Category Archives: energy and agriculture

Map of Countries Sized by Population & a Changing Global Economy Dominated by Asia

This map was tweeted by @incrediblemaps and shows us the size of countries relative to their populations, which as we know has big implications for food security and the commodity trade markets.

On a related note, one of the news items that really got my attention last week was the WSJ sideline interview of Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard, during his speaking engagement at the Credit Suisse Asian investment conference in Hong Kong.

From the WSJ’s blog:

…he can foresee a tri-polar world in which China and India are the major economic powers, counterbalanced by a bloc of the United States, Europe and Japan, whose populations together will total about one billion people.

“We’ve said the U.S. is a superpower, an economic superpower. But these are giants, they’re bigger than a superpower,” he said. “What would that world be like, both economically and politically? I think that’s really hard to understand. How much would the Western bloc be willing to cooperate politically to be a counterbalance to China and India?”

Mr. Bullard offered few specifics of what such a world would look like, but did acknowledge that it might require some adjustment on the part of ordinary Americans like those he serves in the heartland.

This future is a challenge to imagine, but has implications for the competition for oil and energy, number one, I think, and all of the other commodities, with ever-bigger demands on the Earth’s natural resources. It has jobs implications; global communications will continue to improve and evolve; technological advancements and innovations will be coming more and more from Asia; and, global politics and alliances will change, as Bullard states. Finally, it has big implications for food and agriculture. My personal view is that there will be very surprising innovations in both of these sectors.

In another weekend article, the NYT’s travel section contained this interesting paragraph:

Ernst & Young estimates that by 2030, nearly one billion people in China could enter into the middle class and have a disposable income that allows them to travel domestically and abroad. Ten years ago their government singled out tourism as a key pillar of economic growth, and as a result, they have invested well ahead of the curve in high-speed trains, hotel complexes and airports to absorb growth within the middle class. In fact, right now they are busy building 69 airports around the country, so that in the future no person in the country will be more than a 90-minute drive from an airport.

There are a few “somethings that are gonna haftagive” when we consider these rapidly changing global dynamics.

If you have any visions of where this puts people in Bullard’s heartland, in, say the year 2035, please let us know your ideas in the comments. What does the future look like for your children under this scenario? What will their standard of living look like? What will transportation and supply chains look like in the U.S. and in Asia? Where will the job opportunities be? Will there be enough jobs? What will global cooperation look like by then?

Back in Time: Rural Electrification

The theme of this month’s Luddite feature is rural electrification.

The Rural Electrification Administration was established to bring electricity to isolated rural areas not serviced by private utilities. Political officials realized the injustices that people of rural areas experienced by being deprived of a higher quality of life with electricity, not unlike today’s funding through the USDA to bring the internet to the rural communities.

In the above photo, taken on May 11, 1935, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt (center) signs the Rural Electrification Act with Representative John E. Rankin (left) and Senator George W. Norris (right).

George Norris was from McCook, Nebraska, and he also sponsored the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933. Norris’s role in rural electrification was influential in the state of Nebraska because the state has never had any privately owned electrical utilities – only public power.

The REA administered the loans for purposes of electrification and providing telephone services to rural areas. A few years following its creation, the program was reorganized as a division of the USDA.

In this photo, we see the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) erecting telephone lines in a rural area. (Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.)

The above photo is from the FDR Library photo collection, and shows a lineman working on a pole as a farmer watches. (Truck says: Arcadia, Wisconsin)

This July 1942 photo (above) shows a Rural Electrification Administration cooperative lineman at work in Hayti.

The above is a photograph of a young girl listening to the radio during the Great Depression. (Photo date: between 1938 and 1945)

What kind of similar programs could be in the cards for the future?

Besides the ongoing upgrades to rural internet availability, I’d suspect that at some point, farms – especially in the more sparsely populated regions – will go off the grid. Programs which offer solar and wind generators (admittedly these already exist to some degree) with fuel cell or battery storage that is either local or local-regional just might be the best subsidized farm program priorities of the future.

It is also worth noting that it is the farmers of this nation who are renting their land to host the big wind generator “farms” and cell phone towers, as well as the new power lines required by these large “wind farms” – often to the detriment of their former farming operations.