What happens if Yellowstone erupts?

Image result for usgs st helens map

In 2012, CM, in a former guise, wrote a piece on what might happen if Mt Fuji erupted. Over the past couple of years, scientists have been postulating whether Yellowstone might blow her top. In 2019 the stories are front page news again. The last time she blew was 631,000 years ago. So the consensus is not if, but when. The last time she blew, 240 cubic miles of volcanic ash spewed into the atmosphere. When Mt St Helens erupted as a VEI5 (paroxysmal), 0.29 cubic miles of ash and volcanic rock was sent into the atmosphere. The 2010 Icelandic Eyjafjnallajokull volcano was a VEI4 (cataclysmic).

The doomsayers suggest if the Wyoming based volcano goes off, 87,000 will be killed immediately and 2/3rds of the US will become inhabitable. The ash would block out sunlight leading to cooling by up to 5 degrees. The sulphur aerosol spewed out of volcanoes reflects sunlight meaning the world could be thrown into a nuclear winter. A volcano erupting has zero to do with global warming but it would change climactic conditions.

The damage caused in each zone can be seen here. FEMA believe a $3 trillion minimum economic impact would occur. That seems light if the Mega-colossal (VEI8) event occurs. St. Helens was around $3 billion in damages.

Zone 1

A major problem faced after an eruption is the electricity grid. Dry volcanic ash in and of itself is not conductive enough to cause insulator flashovers but it is highly soluble and if it is mainly composed of aerosols it can cause the grid to be shutdown. The insulators require de-ionised water to clean at low pressure to prevent damage to the surfaces of the conductors. Trying to rectify the problem by using backup diesel generators would be met by ultra fine volcanic ash particles gumming up injectors and the engine filters. So power shortages would be long lasting. Solar would also require cleaning and wind power gears would also become fouled up by the ash. So if you own a Tesla you’ll be in trouble. Gasoline powered cars would eventually stop working if filters weren’t replaced frequently.

Water reservoirs would also end up making it unsuitable for drinking in the short term. Depending on the level of turbidity of the water supply, several weeks may be required to restore it to normal.

Airlines would be grounded. Volcanic ash is terminal for jet engines. In 2010, the Icelandic volcano cost airlines over $1.5 billion in revenue over the 6 weeks or so of disruption. The Eurostar was not impacted by the volcano and saw a large uptick in business. Ferries also experienced a 4x boost in traffic.

If the eruption was as huge as forecast, filter companies would stand to benefit greatly. High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters would see high replacement demand. Japanese company Daikin (6367) has a subsidiary Nippon Muki which makes HEPA filters. Japan Vilene (3514) is also a maker for automotive related filters. Dow Chemical has HEPA filters although a tiny part of the total business.

Shipping companies would benefit, especially transport substitution of air cargo players where fleets would not be able to be deployed.

Insurance companies would likely escape a lot of financial damage as their policies are unlikely to cover ‘acts of god’ such as volcanic eruptions.

EPCO losses would be immense. The amount of repair work to entire grids and a halt to power supplies would hit revenue and ramp cost.

While it is still only hypothetical, the tragedy of a mega colossal eruption would be catastrophic in terms of loss of life and economic impact. The US is 25% of world GDP. Such a VEI8 eruption would have severe global economic implications. So if it comes, batten down the hatches.

Iceland legislates equal pay for women


Google statistics on the gender pay gap and you can find an endless supply of stats supporting women earning a fraction of that of men. Iceland has now made it law. Companies with 25 members of staff and over are obliged to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies or face being slapped with financial penalties. It makes absolute sense to pay equally for identical work but we all know from our own experiences that all workers don’t perform equally in the same role. That goes for both genders.

Take two salespeople (ignore gender for now). They both work the same hours, are both the same age and have exactly the same qualities. Over whatever time period set the first outsells the second person on a 2:1 basis. Competition in their industry is rife and the employer is worried that it might lose one of is better performers if it can’t reward them appropriately.

In a previous role as head of a sales department, the top saleswoman was paid considerably more than male counterparts for “performance”. Same role, same rank, similar age and tenure. Better pay. It was rational. Gender was irrelevant. Performance was what mattered. Would the Iceland law makers censure the gender discrimination against the men in the team? Not likely. Surely it would turn a blind eye and inwardly celebrate an overturn of decades of perceived injustice!

Companies will get tied up in irrelevant, costly and onerous red tape to defend common sense. That is time consuming. Companies will need to hire a whole department to protect them from behaving too commercially or rationally. All of a sudden instead of dealing with customers staff and management spend a growing amount of time ticking internal boxes so the company doesn’t get into any trouble. Customers lose and ultimately the company becomes less profitable as a result. Lose lose.

Take it a step further. If companies could hire one group for 20% less than another for exactly the same output why would they bother paying a premium for it? Makes no sense. So the argument that women are paid less for the same role is nonsense. Why would companies bother to hire men?

Take the world of super models. The top 20 females get paid north of $1mn per annum. There are two males that achieve it. Where are the masculinists screaming for equal pay? Is it not the corporation that sees more value in having Giselle Blundchen’s sultry looks than some 6-packed dude from the Polo Ralph Lauren catalogue? Same work? Not same pay! Still Giselle’s agents know her value to the ultimate revenues of a cosmetics company that Joey Sixpack simply can’t generate. Is that unfair? Surely if Giselle has her pay capped at 1/10th current pay she might refuse to work.

Regardless of the debate over gender balance, it is not strange to see men dominate the numbers in the military, emergency services and construction. These are workplace choices. If 80% of the people who want to apply for a particular industry are men or women then why force gender balance? Doesn’t the sheer number of men or women applying for a particular type of job speak volumes about real interest? Should army recruiters in Australia face demotion if they don’t hit gender targets? Should we want our military to be a social experiment or the most capable force of defending a nation? If more men are willing and capable to serve in artillery battalions why should we deny them? Isn’t motivation a desirable trait?

Another flaw in the gender pay argument is that of classification. Stanford Professor Thomas Sowell suggested personal and workplace choices account for much of the gap…perhaps the biggest reason is biology. Women make up 50% of the workforce but give birth to 100% of the babies. And if women choose to have children, their incentives change and this affects their choices of jobs, careers, continual service and hours spent on the job…and data compiled from the Census Bureau, unmarried women who’ve never had a child actually earn more than unmarried men…according to the Labor Department, “of men and women who work 30 to 34 hours a week, women make more, 109 percent of men’s earnings.

Of Sowell’s points, continual service is important. If a woman takes 10 years out of the workforce to raise kids while her husband is able to continue in his job one would imagine prospects for promotion would be on balance higher than hers if she returned to the workforce after a long absence. It doesn’t preclude women couldn’t climb a ladder or overtake her hubby but on balance this is but one factor.

The gender pay gap is a statisticians dream. One could slice and dice it to get the result one wants. However isn’t it an insult to women to think they need a regulated leg up in life? Some of the most successful women Known to CM are determined and the last thing that crosses their mind is that being a women is an impediment. Their drive and determination was an inspiration.

The left leaning Fairfax Media is already pointing fingers at Australia to adopt Iceland’s lead. Just what Australian industry needs. More red tape.