Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Debt crisis or economical war, 2011

OK. This will be a quite short post, but I feel I need to write it. What provoked me was what I read in the first article on Christine Lagarde. The idea of the crisis in some peripheral European countries. Such hypocrisy drives me crazy and I simply have to comment it. The real crisis is not in Greece, which some may call peripheral EU country. What's even more, the real crisis is not in any peripheral European country, since we all make sure not to spend more than we've got and even if we run into some deficit, it's SMALL! Much much smaller than the real problem.

And the real problem is called Italy. Now, I dearly hope that Christine Lagarde didn't call Italy a peripheral country, but that's hard to find out without the full transcript of her speech. Anyway, I urge everyone reading this, who tends to underestimate Italy and Italians, the way France and Germany does, to remember one thing. Italy is the 3d Eurozone economy after Germany and France (following very close behind it, see wikipedia). Italy is not some third-world country, it's a major factor in Europe. And it's ridiculous to compare the Greek and the Italian economies. While Greece wins from tourisms and agriculture, Italy actually has a very serious industry along with the other two. And I really can't stand the way Germany and France treat Italy - like some bad, lazy and very confused kid.

Now, I haven't worked in Italy, I don't know what's the actual situation there apart from what I read. But I somehow seriously doubt that the real reason for their financial fate is Berlusconi. Quite the opposite. He might be little crazy, but he's hardly the worst leader ever. There are some external factors, however. Like the war in Libya. It's not secret Italy has serious connections with Libya. So what happened with their common projects, after France so happily attacked Libya?  I don't know. Nobody tells us. Next, Italian banks are the number one debt-holder of Greece. Is it a coincidence that Italy follows Greece on the way down to a default? I think not.
Last but not least, I think it's about time someone told this. We're in an economical war. Real economical war. Even if they don't talk about it, even if they prefer to call some countries irresponsible, the truth is that all the European countries were and are irresponsible. Just like USA. What they don't tell you is that the major reason behind the crisis are the credit ratings which periodically trash the trust into European institutions, banks, countries and so on. Now, some will say that the credit rating just reflects what is happening. But that's not true. Because everybody knew that some EU countries had huge deficits. Everybody knew how they manipulated their data. With the help of Wall Street teams!!! Yeah, this is the same country where the credit agencies reside!
Read this:
"...records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels." source
Somewhere down that article, it's said that those deals were bad for Greece. So, let's repeat. Everyone knows that Greece has problems, everyone hopes to profit from those problems. And in the end, everyone says Greeks are lazy and so on?! Come on! That Greeks have a great guilt, that's clear. But the way the financial world wanted to abuse their situation is amazing. I won't be surprised if the same happened in Italy. And after US companies made sure the mess in Greece was complete, credit agencies started lowering the credit rating, so that other players can profit too.

And note how Christine Lagard says she hopes China will help. Earlier I read somewhere how the EU hoped that China will buy infrastructure and key-industries in the indebted countries. To help them. Or to enslave them?

This is a war. We all have to admit it. The attacks on the euro can be easily be seen in the media, I traced it without even looking for them. The weapons are the credit ratings and the accompanying them increases in the cost of the banks short-term loans and so on. The European banks had to pay more and more for the money, only because the credit ratings or the so called investor-trust required them. Not because the value of the money changed. In the end, it's people who pay - with their taxes used to save yet another bank in trouble.

I call this a way. And European leaders, instead of thinking how to screw their neighbors, or those they don't want to give money to anymore, should start considering a real defense. Because they cannot save Italy. And without Italy, there's no Eurozone. And without the Eurozone, there won't be European union, nor the biggest economy/market in the world. And then, each county will be on their own. Not a good situation, no? Think about it. And stop listening to the ridiculous propaganda in the media. It's not the neighbor which is to blame, it's the WAR. And we have to fight back - not with aggression, but with wisdom. Something we obviously still lack.
  1. Lagarde Sees ’Dark Clouds’; ”Warns of ‘Lost Decade’
  2. IMF chief warns of a 'lost decade' for global economy  
  3. Italian borrowing costs at breaking point  
  4. From Europe, Mounting Pressure Over Greece’s Debt
  5. Fears Rattle Big Banks in France
  6. Crisis in Italy Deepens, as Bond Yields Hit Record Highs

IMF chief warns of a 'lost decade' for global economy

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has warned that the global economy is at risk of being plunged into a "lost decade".

Ms Lagarde said the ongoing debt crisis in Europe has resulted in an uncertain outlook for the global economy.

Speaking in China, Ms Lagarde called upon Beijing to rebalance its economy.

"Our sense is that if we do not act boldly and if we do not act together, the economy around the world runs the risk of downward spiral of uncertainty, financial instability and potential collapse of global demand," she said.

"We could run the risk of what some commentators are already calling the
lost decade," Ms Lagarde added.
Ms Lagarde's comments come amid fears that the debt crisis in some peripheral countries may be spreading to some of the euro area's biggest economies.
On Tuesday, Italy's cost of borrowing hit the highest level since the euro was founded in 1999. The yield on Italian 10-year government bonds rose to 6.77%, raising concerns about its capacity to service its debts.

Many investors believe that Italy may have to bailed out just like Greece, the Irish Republic and Portugal.

She said that Beijing needed to allow its currency to appreciate further in order to boost demand at home. source

Lagarde Sees ’Dark Clouds’; ”Warns of ‘Lost Decade’

By Bloomberg News - Nov 9, 2011
Advanced economies have a “special responsibility” to restore confidence and lift growth, while China should boost consumption and allow its currency to rise, the IMF leader said. European leaders are looking to China as a potential source of funds as a sovereign-debt crisis threatens to engulf Italy, the third-biggest economy in the euro area.

“We are all caught in a higher debt trap,” Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said at an event in Singapore today, in response to a question on whether the U.S. has fallen into a liquidity trap like Japan. “That’s the problem with Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. It’s not a very happy situation.”

European finance ministers meeting in Brussels this week pledged to roll out the bulked-up rescue fund next month after consulting investors and credit-rating companies over two options for translating the fund’s 440 billion euros ($607 billion) in guarantees into as much as 1 trillion euros of spending power. source

Italian borrowing costs at breaking point

ROME/LONDON (Reuters) - Italian 10-year bond yields shot above the 7 percent level that is widely deemed unsustainable, reflecting investors' concerns that they may not get their money back, prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to issue a call to arms.

Merkel called for changes in EU treaties after French President Nicolas Sarkozy advocated a two-speed Europe in which euro zone countries accelerate and deepen integration while an expanding group outside the currency bloc stayed more loosely connected -- a signal that some members may have to quit the euro if the entire structure is not to crumble.

The European Central Bank, the only effective bulwark against market attacks, wasted no time intervening to buy Italian bonds in large amounts.

Italy has replaced Greece at the center of the euro zone debt crisis and is on the cusp of requiring a bailout that Europe cannot afford to give. Unlike Greece, an Italian default would threaten the entire euro project.
While Italian bonds blew out, worries that the debt crisis could be infiltrating the core of the euro zone were reflected in the spread of 10-year French government bonds over their German equivalent blowing out to a euro era high around 140 basis points.  source

Crisis in Italy Deepens, as Bond Yields Hit Record Highs

While the fundamentals of Italy’s economy are much stronger than those of Greece, the country has a public debt of 120 percent of its gross domestic product, the highest in the euro zone after Greece, and structural problems that have led to low growth.

“The problem in Italy is not primarily the real data,” Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaüble, said in Brussels on Tuesday. “The debt is high, the deficit is not — economic data are not that bad. The problem is a lack of trust from the financial markets.”

For all the relief on Tuesday, it is unclear that Mr. Berlusconi’s exit would solve Italy’s problems in the long run since any government that follows will be left to carry out tough austerity measures in a system built on political patronage.

