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Ghost Dog

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Hometown: Canary Islands Archipelago
Home country: Spain
Member since: Wed Apr 19, 2006, 01:59 PM
Number of posts: 14,029

About Me

Brit gone native. Cooperative member. Ecology. Cartography. Programming. Music production.

Journal Archives

War of words between Ministers and Britain's energy suppliers over rising costs

(There has been) a marked escalation in the war of words between Ministers and Britain's energy suppliers over the rising cost in household gas and electricity bills...

... Insiders at the Department for Energy and Climate Change added that ministers are confused why British Gas argues that delivering social and environmental policies accounts for £50 of the £107 increase announced on standard tariffs.

A week ago Scottish & Southern Energy claimed the same policies account for £15 of the £106 increase it announced. One insider said: "Customers seem to be paying an awful lot now for costs British Gas may incur next year."

The fallout from the price rise continued on Friday as price comparison websites revealed a spike in the number of people wanting to switch energy suppliers...

/... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/household-bills/10389937/Energy-secretary-demands-British-Gas-meeting-over-unjustifiable-energy-price-rise.html

... Co-Operative Energy said (their) increase equated to an extra £4.78 a month for an average dual fuel customer, who it said would now pay £1,315 a year - but this was still £87 a year less than a British Gas bill, according to figures from the owner of the latter, Centrica...

... While Scottish Power, E.ON, EDF and npower are yet to announce any rises ahead of the coming winter, British Gas confirmed on Thursday it was hiking electricity bills by 10.4% and gas tariffs by 8.4%, affecting 7.8 million households. The previous week, SSE announced it was hitting seven million customers with an 8.2% rise on average.

Both blamed a combination of Government green levies and rising energy costs for the increases.

British Gas said the profits it made were crucial in funding investments but Centrica also paid £816m shareholder dividends last year, a rise of 7%. Co-operative Energy is wholly-owned by customers and shares out surplus profits among members...

/... http://news.sky.com/story/1156405/energy-bills-small-firms-challenge-big-six


Energy prices: keeping the lights on
The need to reduce fuel poverty must be balanced against the dangerous surge of opposition to green levies
The Guardian, Friday 18 October 2013 21.42 BST

The cost of energy has captured the political headlines this week. Not surprising when two of the big six companies announced price rises of between 8% and 10%. But the bills that will be landing on every householder's doormat shortly are only the (very) sharp end of a great political dilemma. Now the failure to get to grips with the big strategic issues of decarbonising supply while keeping the lights on and the costs down has left politicians facing the risk that any action to soften the blow for consumers is likely to make tackling the strategic decisions more difficult. There is a dangerous surge of opposition to green levies, while families on tight budgets face real hardship.

The coalition's answer to voters' mounting anger is to increase the number of suppliers and force the big six to offer every customer their cheapest tariff. Labour, in a significant and sensible retreat from its former enthusiasm for deregulation, proposes a limited price freeze. Contrary to its critics' cries heralding the return of state socialism, its purpose is to create a space to "reset" the market. That means introducing an alternative to the current model of vertical integration, which allows the big six companies who generate, trade and supply energy the scope to be less than transparent about where they're making their profits. The companies' response to Ed Miliband's proposal was to warn that they might not be able to keep the lights on. That makes it even more important that the regulator, Ofgem, is reformed and strengthened (or, if necessary, replaced) so that it becomes a robustly independent body that has the muscle to stand up to the suppliers and possibly even to limit price rises the way that Ofwat, for example, has the power to do in the water industry.

This is a matter of real urgency. It's two years since a report from the LSE academic John Hills on the impact of fuel poverty – defined as households spending more than 10% of their budget on energy – found that without some intervention, by 2016 more than 8 million people would be having to trade off living at lower temperatures against paying for other necessities. The report estimated that, each winter, fuel poverty is to blame for up to one-tenth of the 27,000 excess deaths, as well as uncounted costs in doctor and hospital visits. In this context, the energy secretary Ed Davey's advice on Newsnight on Thursday night to put on a jumper is absurdly distant from an adequate answer. It's the personal equivalent of the coalition's green deal, where loans are advanced by the private sector and costs recouped through savings in bills have, according to figures released last month, been taken up by just 12 households. This is a pathetic response to the need to get serious about reducing demand. It doesn't take much to make a difference: basic measures of cavity wall and loft insulation can take hundreds of pounds off fuel bills. Successive governments have invested too little in overly complex and very limited schemes, when what's needed is a radical programme of retrofitting the country's housing stock.

