Green Rationing: 40 Gallons a Year

  • Sustainability researchers on Americans’ consumption…
  • … and unprecedented bone-deep cuts
  • Amazon’s zero-emissions guilt trip
  • Byron King: “Green” EV policies punish the middle class
  • Chilean copper miners contemplate strikes
  • What does Beijing call “spiritual opium”?
  • A reader wants a Social Security refund

To heal Mother Earth’s climate change diagnosis, a European study suggests Americans would need to cut their lifestyles. Like, to the bone…

According to a study spearheaded by University of Leeds, Americans would need to reduce total energy consumption by 90% to achieve a “low-energy society.” The footprint of housing for a family of four? Get this: no more than 640 square feet. (Hello, cabin fever!)

“With respect to transportation and physical mobility, the average person would be limited to using the energy equivalent of 16–40 gallons of gasoline per year,” says an article at Reason. And air travel would be restricted to one flight… every three years.

“In addition, food consumption per capita… would be 2,100 calories per day,” Reason says, cutting about 900 calories from the average American’s daily intake.

Researchers even went so far as to set a “clothing allowance” per person — equal to nine pounds annually — and restricted doing laundry to just 20 times per year. Or once every 18.25 days for non-leap years.

How did University of Leeds sustainability researcher Jefim Vogel and his collaborators draw their conclusions?

The study is based on energy reductions required to “limit global warming to 1.5 C” per the Paris Agreement of 2015.

It’s at this point your editor today spotlights a commercial that’s been on high rotation recently (at least on the streaming platform Hulu).

It features a cast of Gen Z, Greta Thunberg wannabes (only more peevish, if you can imagine), lecturing their Gen X/old millennial parents and boomer grandparents about the need to cut vehicle emissions, clean up waterways, reduce global warming and practice sustainable farming. (“It’s a thing,” says one brace-faced teen tartly.)

Only Six Amazon

Don’t take that tone with me, young man!
Click to link

The messaging is insufferable. Pretty much a bunch of kids sending their elders on an emissions-free guilt trip. The only thing worse is that the entire production is sponsored by Amazon. In support of the Paris Agreement.

Where to even begin with the hypocrisy? Well, it’s about as discordant as Philip Morris PSAs putting the dangers of cigarette smoking on blast… and shaking a nicotine-stained finger at smokers! (To say nothing of Jeff Bezos’ recent fuel-guzzling space caper.)

Meanwhile back at the solar-powered, 640-square-foot ranch…

Leeds’ researcher Jefim Vogel doesn’t equivocate: There are currently zero countries that fall within the study’s strict consumption guidelines. Not one example.

“No country in the world accomplishes that — not even close,” he confesses. But what could help? “More fundamental transformation of the political-economic regime,” the study says. Here we go…

“We also found that a fairer income distribution is crucial for achieving decent living standards at low energy use,” says Vogel’s co-author Daniel O’Neill.

“To reduce existing income disparities, governments could raise minimum wages, provide a Universal Basic Income and introduce a maximum income level. We also need much higher taxes on high incomes, and lower taxes on low incomes.”

Easy peasy, right? Nonetheless, “sustainability experts” including Mr. Vogel and company are determined to push their impracticable agenda.

But at whose expense?

“We’re looking at a bombing… of social and cultural change,” says geologist and mining expert Byron King, “with the internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles directly in the bombsight.

“It’s all being driven by massive policy and legal shifts from the top down,” he says, “intended to reverse over 100 years of human development in the U.S., if not much of the rest of the world.”

Which leads Byron to ask: “What could possibly go wrong?” While CEO Carlos Tavares of Stellantis — the fifth-largest automaker in the world — provided an answer at a recent forum hosted by the Financial Times.

Byron says: “One key takeaway from [Tavares’] talk was a warning that driving a car in the future could become the preserve of the rich…

“The middle class is already losing access to affordable personal transport,” Byron says. “The lurch to EVs is exacerbating the problem.

“The U.S. and governments in other countries around the world are imposing future bans on diesel and petrol cars, while embracing electrification without fully thinking it through. In turn, all key players within entire industrial sectors are competing for the same scarce materials at the same time,” says Byron.

“Obviously… EVs only work by building out a vast new array of electric production, transmission and delivery systems, all based on relatively scarce and increasingly pricey technology metals, battery metals and rare earths.

“It will absolutely drive up the costs and difficulties of production at every level,” Byron says. So expect “strong inflation in the cost of raw materials,” Tavares said.

All of which plays a role in “driving up sticker prices and locking large segments of the population out of car or truck buying…

“Meanwhile,” Byron says, “politicians have not fully considered the total lifecycle impact of the decision to go with EVs. They don’t factor in the difficulty of sourcing… materials, nor the environmental impact of mining things like exotic metals for batteries.

