wow! Possible solar technology breakthrough

wow! Possible solar technology breakthrough

Quote: “Researchers have set a world record for the conversion of solar energy to electricity via the use of tiny nanoparticles called ‘quantum dots’. The technology has a huge range of potential applications, including the possibility to use it as a flexible, transparent skin to power cars, planes, homes and wearable technology.”

This is really cool if it pans out and is commercially viable; no surprise that the research does NOT come from US (seems we spend all our research $ on guns and bombs).

A bit more detail, quote: “Professor Wang’s team set the world record for quantum dot solar cell efficiency by developing a unique surface engineering strategy. Overcoming previous challenges around the fact that the surface of quantum dots tend to be rough and unstable — making them less efficient at converting solar into electrical current. “This new generation of quantum dots is compatible with more affordable and large-scale printable technologies,” said Professor Wang. “The near 25 per cent improvement in efficiency we have achieved over the previous world record is important. It is effectively the difference between quantum dot solar cell technology being an exciting ‘prospect’ and being commercially viable.'”

Source https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200218182208.htm

Cobalt study – a flawed conclusion

Cobalt study – a flawed conclusion

I disagree and find this almost inflammatory in its complete disregard for environmental impact.

Article: Cobalt supply can meet demand for electric vehicle and electronics batteries (reference)

Here is there summary, quote: “Greater use of electric vehicles might be good for the environment, but further growth hinges on continued availability of critical battery components such as cobalt. Cell phones and other electronics also depend on the element’s availability. Supplies of the metal are adequate in the short term, but shortages could develop down the road if refining and recycling aren’t ramped up or made more efficient, according to new research.”

The bold is my emphasis. Why not advocate a different technology completely?

To add fuel to the fire, (no pun intended) think about cobalt’s source, quote: “Roughly 60% of mined cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The element is often recovered as a byproduct from mining copper and nickel, meaning that demand and pricing for those other metals affects the availability of cobalt. Half of the current supply of cobalt is incorporated into cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, and many of those batteries are used in consumer electronics and electric vehicles.”

The authors seem more concerned about meeting the cobalt needs based on today’s technology and usage models without any regard to the impact of DRC environmentally and / or socially. Just a sad, sad perspective to omit those potential impacts and conclude, quote: “the researchers concluded that cobalt supply is adequate in the short-term. They estimate supply will reach 320-460 thousand metric tons by 2030, while demand will reach 235-430 thousand metric tons. The team recommends that the industry invest in additional efficient refining and recycling capacity, so it can continue to meet demand.”

Plastic Recycling – is the landscape changing?

Plastic Recycling – is the landscape changing?

Pyrolysis recycling – black
Mechanical recycling – green
Recycled plastic demand surplus – grey

Basically, the demand for recycled plastic is growing faster than the supply (not supply of ‘old’ plastic, but the supply of recycled available plastic).

From Bloomberg, quote: “About 8 million tons of plastics are going into the ocean annually,” he said in an interview. “If you look at plastic packaging, around 95% is not being recycled each year which is $100 billion worth of plastic, and that’s valuable for entrepreneurs.”

And the punchline: “An estimated $80 billion-$120 billion of value is lost because of packaging that goes into the environment, said Navneet Chadha, principal operations officer at the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., which helps fund private sector investment in developing countries. “We have to think of used plastic as a resource, not as a waste.”

Think of all the QA corner cases … oh my!

Think of all the QA corner cases … oh my!

Bloomberg posted this today – while somewhat funny, the implications are terrible for ADS quality assurance teams. The magnitude of corner cases is rather breathtakingly large

Quote: A Tesla vehicle was tricked into speeding when researchers put a strip of electrical tape horizontally across the middle of the “3” on a 35 mile-an-hour speed limit sign. The change caused the vehicle to read the limit as 85 mph, and its cruise control system automatically accelerated, according to research by McAfee. The human behind the wheel was able to slow the car. Here’s the video of the incident. “

Consumer Card- charge offs & delinquencies

Consumer Card- charge offs & delinquencies

Basically, things are the same month to 3 month avg.