From Europe, Mounting Pressure Over Greece’s Debt

In the latest sign of turmoil, Italy — the euro region’s most indebted member, after Greece — was forced to pay record-high interest rates in order to complete an auction of its five-year bonds on Tuesday, despite continuing purchases by the European Central Bank. Spain, which plans a bond sale on Thursday, could be subjected to similar investor wariness.
France, where shares of the biggest banks have plummeted recently on fears of exposure to Greece’s debt, is pressing for a stronger signal from Germany that Europe will act to resolve the Greek matter before it spreads further contagion.
Mrs. Merkel, who is working to win a ratification vote in the Parliament this month, said on Tuesday that Germany would ensure there would be no “uncontrolled default” of Greece that could pull down the euro zone. An uncontrolled default would be the equivalent of Greece’s simply walking away from its debts, whatever the consequences, rather than undergoing the equivalent of supervised bankruptcy proceedings.
For European banks, the cost to insure their debt of European banks against default remained high, but slightly off Monday’s record levels. For Société Générale, one of France’s most beleaguered banks, the credit-default rate hit a new high Tuesday, at 4.29 percent. At the end of June, it was 1.3 percent.
On Tuesday, the Italian treasury sold $5.3 billion worth of a five-year bond at an average yield of 5.6 percent — the highest interest on such bonds Italy has been forced to pay since the formation of the euro union in 1999.
Meanwhile, the yield on 10-year Italian bonds, while down slightly at 5.63 percent on Tuesday, was still uncomfortably close to the 6 percent level that is considered to be unsustainable.

Fears Rattle Big Banks in France

Even as French officials proclaimed that the country’s banks were sound, shares in BNP Paribas and Société Générale, two globally connected French banks considered “too big to fail” by their home government, slid as much as 12 percent. And their cost of short-term borrowing continued to soar, making it more expensive for them to finance day-to-day operations.
 If a recapitalization becomes necessary to restore investor confidence in any French bank — even if the banks do not technically require new capital — then the government will be prepared to take such action, said a senior government finance official involved in managing the situation, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Given the need for France, along with Germany, to play a central role if the European debt crisis is to be resolved, the perceived stability of the biggest French banks is a crucial issue.
And big American banks, which do extensive business with BNP Paribas and Société Générale, want to know their French counterparts are sound. Over the last month, the French banks have found it increasingly expensive to secure short-term loans in dollars for their United States dealings, while their cost of short-term borrowing in general has soared. And the cost of insuring against default of the banks’ own bonds has spiked to record levels in recent weeks.
Société Générale announced Monday it would raise new cash by selling off assets. Société Générale and BNP Paribas, along with a third bank, Crédit Agricole, are considered integral actors in the French economy. They lend billions of euros to businesses and individuals, and the government has said it will never let any of them fail.
French banks hold fewer Greek government bonds than Italian banks do, though they hold more than German banks, which sold many of these assets early in the Greek crisis. Société Générale has only about 2 billion euros and Crédit Agricole 800 million euros worth of Greek bonds, compared with about 4 billion euros held by BNP Paribas.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nuclear energy in Europe, 2011

  • EU countries divided over nuclear stress tests
  • German nuclear phase-out ignites push for coal, gas
  • Switzerland bins nuclear reactor plans
  • Bulgaria law aims to cool solar, wind energy surge
  • Russian pipeline breaks free from EU rules
  • Russia-China summit seeks gas deal breakthrough
  • Influential MEP calls for shale gas regulation
  • French nuclear power plant explosion heightens safety fears
Quote of the day:  I completely agree with what the Japanese diplomat said. Germany should have thought better. They didn't. Too bad. For them. And for everyone. Because the replacement of nuclear energy is not easy, nor simple.

EU countries divided over nuclear stress tests

13 May 2011
France and Britain, the two EU countries with the largest nuclear industry, strongly opposed stringent stress tests on nuclear power plants following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger's proposal to introduce them was sponsored by Austria, a country without nuclear energy, and backed by Germany.
In a short statement, the European Commission announced that a meeting of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) had ended without any results.
The Commission added that Oettinger had convened another ENSREG meeting for next week, on 19 and 20 May in Prague. Discussions will also continue at a lower level.
National experts and regulators from several EU countries with nuclear reactors objected to including terrorist attacks as part of the security review of their nuclear installations.
This is despite an agreement reached at the highest political level following the Fukushima disaster to set the "highest standards" of nuclear safety in Europe.
But the German commissioner has thus far only repeated that he would not accept any watering down of the stringent tests proposed.
There is no deadline for adopting a decision on nuclear stress tests.   source
My comment: This is if you happened to believe that there will be stress-tests and that your governments are really worried about your safety. They are not. Of course, I am a firm supporter of nuclear technology (at least for now), but the thing is that there is some hypocrisy in the attitude toward nuclear plants. The nuclear plant(s) in Bulgaria are required to pass very strict tests to their safety, but the same plants in France are not required. Is this fair? What is more important - is it safe?! Because this is technology, it is prone not only to human error, but also to defects and aging. The only way to be sure is to regularly check. Unfortunately, France very well know that their plants won't pass the tests, not all of them, and so the conveniently decide to postpone the decision till they can be sure the results will be good for them. Oh, well, I understand them. But I don't understand why Bulgaria had to close the reactors of our nuclear plant, if safety is not so important after all. Especially considering the fact that on those reactors were done real stress tests and they passed them! 

German nuclear phase-out ignites push for coal, gas

01 June 2011
A battle over the future shape of Germany's energy industry is looming after its pioneering decision to shut all 17 of its nuclear reactors by 2022.
The move followed a wave of anti-nuclear protests sparked by the disaster in Fukushima, Japan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that power use would be cut 10% by 2020 and renewables such as wind and solar energy would be further expanded.
But Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk saw an opportunity for Poland's dirty coal plants.
One Japanese diplomat, speaking in a personal capacity, raised a further issue. "Germany should have taken more time to consider all the aspects of energy security involved before making a decision," he told EurActiv. source
My comment: I completely agree with what the Japanese diplomat said. Germany should have thought better. They didn't. Too bad. For them. And for everyone. Because the replacement of nuclear energy is not easy, nor simple. Especially, if you want to remain as carbon neutral as possible. Especially if carbon emissions are paid by the emitters. Unfortunately, this is what happens, when people react based on fear and not on reason. 

Switzerland bins nuclear reactor plans

01 June 2011
The Swiss government has voted to scrap plans to build new nuclear reactors, but said it would not shut existing plants prematurely.
The approvals process for three new nuclear power stations had been suspended in March, pending a safety review, after the Fukushima disaster shook public confidence in the industry.
There will now be no replacement for the country's oldest nuclear reactor, which is set to come offline in 2019.
She said the government would have to plug the energy gap in the transition period by increasing electricity production from fossil fuels. It also aims to expand hydropower, develop new kinds of renewables and try to cut the demand for energy.
The transition cost would be around 0.4-0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), the government said. source
My comment: Precisely, the energy will come from fossils. Are they safer? In the short scale - maybe. In the long run, maybe not. Let's hope that this will bring some investments and thus innovation to renewables at least. 
And a little bit more recent news on the issue: 

Swiss to shut down nuclear power plants by 2034
30 September 2011
Swiss Parliament has approved plans to phase out nuclear power plants by 2034.
The Swiss Senate's endorsement yesterday (28 September) follows a June vote by the lower chamber to back the gradual shutdown of nuclear energy plants recommended in May by the government, which has frozen plans for a new construction programme in the wake of the Fukushima atomic plant explosion.

