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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

EU maternity leave minimum - rejected?!, 2010

  1. Brussels finalising EU energy infrastructure plan
  2. EU sees aviation deal as green light for emissions trading
  3. Brussels to draw up 'chemical map' of EU land
  4. Commission approves Spain’s coal aid
  5. MEPs seal deal on crisis funds for clean energy
  6. EU says €200bn needed for energy grids by 2020
Quote of the day:
Ministers reject Parliament's wishes on maternity leave - Meeting in Brussels yesterday (6 December), EU social affairs ministers refused to accept the demands of the European Parliament regarding minimum standards of maternity leave. The Council is expected to agree its own position sometime next year. - Jerks! Seriously! I mean what's wrong with those people! Europe is in demographic crisis and what do they do? Deny women the right to safely raise children. Because if you think about it, that's what's happening. Women are AFRAID to get pregnant and have children, because they are not ready to take care of them financially and careerwise. After all we all want to be successful in life. Who's going to sacrifice her career and possibility to achieve something and to become a better person to become a mother besides religious fanatics and women who anyway don't care about career?! Very few people. And that's what we're all seeing - women delaying giving birth until they get above 35-40 years old, when reproduction is harder and riskier (and more expensive). They don't do it because they don't want to have children, they do it because they want to secure better life for those children and themselves. And in the end young people become more and more scarce! Is that what EU ministers want? Because if it's that, then we'll be facing a much more serious crisis in Europe than the financial one. You can raise retirement age as much as you want, but humans can't work if they're sick, senile or dead. And the moment will come when there aren't enough people to work to sustain the economy. What are we going to do then? Import young people from Arab countries or China? What a future is this?! And why European politicians are so blind! Women should be stimulated in any possible way to have children and to raise them as good citizens. And all that without forcing those mothers to leave the workforce. If we don't find a way to do that, we're simply doomed. And the sooner we realise that, the better.

    Brussels finalising EU energy infrastructure plan

    04 October 2010
    The European Commission is planning to introduce a fast-track procedure for permitting energy infrastructure projects of European interest, according to a draft proposal seen by EurActiv.

    The draft communication on energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and 2030 identifies nine priority projects of European interest to deliver Europe’s energy and climate objectives.
    It points to missing links, insufficient market integration and the need to adapt the EU's energy infrastructures to manage an increasing share of intermittent renewable energy.
    Europe's energy demand is set to be increasingly met with electricity, while in 2020, 16% of overall electricity generation will come from variable energy sources like solar and wind power, the paper states. The EU's climate and renewable energy targets will therefore require "extensive changes to the power grids" to integrate both distributed renewable sources and centralised power generation into the grid, the paper states.
    The Commission estimates that 50,000km of electricity transmission lines will either have to be built or upgraded in the next decade to meet EU objectives on security of supply, renewables integration and market development.
    Moreover, the paper foresees the building of a European "super grid" of very high-voltage lines that will be capable of transporting electricity across the continent to balance intermittent power generation – wind in the North and sun in the South.
    To put the infrastructure in place, the paper identifies the need to reduce delays in issues permits, which are crippling infrastructure projects. It points out that permit delays for building energy transmission infrastructure are now longer in many member states than delays in building the power plants to feed the lines.European priority projects should be given preferential treatment to speed up their implementation, either by applying the fastest possible procedure at member-state level or by a new harmonised procedure, the paper says. The "preferred option" would be a "declaration of European interest" regime, which would trigger a simplified permitting procedure and maximum timeframes for each step in the process, it states.
    Moreover, member states involved in cross-border projects should be required to enhance coordination, preferably providing a "one-stop shop" for permit application. In case of persistent conflicts and delays, the Commission or another authority could be given power to make decisions.
    The Commission intends to table proposals on permitting for projects of EU interest next year.
    The draft plan also seeks to put CO2 transportation pipelines on Europe's priority list to prepare for the commercial-scale application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
    CO2 pipelines installed between 2014 and 2020 will be associated with specific demonstration projects and unconnected, the draft says. But including CO2 transport infrastructure is necessary to accommodate a global rollout of CCS around 2025, it argues.
    The document gives a tentative figure of up to €15bn of public support for the identified priority projects.sourceMy comment: This article is precisely why I don't blog here so often now. Because I'm getting extremely disappointed. Some of what is said in the article reminds me of old-style propaganda. If there are disputes, the decision should be made by the EC?! Yeah, how's that for sovereignty of member-states. And if even such a fan of the EU like me can see the wrong in this, I wonder what the nationalists will say. Oh, yeah, I know. "F*ck off". And they will be right. While I completely agree with the need of super grid and new infrastructure dedicated at efficiency and renewables, they shouldn't come at any cost. And it appears as that "draft" is proposing precisely that. Decisions with any cost, speeding of the process with any means...This cannot be right. I agree that the process should be sped up. Most of the time goes in formalities anyway. But the critical evaluations, like environmental, social and of course, technical cannot be subject to pressure by any institution! I hope that draft gets corrected. 
    And yeah, as for CO2 pipeline...WTF?! Are they serious? Transport to which CCS project? Where are the working CCS plants? Show me even one! Where is the environmental evaluation of the so called CCS sites, that proves based on scientific experiments and technological tests that the technology is safe for everyone?! I don't see anything like that. In which case, WTF are they talking about?

