Monday, April 19, 2021

"Why Wall Street investors’ trading California water futures is nothing to fear – and unlikely to work anyway"

I don't know. Anything that normalizes the commodification of water, that, rather than exalting it as a giver of life (and one of the weirdest compounds in the universe) reduces it to just another thing to trade, brings us closer to the day when pure power politics forces the U.S. to drain the Great Lakes just to keep Phoenix and Las Vegas and Los Angeles going.

Or something.

From The Conversation:

Water is one of the world’s most vital resources.

So is there reason to freak out now that profit-hungry hedge funds and other investors can trade it like a barrel of oil or shares of Apple?

That’s exactly what CME Group recently did in California when it launched the world’s first futures market for water in December 2020. Put simply, a futures market lets people place bets on the future price of water.

Some people worry Wall Street’s involvement in trading water will disenfranchise the water rights of rural communities and lead to more scarcity of an already dwindling resource, thus driving up the price everyone pays.

As researchers who study commodity markets and the economics of water resources, we believe there are many benefits of a well-functioning water futures market, especially as climate change makes the amount available for use increasingly hard to predict. The market’s main purpose, after all, is to provide protection for California water users – such as farmers and cities – against fluctuations in prices.

While there are real risks, we think they’re misunderstood and overblown. And anyway, very few are actually trading water futures.

Futures 101

Farmers and suppliers have used futures markets to manage the risk associated with the changing market prices of commodities for centuries.

Such trading wasn’t standardized until 1848, when the Chicago Board of Trade became the world’s first futures exchange and began trading corn, wheat and soybean futures.

Today there are futures markets for many types of assets, from commodities like coffee and crude oil to currencies such as the dollar and yen.

Here’s a typical example. Let’s say the price of soybeans is US$12 a bushel. In the spring, a soybean farmer might sell a September futures contract for $12 a bushel that obligates her to deliver a certain amount of soybeans in the fall and receive the agreed-upon price in return – regardless of how the actual “spot” price changes. Given all the uncertainties of farming, this makes it easier to plan.

The water futures market works similarly, except there’s no physical exchange of the asset – no water actually changes hands. So someone who needs water, such as a farmer, buys a contract to purchase water in three months at $500 per acre-foot. If in three months’ time a drought drives the spot price up to $550, the seller of the contract pays the farmer the difference: $50 per acre-foot. If a sudden increase in the supply of water pushes the price lower to $450, the farmer must pay the difference.

But for the farmer, in either scenario, when she actually buys water for her crops, she pays just $500 per acre-foot....


Of course Issac Asimov had to go and pop my quasi-mystical water balloon  

One of Asimov's riffs on water, "Not as We Know it: The Chemistry of Life" he uses this little paragraph as a jumping-off point:

Water is an amazing substance with a whole set of unusual properties which are ideal for life-as-we-know-it. So well fitted for life is it, in fact, that some people have seen in the nature of water a sure sign of Divine providence. This, however, is a false argument, since life has evolved to fit the watery medium in which it developed. Life fits water, rather than the reverse.

From our December 2020 post "Hydrogen Storage: A New Form Of Ice":

The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov was also a trained chemist: PhD, Columbia, post doc, taught biochem at Boston Uni's Med school etc.

And he was fascinated by water. See after the jump.....

Water and Its Mysteries