Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

A primer on macroeconomics

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The introductory macroeconomics course that I took a couple of decades ago didn’t stick with me very long. I don’t know if the role of government should be to steer markets or to set them free. As even the Conservative government tries to spend our way out of the current recession, I am torn between believing that stimulating the economy is a good thing vs. the fear that we are digging ourselves into too much debt. I thought that this YouTube clip – of Keynes and Hayek partying and debating economics – was an entertaining way to waste 7 1/2 minutes while brushing up on economic theory.

The wages of spend is debt

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

She’s heard it said by the drone in her head
That the wages of spend is debt

(Mark Heard, Freight Train to Nowhere)

After this home reno is out of the way I’d really like to replace the minivan with a truck.

On second thought,  maybe that won’t happen this year.

Liquored up on subsidies

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

The U.S. subsidy is a tax rebate of 50 cents a gallon for converting from fossil fuel to a mixture of fossil fuel and biofuel. It was approved by the U.S. Senate in 2005 to increase the use of biofuel in highway vehicles. But in 2008, kraft pulp mills who have traditionally used black liquor – a by-product rich in carbon – for producing heat and energy, realized they could qualify for it if they added some diesel fuel to it. The resulting fuel meets the tax guidelines but burns more fossil fuel rather than less, turning the intent the legislation upside down.

… (full Vancouver Sun article here)

Luckily the outcry against this perverse “black liquor” subsidy isn’t limited to Canada – see this Wall Street Journal article.  I just hope that common sense prevails before the few remaining unshuttered Canadian pulp mills are forced to shut down.

Bitumen presentations

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

A few days ago I mentioned The Great Tar Sands Debate.  Tonight I went to it, and I found it very interesting, but I would hesitate to call it a debate.

I thought that both speakers did a fine job of their presentations.

Andrew Nikiforuk spoke against the “tar sands” from the perspective of a concerned Alberta environmentalist.  He raised what I believe to be some very valid concerns about the environmental costs of both the open-pit mining of bitumen and “in-situ” extraction such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).

Carolyn Preston spoke about the exploration efforts of Saskatchewan’s “oil sands”, explaining that the bitumen is too deep to extract using open-pit mining.  She also explained that SAGD won’t be an option because of the nature of the overburden – I hadn’t been aware of that.  She then discussed other extraction methods that are being tested, involving solvents and electricity.

Little real debate was generated, because of the Alberta/Saskatchewan experience/future possibility perspectives.

Audience questions covered the duty to consult with the local aboriginal population, health concerns, and the effect of using natural gas for bitumen extraction on the price of natural gas for home heating.  I thought both speakers did an adequate job of answering questions.

Oil is a non-renewable resource, and our North American lifestyles are dependent upon it.  It’s easy to point a finger at the evil polluting industry, but I agreed with Carolyn Preston that it’s we the consumers who demand the product.  Reducing our consumption is important.  The sooner we can find affordable, clean, renewable energy options the better.  Forest biomass, whether for cellulosic ethanol or direct combustion, has potential to be part of the solution.  Saskatchewan has a lot of open space so wind power should be an option. It’s likely to make me some enemies, but I’m even willing to look at the nuclear option.

Deep in debt

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Scary article in today’s Financial Post …

Complacent Canadians now deep in debt

No matter how you look at it, there is no mistaking Canadians debt is rising fast and we can no longer thumb our noses at Americans as reckless spenders with little regard for savings.

A report released by professional services firm Deloitte & Touche LLP Tuesday said Canadian consumers had a debt to disposable income ratio of more than 130% at the end of the second quarter of 2008. At that ratio, we have surpassed our American cousins who had a debt to disposable income ratio of just under 125%.

… etc.

By the way, I’m thinking of buying some new living-room furniture at the local big-box furniture store.  I can’t afford it, but luckily I won’t need to come up with the money right away (Don’t pay for 15 months! No money down! 0% interest! No monthy payments!).

Yeah, the economy will probably have rebounded in 15 months and the good times will be rolling.

Green stimulus

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The new federal budget will be presented in just a few days.

That’s the Canadian federal budget, in case you’ve been totally immersed in Obama news.

There’s a lot of pressure on the Conservatives for big spending projects to stimulate the flagging economy.  As much as I hate to see Canada getting into deficit spending again, building up the debt for our children to pay off, I do understand that in times of recession a case can be made for the government running deficits while spending more to stimulate the economy.  I just hope that the feds will choose their spending priorities wisely.

If spending is to increase, I agree with the four former Prime-Ministers who have issued a call for a Green Stimulus package as part of the budget.  I don’t know if all of the elements are sound, but I like the idea of increased spending on alternative energy sources, including biomass from the forest.

I also would like to see a more generous grant for home energy retrofits.  The current ecoENERGY Retrofit program provides some incentive but it could certainly be improved.

And maybe the feds could match or increase the new $50 Low/Dual-Flush Toilet rebate water conservation program announced by the Saskatchewan provincial government last week.  I’d follow my cousin Roger’s lead and save on my water bill by peeing behind the shed but the neighbours would probably complain.

Venture in to Venturoso while you still can

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Just in case any book lovers in the Prince Albert area still aren’t aware or have forgotten, this is a reminder that Venturoso Books will close its doors for good on December 24. The P.A. Daily Herald story can be found by clicking here.

I popped in yesterday and picked up a couple of books at 40% off.  The sale prices will get progressively better as the closing date approaches.  They still have lots of used books, and quite a few new books (predominantly Canadian/Saskatchewan/local interest stuff, which they seem to specialize in).

Venturoso is a nice change from the used book stores that specialize in trashy novels, comics and garish posters.  They will be missed.

Ventuoso Books

Canadian fuel prices

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Gas Price in Prince Albert

For those who are interested in such things, all the information you could imagine about fuel prices across Canada can be found at Fuel Focus, a webpage by Natural Resources Canada.

Besides the ability to generate customized graphs of prices by city, they also have fuel type comparisons. The price of diesel compared to gasoline came up in a discussion of Volkswagen cars recently – we weren’t sure about how long diesel has been more expensive than gasoline in Canada – the following graph helps answer that question.

Fuel types - cost comparison

For lots more information about fuel across Canada, check it out.