    EU sees aviation deal as green light for emissions trading

    18 October 2010
    A deal struck by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on capping emissions from international aviation paves the way for swift inclusion of aviation in the EU's emissions trading scheme, the European Commission said on Saturday (9 October).

    The 190 member states of the ICAO assembly adopted a resolution late on Friday (8 October) on capping emissions from international aviation as of 2020. The sector would also seek to become 2% more fuel efficient every year up to 2050. The goals are, however, "aspirational" rather than binding on its member states.
    The European Commission saw the deal as an endorsement of an EU decision in 2008 to include aviation in its emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) from 2012. Some US airlines have mounted a legal challenge to the EU's decision to incorporate all flights coming in and flying out of the EU into the ETS. source
    My comment: It would be great if the goals were binding. But even so, it's some progress on the issue. Finally.

    Brussels to draw up 'chemical map' of EU land

    06 October 2010

    The European Commission's in-house research body is currently analysing thousands of soil samples from across Europe to draw up a "chemical content map" of EU land.
    The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has received some 25,400-odd samples of land, collected last year and weighing half a kilo each.
    Their chemical content will be analysed as part of a major survey of EU land cover and usage across the 27 country bloc.
    According to the JRC, the analysis will be completed by June 2011.
    The possibilities in applying the first harmonised "topsoil database" of the EU 25 - Romania and Bulgaria did not participate in the survey - are numerous, "covering most soil functions, soil services and soil degradation processes," the JRC commented.
    Such sampling may become a regular part of monitoring soil resources in the EU and will feed into climate change and biodiversity-related studies and assessments of soil degradation.
    Ten days ago, the JRC published the first ever indicator-based map of potential threats to soil biodiversity. Dubbed the Soil Biodiversity Atlas, the map identifies the main pressures on EU soils as resulting from land-use change, over-exploitation, changes in environmental conditions or geochemical properties.The document stresses the importance of soil biodiversity in agriculture and the water and carbon cycles, and considers the economic value of soil biodiversity.
    According to the survey, some 40% of the EU's total land area is covered by forests and other wooded areas, 24% by cropland, 20% by grassland, 6% by shrub land and 5% by water and wetland.Only 4% of the EU's area is covered by built-up and other artificial cover, such as roofed constructions, yards, car parks, cemeteries, roads and rail networks.
    Regarding socio-economic use, over 40% of land in Europe is used for agriculture and almost 30% for forestry. Use for residential, commercial and industrial purposes – including services, energy, transport and mining – accounts for just over 10% of the total land area.
    Meanwhile, both the land coverage and the land's socio-economic usage vary widely across the bloc.

