Thursday, September 10, 2009

Climbing to Copenhagen -- rough going in September

Reuters reports that September U.N. summit seen key to climate deal

OSLO (Reuters) - A drive to agree a U.N. climate pact in Copenhagen in December risks failure unless world leaders revive bogged-down negotiations at a U.N. summit in New York on September 22....

Recriminations between rich and poor nations about how to share out curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, and scant aid from recession-hit rich nations, mean the world is far from a deal. A draft treaty is an unmanageable 200 pages long.


"Now the onus is on heads of government," Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit. He told Reuters that a one-day climate summit at U.N. headquarters on September 22 was a chance to show world leaders that "there is a high risk that a deal will not emerge from Copenhagen" unless they get more involved in spurring the negotiations.


And there is a lot to sort out in the next three months, according to participants in September 8-10 Reuters summit. Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc told Reuters a plan by U.S. President Barack Obama -- struggling to secure healthcare reforms before turning to climate -- to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 was unacceptably weak. "We don't accept that, it's very poor," he said, adding that the goal should be "closer to something beyond a 20 percent reduction." The U.S. 2020 goal is the weakest of any developed nation, but Obama promises a deep 80 percent cut by 2050.


The full text of the story is on Reuters.com - September UN Climate Summit Critical at:


September 10, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Climbing to Copenhagen -- rough going in September

Reuters reports that September U.N. summit seen key to climate deal

OSLO (Reuters) - A drive to agree a U.N. climate pact in Copenhagen in December risks failure unless world leaders revive bogged-down negotiations at a U.N. summit in New York on September 22....

Recriminations between rich and poor nations about how to share out curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, and scant aid from recession-hit rich nations, mean the world is far from a deal. A draft treaty is an unmanageable 200 pages long.


"Now the onus is on heads of government," Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit. He told Reuters that a one-day climate summit at U.N. headquarters on September 22 was a chance to show world leaders that "there is a high risk that a deal will not emerge from Copenhagen" unless they get more involved in spurring the negotiations.


And there is a lot to sort out in the next three months, according to participants in September 8-10 Reuters summit. Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc told Reuters a plan by U.S. President Barack Obama -- struggling to secure healthcare reforms before turning to climate -- to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 was unacceptably weak. "We don't accept that, it's very poor," he said, adding that the goal should be "closer to something beyond a 20 percent reduction." The U.S. 2020 goal is the weakest of any developed nation, but Obama promises a deep 80 percent cut by 2050.


The full text of the story is on Reuters.com - September UN Climate Summit Critical:


September 10, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

BNA Green Tax Incentive Teleconference Tomorrow

Tax Incentives for the “Green” Industry

Date: Thursday, September 10, 2009
Time: 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Between Lamborghini developing a hybrid and the proliferation of “green” marketing, there can be no doubt that green is going mainstream.  Congress is trying their best to encourage the green vision by enacting (and expanding) tax incentives designed to use and develop renewable and sustainable resources.  Obtaining the benefit of the incentives depends on a number of items, including satisfying the statutory criteria and placing the property in service in a timely manner.  However, due to some recent changes by Congress, it is not dependent on the taxpayer having taxable income to offset.

What will be covered

This presentation focuses on identifying the available tax incentives and understanding how to take advantage of them.  Whether you have worked on “green” projects in the past or this is a new area for you, this webinar will present the issues that must be addressed, including the tax compliance requirements.

This 60-90 minute webinar will provide participants with a conceptual understanding and practical application of the following:

  1. Overview of Available Tax Incentives
    1. Tax Credits
    2. Grants
    3. Depreciation
    4. Deductions
  2. Eligibility of Taxpayers To Take Advantage of the Incentives
  3. The Energy Production Tax Credit
  4. The Energy Investment Tax Credit
  5. Electing a Tax-Free Grants In Lieu of Tax Credits
  6. Special Depreciation and Deductions

Education Objectives 

Participants will learn how to:

  1. Identify the availability of “green” tax incentives for commercial projects
  2. Recognize fundamental ideas and solutions available to plan for tax efficient usage or development of renewable energy products
  3. Evaluate which tax incentive may be optimal in a situation

Register quickly and easily online to secure your space now. Or, please call 1-800-372-1033 option 6, then option 1, and refer to the date and title of the audioconference. Lines are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET, excluding most federal holidays.

