Tagged: China

Fossil fuel electricity under real threat from solar and wind power

windfarmsea
Click to enlargeStiftung OFFSHORE-WINDENERGIE

Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.

Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.

Professional naysayers, bought-and-paid-for skeptics, conservative ideologues rooted to political failures like Ayn Rand see the fruit of their labors rejected by economic reality – as usual. Solid facts, real advances are beginning to progress as predicted – or better. That won’t shut them up. The money tap remains wide open. But, ordinary folks, working class, middle class, however you slice and dice your class analysis, are starting to reap the benefits of the new means of renewable energy production.

No one is more tradition-bound than public utilities. They function like constipated manure machines. They’ve been producing cowshit for research and analysis for so many generations they are incapable of changing their business model to match a dynamic economic landscape.

Meanwhile, globalized competition encouraged by the group of nations acting responsibly to counter climate change are affecting the cash flow and profits of corporations sitting around like children in a temper tantrum – demanding the people who recognized the need for change now spend tax dollars to bail them out of their self-generated disaster.

They should be replaced by common sense, scientific, economic solutions. Send them away. Build them a leaky rest home next to one of the Koch Brothers coal heaps.

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China ready to spend $16 Billion on charging stations for electric cars

China is considering providing as much as $16 billion in government funding to build electric-vehicle charging facilities and spur demand for clean cars, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The policy will be announced soon, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The people declined to provide further details of the plan such as how long the program would last or whether the chargers would be compatible with cars made by Tesla Motors…

Increased state funding would be a tailwind for carmakers coping with consumer concerns over the price, reliability and convenience of electric vehicles. It would also build on the tax breaks announced by China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, to fight pollution and cultivate its local EV industry, which includes BYD Co. and Kandi Technologies Group…

Among recent government initiatives, China will exempt new-energy vehicles — defined as electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles — from a purchase tax starting next month, and has ordered government departments to buy such vehicles for their official fleets.

Supporting a strategic and emerging industry like new-energy vehicles is a “win-win” for industrial development and environmental protection, the central government said last month in the statement announcing the waiver of the purchase tax. Developing new-energy autos is important for spurring innovation, promoting energy savings and reductions in emissions, and will help to drive domestic demand and nurture new avenues of growth, according to the notice.

Chinese governmental departments target a minimum of plug-in vehicles to 30% over the near term.

Let’s see. I’ll go peek at what the United States target is. Golly – a million EV’s on the road in another decade. Based on federal tax breaks for consumers.

There is a grouping of eight Democrat-dominated state legislatures collectively aiming for over three million electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids on the road in the same sort of timeframe. Triple the federal goal!

Oh, that’s right. There’s a clot of bought-and-sold politicians in the way of any such national spending. It’s called Congress. Stuffed full of cowards and decrepit ideologues.

What a free trade zone is all about – Amazon ready to expand in China!

amazonchina

Amazon.com will set up shop in China’s Shanghai free trade zone, the company said on Wednesday, aiming to take advantage of less stringent trade regulations to sell a wider range of products in the country.

The U.S. online retailer’s move shows an intent not only to remain in China but to beef up its presence in an e-commerce market dominated by Alibaba Group Holding and Beijing-based JD.com, the second-biggest player.

Amazon did not say when the company is likely to begin operations in the free trade zone, which enjoys more relaxed import and export regulations than the rest of China.

The company is also pushing its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing business in China and said in December that the country will have its own AWS region to improve speeds for its mainly corporate customers…

Amazon’s move to the free trade zone comes nearly a year after the zone was launched, attracting attention from overseas businesses and hailed as one of China’s boldest reforms in decades. However, there has been a lack of specific policy details since the initial fanfare.

Foreign banks, such as Citigroup and HSBC Holdings have set up branches in the zone, but many foreign companies have been reluctant to follow suit, citing a lack of clarity on what will and will not be allowed in the zone.

The 2nd half of that last sentence is representative of what investors call the chickenshit index. Since Reuters was purchased by Thomson you’re bound to find some editorializing by omission. It’s the imperial disease.

In truth, this first free trade zone has been so successful that another dozen or more cities around China are lobbying to follow Shanghai’s model.

Impressive construction projects — 2014


Click to enlarge

The Dutch have a complex relationship with water – living in a country that floods a lot will do that to you. So one of the most unique new residential buildings in the Netherlands takes a particularly interesting approach to the problem. The Citadel is the world’s first floating apartment complex, consisting of 60 units atop a floating platform on a lake in the “New Water” development in Naaldwijk. Each apartment has a unique floor plan created from modular elements, and when completed the complex will float in water that’s 12 feet deep. It will be connected to the mainland by a floating bridge.