But the most complex challenge is to achieve market reforms that incentivise a decarbonised supply – and that means paying for new nuclear as well as renewable energy. At the moment, the green component of domestic energy bills is predicted to be around 40% by 2030. Replacing coal-fired generation means big private-sector investment – of the sort George Osborne appears, controversially, to have secured from China this week – and that won't happen unless returns look assured. Yet assuring returns for nuclear that would extend for up to 40 years could turn into a public-spending albatross if cheaper energy sources like shale gas come on line. At the moment, too much of the risk of getting it wrong falls on consumers. Yet when energy is a question of national security, it is time for a body providing impartial, expert analysis – an energy commission.

/... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/18/energy-prices-keeping-lights-on

BEIJING | Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:00pm BST (Reuters) - Britain opened the door to Chinese investors taking majority stakes in future nuclear plants on Thursday as Chancellor George Osborne signed a deal aimed at helping find the billions of pounds needed to replace the country's ageing reactors.

On a visit to China, Osborne said the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on nuclear cooperation that included roles for British companies in China's nuclear sector, which is the fastest growing in the world.

"While any initial Chinese stake in a nuclear power project is likely to be a minority stake, over time stakes in subsequent new power stations could be majority stakes," a statement from the UK Treasury said...

/... http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/10/17/uk-china-britain-nuclear-idUKBRE99G07520131017


... This month one of the country’s most senior judges, Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, praised the Mail for exposing the secret jailing of Mrs Maddocks by the court, which was set up in 2007 under Labour’s Mental Capacity Act.

It gave the State draconian powers to intervene in the lives of those deemed unfit to look over their own affairs.

The Mail highlighted Miss Maddocks’s shock when police arrived at her father John’s care home to ‘cart her off to jail’. She had been sentenced in secret for disobeying court orders by trying to remove him from the home. She served six weeks.

The case forced Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, to order that no one else should ever be jailed in private without the sentence and reasons for it being announced outside the closed courtroom...

/... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2465611/Controversial-secret-courts-open-scrutiny-says-leading-judge.html#ixzz2i5TjoajG

...(T)he mid-1980s closure of the mental hospitals by Thatcher was a key pathway change, opening up the possibility for a more responsive ‘third wave’ post asylum system with enhanced social and participative rights. While this possibility was initially signalled by the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act, there was quickly an assertion of controlling imperatives in the wake of high profile ‘carnage in the community’ cases of killings by mental health users such Christopher Clunis (1996) and Michael Stone (1996)... New Labour measures have had a contradictory impact. Though elements of a third wave emphasis on social and participative rights can be detected, this is countered by a coercive communitarian approach that has produced the 2007 MHA. Since the 1998 Human Rights Act (HRA) is restricted largely to CP rights, the denial of which is actually sanctioned by the ECHR, it does not offer enormous scope for improving mental health...

... The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 created real difficulties for the government as it emphasises that treatment should be voluntary where people have capacity. It enshrines principles such as self-determination and informed consent, and enables people to state future treatment wishes in advance of losing competency. The Mental Health Foundation had wanted this to be incorporated in the Act, but instead it is simply referred to in the Code of Practice. While competent patients may refuse treatment for physical ill health, treatment for mental ill-health may be legally imposed, subject to second opinion procedures. There is a strong case to be made that separate mental health legislation is inherently discriminatory, and some propose a merger with incapacity legislation to ensure consistent ethical principles across medical law (Dawson and Szmukler, 2006). A systematic review of research into mental capacity found that a majority of psychiatric in-patients have capacity (Okai et al., 2007).

Finally, debates around mental health and human rights have primarily focused on those compulsorily detained. This arguably diverts attention away from two other groups. First, those who may be informally treated, but as we have seen are subject to discrimination and even abuse in the mental health services and wider society (Thornicroft, 2006). Second, the expansion of prisons in a law and order society has arguably led to ‘reinstitutionalisation’, with ONS statistics suggesting that 90 per cent of prisoners have at least one mental disorder (APPGPH, 2006)...

/... http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/2533/1/WRAP_Carpenter_third_Wave.pdf (.pdf)

Excessive negativity is unhelpful, though. Both approaches

will surely become inevitable:

1. Produce/Consume less and more efficiently;
2. Manage population levels down, over time, through such liberal methods as recognising women's right to choose;
3. Redeploy the creative as well as destructive energy and inspìration that is a such powerful motor of today's economy - the military-industrial complex - away from attempting to achieve full-spectrum dominance of what is and always will be a multi-polar, multi-cultural planet towards new very relevant goals such as in-depth solar-system exploration and exploitation and defending the biosphere of this planet from the consequences of hits from flying rocks!