Don't miss this opportunity to hear a lively, dynamic presentation. Not only are audioconferences an excellent way for you to stay current, with BNA you also get:

  • Quality. Count on it. Nothing is canned.
  • Objectivity. BNA Tax Management provides you with the best and most objective information.
  • Affordability. BNA Tax Management audioconferences are inexpensive when compared to the cost of travel to attend conferences with leading experts and practitioners. Plus, you may use a speakerphone and invite as many of your colleagues as you want to listen in -- all for the price of a single registration. See pricing for more details.
  • Convenience. No airlines. No travel. No time out of the office.

In addition, you'll receive:

  • Personal attention. Once you've registered, send your e-mail questions in advance to mcarrington@bna.com and they will be included in the program. You'll also have a chance to e-mail your questions during the audioconference.
  • Conference materials. We’ll e-mail links to the materials that will accompany the audioconference one day in advance. If you do not receive this pre-conference e-mail, e-mail mcarrington@bna.com.

September 9, 2009 in Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Model of Decision-making Incorporates How People Change Their Minds in the Midst of Making a Decision

NATURE published a summary of research on changes of mind in decision-making on September 10th.  It summarized the research in this fashion (Nature link) :

How do we change our minds? Theoretical neuroscientists have developed plausible models for how the brain comes to a decision based on 'noisy' and often ambiguous information, but these assume that once that decision is made, it is made for good. Now a series of experiments on subjects who were asked to move a handle to one of two positions dependent on a noisy visual stimulus has been used to develop a new model that accounts for how and when we change our mind after we make a decision. Analysis of the rare occasions where subjects changed their mind half way through selecting their answer shows that even after making a decision the brain continues to process the information it had gathered — information still in the processing pipeline— to either reverse or reaffirm its initial decision. The new theory introduces the acts of vacillation and self correction into the decision-making process.

The cites for the research follow:

AuthorsAbstractions

doi:10.1038/7261144b

LetterChanges of mind in decision-making

Arbora Resulaj, Roozbeh Kiani, Daniel M. Wolpert & Michael N. Shadlen

doi:10.1038/nature08275

September 9, 2009 in Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

GAO Report on Wildfire Management

GAO on September 9th published a report "Wildland Fire Management: Federal Agencies Have Taken Important Steps Forward, but Additional, Strategic Action is Needed to Capitalize on Those Steps." GAO-09-877 . A summary, the GAO Highlights, is contained in this link. 


September 9, 2009 in Biodiversity, Current Affairs, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Light at the end of the recession tunnel

According to the Fed's Beige Book report, the economy appears to be stabilizing across much of the country, with a pickup in factory activity and improvement in residential real estate.  Manufacturers are "cautiously optimistic," with several districts reporting gains in new orders.   In addition, "[m]ost regions reported some improvement in residential real estate.". This is the first optimistic report from the Fed concerning housing since the housing market collapsed in Fall 2008, causing homeowners to lose more than $5 trillion in wealth.  The improved conditions are consistent with the economists' expectations, as reported by MarketWatch Fed says economy stabilizing, that economists expect growth to recover to a 3.0% growth rate in the current July-September quarter, following a full year of negative growth in the deepest and longest recession since World War II.  Another good sign is that demand for temporary workers is picking up, which is generally considered a harbinger of an increase in permanent hires.  Inflation is no threat: even given the huge federal stimulus spending, consumer prices remain steady.  And, my TIAA-CREF account is making money for the first time in a year!!!

Certainly some downsides remain.  Overall, consumer spending is flat and credit remains scarce with weak loan demand given tight credit standards.  And commercial real estate is still suffering, because there is still decreasing demand for office space and high vacancy rates continue to cause a decline in nonresidential construction activity.