“The political focus on emitting less carbon from tailpipes is dangerously simplistic,” he argues.

“Yes, some investors will make a lot of money on copper, rare earths and other critical materials,” he concedes.

At the same time, Byron echoes Tavares, who asked: “How can we protect the freedom of mobility for the middle class?

“It’s fair to wonder,” Byron concludes, “if restricting access to travel, and taking freedom away from the middle class, is not also part of the ultimate goal of many current politicians.”

“Stocks posted a strong start to August trade,” says our market analyst Greg Guenthner, “only to fade into the closing bell.

“Airlines took a hit after opening in the green (most endured steady selling throughout the day),” he notes. “Oil dropped more than 3.5% on the day. Energy stocks were stuck in the red.

“Looking at sectors, energy, materials and industrials were the big losers. The safety of utilities won the day,” Greg says. “It’s almost as if the market is worried about new lockdowns due to Delta variant fears.”

Today? The Big Board’s up 0.55% to 35,000 while the S&P 500 is up 0.35% to 4,400. The Nasdaq’s spinning in neutral at 14,675.

Checking in on commodities, oil’s slipped 1% to $70.52 for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate; gold is down 0.5% to $1,812.90 per ounce, and silver’s treading water above $25.

Our supply-chain snafu of the day? “A tightening global copper market is facing the real possibility of simultaneous strike disruptions at three mines in Chile,” Bloomberg says.

With the most significant supply-chain threat coming from the world’s largest copper mine, Escondida, where an overwhelming 99.5% of miners voted against owner BHP Group’s most recent wage offer. Two smaller Chilean mines — Codelco’s Andina and JX Nippon Mining & Metals’ Caserones — are in similar stages of collective bargaining.

“Unless the two sides can reach a deal in government-mediated talks this week, the market may be left without production from a project that last year churned out 1.2 million metric tons,” Bloomberg says.

All told, potential strikes in Chile jeopardize more than 7% of the world’s copper production.

“Labor tensions are intensifying just as trillions of dollars in government stimulus fuel demand for industrial metals,” Bloomberg notes.

“The windfall enjoyed by producers is emboldening mine workers,” Bloomberg says, “all playing out as [Chile] drafts a new constitution that may lead to tougher rules on water, glaciers, mineral and community rights, with presidential elections in November.”

The miners’ union says: “We hope that this… will be the decisive wake-up call for BHP to initiate substantive discussions to reach satisfactory agreements, if it wants to avoid a lengthy conflict that could be the costliest in the country’s union history.”

EVs are looking more and more expensive, no?

“Shares in two of China’s biggest online gaming firms have slipped after a state media outlet called them ‘electronic drugs,’” says the BBC.

“An article published by the state-run Economic Information Daily said many teenagers had become addicted to online gaming and it was having a negative impact on them.

“The article cited Tencent’s hugely popular game Honor of Kings, saying students were playing it for up to eight hours a day,” says the BBC. Is that all? Heh…

Economic Information Daily concludes: “No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation,” while also likening online games to “spiritual opium.”

China’s state-run media is never one for understatement…

Consequently, shares of Chinese tech giants Tencent and NetEase corrected 10% in Hong Kong trading before paring some losses. As for Tencent, the company promised to limit the amount of time children could play Honor of Kings, and eventually apply curbs to all its games.

Big picture: “Investors are increasingly concerned about Beijing cracking down on firms,” according to the BBC.

Most recently, Beijing has clamped down on Big Tech and, interestingly enough, online education companies, which represent a $120 billion industry.

“Last week saw shares in Chinese online tutoring firms slump after they were stripped of the ability to make a profit from teaching core subjects in China.”

Which came about in an effort to reduce the expense of raising children… after China’s most recent census data shows the country’s birth rate has fallen to a 70-year low.

Of course, Jim Rickards alerted us to China’s aging-population problem, and now he’s dialed in on Beijing’s corporate crackdown. More to come…

[Weird postscript: The Economic Information Daily has since deleted its article taking aim at Tencent in particular and online gaming in general. Hmm… ]

A reader writes: “So if ‘they’ terminate SS (SS has a nasty historical ring to it) if citizens won’t take a knee and the jab…

“… wouldn’t it be right, just and honorable for the government to let the unvaccinated opt out of the system?

“Long-term payers who paid the employee share and, at some point, a little self-employment over 50 years or so would have a legitimate refund claim based on all of the taxes paid over that period compounded by the average rate of return on a balanced portfolio (which they could have earned) less the amount of benefits received to date, right?!

“A little bit tongue in cheek here, but sign me up.”

The 5: Whoever said anything about “right, just and honorable”? But good luck with that…

Take care! We’ll be back tomorrow.

Best regards,

Emily Clancy
The 5 Min. Forecast

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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