January credit card delinquency/charge-off rates • 3:24 PM

CompanyTypeJanuary 2020 December 2019November 20193-month   average
Capital Onedelinquency4.10%3.93%3.91%3.98%
 charge-off4.31%4.55%4.43%4.43%
American Expressdelinquency1.60%1.60%1.60%1.60%
 charge-off2.30%2.50%2.40%2.40%
JPMorgandelinquency1.14%1.13%1.17%1.15%
 charge-off2.19%2.28%2.20%2.22%
Synchronycore delinquency4.50%4.40%4.60%4.50%
 adjusted charge-off5.20%5.40%4.90%5.17%
Discover Financialdelinquency2.65%2.62%2.61%2.63%
 charge-off3.45%3.50%3.46%3.47%
Alliance Data Systemsdelinquency6.00%5.80%5.90%5.90%
 charge-off7.20%6.10%6.30%6.53%
Citigroupdelinquency1.58%1.56%1.58%1.57%
 charge-off2.49%2.77%2.57%2.61%
Bank of Americadelinquency1.61%1.60%1.63%1.61%
 charge-off2.54%2.54%2.60%2.56%
Dishes – greenest method: hands or machine?

Dishes – greenest method: hands or machine?

There is an answer (from Grist)

Quote: “When it comes to water use, the difference between manual and machine practices was even starker: Hand-washers used 34,200 gallons of water to a dishwasher’s 16,300 gallons over 10 years. In short, a dishwasher that’s being used correctly emits 63 percent fewer emissions in its entire lifecycle — including manufacturing and disposal — than a typical sink.

However, there’s a silver lining for resource-savvy hand-washers. If you happen to have a two-basin sink, filling one basin with hot water and the other with cool water, and then soaking and scrubbing your dishes in the first and rinsing them in the second — and then letting them air-dry — was the least energy-intensive method out of all the techniques the researchers tested. The two-basin method only produces 1,610 kilograms of emissions over 10 years. Adopting this technique leads to a 249 percent reduction in emissions for people who wash dishes manually.”

Only if somebody would complete and publish these types of comparisons for all consumer goods / products …

GE’s new DRC (Congo) MOU

GE’s new DRC (Congo) MOU

The history of developing country investments especially in power generation space is filled with corruption (bi-directional) and extreme climate and ecosystem impacts and – probably even more disastrous – human health, well being and livelihood impacts.

The recent announcement that GE has a new MOU in DRC is troublesome on so many fronts. I get the point that electricity in DRC (and many other areas of sub-shara Africa) is inconsistent, insufficient and intolerably expensive for those living there. But why are we (and more importantly the Congolese) being forced to make a false choice between modern electricity supply and massive ecological and human disruption (and financial bondage via debt)?

Snippet on The Congo River, quote: “The Congo River is the deepest river in the world and the fifth longest, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon’s. The Congo River is home to at least 700 fish species, with 300 documented fish species in its lower section alone. The river empties water and sediment into the Atlantic Ocean, creating “the Congo Plume” – a natural process which is thought to be one of the largest carbon sinks in the world. The river is unique in that it has large rapids and waterfalls very close to the mouth while most rivers have these features upstream. The rapids and waterfalls give the Congo River huge hydropower potential, hence it has been targeted by hydropower developers since the Belgian colonial period.” 

The Inga Dams project is worthy of a Harvard Biz School case study on graft, corruption, ecological and human tragedy. As one who has lived in Africa, the power of these big rivers – Congo, Niger, Senegal, Gambia, Zambezi and the Nile – are truly amazing for their ecosystems and ability to power human civilization. However, these are highly complicated systems that support life and climate at magnitudes poorly understood imho.

news-image

Inga is just a VERY big example of good intentions just going so terribly wrong; and sadly, probably mostly avoided IF … corruption and profit were not the stronger characteristics of those involved. Who gets impacted, the ones it was supposed to help in the beginning. Human and ecological tragedy! Environmental and social justice advocates have long fought against unnecessary tragedy – a post from 2013

What can you do? Learn about it and help in any way you can …

A list of resources

W.A.T. Winter 2020 #2

W.A.T. Winter 2020 #2

W.A.T. = Walking around town

First, a few interesting birds – a black-throated Anna’s Hummingbird, nesting Great Blue Herons, swimming ducks (American Wigeon and Ringed Neck)

Second, early flowers continue to catch my eye

Another look at US debt

Another look at US debt

These data visualizations bother me. Not sure exactly how to render tactically actionable, but strategically I have to consider more dire scenarios in my risk management strategies.

This is from Lance Roberts (I find conservative leaning but w/ solid data)

He closes with, quote: “As I stated above, the U.S. has been running MMT for the last three decades, and has resulted in social inequality, disappointment, frustration, and a rise in calls for increasing levels of socialism.

It is all just as you would expect from such a theory put into practice, and history is replete with countries that have attempted the same. Currently, the limits of profligate spending in Washington has not been reached, and the end of this particular debt story is yet to be written. But, it eventually will be.”