The Swiss government estimates that phasing out nuclear power in the Alpine country would cost up to SFr3.8 billion (€3.1 billion). source

Bulgaria law aims to cool solar, wind energy surge

23 May 2011
Bulgaria approved a new law on renewable energy yesterday (21 April) in a bid to cool a surge in solar and wind power projects that threatens to overwhelm its ageing power grid and boost electricity prices.
The law changes the government's obligatory purchase of electricity produced from renewable energy generators at high, fixed prices, which has led to a jump in projects totalling over 6,000 megawatts - well above the country's grid capacity.
The centre-right government says that Bulgaria needs only 2,000 MW of new green energy generation to meet a target, which it committed to the European Union, of supplying 16% of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020.
The government aims to put a cap on wind and solar projects to keep electricity prices in the EU's poorest country at affordable levels and avoid public discontent. Power and heating bills eat up much of Bulgarians' incomes.
It also decreases the obligatory long-term purchase power contracts to 20 from 25 years for solar energy and to 12 from 15 for wind.
Under the new law, the energy regulator will set annual preferential feed-in tariffs, which pay per unit of electricity produced from low-carbon energy by the end of June each year.
The government said the measures would scare away speculators and also encourage investors to speed up projects and not wait for solar panels and wind turbine prices to drop. source
My comment: OK, there are two things here. First, it is obvious that the intellect of Bulgarian ruler party is about this of a dog, if one considers how one country needs only some number of MW to meet the EU target. Because after all, the point of the whole stunt is not the target, but to be energy independent. And here comes the second point - the idea to buy off the renewable energy at higher tariffs than ordinary one is absurd. Maybe 10 years ago, it made sense. But not anymore. I think it is enough the guarantee in a long-term contract to buy the energy. From there on, why should it be more expensive? Why should customers pay MORE to get energy which is essentially free, apart form the investment and running costs, part of which came from European initiatives - i.e. taxpayers money! In that, I actually applaud the idea of our government. Ok, not really, since their real problem is that they don't have enough money to pay energy oligarchs, but lets ignore this for the moment. I think that if the renewable industry is to become competitive and good for the people, it should little by little be put on equal terms with fossil fuel industry. Meaning, equal prices, but also guaranteed protection from state-run energy monopolies. This way, the owners of those solar/wind plants, will have interest into re-investing in the plants to improve technology and thus the technology will develop and eventually it will become competitive. It is funny how good deeds may come out of completely wrong motives. 

Russian pipeline breaks free from EU rules

15 July 2011
Both the EU-favoured Nabucco pipeline and its Gazprom-sponsored competitor South Stream will "most probably" get a derogation from the Third Energy Package, the EU's legislative framework that provides competitors with free access to pipeline networks, Bulgarian Energy Minister Traycho Traykov announced today (14 July). EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria, Dnevnik, reports.
The Bulgarian minister stressed that for the time being not a single gas pipeline project could work according to the rules of the fully-liberalised market. It is therefore necessary for new projects to postpone compliance with a requirement to offer competitors access to their planned pipeline networks, he explained.
Should Traykov's statements prove to be true, then the EU is effectively axing its rules on the liberalisation of gas markets, negotiated in 2007-2008.
Asked to comment, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger's spokesperson Marlene Holzner evasively said that "exemption requests must be assessed on a case-by-case basis". "The [European] Commission cannot predict the outcome of the assessment by national energy regulatory authorities, neither its own assessment," she said.

Recently, the Commission asked Bulgaria to change a 2008 bilateral agreement with Russia, providing for full and unrestricted transit of Russian gas across the EU newcomer's territory.
The draft initially said South Stream shareholders would enjoy exclusive gas transportation, while a new sentence has since made that possibility conditional upon the Commission's approval. source
My comment: Not very surprising, actually. I never really understood the idea of the Energy Liberalization - if this was to make state-run monopolies sell off some of their property, it simply didn't happen. And if so many countries still do not obey this initiative, then what's the point of it at all?

 Influential MEP calls for shale gas regulation

01 July 2011
One of the most influential members of the European Parliament is proposing a new directive that would penalise or even ban the exploitation of shale gas, the controversial new fossil fuel that is tipped as the major energy source of the future.
Jo Leinen told the Guardian he wanted a new "energy quality directive" that would mean fuels with adverse environmental impacts – such as shale gas and oil from tar sands – were stringently regulated within the EU.
Leinen said there was likely to be support for such a legislative intervention, as many MEPs are increasingly worried about the role of shale gas in the world's energy mix.
Shale gas extraction has been linked to a wide variety of environmental problems, including pollution of the water supply, excessive use of water resources and potential seismic effects. In France, further expansion of the shale gas industry has been banned, and in the UK drilling operations have been halted after two small earthquakes near the exploration sites.
Although gas produces only half of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with coal when burned to produce electricity, one study from Cornell University has suggested that the true emissions related to shale gas could be greater than those from coal, if factors such as methane leakage during the extraction process were taken into account. source
My comment: I completely support full ban of shale gas, but I doubt it will happen. Especially, since Poland is so serious about lobbying for the questionable technology. And I can understand them - some US company, comes promising them cheap new energy, which is free of the coal-related emissions. And they believe. They don't ask what will be the ecological and health cost, because they have more serious problem right now. And because the same company, probably pays politicians and media quite well to advertise that technology. What the Commission can do is to regulate the whole business in a way that will secure no people lives or parts of Natura 2000 will be risked by the whole procedure. And to find a way to make that company PAY BIG if they lied about the safety of the procedure and harmed people. 
Similar news: Parliament rejects calls for offshore oil drilling ban - The European Parliament has rejected calls for a moratorium on offshore drilling, pushing instead for Brussels to adopt new rules obliging oil majors to subscribe to insurance schemes in order to cover the potentially disastrous consequences of an oil spill.
EU faces down tar sands industry -  The EU executive has defied intense pressure from governments and lobbyists to include oil from innovative but highly-polluting tar sands within Europe’s Fuel Quality Directive.
Between September 2009 and July 2011, Canadian government and oil industry representatives organised more than 110 lobby events in Brussels – over one per week – and in February, it was reported that Ottawa had threatened a trade war over the issue.
The proposal still needs approval from national governments, but should this happen, tar sands will be ascribed a greenhouse gas default value of 107 grams CO2 equivalent per megajoule (CO2eq/MJ) of fuel, as opposed to the 87.5g CO2eq/MJ average for crude oil, reflecting the greater harm it causes to the environment.
Other unconventional sources were also hit hard, with oil shale being included at a value of 131.3 CO2eq/MJ, and coal-to-liquid at 172 CO2eq/MJ.  - this really is a victory! 

French nuclear power plant explosion heightens safety fears

06 July 2011
An explosion sparked a fire at a French nuclear power station on Saturday (2 July), just two days after the authorities found 32 safety concerns at the plant.
The blaze at the Tricastin plant in Drôme in the Rhône valley sent a thick cloud of black smoke into the sky. A mistral wind sent it south over a nearby motorway on one of the busiest travel days of the year as the French left for their summer holidays.
EDF, which runs the power station, said the incident took place in an electric transformer situated in the non-nuclear part of the plant and had not resulted in any radiation leak or any other contamination.
A statement issued by the French energy giant raised further concerns as it omitted to mention the explosion – only a fire – and did not give the cause of the blaze.
EDF added that the plant's number one reactor was not in operation at the time of the fire, having been "closed for its annual maintenance". Police confirmed there was no environmental contamination.
On Thursday France's nuclear safety authority, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), demanded 32 safety measures at the Tricastin number one reactor, a 900MW water pressurised reactor built in 1974 and put into operation in 1980. source
My comment: Isn't it strange that the reactor wasn't operational during the accident? Kind of too convenient! I don't believe them, at all. French nuclear plants are old (well, at least some part of them) and they need serious monitoring, to ensure that in all of them, proper measures have been taken. France haven't agreed to the stress tests yet. One could wonder why. But it is obvious. 

Safety fears after explosion at French nuclear site
13 September 2011
A Green MEP has called for the Centraco nuclear waste treatment site in Marcoule to be shut down, as the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) begins an inquiry into a blast there yesterday (12 September) that killed one man and injured four others, one with severe burns.

A statement by the European Commission said that "since Centraco is a waste treatment facility, it has not been subject to the stress test exercise" announced by Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger in the wake of the Fukushima disaster last March.
Evangelia Petit, a spokesperson for the ASN, told EurActiv that the plant had been stress tested by the ASN and that "in the past there have been incidents" there, but gave no further details.

Marcoule is one of France's oldest nuclear sites. It was opened in 1956 to aid France's nuclear weapons industry, but in the 1990s it began recycling nuclear waste and creating mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for nuclear power stations. source
My comment: No comment, really. The conclusions are obvious. 

