Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies. This is my member’s-only Charts of the Week mailout in which we explore the world through data.
📖 ❤️ I would love you to order my book if you haven’t already!
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SHORTAGES
The bottom line
The cost of renewable energy power generation is falling through the floor. This means that renewables are becoming much cheaper than fossil fuels. Via IRENA
Where has all the wind gone?
One challenge with many renewables is that they are intermittent. Until large-scale energy storage comes on stream (see COTW#46), we build more resilient networks for electricity import/export or we commission more nuclear reactors (thank you, France!), renewables may be fragile.
Consider wind: Compared to 1980-2021, the breezes across much of northern Europe (which has a lot of wind generating capacity) were substantially calmer, indeed mainly in the lowest quartile compared to the historical average. This has already impacted generating capacity and the share price of wind energy providers such as Oersted. The dropping wind may be a “global stilling” potentially connected to climate change. Apologies for the marked-up chart, it was the only version I could find. Via Matteo De Felice
All dried out
And American hydroelectric output has been threatened by droughts. Such dry periods are likely exacerbated by climate change. Via Joshua Basseches
Fossil shortages are global
European gas prices are going through the roof, leaving many industrial users little choice but to shut factories. Source: Bloomberg
The lion’s share of India’s electricity comes from 135 coal-burning power stations. Remarkably they are running with less than a three-day supply of fuel thanks to endemic shortages caused by a surge in Chinese demand. It’s not just Europe facing a severe energy crunch. Via The Economist
DEPARTMENT OF MEAT
Beef production has an outsized influence on gas emissions. As ruminants, grass and other feed ferments in the cow’s digestive system, methane is a by-product of this process. VoltaGreentech is a Swedish startup working on an algal feed that can reduce the potency of a cow’s burps and farts. Via Bloomberg
The forest for the trees
While cows might have an outsized role in gas emission, our appetite for meat is skyrocketing, driven by demand in Asia (although the average American eats about fifty per cent more meat per capita compared to a century ago.) Via Our World in Data
Taking a toll on our bodies
All this meat may contribute to bulging waistlines. This is especially clear in the United States, where overweight and obesity statistics are simply out of control. Via Simon Kuestenmacher
The cavalry may be coming
One of the areas to look at as we re-imagine food production is alternative protein. The rise of alternative meats is happening at an impressive clip, but getting the cost down is the real challenge. Plant-based meat alternatives are falling in cost terms faster than lab-grown meats. (I cover lab-grown, or cultured meat, in my conversation with Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms.) The crossover point where the cost lab-grown animal cells compete with the meat from slaughtering living animals is not forecast to arrive for about a decade. Via BCG/Blue Horizon
DEPARTMENT OF US ECONOMY
The US share of global GDP was 40% in 1960. Remarkable. That share had shrunk to 24% in 2019. Via Reddit
Planes, trains, and automobiles
One of the keys to America’s economic success is manufacturing and its strong consumer culture. In the last forty years, goods have been increasingly moved by rail. Via WSJ
For all the wealth, the US has never been a leader in social spending. It often ranks dead last in critical metrics like child care. Via New York Times
New in the neighbourhood
If you zoom out from the Evergrande saga, the sheer scale of construction in China comes into sharp view. It’s incredible. Via WSJ
A fine line
I can’t help but think that a butter versus olive oil comparison would be apt here as well. Via Terrible Maps
😍 I was really humbled that my book, EXPONENTIAL, received a fantastic, detailed and rigorous review in the Financial Times this week. If you need more persuasion to pick up a copy, I do recommend you check out Professor Shannon Vallor’s assessment of my argument.
And if you want to pick up a copy straight away, please click here. Thanks to the several dozen of you who have given great ratings and reviews on Amazon. It really means a lot – and is an important signal to help others buy the book. Please do take a second to hop over to Amazon or GoodReads and give it a thumbs up!
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