And here’s a link to the site showing all ten of the construction projects.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

BRICS nations found bank to rival Western-dominated World Bank and IMF

The so-called BRICS countries agreed to form an international development bank with aspirations to challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said Tuesday that the New Development Bank will start with $50 billion in capital and $100 billion as a currency reserve fund for liquidity crises…

Still, the BRICS bank, which could add more member nations, represents a bid to expand the influence of the BRICS emerging markets and act as a counterbalance to institutions run by the U.S. and other developed nations…

As developing countries began playing a larger role in the world economy, their leaders repeatedly complained that they have not been given correspondingly larger voices in international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, both based in Washington. The U.S. typically appoints the World Bank president, and European countries appoint the IMF chief.

“International governance structures designed within a different power configuration show increasingly evident signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness,” said the official statement signed by the BRICS leaders, who met in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Tuesday. “We believe the BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions toward more representative and equitable governance.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma hammered out some of the final details before signing the agreement Tuesday.

Among the terms are that the bank will be in Shanghai, its first president will be from India, and the first chair of the board of directors will be from Brazil…

Analysts expect that other countries – like Indonesia, Mexico or Turkey – will join the bank over time. Certainly, they and their neighbors have no shortage of conflicts with restrictions important to the fiscal bears directing the IMF or the World Bank.

I doubt anyone expects either of the banks under the thumb of the US [and to a lesser extent, the EU] to modernize, to actively support the developing nations in any goal beyond being a source of cheap labor, raw materials, for Western corporations.

Hacking charges against China arrive the same time the U.S. is wooing more Chinese investment — WTF?

china buying pork

Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to China, started his workweek Monday by urging China’s state-owned enterprises to invest in American infrastructure projects. “There is a huge opportunity,” he told a forum at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that was attended by scores of Chinese and U.S. executives.

While Baucus was looking for Chinese investment, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was preparing to announce an indictment against five Chinese military officers. Holder would accuse them of hacking into U.S. companies’ computer systems on behalf of unnamed Chinese state-owned enterprises _ including possibly some that the United States is courting for investment.

To many analysts, the juxtaposition of the two events Monday reveals how bifurcated U.S. policy toward China has become. On any given day, it can swing between indictments and ceremonial toasts.

Some journalists try to be nice guys. Instead of “bifurcated” try “lying” and “hypocrites”.

Here in Beijing, Baucus’ efforts to court Chinese investment were quickly overshadowed by what China called “fabricated” accusations against its military officers. By Tuesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency was reporting that Baucus had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain the U.S. position and make amends.

Adam Segal, a cyber security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he was surprised that the Obama administration decided to issue the indictments, the first U.S. prosecution against a foreign country’s military for economic espionage. “The public ‘naming and shaming’ has been a big part of the picture since a year ago,” he said, but is unclear how effective it has been…

Unlike in the United States, China’s economy is dominated by more than 100 major state-owned enterprises. These include companies involved in steel manufacturing, nuclear power and solar power _ the sectors named in the indictment as targets for China’s U.S. hacking.

It’s long been known that China’s military has close ties to the enterprises. It’s been suspected for almost as long that the military uses its cyber warfare capabilities to give those industries a competitive advantage. That was backed up in 2013 by a detailed investigation by Mandiant, a private cyber security company. Mandiant revealed that a Shanghai-based espionage unit of the People’s Liberation Army had engaged in years of cyber attacks against U.S. companies and defense installations.

“This issue poses a serious threat to the stability of U.S.-Chinese codependency,” writes Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, in his new book, “Unbalanced.” Unlike issues such as unfair trade practices, he writes, hacking doesn’t lend itself to a process of negotiation and adjudication.

Indeed, it now appears that the only avenue for negotiation has been suspended, if not permanently shut down. In response to Monday indictments, China said it would no longer attend a working group made up of senior officials from both countries to resolve complaints about cross-border hacking…

Some observers doubt the indictments will do anything but send a symbolic message to China, and even that isn’t likely to budge Beijing. As reflected in China’s state media, Chinese officials view the United States as a hypocrite on cyber spying in the wake of Edward Snowden NSA-spying revelations.

