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Why Russia Turned Out So Differently From Germany & Japan

After World War 2 the US (and West in general) supported its former enemies.  Rebuilding cities, legal systems, and economies on a massive scale.  Germany and Japan were the primary beneficiaries of that financial aid and guidance and today those two countries are large stable entities that improve the West’s standard of living by providing both solid trading partners and political allies.

Some argue that those countries now take “our” jobs when in fact the evidence is clear that those countries have expanded the global economy for all.   It is true that the US, Canada and the UK have a smaller slice of the global economic pie in 2018 compared to1950, but the pie is many times larger, so the net benefit to those countries is irrefutable.

The rebuilding (not reconstruction) plan was named after then US Secretary of State George Marshall.  Today the Marshall Plan is touted as the cure all for every failing state, from Afghanistan to Mozambique but, as this New Yorker article explains, for a Marshal Plan had a lot more to do with reassurance and a lot less to do with money than most people think.

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What Is Induced Seismicity in Oil & Gas Exploration & What Can Be Done About It?

What is Induced Seismicity?

Induced Seismicity is just another way to say ‘man made earthquakes’ and are sometimes referred to “induced earthquakes”.  Induced Seismicity can be caused by many things humans do including:

  1. damming rivers for hydro power build a vast water weight behind the dam which was not their previously
  2. having old mine shafts collapse
  3. draining of underground water reservoirs
  4. tunneling / boring for transit systems

Induced-Seismicity-caused-by-oil-gas-explorationbut the focus of this article is Induced Seismicity caused by oil and gas exploration and production.  There are some unexpected results in the latest research that governments and citizens should be aware of.

The picture to the right is the standard graphic used by industry to explain that when we search for or produce oil and gas near existing fault lines, the added (or reduced!) pressures can cause the faults to activate resulting in earthquakes.  Nowhere has this been more pronounced than in Oklahoma over the previous decade and their citizens and governments are taking it very seriously.

What are the Main Causes of Oil & Gas Related Induced Seismicity?

The two major causes of oil and gas related Induced Seismicity are:

  1. Fracking HORIZONTAL wells
  2. Waste water disposal wells

What is Fracking?

Hydraulic Fracturing or “fracking” is simply the process of injecting materials (often including water, sand, chemicals, CO2…) into a well under very high pressure.  The idea is to crack the rock and release the oil and gas contained.

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Strathmore MLA Derek Fildebrandt Claims Jason Kenney Told Him He Cannot Run Against a Women

jason-kenney-Derek-Fildebrandt-alberta-ucpThe video below shows Derek Fildebrandt at the Strathmore on Monday April 23rd, claiming that UCP leader Jason Kenney told him he could not run against a female UCP member:

…What Jason (Kenney) said to me. It’s not about me challenging other incumbents. It was only about me challenging female incumbents… And he said I could run against any other men…  I don’t think it serves women well to have effectively affirmative action in politics…

https://youtu.be/rurP7iBkPPc

It should be noted that Mr. Fildebrandt is accused of many politically unsettling problems including:

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The Unintended Consequences of Government Meddling In the Steel Industry

dangerous-steel-worker-jobsIt is well established that even well intentioned government intervention in industry very often ends up causing more problems than it solves.  Today one of the issues facing the United States is a loss of jobs in the steel industry and so President Trump claimed this is a National Security Issue and so used his unilateral power to impose a 25% tariff on imports of steel into the United States.

On its face, this seems like a good idea.  Simplistically, if decrease the ability of other countries to export their steel to the US will result in the creation of more US steel jobs.  However, the world is not a simple place and what actually happened was:

  1. Few new US steel jobs were (or will be) created as steel foundries take time to expand and most of that expansion will be done with… wait for it… automation, not direct jobs
  2. The cost of goods produced in the US has to go up to accommodate that tariff.  That is a particularly ugly reality for US consumers that like things made with lots of steel, like cars
  3. The US has trade agreements with many friendly countries like Canada, Japan and others that preclude such tariffs but cause diplomatic problems as exceptions are carved out
  4. Other industries then get in-line for their protection package causing a never ending tide of companies looking for their handout
  5. Some important civic projects like steel intensive bridges have their costs increase or projects delayed so long (because engineers now spec required US steel that is back-ordered) that they are cancelled outright or don’t get completed in a timely fashion.

