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What We Read Today 06 March 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".).


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MIT States That Half of All Children May be Autistic by 2025 due to Monsanto (Janet Phalen, LA ProgressiveEconintersect disclaimer:  The headline is deceitful; there has been no statemnt from MIT. Yesterday in this spot we discussed an article  about research establishing genetics as the primary factor in the occurrence of autism (here).  We have this article today, hat tip to Roger Erickson.  This is not about a research paper but a panel discussion a week ago in which the headline comments were made.  From this article:

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, who made these remarks during a panel presentation in Groton, Massachusetts, last week, specifically cites the Monsanto herbicide, Roundup, as the culprit for the escalating incidence of autism and other neurological disorders. Roundup, which was introduced in the 1970’s, contains the chemical glyphosate, which is the focal point for Seneff’s concerns. Roundup was originally restricted to use on weeds, as glyphosate kills plants. However, Roundup is now in regular use with crops. With the coming of GMO’s, plants such as soy and corn were bioengineered to tolerate glyphosate, and its use dramatically increased. From 2001 to 2007, glyphosate use doubled, reaching 180 to 185 million pounds in the U.S. alone in 2007.

Seneff referred to studies that show glyphosate engages “gut bacteria”, enabling the chemical to interfere with the biochemistry of bacteria in our GI tract, resulting in the depletion of essential amino acids.  Seneff claims that this is "the link which allows the chemical to get on board and wreak further damage".

The article says that the "connection between intestinal flora and neurological functioning is an ongoing topic of research".  The articvle also says:

According to a number of studies, glyphosate depletes the amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine, which can then contribute to obesity, depression, autism, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Monsanto disagrees. The food and chemical giant has constructed a webpage with links to scientific studies pronouncing the safety of glyphosate.

Of course the rise in the incidence of many of the diseases mentioned above has occurred during the decades that the usage of glyphosphate has been becoming more widely used on food crops.  There appears to be a correlation here.  But the article does have the following paragraph (Skeptoid link added):

Others, such as Skeptoid writer and PhD physicist Eric Hall, take a more measured approach, and instead focus on the studies which prompted the glyphosate concerns. According to Hall, Seneff is making an error known as the “correlation/causation error,” in which causality is inaccurately concluded when there exists only the fact that two separate items—in this case, the increased use of glyphosate and the increased incidence of autism—may be observed but are not, in fact, directly related.

The article includes a conspiracy theory reference about a belief that autism is being induced to make the population more easily controlled.

We leave the discussion at this point.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • “France on Fire” (Fabius Maximus)  FM contributes to GEI.  France is not well positioned to assimilate their large Muslim population.  Contains article by Mark Lilla from The New York Times Review of Books.


Islamic State






South Korea



Energy Outlook 2035 (BP)  This report says that energy consumption in the world will increase by 37% over the 22 years from 2013 to 2035.  BP thinks that much of this growth will come from natural gas and renewables.

BP sees a declining role for the Middle East in energy production as natural gas output increases in other parts of the world and oil production increases in North America.  Renewables will start to become significant elements in the energy mix.  Coal will stop growing in usage and possibly start to decline.  How much will renewable energy production increase over the next 20 years?  Econintersect calculates from numbers in this report that renewable energy will increase more than 3.6-fold in energy units produced and grow from 3% of energy consumption in 2013 to 8% by 2035.

Also using numbers in this report Econintersect calculates that griowth in energy usage is expected to slow over the 22 years 2013-3035 compared to 1995-2013:

  • Average annual growth in energy (actual 1995-2013):  2.2%
  • Average annual growth in energy (projected 2013-2035):  1.4% 

See next article for what Martin Wolf got out of this report.

The riches and perils of the fossil-fuel age (Martin Wolf, Financial Times)  Global economic output is projected to rise by 115% by 2035 while energy consumption (see previous article) is expected to grow by only 37%.  This represents a continuation of the trend to ever increasing energy efficiency that has been underway over the past 2-3 decades.  During this coming period, labor productivity will explode with "a 75 per cent jump in global average real output per head".  Wolf also points out that carbon output is expected to grow only about 2/3 as fast as energy (25% more carbon output).  He says:

... this is a huge achievement. But — given the need to cut emissions outright, in order to have a good chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to below 2C — it is wholly inadequate. Thus, in 2035, emissions of CO2 are forecast to be 18bn tonnes above levels suggested by the International Energy Agency’s “450 Scenario”. This seeks to limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration to the equivalent of about 450 parts per million of CO2. If such targets are to be met, something far more radical needs to occur.

Wolf points out that he heard a talk by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute at the recent Oslo Energy Forum.  Lovins described a scenario in which U.S. GDP would grow 2.5-fold by 2050 while eliminating entirely the use of coal and nuclear and cutting natural gas by 1/3.  The Lovins hypothetical would reduce carbon emissions to 20% of current levels.  Wolf expresses scepticism, not of the feasibility of the Lovins scenario, but of the achievability in the face of entrenched hydrocarbon producer economic power.  Wolf goes on to suggest that public policy initiatives, such as a carbon tax, would be necessary to give the possibilities a "big push".

Econintersect:  We will leave the policy discussion aside and go back to the question of feasibility.  Is there any chance that U.S. GDP could increase by 150% by 2050?  That would be 2.65% compounded for 35 years.  Based on how things are going now that may be a little high but is certainly less than the GDP growth for the years 1980-1989 (3.6% average) and is about the same as the years 2000-2004 (2.7% average).  Maybe seems a little high but not out of the question.

What about reducing carbon emissions by 80%?  That seems almost outrageous. That would be the same as an annual carbon reduction of 4.4% compounded for 35 years.  It is actually a little more than 1.5x the average annual reduction from 2007 to 2012.  See next article.  Also seems doable, and should not be dismissed out of hand. 

Thanks to Market Forces, Technology, and Private Sector Activity, C02 Emissions Drop to 20-Year Low (Mark J. Perry, Carpe Diem)  Mark Perry has contributed to GEI

The Price of Oil Is Down, So Why Is Production Still Going Up? (Tom Randall, Bloomberg Business)  We have discussed this before but this is an exceptionally good summary. First there is the graph showing an apparent contradiction.  Following that is a 2-minute video which explains that there is no contradiction.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Why You Owe Your Freedom to Jack Bogle: Roth (The Wall Street Journal)  The author's rough estimate is that lower fees on index funds will save investors about $39 billion this year.

Those 'tanked' Russian Forex reserves (Constantin Gurdgiev, true economics)  CG contributes to GEI.  There are drawdowns but "tanked" cannot be supported.

Countries Backtrack on Privatizing Retirement (Bloomberg Business)  Some governments raid private accounts in times of need.

Paul Ryan's Climate Change Confusion (U.S. News & World Report)

I Used to Be an Anti-Vaxer (The Atlantic)  Another autism-vaccine article.

Economists React to the February Jobs Report: ‘Full Employment!’ (The Wall Street Journal)

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