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Reliant Energy
09 сентября 2015, 11:11

Calpine Corp (CPN) - компания из списка Trophy-20

Компания из списка Trophy-20 (ссылка на список в комментариях для внимательных). Резюме — CPN — интересная компания — независимый генератор электричества в наиболее зарегулированных и энергодефицитных регионах США. Имеет большой парк современных эффективных газотурбинных и геотермальных станций, входит в топ-10 генераторов США. Менеджмент опытный, но достаточно крепко сидит в финансовых инструментах (у компании большие долги, деривативы, деривативы на долги — всё в ходу), что может стать проблемой для финансирования развития в дальнейшем. Компания уже переживала поход к банкротству в 2005 году опять же из-за чрезмерной закредитованности (было 22млрд долга, котировки упали с 50 долларов до 0,30), но после смены руководства выползла к 2008 году. Сейчас CPN торгуется чуть выше стоимости ее станций, если бы их можно было продать на распродаже, и совокупного долга — по 15 долларов за акцию, что делает её интересным кандидатом как на покупку, так и на игру с опционами — любые изменения ставки, погоды в Калифорнии/Техасе/Северо-Востоке, цен на газ или налоговые маневры достаточно сильно шатают показатели компании и котировки. Долгосрочное преимущество компании — 
 1) современные, экологичные, эффективные электрогенераторы, позволяющие поставлять энергию на рынок со значительной маржой, превосходящей большинство конкурентов 
 2) (он же трофейный актив) 6% бесплатной, суперэкологичной геотермальной генерации на гейзерах в Калифорнии, позволяющих получать супер-прибыль и вдобавок торговать квотами (по закону каждая компания должна иметь 20% энергии из возобновляемых источников, у CPN в Калифорнии этот показатель составляет 30%, что позволяет ей на 10% объемы даже прямым конкурентам) 3) сроки входа на рынок велики, поставка маленького генератора 1ГВт — 3-4 года и 500 млн долларов, рынок зарегулирован и не особенно инвестиционно-привлекателен — многие компании предпочитают просто платить дивиденды в удачные годы, не занимаясь развитием. Подробнее: Показатели и сравнение с конкурентами смотрите на PVA — там все достаточно наглядно, весь сегмент под ударом. По CPN p/e 7,28 p/b 1,88 debt/equity 3,8 По сути бизнеса: CPN — независимый производитель электроэнергии. Начали развиваться с законодательным антимонопольным регулированием отрасли в США в 199х-200х годы и развитием альтернативной возобновляемой энергетики, наибольшее присутствие — Калифорния, Техас, СевероВосток США как наиболее потребляющие и энергодефицитные регионы (Калифорния 30% энергии закупает из других штатов, Техас нейтрален но больше всех в абсолюте производит/потребляет, северо-восток так же хронически энергодефицитен весь).  88 электростанций + 1 строится (26,548 Мвт и 309 МВт строится (даст +1,1% к генерации)). В 2014 выработали 103 млрд квтч. Крупнейший потребитель газа в США, потребили 793bcf (млрд.куб.футов) газа (10% потребления в США) в 2014. Газотурбинные установки — 71 (17 +теплостанции), нефтяная — 1 (требовалась по какому-то закону, поэтому используется для минимальной генерации), геотермальные станции 15 шт: Geysers (CA) — крупнейшее в США геотерм, 15% от всей выработки восполняемыми ресурсами в CA в 2013, позволяет также получать доход от торговли квотами. Geysers Assets генерируют примерно 6 млн МВт из возобновляемых источников в год. (6% от суммарной генерации CPN); солнечная — 1 (5МВт, маленькая но так же позволяет торговать квотами). Средний возраст станции (в пересчете на МВт) 15 лет (средний по отрасли 42), средний КПД 46% (7,384 Btu/KWh) (средний по отрасли 29-39%). Коэффициент простоя в среднем 1.9%. Коэффициент доступности геотермальных 94% (что гораздо лучше ветро и солнце-генерации). Площадки гео — в аренде от государства, штата и частных собственников примерно 60 на 40, сроки аренды заканчиваются примерно в 2020 году но все договоры с возможностью продления и разной оплаты в случае коммерческого использования/неиспользования, оцененные запасы энергии позволяют считать возможность коммерческой добычи до 2068 года. Есть еще площадка примерно на 40 скважин на другом участке, перспективных с точки зрения коммерчески осмысленной генерации, но переговоры по ней не завершены. Компания является выгодоприобретателем как сланцевой «революции», так и колеблющихся пиковых цен на газ, т.к. порядка 70% генерации на би-топливных (газ + fuel oil) генераторах с возможностью как снижать мощность в периоды малого потребления, так и буст-увеличений при необходимости. Эффективные современные генераторы позволяют держать косты ниже конкурентов, что позволяет получать доход даже на зарегулированном рынке электрогенерации. В некоторых случаях используются толлинговые схемы (компания получает доход за произведенную генерацию независимо от стоимости топлива). Компания очень экологична (находясь на 8 месте по объемам генерации, она на 77 месте по объему выбросов), что позволяет получать преимущество и от дальнейших законодательных «закручиваний гаек», так, в США в 2014 39% генерации на угле, 19% ядерной, 27% газовой, 6 % гидро и 7% прочих источников, с явной тенденцией к ужесточениям выбросов (касается генерации на угле и нефти в первую очередь). Кроме того, у компании нет рисков отмены субсидий ветро- и солнечным генерациям (солнечная генерация мизерная). Дополнительный плюс от засухи в Калифорнии, что приводит к меньшей гидрогенерации и росту доходов газогенераторов втч CPN. Вывод — компания очень комфортно расположена как географически (CA, TX, North-East), так и в сегменте генерации (газ + геотерм), её ждет светлое бесперебойное ближайшее будущее, это же подтверждается долгосрочными контрактами. M&A&RND достаточно динамичный, постоянно идут покупки-продажи станций, апгрейды реакторов и контрактуются новые: энергобаланс ввод/вывод 2014: +1050+400+260+260-6 станций 3500 (за 1,57B)+809-1 станция маленькая (за 0,166B по антимонопольному закону) + 309 (2015)+760 (2017-2018) + 345 (2018) (в станциях +8 блоков -7блоков сбросили, в балансе текущем минус, с 2017 вернутся на текущий уровень). Генерация физически падает (110-102-101 млрд квтч 12-13-14 год), но первый кв 2015 принес рост в Калифорнии из-за просадки в гидрогенерации в штате из-за засухи (на 15 год суммарная генерация составит примерно 108 млрд квтч). 
По MA в 2012-2014 можно оценить справедливую стоимость: в 2014 CPN купили блоки 1050МВт за 625млн, 809МВт за 530млн. в 2012 цены были примерно такими же, у конкурентов есть покупки и подороже.  Таким образом при тотальной распродаже исходя из оценки стоимости генерирующих мощностей получаем оценку имущества компании снизу в $16B (это при рыночной капитализации в 5,5B и консолидированном долге = 11,3B). То есть совсем безопасный уровень покупки при капитализации $4,7B или цене акции в 13 долларов. На 4 сентября цена была 15,07. Вывод: компания очень активно крутится и хозяйство содержит в полном порядке, но при этом уже сейчас «не»оценена рынком, её можно и нужно следить. При этом даже в самом негативном сценарии активы компании будут работать и приносить доход — никто не выключит современные электростанции в энергодефицитных Калифорнии или Нью-Йорке с Вашингтоном, найдут денег или госгарантий. Проблемы: Компания исторически сурово закредитована еще с прошлого банкротства, совокупный долг на 2014 год 11,3 млрд (в 2005 году было 22 млрд), используются все возможности перекредитования — от выпусков First Lien бумаг до револьверных кредитных линий. В 2014 выпущено 2,8 млрд unsecured notes по ставкам 5,375-5,75%, увеличен револьверный кредит с 0,5 млрд до 1,5 млрд (вроде как закрыты first lien notes с ближними сроками погашения и ставкой 8%).  7+ млрд долга с погашением после 2019 года, постоянно происходит перевыпуск долга на более поздний.
Рейтинг -4 уровня от инвестиционного, B+. Эфф. ставки по бондам при этом 5,8-6,5% что далеко от дефолтного но имеет влияние на фин. показатели (купоны в среднем 7% от номинала). Обслуживание долга 600+ млн в год, при операционной прибыли 800-1900 млн, стоимость обслуживания долга в последние годы снижается примерно на 50 млн/в год.  При этом компания дофига тратит на обратный выкуп акций — в том же 2014 потрачено 3,5 млрд на выкуп акций по 21,68-22,14 (сейчас 15). В 2015 уже потрачено более 0,5 млрд на выкуп. Дивиденды не платятся. Вывод — компания имеет много долгов и тратит много денег на его обслуживание, в сложной истории новых денег могут не дать. Хотя текущий долг достаточно долгосрочный. Агрессивно идет обратный выкуп в ущерб сокращению и так достаточно дорогого долга. Компания креативно использует всякие деривативы — опционы и фьючерсы как на топливо и энергию, так и на производные. Закладывает долгосрочные контракты (например диапазон цен «оценки»энергии 10-100$/МВтч). Манипулирует ценами на все в том числе в бухучете, для оценки, переоценки и тд, что может сильно влиять на отчеты и скелеты в шкафу. Менеджмент не очень дерзко наживается, так что скорей всего играют/крутятся по каким-то правилам, но все это выглядит сложно и весьма запутанно. Вывод — отчетность местами нарисована по картинкам из хрустального шара и при переоценках могут всплывать помои. Потребление электричества в США падает на 0,5% в год. Что впрочем сопровождается выводом из эксплуатации неэкологичной генерации в первую очередь, т.е. угольных и нефте-электростанций, которых у CPN нет. Вывод — CPN крутится в правильном направлении, являясь по сути пионером в обновлении генерирующих мощностей в США. Примечание:  Крупнейшие торгуемые электрогенераторы — конкуренты в США:  название, мощность (тикер, капитализация млрд долл) AES Corporation (AES 7,5B) Southern Company, 42 GW (SO 38B) American Electric Power, 38 GW (AEP 25B) Duke Energy, 36 GW (DUK 47B) Reliant Energy, 14 GW (NRG 5,9B) Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PCG 23B) Dominion Resources (D 45B) Exelon Corporation (EXC 26B) Повторюсь — буду рад помощи тех, кто может придумать опционную тактику по компании в разных ситуациях. Кроме того, подискутировать на тему электроэнергетики представляется правильным, т.к. все компании в секторе находятся на низах, могут быть и не менее интересные кандидаты. Обычная критика, вопросы, уточнения — категорически приветствуются. Для анализа компаний изучите наши новые бесплатные уроки по продвинутому Анализу Компаний.