The five points above are well documented oft discussed in the media.  The video below however, points out two fascinating unintended consequences that we had not thought of:

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Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal Is a Crisis For All Online Companies

There is a crisis at Facebook because of the constant negative media coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal causing users to question staying on the product and that has caused Facebook stock drop a truly staggering $70B in value in 11 days.  It’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, owns 28.2% of the company so he has lost $20B personally.facebook-scandal-stock-price-drop-70b-zukerberg$20b-11-days

There is a also crisis being experienced by some Facebook users that have finally realized Facebook and nearly all other ‘free’ online services are harvesting personal data to allow others to micro-target advertising at them.  WHO DIDN’T KNOW THIS ALREADY?  Apparently millions of people thought Facebook was some benevolent do-gooder, that provided a complex service for free because they were nice people.

The saying in the industry holds as true today as it did in the 1999 when it was coined: “You are not the customer; you are the product“.

The only ethically questionable behavior by Facebook in this current crisis, was corrected way back in the spring of 2015.  That issue was the ability of users to share not only their own information, but that of their friends (if those friends had not changed default privacy settings).

Facebook made USD$40B in 2017 and that was another record amount for them.  They did this by monitoring you, figuring out what you might be interested in and then allowing advertisers to target you personally, just like they said they would.

The along came Cambridge Analytica who used a large set of Facebook user data and figured out patterns they could use to apply to other Facebook users.  Cambridge Analytica organized the social media efforts for the Donald Trump Presidential campaign and now it is a political crisis too.

It is important to note that:

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Anatomy of a Modern Data Breach: The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica Scandal

cambridge-analytica-the-power-of0big-data-in-the-electoral-processNow that much of the dust has settled on Cambridge Analytica‘s misuse of Facebook users data the sad story can now be told.

It is critical to note upfront that Facebook was not hacked and that the information that was misused was provided voluntarily by Facebook Users.  The only breach was a breach of misplaced trust.

Timeline of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica Scandal:

  1. January 2015:  Cambridge University’s Professor Alexander Krogan created ‘ThisIsYourDigitalLife’ personality survey app on Facebook, under his company “Global Science Research”
    • facebook-cambridge-anaytica-kogan-nix-bannon-mercer-connections-theguardian270,000 people responded and at the time it was possible for users of that app to provide limited information on their ‘friends’, if those ‘friends’ Facebook privacy settings allowed it
    • Including the ‘Friends’ moves the number of people that had some limited information sent to the ‘research’ company to about 50 Million
    • Professor Kogan has serious ties to the Russian government
      .
  2. April 2015: Facebook changed their software to make it impossible for users to share any of their ‘friends’ information
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Are Electric Cars Really Less Expensive To Own & Operate?

If you are interested in fully electric cars or plug-in hybrids there is a myriad of misleading information to wade through.  One of the big questions is, ‘Is it is cheaper to run own and operate an electric car vs a gasoline powered car?’.

Before we get into the numbers, you need to be aware of two things:

  1. Most electric vehicles are plugged in at work during the day at no additional cost to the employee
  2. The price of electricity varies from city to city, so it is difficult to say definitively one way or the other

The most accurate, generalized, answer is to say electrified and gasoline vehicles are very competitive with each other and one does not (yet) have a major cost advantage over the other.