Friday’s GD – “Touch of Grey”

Friday’s GD – “Touch of Grey”

Been a Grateful Dead fan since around 1972 when I was 13/14. Most Friday’s you will find me w/ some variant of Jerry’s genius filling my headphones and speakers …

Today’s hit: Touch of Grey (video)

Lyrics

Must be getting early, clocks are running late
Faint light of the mornin’ sky, looks so phony
Dawn is breakin’ everywhere light a candle curse the glare
Draw the curtains I don’t care ‘cuz it’s alright

I will get by, I will get by
I will get by, I will survive

I see, you’ve got your fist out, say your piece and get out
Yes I get the gist of it but it’s alright
Sorry that you feel that way, the only there is to say
Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey

I will get by, I will get by
I will get by, I will survive

It’s a lesson to me, the eagles and the beggars and the seas
The ABC’s, we all must face try to keep a little grace

It’s a lesson to me, the deltas and the east and the freeze
The ABC’s, we all think of and try to win a little love

I know the rent is in arrears the dog has not been fed in years
It’s even worse than it appears but it’s alright
Cows givin’ kerosene, kid can’t read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene but it’s alright

I will get by, I will get by
I will get by, I will survive

The shoe is on the hand that fits, there’s really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit ‘cuz it’s alright
Oh well a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway
And that was all I had to say and it’s alright

I will get by, I will get by
I will get by, I will survive

We will get by, we will get by
We will get by, we will survive

We will get by, we will get by
We will get by, we will survive

Good news wrt EU carbon

Good news wrt EU carbon

From Grist, quote: “The European Union has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation as of late — and we’re not talking about Brexit. The group of member states, which pledged as a collective to become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of Europe’s Green Deal, cut carbon emissions from electricity by a whopping 12 percent in 2019, according to a report compiled by the European thinktanks Agora EnergieWende and Sandbag. Coal use, in particular, plummeted by about 25 percent.

“What surprised us most was the magnitude of the collapse of coal and the accompanying decrease in CO2 emissions,” said report coauthor Fabian Hein. “The speed of it was impressive.”

Retail and the consumer

Retail and the consumer

Heisenberg put a rational focus on this morning’s retail data. (quote from eTrade): “Just in, January retail sales increased 0.3% (Briefing.com consensus 0.3%), while the December reading was revised down to 0.2% from 0.3%. Excluding autos, retail sales increased 0.3% (Briefing.com consensus +0.3%), and the December reading was revised down to 0.6% from 0.7%. Import prices were unchanged in January, while prices, excluding oil, increased 0.2%. Export prices increased 0.7% in January, and prices, excluding agriculture, also increased 0.7%.”

Heisenberg’s graph is an interesting but confusing visualization (the data, not his presentation)

Compare same q y to y and inconsistent variability. He correctly points out, however, quote: “The advance read on Q4 GDP showed business spending declined for a third straight quarter, and consumption, while still strong, slowed sharply.”

I certainly agree w/ this point (my bold): “Perhaps more concerning is that it comes against record high confidence, record low unemployment and record high stocks. Something doesn’t add up there, and the problem is that the US economy is now leaning almost entirely on the consumer.”

When it comes to my investments, unknown variable mashups bug the crap out of me …. sigh

What’s making us fat?

What’s making us fat?

A recent article got my attention as it connected pesticides on food we eat as a contributing factor to obesity.

The article referenced is FULL of click-bait ads, so I will not link here. It, however, links to another article w/less bait.

Quote: “More than two-thirds of the U.S. population—twice the global average—is either overweight or obese. This is typically attributed to overeating and inactivity. But evidence that pets, laboratory animals, primates, and feral cats living in industrialized human societies also are showing a rise in obesity suggests that environmental obesogens may be playing a role.

In the current study, investigators exposed human and mouse mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and preadipocytes to triflumizole (TFZ), a fungicide widely used on food and ornamental crops. MSCs can differentiate into bone, cartilage, or fat cells; preadipocytes are precursor fat cells that mature into adipocytes in response to environmental cues. The investigators found that expression of obesity-related genes increased in treated cells from both species, and that lipid accumulation and expression of obesity-related genes increased in treated cells from both species.”

What foods are to be avoided … any fruit or vegetable that has a porous skin or rough skin that would collect pesticides and hold them in even after washing. The best tact to avoid it all – buy organic. But organic costs more, right? … poverty, socioeconomic status impacts our health as we eat cheaper (non-organic) produce.

The US CDC has some info on obesity and socioeconomic status. Quote: ‘The association between obesity and income or educational level is complex and differs by sex and race/ethnicity.