17 сентября 2013, 22:25

Alex Salmond former aide attacks 'tired, tedious' independence campaign

Alex Bell accuses SNP leader of singing the 'old songs' and failing to offer radical reforms a year before referendumOne of Alex Salmond's former closest advisers has attacked the Scottish independence campaign for relying too heavily on "tedious" ideas and "tired policies".Alex Bell, who quit as head of Alex Salmond's policy unit in July after two years working on his independence strategy, said the first minister was failing to present a radical, daring vision for Scotland and so was facing defeat in next year's referendum.Writing for the Guardian, as the independence movement prepares to mark a year to go before the referendum, on 18 September 2014, Bell said: "The campaigns to date have been a tedious parade of union jacks versus saltires, of pop identity about caring Scots versus heartless Tories."Bell warned that Salmond's white paper on independence, touted as his prospectus for independence and due to be published in November, fell into the trap of singing "the old songs" for short-term tactical reasons rather than offering voters bold, radical reforms.That approach included focusing heavily on nationalist arguments about Scottish identity and culture rather than being brave enough to see Scotland's problems as part of a global crisis that also affected England and the rest of the UK."At its best, the Scottish nationalist movement knows this and offers a critique of what democracy and the UK state can achieve," Bell said. "At its worst, it succumbs to the temptation to focus on old songs and tired policies. In this, Salmond is wrong."Bell's criticisms are shared by senior figures on the left of the SNP and within the Yes Scotland independence campaign, who believe Salmond is being too timid by offering a more moderate version of independence to win over sceptical and unpersuaded middle-ground voters.Salmond rejected that, saying Scotland was already proving itself to be radical with its innovative programmes on green energy, free education and healthcare. He said independence was a natural continuation of devolution."Scotland can more than afford to be a successful independent country. We have enormous advantages in terms of our human and natural resources, but we need the political and economic tools to help create a wealthier and fairer society," the first minister said."This referendum is not about any one politician or party – it is about completing Scotland's 'home rule' journey, which has been under way for more than a century."The latest poll for the Guardian by ICM has 32% of British voters backing Scottish independence, roughly the same level of support found in Scotland, with 52% of British voters in favour of keeping the UK intact.Significantly, it finds the highest level of support for independence amongst Labour voters across Britain, with 35% believing that Scotland should split from the UK, and 52% against.That rate is more than double the level of support for independence among Scottish Labour voters found by other polls and 10 percentage points higher than the 25% of pro-independence Labour supporters found in a Scotland-only poll by ICM published at the weekend.That finding will alarm Ed Miliband, the party's UK leader, and Scottish Labour leaders as they struggle against internal opposition to agree a new blueprint for greater Scottish devolution that could include splitting up parts of the welfare state and giving the Holyrood parliament greater tax powers.Analysts believe this higher rate reflects increasing unhappiness in England about the perception that Scotland gets unfair levels of subsidy – a view rejected by Scottish ministers and Treasury officials; jealousy of Scotland's free prescriptions and universities; and irritation with the continuing right of Scottish MPs to vote on England-only measures at Westminster.Labour is pressing ahead with plans to offer Scottish voters greater powers for Holyrood if they reject independence next September, and could agree to sign a joint declaration with the Tories and Liberal Democrats pledging to introduce further reforms.Alan Trench, an academic specialising in devolution and adviser to expert government commissions, said: "It's clear that Labour voters generally have concerns about how things are at the moment. In England, they're struggling with a sense of unfairness about how the system works. It's Labour's job to square the circle."Meanwhile, the dispute over whether an independent Scotland would remain able to sustain high levels of public spending deepened after a senior ex-Treasury economist warned that an independent Scotland would face spending cuts of more than 5% and much higher borrowing costs if it followed Salmond's proposals for a sterling currency union with the rest of the UK.Dr Angus Armstrong, director of macroeconomic research at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said many lenders and investors would be very nervous about a newly independent country having significant debts and also being reliant on volatile oil receipts.Scotland could instead hand over all its North Sea oil tax income to the UK in exchange for writing off its share of the UK national debt, Armstrong said, or it could instead set up its own currency."The greater the amount of public debt an independent Scotland assumes, the greater the importance of retaining some policy flexibility and the stronger the case for introducing a new Scottish currency," he said.The Scottish government rejected his arguments, saying their economic advisers, including two Nobel prize economists, said that a sterling union was the best option for Scotland. Even with a full population share of UK debt, Scotland would still have less debt compared to GDP."An independent Scotland will be in a stronger financial position than we are at present," a spokeswoman said.ScotlandAlex SalmondLabourEd MilibandSeverin Carrell theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds     

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13 сентября 2013, 03:48

Clean Energy Damaging Europe’s Competitiveness

For years Europe has been at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution, promoting and establishing global rules in this sector. There are signs however that this trend might change.The economic crisis has forced many European countries to reassess their clean energy policies, heavily reliant on substantial, and often irrational subsidies, that have started to severely bite into the seriously strained European budgets. So far, Spain, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have decided to retroactively tax renewable energy operators.It is widely…Read more...

11 сентября 2013, 21:19

Meanwhile, This Is What Putin Is Doing...

For the last few days we have been bombarded with words that appear 'peaceful' and problem-solving from Russia with love. Of course, 'no change' benefits mother Russia the most as his government's gas revenues (and political power) will continue to flow from Europe (a quarter of Russian government income comes from being Europe's gas supplier). So it will come as no surprise that amid the Mother Theresa acts, The Telegraph reports that Putin is readying delivery of more S-300 air-defense missile systems to Iran and will continue to discuss "working together in the nuclear energy spehere." Combine that with experts' views that Russia's plan to dismantle Syria's stockpiles of mustard gas, sarin, VX nerve agents is a long shot; initially "sounding attractive, but very quickly, operational problems could derail obtaining international control, much less actually destroying the arsenal." It would appear, despite all the chatter, that Putin is increasing his power-base in the region. Iran-Aid (via The Telegraph), President Hassan Rouhani is set to meet Putin on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation held in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, in the newly-elected centrist cleric's first meeting with a major world leader. The Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday that Putin will offer to supply Iran S-300 air defence missile systems as well as build a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear plant. The S-300 offer would be a particularly contentious development given it would essentially revive a contract for similar missile systems that Russia cancelled in 2010 after heavy Israeli and US pressure. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant that Putin and Rowhani were expected to discuss "working together in the nuclear energy sphere" and "questions of military technical cooperation" at the summit in Bishkek.  Chemical Weapons Decomissioning ain't gonna happen (via WSJ). Of course, the practicalities of dismantling and storing these weapons is hugely problematic. Carrying out Russia's plan to dismantle Syria's stockpiles of mustard gas and sarin and VX nerve agents is viewed as a long shot by many diplomats, top experts and current and former U.S. officials. "The Russian proposal sounds attractive, but very quickly, operational problems could derail obtaining international control, much less actually destroying the arsenal," said Amy Smithson, an expert on chemical weapons at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C. ... Syria's chemical-weapons arsenal has been developed and stored in at least eight sites across the Arab country. Many of the missiles and artillery pieces are believed to have been moved since civil war broke out in 2011, according to current and former U.S. officials. ... A U.S. official cast doubt about how any deal to strip Mr. Assad of his weapons could be verified. "That is a problem," the official said. "How verifiable does it need to be? Getting 50% or 60% of the chemical weapons is not good enough. We would have to get 90% to 95%." ... Mr. Assad's arsenal is significantly larger than Col. Gadhafi's was. And many experts don't believe the Syrian leader intends to give up his weapons, in part, because his government is still at war. "The Libyans basically decided to show us everything," said Ms. DeSutter. "I can't believe this will be the case with the Syrians."  and by way of background - why Putin will defend this side of the game... (via Golem XIV's blog), European Energy dependence Europe needs gas. Russia has it. Only Norway provides more gas to Europe (35% versus 34%). As Europe continues to rely more heavily on gas, as it will especially if Germany does phase out its nuclear reactors, then Russia will, unless something changes, become the number one supplier. Europe also depends on Russia for 27% of its oil imports, 24% of its coal imports, 30% of its Uranium imports and Russia is the third largest supplier of Europe’s electricity imports. (Figures are from Congressional Report – Europe’s Energy Security. Many thanks to reader Pamela Law for bringing it to my attention.) It is clear, Europe is dependent on Russia to keep the lights on. That dependence and power is not, however, spread evenly.  To understand who is dependent we need to see who imports how much and who from. Using figures from 2012, Germany is the largest gas importer in Europe at 3065 billion cubic feet annually. Next is Italy with 2359 billion, then Britain with 1734, France with 1600 , then Spain with 1225 and Belgium with 1084 (half of which it uses itself and half it re-exports).  But this only gives you a partial picture because not all this gas comes from Russia. The chart below while a little confusing does give a clear general picture of who is dependent on Russia.  The lighter the colour the less reliant the country is upon Russia. The darker the colour therefore, the more power Russia has, potentially. Spain, for example, though reliant on gas imports does not get its gas from Russia. Neither does Britain (at least not directly). While Austria, though its imports are small in volume, depends very heavily on Russia. In fact the whole central block of Europe, from Greece and Cyprus in the South up to Germany and Belgium in the North depend on Russia. Austria is the most dependent of the ‘core’ nations. Austria’s weakness and Russia’s power were recently made very clear. Until recently Austria was going to be the European terminus of the newest Russian gas pipeline project – the Southstream. Southstream which is now under construction will run under the Black Sea into Bulgaria, pumping 2.2 Trillion Cubic feet of gas per year. To be the European terminus would have brought money and certain power to Austria. However, when the Russian gas giant, Gazprom’s purchase of a 50% stake in a the Central European Gas Hub (CEGH), which is in Austria, was blocked by the European Commission, Russia changed the terminus from Austria to Italy. Italy has traditionally had closer relations with Russia on energy. Divide and rule. So much for the vulnerable.What about the powerful? Germany  is Europe’s paymaster and arguably its most powerful nation. However Germany also relies on Russia for 35% of its gas imports and is Russia’s largest client. Russia has considerable power over Europe and has every reason to make sure it stays that way. No surprise therefore, that  Russia has not been idle when it comes to protecting its share of the European Natural Gas Market. Moscow, including the state controlled company Gazprom, has attempted to stymie, European-backed alternatives to pipelines it controls by proposing competing pipeline projects and attempting to co-opt European companies by offering them stakes in those and other projects. It’s worth noting that Russia gets not only political power but also massive income from this arrangement. In 2011 Gas exports generated at least half of all Russian government revenue and half of that came from exports to Europe. Thus a full quarter of all Russia’s government income comes from being Europe’s gas supplier. European nations have responded to this situation in different ways.  Spain is lucky, it already imports most of its gas by pipeline from Algeria, so Russia has little leverage over Spain from gas sales at least. You might have thought Spain would join the US coalition against Syria and Russia. But then again Spain has little in the way of an armed force, so maybe not. Italy has a pipeline from Libya but hopes to remain the terminus for Russia’s South Stream pipeline. So no surprise Italy didn’t join the ‘bomb Syria’ chorus. Italy’s main energy concern recently has been to make sure that in a post Gaddafi Libya, Italy is still a preferred customer. The UK has chosen to invest in LNG (Liquified Natuiral Gas as opposed to merely CNG, Compressed Natural Gas  - the Russian pipeline variety). Britain is Europe’s leading importer of LNG, which you would have thought, might have given it considerable freedom from Russia. Must have been a surprise all round that GB didn’t join the USA. France relies on Russian gas nearly as much as Italy does. However, unlike Italy, France has also been building LNG capacity like Britain. The largest supplier of LNG to Europe is Qatar. For its part Germany has decided to get closer to Russia rather than diversity its supply. Germany supported the building of the Nord Stream pipeline  which connects Germany directly to Russia via a pipeline under the Baltic. This direct connection means Germany is reliant on no third party’s relations with Russia. But those in Europe downstream do rely on Germany. This can only add to Germany’s pre-eminence. Putting this together it seems clear to me we have most of Europe already considerably captured by their energy dependence upon Russia. Germany is not going to anger Russia because of Nord Stream and neither is Italy, because of South Stream. Read more here         

