The price of almonds + fuel for Leo’s private jets

Calgary Herald, March 7, 2016: You might want to bring your calculator the next time you go grocery shopping, unless of course you’re good at doing math in your head. I’m not. If I were, I could have added up how much the almonds were going to cost as I filled the plastic bag to the brim.

I almost fell over as I checked the bill on the way to the car. The bag of almonds cost $68, or roughly $9.50 USD … Not really, my math isn’t that bad and our loonie hasn’t sunk that low. But it’s still a shock that the Canadian dollar is worth only about 74 cents US. You have to wonder whether almond-lovers across Canada are making the connection between the overpriced nuts to our suddenly undervalued oil and gas industry that’s dragging down our economy and our currency.

A lot of connections get lost when it comes to the oil and gas sector, starting with supply and demand. Maybe as Alberta’s laid off workers start leaving in droves for jobs elsewhere they could ask their new colleagues in B.C. or Ontario or wherever to start following energy economist Peter Tertzakian on Twitter. More than that, I’d sure love to send an autographed copy of his book, The End of Energy Obesity, to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Along with celebrating his Oscar win (finally, PHEW!), the actor has been busy wagging his finger at the greedy guts oil and gas sector. He also keeps blabbing that the snow melting while he was shooting the Revenant west of Calgary was a severe climatic event. Although you don’t have to look too far to find evidence of climate change, that particular climatic event was but a Chinook, that warm wind that has been killing outdoor rinks in southern Alberta for as long as anyone can remember.

We may never convince him of that, but wouldn’t it be great if he found a few minutes on the super yacht to flip through Tertzakian’s book? Even if DiCaprio just got through the intro he might stumble upon a pretty effective tool to help fight climate change:

“…We can solve all our energy-related problems by focusing on the one fundamental challenge that is often overlooked: reducing the quantity of energy we actually consume.”

Yup. The more we reduce our “energy appetite” the less we’ll need, the fewer emissions we’ll create and the more we can #keepitintheground. I don’t expect DiCaprio to explain the complexities of the global energy industry, Saudi Arabia’s shenanigans and why fuel for the private jet is so cheap right now, but imagine if he could demonstrate conservation to his 14 million Twitter followers?

What if the anti-carbon crusader (who reportedly had a fleet of giant SUVs run their engines for hours on end while filming in Alberta before flying with the cast and crew to Argentina to finish the movie) stopped pointing his finger and started advocating for behaviours that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Imagine if he could walk the talk. Or even just tippy toe.

I’m a little cranky — still miffed about that bag of almonds I guess — and maybe I shouldn’t rain on DiCaprio’s post-Oscar parade. I hear the Revenant is really good although my son told me I’m not allowed to see it on account of all the gore (I get enough blood and guts reading the paper every day, particularly the business section). I do give DiCaprio credit for narrating a documentary that calls for pricing carbon and bankrolling a foundation that protects wild tigers in Nepal. I just wish he’d spend some time between yacht parties using his mega stardom to address the mega demand for energy.

In another example of global supply and demand, the real-life guy behind Christian Bale’s character in the Big Short (saw that one, two thumbs up!) is said to be buying up water intensive almond farms in drought-stricken California. I believe that agriculture land, productive agricultural land with water on site, will be very valuable in the future,” Michael Burry has told Bloomberg TV. “I’ve put a good amount of money into that.”

After my own significant investment in almonds I did some research: It takes more than a gallon of water to produce one almond (that’s 3.78 litres CDN) and California almond growers use 9 per cent of the state’s agricultural water every year. Burry, the genius and reclusive investor, is betting that the value of farmland with water (and almonds) will rise as water in California becomes even scarcer.

That sounds like a pretty sure bet.

Back in my house, I’m betting that big bag of almonds in the cupboard means we won’t run out of them for a while. That’s the good news. The bad news is I won’t be buying them again.

Or wait, maybe that’s the good news.

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