Kurtz says:

As the drachma collapses - and there is little question that it will - Greek banks, who would now have drachma assets and euro liabilities, will quickly fail as well, leaving the Bank of Greece holding the bag. The Bank of Greece which is currently part of the Eurosystem will therefore default upon exit. But before it exits, the Bank of Greece will draw on Target2 from the rest of the Eurosystem as Greeks quickly move their deposits out (see how the mechanism works here with the Bank of Spain example). And there is no question Greeks will try to move a great deal of their deposits out before they are converted to drachmas. In December alone they pulled euro 4.6 billion euros out of Greek banks - and that's before the Syriza victory.

The default by the Bank of Greece could cause even more damage to the system than the losses to EFSF and to other entities such as the IMF. Between the government bonds the Eurosystem holds and the Target2 losses, the ECB may need to be recapitalized - a political disaster. Market anxiety alone could push the euro area back into recession as credit conditions tighten again (potentially similar to the Lehman situation).

Based on historical precedence there would be a high probability that the eurosystem would become unstable. More than 2/3 of all "currency union" exits have occurred following another previous exit from ths same system.


7 stocks over $100 are still screaming buys (Matt Krantz, CNBC) Hat tip to Marvin Clark. What is a high price for a stock? $100? Well analysts have identified seven stocks priced higher than $100 that are ready to go higher.


This is what $11.83 trillion worth of household debt looks like (Sam Ro, Business Insider) The process of correcting a credit bubble is call "debt deflation". How much debt deflation do you see in the graphic Sam Ro has prepared? The peak in 2008 was $12.68 trillion and the latest number is $11.83 trillion. That is a debt deflation of 6.7%. At the lowest point (2Q 2013) the deflation was approximately 11%, so the reflation from there, although it looks modest on the graphic, has been substantial. It is troubling that, although mortgage delinquencies have declined since the third quarter (from 3.2% to 3.1%), fourth quarter delinquencies in student loans and auto loans are increasing: 11.3%, up from 11.1%; and 3.5%, up from 3.1%, respectively. For more on household debt see GEI News today.


Do the Wealthy Really Pay Their 'Fair Share'? Economics Professor Breaks It All Down (Billy Hallowell, The Blaze) Prof.Lee Ohanian of UCLA says the rich pay more than their "fair" share. Do you find any assertions in his presentation for which you would like to see the data?

Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Bank of England Official Takes on Secular Stagnation (The Wall Street Journal) Andy Haldane speech reviewed.

Feminising Economics ( Why is it that "gender equity remain a fairy tale"?

Manufacturing and Infrastructure: Not Just About Economics -- Our Own Security Depends on It (The Wall Street Journal)

Q&A: Explaining 'Audit the Fed' (The Wall Street Journal) The end game would be Congressional control of the Fed.

People, planet, power: towards a new social settlement (New Economics Foundation)

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