  • Overall, men and women with college degrees had lower obesity prevalence compared with those with less education.
  • By race/ethnicity, the same obesity and education pattern was seen among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic women, and also among non-Hispanic white men, although the differences were not all statistically significant. Although the difference was not statistically significant among non-Hispanic black men, obesity prevalence increased with educational attainment. Among non-Hispanic Asian women and men and Hispanic men there were no differences in obesity prevalence by education level.
  • Among men, obesity prevalence was lower in the lowest and highest income groups compared with the middle income group. This pattern was seen among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic men. Obesity prevalence was higher in the highest income group than in the lowest income group among non-Hispanic black men.
  • Among women, obesity prevalence was lower in the highest income group than in the middle and lowest income groups. This pattern was observed among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic women. Among non-Hispanic black women, there was no difference in obesity prevalence by income.”

While not all things tie back perfectly to socioeconomic status, I think safe to say: be careful what you eat; you ARE what you eat. Eat the best stuff you can afford, i.e., organic.

Batched non-urgent reads

Batched non-urgent reads

Another mid-week list as it happens around earnings season.

  • CAH: Cardinal Health’s (CAH) CEO Mike Kaufmann on Q2 2020 Results – Earnings Call Transcript
    • Comment: I am currently long CAH, but wrote calls against the entire position that will likely get called. After reading the earnings call transcript, my decision remains same – it’s a trade here, not investment. If I lose my small position for a >$1000 profit, so be it. I am just not confident in the either the business model or the political landscape 3-5 years from now; hence: a trade.
    • Conclusion: Let the outstanding calls ride (March)
  • D: Dominion Energy, Inc. (D) CEO Tom Farrell on Q4 2019 Results – Earnings Call Transcript
    • Comment- I thought was a good earnings report out and the management team covered current progress as well as future plans and challenges. I am a fan of their evolution to a much greener and regulated utility. Though their LNG business is bothersome, it’s not keeping me from investing.
    • Conclusion: invest more! Price is high here and I will increase position with yield target ideally 4.75-5.0%.
  • CSCO: Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) CEO Chuck Robbins on Q2 2020 Results – Earnings Call Transcript
    • Comment – Another solid, no surprises, earnings report from CSCO. The stock got hammered because their strategy and outlook did not change (odd?).  I thought there were two nuggets worth including in my investment decision. 1) they are in the forefront of 3 major technology evolutions in their industry and all 3 will make CSCO money (but patience will be required); 2) management identified customer hesitancy within today’s macro view that is also made more complicated by point 1 – technology transitions.
    • Conclusion: Invest more at right price over the next 3-6 months as investors continue to lose patience. Their mistake, my gain.

Inflation – gone, present, growing … it all depends

Inflation – gone, present, growing … it all depends

On what one uses to measure and report inflation …

From SA Author Tipswatch, quote:

  • Shelter prices were up 0.3% and have increased 3.3% over the last year.
  • The costs of medical care services rose 0.3% in January and are up a brisk 5.1% over the last year.
  • Apparel prices rose 0.7% in the month, a big jump after months of stable prices. Apparel costs are now up 1.3% over the last year.
  • Food prices were up 0.2% and are now up 1.8% over the last year.

Here’s the BLS report contents, quote:

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX – JANUARY 2020 The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.1 percent in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 0.2 percent in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 2.5 percent before seasonal adjustment. The index for shelter accounted for the largest part of the increase in the seasonally adjusted all items index, with the indexes for food and for medical care services also rising. These increases more than offset a decrease in the gasoline index, which fell 1.6 percent in January. The energy index declined 0.7 percent, and the major energy component indexes were mixed. The index for food rose 0.2 percent in January with the indexes for both food at home and food away from home increasing over the month. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in January after increasing 0.1 percent in December. Along with the indexes for shelter and medical care, the indexes for apparel, recreation, education, and airline fares all increased in January. The indexes for used cars and trucks, prescription drugs, motor vehicle insurance, and household furnishings and operations were among those to decline. The all items index increased 2.5 percent for the 12 months ending January, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending October 2018. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.3 percent over the last 12 months, the same 12-month increase as reported in the previous 3 months. The food index rose 1.8 percent over the last 12 months, while the energy index increased 6.2 percent over that period.

Here’s the headline bullets from Reuters but posted by CNBC, quote:

  • U.S. underlying consumer prices picked up in January as households paid more for rents and clothing,
  • The data supported the Federal Reserve’s contention that inflation would gradually rise toward its 2% target.
  • The consumer price index excluding the volatile food and energy components rose 0.2% last month after edging up 0.1% in December, the Labor Department said.

And finally, interest rates are all down today, except 3m T-bills which are up 0.007 to 1.585% as I write this.

Take your pick how you want to play … go figure.