 Lobby fury as MEPs trash CO2 emissions cut - A lobbying row has broken out as the European Parliament decisively rejected yesterday (5 July) increasing the EU's 2020 CO2 emissions reduction target from 20% to 30%, on 1990 levels 
According to Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Green MEP and rapporteur for the Parliament's position on EU emissions reduction targets, the vote was distorted by undemocratic lobbyists.
"The German liberals did not follow the group line because of the heavy lobbying from industry," he told EurActiv.
EU traders fear Australian carbon market 'price shock' -
The Australian government's decision to set the carbon tax in its new CO2 trading scheme too high may trigger a market shock when the price free-floats in 2015, analysts warned.
Under the new scheme, companies will have to pay $23 for each tonne of Australian carbon produced - around $10 per tonne higher than equivalent prices in the EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS).
This will rise by 2.5% each year, in line with inflation, until the tax becomes a carbon trading price in three years' time.
Top scientists condemn EU land use values for biofuels -  Over 100 top scientists and economists have written to the European Commission calling for indirect land use change (ILUC) to be accounted for in EU biofuels policy making. The letter, seen by EurActiv, argues that assigning biofuels a zero or "carbon neutral" emissions value – as the EU has done – “is clearly not supported by the [best available] science”.
The scientists’ letter cites peer-reviewed research over several years, some commissioned by the European Commission, which show that displaced human activity caused by converting forests and grasslands to biofuels production can result in “substantial” CO2 emissions.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The European lie - Netherlands call Bulgaria and Romania non-Europeans, 2011

Quote of the day:And I can't but ask myself what war exactly is Sarkozy cooking. And could we sacrifice everything we've achieved in the past decades, just because of some over-ambitious and greedy politician.
  1. Parliament half-opens its doors to OLAF
  2. Netherlands curbs Bulgarian, Romanian workers
  3. Spain obtains ‘safeguard’ against Romanian workers
  4. France breaks ranks on Libya, dwarfs EU's Ashton
  5. EU closes in on contract law for consumers, SMEs

Parliament half-opens its doors to OLAF 

31 March 2011
The European Parliament made today (31 March) a small step forward in a corruption case involving at least four MEPs by admitting that it is within the remit of the EU's anti-fraud office to investigate the matter. But it stood firm in its insistence that any such investigation would require a mandate from a national judicial authority.
Concretely, the Parliament will now ask the European Commission to come forward with legislation to establish a mandatory register for all EU institutions.Until now, lobbying activity is subject to a voluntary registers that apply only to the Commission and the Parliament.
The Parliament also envisages creating a de facto mandatory register for lobbyist visitors, requiring them to register on a daily basis even if they hold a one-year access pass. The register is expected to keep track of who they are meeting and which meetings they are attending in the European Parliament.
Furthermore, MEPs who advocate any cause or interest in which they have a direct financial interest (or an anticipated interest) will be asked to make this fact known clearly and unequivocally in writing.
As the scandal involving the four MEPs revealed that many parliamentarians in fact have 'second jobs', oversight will be strengthened by asking members to update their existing declarations of interest more regularly than once a year.
sourceMy comment: Nice. So, they can be investigate, but they cannot be punished. Well, I think that gives OLAF the same statute as of medias. Because journalists also can investigate, but they cannot punish. Well, let's hope that something good will come out of this, at least when it comes to transparency.

Netherlands curbs Bulgarian, Romanian workers

14 April 2011
 As of 1 July, Bulgarians and Romanians as well as foreigners from outside the EU will only be granted a work permit in the Netherlands under "exceptional cases," the Dutch press reported on Tuesday (12 April).
The proposal by Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp was backed by the Dutch government, according to press reports.
Kamp wants employers in agriculture and horticulture, for example, to make more use of unemployed people of Dutch nationality.
Since the EU's 2004 enlargement to ten member states, some 165,000 people from Central and Eastern Europe on average have been working in agriculture and horticulture, construction, industry and the transport sector in the Netherlands.
Although the Netherlands has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU, at 4.5% compared to 10% for the EU as a whole, it has been stuck for years with an army of job-disabled.
Regarding workers from outside the EU, Kamp takes an even tougher line.By "outside the EU," Kamp also means Romania and Bulgaria, the website adds. Both countries did join the EU in 2007, but the Netherlands has made use of an option to maintain work restrictions for those countries .
For workers from other EU member states – primarily Poland – nothing will change.
Employers who claim to need Bulgarians and Romanians must apply for an employment licence from the country's public employment service, UWV.
Farmers sometimes do get Dutch jobless via the UWV, but say their work morale is low. They complain about back problems, and do not work hard like East Europeans, the LTO says. source
My comment: The most ridiculous thing is that people from Bulgaria usually don't go in Netherlands to work in the agriculture - for such jobs they go to Greece or Spain. Anyway, what I find most bothering is that Dutch politicians dare to call Bulgaria and Romania non-Europeans. And that nobody reacts at such an offense. And I don't get their attitude, Bulgarians are 7 million in total. It's not like we can send 1 million emigrants in the Netherlands to take their precious jobs. 

Spain obtains ‘safeguard’ against Romanian workers

12 August 2011
Romanian workers have been barred from Spain after the Commission agreed (11 August) that Madrid could block their arrival because of ‘disturbances’ on the labour market of the crisis-hit Mediterranean state.

The EU’s fourth-largest economy, Spain has the bloc’s highest unemployment rate and is currently undergoing austerity measures designed to avoid a Greek-style bailout. Traditionally open to foreign workers, including those from the newest EU member states, the country has recently experienced a massive inflow of Romanian workers – from 388,000 in 2006 to 823,000 in 2010.
Romanians in Spain have been strongly hit by the rising unemployment levels, and 30% are now out of work, with 191,400 cases recorded in the first quarter of the year, second only to Spain’s own citizens.
Spain’s  decision to open its job market to the workers from the two most recent EU member states, Romania and Bulgaria is irreversible, so its restriction on Romanian workers has been introduced in the form of a safeguard clause, limited until 31 December 2012.
A Commission spokesperson admitted that the step is unprecedented in EU history. She made clear that the restriction related only to new arrivals of Romanian workers seeking work in Spain.
Unemployed Romanians in Spain will not forfeit welfare payments as a result of the measure, and will be covered by the same rules as other Spanish nationals, the Commission spokesperson said.source My comment: Now, I must say I support Spain in this. Not because I hate Romanians, as many people wrongly assume, but because the situation in Spain is quite serious. They are in severe financial trouble and indeed there are way too many Romanians there. And note, they don't just send home everyone, they don't rob them from their privileges, they just say "no more'. This position sounds more reasonable to me than the Netherlands whose reasons are more or less fascists ones (and not very realistic ones - you cannot make people work something they don't like by making sure nobody else will take that job).

France breaks ranks on Libya, dwarfs EU's Ashton

15 March 2011
France broke ranks with its European partners yesterday (10 March) by becoming the first country to recognise Libya's opposition and by deciding to "explore the possibility" of carrying out targeted bombings in the civil war-torn country. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton finds herself pushed onto the sidelines as EU leaders flock to Brussels for a crisis summit.
France wants to explore the possibility of targeted bombing in Libya as an alternative to imposing a no-fly zone, French officials said on Thursday.
Foreign ministers were taken by surprised by France's move to recognise the rebel-led National Council, with Paris announcing it would send "an ambassador" to rebel capital Benghazi.
But it also irritated several EU countries.
A high-ranking diplomat who asked not to be named warned that prominent turncoat figures from the Gaddafi regime had grabbed leadership positions in the Interim National Council, something he said was "disturbing".
EU sources told EurActiv that some of the people in the Interim National Council were among those responsible for the caricature trials of Bulgarian nurses, who spent eight years in a Bengazi jail before being freed in July 2007 at the intervention of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Ashton and her team had stood strongly against the idea of giving official recognition to the Interim National Council.sourceMy comment: I think I already expressed my disappointment with European position and actions in Libya so I'll skip that and just say that Sarkozy's actions were shame for the whole EU. Something which of course went unnoticed (more or less) outside of diplomatic circles. And I can't but ask myself what war exactly is Sarkozy cooking. And could we sacrifice everything we've achieved in the past decades, just because of some over-ambitious and greedy politician. In case you disagree with those words, read this: Libya oil race starts as fighting continues - 
Italian oil company Eni led the charge back into Libya yesterday as rebels hailing the end of Muammar Gaddafi's rule warned Russian and Chinese firms that they may lose out on lucrative oil contracts for failing to support the rebellion. About 75 Chinese companies operated in Libya before the war.- How about this?

