Complacency Reigns Supreme

By Burt Coons (PLUNGER) – Re-Blogged From Rambus Chartology

I had intended to post part III of my interest rate series, however market conditions dictate that I post views on the current market.  This market is now communicating that it is at high risk.  For two months now,  I have been advocating a strategic retreat.  Head for the sidelines and watch the action with an unemotional detachment.  The market is now sounding the alarm and one should be on high alert for a downside acceleration.

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Trade Wars

By Alasdair Macleod – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

An overt trade war has commenced. President Trump has fired the starting gun, setting in motion an election promise, part of his Make America Great Again undertaking. It is a blow squarely aimed against China, costing China some trade perhaps, but basically a loser’s last roll of the dice.

The back story appears to be far deeper than some relatively minor tariffs on steel and aluminium would suggest. It comes after a prolonged period of shadow-boxing between America in the blue corner and Russia and China in the red. To pursue the boxing analogy, China and Russia have been soaking up America’s punches on the basis America would simply tire herself out. It has been a replay of Muhammed Ali’s dope-on-a-rope strategy in the rumble-in-the-jungle, with America cast as George Foreman.

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Qatar Runs Out of Sand!

By David Middleton – Re-Blogged From http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com

qatar_sand

The future of the diplomatic crisis surrounding Qatar may come to hinge on an unlikely commodity: sand.

An analysis of Qatar’s export and import data conducted by Al Arabiya suggests that Qatar is facing serious challenges to meet its construction needs for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The precious commodity is vital to construction and Qatar’s push to build the infrastructure it needs to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup will require large sand imports.

Oil was the strategic commodity in the 20th century and in many regions of the world water resources are increasingly the center of geopolitical competition. However, the Qatar crisis has put sand back in the forefront.

The Anti-Terrorism Quartet severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5 over Doha’s ties to terrorist groups.

Among the Quartet are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – all of which were significant exporters of sand to the country as recently as last year.

[…]

Most extracted natural resource after water

Sand is the world’s second most extracted natural resource after water. However, most of the cost in sand production is in transportation. The global economy has seen local shortages as a result of increased urbanization, especially in Asia where the crisis has been acutely felt. Some regions of India have banned sand-mining in recent months.

Sand is found in a wide range of products, from the glass screen in a smartphone to the fracking solution used in an oil well.

But it’s most common use, by far, is in construction where it is mixed with concrete.

Like much of the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is home to fields of scenic dunes. However, that desert sand is often too powdery to be used in construction, which relies on coarse riverbed sand.

[…]

Sand stockpiles

Qatar is well-aware of the sand crisis as state-owned media reported on it this year. Qatar has already cancelled some proposed ideas in recent years like a bridge between Qatar and Bahrain which seems politically unlikely given the current crisis. Other commissioned stadium projects plan to use less construction materials.

According to BMI Research, Qatar’s construction industry grew by as much as 14% last year and was expected to grow further this year. That is because Qatar’s budget set aside 47% of total expenditure for major projects in 2017 – a total of some $13 billion.

As recently as 2010, Qatar was exporting to sand to Iraq, according to the New York Times. However, the World Cup infrastructure program has rapidly changed the country’s position regarding the valuable resource.

[…]

Al Arabiya

Who would have ever guessed that a rich, oil-exporting desert nation might run out of sand before it ran out of oil and water?  Have you ever wanted to tell OPEC to “go pound sand”?  Well, you better do it before some of OPEC’s members run out of sand.

Could Qatar be the “sand crisis” version of the “canary in the coal mine”?

Annals of Geology
May 29, 2017 Issue

The World Is Running Out of Sand

It’s one of our most widely used natural resources, but it’s scarcer than you think.

By David Owen

[…]

Sand covers so much of the earth’s surface that shipping it across borders—even uncontested ones—seems extreme. But sand isn’t just sand, it turns out. In the industrial world, it’s “aggregate,” a category that includes gravel, crushed stone, and various recycled materials. Natural aggregate is the world’s second most heavily exploited natural resource, after water, and for many uses the right kind is scarce or inaccessible. In 2014, the United Nations Environment Programme published a report titled “Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks,” which concluded that the mining of sand and gravel “greatly exceeds natural renewal rates” and that “the amount being mined is increasing exponentially, mainly as a result of rapid economic growth in Asia.”

Pascal Peduzzi, a Swiss scientist and the director of one of the U.N.’s environmental groups, told the BBC last May that China’s swift development had consumed more sand in the previous four years than the United States used in the past century. In India, commercially useful sand is now so scarce that markets for it are dominated by “sand mafias”—criminal enterprises that sell material taken illegally from rivers and other sources, sometimes killing to safeguard their deposits. In the United States, the fastest-growing uses include the fortification of shorelines eroded by rising sea levels and more and more powerful ocean storms—efforts that, like many attempts to address environmental challenges, create environmental challenges of their own.