08 сентября 2013, 01:27

Clean Energy Finally Has The Major Catalyst In Production

By Stone Fox Capital:In the past, Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) was a stock to be bearish on as the company developed America s Natural Gas Highway while the trucks needed to fill up at those fueling stations weren't in production yet. Conversely, the company wasn't able to open numerous LNG fueling stations and the quarterly numbers for the firm were not overly impressive. The concept was something that investors could get behind, but investing is about finding ones that make financial sense and this was one didn't at the start.The company is the leading provider of natural gas fuel for transportation in North America. It builds and operates compressed natural gas (CNG) and LNG fueling stationsThough Clean Energy has continuously made progress on the conversion of the nations transportation system to CNG or LNG fuels, the market remains focused on the regional haul trucking system that has been reliant Complete Story »

07 сентября 2013, 02:21

Further Market Erosion Possible for US Coal-Fired Power Hit Hard by Natural Gas

As the largest power grid in North America, the Eastern Interconnection encompasses 39 U.S. states, eight Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia. Some 84 percent of all U.S. coal-fired capacity falls within its jurisdiction. Given the Eastern Interconnection's lion-sized role in hosting the flow of coal-fired electrons in the United States, the findings of a recent report by the consultancy ICF International are unlikely to bring much comfort to the nation's faltering coal industry. The report, commissioned by the Eastern Interconnection States' Planning Council (EISPC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), finds few challenges to natural gas's current price advantage within current market or regulatory conditions. Natural gas has increased its share of the U.S. power mix dramatically over the past two decades, taking a steadily larger toll on coal's own share as U.S. energy consumption flatlined during the past six years. Coal dropped from 46 percent of the power mix in 2007 to 35 percent in 2012, according to data from the Energy Information Association (EIA). In the Eastern Interconnection region, home to some of North America's most coal-reliant jurisdictions, the drop is even more dramatic -- down from its average of 60 percent over the last 30 years, coal accounts for about 41 percent of all electricity generation today. Low natural gas prices remain the single largest barrier to new coal-fired generation, with existing clean-air standards posing a threat to older, smaller units already threatened by cheap energy prices. The prospect of a carbon tax or similar market-based mechanism "remains a wild card for existing plants," the report notes. "Any requirement to add [carbon capture and storage technology or CCS] to existing plants can result in significant retirements, especially since the technology remains expensive and is not yet fully commercialized," it notes. One possible silver lining in coal's otherwise bleak landscape has been a gradual rise in gas prices over the past year, which has allowed coal to regain some of its lost dispatch. The report also notes recent heavy federal investment made into research and development of CCS technology that may help bring down costs and cushion the effects of future climate regulation on more modern coal-fired capacity. "At the current state of development of CCS, the incremental cost of adding the technology to new power plants makes coal less economically competitive than gas in most cases," said Ananth Chikkatur, a manager at ICF. "Our analysis looked at only existing technologies -- as prices come down over time, the picture could change." A market mechanism mandating a more diverse mix of fuels could benefit coal in regions where gas is currently dominant, but such a mechanism is unlikely in the current regulatory environment, Chikkatur said. "If power markets were to say that, for purposes of security or to hedge against price volatility in natural gas, you have to have a percentage of coal in the mix, then that would benefit the industry. But at the moment, no such mechanism exists," he said. Further environmental regulation, such as a carbon tax, would likely disadvantage coal more, given its large carbon footprint relative to other fossil fuels, he said. Clinging to a smaller slice of the pie Despite coal's decline in recent years, the ICF report notes that more modern plants, particularly those equipped with sulfur dioxide "scrubbers," will likely remain online for the foreseeable future. Stable gas prices and environmental retrofits have allowed some coal-producing regions, like the Illinois Basin, to stage a comeback. While new thermal generating units have primarily leaned toward natural gas, many of the coal-fired power plants built over the last 10 years will be around for decades more to come. This existing base of plants, which operate more efficiently than their predecessors, could continue to support a domestic, if reduced, coal extraction industry for some time. Already, though, older sections of the coal power plant fleet are looking toward closure. The average age of coal plants in the Eastern Interconnection's top five coal-burning states -- Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which collectively consume a third of the region's coal -- will be half a century as of 2015. Utilities and other power generation owners have announced planned cuts in coal-fired generation of up to 47 gigawatts in 2012 and beyond, according to the report. Internal projections by the ICF indicate that nearly 85 percent of total retired coal capacity will be within three regional transmission operators -- the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, PJM Interconnection and SERC -- all of which fall within the Eastern Interconnection. The EISPC, which commissioned the ICF's report, was established by the Department of Energy using stimulus funding to coordinate government officials operating in the Eastern Interconnection. It was established to facilitate regional interconnection planning and provide informational resources to regional grid operators. Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter Republished from GreenWire with permission. GreenWire covers the energy and environmental policy news. Click here for a free trial Copyright E&E Publishing      

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27 апреля 2013, 17:33

GOP Faces Woes In Key States

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Republicans are struggling to recruit strong U.S. Senate candidates in states where the party has the best chances to reclaim the majority in Washington. It's a potentially troubling sign that the GOP's post-2012 soul-searching could spill over into next year's congressional elections. The vote is more than 18 months away, so it's early. But candidate recruitment efforts are well underway, and thus far Republicans have been unable to field a top-tier candidate in Iowa or Michigan. In those two Mideast swing states, the GOP hopes to make a play for seats left open by the retirement of veteran Democrats. The GOP is facing the prospect of contentious and expensive primaries in Georgia and perhaps West Virginia, Republican-leaning states where incumbents, one from each party, are not running again. President Barack Obama is not on the ballot, so Republicans may have their best chance in years to try to retake the Senate. Changing the balance of power in the Senate would put a major crimp on Obama's efforts to enact his agenda and shape his legacy in the final two years of his presidency. Republicans need to gain six seats to gain control of the Senate. Democrats will be defending 21 seats to Republicans' 14, meaning the GOP has more opportunities to try to win on Democratic turf. Only recently, Republicans were reveling in the fact that several veteran Democrats were retiring in states where the GOP had not had a chance to win in decades. Last week, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana became the latest to announce his retirement in a state that typically tilts Republican. But so far there's been a combination of no-thank-you's from prospective Republican candidates in Iowa, slow movement among others in Michigan and lack of consensus elsewhere over a single contender. All that has complicated the early goings of what historically would be the GOP's moment to strike. In the sixth year of a presidency, the party out of power in the White House usually wins congressional seats. Democrats, despite this historical disadvantage, are fighting to reclaim the majority in the U.S. House, where control will be decided by a couple of dozen swing states. After embarrassing losses in GOP-leaning Indiana and Missouri last year, the new Republican Senate campaign leadership is responding by wading deep into the early stages of the 2014 races. Strategists are conducting exhaustive research on would-be candidates, making hard pitches for those they prefer and discouraging those they don't, to the point of advertising against them. The hope is to limit the number of divisive primaries that only stand to remind voters of their reservations about Republicans. "It's more about trying to get consensus and avoid a primary that would reopen those wounds, rather than the party struggling to find candidates," said Greg Strimple, a pollster who and consultant to several 2012 Republican Senate campaigns. The party's top national Senate campaign strategists are so concerned about squandering potential opportunities by failing to persuade popular Republicans to run in critical states that they were in Iowa last week to survey the landscape. The visit came after top Senate prospects U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, a prolific fundraiser, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a rising star, decided against running despite aggressive lobbying by the National Republican Senate Committee. The committee's senior spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin, and its political director, Ward Baker, met privately Wednesday with state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and state Sen. Joni Ernst, who have expressed interest. They invited Mark Jacobs, the former CEO of Reliant Energy, to breakfast Thursday. They also tried again, and in vain, it turns out, to persuade Terry Branstad, Iowa's longest-serving governor, to run for Senate instead of seeking another term as governor. Despite all that, the Washington delegation shrugged off the recruitment troubles. "It's more important to take the time to get it right than it is to rush and get it wrong," McLaughlin said. McLaughlin and others have lamented the national party's decision not to intervene in the candidate selection last year, when Republicans lost races viewed as winnable in Indiana, Missouri and elsewhere. The mission in Iowa for 2014 is to beat Democrat Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman trying to succeed retiring six-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Braley is the party's consensus prospect. He's won Harkin's endorsement and already has raised more than $1 million for his campaign. Democrats are similarly set in Michigan, where Democrat Carl Levin is leaving the Senate after six terms. The Democratic field has been all but cleared for three-term Rep. Gary Peters, who already has more than $800,000 toward his campaign. Last week, Debbie Dingell, wife of Michigan Rep. John Dingell, opted not to run for the Senate, after some of her key donors made clear they were for Peters. But, as in Iowa, Republicans have faced recruitment challenges in Michigan. The GOP's Senate campaign committee is planning a visit soon to Michigan and hopes to coax U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers into the race. There's a belief in GOP circles in Washington and in Michigan that the seven-term Rogers, a former FBI agent who's chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, would be a stronger candidate than two-term Rep. Justin Amash, a tea party favroite with little money in his campaign account. National Republican officials also are working to head off primaries in several states and are taking sides when they can't. That includes in West Virginia, which Republican president nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012 and where six-term Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller is retiring. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito quickly announced her candidacy and became a favorite of the GOP establishment. Some conservatives complained about her votes for financial industry bailouts, and former state Sen. Patrick McGeehan has announced plans to challenge her. National Republican Senate Committee officials said they would campaign and run ads against McGeehan if he appeared to be a threat. In Georgia, several Republican candidates are considering trying to succeed the retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. But so far, the two who have entered the race are arch conservative House members Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. National Republicans are treading carefully to avoid enraging the conservative base in Georgia. But the primary field could eventually include up to a half-dozen people. At the local level, some Republicans are worried the delay is costing precious organizing and fundraising time. "Every day Iowa Republicans spend talking about potential candidate deliberations ... is a day lost," said Matt Strawn, a former Iowa Republican Party chairman. But others say that the meddling from Washington stifles the voices of voters, who they say ought to be in charge of shaping the party's future, even if the primary is loud and divisive. "It's a truer reflection of where the Republican Party needs to go," said Iowa Republican Doug Gross, a veteran adviser to Branstad.