EU closes in on contract law for consumers, SMEs

09 June 2011
A common European contract law yesterday (8 June) came one step closer to reality after MEPs backed proposals by the European Commission to establish an optional EU-wide system. But consumer groups warned that such a scheme would do little to boost cross-border trade and only add to the confusion faced by businesses and shoppers alike.
Introducing an EU contract law and a possible civil code is an ambitious long-term goal for supporters of closer European integration, as it is expected to make the EU's single market genuinely borderless.
MEPs yesterday (8 June) adopted a report on introducing an 'optional instrument' in European contract law – drawn up by UK Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis (ALDE) – that would give businesses and consumers the opportunity to choose EU contract law over national law when agreeing a contract, including when purchasing products online.
Today, companies have to adapt to local rules if they want to sell their products in a different EU country. Legal uncertainty and the additional cost of complying with several legal systems often end up discouraging cross-border commerce, deterring consumers and businesses alike from shopping and trading across frontiers.The Commission estimates that an optional European contract law could save a small online business wishing to trade in Europe an estimated €9,000 in legal and translation fees per market – or over €230,000 if they wanted to take their business EU-wide.Consumer groups, however, warned that the 'optional instrument' system of European contract law backed by the Parliament yesterday was "fundamentally flawed."
European consumers' organisation BEUC complained that the term 'optional' was not at all accurate, arguing that businesses were putting consumers in a 'take it or leave it' situation by deciding whether to use the instrument or not.The organisation believes it is unrealistic to ask consumers to choose between national and EU-wide legal systems and predicts that an optional instrument will create only more problems.sourceMy comment: I don't quite get, if such EU-wide law is accepted and then there is some dispute, which judge in which country and under what kind of law will decide. Maybe the idea is something like arbitrage court, but if we talk about consumers and not companies, then each consumer should be protected under the laws of his or her country. And it's not something he or she has the power to accept or deny. This simply makes no sense at all.
New EU lobby register to go online in June - Plans to establish a joint register of lobbyists for the European Parliament and the European Commission were today (11 May) formally given the green light at a plenary session of the EU assembly in Strasbourg, paving the way for the registry to go online in June. -
Power shifts mark Draghi's ECB accession - According to insiders, Italian Mario Draghi, on track to become the new European Central Bank chief having received the backing of eurozone finance ministers, will need to dispel mutterings about lax southern Europeans and win over a more hawkish Bundesbank chief. 
But the other new ECB policymaker on the block may rein in any eagerness on his part to be tougher on the debt-stricken.
Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann, who took over from Weber, has established himself as an inflation hawk by calling for a normalisation of monetary policy. But his previous role as economics adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel has marked him out as a pragmatist when it comes to the debt crisis.
While Draghi will want to impress the Germans with his monetary orthodoxy, Weidmann could bring a more flexible approach than Weber when it comes to dealing with the periphery.
"For Draghi, the key thing is to firm up his credentials with core Europe," said Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding. "He could sound tougher than Trichet."
"As a counterweight, the switch from Weber to Weidmann probably adds a dose of pragmatism, not necessarily on interest rates, but into the overall dealings with the European crisis. -

Commission to propose freezing EU's long-term budget -  drawn-out battle over the EU's next long-term budget (2014-2020) is due to begin this week with European Commission proposals expected on Wednesday (29 June). The draft will include a controversial plan for an EU tax aimed at reducing national contributions, but the overall size of the budget is expected to remain close to the current €1 trillion per seven-year framework. 
The Commission, which will formally open the debate on the EU's next multi-annual financial framework this week, finds itself torn between opposing demands.
On the one hand, many member states – led by Britain, France and Germany – are asking the Commission to freeze the EU budget, in order to reflect austerity cuts currently being implemented at national level.
On the other hand, the EU has enlarged from 15 to 27 member countries since 2004 and the range of areas it now deals with was widened by the Lisbon Treaty, something which is expected to require additional funding.
Agriculture and regional policy are set to remain the biggest chapters of the next budget, but their share will decrease slightly.Eastern European countries, and notably Poland, which assumes the EU's six-month rotating on 1 July, are strongly opposed to any reduction of regional funding. And countries with a strong agricultural sector, led by France and Italy, are not keen to give up funding for their farmers.
The biggest increases are expected in home affairs and migration policy, research and innovation, and sectors where the Lisbon Treaty has given new competencies to the EU, such as foreign policy.
In order to free itself from these shackles, the Commission will propose this week a system of new "own resources" or taxes to fund the budget, while gradually phasing out direct transfers from member states.

Cyber attack on European Commission reported - A serious cyber attack on the European Commission was reported yesterday evening (23 March) as EU leaders prepared to gather in Brussels for a two-day summit during which military intervention in Libya is expected to take centre stage.The cyber attack was described as "serious" by a Commission spokesperson, who said that EU High Representative Catherine Ashton's services appeared to have been particularly affected.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bolshoi Petroleum guilty for the failure of Nabucco?, 2011

  1. Brussels warns Italy against slashing solar energy incentives
  2. Poland, Czech Republic eye power market integration
  3. Bulgarians irked at Turkey's nuclear power plan
  4. EU steels itself for carbon rules challenge
  5. Brussels loosens 'binding' efficiency plans
  6. 'Bolshoi Petroleum' deal collapses
Quote of the day: "Changing one monopoly with other is always stupid. And that is the main problem with Nabucco - that it doesn't have viable supplier. Just note in the article how now they blame BP for undermining the projects credibility. Go figure :) Again, ROFL :) "

Brussels warns Italy against slashing solar energy incentives

20 April 2011
The European Union's energy chief urged Italy to set up a clear and predictable support scheme for the solar energy sector and ensure stability for investors to avoid possible penalties.
Under a law passed in Italy in March, current generous incentives to the booming solar market - originally expected to run from 2011 to 2013 - will apply only to those solar plants that connect to the grid by the end of May.
The law was issued in compliance with the EU's directive on 2020 green energy targets but the sudden change in the support scheme has caused uproar among investors and operators about the future of business in one of Europe's biggest solar markets.
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in a letter to Italy's Industry Minister Paolo Romani he was concerned about consequences of such changes for investment in the renewable energy sector after receiving complaints from sector operators.
Italy's solar sector has boomed since 2007, when extensive production incentives were first launched. It has attracted the world's biggest photovoltaic module makers such as China's Suntech Power Holdings Co, Trina, Yingli Green Energy and US firm First Solar. 
Italy's major renewable energy body, APER, has said it would appeal to Brussels against the law which could cause damage to investors totalling billions of euros. 
Italy plans to put a six-monthly or annual cap on solar incentive costs rather than on installed capacity under the new solar support scheme and aims to scrap incentives from 2017, Industry Undersecretary Stefano Saglia said last week.Solar sector operators and investors fear the government will introduce an annual limit on installed photovoltaic capacity, saying such a move would brake growth of the sector in Italy, as has happened in Spain.
 sourceMy comment: I must say that I agree with to some extent with the new regulations in Italiy. I realise the changes are meant to help the gas producers with whom Italy have juicy contracts, but this is not the point. The point that renewables should be competitive with the other source of energy. The way to that, however, passes trough 2 stages (roughly) - first one needs government support to introduce the renewables in the market and to help them start up and gain inertia. And second, one needs to make them compete with other sectors so that they can become cheaper and ultimately better than the other sources of energy. If the government always supports the production of green energy, it will never ever become cheaper. While it can and it should be cheaper than fossil fuels.
But until the government buy expensive green energy, green producers simply don't have the incentive to lower the prices. When they have to compete on the open market, the story changes. Of course, that is the ideal case when all the fossil producers are not current or former national companies which are heavily supported by taxpayers money. Which is the case in most of the EU.

