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What Really Happens When You Recycle Wrong?

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What Really Happens When You Recycle Wrong?

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What do solar panels and tomatoes have in common? Living space.

Cannabis, according to a new report from EQ Research, could require as much energy as data centers to grow indoors.

In states where cannabis has been legalized like Washington and Colorado, growing operations may account for as much as 1 percent of total energy sales. And a lot of energy usually means a lot of emissions. A 2012 study found that indoor marijuana-growing operations produce 15 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to 3 million cars.

The high energy use comes mostly from lighting, ventilation, and dehumidifying, as GreenTech Media reports. But unlike other energy hogs (like data centers), it’s difficult for growers to take part in state and utility-run energy efficiency programs. That’s because the cannabis industry is illegal, federally.

According to the report, it will take electric utilities, regulatory commissions, state and local governments, and cannabis growers and business associations working together to create completely new incentives, programs, and financing tools for energy-efficient growing systems.

In the meantime, what’s the concerned marijuana user to do? Well, you can try to buy pot that’s grown outdoors — or, if that’s not an option, install some LEDs and grown your own. Just be sure to brush up on your local laws first.

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What do solar panels and tomatoes have in common? Living space.

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My Kinda Sorta Non-Review of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”

Mother Jones

I’m having a hard time finishing Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. Is this because it’s a long, dense tome? Not really, though that doesn’t help. Is it because he has nothing interesting to say? Not at all. Capital presents a very provocative thesis. Nevertheless, I started it once, put it down, finally picked it up again, and still haven’t finished it.

So what’s the problem? It’s pretty simple: Piketty’s provocative thesis is extremely elementary and he makes it right in the introduction. Here it is in a nutshell:

Over the long run, ordinary labor income grows at about the same rate as the broader economy. That’s about 2-3 percent per year these days. Capital, however, tends to produce real returns of 4-5 percent. This means that over the course of, say, 50 years, labor income will increase about 3x while capital stocks will increase about 9x. That in turn means that income from capital will also increase 9x. And since rich people have by far the bulk of all capital income, income inequality inevitably grows forever unless something stops it.

The shorthand for this is r > g. That is, r (the return on capital) is historically greater than g (economic growth), which means that rich people with capital will always see their incomes grow faster than ordinary wage slaves. The rest of the book is a lengthy succession of charts and tables demonstrating that, historically, r really is greater than g. Since I was pretty easily persuaded of this, I had a hard time slogging through all the details.

In any case, the historical data isn’t really why anyone other than specialists cares about this book. After all, the world has been ticking along for centuries, and somehow the rich have not, in fact, accumulated 99.9 percent of the world’s income despite more than a thousand years of r being greater than g. Why? The simple answer, I gather, is war. This is the great leveler. The rich get richer for a while, but then they lose it all during periods of war, and the cycle starts all over. That’s what happened in the 20th century: The rich were obscenely wealthy early on, and then came World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. That wiped out lots of wealth, and the postwar rebuilding era was one of those rare eras when r was actually greater than g. (See chart on right.) So labor did relatively well for a few decades. This ended in the 80s, when the old historical pattern reasserted itself.

This brings us to the question we really care about: Now that we’ve reverted to a more ordinary r > g world, will this continue? I started skipping through the book to find Piketty’s answer, and I was disappointed at what I found. After some preliminary throat clearing to get clear on some details (the nature of private savings, what components should be counted in capital accounts, etc.), we get….nothing.

Basically, Piketty says that historically r has been greater than g, and there’s no reason to think this won’t be true in the future. That’s really about it. Oh, he addresses some technical issues, like the fact that a glut of capital should reduce the return on capital, but basically that’s his argument. In the past r has almost always been greater than g, and we’d be foolish to think that’s likely to change.

Don’t get me wrong: Piketty may be right. Hell, he probably is right. But while the details are of keen interest to specialists and practitioners, the gist of his argument is simply that the future will probably look like the past. That’s certainly plausible, but I’m frankly having a hard time plowing through a ton of background material in support of such a simple thesis.

I’m not sure why I’m fessing up to all this. I’m really doing nothing except admitting that I’m not sure what everyone else sees that I don’t. As a data-gathering exercise, this book is unquestionably a tour de force, and I’m truly not trying to slight Piketty’s seminal achievement here. But as a layman’s guide to the future (and it’s explicitly written for a lay audience), Capital has little to say except that current trends will probably continue. It might be unreasonable to expect more, since obviously no one can predict the future, but I guess I expected more anyway. Is r > g really a monocausal explanation for the evolution of the entire world economy? Is it possible that r might decline for structural reasons in the future? Or that g might increase thanks to automation? Or that other factors might come into play? That seems at least worth addressing in some depth.

In any case, this is Piketty’s story. Capital grows faster than labor income. Rich people have most of the capital. Therefore rich people get richer faster than ordinary wage earners and income inequality inexorably rises. If we don’t like that, we’ll have to do something about it. Piketty thinks the only answer is a global wealth tax, which he admits is a political nonstarter. Dean Baker has some other ideas here. Or maybe war will once again take care of things. Or maybe the rise of smart robots will make things even worse than Piketty ever imagined. I guess we’ll all know in another 50 years or so.

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My Kinda Sorta Non-Review of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”

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Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)

Grocery cartel

Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)

Shutterstock

“I could just kill for a margarita right now,” you sigh, apparently ignorant of the fact that it is March, and the consumption of an iced beverage is nothing short of an act of insanity. It’s also probably the middle of the workday, so that in itself should be cause for concern in most circles.

You’re also probably unaware that someone may have actually killed – as in, committed murder – for the limes that go in your hypothetical margarita. Cartels are invading the Mexican citrus trade, hijacking trucks, and forcibly taking over farms to sell the now-valuable fruit. Another day, another ring of organized criminals making the transition from eight balls to tasty treats!

NPR reports that unprecedented rainfall in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, and Veracruz and a widespread bacterial infection in the state of Colima have resulted in minimal lime yields this year. As a result, farmers can charge a high price for their harvest, no matter the quality.

The demand for delicious citrus fruit has not escaped the attention of former Mexican drug lords. Canadian CBC News reports that the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) cartel, an offshoot of the defunct but infamously brutal La Familia Michoacana, has been forcing farmers in the Tierra Caliente region to pay “protection taxes” to the cartel, which drive up lime prices even further. In some cases, the Knights Templar will seize citrus farms and take over production, sometimes killing farmers in the process. And according to NPR, lime producers are starting to hire security details to protect shipments of limes from organized hijackers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Knights Templar have been active in the region for years preceding this lime crisis, but it’s only provided further opportunity for them to profit. Organized crime in the Tierra Caliente region, which includes parts of Michoacán and Guerrero, has wreaked havoc on its agriculture. A recent evaluation by the National Chamber of Business, Services, and Tourism of Apatzingán, a central city in the Tierra Caliente valley, showed that the cost of restoring the local citrus farming industry alone would exceed $130 million (link in Spanish).

Raúl Millan of Vision Import Group expressed surprise to NPR that customers are still buying up limes at prices that are double or triple what they normally are. Have you ever tried to separate the average American from her guac, Raúl? Come on. You know better.


Source
In Mexico And U.S., Lime Lovers Feel Squeezed By High Prices, NPR
Mexican drug cartel behind increase in lime prices, CBC News

Eve Andrews is a Grist fellow and new Seattle transplant via the mean streets of Chicago, Poughkeepsie, and Pittsburgh, respectively and in order of meanness. Follow her on Twitter.

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Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)

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