Thanks Paul.

... More later ...

Tip of iceberg. Was just reading:

... Rarely will reporters bother to look into this. It’s dicey for them. Exposing pharmaceutical companies and their horrendously toxic drugs is bad for business.

Imagine this front-page NY Times headline: “Four leading physicians state that, in all likelihood, the shooter was on one of the SSRI antidepressants, which can and do push people over into violence, including murder.”

Sub-head: “The doctors vow to press the authorities until they get to the bottom of the psychiatric-homicide connection.”

Sure. That’s going to happen when a rooster flies a spaceship to the Orion Belt...

/... https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/

... Hat tip, this young person: http://honeythatsok.com/

Yes. This is the heart of the matter.

... Basel III and the new bail-in rules. Basel III is slated to impose crippling capital requirements on public, cooperative and community banks, coercing their sale to large multinational banks.

The “bail-in” template was first tested in Cyprus and follows regulations imposed by the FSB in 2011. Too-big-to-fail banks are required to draft “living wills” setting forth how they will avoid insolvency in the absence of government bailouts. The FSB solution is to “bail in” creditors – including depositors – turning deposits into bank stock, effectively confiscating them...

A massive, on an historical scale, extraction of financial sovereignty (and therefore economic and therefore political power) from the People and its concentration, after much manipulation, in the hands of a ('chosen') Few.

I would be very surprised (although delighted) to see the current US administration (or those in the 'shadows' behind it) deviate from this course.

They just need to keep the 'right' Generals, Intelligence Chiefs, etc. 'on board'.

(P.S. Please forgive my perhaps 'excessive' use of quotation marks around terms... Our language is being so much abused by the propaganda machine employed in the service of the above that it appears to me necessary to highlight those terms the real and the propagandised meanings of which are worth thinking about.)

Food Wastage is third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the United States and China

... Food that is produced but then thrown away before being eaten causes not only economic losses of nearly £500 billion every year, but also affects the climate, water, land and biodiversity... "Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China."

The report also reveals that uneaten food occupies 1.4 billion hectares of land - about 30 percent of the world's agricultural land area, and that rotting food is a large producer of the power greenhouse gas methane...

... Alongside the study, the FAO has also published recommendations on how to reduce food waste all along the food chain, and has provided case studies of projects around the world aiming to address the problem.

/... http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-09/15/food-waste

11 September 2013, Rome - The waste of a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year is not only causing major economic losses but also wreaking significant harm on the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed itself, says a new FAO report.

Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

Among its key findings: Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere.

And beyond its environmental impacts, the direct economic consequences to producers of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually, FAO's report estimates.

"All of us - farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers -- must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can't," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva...

/... http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/196220/icode/

+ The Economist dates back to the beginning of big banking. Here's Bagehot (1873):

/... http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4359/pg4359.html

... The briefest and truest way of describing Lombard Street is to say that it is by far the greatest combination of economical power and economical delicacy that the world has even seen. Of the greatness of the power there will be no doubt. Money is economical power. Everyone is aware that England is the greatest moneyed country in the world; everyone admits that it has much more immediately disposable and ready cash than any other country. But very few persons are aware how much greater the ready balance—the floating loan-fund which can be lent to anyone or for any purpose—is in England than it is anywhere else in the world. A very few figures will show how large the London loan-fund is, and how much greater it is than any other. The known deposits—the deposits of banks which publish their accounts—are, in

London (31st December, 1872) 120,000,000 L
Paris (27th February, 1873) 13,000,000 L
New York (February, 1873) 40,000,000 L
German Empire (31st January, 1873) 8,000,000 L

And the unknown deposits—the deposits in banks which do not publish their accounts—are in London much greater than those many other of these cities. The bankers' deposits of London are many times greater than those of any other city—those of Great Britain many times greater than those of any other country.

Of course the deposits of bankers are not a strictly accurate measure of the resources of a Money Market. On the contrary, much more cash exists out of banks in France and Germany, and in all non-banking countries, than could be found in England or Scotland, where banking is developed. But that cash is not, so to speak, 'money-market money:' it is not attainable. Nothing but their immense misfortunes, nothing but a vast loan in their own securities, could have extracted the hoards of France from the custody of the French people. The offer of no other securities would have tempted them, for they had confidence in no other securities. For all other purposes the money hoarded was useless and might as well not have been hoarded. But the English money is 'borrowable' money. Our people are bolder in dealing with their money than any continental nation, and even if they were not bolder, the mere fact that their money is deposited in a bank makes it far more obtainable. A million in the hands of a single banker is a great power; he can at once lend it where he will, and borrowers can come to him, because they know or believe that he has it. But the same sum scattered in tens and fifties through a whole nation is no power at all: no one knows where to find it or whom to ask for it. Concentration of money in banks, though not the sole cause, is the principal cause which has made the Money Market of England so exceedingly rich, so much beyond that of other countries.

