Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Bet

I offer to bet the authors of the canal PPIC report $10,000 that desalination costs will drop below $1000 per acre foot before the state’s population reaches 46 million. Following the style of the PPIC report, I propose that both the amount of the bet and desalination costs be adjusted by changes in the Engineering News Records’ price index.

If they stand behind their report, they would be foolish not to accept.
The PPIC results hinge on the following 2 assumptions about the world in 2050.
1. California’s population will be 65 million.
2. Desalination costs will be $2072 per acre foot (in constant 2008 dollars)
As explained here and here, I think these assumptions are both way too high and drive their result endorsing a peripheral canal. They make some other bad assumptions too, but these are the worst.

I think a much more likely scenario is:
1. California’s population will be 55 million.
2. Desalination costs will be $1000 per acre foot or lower.

There is a lot of space between these two scenarios. If the PPIC team really believes their assumptions, they should be very willing to bet against my predictions. Since there is a pretty good chance that none of us will still be alive in 2050, some adjustment is necessary for this to be any fun. To make it to 65 million in 2050, the California population would need to get to about 46 million by 2020. Note that this really skews things in their favor, since I should only have a dozen years for this desalination technological advance to occur. If the PPIC team believes in their research, my offer should look like a sure thing to them, and they should be eager to accept.
This proposed wager is inspired by the famous Simon-Ehrlich bet.

December 1 update: I have posted an alternative bet here.

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