November 18, 2011

Don’t call me a chicken!

Being called a chicken is never a good thing. You get called that in the schoolyard and the most likely thing to happen next is to hear humiliating laughs of the other mean kids. A movie character loses a game of “chicken”, and he is most likely losing the girl. That game has even been studied by game and signaling theory. 


The whole mess in Europe could be reduced to a game of chicken. Here, there are two cars being driven against each other, challenging each other not to veer to the side. One car is driven by Mario Draghi, the other one by the bond vigilantes (or speculators, as Europe’s politicians like to call them).

Signaling is paramount. Mario Draghi resists to monetize, and signals that the ECB will not openly use its balance sheet without restrictions to push sovereign rates down. The reason? The ECB –always mindful of its standing as a hawkish institution known as protector of the value of the Euro - risks denting its reputation of independence, which for any central bank that issues fiat currency is the most important intangible asset they have.

Draghi (under heavy skepticism) faces a lot of pressure from Germany not to monetize, also. The Germans know first hand how destructive hyperinflation can be, hence their uncompromising position against anything that could lead to the loss of confidence in the value of their currency. There are also the legal arguments of the ECB’s impossibility of buying sovereign paper (although this can be easily bypassed by a) making local banks swallow sovereign auctions and pledging the paper as collateral, or b) using the IMF as conduit --both of which mean monetization in the end). Finally, another reason to resist monetization is the political argument. Not ceding is an excellent way to push Italian/Greek/Spanish politicians to get serious about passing long overdue reforms to spur growth and reduce deficits.

On the other hand, you have the vigilantes/shorters/speculators (however you want to call them). Shorters will benefit from falls in prices which in turn precipitates the forced sale of sovereign papers by banks that need to clean their balance sheets in light of the new capitalization rules agreed to under the October Greek restructure deal. They have leverage, since their heavy selling makes their perception of sovereign bankruptcy a reality, which becomes self fulfilling, and that is a pretty powerful tool to make their position not to cede (to keep shorting) credible –of course, we know what happens to them if they fail and there’s a short squeeze.

Notwithstanding the structural, long term problems of the Eurozone, the short term problem is simply: Will Draghi finally cede and monetize? Or will he remain stoic about defending the Euro’s value and use shorters’ strength in his favor to force politicians to fix their budgets? Game theory says the game of chicken has 2 Nash equilibria (one cedes and the other one doesn’t and viceversa). So hypothetically, if no player knows what the other is going to play the outcome cannot be known. But, if one party knows the strategy the other is playing, that party chooses a strategy that maximizes its outcome. Here, Draghi has a disadvantage: this game already happened, and we know what each player chose to do in that game. Iterations in the game of chicken allow players to better guess what their counterpart will choose to play. Remember 2008? Paulson played the same game when he refused to bailout Lehman after having bailed out Bear Stearns in an attempt to make his threat credible. The result? Two rounds of QE, 310% increase in the size of the FED balance sheet ($7.7 trillion at its peak according to Bloomberg), and a long list whiners claiming that they have been hurt by the Dollar’s depreciation. Who wants some Pollo?

4/5/12 Update: 
With the introduction of the LTRO by the ECB, the winner of this game is now obvious. Like Paulson in 2008, Mr. Draghi has ceded.

November 16, 2011

A new baby is being born -- call the doctor

Giving birth is supposed to hurt, and with nations it is no different. The labor pains of a nation's birth do not end, however, with the toppling of the dictator, the expulsion of the invaders/conquerors, or the signature of an armistice treaty. The next step in a nation's life is the most crucial one: The Foundation of the State. Europe is currently in the labor pains stage. Its current travails show a marked parallel with the origins of the United States as a Nation: Jefferson (read Merkel) did not want the U.S. to assume the debts of some profligate former colonies (read Greece/Ireland/Portugal/Spain/Italy) and issue U.S. Federal Bonds (read Pan-European Bonds). Hamilton (read Barroso, and to some degree Sarkozy) pushed for the single issue and fiscal integration. The result: Jefferson ceded and the U.S. assumed the debts of less frugal states in exchange for picking a location for the new nation's capital near his home state of Virginia. Integration triumphed. The baby was born healthy.