The effect is seen constantly. We are asked to lend, and do lend, vast sums, which it would be impossible to obtain elsewhere. It is sometimes said that any foreign country can borrow in Lombard Street at a price: some countries can borrow much cheaper than others; but all, it is said, can have some money if they choose to pay enough for it. Perhaps this is an exaggeration; but confined, as of course it was meant to be, to civilised Governments, it is not much of an exaggeration. There are very few civilised Governments that could not borrow considerable sums of us if they choose, and most of them seem more and more likely to choose. If any nation wants even to make a railway—especially at all a poor nation—it is sure to come to this country—to the country of banks—for the money. It is true that English bankers are not themselves very great lenders to foreign states. But they are great lenders to those who lend. They advance on foreign stocks, as the phrase is, with 'a margin;' that is, they find eighty per cent of the money, and the nominal lender finds the rest. And it is in this way that vast works are achieved with English aid which but for that aid would never have been planned.

In domestic enterprises it is the same. We have entirely lost the idea that any undertaking likely to pay, and seen to be likely, can perish for want of money; yet no idea was more familiar to our ancestors, or is more common now in most countries. A citizen of London in Queen Elizabeth's time could not have imagined our state of mind. He would have thought that it was of no use inventing railways (if he could have understood what a railway meant), for you would not have been able to collect the capital with which to make them. At this moment, in colonies and all rude countries, there is no large sum of transferable money; there is no fund from which you can borrow, and out of which you can make immense works. Taking the world as a whole—either now or in the past—it is certain that in poor states there is no spare money for new and great undertakings, and that in most rich states the money is too scattered, and clings too close to the hands of the owners, to be often obtainable in large quantities for new purposes. A place like Lombard Street, where in all but the rarest times money can be always obtained upon good security or upon decent prospects of probable gain, is a luxury which no country has ever enjoyed with even comparable equality before.

But though these occasional loans to new enterprises and foreign States are the most conspicuous instances of the power of Lombard Street, they are not by any means the most remarkable or the most important use of that power. English trade is carried on upon borrowed capital to an extent of which few foreigners have an idea, and none of our ancestors could have conceived. In every district small traders have arisen, who 'discount their bills' largely, and with the capital so borrowed, harass and press upon, if they do not eradicate, the old capitalist. The new trader has obviously an immense advantage in the struggle of trade. If a merchant have 50,000 L. all his own, to gain 10 per cent on it he must make 5,000 L. a year, and must charge for his goods accordingly; but if another has only 10,000 L., and borrows 40,000 L. by discounts (no extreme instance in our modern trade), he has the same capital of 50,000 L. to use, and can sell much cheaper. If the rate at which he borrows be 5 per cent., he will have to pay 2,000 L. a year; and if, like the old trader, he make 5,000 L. a year, he will still, after paying his interest, obtain 3,000 L. a year, or 30 per cent, on his own 10,000 L. As most merchants are content with much less than 30 per cent, he will be able, if he wishes, to forego some of that profit, lower the price of the commodity, and drive the old-fashioned trader—the man who trades on his own capital—out of the market. In modern English business, owing to the certainty of obtaining loans on discount of bills or otherwise at a moderate rate of interest, there is a steady bounty on trading with borrowed capital, and a constant discouragement to confine yourself solely or mainly to your own capital.

This increasingly democratic structure of English commerce is very unpopular in many quarters, and its effects are no doubt exceedingly mixed. On the one hand, it prevents the long duration of great families of merchant princes, such as those of Venice and Genoa, who inherited nice cultivation as well as great wealth, and who, to some extent, combined the tastes of an aristocracy with the insight and verve of men of business. These are pushed out, so to say, by the dirty crowd of little men. After a generation or two they retire into idle luxury. Upon their immense capital they can only obtain low profits, and these they do not think enough to compensate them for the rough companions and rude manners they must meet in business. This constant levelling of our commercial houses is, too, unfavourable to commercial morality. Great firms, with a reputation which they have received from the past, and which they wish to transmit to the future, cannot be guilty of small frauds. They live by a continuity of trade, which detected fraud would spoil. When we scrutinise the reason of the impaired reputation of English goods, we find it is the fault of new men with little money of their own, created by bank 'discounts.' These men want business at once, and they produce an inferior article to get it. They rely on cheapness, and rely successfully.