    The results stem from a large-scale land survey conducted in 2009 in EU 23 member states. According to Eurostat, Malta and Cyprus were not covered by the survey for methodological reasons, while data for Bulgaria and Romania will be released only later in 2010. source
    My comment: Wow, now I like this. Even though Bulgaria and Romania are not yet covered, the whole survey is very valuable scientifically. So I applaud the effort and wish them luck in updating the data and keeping it consistent. Also, I think it will be even more useful to point to the land-use as compared to biodiversity areas. Because they say that Spain is one of the most rarely built up areas, but they don't account the density of buildings over the beaches. And it makes difference whether you build over deserts or biologically diverse lands.

    Commission approves Spain’s coal aid

     01 October 2010
    The European Commission has cleared Spain's controversial state aid plan to support its domestic coal sector over the next four years, despite warnings that it will scupper the EU's green energy goals.
    EU commissioners yesterday (29 September) approved the plan, first announced in February, which grants electricity companies that burn domestic coal preferential access to the wholesale market.
    The plan comes in addition to government aid that Spain's coal mines already receive to compete with cheaper foreign imports.
    Spain justified the aid on the grounds of energy security. To this end, the EU Electricity Directive allows a member state to impose public service obligations on its electricity generators to produce fuel from domestic sources up to a limit of 15% of national electricity consumption.
    The decision comes as a relief for Spanish coal miners, who have been striking over unpaid wages.
    But environmentalists have been unconvinced by the security of supply argument. WWF has pointed out that Spain has been a net exporter of electricity for the past six years.
    Spain's deal with EU competition authorities states that it will stop the scheme at the end of 2014 at the latest, using the four years to reinforce interconnections with major European electricity markets.
    The EU executive said the decision is consistent with a draft Coal Regulation the EU is currently debating, which would phase out operating subsidies to coal mines by 1 October 2014. It said the indigenous coal burned by the power plants under the public service obligations must come from mines that follow the new regulation. sourceMy comment: Yup, the best way to phase out coal is by allowing countries to continue using them and even to subsidize them. Great logic. I won't even comment more, because I'll get very angry of the obvious political decision that has nothing to do with any environmental commitment. And note - Spain is not only exporter of electricity, it produces a great deal of electricity trough wind farms. Thus the national security argument is simply absurd.

    MEPs seal deal on crisis funds for clean energy

    12 November 2010
    The European Parliament yesterday (11 November) approved a deal between the EU institutions to free up €146 million of unspent EU recovery funds to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
    MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of an agreement struck last month to create a fund to finance projects including renovating Europe's buildings to improve their energy efficiency, grid-connected renewable energy generation, electric vehicles and energy-saving local infrastructure like smart grids and electricity storage.
    The fund will get a total of €146.34 million left over from the €3.98bn European Energy Recovery Plan once the deadline for committing money to priority projects has expired at the end of the year.
    In the first instance, the plan earmarked money for gas and electricity interconnections, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind farms. But MEPs insisted on a mechanism to use any unspent money for energy efficiency and innovative renewables projects to counterbalance the billions given to traditional energy sources.
    The new fund will serve primarily local and regional authorities to promote decentralised energy and save energy. The money will be disbursed as loans, guarantees, equity and other financial products and will be paid back to the fund.
    The fund will still need to be rubber-stamped by member states in the Council before the money can be made available from January 2011.
    However, Green MEPs criticised the final sum agreed for being too low in comparison to what CCS projects in polluting power stations will be given under the recovery plan.
    sourceMy comment: What I don't get is why they give the money as loans. They should give them as aid for people who wish to make their houses energy efficient. True, those are awful little money. But it's something. Because isolating your house and putting solar panels is quite costly endeavor. So any money will be appreciated. Also, I think that they should ensure access to the money for Eastern European countries, because here the process is a lot more painful than in the West. Dreams, least I hope they won't give the money to CCS.