Will integration win for Europe? Robert Mundell won the 1999 Economics Nobel Prize for explaining precisely what is needed in order to have an "optimum currency area" -or what is needed to integrate several formerly independent economies with different currencies into one single market economy. However -for a reason I still do not understand that might have to do with his reputation-, no one has ever mentioned his findings in the mainstream media. Mundell states that in order for a Optimum Currency Area to work, it must:

  • Have Labor Mobility within its boundaries. If you quit your job you easily get hired somewhere else.
  • Have Capital Mobility. So investment decisions are not influenced by which region within the country one is doing business other than the risks inherent in the project per se.
  • Share a Central Fiscal Revenue collection agency, so taxes are levied on prosperous regions to subsidy and eventually develop less rich areas.

Labor mobility is something Europe definitely lacks. Spain's 20% unemployment rate (44% among youths) is due in great part because -ironically- people don't get fired. It's very expensive for Spain bosses to fire employees -despite the government's lukewarm efforts to liberalize its labor market. Unions there have succeeded in restricting labor supply, making wages artificially expensive. In Italy the government still controls the supply of labor by issuing permits for certain professions -a practice Milton Friedman derides as a way to restrict economic freedom and limit economic development. Then you have the cultural barrier - imagine that moving from Texas to Oklahoma you had to speak a different language to be able to get a job.

Capital mobility is something that Europe scores better, though. One needs only to see the footprint of European transnationals within the continent to know that they have easily established operations in different regions of the Euro area. Santander, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, are good examples of companies that have harnessed well the ease of capital mobility within the Eurozone. The very fact that Germany exports 60% to the other Eurozone countries is also good. Although trade by itself is not strictly capital mobility as Mundell defines it -it is the mobility of capital goods' end products-, trade is a precursor that can lead to capital mobility.

And as far as sharing fiscal revenues, well, that's definitely an area Europe has not succeeded. I don't need to extend much here. They don't have a joint tax collector, and every state has responsibility to combat its own evasion. Frugal, efficient tax-collector states (Germany) wince at the thought of subsidizing so-called squandering nations.

Out of 3 conditions, Europe fails on 2. Notice that these 3 factors in Mundell's Optimum Currency Area are preconditions for it to work. You have to have them, and then issue the single currency. Europe did it backwards. The Maastricht Treaty was supposed to lay the ground for those conditions to be met, not by creating a unified European fiscal revenue agency, but by simply "inviting" its member to abide to the 3% of GDP deficit rule. Not exactly the best way to enforce fiscal frugality.

So, we have arrived here. The European nations (plural) are suffering from labor pains, struggling to give birth to the new European nation (singular). Will the baby survive? If they don't give him the right medicine, (liberalizing labor markets and implementing fiscal integration) chances are he will not. Somebody call the Doctor!

Update 2-11-12:
I now have a theory about why Mundell´s model has not been quoted during this whole European Debt debacle. Maybe -just maybe- it has to do with the Canadian's damaged reputation after his participation in Olympus' board and its epic corporate scandal.

November 14, 2011

Financial Totalitarianism

Trying to make sense of this financial world through traditional stock fundamental measures is futile these days. Playing the money game has become a binary flip of a coin on the last dollar: either you invest in assets (all in) or in cash (all out). This duality simplifies the plethora of alternatives that normally overwhelm the investor. "Correlation-One" Markets that rise and fall at unison. The value of your investments is determined by the latest decision of a policy figure.

Take the value of your money, for example. The value of your money measured in assets (or how many barrels of oil, bars of gold, pairs of Nike shoes or heads of lettuce can you buy with a fixed amount of green stamps called "money") is established by its relative abundance (or at least its perceived abundance), which in normal times is determined by the decision of a counsel of elders in which we have trusted our savings (the central bank). We never think of it this way, but our wealth is defined to a great extent by "royal" (or totalitarian, if you will) decree every time Draghi or Bernanke gather in their respective conclaves and spew out white smoke to declare before hoards of financial reporters crammed in a room: your green stamps will buy 2-3% less lettuce the following year. The population abides to the royal decree (depending of course on the credibility of the elders in question) and adjust their expectations accordingly. It is indeed a very well choreographed dance. One party leads with its cue and the counterpart harmoniously follows fulfilling the inflationary prophecy of its monetary central planner.

So our wealth is determined every time a policy figure opens his mouth. Interesting. I don’t know about you, but that is pretty much the definition of Political Risk. This is akin to the risk a transnational company faces when they decide to invest in Venezuela or Bolivia and Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales declares that he will expropriate their Venezuelan plants and give them 30% of the value of the assets they installed in his personal backyard, err, country. You might ask: Why investing in a politically risky environment with the contingency of value-confiscation by the local autocrat (be it the current Dictator or the MIT-trained PhD in charge of the central bank)? Well, as long as the investor has confidence the return will compensate for the confiscation, that is ok.