But these defects and others in the democratic structure of commerce are compensated by one great excellence. No country of great hereditary trade, no European country at least, was ever so little 'sleepy,' to use the only fit word, as England; no other was ever so prompt at once to seize new advantages. A country dependent mainly on great 'merchant princes' will never be so prompt; their commerce perpetually slips more and more into a commerce of routine. A man of large wealth, however intelligent, always thinks, more or less 'I have a great income, and I want to keep it. If things go on as they are I shall certainly keep it; but if they change I may not keep it.' Consequently he considers every change of circumstance a 'bore,' and thinks of such changes as little as he can. But a new man, who has his way to make in the world, knows that such changes are his opportunities; he is always on the look-out for them, and always heeds them when he finds them. The rough and vulgar structure of English commerce is the secret of its life; for it contains 'the propensity to variation,' which, in the social as in the animal kingdom, is the principle of progress.


But in exact proportion to the power of this system is its delicacy I should hardly say too much if I said its danger. Only our familiarity blinds us to the marvellous nature of the system. There never was so much borrowed money collected in the world as is now collected in London. Of the many millions in Lombard street, infinitely the greater proportion is held by bankers or others on short notice or on demand; that is to say, the owners could ask for it all any day they please: in a panic some of them do ask for some of it. If any large fraction of that money really was demanded, our banking system and our industrial system too would be in great danger.

Some of those deposits too are of a peculiar and very distinct nature. Since the Franco-German war, we have become to a much larger extent than before the Bankers of Europe. A very large sum of foreign money is on various accounts and for various purposes held here. And in a time of panic it might be asked for. In 1866 we held only a much smaller sum of foreign money, but that smaller sum was demanded and we had to pay it at great cost and suffering, and it would be far worse if we had to pay the greater sums we now hold, without better resources than we had then.

It may be replied, that though our instant liabilities are great, our present means are large; that though we have much we may be asked to pay at any moment, we have very much always ready to pay it with. But, on the contrary, there is no country at present, and there never was any country before, in which the ratio of the cash reserve to the bank deposits was so small as it is now in England. So far from our being able to rely on the proportional magnitude of our cash in hand, the amount of that cash is so exceedingly small that a bystander almost trembles when he compares its minuteness with the immensity of the credit which rests upon it.

Again, it may be said that we need not be alarmed at the magnitude of our credit system or at its refinement, for that we have learned by experience the way of controlling it, and always manage it with discretion. But we do not always manage it with discretion. There is the astounding instance of Overend, Gurney, and Co. to the contrary. Ten years ago that house stood next to the Bank of England in the City of London; it was better known abroad than any similar firm known, perhaps, better than any purely English firm. The partners had great estates, which had mostly been made in the business. They still derived an immense income from it. Yet in six years they lost all their own wealth, sold the business to the company, and then lost a large part of the company's capital. And these losses were made in a manner so reckless and so foolish, that one would think a child who had lent money in the City of London would have lent it better. After this example, we must not confide too surely in long-established credit, or in firmly-rooted traditions of business. We must examine the system on which these great masses of money are manipulated, and assure ourselves that it is safe and right.

But it is not easy to rouse men of business to the task. They let the tide of business float before them; they make money or strive to do so while it passes, and they are unwilling to think where it is going. Even the great collapse of Overends, though it caused a panic, is beginning to be forgotten. Most men of business think—'Anyhow this system will probably last my time. It has gone on a long time, and is likely to go on still.' But the exact point is, that it has not gone on a long time. The collection of these immense sums in one place and in few hands is perfectly new. In 1844 the liabilities of the four great London Joint Stock Banks were 10,637,000 L.; they now are more than 60,000,000 L. The private deposits of the Bank of England then were 9,000,000 L.; they now are 8,000,000 L. There was in throughout the country but a fraction of the vast deposit business which now exists. We cannot appeal, therefore, to experience to prove the safety of our system as it now is, for the present magnitude of that system is entirely new. Obviously a system may be fit to regulate a few millions, and yet quite inadequate when it is set to cope with many millions. And thus it may be with 'Lombard Street,' so rapid has been its growth, and so unprecedented is its nature...

/... http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/4359/pg4359.html

1. The Economist does not like 'leftists' (editorial line supports 'free markets'

(and so should not support otherwise, as at present, manipulated, oligarchical ones));

2. The Economist likes 'safe bets' (and being close to power);

3. The Economist is what is known as 'pro-Europe'.

See the big picture thus...

and expect 'volatility' in USA shortly?

--> http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-09-14/guest-post-7-choices-left-military-industrial-complex <--
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