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25 марта 2013, 17:51

Think Tank: Cyprus 'Saved'; But At What Cost?

Authored by Raoul Ruparel, originally posted at Open Europe blog, The most positive aspect of last night’s deal was that a deal was reached at all, and that some steps have been taken to counter moral hazard. However, overall, this is a bad deal for Cyprus and the Cypriot population. Cypriot GDP is likely to collapse in the wake of the deal with the possible capital controls hampering the functioning of the economy. The large loan from the eurozone will push debt up to unsustainable levels while the austerity accompanying it (along with the bank restructuring plan) will increase unemployment and cause social tension. There is a strong chance Cyprus could become a zombie economy – reliant on eurozone and central bank funding, with little hope of economic growth. Meanwhile, the country will remain at the edge of the single currency as tensions increase between members with Germany, the ECB and the IMF now looking intent on a more radical approach to the crisis. The eurozone took this one down to the wire. But late last night, after a week of intense back and forth negotiations, a deal was reached on the Cypriot bailout. Below we lay out the key points of the deal (the ones that are known, there are plenty of grey areas remaining) and our key reactions to the deal. Key points of the deal: Laiki bank will be fully resolved – it will be split into a good bank and bad bank. The good bank will merge with the Bank of Cyprus (which will also take on Laiki’s circa €8bn Emergency Liquidity Assistance – a last-resort funding system outside the usual ECB operations). The bad bank will be wound down over time with all uninsured depositors (over €100,000) taking significant losses (no percentage yet but some could lose all their money above the threshold). The Bank of Cyprus will be recapitalised using a debt to equity swap and the transfer of assets from Laiki. Uninsured depositors will take large hits in this process – again no percentage but reports suggest up to 40%. These actions will be taken using the new bank restructuring plan passed in the Cypriot Parliament on Friday. Crucially, no further vote will be needed in the Cypriot parliament since there is no direct deposit levy. The banks will not receive any of the €10bn bailout money, the entire recapitalisation will be done using the tools outlined above. Not clear when the banks will reopen but significant capital controls are likely to be in place, creating a risk of Cypriot euros being “localised”. Further tax increases may be included in the detailed plan to be drawn up between the two sides. What does this deal mean for Europe? 1. Europe once again sidestepped democratic procedure to secure a deal: By removing the deposit levy and forcing losses on depositors through the bank restructuring the eurozone was able to dodge a tricky second vote in the Cypriot Parliament. Although the bank restructuring proposals were approved in the Parliament on Friday, it is not clear that all Cypriot MPs were fully aware of how far the restructuring tools could be pushed. However, it’s likely that the final deal that will actually activate the bailout loan – the Memorandum of Understanding – will need approval of the Cypriot Parliament, so there may be another vote yet to come. Parliamentary approval is not guaranteed but voting it down would again be close to a vote to leave the euro.   2. A change in tack from Germany and the ECB: Germany has made it clear that it is no longer willing to foot the bill for extensive bailouts without the recipient country taking a share of the burden and making some radical changes. The ECB, by setting an ultimatum, has signalled that it is willing to use the significant leverage and control which it has to force what it sees as the desirable outcome, meaning it is becoming an increasingly political actor (which its mandate does not allow). In combination with the sense of unfairness that has been built on all sides, this could serve to entrench the North-South standoff in the Eurozone, making future talks trickier.   3. Will the Troika break up? Reports overnight and throughout the week have shown that this relationship has become increasingly strained, particularly between the IMF and the European Commission. Some strains were visible also over the Greek debt sustainability analysis, but looks to be far worse this time around. With Germany and the northern countries insistent on the IMF’s continued involvement there could be further conflict. Any future bailout deals will likely remain strained because of this.   What does this deal mean for Cyprus? 1. Despite avoiding taxing small depositors, political upheaval looks likely: Although the most controversial aspect of the original plan was dropped there will likely be some political fallout. Ultimately, the government in Cyprus has been shown up by the crisis, with both the Finance Minister and President reportedly threatening to resign at various stages. Furthermore, the bank restructuring will likely cause significant unemployment.   2. The standard of living and the wider economy could collapse: Cyprus’ position as a financial centre could be over. There are few other alternatives for growth. One option that remains is tourism, but with a significantly overvalued currency it is not clear to what extent Cyprus can take advantage of this. The capital controls will severely hamper liquidity in the economy, while it will be very difficult for the small island to trade with the rest of the world (it is far from self-sufficient). The collapse in GDP could be anywhere between 5% and 10% this year, depending on how long capital controls are imposed, while the resulting collapse in tax revenue could make the government’s position worse. There is a strong chance Cyprus could become a zombie economy – reliant on eurozone and ECB funding to function, possibly requiring further bailouts.   3. The capital controls will keep Cyprus teetering at the edge of the euro: As we noted over the weekend, these controls are severe and could de facto lead to Cyprus being seen as out of the euro. Ultimately, money is no longer fungible between Cyprus and the rest of the Eurozone and, at this point in time, it’s hard to argue that a euro in Cyprus is worth the same as a euro elsewhere. The real problem though may not be imposing the controls but removing them – Iceland still has capital controls in place, five years after it installed them (despite having the advantage of a devalued currency).   4. Is Cypriot debt sustainable? A key goal throughout these negotiations has been to make Cypriot debt sustainable (unlike under the Greek bailouts). We do not believe this has been achieved due to the likely collapse in GDP noted above. A €10bn bailout will push Cypriot debt to GDP to 140% - if Cypriot GDP falls by just 5% this year, that rises to 148%.   What is the geopolitical fallout of this deal? There is yet to be a clear reaction from Russia but Russian depositors are likely to be hit hard by this deal. Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has suggested today that an extension of the €2.5bn loan given to Cyprus is not guaranteed – something which the eurozone indicated was necessary last night. Separately, Russia remains the key energy supplier for most of the EU and has already issued veiled threats around this deal – such as a withdrawal of money from the EU and a switch-away from euro currency reserves.   Central banks once again dodge losses: Overnight it became clear that the ECB and IMF were insistent that the ELA must be moved from Laiki bank to the Bank of Cyprus as part of the deal. The main reason for this must be to avoid the Cypriot Central Bank taking losses on the ELA, which would have been counterproductive as it would have to have been recapped by the Cypriot government, a cost which would need to be added to the bailout bill. This episode does highlight that the assets pledged as collateral at the ELA are basically worthless and that avoiding central bank losses will always be a key objective in any bailout negotiations. Worryingly, once the banks reopen (capital controls notwithstanding) money will likely flow out, leading to an increase in ELA and reliance on central bank funding.   Are there any positives from this deal? The main positive is that a deal was finally reached, the alternative would likely have been messy for the eurozone and the EU. There is some reduction in moral hazard, since those who invested in the large undercapitalised banks are footing the bill – as opposed to all depositors. Some trust in terms of the deposit guarantee below €100,000 may have been restored. Senior bank bondholders in Laiki and possibly Bank of Cyprus will be bailed in (taking losses) – although this may not raise much cash, it is the correct order in which to restructure the banks. These small points will provide little comfort as the Cypriot population endures the harsh reality of rising unemployment, fiscal consolidation, private sector stagnation and internal devaluation, all while under stringent capital controls.  