Notice the Key word: Confidence.

Normally, the conclaves’ ever-ending short selling of their respective currencies would create the incentive (via punishment of cash holders) for the population to always want to hold anything other than cash. One problem arises in times of "Correlation-One" Markets though: there is no Confidence investments will compensate for the confiscation rate the local autocrat imposes. The same psyche prevalent in a bank run is prevalent here: the return of your capital precedes over the return on your capital. Everyone prefers cash to assets. Everybody races to hoard that currency which stores value the best, because they want to keep the amount of lettuce they can buy as stable as possible. Problem is, that hoarding urge sends everyone running for the usual suspects, creating bubbles: Gold, Swiss Franc, US dollar... and that hoarding affects precisely the variable the monetary planners want to regulate: the relative abundance of money. So in a confidence crunch, the paradox of thrift renders the bank multiplier useless -in fact detrimental-, and the money’s relative abundance goes down sending its value higher. The incentive to own assets instead of cash is no more and deflation ensues. Economic activity plunges. The counsel of elders’ effort to punish the cash holders is nullified by the frantic search for cover. Suddenly, people is so scared they don't care their money buys more lettuce -they never use it to stock up. All they want is cash, cash, cash -an irrational behavior, considering you can't cook bills.

We are in a Crisis of Confidence. And with good reason. Italy owes the world €1,900,000,000,000 (€1.9 Trillion) and if that sovereign paper "Greeks-out" (and we apply a 60% haircut the way SocGen & BNP did) we will have have created a €1,140,000,000,000 (€1.14 Trillion) hole in the Europe's banks. That capital hole would wipe out Europe's biggest bank (Spain's Santander) 16.7 times. With Italy's 10yr at 7.23%, we are awfully close to sovereign debt market shutdown for Italy.

The monetary planners are fighting this by inflating their balance sheets and selling their currency in one huge massive push to make investors own anything but cash. The ECB, traditionally very vigilant of its reputation as guardian of the Euro's value, finally ceded and has spewed out its latest decree: "you will buy less lettuce with your Euros". That change in music in Europe is more than welcome. The lady has changed dance partner, and the new partner has sent his cue.

There are a lot of things that need to happen for confidence to come back, but at least the first one is there. Papademos' good reputation in Greece and Monti's succession of Berlusconi definitely help.

These days, our wealth is determined every time a policy figure opens his mouth or takes a decision. We live in the days of Financial Totalitarianism. One unilateral decision, one decree, and you wealth decreases immediately. Forget about P/E's.

The Great Cycle of Human Stupidity

Humans are unpredictably predictable. When circumstances surrounding us are overwhelming and pressing, we try to change them. Sometimes aggressively (with revolutions) some other times more passively (quitting your job). Interestingly, this also applies to love life: after a long run of dating people with characteristic "X", the next person you look for is someone with the opposite characteristic, because you now know the disadvantages of that personal trait. The pendulum metaphor is at work. In societies, the metaphor applies to politics, and of course also to matters of economic policy. Totalitarian societies (like Pinochet's Chile or Franco's Spain) topple regimes looking for the longed freedom they did not have before. Societies that reach economic freedom (the U.S.A.) realize that opening their borders to trade allows other nations to get in and "steal" profits from domestic businesses via price undercutting and fierce competition and look to revert this with protectionist movements.

It is always a traumatic event which causes the change in trajectory and a reset of a political journey with a new destination - a destination that often a past generation of men already visited. The new generation cannot hear the voice of wisdom and warning of the past one simply because they are not here with us anymore. And so, the new generation will again prove to itself why this "new" destination, so far located from the place where they currently are, is no panacea. Ignoring and not heeding the wisdom written in history books in an arrogant -maybe desperate- attempt to solve current overwhelming, pressing circumstances only to end up where past generations ended up at is, frankly, a clear example of historic myopia that touches stupidity. It is The Great Cycle of Human Stupidity.

How traumatic does the event have to be in order to push the current generation to change course? Let us hope not as traumatic as the darkest episode registered in modern human history. I am referring to the event that gave genesis to the biggest, boldest pacific intercultural integration effort humans have ever attempted.

