Numlock News: September 2, 2020 • Solar, Streaming, Cod

By Walt Hickey

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A new report from the city council of Kansas City, Missouri identifies just how significantly tax breaks to corporations have gouged their local students. The overall data revealed that in the aggregate the tax incentives cost school districts an average of $650 per K-12 student, but it’s actually worse in the Kansas City School District in particular, with that district losing out on $2,052 per student given the property tax reductions doled out to companies in their territory. Nationwide, the corporate property tax cuts cost schools about $1.8 billion annually, and since those programs can more regularly be targeted at poorer neighborhoods in the name of economic revitalization, typically it’s the schools that are already working with the least that get disproportionately deprived of funding.

Pat Garofalo, Boondoggle, Cortlynn Stark and Kevin Hardy, The Kansas City Star

Shelf Stable

Looking at the period from April to June, according to Nielsen, Americans bought 13.7 percent more instant coffee, 21.5 percent more ketchup, and 25.3 percent more onions than they did compared to the same period a year prior, just a few signals of a shift in consumption toward shelf-stable commodities to consume at home. Those prices tended to remain stable-ish, but that wasn’t always the case: Americans may have bought 10.8 percent more chicken eggs, but they were paying 28 percent more for them, as producers had to reshape their distribution process to account for rapid surges in the retail channel and a total collapse in the restaurant and commercial channels. Most interestingly, sales of laundry detergent were down 12 percent, so I’m gonna guess that Zoom shirt of yours isn’t exactly fresh.

Nick Carey, Richa Naidu, Siddharth Cavale, Reuters

Screen Time

Long ago, “screen time” was seen as possibly bad for children, or at least a cause for concern for parents. New conditions have placated the parental penchant for pixelated temperance, a new survey conducted in August found. Among 850 parents, 40 percent said they viewed their children’s use of technology and devices more positively as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to just 10 percent who viewed it more negatively. Of those who saw it more positively, 62 percent cited their educational uses, 55 percent cited their utility in maintaining distanced relationships and connecting with people, 45 percent said they saw creative uses, and 30 percent went so far as to relax restrictions on device usage, because truly who has the time.

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult

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While lots of the attention about money at the movies is on the box office figures, for the studios an inordinate amount of the money is in licensing the films that have concluded their theatrical runs to other distributors. Historically, this included cable networks or premium television like HBO or Showtime, but for the first time since it really developed as a sophisticated, lucrative market, streaming licenses for films are about to become pay dirt for studios. Many will forgo this outlet: for example, Disney’s got two homegrown streaming services and it doesn’t make sense to sell their content to rivals. But for Sony (which doesn’t have a streaming service) and Universal (which kind of does, in Peacock, but that’s not playing with house money the same way Disney is) it’s a massive check that simply did not exist last time the digital rights were up. They’re looking at $250 million annually each if their deals go well for the streaming rights to films released in 2022 on. As it stands, HBO has the exclusive rights to new Universal titles, and Starz has the exclusive rights to new movies from Sony. New bidders for the deal reportedly include Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg


Energy demand from air conditioning worldwide is projected to triple to 6,200 terawatt-hours by 2050, which is the equivalent of a quarter of the total annual electricity consumption today. This is one reason many are trying to make more efficient air conditioning tech, as the current units have not seen the massive leaps in efficiency seen in other electrical technology like solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles, and with billions of new air conditioners awaiting purchase in the decades to come, the sooner the better. In Los Angeles alone, rising temperatures could increase peak summertime electricity demand by 51 percent by 2060 under the worst case scenario. India is projected to install 1.1 billion AC units by 2050, which would make air conditioning account for 45 percent of peak electricity demand in the nation compared to 10 percent today.

James Temple, MIT Technology Review


Norway tried a massive national investment in aquaculture that collapsed after degenerating into an aquatic fiasco of escapes and cannibalism. In 2010, the country produced 21,000 tonnes of farmed cod, right before the bubble burst leading to no farmed cod by 2015. Now, having internalized the lessons of the last go-round, Norway is trying it again, with Norcod — the largest farm — raising 1.8 million fish off the coast, and aiming to produce 6,500 tonnes in 2021 and 25,000 tonnes by 2025. Last time, about half of the fish raised in a pen died, a disconcerting amount from cannibalism, and many escaped. Now, after a breeding campaign, mortality rates are down to a steady 15 percent, with vastly less cannibalism, which I imagine the folks in marketing are delighted to hear. In general, fish is Norway’s third-largest export — accounting for 104 billion crowns in 2019 — behind oil and gas, and wild cod alone was 9.5 billion crowns of it.

Gwladys Fouche, Reuters


Last year, 119 gigawatts of solar generation was added to earth’s power generation capacity, or 45 percent of all new capacity added in 2019. That percentage is up from a quarter of new capacity added as of 2010, and combined with wind generation about three quarters of all new power generation added last year was one of those renewables. In 2010, hydro, wind, and solar accounted for 20 percent of electricity generated on Earth, a figure that last year rose to 27 percent. Meanwhile, coal — which provided 35 percent of the power produced last year — saw 39 gigawatts of new capacity added.

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

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