23 марта 2013, 01:51

Poster Contest Celebrating Fossil Fuels Triggers Heated Energy Debate In Utah

A controversial, state-sponsored pro-fossil fuels Earth Day poster contest for children has triggered a heated and divisive debate about Utah's reliance on non-renewable energy resources. The debate has revealed a much more complicated struggle -- fueled by politics, big business, and a concern for the environment -- that is now being waged to determine the future of Utah's energy resources and environmental health. Organized by Utah's Division of Oil, Gas and Mining and sponsored by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the 2013 Earth Day poster contest's theme was "Where would WE be without oil, gas and mining?" The contest was open to Utah students in grades K-6, and according to the informational pamphlet provided to principals and teachers, the first objective of the competition was to "improve students’ and the public’s awareness of the important role that oil, gas, and mining play in our everyday lives." The deadline was March 20. (Story continues below)Credit: Facebook/Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Jim Springer, the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's Public Information Officer, told The Huffington Post that this was the second year the contest had been held. Informational pamphlets for the contest were given out to all Utah schools, but it was then up to the discretion of the schools themselves as to whether or not they would participate, he said. When asked if he thought the poster contest was in any way problematic, Springer said teaching children about fossil fuels is important because they're an indispensable part of modern life. "Fossil fuels are not going to go away anytime soon. Alternative forms of energy are great and continue to be explored, but they're not going to be able to meet our [global] demand in the future," he said. "Even around Earth Day, we need to think about the responsible development of oil, natural gas [and other fossil fuels]. Without them, we don't have the economy, we don't have jobs, we don't have modern society." While the poster contest has apparently remained under the radar since its inception, over the last few weeks, a wave of indignation has been swelling as parents, activists and concerned citizens alike have voiced their shock and outrage at the competition's premise. Over the weekend, a parent of an elementary school student in Farmington, Utah, wrote a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune expressing his exasperation. "I’m furious," wrote Colby Poulson, whose son was provided materials for the contest by his teachers. "Why is the state backing an "Earth Day" contest that celebrates fossil fuels, while completely ignoring the adverse effects that their use and extraction can too often have on our air quality, water quality, public lands and the other organisms we share the world with?" After Poulson's letter was published, a movement against the poster competition began to rally. And now, pushing back against the original contest, the grassroots environmental advocacy group Utah Moms for Clean Air has organized an alternative competition of its own. Also open to students in grades K-6, the counter-contest's theme is "Explore the Economic, Environmental and Health Costs of Fossil Fuels on Utah." The deadline for the contest is April 19. "I was horrified and dumbfounded when I heard about the [Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's] contest," Cherise Udell, the group's founder, told The Huffington Post over the phone on Thursday. "So I took my outrage and turned it into a Jon Stewart-style skewering." "Utah is a laughing stock of the nation, if not the world, for the absurdity of promoting a fossil fuel contest for Earth Day," she continued. "We need to show the world that not everyone in Utah is on board with this. We're getting back some of our dignity, dignity for our state." In a follow-up conversation with Udell on Friday, she said that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who endorsed the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's poster contest last year, had refused to endorse the Utah Moms' competition. "It's a blatant bias that's totally inappropriate," she said, adding that she feels let down by the state's leadership. The poster contest has cast a spotlight on a pressing and continuing debate about energy resources in Utah -- a state that is heavily reliant on nonrenewable fossil fuels and that some environmental activists say is in the pocket of Big Coal and the fossil fuel industry. "It's certainly safe to say that Utah is the most fossil fuel-dependent state in the nation," Matt Pacenza, Policy Director of HEAL Utah, an environmental organization that has for years pushed back against the state's nuclear energy program and that advocates for sustainable energy production and use, told HuffPost. "There is almost no renewable electricity made in Utah that's used in Utah." Coal, petroleum and natural gas account for 98 percent of Utah’s energy consumption, according to a 2011 report about Utah's energy issues published in the Hinckley Journal of Politics. Coal itself, described as a "backbone" of Utah's economy, supplies almost half of the energy consumed in the state. Utah's dependence on fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, has been a central factor in the state's worsening pollution problem. As the New York Times reported in February, air pollution in and around the state's capital has become so bad in the last few months that it has "prompted warnings from local doctors, spawned protests at the State Capitol and [has] led to a variety of legislative proposals in the hopes of confronting the problem before it gets worse." Fracking for natural gas (an industry that is fast becoming a "key sector Utah’s economy, valued at over 2.6 billion dollars in 2008") is also potentially a problem for the state, said author Caroline Gleich in her Hinckley Journal report. "[T]he state is failing its residents, present and future," she wrote. "This failure is from a lack of preparation, planning, and oversight for future energy production and consumption, and overall ignorance of adverse environmental impacts from Utah’s current energy portfolio." Environmentalists say that one of the most distressing things about the current energy situation in Utah is that the state actually has a huge potential for producing renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. In fact, in a 2010 study commissioned by HEAL Utah, it was found that "careful development of Utah’s abundant renewable energy resources can provide a technically sound, economically feasible, and reliable long-term strategy to meet Utah’s growing energy needs through the middle of this century." The state's wind, solar, and geothermal resources could fulfill almost 100 percent of Utah's energy needs, the study concluded. Terry Marasco of the Utah Clean Air Alliance said that, ultimately, the state-sponsored poster contest has revealed a deep-rooted imbalance in Utah -- an imbalance that has pitted the people who are pro-renewables and those who are pro-fossils against one another, rather than promoting dialogue and cooperation. "Utah has such a huge reserve of gas, shale, coal, tar sand, etc. and it's become a 'let's burn, let's get the income' kind of state. [The state's leadership] is careful not to tread on the toes of the fossil industries -- huge amounts of income come from that," Marasco, who's also a member of Utah Moms for Clean Air, told HuffPost. "The thing is, it's not that we want [fossil fuel production] to stop altogether, it's more a question of how to make it cleaner and to mitigate it so that health risks and costs are reduced dramatically." As for the poster contest, which Marasco called "insidious," he said the problem was not just that the competition was aimed at children who are "very vulnerable" and whose "belief systems are just beginning," but that it didn't provide a balanced perspective. "It implants in children the idea that this stuff is okay. It doesn't include the down side of these things -- like, my grandmother might die two years sooner, or I might get asthma. That's the balance that's missing in Utah," he said. "We need to show the balance and what the real cost [of fossil fuels] is and then kids can make their own decisions."

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23 марта 2013, 01:33

Wholesale gas prices soar in Britain after pipeline is forced to close

No 10 plays down fears over energy stocks after a pump failure cuts off gas supply from BelgiumBritish wholesale gas prices hit a record high on Friday after the failure of a vital import pipeline demonstrated the vulnerability of the nation's energy supply to external shocks.The breakdown and price rise followed the revelation that Britain's gas stores could run out in a few weeks if expensive overseas supplies are not piped in quickly amid unexpected demand due to unseasonal weather. Downing Street intervened to reassure households; the prime minister's spokesman expressed confidence supplies were not running out.Normally Britain can store up to 15 days' gas supply, but that has run down to a few days amid freezing weather. While that is not an immediate problem because Britain is constantly importing gas and is also producing some gas from the North Sea, fears of a fuel crunch were heightened on Friday morning when a pump failure caused the temporary shutdown of the UK-Belgium pipeline. The gas was flowing again by noon but not before the British wholesale gas price soared by more than 50% to 150p a therm, with the price stabilising to about 100p when the pipeline reopened.However, the looming storage crisis and the pipeline incident raised fears that Britain was becoming over-reliant on a single source of fuel for heating and electricity. It came on the heels of warnings this week by the chief of one of the big six energy suppliers that there could be blackouts within three years unless there is drastic government action.David Cameron's spokesman said the prime minister was "absolutely confident" that gas supplies were sufficient. "The gas market is how we source our supplies and that market continues to function well. The prime minister's key concern is that gas supplies continue. It is absolutely clear that supplies are not running out."The owner of the terminal where the pipeline failure occurred acknowledged the seriousness of the technical glitch. Sean Waring, managing director of Interconnector Ltd, said: "We understand the seriousness of a disruption like this in the current tight energy markets. To date, Interconnector has demonstrated a high level of reliability, but operational upsets do occur from time to time in a complex process plant. Our immediate response enabled us to restore flow to full capacity quickly."The incident demonstrated how dependent Britain is on imports of gas, now that North Sea reserves are depleting, and expensive supplies must be piped in from sources such as Norway and Russia.It also raised questions over the government's strategy of hugely increasing the share of electricity generation that comes from gas. Chancellor George Osborne has championed a new "dash for gas" that could see the fuel account for more than two-thirds of Britain's supplies.Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, said: "This is a glimpse of a miserable and worrying UK energy future and shows the folly of depending on gas for so much of our electricity generation. Increases in the wholesale gas price are the main reason that our energy bills have rocketed in recent years and this latest concern shows Osborne's judgment in backing gas to provide the bulk of our power for the next generation is seriously flawed."The gas market ructions came as RES, a wind generation company, forecast that about 15% of electricity this weekend would be supplied from wind, compared with about 10% from renewables on average last year.David Handley, chief economist at RES, told the Guardian: "With gas supplies continuing to dwindle and expensive imports spluttering through pipelines, it will be the nation's wind that helps to bridge the gap."The UK can normally store up to 15 days' gas supply, which many regard as an insufficient margin. In recent weeks, the unseasonable March freeze has caused storage to run down dramatically, to as little as a few days if more gas was not piped in from abroad or diverted from the North Sea. Any problems with the technology and pipelines used for the imports are thus magnified, as was dramatically demonstrated when traders pushed the price of gas to record levels on news of the Interconnector failure.The gas spike also bolstered proponents of fracking, the controversial method of blasting apart dense rocks at high pressure to retrieve natural gas. Fracking has suffered several setbacks in the UK: operations at the only company that has yet fracked for gas, Cuadrilla, are currently stalled, and the government admits it could be more than a decade before fracking produces much gas supply.However, Ken Cronin, of the UK Onshore Operators group, said: "Consumers, whether they are industrial companies or home owners, have to have the assurance that constant light, heat and reserves of energy are available . Onshore oil and gas will contribute to a more secure and competitively priced energy supply for the UK."Green campaigners said more renewable energy was a better long term answer. Doug Parr Chief Scientist at Greenpeace said: "As shortages drive up prices for consumers, George Osborne must be the only man in Britain who thinks the answer is a gamble on gas power. Fracking won't lower prices and significant production is more than a decade away. North Sea gas production may be falling, but offshore wind is already helping to fill the gap. The government must act to stabilise bills, secure supplies and create jobs by supporting clean, renewable technologies like offshore wind and a European super grid."GasCommoditiesGasEnergyFossil fuelsWind powerRenewable energyEnergy industryFiona HarveyJosephine Mouldsguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