Europe's impressive laboratory (mosaic) of human diversity and forced coexistence provides us with the best experiment to prove human self-destructive behavior, but also of humanity's ability to learn from past generations' mistakes. It seems that Otto Von Bismarck 1860's brilliance in juggling with the ego of other European leaders while preventing Europe's implosion -and keeping Prusia's integrity intact- delayed genocide some 80 years. Europeans had to live the horror of utter destruction with WWII to understand that nature's "decision" to give them a shared, crowded continent meant for them to see each other as a permanent neighbor who will simply not go away and will not be just "conquered", and that the alternative of tolerance is simply less costly that the alternative of extermination.

The effort of European integration initiated from WWII is at the brink of collapse, pushed by current overwhelming, pressing circumstances. The pendulum seems to reset its trajectory in reverse, marking the possible commencement of The Great Cycle of Human Stupidity. Let us hope the event that gave genesis to Europe's integration effort lingers in Europe's physique forever and it's not lost in time, and that Bismarck's contemporary colleagues understand the historic importance of the role they are playing these days.


Translated from Spanish from my earlier note.

El Gran Ciclo De La Estupidez Humana

El humano es impredeciblemente predecible. Cuando el conjunto de circunstancias que lo rodean lo agobia, busca cambiarlas. Algunas veces agresivamente (revoluciones) otras de manera pasiva (renunciando a tu trabajo). Se da hasta cuando uno busca pareja: después de que tuviste una serie de parejas de "X" característica, la siguiente la buscas con la característica opuesta porque conociste de cerca las desventajas de esa característica "X". Siempre aplica la metáfora del péndulo. En sociedades esto se da en materia de ideología política, y por supuesto que también en materia de política económica. Las sociedades tienden a zigzaguear de un extremo político al opuesto cuando sienten que la primera alternativa no les dio resultados. Sociedades que eran totalitarias (como Chile, España) derrocan regímenes buscando la ansiada libertad que no tenían. Sociedades que alcanzan la libertad económica (EEUU) se dan cuenta que el abrir sus fronteras permite a otros llevarse el pastel de utilidades por ser mas competentes/baratos y buscan revertir la apertura con movimientos proteccionistas .

Siempre es un evento traumático el que ocasiona el quiebre en dirección y el reinicio de una trayectoria cuyo destino es un lugar en donde ya estuvo otra generación de hombres, cuya voz de sabiduría y advertencia no es escuchada porque simplemente ya no están aquí. Y la nueva generación volverá a probar el porqué ese destino, tan lejano del lugar en que se encuentran actualmente, no es ninguna panacea. Desatender e ignorar la sabiduría escrita en los libros de historia en un intento arrogante (quizás desesperado, quién lo sabe con certeza) por solucionar las agobiantes circunstancias actuales para luego terminar justo donde terminaron generaciones anteriores es, francamente, un claro ejemplo de miopía histórica que raya en la estupidez. Es el Gran Ciclo De La Estupidez Humana.

¿Qué tan traumático tiene que ser el evento para revertir trayecto? Esperemos no tanto como lo fue el evento mas obscuro del que se tiene registro en la historia moderna de la humanidad, y el mismo que fue génesis del esfuerzo más grande de integración intercultural pacífica que la humanidad jamás haya intentado.

El impresionante laboratorio de diversidad humana y coexistencia forzada que se da en Europa nos proporciona la mejor prueba comportamiento autodestructivo humano, pero también nos proporciona el mejor ejemplo de la habilidad humana de aprender de los errores de las generaciones pasadas. Parece que la maestría de Otto Von Bismarck en los 1860's para lidiar y manejar el ego de otros líderes Europeos y al mismo tiempo prevenir la implosión de Europa (manteniendo la integridad de su natal Prusia en esos años) pospuso el genocidio 80 años. Los Europeos tuvieron que vivir el horror de la total destrucción en la Segunda Guerra Mundial para entender que la “decisión” de la naturaleza de darles un continente compartido era para que se vieran el uno al otro como un vecino permanente que simplemente no se va a mudar (y que tampoco puede ser “conquistado”), y que la alternativa de tolerancia es simplemente menos costosa que la alternativa de exterminio.

El esfuerzo de integración Europea surgido a raíz de la Segunda Guerra Mundial esta al borde del colapso, empujado por el “agobio” de las circunstancias económicas actuales. El péndulo parece iniciar su trayecto en reversa, marcando el posible reinicio del Gran Ciclo De La Estupidez Humana. Espero que el evento que dio génesis a este esfuerzo de integración intercultural pacífica en Europa haya quedado lo suficientemente marcado en la psicología colectiva, y que los colegas contemporáneos de Von Bismarck entiendan la importancia histórica del papel que juegan en estos momentos.