Poland, Czech Republic eye power market integration 

30 March 2011
Poland's largest energy bourse – PolPX – and Czech market operator OTE are in talks about joining their power markets, possibly later in 2011, the chief of the Polish bourse Grzegorz Onichimowski said on Tuesday (29 March).
Electricity trade on linked exchanges could potentially start using existing interconnectors to transfer about seven GWh of power a year, about 5% of Poland's annual consumption, Onichimowski said.
The discussions represent the latest move among Central European exchanges to couple their power markets in a region that offers a potentially lucrative, but currently fragmented, market.The Czech and Slovak electricity markets merged in 2009 in a move that boosted liquidity and showed other Central and Eastern European countries that integration could work.
In February, the Czech and Slovak grid operators said they would look to combine their markets with Hungary as a step toward integrating the region with western electricity markets.
The integration would mark the second for PolPX, which last year linked its power market with Scandinavia's Nordpool via a 600 MW cable to give Warsaw-based investors access to Europe's most liquid energy market and boost trade on the Polish bourse.
The European Union plans ultimately to bind together the power networks of all EU countries to boost distribution of renewable energy and help the region cope in the event of an energy crisis. source
My comment: This is of course wonderful news, because the more connected we are, the harder we are to separate but that's another story. I applaud the merger.
More on Poland: EU carbon rules hinder Poland's plans for new coal power- Poland appears to have lost its fight to exempt new coal-fired power stations from paying for European Union emissions permits, an EU document showed on Tuesday (29 March).
Poland had planned to give away tens of millions of free carbon emissions permits to new power stations as it struggles to align its high-carbon economy with the EU's ambitions to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
In return for dropping their opposition, they were allowed to grant up to 70% of those permits for free in 2013, gradually reducing the number to zero by 2020. The exemption also applied to plants that were "physically initiated" by the end of 2008 – a term that most people assumed to mean "already under construction".
Last year, Poland started a diplomatic push to broadly reinterpret the definition of "physically initiated" to include sites that were under preparation, a move that could allow the construction of up to 15,000 megawatts more of new capacity – equivalent to about 10-20 coal-fired plants.
But the final legal interpretation has now been published by the European Commission, stating that for a power plant to be eligible, visible construction work must have started before the end of 2008, or a construction contract must have been signed. - If you only think about how ridiculous is the idea of visible construction...Anyway. That was the smarter thing the EC could do. Because there is absolutely no way to reach our emission goals if we provide every new coal plant with all the emissions it needs.
And if you want to know more on Poland ( Coal comfort' as Poland takes over EU presidency - Environmentalists say that Poland bent the law to get free greenhouse gas emissions permits for 13 unbuilt coal plants, the day before it took over the EU presidency on 1 July. ) I think that Polish government is growing more and more arrogant. I don't know what it means "we can't afford limiting carbon emissions" Which country can afford it? Everybody makes some economies one way or another. What they do is actually stealing from all of us.

Bulgarians irked at Turkey's nuclear power plan

08 April 2011
Turkey is planning to build a nuclear power station at İğneada, a small town close to the Bulgarian border on the Black Sea coast. No official Bulgarian reaction has yet been recorded, but Internet forums were overwhelmed with alarmed messages regarding the possible consequences of the decision.
İğneada, which lies on the Black Sea coast in the region of Thrace, is the safest location for the plant in terms of earthquake resistance, Turkish officials said.
A nuclear plant at İğneada would be the third such project recently announced by Turkey. Ankara has already approved plans to build two nuclear plants, one in Akkuyu on the Mediterranean and another one at Sinop, on the northern edge of Turkey's Black Sea coast.
Turkey concluded a deal with Russia to build Turkey's first nuclear plant in Akkuyu. The second nuclear plant will reportedly be developed by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and Toshiba.
Turkey intends to build three nuclear power plants with a total power generation capacity of 15,000 megawatts by 2023, the officials said.
The site planned for the Mediterranean nuclear station is only a couple of dozen miles away from a fault line which geologists fear is in danger of sliding at any time.
According to the Dnevnik daily, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria, the planned Turkish plant is located 15km from Rezovo, a village situated on the Bulgarian side of the Black Sea, near the Turkish border. Bulgaria has a 300km-long Black Sea coast, which hosts a myriad of booming tourist resorts.
In Brussels, the European Commission admitted it could not prevent countries from building nuclear power stations in border regions.sourceMy comment: Although I am supporter of nuclear energy, I am against the nuclear plants in Turkey. For the simple reason that when the big earthquake happened in Istanbul, a big part of the city, unfortunately fell. And the reason for all the victims, was the corruption and the lack of control over constructions. Should such a country be allowed to build in highly seismic areas??? I think not. 
Another question is why Iran shouldn't have the right to use nuclear energy and Turkey should have it. Especially since Turkey and Iran are so close these days. How come Brussels can interfere with Bulgaria's desire to build the second nuclear power plant at Belene, but it cannot or would not interfere with Turkey's intentions to build not one but three power plants?! I sincerely hope there is a way to stop them from those crazy activities, but since the contracts are already signed, I see very little chance for that. But then, we all have to ask ourselves about the hypocrisy of the western countries. And their utter helplessness in the face of big money.

EU steels itself for carbon rules challenge

05 April 2011
A legal challenge to draft EU rules for including steel plants in Europe's carbon emissions market is being planned by industry body Eurofer.
Eurofer claims the EU's proposals do not properly implement laws allowing the industry's most efficient 10% of factories to get free pollution permits after 2013.
The European Commission said it was confident of the methodology agreed last October, which followed two years of consultation with industry and EU member states.
The environmental group Sandbag complained that the steel industry had banked 212 million carbon permits, worth €3.4 billion, within an ETS that had become dysfunctional.The group claimed that steel giant ArcelorMittal was holding 44.6% of this surplus.
Carbon Trade Watch, which analysed the 77% of installations for which data was available, found that for the fifth time in six years, the ETS cap had been set too high.Permit allocations had been 3.2% higher than the actual emissions measured from their relevant installations, the group said.
"Emissions trading is being used as an industrial subsidy for polluters."
The EU is acting to reverse this situation by 2013, when the 90% of plants which do not meet its new 'benchmarks' will have their free permits withdrawn.
sourceMy comment: I would so much like to see the steel industry paying for all the pollution they do. But I doubt that will happen. Germany is way too strong. And the steel lobby seems unbreakable.

Brussels loosens 'binding' efficiency plans

12 May 2011
The European Commission has watered down plans to advance the EU towards 20% energy savings by the end of the decade, EurActiv has learned from a draft efficiency directive.
Stefan Scheuer, a former green campaigner who now heads an environment consultancy firm, told EurActiv that the 20% energy savings target for 2020 no longer sounded credible to him."Moving the deadline beyond 2013 shows a lack of seriousness from this Commission to make it happen," he said.
"In 2014 it will be left to the successor to Barroso's team, so they are probably putting their cards on the table now and showing that they are insufficient."
Unlike the EU's other 2020 targets - for renewables and CO2 cuts - the 20% increase in energy savings is not legally binding, and is also the only one that the EU is on track to miss.sourceMy comment: Hardly a surprise...

