Pentagon Must ‘Buy American,’ Barring Chinese Solar Panels

Globe’s coral reefs suffer second worst bleaching on record during 2010 – Record warm ocean temperatures across much of Earth’s tropical oceans during the summer of 2010 created the second worst year globally for coral-killing bleaching episodes. The warm waters, fueled in part by the El Niño phenomena, caused the most coral bleaching since 1998, when 16 percent of the world’s reefs were killed off. “Clearly, we are on track for this to be the second worst (bleaching) on record,” NOAA coral expert Mark Eakin in an interview last month. “All we’re waiting on now is the body count.” The summer 2010 bleaching episodes were worst in Southeast Asia, where El Niño warming of the tropical ocean waters during the first half of the year was significant. In Indonesia’s Aceh province, 80% of the bleached corals died, and Malaysia closed several popular dive sites after nearly all the coral were damaged by bleaching. However, in the Caribbean’s Virgin Islands, coral bleaching was not as severe as experienced in 2005, according to National Park Service fisheries biologist Jeff Miller.

Climate Change May Continue for at Least a Millennium – Climate change may be unstoppable for the next millennium. Rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere will affect the climate for at least another 1,000 years, based on a simulation by researchers at Canada’s University of Victoria and University of Calgary. That will cause the West Antarctic ice sheet to collapse by the year 3000 and raise sea levels by 4 meters (13 feet), it showed. The study, published online in Nature Geoscience, is the first full climate model to make predictions so far into the future, the Calgary university said in a Jan. 9 statement. Researchers studied the length of time needed to reverse climate-change trends if the world stopped using fossil fuels and putting CO2 in the atmosphere as of 2010 and 2100. “Ongoing regional changes in temperature and precipitation are significant following a complete cessation of carbon-dioxide emissions in 2100, despite almost constant global mean temperatures,”


Pentagon Must ‘Buy American,’ Barring Chinese Solar Panels – The military authorization law signed by President Obama on Friday contains a little-noticed “Buy American” provision for the Defense Department purchases of solar panels — a provision that is likely to dismay Chinese officials as President Hu Jintao prepares to visit the United States next week..China has emerged as the world’s dominant producer of solar panels in the last two years. It accounted for at least half the world’s production last year, and its market share is rising rapidly. The United States accounts for $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels; market analyses typically have not broken out military sales separately.

Alaska pipeline closed, oil prices rise – The Trans Alaska Pipeline was shut for a second day on Sunday because of a leak, with no indication of when it would reopen, sending oil prices higher on fears that a prolonged closure could restrict U.S. supplies. The leak was discovered at the start of the pipeline in Prudhoe Bay early Saturday, forcing oil companies to cut production to 5 percent of their average 630,000 barrels per day. The shutdown of one of the United States’ key oil arteries, which carries about 12 percent of the country’s production, is the latest setback for 33-year old pipeline, which is becoming more expensive to maintain as it ages and handles less than a third of the oil it did at its peak in the 1980s. Closures of the pipeline, although short, have provoked criticism of its operators, particularly major owner BP, whose reputation is already at an all-time low after the Gulf of Mexico blow-out last year, causing the largest-ever U.S. oil spill and attracting renewed government scrutiny of the oil production industry.

World Food Prices Enter ‘Danger Territory’ To Reach Record High – Soaring prices of sugar, grain and oilseed drove world food prices to a record in December, surpassing the levels of 2008 when the cost of food sparked riots around the world, and prompting warnings of prices being in "danger territory". An index compiled monthly by the United Nations surpassed its previous monthly high – June 2008 – in December to reach the highest level since records began in 1990. Published by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the index tracks the prices of a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, and has risen for six consecutive months. "We are entering a danger territory." Sugar and meat prices are at record levels, while cereal prices are back at the levels last seen in 2008, when riots in Haiti killed four people and riots in Cameroon left 40 dead.

Portugal, Ireland Lead Rise in Sovereign Debt Risk to Records — Portugal and Ireland led a surge in the cost of insuring against default on European sovereign debt to record levels on concern government funding costs are becoming unsustainable.Credit-default swaps on Portugal jumped 11 basis points to a peak of 549, according to CMA. Ireland soared 26.5 basis points to an all-time high 682 and Belgium was 7 higher at a 255. That helped push the Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe to a record 223 basis points. Investors are bracing for debt sales this week from Portugal, Spain and Italy. Portuguese bonds fell today amid mounting speculation the nation will have to tap the European Union’s 750 billion-euro ($966 billion) rescue facility if its yields remain above 7 percent.

Rumour of €80bn Bail-Out To Squeeze Portugese Bonds – Portuguese bond yields are expected to come under further pressure today, after the country’s president was forced to deny the need for a €80bn (£66bn) bail-out. Aníbal Cavaco Silva, the Portuguese president, said he had no intention of asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or Europe for financial help.  The comments came after Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine and senior eurozone sources claimed that Germany and France will push Portugal to tap the rescue fund set up for European countries facing debt problems.  Mr Cavaco Silva told Portugal’s Público newspaper that he was "surprised" a German magazine is publishing news of such importance to a European Union member state without the issue being discussed by the EU authorities.

Economical arithmetic – I just attended a panel of the great and serious discussing the US budget deficit. The numbers are pretty impressive – on current projections, US government expenditure (properly measured) is likely to be around 25 per cent of national income (around 3 trillion/year) and the default budget deficit is around 10 per cent of national income. While current and former CBO directors went over the usual options, it struck me that I had seen those numbers before. Roughly speaking, the share of US national income going to the top 1 per cent of the income distribution has risen from 15 to 25 per cent over the past decade, mostly because of the growth in size and profitability of the financial sector. As I’ve argued before, this payment to the top percentile can be seen as a kind of tax paid by the population as a whole for the benefits of living in the kind of economy that has developed over the past few decades of financialisation.

Debt Default Fears will Spread to US and Japan, Warns Citigroup’s Willem Buiter – Worries about the risk of a sovereign state defaulting on its debt, which thrust the eurozone into crisis, will soon encompass the two major economies as well, according to Citigroup economists led by Mr Buiter, who sat on the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee.  The team has published a note forecasting much more strife to come in the wake of Greece and Ireland’s recent bail-outs and eurozone governments’ borrowing costs hitting record highs.  "Despite the recent drama, we believe we have only seen the opening and second act, with the rest of the plot still evolving," the team wrote. "There is no absolutely safe sovereigns." 

There are likely to be several sovereign debt restructurings in the next few years, the analysts said, with Portugal likely to need to access the emergency funding facilities soon. Against this backdrop, the US and Japan – dubbed the "fiscal sustainability deniers" – cannot keep ignoring the question of how safe their public finances are, the team said.

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