Digest 3: the EU’s doomed grand plans, Shorism, Young the Giant
Why the EU’s grand plans for building back better are going to fail spectacularly
From Boriquagato (anonymous Substack), lightly edited for readability.
The problems the EU is having are not down to peak use being too high, they are down to renewable input being too unpredictable.
The kind of power that solar and wind supply… output is unpredictable and intermittent, and has built in characteristics that tend to make it less available when it is needed most. Winter heating needs peak at about 7 AM and 7 PM (both times that it is dark), and wind is often even more intermittent and considerably less predictable than solar.
You cannot store power in utility scale quantities using any known, workable technology. You cannot just “add batteries”. The biggest battery system in the US can hold 19 minutes of the full summer output of the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona before being full. Even at 10X battery production, even if it were affordable and feasible, it cannot be meaningful.
Grids must be balanced in real time... supply must meet demand. This is why wind and solar are never (barring some massive change in current technology) going to work.
Pretending adding more wind and solar will make Europe “energy independent” merely swaps one master (Russia) for another (China) who makes basically all the polysilicon for solar and rare earths for windmills. Replacing oil and gas with intermittent energy, you will remain dependent.
The EU is currently buying every ship full of liquid natural gas it can lay hands on, much of it from China who bought it from Russia and then marked it way up.
If EU countries insist on capping electricity prices, there will be shortages. You cannot print BTUs or MWHs, and there is only so much you can import.
This will, as ever, pummel the developing world that pays the same global prices.
If you seriously care about CO2, there is a simple way to lower output: go nuclear.
This was the German long-term energy plan in 1974:
Present EU leadership has badly misframed this issue.
I think this is correct, but I am very non-expert. If anyone has counterpoints and thinks the EU plan can work, please let me know.
Also interesting on this...
Trump and Stoltenberg
I’m not a MAGA cap wearer, but would anyone argue that Trump was wrong here in 2018?
(If you haven’t seen this clip, it is well worth watching.)
How hedge funds outplay central banks - Sebastian Mallaby
For ~3 minutes: Asymmetrical nature of the payout.
The immediate next bit (at 22:40, for three minutes) on politicians’ incentives versus traders is very interesting too. Governments are not in markets to make profits, but for political arse-covering.
With my rudimentary understanding, this is likely how Bridgewater/Ray Dalio were able to make 32% through Q2 of this year while the S&P500 dropped 20%.
According to @DalioTracker, in June Bridgewater having 28% of its portfolio shorting Europe:
And about a week later, Dalio penning a LinkedIn piece entitled ‘Investment Principle: Don’t Always Bet On Up’.
(Bridgewater has since cut back on this European short position.)
I found this from Mallaby on early pure performance incentives also interesting:
(For ~90 seconds)
He later (at 50:50) gives the advice: if ever you are considering putting money into a fund, insist on asking how much of their personal money the fund managers have in it.
Michael Nielsen critiquing Effective Altruism
From libertarians I’ve heard: “Look, EA is just leftist collective utilitarianism. It centralizes decision-making too much, and ignores both price signals and the immense power that comes from having lots of people working in their own self-interest, albeit inside a system designed so that self-interest (often) helps everyone collectively.”
EA... is relatively centralized, and focused on absolute advantage. That tends to centralize people’s actions, and compounds mistakes.
Shorism: on David Shor, a data guru for the Democrats
“Shorism” boils down to message discipline for candidates in competitive races: They should talk about what’s popular with voters and shut up about what’s not.
At its core, his theory holds that Democrats in competitive races should drop progressive slogans like “defund the police” from their stump speeches and refrain from highlighting immigration and other divisive issues.
Shorism seems on the way toward becoming conventional wisdom in liberal circles, boosted by the fact that its namesake has the kind of national reputation unusual for a data scientist.
(This is obviously depressing, that a winning strategy at present appears to be avoiding debating important issues.)
From the documentary ‘Water and Power: A California Heist’, I found this clip (at 46 mins) really interesting:
In February 2016 groundwater regulations (the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) were finally put in place in California – though being phased in over 20 years. (A small, and slightly encouraging effect from the noble advocates the documentary-makers followed.)
But according to a recent cover article by Ross Clark in The Spectator, this is happening right now in the UK:
Thames Water did propose a reservoir at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in 2006, plans for which were opposed by the Environment Agency on the grounds that it was not needed. It has remained on hold ever since... The result of the failure to build reservoirs is that we are pumping ever more water from groundwater. The Environment Agency now reckons we are extracting 700 million litres a day. Over time, this will cause the water table to fall.
Quantum applications, Bismarck Analysis
A few paragraphs from a long brief on quantum computing that I was actually able (in bold) to understand...
Another potential use of quantum technology is quantum sensing to detect variations in electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields at an atomic level. In a typical quantum computing context, a qubit’s responses to its environment can distort its calculations. In a quantum sensing context, the interpretation of these responses could be used to measure electromagnetic or gravitational forces typically invisible to most sensors. This utilization would be particularly valuable in military contexts: if it becomes possible to stably and portably deploy quantum sensing devices, it is thought that it could render current stealth systems obsolete, and allow access to highly accurate location data on military assets, even if underwater or underground, essentially upending common deterrence strategies and obsoleting past decades’ massive military spending on stealth technologies.
Young the Giant album artwork
As someone who loves flags, and colour, these are brilliant…
Their music is great, too.
The most enjoyable story I’ve heard about the Queen
Was the Queen the only person ever to have met 14 U.S. Presidents? Stories of Ronald Reagan insisting she come out to Hollywood instead of meeting in D.C, and the Obamas having a mouse in their room in Buckingham Palace. Recorded a few months ago at the time of her Jubilee, the below with Robert Hardman and Andrew Roberts, for 12 minutes, is a wonderful collection of stories:
As has been written elsewhere ‘The late monarch was the country’s best diplomat’.
Thanks for reading!