True Contrarians

I like contrarians, and consider contrarian a term of endearment. If we believe the investment lore, only contrarian traders achieve success. The myth rings true: to beat the market, one must go against it. To win, contrarians need to believe in their own edge over otters. Which might explain why contrarians lionize individualism. They need to go their own way. Sometimes it works for all the good reasons.

Chace Barber drove logging trucks since the beginnings, to pay for his U. Big, heavily loaded trucks riding up and down mountain forests. Frustrated by the job offers from econ shops, he bought a 1969 Kenworth and started a trucking gig. It failed, after which he started Edison Motors {1}. His company now builds custom electric and hybrid trucks.

I see two main ingredients in his secret sauce. First, that parts from old trucks are all standardized, and thus cheap. During the Cold War the US Army asked contractors to build vehicles with interchangeable parts. This is critical for logging trucks, because when they break, drivers need to fix them on their own in the middle of nowhere. Second, he wants to exploit a known physical effect {2}:

This Physics Professor Recharges Electric Trucks as they Ride with this ONE WEIRD TRICK!

Hard not to root for Chace. He looks and sounds like a true contrarian. The same could have been said of Porter Stansberry, for different reasons, at least at first. When Porter talks about recession, distressed debt or crypto, he sounds like a run of the mill value investor {3}. But when he goes full Climateball mode, we see that going one’s way can reach epic hubris.

Take his Two Men project. It features Larry Fink, from Blackrock, and Michael Bloomberg. Two powerful men, incidentally of Jewish lineages. Let me spare you the financial and mediatic details he offers about the Great Reset of Western Civilization. You already heard a similar tune.

On the Climateball side, many Bingo squares get triggered, among them But Alarmism. But 12 Years, But Modulz, But Data, But RCPs, and But The Poor. You may never guess his smoking gun: Junior’s conspiracy at Forbes’, a company owned in majority by Integrated Whale Media {4}.

So Porter’s recipe reads like this: (1) create websites with fake documentaries and well-known Climateball tropes; (2) after red meat priming, ask Freedom Fighters to subscribe to a newsletter and buy reports on hand picked small cap stocks, which he presumably already owns; (3) profit.

Hard for me not to root for Chace. Hard for me not to dismiss Porter as another crank. Yet Chace’s path carries more risks. Many of Porter’s calls were tremendously profitable over the years. Investing in gas indeed is a no brainer for anyone who followed the energy markets recently. So it’s not exactly a scam.

Why the Climateball talking points, then? Why rant about gas stoves? Why persist in trying to bend hard facts known for decades? As Sage Welch suggests, to resurrect this concern can only help those who wish to bring climate to the forefront.

All and all, we need better contrarians. True contrarians. No time to wait for our milquetoast troglodytes. Become one yourself. Be a contrarian’s contrarian. ABC – Always Be Contrarian.


{1} Chace raises money over Tik Tok. He only accepts 1K investments. Most of his funding comes from truckers who can recognize the value proposition behind the craftsmanship.

{2} Levin’s channel is pure awesomeness. It belongs in a space shuttle for aliens not to despair on us.

{3} Value investors tend to be contrarian. Think Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, Carl Icahn.

{4} Oh, Junior. You silly you.

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18 Responses to True Contrarians

  1. Willard says:

    In the ATTP’s tradition, I might as well kick things off.

    Since this post cites three podcast episodes, there are lots of side notes. For instance, I omitted the talking points in Porter’s “documentary.” Adding them would have made the post unreadable, and since the master argument is But RCPs, they would lead astray. Due diligence may be paid to some of them in the comments, if only to improve my Bingo.

    Sage’s interview with Volts is just absolutely great. I encourage you to give it a listen. Her arguments are convincing and her enthusiasm contagious. If you lived under a rock in 2023, you might not know the background:

    Scientists have long known that gas stoves emit pollutants that irritate human airways and can cause or exacerbate respiratory problems. The recent furor seems to have been set off by comments recently made by Richard Trumka, Jr., a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a government agency that addresses the risk of illness and injury from various products. Speaking about the commission’s plans to potentially regulate gas stoves, Trumka told Bloomberg News that “any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

    Of course Freedom Fighters turned this into a cultural issue. Even if gas stoves are a high income liberal symbol status. I did not know that the gas industry has been instrumental in creating it.