17 марта 2013, 12:29

Electricity As Currency? 10 Reasons It Could Work

Energy-backed currency conceptSourceActivist Post Remember the good old days when gasoline only cost $1.50/gallon way back in the ancient times of 2000? Why does it cost more than double that today ($3.71)? A gallon of gas is still a gallon of gas, so it seems obvious that the dollar has lost value. This rapid devaluation of the U.S. dollar makes it an unstable medium of exchange and certainly not a good store of value -- two aspects considered to be the main functions of money. This has led many to examine the flaws of the current monetary system and search for possible alternatives. Some have suggested that returning to the Gold Standard (pegging the dollar to gold) will help control the fraudulent expansion of the money supply and protect the value of the currency. Others say eliminating the interest attached to each dollar created will get rid of scarcity and provide abundance. Each of these ideas has merit since they correct some of what's broken, yet they both also have flaws which make them difficult to fully support. One interesting alternative that has been proposed is using an energy-backed currency. The idea is not new. Thomas Edison envisioned an "energy dollar" after seeing the value of electricity, and Henry Ford also conceptualized backing a currency by a "unit of energy" instead of gold. Motivated by the failed monetary system during the Great Depression, Ford even planned to support the idea with his own electric dams. Of course the central bankers scolded Ford's idea because it threatened their schemes.In more recent times the idea of using electricity as a currency has gained some traction. An online ebook Energy Backed Money was published in 2009 supporting the concept of backing the dollar with electricity. Kilowatt Cards were introduced as gift cards for electric power meant to be a transferable means of currency. And former NASA scientist, Michael Rivero, proposed the Lectro, a universal electricity based currency whose supply is controlled by production and use of electric power. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; Currently, Federal Reserve Notes (dollars) are not backed by anything valuable and their value is determined primarily by how much supply is in circulation. The supply of money under our current system is lent into existence as fast or as slow as the bankers or the government determines, leaving a lot of room for manipulation.Dees Illustration Significantly, all money is lent into existence with interest owed to central bankers. But this interest is money yet to be created in the system so there are never enough dollars in the system to pay off the debt accrued from the creation of the dollars themselves. This creates a false scarcity and the perpetual need to expand the money supply, which then breeds inflation. This simultaneous scarcity and inflation have a tremendously negative impact on the economy, especially for the poor. Ultimately, it's this interest on every dollar created that inherently enslaves us all to the central bankers who hadn't produced anything of value to demand our servitude. The only way to solve the inefficiencies of the current system is to use a currency that has real value, whose supply is tied to an accurate economic indicator, and doesn't need interest attached just for the sake of creating it. Electricity has measurable value in our society and since everything in our modern world runs on power, it may be the most accurate gauge of economic activity we have. An electricity-backed currency would not be nearly as complicated as our fractional reserve system. It could work something like this: electric producers could issue certificates (money) as kilowatts are produced and they would be removed from circulation once the electric bill is paid (redeeming their receipts), thus always maintaining a consistent and stable supply.Here are 10 reasons for an electricity based currency: 1. It Has Real Value: Electricity has recognizable value for every person on Earth, as opposed to gold or silver which are just pretty metals with some minor industrial uses. 2. Easily Measurable Units: A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is an absolute unit that can be measured easily and is impossible to counterfeit. The average cost of electricity in the United States has remained relatively stable (mainly due to regulations) over the last few years at around $0.13 per kilowatt hour. But we must stop thinking in terms of measuring things in dollars for this concept to become clear. This currency would represent a kWh, not a dollar amount.3. Universal Flexibility: An electric-backed currency can work just as well as a local competing currency or as a global medium of exchange. Since a kWh of power has the same value all over the world, a kWh certificate issued in Hawaii could theoretically be redeemed anywhere. 4. Supply Can't Be Manipulated: The electric money supply would naturally be tied to population growth and economic productivity because electricity is an indicator of those measures. Money (kWh notes) would be created when new electricity is produced and eliminated from the economy when electric bills are paid, maintaining a stable balance. 5. Cannot Be Monopolized: Central banking monopolies are at the heart of many economic problems around the world where entire nations are held hostage by these singular entities. Even though electricity has a universal global value, it would be impossible to monopolize the production of kilowatts. 6. Decentralized: Literally, anyone can produce electricity if they choose to do so. Although larger organizations may be necessary to handle the issuance or certification of kWh notes, independent energy producers would compete to produce electricity as efficiently as possible. 7. Spurs Innovation: The incentive to create electricity would spur incredible innovation in technology. Rivero, of the Lectro, suggests perhaps more valuable certificates could be issued for electricity derived from clean technology to incentivize its expansion. And if by some chance a source of "free energy" is discovered - fantastic - it could still be measured and used to control the supply of money. 8. Spurs Conservation: When electric power literally equals money, everyone will immediately become more conscious of their energy use. This alone would have a tremendous benefit on the environment. 9. Transportable: Pure gold and silver (commodity money) are not practical physical currencies because large quantities are not easily carried in our pockets. kWh notes would be a paper form of "receipt" or "representative" money where the note can be redeemed for something real and measurable. Fully-backed receipt money is historically viewed as the only form of honest paper money. 10. Creates wealth instead of poverty during the transition from human labor to machine labor. As we move towards more automation, we become more reliant on electricity and less on human labor. Rivero postulates "At present, human labor precedes all capital, payable in a monetary system that pays primarily for human labor. In switching to a monetary system that pays for machine based power production, we evolve towards a society where machines become the primary creators of capital, and all humans shift towards the demand side of the economy. Instead of creating poverty, the push towards automation creates more wealth." Does a currency backed by kWh's of electricity seem viable enough to be used as a possible alternative to our broken monetary system? Tell us what you think in the comments.Sources:http://www.activistpost.com/2011/08/electricity-as-universal-basis-for-new.htmlhttp://kilowattcards.com/template/index.cfmhttp://www.fredericklembeck.com/id31.htmlhttp://www.energybackedmoney.com/chapter5.htmlhttp://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/LECTRO/lectro.phpRead other articles by Activist Post Here var linkwithin_site_id = 557381; linkwithin_text='Related Articles:' Enter Your Email To Receive Our Newsletter Close var fnames = new Array();var ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';var err_style = ''; try{ err_style = mc_custom_error_style; } catch(e){ err_style = 'margin: 1em 0 0 0; padding: 1em 0.5em 0.5em 0.5em; background: FFEEEE none repeat scroll 0% 0%; font- weight: bold; float: left; z-index: 1; width: 80%; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz- initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial; color: FF0000;'; } var mce_jQuery = jQuery.noConflict(); mce_jQuery(document).ready( function($) { var options = { errorClass: 'mce_inline_error', errorElement: 'div', errorStyle: err_style, onkeyup: function(){}, onfocusout:function(){}, onblur:function(){} }; var mce_validator = mce_jQuery("#mc-embedded-subscribe-form").validate(options); options = { url: 'http://activistpost.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe/post-json? u=3ac8bebe085f73ea3503bbda3&id=b0c7fb76bd&c=?', type: 'GET', dataType: 'json', contentType: "application/json; charset=utf-8", beforeSubmit: function(){ mce_jQuery('#mce_tmp_error_msg').remove(); mce_jQuery('.datefield','#mc_embed_signup').each( function(){ var txt = 'filled'; var fields = new Array(); var i = 0; mce_jQuery(':text', this).each( function(){ fields[i] = this; i++; }); mce_jQuery(':hidden', this).each( function(){ if ( fields[0].value=='MM' && fields[1].value=='DD' && fields[2].value=='YYYY' ){ this.value = ''; } else if ( fields[0].value=='' && fields [1].value=='' && fields[2].value=='' ){ this.value = ''; } else { this.value = fields[0].value+'/'+fields[1].value+'/'+fields[2].value; } }); }); return mce_validator.form(); }, success: mce_success_cb }; mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').ajaxForm(options); }); function mce_success_cb(resp){ mce_jQuery('#mce-success-response').hide(); mce_jQuery('#mce-error-response').hide(); if (resp.result=="success"){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(resp.msg); mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').each(function(){ this.reset(); }); } else { var index = -1; var msg; try { var parts = resp.msg.split(' - ',2); if (parts[1]==undefined){ msg = resp.msg; } else { i = parseInt(parts[0]); if (i.toString() == parts[0]){ index = parts[0]; msg = parts[1]; } else { index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } } } catch(e){ index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } try{ if (index== -1){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } else { err_id = 'mce_tmp_error_msg'; html = ' '+msg+' '; var input_id = '#mc_embed_signup'; var f = mce_jQuery(input_id); if (ftypes[index]=='address'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-addr1'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else if (ftypes[index]=='date'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-month'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else { input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]; f = mce_jQuery().parent(input_id).get(0); } if (f){ mce_jQuery(f).append(html); mce_jQuery(input_id).focus(); } else { mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } catch(e){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } BE THE CHANGE! 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08 марта 2013, 17:56

Cheniere Energy (LNG) +1.3% premarket on a report the U.K.'s Centrica is in talks to secure the country's first long-term deal to import liquefied natural gas. Gas prices in the U.K. are three times higher than in the U.S., and British domestic production is dwindling, with the U.K. becoming more reliant on piped imports from Norway and sporadic shipments from Qatar.

Cheniere Energy (LNG) +1.3% premarket on a report the U.K.'s Centrica is in talks to secure the country's first long-term deal to import liquefied natural gas. Gas prices in the U.K. are three times higher than in the U.S., and British domestic production is dwindling, with the U.K. becoming more reliant on piped imports from Norway and sporadic shipments from Qatar. Post your comment!