El "orgullosamente Regio" necesita actuar.

He visto en muchos lados este blog post, en el cual un Chilango describe desde su visión la grandeza de Monterrey y su tristeza de dejarlo. Quisiera compartir mi sentir despues de leer ese artículo. El artículo es un homenaje que hace sentir especial a todos los que son de Monterrey, sin duda. Pero es un homenaje desafortunadamente hueco que no hace más que consolar y decir “no se preocupen, Monterrey va a salir adelante”… ¿cómo? Quién sabe.

Sentirse especial y orgulloso de dónde eres es claramente algo bueno, pero es realmente virtuoso cuando eres parte activa y constructiva de tu entorno. Cuando lo enriqueces con tus acciones, por pequeñas y rutinarias que parezcan. Ser “orgullosamente regio” porque eres Rayado/Tigre a morir, porque tienes todos los discos de los Invasores de N.L. o porque te encanta el machacado con huevo y la carne de la Ramos, o porque hablas con el acento “inimitable” de Monterrey es, francamente, algo superficial que no ayuda en mucho a sacar a la ciudad de la crisis histórica en la que se encuentra. Cuando contribuyes a la construcción de la grandeza que reclamas como tuya, entonces SÍ puedes (y tienes que) sentirte orgulloso. No tienes que convertirte en revolucionario y formar cuadrillas de activistas para poder cambiar de la noche a la mañana ese nido de ratas asesinas que a veces parece que se ha convertido Monterrey (gracias en mucha medida también al amarillismo periodístico). Es utópico pensar eso, pero cosas pequeñas ayudan. Dejar de ser corrupto y no darle mordida al tránsito y al funcionario de ventanilla es un comienzo. Exigir a las autoridades es imperativo para que una sociedad funcione, y Monterrey no es la excepción. Si el “orgullosamente Regio” tuviera una cultura de participación cívica como sí la tienen los “socialistas” del D.F., las autoridades responderían. En Francia marchan todas las semanas por temas tan triviales como las vacaciones de maternidad. Obedecer las señales de tránsito fomentaría el respeto a la ley. Tratar a los pobres como te gustaría que te trataran a ti es otra buena manera de contribuir a la unidad social. Reconocer e integrar a los pobres de Monterrey es fundamental. Porque que hay muchos, pero MUCHOS más pobres de lo que el “orgullosamente regio” quisiera admitir (1/3 de la población de N.L. vive con menos de USD$5.25/día). La marginación social de las colonias de pobreza extrema ha sido el caldo de cultivo perfecto para la germinación de nuevos reclutas adolescentes del crimen organizado. Sin un futuro, y sin nada que perder, vivir 3 meses manejando una Escalade y el poder que da una AK-47 es mejor que una vida de miseria lavando parabrisas bajo 40 grados en Ave. Colón. Ese mundo paralelo de miseria (inimaginable para el que cree que Monterrey es ciudad de primer mundo) siempre estuvo ahí, pero el “orgullosamente regio” eligió ignorarlo (incluso esconderlo, como cuando la Serie Cart de Automovilismo fue a Monterrey y el gobierno erigió una barda que tapaba la “fea” Colonia Pablo A. de la Garza para que los turistas no la vieran). Esa marginación está cobrando factura, y lo está haciendo de manera rabiosa. Para contrarrestarlo, el “orgullosamente Regio” necesita realmente solidarizarse y llevar a la acción ese “amor” por Monterrey.

La dedicación del "jalador" regiomonano es un rasgo admirado por muchos. Su disciplina, tenacidad y constancia son valores que el "orgullosamente Regio" aplica para lograr el éxito individual. Ese individualismo, sin embargo, ocasiona el olvido de las necesidades de los demás, y los demás, en este caso, representan Monterrey mismo.

El "orgullosamente Regio" necesita dejar el individualismo y actuar por la ciudad por la que tanto orgullo profesa. De otro modo, Monterrey enfrenta el desmoronamiento que carcome ciudades como Ciudad Juárez y Torreón.

