Friday, June 07, 2013

Where's that drought the Warmists were predicting?

Global cooling?  "The Danube has reached heights not seen for 500 years"

Two women hitched up their clothes as they walked through the flood water in Nienburg, Germany

More than 120 Britons were rescued last night after being stranded on a cruise ship in Austria for almost a week because of torrential rain.

The Dutch-registered Filia Rheni had just left Vienna last Saturday when shipping on the Danube was halted because the river was so swollen.

It was anchored only yards from the bank but rescuers said evacuating the passengers, mostly pensioners, would have been too dangerous because of the debris sweeping downstream.

However, last night they constructed a pontoon bridge and the holidaymakers, some tearful, were helped ashore.

The Danube has reached heights not seen for 500 years and jetties along the river have been swamped and dozens of ships abandoned.

Much of Europe has been hit by floods with some areas seeing the worst flooding for 400 years

The liner is one of about 30 moored along the river in Vienna until the water levels drop.

In Vienna, the Danube peaked Wednesday at levels above those of the 2002 floods that devastated Europe.

The city's extensive protection system held, however, although the highway to the airport was temporarily inundated.

The rescue comes after dozens of village residents had to be airlifted to safety yesterday by helicopters after the Danube reached heights not seen in over 500 years in the German city of Passau.


EU-China solar trade spat escalates as Beijing hits back with wine probe

The European Commission has confirmed its intention to impose duties on imports of Chinese solar panels from Thursday (6 June), triggering an immediate response from China, which announced the launch of an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into European wine.

Under pressure from Germany, which fears retaliation from China could hit its export-dependent economy, the European Commission had attempted to tone down the dispute by announcing an initial duty of 11.8%, far lower than the average 47% that had been planned.

The shift reflected the Commission’s desire to avoid a trade war, while also acknowledging opposition to duties from 18 of the EU's 27 member states, led by Germany and Britain.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, a Belgian lawyer and advocate of free trade, on Tuesday (4 June) defended the duties as an emergency measure to provide "life-saving oxygen to a business sector in Europe that is suffering badly from this dumping."

Chinese firms have captured more than 80% of the European solar panel market, from nearly zero a few years ago, and China's solar panel production is 1.5 times the global demand, according to the European Commission.

"This is not protectionism. Rather it is about ensuring international trade rules also apply to Chinese companies – just like they apply to us," De Gucht said.

China's Commerce Ministry said it noted the lower initial rate, but called on the EU to "show more sincerity and flexibility to find a resolution both sides can accept through consultations".

De Gucht: ‘The ball is in China’s court’

While the European Commission has the final say on trade issues, it does not want to be seen to be acting against the interests of member states.

"This is a one-time offer to the Chinese side, providing a very clear incentive to negotiate," De Gucht told a news conference. "It provides a clear window of opportunity for negotiations, but the ball is now in China's court."

De Gucht said the 11.8% duty would apply until 6 August. If no settlement is reached, the average rate will then rise to 47.6%, in effect blocking China's market access. In December, that rate will be put in force for five years.

One Chinese source close to the talks said: "If we face a loaded gun to our heads, it is not a fair negotiation, but at least it creates room for both sides to find a solution."

EU countries divided

The case has tested whether EU governments can unite behind the European Commission on global trade issues and overcome worries about retaliation.

Germany and Britain say their companies could be disadvantaged in China's growing markets such as financial services and telecoms if Brussels hinders Chinese business in Europe.

But France and Italy argue that Chinese firms are unfairly benefiting from state subsidies that allow them to flood Europe with cheap goods and undercut local producers.

The European solar energy market, the world's biggest, is dominated by Chinese suppliers including Yingli Green Energy, Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, Trina Solar Ltd and Canadian Solar Inc.

China hits back on French wine

Responding to the EU solar case, China announced the launch of an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into European wine, a move that is expected to hit France and Italy hardest.

China's Commerce Ministry said it has “already received an application from the domestic wine industry, which accuses wines imported from Europe of entering China's market by use of unfair trade tactics such as dumping and subsidies".

"This is impacted upon our wine industry, and [they have] asked the Commerce Ministry to begin and anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe," the ministry added.

"We have noted the quick rise in wine imports from the EU in recent years, and we will handle the investigation in accordance with the law."

China imported 430 million litres of wine last year, of which more than two-thirds came from the EU, according to Chinese customs figures.  Imports from France alone came to 170 million litres.


