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25 May 2013

Press review 25-05-2013

This week the main focus is on the politics in Europe, the road ahead slowly narrowing.
China Daily
France's Hollande urges euro zone government

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande called on Thursday for an economic government for the euro zone with its own budget, the right to borrow, a harmonised tax system and a full-time president. [...]

Rebutting criticism that France has lost its leadership role in Europe because of its dwindling economic competitiveness, Hollande said he wanted to create a fully-fledged political European Union within two years.

"It is my responsibility as the leader of a founder member of the European Union... to pull Europe out of this torpor that has gripped it, and to reduce people's disenchantment with it," Hollande said.

"If Europe stays in the state it is now, it could be the end of the project." [...]

Hollande said a future euro zone economic government would debate the main political and economic decisions to be taken by member states, harmonise national fiscal and welfare policies, and launch a battle against tax fraud.

He proposed bringing forward planned EU spending to combat record youth unemployment, pushing for an EU-wide transition to renewable energy sources, and envisaged "a budget capacity that would be granted to the euro zone along with the gradual possibility of raising debt".

18 May 2013

Press review 18-05-2013

Today's focus is on electricity storage. The technology to support the decentralised grid paradigm that renewable energies are bringing about is not quite there yet - but getting there it seems. Sustained high petroleum and gas prices plus the fast decline of wind and solar PV costs are sparking research and development pretty much everyone. What strikes me at the moment is the number of different technologies that presently show the potential to arrive on the market in the next few years. For grid support at least a massification of electrical storage appears to be in arm's reach.

11 May 2013

Press review 11-05-2013

This week the most important piece of news is naturally the war on solar energy. Without surprises the Commission announced a 47% tariff on solar panels made in China. The goals of this measure are not those issued by the press: (i) almost all manufactured goods sold in Europe are fabricated by folk of the like that died last week crushed in Bangladesh - without changing the rules of international trade there's no way solar panels can ever be fabricated in Europe; (ii) in 2008 oil prices dropped clearly below production costs and no tariffs where imposed on OPEC; (iii) companies in Europe operating in the solar sector are installers and technical service providers - they will certainly be negatively hit. The goal of the Commission is simply to delay the growth of solar power in order to protect traditional electricity suppliers, nothing else. I'll now be waiting for similar measures on LNG imports from the US, where market gas prices are about half of production costs.

04 May 2013

Press review 04-05-2013

This week the media has been more attentive to the situation in Syria with both sides hiking the rhetoric. The US has threatened to directly supply warfare material to the Sunni, promptly matched by the Hezbollah with a promise of entering Syria to help the Shia. Meanwhile both sides accuse each other of employing chemical weapons. The good sense seems to be running out and the conflict might be about to unravel. The geography of the Near and Middle East may never be the same.

Something that has been out of the radar but that is far from buried is the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan. More than two years after the tsunami that led meltdowns in several cores, the situation seems to remain far from control. This apparent ineptitude of the managing company may itself explain why the accident took place in the first place.