  2. Joshua says:

    Speaking of contrarians:

    In the Fight Over Gas Stoves, Meet the Industry’s Go-To Scientist

  3. Willard says:

    Oh, Julie:

    She helped develop expert testimony for Philip Morris in a class-action lawsuit that went to trial in 2015, portraying the tobacco giant’s best-selling Marlboro Lights cigarettes as being safer for smokers. In a decision for the plaintiffs, Judge Edward Leibensperger of Massachusetts Superior Court said Gradient’s analysis “was shown to be inconsistent and contrary to the consensus of the scientific community.”

    Source: archived version.

    As Mr. Volts emphasizes, one reason why stoves matter to the industry (they fund for example chefs’ competitions) isn’t for the direct gas sales. It’s to keep the infrastructures in place. And as Sage underlines, we could have a better grid if everything was fully electrified.

    One does not even need to be against gas to appreciate the point. I mind less gas than oil, just like I mind less oil than coal. The overall game plan should be to preserve our resources. Fossil fuels have a role to play for a while. No need to burn them when we could not burn them. Basic economics.

  4. Trumka might have made a more subtle argument had he said that “Products that can’t be made reasonably safe can be banned.”

  5. Willard says:

    I doubt this would have prevented Freedom Fighters from starting a food fight, Mike. As Sage observes, not every Climateball episode is bad for the home team. Sometimes being handed the hot seat is a Good Thing. The gas industry and troglodytes will lose this one anyway, if only because of benzene:

    For benzene, we saw that it is possible for leaks from gas stoves to create similar concentrations as secondhand smoke[.]

    As I told Meb Faber, whom I contacted to warn him that he was promoting a crank, the acceptable level of benzene in the body is 0.000000%.

  6. Not following all the particulars, but I think you are probably correct. I used to like propane for cooking because of the fast heat and great control, but I think my current induction cooktop paired with the convection oven is really the best of all world for my household

  7. Willard says:

    Good point about induction stoves, Mike. Sage mentions them. She also mentions heat pumps. The connection is two-fold. First, they’re simply good, if not better tech. Second, they rely on an electricity grid. Every Climateball episode should give us a good reason to talk about heat pumps:

    Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners for all climates. Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house. During the cooling season, heat pumps move heat from your house into the outdoors. Because they transfer heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can efficiently provide comfortable temperatures for your home.

    Then we need to talk about building better infrastructures.

  8. izen says:

    “Then we need to talk about building better infrastructures.”

    Almost by definition infrastructure are singular monopoly systems.
    They are never built or profitable for an entrepreneurial actor to build, they always want to exploit an existing infrastructure to sell their product. Cars, trains, phone calls and energy use are all examples.
    When these technologies were new the various players sometimes all tried to build their own infrastructure. look at the plethora of train lines, telephone wires, and electrical supplies in the early days of these developments. Eventually they had to be taken over by communal governance and financed and built from public funds. In social democracies these funds came from redistribution of wealth taxed from business.

    Advocating for better infrastructure is an uphill battle in societies where ‘individualism’ and companies have the dominant position. However much, better infrastructure may improve the reach and profitability of commercial enterprises, the initial cost will always be strongly opposed by those who foresee their immediate profit being taxed to pay for them.
    In other words, better infrastructure is largely a political/economic problem.

  9. Willard says:


    The problem you underline has reached the mainstream audience recently:

    You may also like Russell’s new post at Judy’s:

    Renewable energy has an equity problem. Energy policies that force consumers to incur huge costs to meet larger public aims become a hidden form of taxation. […] As a practicing engineer I often worried what impact our projects would have on the less fortunate. Now I fear that poor struggling grandmothers will end up paying for the “green” dreams of the financially well off.


    Coming from a guy who worked for should know about Alabama Power, which is owned by the Southern Company, to speak of my granny like that is rather grand.

    My granny does not seem to like it.