Yesterday, our DOJ revealed its shocking new revelations which led to the indictment in absentia of Chinese military for cybercrimes. It turns out to be the Mandiant Report which has been in the public domain for seventeen months. Our fearless leaders are not only hypocrites, they must presume most Americans to be stupid and/or ignorant.

The ignorant part of the equation is aided, of course, by national and local media which will not get off their dusty butts sufficiently to read back through previous articles or query an expert like Stephen Roach whose task for decades was to advise American finance on what was actually going on in distant Asia. As far as I’ve seen, only Bloomberg TV has asked Professor Roach about the indictment – and it was he that I saw on that business channel, this morning, taking appropriate umbrage at the hypocrisy of our government spoon-feeding NSA spooks while declaring outrage over “our” corporations being spied on – on the basis of a report from 2012.

China spies on companies and it’s not evil in their eyes. Our government spies on us – as well as spying on allies and other national corporations like Petrobras in Brazil – and it’s not evil in their eyes. Of course, we have a Supreme Court that worries about defending corporate “people” – so, there is that added extra layer of deceit we can take pride in.

Reconnecting severed nerves with liquid metal

When peripheral nerves are severed, the loss of function leads to atrophy of the effected muscles, a dramatic change in quality of life and, in many cases, a shorter life expectancy.

Despite decades of research, nobody has come up with an effective way to reconnect nerves that have been severed. Various techniques exist to sew the ends back together or to graft nerves into the gap that is created between severed ends.

Ultimately, the success of these techniques depends on the ability of the nerve ends to grow back and knit together. But given that nerves grow at the rate of one mm per day, it can take a significant amount of time, sometimes years, to reconnect. And during this time, the muscles can degrade beyond repair, leading to long-term disability…

Today, Jing Liu at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a few pals say they’ve reconnected severed nerves using liquid metal for the first time. And they say that in conducting electrical signals between the severed ends of a nerve, the metal dramatically outperforms the standard saline electrolyte used to preserve the electrical properties of living tissue.

Biomedical engineers have been eyeing the liquid metal alloy gallium-indium-selenium for some time (67 percent Ga, 20.5 percent In and 12.5 percent Sn by volume). This material is liquid at body temperature and is thought to be entirely benign. Consequently, they have been studying various ways of using it inside the body, such as for imaging.

Now a team of Chinese biomedical engineers say the metal’s electrical properties could help preserve the function of nerves while they regenerate. And they’ve carried out the first experiments to show that the technique is viable

What’s more, since liquid metal clearly shows up in x-rays, it can be easily removed from the body when it is no longer needed using a microsyringe.

…Their goal is to make special conduits for reconnecting severed nerves that contain liquid metal to preserve electrical conduction and therefore muscle function, but also containing growth factor to promote nerve regeneration…

So it’s just possible that liquid metal will become an important component in the treatment of nerve injuries in future.

Bravo! Something I’d volunteer for in a New York minute. RTFA for surgical details.

Even though I’m an old fart I’d gladly offer to participate if there was a chance of aiding folks in following generations. Good research always needs a few warm bodies to check on final results.

Has China left behind traditional fixed growth targets?

three
Lou Jiwei, Xi Jinping and Zhou Xiaochuan

“Isn’t it now time for China to abandon the concept of a growth target?”

That was the question I asked Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei this week at the 15th annual China Development Forum, which brings together top Chinese officials and an international delegation of academics, leaders of multilateral organizations, and business executives. Having attended the CDF since former Premier Zhu Rongji initiated it in 2000, I can attest to its role as one of China’s most important platforms for debate. Zhu welcomed the exchange of views at the Forum as a true intellectual test for China’s reformers.

It was in that spirit that I posed my question to Lou, whom I have known since the late 1990’s…I have always found him to be direct, intellectually curious, a first-rate analytical thinker, and a forward-looking advocate of market-based reforms. He is cut from the same cloth as his mentor, Zhu…

While it may seem like splitting hairs, continuing to frame the economic goal as a target sends a message of determined and explicit guidance that now seems at odds with the government’s market-oriented intentions. Wouldn’t dropping the concept send a far more powerful message? Isn’t it time for China to let go of the last vestiges of its centrally planned past?

Lou’s response: “Good question.”

