According to this New Scientist article, feeding rapeseed (canola) oil to cows can produce butter with a better balance of unsaturated fats.
Apparently the proportions in the feed have to be handled delicately, as the cow’s rumen (forestomach) contains bacteria that don’t respond well to the presence of so much canola oil.
I wonder if this would have any effect on bovine methane production … one of my student groups is doing a research project on livestock methane production and greenhouse gases in the southern hemisphere. Better butter and less gas might be asking for a lot, but … strive for it!
Stephen Bainbridge has an interesting post on Petite Sirah, one of my favorite grapes. I like the blackberry and boysenberry that he notes in the young PS, and I certainly like the chocolate and spices in the mature PS. It’s a yummy and versatile grape, especially if you cook on the grill a lot.
He mentions that he has Ridge PS from the mid-90s that isn’t even close to drinking. We are going to have to be even more patient; our cellar has a few 1998, 1999, and 2000 Petite Sirahs from Preston Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. We have opened a couple of them, and they were good after decanting, but still had tons more potential.
For an instant gratification, cheap-and-cheerful Petite Sirah to go with the grilled lamb chops without having to wait 15 years, try the PS from Bogle Vineyards. It retails around $10, is a gorgeous deep purple, has those blackberry and boysenberry and spice notes, and is an accessible way to get acquainted with this fantastic grape and decide if you want to invest in the Ridges and Prestons of the world.
This post from Tyler Cowen from Saturday illustrates some interesting features of our water use over the past 30 years. Evidently, our aggregate water use has not changed in 20 years:
The flat trend in consumption came even as the USA’s population grew and electricity production, the largest user of water, increased.
Of course, one of the cool things about hydro power is that you can reuse the same water over and over again, by pumping it back up to the top at night when it’s cheap to generate power to do so. That’s called pump storage. But I digress …
What amazes me is that this decrease has come notwithstanding the fact that water is one of the most illogically and inefficiently priced and used resources on the planet.
Tyler notes that 70 percent of water use is in agriculture, and at least in the US, a lot of water gets used in agriculture that may not be needed because of the lack of transferability between potential uses and the “use it or lose it” bureaucratic mentality that has overtaken the interpretation of historic water rights. In my ideal world, the historic water rights that farmers have would be a fully transferable and alienable property right. So if San Diego, for example, is willing to pay more for water than the value that the water represents to my crops, then I’m gonna sell. Such transactions can’t really happen now, so we get locked into inefficient and non-value-maximizing uses of water.
Put it another way: our water use has not gone up in 20 years. If we paid prices for water that reflected the true cost of its use, and if farmers could transfer their property rights over water to non-agricultural users, think how much less water we could be using than we did 20 years ago.
I also think Tyler’s point about nanotech desalinization is pretty cool. So in my lifetime I could have a Nalgene bottle with a filter that would turn salt water into fresh? Sweet! La vita e bella.
COTC is at TJ’s Weblog this week. I was particularly intrigued by this Geitner Simmons entry interpreting some recent import and export statistics. Who knew that almost half of the lost US exports since 2000 have come from California? That helps to explain some of the economic malaise there. And the Department of Commerce website that he uses to generate these facts is absolutely fascinating. It focuses only on products; I’d be curious to see what the numbers look like for services too.
I also recommend Steve Verdon’s post on the cost of environmental regulation. It’s interesting that the examples he’s responding to are of petroleum refining, because of the popular misconception that petroleum refiners have pretty serious market power and enjoy commensurate profit margins. Having looked at the financial data for this SIC code for the past 20 years, I can assure you that this is a misconception, that petroleum refining is not that profitable relative to the return on equity in other industries, and that its industry structure is actually such an aggressive oligopoly that they tend to compete away all “excess profits”. So Steve’s post helps to make sense of why firms would exit a seemingly profitable industry.