Residents given the power to kill off new wind turbines in move British Tories claim will end controversial onshore developments

Communities are to be given a powerful ‘veto’ over wind farms in a move that Tories claim will mean the death of controversial new onshore developments.

Schemes will have to gain local residents’ consent before a planning application can even be made, effectively handing them the power to prevent turbines being erected.

Planning rules are also to be changed so that the drive for renewable energy can no longer be used as a reason for overriding environmental and other concerns.

Former energy minister John Hayes, a leading critic of onshore wind turbines who has been pushing for reform since moving to Downing Street as a senior adviser to David Cameron, told the Daily Mail: ‘No means no.
The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts by 2020

The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts by 2020

‘No longer will councils and communities be bullied into accepting developments because national energy policy trumps local opinion. Meeting our energy goals is no excuse for building wind turbines in the wrong places.’

Ministers are planning a major increase in  benefits paid for by developers for communities that do give their consent– branded ‘bribes for blight’ by critics –  including long-term electricity bill discounts of up to  20 per cent.

But following months of bitter argument over wind power between the Coalition parties, Tory sources said they expected the package of measures will mean few new developments are approved.
Eric Pickles will issue revised guidance for councils and planning inspectors

Eric Pickles will issue revised guidance for councils and planning inspectors

The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts (GW) by 2020. There are currently around 3,800 turbines, and at least 10,000 had been expected to be built.

But in an indication of a shift in Government policy, ministers announced last year that the subsidy for onshore wind power generation would be cut by 10 per cent.

Mr Hayes infuriated Lib Dems last year when he declared that turbines had been ‘peppered around the country’ with little or no regard for the views of communities, and insisted that England could meets its targets with those that have already been constructed and those with planning consent.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will today issue revised guidance for councils and planning inspectors.

It will say that decisions will have to take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines – meaning councils will be able to factor in the distance between proposed new developments and existing ones – and reflect the effect on landscape and amenities.

The Government is expected to promise an annual review of the costs of wind power, casting doubt over the level of future subsidies.

The Lib Dems, enthusiastic advocates of all forms of green energy, insist community benefits will  help ensure new developments do go ahead.

Ministers plan to adopt a similar approach to the development of new nuclear power stations and ‘fracking’ rigs to extract underground reserves of shale gas.

Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted: ‘It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable, economically, environmentally and socially, and this announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm.

‘We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind.

‘This is an important sector that is driving economic growth, supporting thousands of new jobs and providing a significant share of our electricity, and I’m determined that communities should share in these benefits.’

Tory Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: ‘We are putting local people at the heart of decision-making on onshore wind.

‘We are changing the balance to ensure that they are consulted  earlier and have more say against poorly sited or inadequately justified turbines.’


America’s economic crossroad

By Rick Manning

Why is opening up America’s natural energy resources and defeating an environmental movement that has massive wealth, a pliant media and the capacity to play on emotional heart strings, the most important domestic question facing our nation?

The answer is that cheap, abundant energy may be the only way that our nation’s economy thrives in the future.

The profligate federal government spending over the past five years has put our nation on the precipice of an impending debt crisis, and growing the economic pie is the only way out.

Consider just how much it costs the federal government to make interest payments on the national debt.  In 2012, total interest payments on the nation’s then-$16 trillion debt totaled $359 billion.

By 2018, Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projects that the national debt will grow to $21.696 trillion and interest payments will balloon to $657 billion.  The projected total revenues in 2018 are $3.65 trillion, up from $2.4 trillion in the year ending in October, 2012.

Why do these numbers matter?

If OMB is correct, normalizing interest rates combined with continued borrowing by the government will ensure that in just five years, one out of every six dollars taken in by the federal government will be spent on interest payments, including those owed to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

The scary part of the equation is that as time moves forward, federal obligations with lower interest rates will be  coming off the books, replaced by higher cost one’s.  In fact, an Americans for Limited Government analysis of OMB projections shows that by 2023, gross interest payments on the debt will exceed $1 trillion a year.

It should be clear that the odds are virtually nil that the federal government will continue to show spending restraint in light of the whining and gnashing of teeth associated with the sequester-mandated cuts.

This makes increasing tax revenues through private sector economic growth, rather than job killing tax increases, imperative if we are going to have a hope of stopping our nation’s slide into a Greek-like future.

The good news is if government gets out of the way, energy development can produce the stimulative effect of lower overall costs, as well as moving Americans from being government dependents to thriving taxpayers.  Hopefully generating the economic growth needed to overcome our nation’s past fiscal sins.

