30-year mortgage jumps to 7-month high

U.N. Security Council urged to tackle climate change – Germany, which will join the UN Security Council in January, believes the body should start dealing with climate change as a potential global threat, its UN ambassador said on Monday. Peter Wittig told an audience at a think tank in Berlin that Germany shared the view of the more than 40 island states represented at the United Nations that global warming was an urgent security issue. “We are of the opinion that it would be worth the effort to consider strategically — in the Security Council as well — which effects climate change could have on the security situation in the broadest sense including defence assistance, resource assistance, the disappearance of entire island states, the rising of sea levels,” he said.

Wind power for Boston made in China – Goldwind USA and A-Power Energy Generation Systems are not the only big Chinese-owned wind energy companies setting up shop in this country. Sinovel, a state-owned company based in Beijing that is China’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, has signed a contract with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to provide a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. The machine will provide electricity for a wastewater pumping station in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. The turbine accounts for about half of the $4.7 million cost of the project, which is still in development and is being financed with money from the federal economic stimulus package. Sinovel, with a $6.5 billion line of credit from banks owned by the Chinese government, has said its goal was to become the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines by 2015. It also said it intended to eventually realize half of its sales beyond China’s borders.

Regulation is deficient in Canada’s oil sands – Reclamation in Canada’s oil sands is not keeping pace with rapid development and that could leave the public vulnerable to major financial burdens in years to come, a scientific panel said Wednesday. The study by Royal Society of Canada scientists, the latest report on the effects of the country’s multibillion-dollar oil sands sector, also concluded that governments and regulators are lagging world standards in their ability to oversee the industry and monitor its environmental impact. “Current government of Alberta policy on financial security for reclamation liability leaves Alberta vulnerable to major financial risks, which are exacerbated by the current state of reclamation, which is not keeping pace with the rate of land disturbance,” the panel said in its report. Alberta’s oil sands are the largest source of crude outside Saudi Arabia, and are the target of billions of dollars of spending by the world’s oil industry.

Senate approves biofuel and clean tech tax break extensions – The US renewable energy and biofuel industries were celebrating yesterday after the Senate overwhelming approved plans to extend crucial green tax breaks and grant programmes. Senators voted 81 to 19 in favor of the controversial bi-partisan tax bill, which extends the Bush-era tax cuts supported by Republicans, but in return extends federal unemployment benefits for 13 months and provides a raft of incentives to clean energy projects. In particular, the package includes extensions to the existing research and development tax credit, ethanol tax credit, biodiesel and renewable diesel tax credit, and energy efficient homes tax . Significantly, it also extends by one year the Treasury’s popular Section 1603 program, which offers large scale renewable energy projects and upfront cash grant to help cover construction costs in lieu of a 30 per cent tax break.