I drive a Cadillac ELR with a 60KM+ range (average of 55KM in winter and 65KM range in summer) before my gasoline engine generator kicks in.  Because I used to track my expenses and my kilometers, I can say with certainty that the ELR save me:

  1. about $1700/year in fuel costs. Like many, I seldom plug it in at home and on the rare occasion that I do my solar panels provide about 50% of electricity.  I do 95% of my car charging at work, at no extra cost.
  2. Nearly all electric vehicles have ‘regenerative braking’ which uses the electric motor to slow the car.  The physical brakes are seldom used and I expect that the factory set of brakes will last the life of the car.  That saves a few hundred dollars.
  3. Because the gasoline engine generator in my plug-in hybrid Cadillac ELR is seldom used I will only get an oil change every 18 months or so.  If the car was fully electric, I would never get an oil change.  This saves both money and time… which to me is more money.
  4. For the reasons above, I expect the exhaust system and other consumables (spark plugs, air filters…) will last dramatically longer than a regular car.  All of this saving money.

We have two interesting sets of numbers for you to review.  From the new for 2018 book ThePriceOfCarbon.com comes an interesting info-graphic:

comparison-of-fuel-prices-between-electric-vs-gasoline-vehicles-2018

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Should Disposable Single Use Plastic Bags Be Banned?

There has been much talk in the recent decade about banning disposable plastic bags.  The basic argument is that consumer grade disposable single use plastic bags are the root cause widespread environmental damage but have ready alternatives, so why are will still using them?

As is often the case with political issues, there is no simple answer to the question “Should single use plastic bags be banned?”.  Below are some of the facts and you can decide for yourself if this is a crisis or not:

ARGUMENTS AGAINST SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS

  • Australian scientists found that 90% of seabirds had plastic in their digestive tract
    • 85% of ‘ocean garbage’ is plastic
    • In March of 2018, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna claimed that there is the equivalent of one full dump truck load of plastic materials being dumped in the ocean every minute of every day
  • Plastic bags are made from non-renewable material
  • Single use plastic bags account cost about $.04 each to buy new and it is estimated the clean up cost is about $.15 per bag, resulting in a total cost to the consumer of more than $80 per year (more…)

Will The New Canadian National Projects Review Mechanisms, Resolve Provincial & Municipal Disputes

At the heart of the Canadian Federal Governments announcement today about fixing the process that determines if a large scale project is in the best interest of Canada or not, is a desire to limit ability Provincial, Municipal and interest groups (like ‘First Nations’) to stall approved projects.  The idea is to:

  1. increase consultation so everyone’s voice is heard
  2. set firm and visible rules for industry so that “goal posts” are not being moved after the fact
  3. determine what is in Canada’s best interest, when that interest is at odds with local interest

These are clearly admirable goals.  To achieve those goals there are now going to be three structures that industry must pass through to get Federal Government support:

  1. A new ‘Impact Assessment Agency of Canada‘ will do the preliminary investigation to determine the environmental effects of a project
  2. The existing ‘National Energy Board’ is demoted and renamed ‘Canadian Energy Regulator‘ but still be responsible for determining the technicalities of a project
  3. The ‘Federal Minister of the Environment‘ will have the final say  if a project is viable and in Canada’s interest

So now the questions are, will these changes allow:

  1. Industry to decide that spending many millions of dollars to go through an elongated approval process that will have a definitive outcome be worth while?
  2. Provincial, Municipal and interest groups (like ‘First Nations’) to be heard and listened to?

There has been much debate over the process and all agree something big had to change:

  1. When industry works on large scale projects deemed to be in the Canadian national interest after years of consultation and vetting that are still blocked by local and regional interests, there is a big problem.
  2. When interest groups (i.e. some ‘First Nations’, Municipal governments (i.e. Vancouver) local and Provincial governments (i.e. BC) feel empowered to block large scale projects that adversely affect the rest of the country, there is an even bigger problem.

Dennis McConaghy, a former senior executive at Trans Canada Pipelines thinks these changes will not achieve the desired goals:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7tbmUNo0XA

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