But things are looking up.  However, listening to the news on CNN, you'd never know it.  The not-so-loyal opposition to Obama is trying to whip up more anti-Obama sentiment arguing that his economic policies have failed because Obama has not been able to fully reverse the recession during his first seven months in office.  Give the guy a break -- he never promised you a rose garden.  Compared to the black storm clouds we experienced during the fall, we're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

September 9, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Are Speculators Driving Up Oil Prices?

The Economist published an article Data Diving discussing new data that allows closer analysis of whether speculators are responsible for driving up oil prices.  The short answer according to the speculators is probably not.  And, even if they were, in the Economist's opinion, the critical importance of liquidity overwhelms any effect on higher prices.

The regulatory question is whether the Commodity Futures Trading Commission should limit the positions that speculators such as banks, hedge funds, and others take on oil because of the harmful influence that speculators have on the market.

... whether speculation has really been responsible for spiking prices is a controversial issue. In 2008 the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report dismissing the role of speculators in last year’s startling run-up in prices. But banks, hedge funds and others who bet on oil (without a use for the stuff itself) still face limits on the positions they can take, if Gary Gensler, the new CFTC head, can show that their influence in markets does harm.

New disaggregated data show more clearly the role of speculators in the market:

On September 4th the CFTC added more evidence to the debate by releasing what it said were more transparent data on market positions. Before this month, the CFTC simply classified traders as “commercial” or “non-commercial” in its weekly report on the overall long and short positions in the market. Now it has started to disaggregate them further, into producers and buyers, swap dealers and “managed money”. The third category includes hedge funds.

The new data indicate that speculators (swap dealers and managed money) were long on oil in the week to September 1st, with managed money holding a net long position by more than a 2-to-1 ratio. Those actually involved in the oil business (producers and users) held positions that were net short by similar ratios.  And the swap dealers and managed-money players are bigger in the market, both in terms of the contracts they hold and their own sheer numbers.

So, the speculators constitute the largest amount of the market and they take dramatically opposite positions in the market as compared with producers and users.  Still, the speculators' analysts discount the ability of speculators to affect the market.  I'm not market savvy enough to understand the speculators' analysis proffered by the Economist so would someone out there explain how this tells us that speculators are not influencing the market?

But analysts at Barclays Capital note that long swaps accounted for just 6.4% of total futures and options contracts, not enough to drive prices up on their own. Physical traders held more of the outstanding long positions (10.3%) and held even more short positions. This one set of numbers, in other words, does little to prove that speculators are overriding market fundamentals to drive prices. New quarterly data also released by the CFTC show that money flows to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in commodities failed to correlate strongly with last year’s price surge.

Maybe some more numbers will help us sort this out (in favor of the speculators):

There are more disclosures to come. The CFTC says it will soon release the newly disaggregated data going back three years. If those numbers, like the quarterly ETF data, are equally unconvincing on the role of speculation, the case for limiting positions will be weakened.

And the Economists' speculator-friendly bottom line:

And a strong counter-argument remains: that speculators provide crucial liquidity. Even if they also have some effect on prices, taking them out of the game could well do more harm than good. It is tempting to look for scapegoats when high prices hurt consumers. But the real culprits for oil-price volatility may be much more familiar: supply, demand and global instability.

September 9, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Making the World a Better Place

Here is New Scientist's list of the top 10 ways to make the world a better place.  The article itself contains more discussion, but you need to subscribe.


Comments anyone???

BLUEPRINT FOR A BETTER WORLD

We live in an imperfect world. Poverty, disease, lack of education, environmental destruction - the problems are all too obvious. Many people don't have clean water, let alone enough food, and the unsustainable lifestyle of the wealthy few is storing up catastrophic climate change.

Can we do anything about it? You bet we can. Technology is a double-edged sword, but science and reason have made our lives immeasurably better overall - and only through science and reason can we hope to make a real difference in the future. So here and over the next three weeks, New Scientist will explore diverse ideas for making the world a better place, and the evidence backing them.

This week, we look at some radical ideas for transforming society and changing the way countries are run. We also examine the state of the world as it is today, to see whether things are getting better or worse.

