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TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014
It was not that long ago that Gazprom was riding high around the world, as it supplied large quantities of its own and Turkmen gas to Europe, and was negotiating to sell more into China and Asia in general. Then Turkmenistan and China arranged their own deal, and with the construction of a direct pipeline between the two countries, suddenly the market was no longer running entirely Gazprom’s way. They could no longer mandate that Turkmenistan take the price that they offered at the time that Russia controlled all the pipelines that carried the gas to market. And with that change, and the changing natural gas market, so Gazprom’s fortunes have started to teeter.
At the same time the anticipated Russian market in the United States, which would have been supplied from newly developed Russian Artic reserves such as those in the Shtokman field are no longer needed, as the American shale gases have come onto the market in increasing quantities. The world has, in short, become a somewhat less favorable place for Gazprom and the Chinese have hesitated to commit to a further order of natural gas, in part because they anticipate getting a better deal for the fuel than Gazprom would like them to pay.
Russia would like, and is anticipating, that the deal for some 38 billion cubic meters/year of natural gas, starting in 2018 will be signed when President Putin visits China in May. (In context Russia, which supplies about 26% of European natural gas, sends them around 162 bcm per year). Negotiations over the sale of the gas have dragged on for years, having first started in 2004 but the major disagreement continues to be over price. At a time when Norway is seeing a peak in production and Qatar is moving more of its sales to Asia, Russia had seen an increase in European sales, and has been able to move that gas at a price of $387 per 1,000 cubic meters (or $10.54 per kcf/MMBtu. The price of such gas in the US is quite a bit cheaper.
Figure 1. Natural gas prices in the United States. (EIA )
Russia would like to get a price of around $400 per kcm ($10.89 per kcf) with the slight extra going to pay for the pipeline and delivery costs. Whether the two countries can come to an agreement on the price may well now depend on how vulnerable Russia really is to any pressure on its markets from other sources of natural gas. Japan, for example, is now considering re-opening its nuclear power stations, as the costs for imported fuel are having significant consequences on their attempts at economic growth.
Similarly there is talk that the United States may become a significant player on the world stage by exporting LNG as it moves into greater surplus at home, thereby providing another threat to Russian sales. Part of the problem with that idea comes from the costs of producing the gas, relative to the existing price being obtained for it, and part on the amount of natural gas viably available. Consider that, at present, some of the earlier shale gas fields, such as the Barnett, Fayetteville and Haynesville are showing signs of having peaked.
Figure 2. Monthly natural gas production from shale fields (EIA)
While production from the Marcellus continues to rise, there is some question as to whether the Eagle Ford is reaching peak productionalthough that discussion, at the moment relates more to oil production. However given that it is the liquid portion of the production that is the more profitable this still drives the question.
And in this regard, the rising costs of wells, against the more difficult to assure profits is beginning to have an impact on the willingness of companies in the United States to invest the large quantities of capital into new wells that is needed to sustain and grow production. A recent article in Rigzone took note that the major oil companies are rethinking their strategies of investment, with some reorganization of their plans in particular for investment in shale fields. This raises a question for the author:
Another question for the industry is who will supply the risk capital for exploratory drilling, both on and offshore, if the majors pull back their spending? Onshore, for the past few years, a chunk of that capital has been supplied by private equity investors who have supported exploration and production teams in start-up ventures. They have also provided additional capital to existing companies allowing them to purchase acreage or companies to improve their prospect inventory. Unfortunately, the results of the shale revolution have been disappointing, leading to significant asset impairment charges and negative cash flows as the spending to drill new wells in order to gain and hold leases has exceeded production revenues, given the drop in domestic natural gas prices. Will that capital continue to be available, or will it, too, begin demanding profits rather than reserve additions and production growth?
Before investors put up the money for new LNG plants they need to be assured that there will be a financial return for that investment. Given that it takes time for such a market to evolve, and given the need that Russia has to sustain its market and potentially to increase it, the volumes that the US might put into play are likely to be small, with little other than political impact likely.
If Russia recognizes this, and feels relatively confident that Europe must continue to buy natural gas from Gazprom, particularly with the current move by Europe away from other sources of fuel such as coal, then they are likely to be more resistant to bringing the price down for their Chinese customers. On the other hand if China thinks that it might be able to get a better deal from Iran, were sanctions to ease, or from other MENA countries, then – thinking perhaps that Russia needs the sale more – they might toughen their position and the price debate may continue.