06 марта 2013, 17:00

Let's Save Great Ideas from the Ideas Industry

What was your favorite TED talk this year? I found both Amanda Palmer's and Nilofer's spectacular. Yet, this year, TED made me wonder about Great Ideas, and our relationship with them. And I began to ask myself: even if we enjoy a great TED talk, should the rise of "TED thinking" concern us just a tiny bit? Let me be very clear: I use that phrase not to refer to the extravaganza that is TED, and though I use TED as an example, this post isn't really just about TED — but let the phrase "TED thinking" serve as a shorthand for the way we've come to think about ideas and how we share them, whether it's through an 18-minute talk, an 800-word blog post, or the latest business "best-seller." Hence, this post isn't really about TED (so please don't leave me raging comments saying "But my favorite TED talk!!!"). "TED thinking" is just a symptom: and the underlying syndrome is our broken relationship with Great Ideas. Herewith, my tiny argument: TED thinking assumes complex social problems are essentially engineering challenges, and that short nuggets of Technology, Edutainment, and Design can fix everything, fast and cheap. TED thinking's got a hard determinism to it; a kind of technological hyperrationalism. It ignores institutions and society almost completely. We've come to look at these quick, easy "solutions" as the very point of "ideas worth spreading." But this seems to me to miss the point and power of ideas entirely. Einstein's great equation is not a "solution"; it is a theory — whose explanations unravel only greater mysteries and questions. It offers no immediate easy, quick "application" in the "real world," but challenges us to reimagine what the "real world" is; it is a Great Idea because it offers us something bigger, more lasting, and more vital than a painless, disposable "solution." Yet in the eyes of TED thinking, it is of limited, perhaps little, value. One can imagine Einstein being invited to give a TED talk on E=MC2 — and the audience wondering "Well, what's the point of this? What can we use it to do? How can we make megabucks from this, next year?" When ideas are reduced to engineering challenges, the focus naturally becomes near-term utility in the so-called real world. We focus on implementation without ever stopping to question our assumptions. But Great Ideas don't resound because they have "utility" in the real world — they are Great for the very reason that they challenge us to redefine the reality of our worlds; and hence, the "utility" of our lives. So Great Ideas aren't just "solutions". Indeed, many of the Greatest Ideas are problems. Guernica doesn't offer any solutions to the problem of human suffering: it asks us to do something more vital, and more worthy: to reflect on, consider, and perhaps so gain a truer intimacy with the problem of war, violence, atrocity, and its permanence throughout history. Picasso would never have been invited to deliver a TED talk about Guernica because it offers no quick, easy, palatable solution ("Human Violence: Let's End It!!" #fivewordTEDtalks). Instead, it offers the precise opposite: a hard, unflinching, uncompromising portrait of grief. TED talks get rapturous standing ovations — but stand in front of Guernica for 18 minutes and exactly the opposite will happen: you will, and should, cry. Great Ideas, then, don't merely easily please us with their immediate utility — often, they break our hearts with desperate futility; with both the aching impossibility and sure inevitability of the trials and tests of human life. But that's precisely what makes them Great. Now: Yes, there was recently a TEDx in Pakistan — and there, beset by fundamentalism and violence, I believe it's a tremendous force for good. But that's the lowest of bars. You and I must aim higher. The idea of our age is that Great Ideas can be simplified, reduced, made into convenient, disposable nuggets of infotainment — be they 18-minute talks, 800-word blog posts, or 140 character bursts. But can they — really? Could Aristotle really deliver the resounding, history-redefining message of the Nicomachean Ethics in...eighteen minutes? Or a series of "thought leader" blog posts on LinkedIn? Or would that, in a very real sense, cheat you and I of the power and purpose, the meaning and message, the very import and impact of the larger body of work? Imagine I invented an Orgasm Machine. Press the button, and poof!! Effortless, instantaneous climax. Sounds great, right? But my machine would also rob you. Perhaps not of pleasure; but of the tension of love, the challenge of desire, and the drama of sex. TED is like an Orgasm Machine for the human mind. It gives us the climax of epiphany, without the challenge and tension of thought. And in that way, I think TED thinking cheats us. Not just the "audience," but all of us. By putting climactic epiphany before experience, education, and elevation. Sure, we can spend our lives, in this digital age, getting quick hits of epiphany from our pundit overlords. In that sense, TED thinking is like a one-night stand with ideas. One night stands can be fun, and may sometimes even lead to something more — but they're not the great, worthy love affairs that change our lives. So I worry: TED thinking encourages something like an obsession with trivia — when it's the searing, painful, transformative experience of Big Love you and I should be aiming at. The TED-ification of ideas turns them into something like superficial commodities. Yet, Big Love is never just skin-deep: it involves mind, heart, body, and soul. And so while "turning complex ideas into plain English" is surely important, critical thinking asks all of us to get not just comfortable with "communication", but uncomfortable with all the complexity, ambiguity, and nuance of a great relationship. "Ideas conferences" like TED present us with something like an ethical vacuum. There are no sources of evil in TED world — apart from a "lack." Insufficient Technology, Edutainment, and Design (or "innovation", "growth", "insights"): these are the only shortcomings the human world faces. There is no venality; no selfishness; no cruelty; no human weakness that is not readily amenable to the cure-all of Perfect Technology, Edutainment, and Design. Hence, in TED world, there are heroes, but no villains. There are self-reliant supermen; but no rent-seekers, no criminals, no charlatans, no mountebanks, no fraudsters, schemers, or...just plain humans. There is good, but no evil. No ethics is possible given this calculus. It is an anti-ethics that perfectly describes the vacuity of our age. In this sense, TED thinking is a kind of Nietzschean enterprise: one beyond good and evil, where Supermen save the world. Yet, the real world asks us to have an ethical calculus precisely because the human heart is capable of great cruelty; of evil, of indescribable atrocity. To me, this is the greatest and truest failure of today's idea industry: it is a mind without a heart. TED thinking cheats us of the better angels of our nature; of ethos itself, the highest, truest, and noblest of all the arts of human thought. Great ideas, then, demand something from us — something more than pleasure. They demand more than just our "attention" — and far more than our standing ovations. They demand not just our eyes, wallets, and hands, but our hearts, minds, and souls. They demand our heartbreak, our hurt. They demand our minds don't just "accept" — but, as critical thinkers, object, protest, question. In this way, Great Ideas demand precisely the opposite of TED thinking. They demand our lasting engagement, dedication and commitment; our time and energy; our frustration and infuriation; our suffering, passion, and pain — not merely our easy wonder and wide-eyed astonishment. They demand not just our rapture, but something more human: every bit of our fuller, truer, better selves. That is precisely how Great Ideas change us: not merely by pleasing us, but by challenging us. That is precisely how they elevate us: not merely by pandering to us, or by provoking us, but by enlightening the whole of us. That is precisely what makes Great Ideas truly worthy — not just easily palatable, and commercially profitable. Let me be clear: once again, this isn't just about TED — but the ideas industry, and how, ironically, it oft seems hell-bent on turning each and every human on planet Earth into either a breathless "pundit" or a zombified "consumer". But we are better — each and every one of us — than that. We are pilgrims on a hard journey; searching for the timeless, simple truths of lives well-lived. The pundits shout to our caravans from the bazaars, touting their potions and tonics. But it is only Great Ideas, waystones shimmering faintly in the distance, which have pointed and will point generations of voyagers before us and after us, that will guide us towards the waters of life itself. That is why they matter. "TED thinking" is shorthand for the ideas industry's obsessive, infantilizing, and creepily weird fixation with "innovation", with "growth", with "change", with "value", "utility", and "marketability." It is the epiphany industry. But epiphany should never be an industry. Why? Not just because such a casual approach to human thought reduces and simplifies, stripping and emptying us. But because it promises to spoil the timeless beauty of The Real Thing: The very idea of Great Ideas. The notion that ideas are worthy not merely because they "solve our problems" — but because they challenge us with problems to which our lives are the truest answers.

03 марта 2013, 20:34

Natalie Pace: Should Greenies Own Oil?

Flat growth. Wars ending. Military pullouts. Defense spending cuts. Fuel efficient cars. Poor oil companies. Could this be the end of their cash cow? Should Greenies own oil companies in their nest egg? One of the most exciting statistics of the last few months has been the dramatic drop of the U.S./OPEC trade deficit. Over the past few years, the OPEC deficit has been wavering between $8.5 billion and $11.5 billion per month. However, in November of 2012 the deficit dropped to $6.6 billion and by December, it was down to $3.4 billion. This is great for national security and for our budget, and it helps our GDP growth. (Imports are a subtraction in GDP growth.) This trend is not so astonishing when you realize that oil and gas are two major expenses of war, and that we have to source this fuel close to the conflict -- from OPEC countries -- when we fight wars on foreign soil. With the end of the Iraq War, on December 15, 2011, and the draw down of the War in Afghanistan, petroleum imports are at the lowest they have been in 16 years. And domestic oil production is up a staggering 29% over 2008 (President Bush's last year in office). We are definitely headed in the right direction for energy independence. However, when you look at the map below, it becomes abundantly clear why more work most be done now to further reduce our reliance on all petroleum products. Bike Power With 70% of the oil reserves located in OPEC countries, the future of America, on every front -- security, economics and freedom -- depends upon finding alternative fuels to power our lives, our economy and our defense. Bike power! Move closer to work. Drive an electric car and power it up with solar panels. That is why, as much as we like to blame the oil companies for messing up our world, a greener future lies in the hands of the consumer, more than the oil company. As we choose greener ways to get around, companies will bend over backwards to develop the products and services to get us there. Oil Companies: The Evil Empire? Looking at the chart below, you'll see that our largest oil company -- Exxon Mobil -- makes up a very small part of the world's oil production. Three percent. In the larger scheme of things, Exxon looks more like a Jedi Knight, fighting to have a say, than the Evil Empire that controls everyone. It's hard to love oil, particularly after a devastating oil spill. However, as long as that's what our gas guzzlers drink, it's important to have a steady flow. I'd rather see my neighbors fueling up with Exxon Mobil than Saudi Aramco. You know me as a LOHAS* and I cannot deny how happy I'll be when I can fly a solar plane to Europe. (If it's good enough for the solar station, surely we can find a way to fuel our planetary aircraft.) And I'm still dancing on the ceiling that our monthly OPEC deficit was down to just $3.4 billion in December 2012. However, as we march (and bike) toward that more glorious tomorrow, I'm exceedingly glad that I don't have to ride my horse to New York every time I appear on CNBC. I'm voting for an entirely new energy source by 2015. However, we're not there yet. We're in transition. And part of the journey out of what was into what will be requires ensuring that we don't become reliant on the Middle East selling us the gas to get to the grocery store. If you choose to own oil companies in your nest egg, be aware that the revenue growth was flat over the last year and share prices are trading near the 52-week high. Oil performed better than most industries during the Great Recession, but then lagged behind the markets during the BP Oil Spill. Returns in 2012 were tepid -- at under 2%. I wish I could say that this consumer staple is becoming obsolete, but that's unlikely to be the case for awhile. If you are going to own oil, you definitely need to rebalance annually, just as you do with all of your other stocks. And thanks to the ending of two wars (finally!), oil may not be the hottest industry in 2013. *Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability

25 февраля 2013, 17:18

In Japan, The Matrix Is Now Reality As Humans Are Used As Living Batteries

Who says necessity is not the mother of invention in the New Normal. While a tiny fraction of the Japanese population is enjoying the transitory effects of Abe's latest reflating "wealth effect" policy (even as China has made it clear said policy will end quite soon), the bigger problem for Japan is that even sooner, more and more of it will be reliant on hamster wheels to generate electricity, as LNG prices have just hit a record high and are rising at a breakneck pace, and as local nuclear power generation has collapsed to virtually zero. Which means one thing: electricity will soon become so unaffordable only those who are invested in the daily 2% Nikkei surges will be able to electrify their immediate surroundings. So what is Japan's solution? A quite ingenious one: as Geek.com and ASR both report, Japan's Fujifilm has created organic printed sheet that harvests energy from body heat, or in other words, converts body heat to electricity. Finally, at least one key part of the Matrix "reality" is now fully operational - the use of human beings as batteries. Specifically, Fujifilm Corp. and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have developed a resin sheet that generates electricity, utilizing the temperature difference between human body and the air. The power-generating sheet developed by Fujifilm and AIST could be used to provide additional power for portable devices. The sheet uses the thermoelectric effect, which generates a voltages due to the temperature difference between the surface of an object and its reverse side. The sheet is 0.4mm thick and soft. In a normal environment, the temperature of the air is lower than that of the human body or the surface of clothes. That temperature difference can be used to generate a steady flow of electricity. From Geek: Fujifilm has used the Nanotech 2013 conference in Tokyo to demonstrate some progress with the creation of a new thermoelectric conversion material. Such a material can convert temperature differences directly into electricity, which can then be stored or used immediately to power or charge some device.   The material Fujifilm has created in collaboration with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) is desirable because it is both organic and has the highest thermoelectric conversion efficiency yet seen. Using a temperature difference of just one degree Celsius it can produce “several milliwatts” of electricity.   The good news continues as Fujifilm can manufacture the organic thermoelectric conversion material using a printing technique, making it easy to produce a range of sheet sizes at a minimal cost. It’s also not rigid, so can be wrapped around an object such as an area of your body.   So far two primary uses are seen for the new material. The first is as an attachment patients can wear on their skin to power medical devices. The second is as part of solar panels as a way of collecting additional energy and therefore making them more efficient.   Depending on how cheap and quick the material is to produce, we may see it appear as an accessory you can wear to help charge your smartphone on the go in the near future. And since life always immitates Hollywood, we now await for the release of the prophecy which will disclose just who it is that will destroy Bernanke's centrally-planned surreality, in which those who trade stocks are in a Matrix of their own.

