Who’s Got the Crystal Balls?

Who has the foresight? Which people can visualize and direct the human species to the most advantageous path out its current dilemma? Us humans have gone and painted ourselves into some-sort-of-corner. We are now fighting a world war and the enemy is attacking on two fronts: coronavirus and mother nature.

The worrying part is that, despite the war, we are mostly in a blissful hiatus. For many, government subsidies mean there are currently only minor inconveniences. The curve is flattening (especially in China?) and meanwhile, the air is clearing, the rivers purifying themselves and carbon emissions dropping to levels not seen in decades. Not bad.

But maybe it is time for our species to stop navel-gazing? Is it time for humans to eliminate (or at least, reduce) self-entitlement for our own sake; to rethink our fear and greed tendencies?

For a start, a new more pernicious enemy is about to rear its ugly head: economic readjustment. That?s when civil-strife enters the fray. There is no cure in sight for the virus, with the disheartening news that people who have had and survived the virus are testing low in antibodies (meaning they could get it again).

On the environment front (the forgotten war), a just-released annual report compiled by the Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics of the Australian National University (wenfo.org) makes for grim reading for Australia. It reveals the worst environmental conditions in many decades, perhaps centuries, and confirms the devastating damage global warming and mismanagement are wreaking on our natural resources.

And what happens after the pandemic when our vote-seeking politicians start to work out ways to get GDP growth on target again? In the long-term, the cure could be worse than the disease.

From a positive perspective, the current coronavirus pandemic shows that as individuals, and collectively, we can take dramatic action once we acknowledge the urgency of a threat.

We need economic growth, but it can be in clean energy, clean transportation, clean construction and a circular economy. Humanity has the tools, technology and ingenuity to do it. Intuitive and innovative action is needed to put the world?s economy and environment on a course to recovery. In the long term, we must find a more balanced relationship with ourselves and the natural world, understanding that our own survival will depend on it. To do this, we need leaders with crystal balls to reveal the outcome for humans if the wrong path is taken going into the future.

Grants/Subsidies

In these troubling times, governmental cash injections like the JobKeeker Payment will help keep the economy afloat. A factsheet of the rules of the JobKeeper Payment can be found at https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-04/Fact_sheet_supporting_businesses_0.pdf

A point of confusion appears to be the entities able to enter the program. In short, the program includes eligible employers including companies, businesses without employees (such as the self-employed), sole traders and not-for-profits. It does not include government bodies. Employers can register their interest in the program at https://www.ato.gov.au/Job-keeper-payment/.

Eligible employees are employees who:

  • Are currently employed by the eligible employer (including those stood down or re-hired).
  • Were employed by the employer at 1 March 2020.
  • Are full-time, part-time, or long-term casuals (a casual employed on a regular and systemic basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020).
  • Is a permanent employee of the employer, or if a long-term casual employee, not a permanent employee of any other employer?
  • Are at least 16 years of age at 1 March 2020.
  • Is an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder at 1 March 2020?
  • Were a resident for Australian tax purposes on 1 March 2020.
  • Are not in receipt of a JobKeeper Payment from another employer.

More information at https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/.

The payment is available where both employers and employees are eligible. A key point related to eligibility for employers has been that there has to have been a drop in revenue (i.e. turnover like sales, not net profit) of at least 30% since the same time last year. However, the Tax Office factsheet says:

?Where a business or not-for-profit was not in operation a year earlier, or where their turnover a year earlier was not representative of their usual or average turnover, (for example, because there was a large interim acquisition, they were newly established, were scaling up, or their turnover is typically highly variable), the Tax Commissioner will have discretion to consider additional information that the business or not-for-profit can provide to establish that they have been adversely affected by the impacts of the Coronavirus.?

Financial indicators

The Dow Jones Industrial Average up 410.32 points on Friday or 1.22% to 23,719.37, the STOXX 600 up 5.13 points or 1.57% and the Shanghai Composite index down 20.27 points or?1.04%

The VIX fear gauge down 1.68 points to 41.67 (it has dropped nearly 25 points in the last 2 weeks).

ASX 200 The Aussie dollar up to 63.46 US cents.

Share watch

Advanced Nanotech (NMO) is an Australian advanced materials company. Its principal asset is an IP portfolio conceived at the University of WA and co-developed with Samsung Corning Co Ltd of Korea. One of its commercialised products is a transparent zinc oxide based broad spectrum UV absorber for the sunscreen and cosmetic sectors (ZinClear).

Current commonly used sunscreens contain human-made chemicals which are absorbed into the bloodstream. The possible health impact of this is not known but there is the possibility they are carcinogenic. Zinc oxide is not absorbed by the skin and is safe to apply.

The management of Advanced Nano have rationalised costs and restored sales growth from a lean capital base to achieve a third consecutive year of revenue growth. Investors will be interested in the company?s transition from a speculative technology to an earnings story.

Currently trading at $4.15, it is a stock to monitor.

Eco-tip for the day

Flow versus lithium-ion batteries: One of the major advantages that flow batteries have over lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries is that they have a 100% depth-of-discharge, which means the? battery can be entirely discharged in a cycle with no negative effects on the lifespan of the battery.

For comparison, lead-acid batteries have a 60% depth-of-discharge, and lithium-ion batteries have around an?80% depth-of-discharge.

There are a number of other benefits that flow batteries offer:

  • They can tolerate extreme weather conditions, up to 50 degrees Celsius.
  • The zinc-bromine liquid inside the flow batteries is a natural fire retardant.
  • There is no chance of a thermal runaway (explosion!) due to the physical separation of the different battery components.
  • Flow batteries are cheaper to refurbish due to their simple modular construction. For example, you can restore a ?dead? battery by simply swapping the electrode for half?of?the original price of the battery.

A disadvantage of flow batteries is their expected life cycle compared to lithium-ion batteries. They have a lifespan of approximately 4000 cycles at 100% depth-of-discharge, which is less than lithium-ion?s 5000-6000 cycles at 80% depth-of-discharge.

Further, flow batteries are more expensive.? The Redflow Zcell?(a 10kWh battery) currently costs around $12,600 AUD, not including inverter or installation.?You?ll also need a system size of at least 5kW to be able to charge your batteries consistently, which will cost roughly $7,000. So, a ready-to-go setup will cost you around $20,000 AUD in total. In comparison, the Tesla Powerwall 2 lithium-ion battery with 13kWh storage costs is about $13,000 installed.

My recommendation is for people to wait a year or two for battery prices to drop further before they consider adding them to their home solar power systems. Whilst I prefer the advantages of flow batteries, they are too expensive at the moment to compete with lithium-ion batteries.

Further, University of Southern California scientists have developed a new flow battery that could result in flow batteries being much cheaper. The key innovation achieved by the USC scientists involves using different fluids including an iron sulfate solution which is a waste product of the mining industry. Iron sulphate it is plentiful and inexpensive and costs lots less than the current vanadium.

Leaving costs out of the equation, my family and I were saved recently as fires ravaged the surrounds of our holiday destination. Our accommodation has a Tesla Powerwall battery installed that provided us with power (and neighbours) through the ensuing black-out period allowing food to be preserved, roof sprinklers to run and mobiles to be charged.

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Eco Market Spot Prices

LGC $28.25

STC $39.95

ESC $28.00

VEEC $35.10

Sources:?RenewEconomy, demandmanager,? Reuters, SMH, Market Watch, greenglobaltravel

2020-05-10T00:57:54+11:00