'Bolshoi Petroleum' deal collapses

18 May 2011
Negotiations between British Petroleum and Rosneft, Russia's leading oil company, to develop three massive offshore exploration blocks in the Arctic have failed, according to media reports yesterday (17 May).
The 16-billion dollar deal, dubbed 'Bolshoi Petroleum' by the British media, was based on swapping a 5% stake in BP for a 9.5% stake in Rosneft.
But the $16-billion deal collapsed after BP and Rosneft made a cash-and-stock offer to buy out the Russian co-owners of TNK-BP, the Russian wing of British Petroleum.
TNK-BP is represented by the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium. AAR represents a quartet of Russian billionaires who own half of TNK-BP.
The four billionaires who own half of TNK-BP were willing to sell their stake in return for shares in BP and Rosneft, enabling them to maintain a presence in the Russian oil sector, according to sources close to the parties quoted by Reuters.
BP and Rosneft had been prepared to pay more than $30 billion for the Russian partners' stake, AFP reported.
Reportedly, AAR had obtained a court injunction against the Rosneft deal, claiming it violated their TNK-BP agreement.
While Rosneft has other suitors to plumb the Arctic depths with, BP's fortunes have been struck a serious blow, the Moscow News comments.
Now it looks like the door to the Arctic is closed for BP, and Rosneft is now looking for new partners for its Arctic projects, an unnamed source told AFP.Sources cited by Reuters name Exxon, Chevron, Shell and Chinese firms as potential partners to explore the three Kara Sea blocks earmarked for the BP venture.
 sourceMy comment: BP's relations with Russia are real soap opera. Too bad nobody will every film that one. I think it would be quite fun to watch :)

Nabucco grapples with communication issues
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has thrown his weight behind a troubleshooting effort following reports that Azerbaijan, the main supplier to the EU-favoured Nabucco gas pipeline project, is now unwilling to sell its gas to the consortium.
Reports that Western countries are accusing Azerbaijan of blocking Nabucco are untrue, Oettinger was quoted as saying by local press in Azeri capital Baku yesterday (8 June). - ROFL ROFL ROFL! Aint that fun, actually? :) It's not like it wasn't expected. Changing one monopoly with other is always stupid. And that is the main problem with Nabucco - that it doesn't have viable supplier. Just note in the article how now they blame BP for undermining the projects credibility. Go figure :) Again, ROFL :) 
 Nabucco pipeline construction pushed back to 2013 - Construction of the Nabucco pipeline, a project designed to bring natural gas to Europe from suppliers other than Russia, will start in 2013 instead of 2012 as initially planned, its managing director announced on Friday (6 May).
Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the Nabucco Gas Pipeline consortium, said the plans had been modified following announcements by potential suppliers in the Caspian and Middle East regions.

European biofuel dispute splits the industry -
A divisive debate over the green credentials of biofuels has stalled investment and threatens the future of some producers, but could also create lucrative opportunities, according to European companies.
After a two-year investigation, the European Commission has decided that the complex issue of 'indirect land use change' (ILUC) – or displaced deforestation – can lessen carbon savings from biofuels.
In July it may announce moves to curb the least sustainable - possibly by raising an EU-wide sustainability benchmark. -
 EU's airline  emission goals under scrutiny - When the European Commission unveiled plans to slash transport CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050 last week, many assumed the figure would apply to road, rail and air travel in the same way. But EurActiv has learned that the cut for aviation is only 34%, a target both environmentalists and industry sources say is unrealistic.
Airlines in EU biofuels pact to cut pollution - European airlines, biofuel producers and the European Commission signed up yesterday (22 June) to producing two million tonnes of biofuel for aviation by 2020 even as debate rages over how green such fuels actually are. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

China and Europe, 2011

Today's entry is dedicated to the not-so-sleeping dragon, China. I often talk about it, but somehow, people prefer to keep their eyes closed. So when nobody hears you, you shout louder :)
I'm not going to comment every particular article. The idea is simple, China is rich on very rare and expensive resources, it is attractive with the cheap labor, and funny regulations, so companies naturally try to relocate there. With all the consequences for European workforce and economy.
The problem for Europe is not so much that China is big and rich. Our problem is that we're poor on ideas. That there is no working strategy on holding our businesses on our own continent.
True, Europe is still the biggest market for green-products. But China is the biggest energy consumer. Second biggest economy. Third biggest in scientific production (or is it second already). Along with few other "biggest" things. We have to be prepared to face the new reality. We are not. At least I don't see any significant changes occurring in key industries, nor on political level. There is a lot of talking, but very little actual doing.
What European countries are very busy doing is protecting their own industries by giving way too more help and rights to them than they deserve or than it's socially and economically justified. Maybe the idea is that if they are happy here, they won't go there. Maybe this is a form of strategy against carbon leak. Who knows...But for me, it's simply not enough. If Europe wants to be the leader, in any area, it ought to create new policies that will induce change at the pace we would like. If we wait for others to lead, then we'll never be on the top of the wave. We'll always have to react.
And new policies are by default brave and crazy and expensive. Europe is not ready to pay for really big projects. Like the creation of pan-European electricity grid - something crucial for the development of renewable energies. Essential project that will drive an economical boom, yet nobody is willing to pay for it. What's worst is that we want to profit from cheap energy, but by keeping the old profitable ways along the way. By nursing some very big companies, which don't need any nursing at all. Well, that's simply wrong. And it is a bad favor even for those companies - because it makes them calm, so calm that they don't invest in research so much and that will make them less competitive and in the end, it will doom them.
You cannot induce change like this. And if you don't induce change, others will. Others like Brazil, India and ... China. China is already investing so much into green energies and science. They have everything needed to be the next world super-power. And Europe, Europe is acting like bee-hive. A lot of buzz, some stinging, absolutely nothing new. We are going under because of our own greed and fear of changes.
And the worst is that what I see in the population a desperate desire to go back to normal, to easy life, no matter how much it costs. There is support for new things, as long as nothing changes and there are no new challenges. Well, that's not possible. Somehow, Europeans, which were renown for the protests against wars, against monopolies, against big companies robbing the little guy and with their love of technology, somehow those brave, intelligent and educated people turned into exhausted, poor and unhappy people, ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of their well-being. Something like USA 50 years ago. But the times has changed. Now it's so much harder to hide the truth, when it's screaming at your face from all over. The world is too globalized to be able to hide unpleasant truths behind propaganda. So what do people do? They go radical, because that's the only way to ignore what's going on. And that's sad. Because on the other side of the world, life goes on and it improves. And the crisis is not the reason behind our misery, it's the consequence of our lack of public responsibility, of our denial, of us turning back to progress.
So what has this to do with China? Well, I see China as one of our biggest failures as a Union. Because we had to respond, we had to put the frames in which the new world should develop. Yet, we missed all kind of deadlines. And on everything - on safety, on climate, on economics, on everything. Instead, we actually led the most ridiculous and shameful war - against Libia. To hide from our own problems. To save the world, when we're completely unable to save ourselves. There are so many problems in Europe, so many things to be done, so many new regulations that are key for both our life and health and for our financial safety. Who works on them? When? How? Nobody knows. Why? Because we're too busy listening to war-news, to anti-immigrant news or generally anti-neighbors news. Nice. But not working. Not effective.
People, Europeans, WAKE UP!
  1. EU eyes climate 'paradigm shift' on tax, growth and China
  2. Deepwater drilling safety doubts multiply
  3. EU to ban China, India carbon credits trade
  4. Special Report: European solar wobble spurs China deals
  5. Google Says Hackers in China Stole Gmail Passwords
  6. China plans restructure of rare earths industry
  7. 13 exotic elements we can't live without

EU eyes climate 'paradigm shift' on tax, growth and China

14 January 2011
EU climate leaders have been setting out their environmental agendas for tax, resource efficiency and competition from China in the year ahead, one month after the Cancún climate change summit.
Speaking at a Lisbon Council Eco-Innovation Summit on 13 January, EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard called for a European "paradigm shift" around taxation, so that "we tax more what we burn and less what we earn".