    Neither does my grand dad, it seems.

    ADD. After rechecking my source, looks like I mistook the Alabama Electric Cooperative for Alabama Power. Sorry about that, Russell.

  10. Ben McMillan says:

    Gas stoves were hugely important for marketing gas connections to people; gas stoves provide a tangible ‘benefit’ visibly associated with the fuel that people interact with every day, whereas central heating is just something that happens behind the scenes with an anonymous heat source. Gas stoves were a cool and desirable new product, but no longer.

    Just part of a big problem that fossil fuels face: economic or not, they are becoming unfashionable and on-the-nose. You lose the battle in peoples’ heads well before you start losing in the market. Like tobacco, the fossil strategy will probably be to try to focus on the developing world…

  11. Ben McMillan says:

    In Australia, all the grannies have solar. Not just because so many people have solar, but also because the older generation are increasingly the ones who own most suburban real-estate. The younger generation, who can afford only to rent, are paying big bucks for (mostly) fossil-powered electricity, despite Australia being one of the major fossil exporting nations…

  12. Willard says:

    > You lose the battle in peoples’ heads well before you start losing in the market. Like tobacco, the fossil strategy will probably be to try to focus on the developing world…

    Good point, Ben. There are still grannies to fleece around here:

    Across the country and the internet, there are hundreds of conservative think tanks, groups, and individuals working to stir up community opposition to renewable energy with misinformation and lies. With virtually no public scrutiny, they have secured state-level policies restricting renewable energy siting in dozens of states.

    Independent journalist Michael Thomas set about to learn more about these right-wing groups. He joined anti-renewable-energy Facebook groups, combed through the tax filings of various right-wing think tanks, and tried to trace funding sources. He published the results in his own newsletter, Distilled.

    Also our planning engineer tilts at windmills right after 2022 happened:

    From July to September alone, Exxon and Chevron reported Q3 profits of $30.9 billion, all while Californians were paying higher gas prices despite the cost of crude oil being down. For Exxon, the $19.7 billion is the highest quarterly profits in its history, while Chevron’s $11.2 billion were its second-highest in history.

  13. geeaye says:

    I just wish, that in this day and age, that people would be kinder to otters.

  14. Contrarians are ill-defined for physics problems that are not completely explained. Instead of contrarians you get competing models of varying degrees of acceptance. Some models may be favored, some may be underdogs, some trash. In climate science, the mystery behaviors include AMO, ENSO, IOD, QBO, MJO, SSW events, PDO, NAO, TIW, and ITCZ asymmetry. The tell is when you find papers on these topics that apply machine learning to try to discover patterns or connections. The ML strategy is partly to try anything, including paths considered contrarian to common sense and to stress the limits of over-fitting, just to see if anything pops out of the non-linear space of connections. So if anything is discovered it will likely come out of contrarian-space — in other words, the solutions will come from what was once deemed contrary to conventional wisdom.

  15. Willard says:


    A contrarian runs against what is usually called the established view. Most if not all established views in science are incomplete. In fact as soon as a theory includes arithmetic it cannot.

    But you rightly emphasize that there are cases where there is no real established view. Two mainstream views could compete for a while. Then being a contrarian becomes relative to the crowd you meet.

    Also, what you call the contrarian space is what I think allows contrarians to never lose:

    Can Contrarians Lose?

  16. New invited essay worth a look suggesting that climate science entering into the economics realm makes it a less rigorous discipline. Concludes that it may lead to further polarization : “Post-normal conditions lead to changes in the scientific organization – programs, perceived leading scientists – which feed back into societies to support a priori world views (climate catastrophe and fake news).”

    The peer-review discussion provides some more context

  17. izen says:

    “Favorable climate has been associated with economic growth, …”

    I would suggest that a STABLE climate is associated with economic growth, and a varying and/or unstable climate is associated with societal problems.

  18. Willard says:

    A related retweet from AT:

    Disclosure: I asked Matt & Chris to “degurufy” Porter. They might demur (Matt still regrets my suggestion to analyze teh Dilbert) as it might be a case of pure grift.

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