Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Population & the environment

I've spilt a lot of printer's ink on the topic of the connection between population size and environmental quality. Indeed 24 years ago I co-wrote a book on the topic.  At a Productivity Commission Workshop on "Sustainable Populations: Key Policy Issues" a few years back I was asked to summarise my bottom line.  I immodestly think its one of my better contributions.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Low oil prices to continue?

This argument (here) that $50US/barrel oil might be a ceiling price not a floor impresses me as sensible. The Saudi's are involved in a war with the US unconventional oil producers and the most sensible thing for them to do is to keep prices below a level that allows the unconventional oil producers to be profitable. That price seems to be about $50US/barrel. Moreover, the policy seems to be working.

According to the AFR page 9 this morning (unfortunately paywalled) drilling rigs are going out of business now in the US.  Over the last 3 months oil rig numbers in the US have fallen from 1591 to 1366 while gas rigs have fallen from 330 to 310.  One forecast is that 800 rigs will close by the end of 2015.  This does not necessarily indicate a proportionate drop in oil production given the "flight to quality" rigs that will occur.

It will be interesting to see this Wednesday what BHP-Billiton says of the effects of the recent oil price collapse has on its $20b US shale oil investments.  A fair bit of its production is low cost (around $40/barrel) but the outlook for returns will at least be disappointing.

Friday, January 16, 2015


I have only shopped in IKEA twice and was impressed with the quality of the merchandise once it is assembled.  It is an interesting experience for me because you can choose how much effort you want to put into the purchase and that determines your costs.

Last week I ordered two sets of bookshelves with height extensions for about $200 - amazingly cheap for what look like quite elegant shelving.   You take the order to a warehouse where you select the disassembled items and take them on a trolley to the cashier. For $40 they will do this for you so you only need to go the cashier but I didn't pay that - this involved trivial effort.  The price for assembling the shelves and disposing of the packaging was $140 - a two part tariff consisting of a fixed $35 charge and a variable $90 charge for the assembly of the two units.  I felt some guilt about my laziness in this respect but I my experience is that idiot proof assembly often defeats me so I paid up including the $15 fee for the assembler to remove the boxes. Delivery cost another $92 so all up my $200 shelves cost me $440.  Still fairly inexpensive for what seem to be high quality units.

There were time costs of waiting for delivery of the items and for the arrival of the assembler cost me a whole working day. This was expensive in terms of at least one foregone golf game.  In addition, as far as I can see, you cannot order from IKEA online so the shopping expedition through Melbourne traffic added to my user costs.

Update: This was written before the assembler came.  Nice guy put the thing together in two hours plus - two simple bookshelves. It wasn't simple and very pleased I had it assembled rather than do myself.  It would have taken me (at least) a day of frustration.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Don't have to do

William S. Burroughs in his book (with Daniel Odier) "The Job" describes a de-conditioning exercise called "dont't have to do".  No lessons, no books, no work to be done.  It starts by mocking up a way of thinking you have to do - for example a set of errands or a speech before an audience you need to impress - and then a way of thinking you don't have to do - for example based on a person whose way of life is completely different from your own - what did Dutch Schultz the gangster have to do?  This exercise, borrowed from Scientology, is intended to loosen up enforced ways of thinking.

You wind up understanding that you don't have to do anything.  Even abandoning language and words and just seeing and relaxing.  You can't work at it (or write blog posts about it) as that would be doing something. "Its a way you would think if you didn't have to think up a way of thinking you don't have to do".

I've been out of the workforce for 4 weeks now and thinking about these ideas. I still feel compelled to do things - even if they are non-work things.  I still dislike the idea of "wasting time".  Forty years in the workforce does that to you.  Of course I don't want to wander around like a middle-aged spaced out hippy appreciating the great orgasmic nothingness of it all.  But I do want to become a little less driven and more inclined to recognise the value of "don't have to do".

Don't have to prepare for classes, don't have to go to the gym, don't have to play golf, don't have to read Proust, don't have to...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Review of Richard Tol on climate change economics

This is a draft of a proposed review.

Richard S. J. Tol, Climate Economics: Economic Analysis of Climate Change and Climate Policy, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK, 2014.

This is a text on climate change and its economics.  It is written in a brisk, lecture note format with much material tersely presented. It contains exercises, reading lists and utilizes a supplementary website which contains lecture notes, quizzes, lecture slides and supporting databases.  As someone who teaches classes on climate economics I found this useful.  Particularly those early parts of this book that involve describing the science and in establishing a conceptual policy setting.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Checking I can readily post photos on my new blog. I took the train into Melbourne today where it was raining.

Starting again

Starting a new blog as my old WordPress blog, something I have maintained for 7 years, has grown to vast proportions in size - more than half a GB.  Also I have reverted to using Blogger software as it is sophisticated enough for my immediate needs.  On Blogger it is easier to post photographs as well.