The Lousy, Myopic & Biased NYT views on Cleaner Energy

Two days ago I was having a couple of drinks with some friends. Among the many topics over which we blew off steam, someone mentioned an article about clean energy on the NY Times by Robert Bryce stating that Gas is Greener. Since I am someone concerned with the state of the planet (we pay for wind energy, we recycle glass/paper/cans, we even use biodegradable diapers for our toddler) I was intrigued by that statement. I mean, I am open-minded. Al Gore could be all wrong and all the over-priced eco-friendly services and eco-friendly diapers we use could make no difference to improve the world we live in (although to be honest the current heat wave in the US is a nagging reminder that he might not be that crazy after all) or even worse: these so called eco-friendly energy sources could, the NYT article stated, be actually more harmful to the environment than the traditional non-eco-friendly ones.

If you have not (or do not intend to) read the above mentioned article, it basically states the following: wind turbines are massive steel structures (200 tons each) that produce 4 MW/h of electricity whereas a natural gas turbine requires only 9 tons to make and produces 43 MW/h. With this piece of info, Robert Bryce goes on to state that:

...however you crunch the numbers, the takeaway is the same: the amount of steel needed to generate a given amount of electricity from a wind turbine is greater by several orders of magnitude. Such profligate use of resources is the antithesis of the environmental ideal.

Having an article of a well-respected national newspaper confirm that you have been for years overpaying 30% for electricity that you thought was cleaner (I am reminded of this every month, believe me) when in reality it is actually more harmful to the environment, can make you feel dumb. "I am the guy who 'drank the kool aid'!", I lamented after reading the article the first time.

So I had a closer look at Mr. Bryce's numbers. It turns out, they are lousy -Incredibly lousy and incomplete, actually. Bryce utterly ignores some basic high-school arithmetic principles, such as comparing two variables in the same scale. His whole argument is "one wind turbine uses 200 tons of steel while a natural gas one uses only 9, that's a lot of energy squandered in the wind turbine" and "producing 1/6 of California's energy with solar requires solar panels covering an area the size of 70 Manhattans". That's it. No quantification of the energy resources used to make the steel for the wind turbine, no measurement of the impact of the 70 Manhattans area. And most importantly, no consideration whatsoever of the greenhouse gases that won't go into the environment by installing the wind turbines.

To have a fair comparison you have to bring the two alternatives to the same scale and then compare what's the best. So I crunched some numbers:  
So, to produce the extra steel necessary to make a "dirty" wind turbine, a total of 5,460,919.20 pounds of CO2 were released (13,680x191x2.09), or 2,477.03 metric tons of CO2. But wait! Installing a 1 Mw/h wind turbine avoids releasing 2,600 Metric Tons of CO2, so it's not all bad after all. CO2 is bad for the environment, right? (climate change deniers, please go along, this article is not about proving Al Gore's right, it's about how lousy this NYT op/ed is).

Thus, if 2,477 extra tons of CO2 were released to produce a wind turbine instead of a natural gas turbine, it takes a 4MW/h wind turbine only 87 operating days (2,477/10,400*365) to "pay" the "cost" of CO2 emissions of that extra steel. After day 88 the wind turbine is cleaner, while the natural gas turbine will continue releasing 111,800 tons of CO2/year (43MW x 2,600) until it's shut down or replaced with a cleaner one.

The same analysis could be done of the 70 Manhattans of solar panels. Bryce makes no attempt to measure its impact. We're not talking about chopping 70 Manhattans worth of Amazon Forest. They'd be installed in the Nevada desert, where there's only sand and life is almost non existent. He could have tried, but he makes absolutely no effort to measure its impact in any form.

So, you can still say that the wind turbine is cleaner. Phew. For moment I felt pretty silly. If you are a climate change denier and are still reading this, hat's off to you. You might have guessed by now I think we're screwing the planet so bad that I feel compelled to do something. Too bad the NYT publishes articles so ill-informed. But hey, at least it was an op/ed section. People should be able to read and judge what they're reading with their own criteria. I have mine.

--Update: 1-13-2012

Apparently somebody brought to Mr. Bryce's attention how lousy his op/ed was. Today I checked out the same article online and to my surprise, a very different (and much more convincing) article appeared under "The Gas is Greener" title. Now he takes real examples of wind farms to base his estimation of the area size that would be affected by new wind farms, including the mention of some legal obstacles to building them even in the desert. At the bottom of the article, a vague, modest, almost hidden clarification in small print reads: 
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 8, 2011, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: The Gas Is Greener.
(A "lousy version", that is).