China, he went on, is in fact moving away from its once single-minded emphasis on growth targeting. The government now stresses three macroeconomic goals – job creation, price stability, and GDP growth. And, as evidenced by the annual “work report” that the premier recently submitted to China’s National People’s Congress, the current emphasis is in that order, with GDP growth at the bottom of the list…

This is particularly relevant in light of the important threshold that has now been reached by the structural transformation of the Chinese economy – the long-awaited shift to a services-led growth dynamic. Services, which now account for the largest share of the economy, require close to 30% more jobs per unit of output than the manufacturing and construction sectors combined. In an increasingly services-led, labor-intensive economy, China’s economic managers can afford to be more relaxed about a GDP slowdown…

RTFA. Few economists have the experience, personal knowledge of Stephen Roach on China. I mentioned in a recent post about the fight against corruption that economics and commerce fit more into my personal interests. You may find the topics dull as a hoe handle; but, if you haven’t curiosity about what’s going on in the whole world and how events will affect your own life – you may as well settle back and let some priest or pundit run your life.

Here’s where Doctor Roach ends up on this particular occasion. For more, read his latest book, Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China.

Since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of the early 1980’s, less and less attention has been paid to the numerical targets of central planning…China’s most senior fiscal and monetary policymakers – Lou Jiwei and Zhou Xiaochuan – are close to taking the final step in the long journey to a market-based economy. Their shared interpretation of flexible growth targeting puts them basically in the same camp as policymakers in most of the developed world. The plan is now a goal-setting exercise. From now on, fluctuations in the Chinese economy, and the policy responses that those fluctuations imply, need to be considered in that vein.

Looks like China’s assault on corruption ain’t limited to second tier bureaucrats

Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least $14.5 billion from family members and associates of retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades…

More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months…

Prosecutors and the party’s anti-corruption watchdog had frozen bank accounts with deposits totalling 37bn yuan and seized domestic and overseas bonds with a combined value of 51bn yuan after raiding homes in Beijing, Shanghai and five provinces.

Investigators had also confiscated about 300 apartments and villas, antiques and contemporary paintings and more than 60 vehicles, the sources added. Other items seized included expensive liquor, gold, silver and cash in local and foreign currencies.

According to the sources, the seized assets had a combined value of at least 90bn yuan = $14.5 billion.

The sheer size of the asset seizures and the scale of the investigations into the people around Zhou – both unreported until now – make the corruption probe unprecedented in modern China and would appear to show that President Xi Jinping is tackling graft at the highest levels

The government has yet to make any official statement about Zhou or the case against him and it has not been possible to contact Zhou, his family, associates or staff for comment…

Nice to see the fight against corruption making progress. Frankly, my interests in China proper are more concerned with economics and commerce. But, both of those qualities are affected by corruption. Just as corruption is affected by whether or not crooks are actually prosecuted.

Good thing we don’t have to worry about that here in the GOUSA.

Oh.

China planning a high-speed rail network to link Asia/Europe


The world’s fastest trains ready to roll — Click to enlarge

China is in negotiations to build a high-speed rail network to India and Europe that would make a trip from London to Beijing last just two days.

The network would begin in London and extend to India, Pakistan and Beijing. It could eventually carry passengers from on to Singapore, a trip that would last three days, according to project consultant Wang Mengshu, as reported in the Telegraph (UK).

A second line would extend from Beijing northward, through Russia to Germany, linking with the European railway system.

A third line would extend southward, connecting Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia…

“We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes,” said Mr Wang. “The best case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade,” he added.

According to the Telegraph report, China is in negotiations with 17 nations for the massive project, which would effectively open the Central, East and Southeast Asia to Europe (and vice-versa).

In a way, it’s the Silk Road 2.0: the rail lines would allow China to transport raw materials more directly and efficiently.

According to the report, the system wasn’t China’s idea — it was the other nations, such as India. But it took Chinese know-how and tech to get it done.

China is in the midst of completing a $735.6 billion, five-year domestic railway expansion project consisting of almost 19,000 miles of new railways.

The nation unveiled the world’s fastest train, the Harmony Express, last year. The train has a top speed of almost 250 miles per hour, and will be used between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

High speed rail isn’t unique, nowadays. Except, of course, if a system was built in the United States. We’d rather wrestle with concrete highways especially as we let them fall apart from lack of maintenance.

We should be able to count on Republicans and Blue Dog Dems to stand around next to the last crumbling interchange and bridge complex and take credit for all the money they’ve saved taxpayers over the years. While food prices triple and our stature in the world of manufacturing moves to last place.

Logistics? Who cares in the GOUSA besides UPS?

Thanks, Mike