China's role in global green energy raceOne underlying issue facing the Commission is the entry of China into the global green energy race. The country is expected to announce its own five-year energy plan at the Chinese National People's Congress, also in March.
Initiatives such as moves toward an Emissions Trading Scheme and a pricing mechanism for energy are expected. Until now, the EU has been ahead of the field in the global carbon market, but now "our leadership is being challenged," Hedegaard warned.
In December, a UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, will attempt to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. source

Deepwater drilling safety doubts multiply

10 January 2011
Doubts about the current safety and liability procedures for deepwater drilling are growing after criticism by statutory agencies on both sides of the Atlantic.
A British parliamentary energy and climate change committee report published last week (6 January) found serious shortcomings in safety and liability arrangements for dealing with potential disasters in planned deepwater wells in the North Sea, off the western Shetland Islands.
Oil companies are already drilling in four Shetlands fields and hundreds of new wells are expected to open up in the years ahead.
Although the British parliamentary report ruled against a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the North Sea, Europe's largest offshore oil field, it voiced "serious doubts" about current safety procedures.
It also recommended extending the 'polluter pays' principle to ensure that taxpayers do not end up paying for any future disasters.
Marlene Holzner, a spokesperson for EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, said the EU was currently considering the very same issues in a period of consultation that is expected to culminate in new EU legislative proposals.

In a communiqué issued last October, the energy commissioner recommended granting licences for new drilling only where oil companies could demonstrate a contingency plan and the financial means to pay for potential environmental damage.
It also called for oil platforms controlled by national authorities to be evaluated by independent experts, and for oil companies to be made liable for repairing environmental damage within a 200 nautical mile zone from the coast after any accident. source


EU to ban China, India carbon credits trade

January 21, 2011 
Europe is to ban a highly lucrative trade in polluting rights obtained by European-based companies under a UN scheme to favour environmentally-friendly industrial investment in the likes of China or India.
The ban requires the European Parliament's assent over the next three months.
The ban will affect credits granted for destroying HFC-23 (a by-product of HFC-22) and N2O (nitrous oxide) gases, powerful which contribute to .
The commission partly wants to divert such investments to the world's least developed countries.
The EU executive said that "just 23 such industrial gas projects account for two-thirds of all the credits generated" through the CDM programme, leading to consistent accusations of major systemic abuse by powerful energy and industrial companies.
The vote comes a day after the theft of two million tonnes worth of polluting rights by hackers forced Brussels to close national carbon credits trading registries for at least seven days pending online security reinforcement. source

Special Report: European solar wobble spurs China deals

23 May 2011

A slowdown in subsidies for solar power across European countries has encouraged companies to look oversees for greener pastures, threatening Europe's lead in this promising high-tech sector.
Europe's wobbling solar energy market has again been jolted by news that a world market leader, First Solar, has agreed a strategic cooperation deal with China's state-owned solar firm China Power International (CPINE).
Last year, the European market accounted for 80% of all solar panel demand, but uncertainty about the future of the feed-in tariff programmes run by several EU governments has knocked business confidence.Feed-in tariffs are policy mechanisms designed to provide a level playing field for renewable energy sources, which receive ten times less government subsidies than fossil fuels, according to studies.
But in Germany, France, Italy and Spain tariff cuts are pending. In Bulgaria the industry could be chopped off at the knee, while the UK is considering ending tariffs altogether for installations generating more than 50kW of capacity."It was a moratorium. Everything stopped, the market stopped," said Eleni Despotou of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), commenting about France's decision to cut its feed-in tariff.
"We are seeing a migration of factories from Europe to Asia already. "
With subsidies falling, some countries - like Britain and Germany - want to concentrate tariffs on small households who mount solar panels on their rooftops.But Mitchener argued that where solar power was concerned, a "small is beautiful" strategy was counter-productive.
Some in the solar energy industry welcome phased tariff reductions in principle as a sign of the technology's maturity.But this sentiment mingles uneasily with a growing concern that the cuts are happening too quickly, unpredictably and, often, retroactively.

Google Says Hackers in China Stole Gmail Passwords

SAN FRANCISCO — Google said Wednesday that hundreds of users of Gmail, its e-mail service, had been the targets of clandestine attacks apparently originating in China that were aimed at stealing their passwords and monitoring their e-mail.
In a blog post, the company said the victims included senior government officials in the United States, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel and journalists.
It is the second time Google has pointed to an area of China as the source of an Internet intrusion. Its latest announcement is likely to further ratchet up the tension between the company and Chinese authorities.
Last year, Google said it had traced a sophisticated invasion of its computer systems to people based in China. The accusation led to a rupture of the company’s relationship with China and a decision by Google not to cooperate with China’s censorship demands. As a result, Google decided to base its Chinese search engine in Hong Kong.
Google said the attacks apparently originated in Jinan, a provincial capital in eastern China. The city is a regional command center for the Chinese military, one of seven in the country.
Chinese government media officials were not immediately available to comment on Google’s latest announcement. 

China plans restructure of rare earths industry

Wed Jun 8, 12:43 am ET
SHANGHAI – China is giving its biggest, state-owned rare earths miner and producer a monopoly for the northern part of the country in reforms aimed at bringing the strategically important sector that's crucial to advanced manufacturing under tighter control.
The Ministry for Industry and Information Technology said in a statement seen Wednesday on its website that Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Group) Hi-Tech Co.,Ltd, will be the only rare earths producer in the region — China's biggest production base for the exotic metals.
It said 35 other companies would be restructured or closed down by the end of June and that Baotou Steel Rare Earth will handle all mining, processing and trading in Inner Mongolia.
The company was the only company able to satisfy capacity and production requirements of various government ministries, the state-run newspaper Global Times cited Liu Jingchun, a researcher at Inner Mongolia's Economic and Information Technology Commission as saying.
China has abundant reserves and produces 97 percent of the global supply of the 17 rare earth minerals, which have exotic names like dysprosium and terbium and are used in computer disk drives, hybrid car components, weapons and other high-tech products.
To cope with growing demand at home and to reduce environmental damage, China has been reducing export quotas of rare earths over the past several years.
Such moves have raised alarm in importing nations, especially after some in the industry accused China of holding back rare earth shipments to Japan due to a flare up in tensions last year. source

13 exotic elements we can't live without

All that means we are heading for a crunch. In its Critical Materials Strategy, published in December last year, the US Department of Energy (DoE) assessed 14 elements of specific importance to clean-energy technologies. It identified six at "critical" risk of supply disruption within the next five years: indium, and five "rare earth" elements, europium, neodymium, terbium, yttrium and dysprosium. It rates a further three - cerium, lanthanum and tellurium - as "near-critical".
Traditionally, these elements just haven't been worth that much to us. Such supplies are often isolated as by-products during the mining of materials already used in vast quantities, such as aluminium, zinc and copper. Copper mining, for example, has given us more than enough tellurium, a key component of next-generation solar cells, to cover our present needs - and made it artificially cheap.
The problem, as the report makes clear, is that the economics changes radically when demand for these materials outstrips what we can supply just by the by. "Then suddenly you have to think about mining these elements directly, as primary ores," says Jaffe. That raises the cost dramatically - presuming we even know where to dig.
An element's price isn't the only problem. The rare earth group of elements, to which many of the most technologically critical belong, are generally found together in ores that also contain small amounts of radioactive elements such as thorium and uranium. In 1998, chemical processing of these ores was suspended at the only US mine for rare earth elements in Mountain Pass, California, due to environmental concerns associated with these radioactive contaminants. The mine is expected to reopen with improved safeguards later this year, but until then the world is dependent on China for nearly all its rare-earth supplies. Since 2005, China has been placing increasingly stringent limits on exports, citing demand from its own burgeoning manufacturing industries.
No longer throwing these materials away is one obvious way of propping up supplies. "Tellurium ought to be regarded as more precious than gold - it is; it is rarer," says Jaffe. Yet in many cases less than 1 per cent of these technologically critical materials ends up being recycled.Even if we were to dramatically improve this record, some basic geological research to find new sources of these elements is crucial - and needed fast. Technological concerns and necessary environmental and social safeguards mean it can take 15 years from the initial discovery of an ore deposit in the developed world to its commercial exploitation, says Hitzman.
In the end, we should thank China for its decision to restrict exports of rare earths, says Jaffe, as it has brought the issue of technologically critical elements to our attention a decade earlier than would otherwise have happened. source

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