Deep ocean heat is rapidly melting Antarctic ice – Oceanographer at AGU: Western Antarctic Peninsula is seeing "the highest increase in temperatures of anywhere on Earth." “Warm waters carried by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current are brushing the ice front in the western part of the continent, in the area of the Bellingshausen Sea.” [Click to enlarge.] Antarctica is disintegrating much faster than almost anybody imagined — see “Nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.” In 2001, the IPCC “consensus” said neither Greenland nor Antarctica would lose significant mass by 2100. They both already are.  As Penn State climatologist Richard Alley said in March 2006, the ice sheets appear to be shrinking “100 years ahead of schedule.” A presentation Monday at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union sheds some light on the underlying cause of this rapid melt — the ice is being attacked from the bottom.  Discovery News has the story:
Train, train, go away: Tea Party Governor-elect Walker compels business to leave state after he kills high-speed rail in Wisconsin – Even before taking office, Republican Govs.-elect John Kasich (OH) and Scott Walker (WI) swiftly delivered on their “promises to kill America’s future” by rebuking a total of $1.2 billion in stimulus funding for high-speed rail projects in their states. Shunning the $810 million for the long-planned Wisconsin rail project, Walker promised to kill the Milwaukee-Madison link if President Obama tried “to force this down the throats of the taxpayers.” But campaign rhetoric has very real consequences, as this ThinkProgress cross-post makes clear. Last Thursday — on the same day the World Congress for High Speed Rail announced the next HSR Congress will be held in America for the first time — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pulled the funding from Ohio and Wisconsin, offering it instead to states more eager to spur economic development. What’s more, because of Walker’s narrow-minded politics, the Spanish train manufacturing company Talgo, which moved into Wisconsin for this project, is closing its Milwaukee plant and taking the much-needed jobs with it:
Energy Department Seeks ‘Rare Earth’ Security – A senior Energy Department official on Wednesday will discuss efforts to ensure U.S. access to rare-earth elements, critical to manufacturing a range of low-carbon energy technologies including wind turbines and electric vehicles. The remarks come amid growing fears that China could restrict access to the materials. Some lawmakers and U.S. officials fear the absence of domestic rare-earth production, and heavy reliance on China, could limit the growth of clean energy. The big worry: trading reliance on foreign oil for reliance on foreign rare earths. Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs David Sandalow will speak at a forum on rare earths hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said this fall the DOE was nearing completion on a strategy on the materials.  The forum is expected to focus on diversifying supply sources, U.S. production, greater recycling and re-use, and developing substitutes.
Defense Budget in Doubt – The tipping point on defense budgets is upon us.  The Inouye Omnibus appropriations bill in the Senate would provide funding for the base defense budget that is $10.5 below the administration’s request.  The House year-long CR would go deeper – $19 billion below the request.  Secretary Gates has made his preference clear.  But even the FY 2012 budget request is likely to come in well below the Department’s preferences.  National security will survive, but everything is on the table now.  For my views on this, see the blog I did today for The Will and the Wallet.
Canary In The Coal Mine  – Some people have contested my statement that there are thousands more retail stores in the US today than there were in 2007. Yes, many mom and pop stores have gone out of business, but the big boys continued to expand in the face of reality. The mall based mega-retailers dominate the retail landscape in this country. Here is a partial list of the biggest retailers in the US and their store counts. Just these nine well known retailers alone, have added 6,435 stores since 2007. Some of the stores were international, but the vast majority were opened in the U.S. This increase in store counts in the face of reality is the ultimate in CEO hubris. Inflation adjusted retail sales since 2007 in the U.S. are down 19%. This is a recipe for disaster. Americans must deleverage over the next decade. They have no choice. Their retirement savings levels are pitiful. They will be forced to stop buying crap. The boomers are leaving their high spending years and entering the forced saving phase of their lives, whether they like it or not. Every retail CEO in the country should recognize these facts. But still, they relentlessly expand. A fool and his company are soon parted.
30-year mortgage jumps to 7-month high — Mortgage rates jumped again this week, with rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reaching a seven-month high and the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage above 4% for the first time since the end of July, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of conforming mortgage rates.

“Market concerns over stronger economic growth that, in the near term, could lead to an increase in inflation have sparked a rise in bond yields and mortgage rates have followed,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist of Freddie Mac, in a news release.


Merk Commentary: Fed – Inflation, Inflation, Inflation – In August, Federal Reserve (Fed) Chairman Bernanke stated inflation was too low; in October, the Fed’s Minutes lamented that the market appeared not to take Bernanke’s August statements seriously enough. In our assessment, today’s Fed statement of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC), with an almost verbatim repetition of the previous FOMC statement, screams: "markets: trust us, we mean what we say." When former Fed Chairman Volcker raised rates in the 80’s to root out inflation, initially, the markets didn’t take him seriously. But persistence eventually made the market price in lower inflation expectations. Similarly, as the markets appear slow to embrace the Fed’s at higher inflation target. We have little doubt, however, that the Fed will succeed in raising inflation expectations. The risk, in our view is, that the Fed will get more than it is bargaining for. Having said that, it’s a problem for tomorrow and the Fed has rarely been accused of being too far-sighted.

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