Geologists define sand not by composition but by size, as grains between 0.0625 and two millimetres across. Just below sand on the size scale is silt; just above it is gravel. Most sand consists chiefly of quartz, the commonest form of silica, but there are other kinds. Sand on ocean beaches usually includes a high proportion of shell pieces and, increasingly, bits of decomposing plastic trash; Hawaii’s famous black sand is weathered fragments of volcanic glass; the sand in the dunes at White Sands National Monument, in New Mexico, is mainly gypsum. Sand is almost always formed through the gradual disintegration of bigger rocks, by the action of ice, water, wind, and time, but, as the geologist Michael Welland writes, in his book “Sand: The Never-Ending Story,” many of those bigger rocks were themselves formed from accumulations of the eroded bits of other rocks, and “perhaps half of all sand grains have been through six cycles in the mill, liberated, buried, exposed, and liberated again.”

Sand is also classified by shape, in configurations that range from oblong and sharply angular to nearly spherical and smooth. Desert sand is almost always highly rounded, because strong winds knock the grains together so forcefully that protrusions and sharp edges break off. River sand is more angular. William H. Langer, a research geologist who retired from the U.S. Geological Survey a few years ago and now works as a private consultant, told me, “In a stream, there’s a tiny film of water around each grain, so when the grains bang together there’s enough energy to break them apart but not enough to let them rub against each other.” The shape of sand deposited by glaciers and ice sheets depends partly on how far the sand was moved and what it was moved over. Most of the sand in the Hutcheson quarry is “sub-angular”: the grains have fractured faces, but the sharp edges have been partly abraded away. Sand that’s very slightly more smooth-edged is “sub-rounded.”

Aggregate is the main constituent of concrete (eighty per cent) and asphalt (ninety-four per cent), and it’s also the primary base material that concrete and asphalt are placed on during the building of roads, buildings, parking lots, runways, and many other structures. A report published in 2004 by the American Geological Institute said that a typical American house requires more than a hundred tons of sand, gravel, and crushed stone for the foundation, basement, garage, and driveway, and more than two hundred tons if you include its share of the street that runs in front of it. A mile-long section of a single lane of an American interstate highway requires thirty-eight thousand tons. The most dramatic global increase in aggregate consumption is occurring in parts of the world where people who build roads are trying to keep pace with people who buy cars. Chinese officials have said that by 2030 they hope to have completed a hundred and sixty-five thousand miles of roads—a national network nearly three and a half times as long as the American interstate system.

[…]

One engineer I spoke to told me that transporting sand and stone for ordinary construction becomes uneconomical after about sixty miles, and that builders usually make do with whatever is available within that radius, even if it means settling for materials that aren’t ideal. In some places, though, there are no usable alternatives. Florida lies on top of a vast limestone formation, but most of the stone is too soft to be used in construction. “The whole Gulf Coast is starved for aggregate,” William Langer, the research geologist, told me. “So they import limestone from Mexico, from a quarry in the Yucatán, and haul it by freighter across the Caribbean.” Even that stone is wrong for some uses. “You can build most of a road with limestone from Mexico,” he continued, “but it doesn’t have much skid resistance. So to get that they have to use granitic rock, which they ship down the East Coast from quarries in Nova Scotia or haul by train from places like inland Georgia.” When Denver International Airport was being built, in the nineteen-nineties, local quarries were unable to supply crushed stone as rapidly as it was needed, so vast quantities were brought from a quarry in Wyoming whose principal product was stone ballast for railroad tracks. The crushed stone was delivered by a freight train that ran in a continuous loop between the quarry and the work site.

Deposits of sand, gravel, and stone can be found all over the United States, but many of them are untouchable, because they’re covered by houses, shopping malls, or protected land. Regulatory approval for new quarries is more and more difficult to obtain: people don’t want to live near big, noisy holes, even if their lives are effectively fabricated from the products of those holes. The scarcity of alternatives makes existing quarries increasingly valuable. The Connecticut quarry I visited is one of a number owned by Stanley’s company, and like many in the United States it’s in operation today only because it predates current mining regulations.

[…]

Ten years ago, I spent a week in Dubai, which at the time was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Construction cranes and imported laborers were everywhere. The work went on all night, and the city’s extraordinary traffic congestion was continually being made worse by road-widening projects intended to relieve it. Exhaust from cars and trucks, in combination with wind-borne dust from the Arabian Desert and humid air from the Persian Gulf, formed a thick, phlegm-colored haze that made breathing unpleasant—an effect exacerbated by the ferocious heat. (Dubai gets so hot during the summer that many swimming pools are cooled, rather than heated.)