The proof is in the impact of low natural gas costs are already having in places like Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Minnesota, and the story is just beginning to be written.

Reuters quotes Wolfgang Eder, the CEO of Austrian steelmaker Voelstalpine, that his company chose the state of Texas out of 17 sites in eight countries because, “In the USA, re-industrialization is being promoted very consistently, ambitiously and with great conviction,” and “Low energy prices gave us the final — and not insignificant – push.”

Think energy production doesn’t matter?  Shale extraction of natural gas brought prices in the United States down to just one quarter of the cost of the same energy in Europe.

Reuters continues by quoting Peter Loescher, CEO of German engineering giant Siemens Corporation saying, “The idea that energy costs in North America would always be more expensive no longer holds true. The new reality is that natural gas has turned that equation on its head.”

The private sector energy development revolution is the result of the ingenuity of individuals and private companies which took risks in developing techniques to profitably extract oil and natural gas from shale formations.  And this revolution is just at the beginning stage of transforming the United States from a nation that buys goods produced around the world, to a nation that makes products here.

Maryland based Marlin Steel Wire, has been aggressively hiring and investing in new equipment to fill orders from other U.S. manufacturers. Owner Drew Greenblatt, attributes the increased number of orders to the lower price he can offer due to the drop in natural gas and electricity costs.

An NBC report quotes Greenblatt saying, “That’s making U.S. companies that used to be at a price disadvantage now uniquely positioned to win contracts they never won in the past — or haven’t for a while,” he said. “Everyone talks about what’s going on in North Dakota, but it’s filtering down now to conventional factories throughout America.”

In Minnesota, companies are expanding to meet the development needs in neighboring North Dakota, providing an economic boost to the state and increased employment to its workers.

In Youngstown, Ohio mills that have been shuttered for more than thirty years are rumbling back to life due to the need to support the oil and natural gas extraction industry.  An oil and natural gas industry study estimates that by 2015, the fracking phenomenon will generate more than 200,000 jobs and $22 billion in economic output in Ohio alone.

And the renaissance of the U.S. manufacturing sector is just at its nascent stage with the lower natural resource related energy costs driving rational market decisions around the globe to expand and build factories in America.

Yet, places like California, New York and the Obama Administration itself remain almost recalcitrant in their opposition to developing the massive shale oil and natural gas resource our nation has been blessed with.

The Los Angeles Times editorialized in favor of a wait and see approach on fracking in the state after it was projected that 15 billion barrels of oil lay within the rocks beneath the San Joaquin Valley.  This in spite of a University of Southern California study projecting energy extraction would result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs for a state with a persistently high unemployment rate, and billions of dollars in new revenues to the chronically broke state government.

Yet, the Times urged delay, even going so far as to endorse legislation that would shut down one oil producer who is currently using the hydraulic fracturing technique over legislation which would stop new development but leave existing operators alone.

In New York state, the government is attempting to decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing to occur on their side of the border with Pennsylvania where they are already deriving the economic benefits.  New York’s dilemma is based upon a desire to impose the most restrictive regulations in the nation on the industry, while recognizing that those very regulations are likely to discourage the development of the resource and resultant benefits within the state.

The federal government has just this year taken millions of acres of shale oil resources on federal land off the table in recent months throwing a roadblock in the path to an inexpensive, sustainable energy future.

In response, thirteen states are threatening to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency if it dips its intrusive toes into regulation hydraulic fracturing issue arguing that it is the state’s Constitutional purview to regulate the industry.

In 2013, America is at a crossroads with one path leading to certain insolvency, and the other giving us a chance to grow our way out of the hole we have dug through free market based industrial expansion, and some modest continued government cost cutting.

A natural resource extraction driven economic expansion that rapidly expands the tax base throwing off dramatically increased government revenues.  Revenues generated by a private sector economy growing based upon market principles and not through higher punitive taxes on those who were willing to risk everything to create the wealth.

And that is why America’s future prosperity depends upon winning the battle against the environmentalists, who fight energy extraction at every turn.  With interest payments on the debt projected to consume one out of every six tax dollars in just five years, under the rosiest of scenarios, our economy needs a game changer to turn around, and in spite of the best efforts of the green movement, the real energy industry has provided one.

But, if the green movement has its way, the goose that laid the golden egg will be cooked, and our nation’s future prosperity will end up in the same broiler.


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