    EU says €200bn needed for energy grids by 2020

    23 November 2010
    €200 billion is needed to upgrade Europe's gas and electricity grids over the coming decade, the European Commission said yesterday (17 November), adding that half of the sum will have to come from government coffers at a time of budgetary presssure.
    The EU executive presented its energy infrastructure priorities for the next two decades. It warned that the EU will not meet its goals on renewable energy, greenhouse gas emission reductions and security of supply without significant investment in cross-border interconnections and in integrating renewable energy into the network.
    Only half of the required investment in energy transmission networks will be delivered by the market on time, the Commission said. "The other €100bn will require public action on permitting and leveraging the necessary private capital," it said.
    The Commission defined four priority corridors for electricity and three for gas where concrete projects eligible for European funding will be identified in 2012. These projects of "European interest" will also benefit from an accelerated permitting process with a time limit for the final decision, it said.
    The EU executive said it would propose a new financial instrument in June 2011 to support the priority projects from the EU's next long-term budgetary period (2014-2020).
    The electricity priorities include an offshore grid in the North Sea and a connection to transport power from wind parks to Northern and Central European cities and to hydro storage in the Alpine region.
    Other projects are aimed at connecting the Iberian Peninsula with France, strengthening the regional network in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe and integrating the Baltic energy market into the European market.
    For gas, two priority corridors run North-South in Western Europe to remove internal bottlenecks and in Eastern Europe to boost Baltic market integration.
    The Southern Gas Corridor is also given priority status to deliver gas directly from the Caspian Sea to Europe with the aim of bypassing Russia. It will also be discussed by the EU and the US at an upcoming summit in Lisbon.  source
    My comment: Ok, I don't get it why they mix electricity and gas. The two shouldn't be in the same account when it comes to money. Simply because the gas corridors coming from Russia are financed with other means. The Nabucco money are very questionable anyway. Only the interconnections are finances from the EU. So, it's extremely confusingly presented. How much money are needed for the super grid exactly?! The super grid is essential for all the renewable strategy and makes sense economically, since it will allow dynamics in the energy market. Now, I doubt that Eastern countries will buy from Norway or Spain, but still, it's important to have that option. Because then, if a disaster happens, we'll have a great deal more options than as we are now. As for gas corridors, there the issue is not so much financial as political. And since the price will depend on political decisions, how could it be mixed with electricity highways which are internal to Europe project and which won't be subject of so much political controversy. Also, I wonder where are the environmental evaluations of the electricity highways. I don't mean to be paranoid, but electrical current creates magnetic field. It won't be bad to trace the effect on humans and environment in order to find the optimal corridors for that current. So basically, we see some ideas presented, but nothing really important. Good work!
    Journalists call for 'Internet tax' to rescue media - The main journalist trade union in Europe and the UK wants citizens to be given 'European Democracy Vouchers', funded by internet service providers, which can be used to buy newspapers and pay for online media subscriptions.

    UK sees no need for EU deepwater drilling ban - There is no case for declaring a moratorium on deepwater oil or gas drilling in British waters, the UK government said yesterday (11 October), as the EU is expected to call for
    a temporary ban until probe is completed into the causes of BP's spill in the Gulf of Mexico. - wow, what a surprise. I almost expected something different. Nah! Not a chance.

    Airspace treaty brings EU 'single sky' a step closer - Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland have committed to jointly managing their airspace in a drive to shorten flights, reduce kerosene consumption and pollute less.
    he six countries signed a treaty last week (2 December) establishing a 'Functional Airspace Block: Europe Central' (FABEC), which was hailed as a major step towards the establishment of a 'Single European Sky'.
    The initiative aims to organise air traffic management irrespective of national borders to improve air traffic control in terms of safety, environmental sustainability, capacity, cost-efficiency, flight efficiency and military mission effectiveness. - Pretty cool, actually. Because any improvement in efficiency and safety is beneficial for everyone. And it will reflect much better the new geopolitical situation in Europe.

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