One day, I played golf with an Australian who worked for a major real-estate developer. The course, like Dubai itself, had been built on empty desert, and I commented that creating fairways and greens in such a forbidding environment must be difficult. “No,” the Australian said. “Deserts are easy, because you can shape the sand into anything you like.” The difficult parts, paradoxically, are the areas that are supposed to be sand: deserts make lousy sand traps. The wind-blown grains are so rounded that golf balls sink into them, so the sand in the bunkers on Dubai’s many golf courses is imported. Jumeirah Golf Estates—on the outskirts of the city, next to the desert—has two courses, Fire and Earth, both designed by Greg Norman. The sand in the bunkers on the Earth course is white (the most prized color for golf sand) and was bought from a producer in North Carolina. The sand on the Fire course is reddish brown—more like the desert across the road. Norman’s company bought it from Hutcheson, which mined it at its quarry in Ontario, sifted it to make it firmer than volleyball sand, kiln-dried it, dyed it, and loaded it onto a ship.

Unfortunately for Dubai’s builders and real-estate developers, desert sand is also unsuitable for construction and, indeed, for almost any human use. The grains don’t have enough fractured faces for concrete and asphalt, and they’re too small and round for water-filtration systems. The high-compression concrete used in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure, was made with sand imported from Australia. William Langer told me that other desert countries face similar shortages. “Mauritania is trying to catch up with the world,” he said. “They’ve got sand all over the place, but it isn’t good even for highway construction.” Stone is so scarce in Bangladesh that contractors commonly resort to making concrete with crushed brick.

[…]

The New Yorker

 

Who would have guessed that desert sand is almost totally useless as sand?  It even makes for “lousy sand traps” on golf courses.

Is the world really running out of sand?

The world has plenty of sand… It’s just in the wrong places…

World Resources: Sand and gravel resources of the world are plentiful. However, because of environmental restrictions, geographic distribution, and quality requirements for some uses, sand and gravel extraction is uneconomic in some cases. The most important commercial sources of sand and gravel have been glacial deposits, river channels, and river flood plains. Use of offshore deposits in the United States is mostly restricted to beach erosion control and replenishment. Other countries routinely mine offshore deposits of aggregates for onshore construction projects.

So, unless global warming ends the Quaternary glacial cycles, sand should remain an abundant, renewable resource.

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Sand

chartshephard

 

USGS Sand Nomenclature

CONTINUE READING –>

On a Warpath Paved With Rational Decisions

Re-Blogged From Stratfor

North Korea demonstrated at least a rudimentary capability to launch a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile with its latest test of the Hwasong-14. At the extreme estimates of its range, the missile has the ability to strike parts of the western United States. More tests and developments will be necessary to increase the Hwasong-14’s range, payload and re-entry system, and questions remain about North Korea’s ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and make it rugged enough to mount on the missile. Even so, Pyongyang is clearly well on its way to realizing its goal of a long-range nuclear weapons capability. This is the first installment in a three-part series examining the implications of this development for the United States’ relationship with North Korea.

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Time For A New Gold Standard For Asia

By Alasdair Macleod – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

Over half the world’s population, living in the Eurasian land mass, understands that gold is money. The leaders of the Asian nations also know that this is true as well. The leaders of the security and economic alliance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which now incorporates most of these peoples, also know that to become independent of Western hegemony and to forge their own way, they must abandon Western financial systems and markets, replacing them with a new monetary order, serving their own needs. This is demonstrated in the establishment of parallel multinational financial institutions, duplicating and replacing dollar-centric development banks and settlement organisations.

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Gold Summer Doldrums

By Adam Hamilton – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

Gold has spent most of June grinding lower on balance, damaging sentiment and vexing traders.  Usual selling leading into the Fed’s latest rate hike contributed, but the summer doldrums are also in play.  Gold has typically suffered a seasonal lull this time of year, on waning investment demand as vacations divert attention from markets.  But these summer doldrums offer the best seasonal buying opportunities of the year.

This doldrums term is very apt for gold’s summer predicament.  It describes a zone in the world’s oceans surrounding the equator.  There hot air is constantly rising, creating long-lived low-pressure areas.  They are often calm, with little or no prevailing winds.  History is full of accounts of sailing ships getting trapped in this zone for days or even weeks, unable to make any headway.  The doldrums were murder on ships’ morale.

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2017 Annual World Forecast

[This is a very comprehensive, very long article. Please be ready. -Bob]

Re-Blogged From Stratfor

The convulsions to come in 2017 are the political manifestations of much deeper forces in play. In much of the developed world, the trend of aging demographics and declining productivity is layered with technological innovation and the labor displacement that comes with it. China’s economic slowdown and its ongoing evolution compound this dynamic. At the same time the world is trying to cope with reduced Chinese demand after decades of record growth, China is also slowly but surely moving its own economy up the value chain to produce and assemble many of the inputs it once imported, with the intent of increasingly selling to itself. All these forces combined will have a dramatic and enduring impact on the global economy and ultimately on the shape of the international system for decades to come.

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