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22 февраля 2013, 18:07

News in Charts: So far, Abenomics is more talk than walk

This research note is provided by Fathom Consulting. All of the charts below and many many more, covering a range of topics and countries on both the macroeconomy and financial markets are available in the Chartbook to Datastream users at www.datastream.com. Alternatively you can access Fathom’s Chartbook at www.fathom-consulting.com. Despite a set of gloomy data that showed widespread declines in output across the advanced economies in Q4, financial markets have remained resilient, and the Bull Run that began in the New Year continues. Japanese equities have been a prime beneficiary of this increasingly risk-on attitude, with the Nikkei up 30% since November. The Yen, meanwhile, has fallen by 15% against the dollar over this period. Much of this movement has reflected the policy agenda of Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe, who has promised a three-pronged toolkit to revive his country’s ailing economy: fiscal stimulus; monetary stimulus; and a bold new leadership team at the Bank of Japan (BOJ). Despite the apparent vote of approval from global investors, we question whether this really marks such a dramatic shift in policy. The BoJ was, of course, the first central bank to undertake QE. And Japan’s debt-to-GDP ratio has already surpassed 200%, largely on the back of repeated attempts at fiscal stimulus. Past efforts providing monetary and fiscal support have proved ineffective. But that does not mean that just one final push will do the trick. Rather, we would argue that much of Japan’s economic problems stem from its broken banking system. Unless and until this is addressed, its current blend of stimulus measures will, at best, provide only a temporary boost to growth. Japanese GDP fell unexpectedly, and by an annualised 0.4%, in Q4. The consensus had been for a 0.4% gain. The fall should not have come as a great surprise; Japan has been bumping along the bottom for a very long time now. Over the past 20 years, almost 2 quarters in every 5 has seen a drop in output – these are the areas shaded in grey on the chart below. Against this weak backdrop, Shinzo Abe was elected on an ambitious policy agenda to engineer an economic turnaround. These measures, collectively dubbed Abenomics, have three main pillars: 1) expansionary fiscal policy, as evidenced by a JPY 10 trillion stimulus package; 2) an end to deflation, which can be seen in the new 2% target for CPI; and 3) and the appointment of a less orthodox leadership team at the BoJ. A cursory glance at the data suggests that investors have high hopes that Abenomics will work. Japanese equities have been on a tear, with the headline Nikkei 225 up almost 30% since November. Meanwhile, the BoJ’s more aggressive stance towards fighting deflation appears to be gaining traction. Inflation expectations have increased, especially following the announcement of a new 2% target for CPI. On closer inspection, however, the apparent faith of global investors in Mr Abe and his new policies may have been overstated. Refresh Chart   Edit Chart The Japanese equity Bull Run that has taken up space in many financial newspapers may be more apparent than real. Yes, the Nikkei has risen sharply, but much of this reflects the impact of a weaker currency. In US dollar terms, the Nikkei has risen just 10%, almost the same as its major counterparts in Europe and in the US. On that basis, it would be unfair to suggest that investors have reassessed their fundamental outlook for growth and earnings in Japan. Refresh Chart   Edit Chart Despite rising inflation expectations, there remains substantial uncertainty about whether the BoJ will be able to meet its 2% target – something that is surely a prerequisite for a weakened currency over the medium term. A recent poll, conducted by Reuters, found that 12 out of 20 economists do not believe it achieve this goal over the next five years. This chimes well with market pricing. The five-year breakeven rate has risen quite substantially over the past year or so, but remains some distance below 2%. Nevertheless, the data are at least moving in the right direction. Moreover, they appear to reflect the BoJ’s stated policy aims; rising expectations have coincided with the announcement of specific inflation targets – initially 1% in February last year, and 2% this January. It remains unclear, however, whether the impact on households and businesses will be as pronounced. Refresh Chart   Edit Chart January’s trade data highlight that a weakened Yen is not necessarily a panacea. Sure, a falling currency helps exporters, especially those with a large foreign presence – of which Japan has many. At the same time, however, it makes imports more expensive. For an increasingly energy-dependent nation like Japan, it is unclear what the eventual net impact will be. While exports rose by 6% in the year to January, the first positive reading in eight months, imports grew faster, in part due to an increase in the Yen price of imported energy. The result was a deterioration in Japan’s trade balance. Indeed, its trade deficit rose to JPY 1.6 trillion – the largest on record. As long as Japan remains reliant on imports for energy, a substantial portion of any weak-Yen-induced increase in competitiveness will be lost to higher energy costs. Refresh Chart   Edit Chart So if Abenomics is more talk than action, what can policymakers do to revive their moribund economy? In our view, the remedy for Japan is much the same as it is for the UK. Japan must fix its broken banking system. Specifically, it needs to recognise the bad assets that continue to clog balance sheets. In practice, this means accepting losses, and recapitalising ailing lenders where appropriate. In a recent policy paper, we argued that the failure of UK policy makers to introduce a version of the US Troubled Asset Relief Program back in late 2008 may cumulatively have cost the UK around £120 billion in lost output. We based this conclusion on recent Bank of England research, which in our view suggests that a prolonged banking crisis could reduce labour productivity growth by up to 0.9 percentage points for each year that it is in place. Japan’s banking crisis began in earnest in 1997, when the spread on interbank interest rates rose to what were then all-time highs. As our chart shows, this is precisely the point at which labour productivity growth in Japan began to fall behind that in the US. By the end of last year, as our chart shows, a gap of some 18% had opened up. On our calculations, much if not all of this could reflect the failure of Japanese policy makers to deal with their own banking crisis. Refresh Chart   Edit Chart

22 февраля 2013, 11:14

Gasoline Prices Rise 34 Straight Days: Are Speculators to Blame? If Not, Who Is?

Given a two-day plunge in crude futures, gasoline prices may have hit a temporary peak. Nonetheless, consumers feel the pinch as pump prices have risen 34 straight days. For only the fifth time in history Gas prices topped $4 a gallon in District of Columbia. Nationwide, the price of a gallon of regular gasoline climbed to $3.78 a gallon, up 47 cents in the past month, the AAA said. In parts of California, Gasoline Prices Topped $5.00 on February 5. CNN Money has an interactive Gas Price map to check prices in your state. Republicans Cry Foul Yahoo!News reports Politicians Cry Foul Over High Gas Prices, Urge Action on Keystone XL Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., posted a "Keystone Clock " on his House Energy Committee's website Wednesday. The chairman states more than 1,615 days have passed since TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline proposal sought approval. Joining Upton's call to build the pipeline is Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio. Executives at TransCanada have tried a different tactic to try to get approval from the Obama administration by claiming the pipeline won't affect global warming. The tug of war between economics and environmentalism is escalating thanks to 34 straight days of rising gasoline prices. Boehner posted a "Running on Empty " graphic Tuesday. The Speaker of the House complains gas prices have "soared $0.43 since Jan. 17" before remarking with his own Keystone clock, "How long will Americans have to wait?" Boehner cites several sources, including nine Democratic senators, who want Obama to approve the project quickly. The pipeline may not see a decision until mid-June. Around 20,000 jobs and nearly a million barrels of oil a day are at stake for American oil companies. Speculators to Blame? The Salt Lake Tribune reports Spike in gasoline prices points to speculators "Like locusts ravaging fertile crops, gasoline prices are soaring again and eating away at the purchasing power of ordinary Americans. And again, financial speculators appear to be a big part of the story."Refinery Closures In Recovery Killer? Gas Prices Barrel Toward $4 a Gallon CNN notes refinery closures. Five dollar a gallon gas "is a real possibility" said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. "This is partly being driven by the lost refinery capacity of about one million barrels per day...that's a lot." Kilduff cited Hess's (HES) closure of a key refinery hub in Port Reading, New Jersey in January as a major factor that has sent gas on a tear. "Prices haven't looked back since," he said. "It's one of about eight refineries that have announced closure. Now the East Coast is heavily reliant on [gas] imports when it used to be self-sufficient," Kilduff stated. Speculation Nonsense Refinery closures are one part of the puzzle. If speculators have driven up the price of oil (and that is debatable) it's not the speculators who are to blame, but rather the Fed. By providing massive liquidity and negative real interest rates, the Fed encouraged speculation in the stock market, in junk bonds, and in commodities. I believe there is a bubble in all of those areas. The Fed's intent was not to foster bubbles per se, but rather to stimulate housing and spur job creation. On the job creation front, the fed failed miserably, and bloated its balance sheet to over $3 trillion dollars in doing so. Fed policies have destroyed those on fixed income for the benefit of the banks and wealthy, as I wrote on Wednesday in Reader Asks Me to Prove "Inflation Benefits the Wealthy" (At the Expense of Everyone Else). The Bernanke Fed is so out of line that the House Subcommittee on Economic Growth Demands Answers From Bernanke on Fed's Exit Strategy; Fed Must Reply by March 5 Yet the media blames those evil speculators. Get real. Mike "Mish" Shedlock http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com"Wine Country" Economic Conference Hosted By MishClick on Image to Learn MoreMike "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com/account_management.html to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.

21 февраля 2013, 02:39

Pollution Laws Threaten to Drop Britain into an Energy Crisis

European pollution laws have meant that some of the oldest dirtiest coal power plants in Britain have had to shut down. With little excess capacity and few new large projects set to come on line anytime soon Alistair Buchanan, from the energy regulator Offgem, has stated that Britain will become more and more reliant on foreign gas.This will inevitably cause household fuel bills to rise, although by how much is impossible to predict; Japan, who relies heavily on imports, pays 60% more for its natural gas. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister…Read more...