Next week, we'll report on what you as an individual can do to make a difference. Then we'll explore what many see as the fundamental problem: overpopulation. And finally, we'll ponder the profound and long-lasting changes we are making to our home planet.

1.  Beware of common sense

If governments are serious about achieving their aims, they must base their decisions on hard evidence and not received wisdom

2.  Legalise drugs

Staff from the Central Bureau of Narcotics destroy the opium poppy crop, Kashmir, India (Image: Sipa Press / Rex)

Far from protecting us and our children, the war on drugs is making the world a much more dangerous place

3.  Give police your DNA

A woman gives a blood sample for DNA matching (Image: Sipa Press / Rex)

The only fair, effective answer to the question of whose DNA profiles police should keep is: everybody's

BIG IDEAS

"The best way to make the world a better place is to make it not the only place for us. We should establish a self-supporting colony on Mars."
J. Richard Gott

Read more

BIG IDEAS

"I think that our best course of action is to spend at least as much effort adapting to global heating as in attempts to slow or stop it happening."
James Lovelock

Read more

4.  Redefine the bottom line

Governments need to find better ways of measuring progress than simply looking at wealth

5.  Find out if we can cool the planet

Can we use technology to halt climate change? (Image: Gaetan Charbonneau / Workbook Stock / Getty)

We need to do our homework rather than simply assume geoengineering can stave off disaster

6.  Tax carbon and give the money to the people

Coal mines, like this one in China, could be taxed (Image: China Photos / Getty)

Goods should be taxed to reflect the damage they do to the planet, with revenues redistributed to society

7.  Learn to love genetic engineering

It might not be "natural", but GM could help us overcome a host of problems (Image: Brand New Images / Stone / Getty)

The technology environmentalists love to hate really could play a big role in saving the planet

BIG IDEAS

"One of the biggest problems we face today is a feeling of helplessness. It is desperately important for us to understand that each one of us does make a difference."
Jane Goodall

Read more

BIG IDEAS

"On a global scale, the best and most effective insurance policy for mankind would have to be legislative and economic protection of our surviving rainforests."
Richard Branson

Read more

8. End the pillaging of the high seas

We must put a stop to the free-for-all out on the oceans to have any chance of saving their riches from the ravages of climate change

9. Generate a feed-in frenzy

Paying people who generate green energy and feed it back to the grid is the best way to boost uptake of renewable energy

10. Take Friday off… forever

The four-day week could boost employment, save energy and make us happier

September 9, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sustainable Fisheries Law

I teach Sustainable Natural Resources Law in the spring.  Here's a new publication brought to my attention by Gerd Winter that looks like a great fit for introducing students to the fisheries area.  A slightly edited summary of the book courtesy of Gerd appears below:

Towards Sustainable Fisheries Law

As most of the fish resources in the world's oceans are constantly depleting, the development of effective and efficient instruments of fisheries management becomes crucial. Against this background, the IUCN
Environmental Law Programme proudly presents its latest publication in the IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper Series, edited by Gerd Winter, a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, which focuses on a legal approach towards sustainable and equitable management of fish resources.

This publication is a result of an interdisciplinary endeavour with worldwide participation studying multiple demands on coastal zones and viable solutions for resource use with emphasis on fisheries. The book consists of six case studies including Indonesia, Kenya, Namibia, Brazil, Mexico and the EU, which are preceded by an analysis of the international law requirements concerning fisheries management. The final part of the book summarizes the case studies and proposes a methodology for diagnosing problems in existing management systems and developing proposals for reform.

Towards Sustainable Fisheries Law thus helps the reader to learn more about the international legal regime for fisheries management that is currently in place, improves the understanding of the institutional and legal problems related to fisheries management that countries face at the national level, and provides guidance for sustainable use of fish resources through a "legal clinic" for fisheries management.

The book was published as IUCN Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 74. Free copies can be ordered at the IUCN office or downloaded (2,05 MB) from the IUCN website at: Toward Sustainable Fisheries Law

September 9, 2009 in Africa, Asia, Biodiversity, Books, Current Affairs, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, North America, Physical Science, Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)