It will be interesting to see if it resolves within the next few weeks, and if so, at what a price.
By: Washington Post
Posted: 03/23/2014 1:41 PM |
A woman holds a banner that reads: “Putin is Occupier” during a rally against the breakup of the country in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (DARKO VOJINOVIC / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES)
Debate has raged over whether the United States can fight Vladimir Putin on the Russian president’s most favourable ground: energy politics. It can, and it should, particularly because there’s an obvious path forward that coincides with American — indeed, world — economic interests. That path is lifting irrational restrictions on exports and making it easier to build natural gas export terminals.
For years, Putin has used his nation’s wealth of oil and natural gas as a cudgel to bully his neighbours. At present, the European Union’s large imports of Russian natural gas discourage a forceful Western response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the United States is tapping massive reserves of unconventional natural gas. That has not only made the U.S. self-sustaining in gas, but also driven down the price of U.S. gas to a point well below what Europeans are paying for the Russian stuff. If the federal government allowed more of it to be liquefied and exported, would the Russians lose a share of the European market?
The story is more complicated than that. Russian gas, which doesn’t need to be liquefied to move (by pipeline) into the European market, would enjoy significant price advantages over imported U.S. gas. The interaction of private buyers and sellers would probably direct U.S. exports to places where gas is more profitable to sell, such as Japan and Korea. The result would be a bounty for the U.S. economy and an improved American trade deficit — but not much direct displacement of Russian gas in Europe.
But that’s also not the end of the story. The U.S. entry into the Asian market would diminish Russia’s opportunity to profit there, as it aims to do. Contributing to an already widening and more diverse global supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) would also give European importers more flexibility in sourcing their fuel — from the United States, Qatar, or others — the sort of market conditions that have already enabled Europeans to renegotiate gas contracts with Russia. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi points out that Putin might end up with an uncomfortable choice between maintaining market share in Europe and slashing his prices more.
Ramping up U.S. exports would take years, but the effects would not only be long-term, as some critics charge. Action that communicates a certain intent to allow more LNG exports would send a signal that “the U.S. is open for business,” as the Eurasia Group’s Leslie Palti-Guzman puts it. That could deter Putin from playing the energy card and help many buyers in negotiating long-term contracts.
The economic case for allowing natural gas exports is compelling on its own. Doing so would bring money into the country and uphold the vital principle that energy resources should flow freely around the globe, making the markets for the fuels the world economy needs as flexible and robust as possible. The more major suppliers there are following that principle, the less control predatory regimes such as Putin’s will have over the market.
Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360
17 MAR 2014: ANALYSIS
Rebuilding the Natural World:
A Shift in Ecological Restoration
From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.
by richard conniff
Restoring degraded ecosystems — or creating new ones — has become a huge global business. China, for instance, is planting 90 million acres of forest in a swath across its northern provinces. And in North America, just in the past two decades, restoration projects costing $70 billion have
attempted to restore or re-create 7.4 million acres of marsh, peatland, floodplain, mangrove, and other wetlands.
This patchwork movement to rebuild the natural world ought to be good news. Such projects are, moreover, likely to become far more common as the world rapidly urbanizes and as cities, new and old, turn to green infrastructure to address problems like climate change, flood control, and pollution of nearby waterways. But hardly anyone does a proper job of measuring the results, and when they do, it generally turns out that ecological restorations seldom function as intended.
A 2012 study in PLOS Biology, for instance, looked at 621 wetland projects and found most had failed to deliver promised results, or match the performance of natural systems, even decades after completion. Likewise,
A new study finds more than 75 percent of river restorations failed to meet minimal performance targets.
an upcoming study by Margaret A. Palmer at the University of Maryland reports that more than 75 percent of river and stream restorations failed to meet their own minimal performance targets. “They may be pretty projects,” says Palmer, “but they don’t provide ecological benefits.”
Hence the increasing interest in what Alexander Felson, an urban ecologist and landscape architect at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, calls “designed experiments” — that is, experiments designed by ecologists and incorporated into development and landscape restoration projects to test which alternative approaches work best — or whether a particular approach works at all. The idea is both to improve the project at hand, says Felson, and also to provide a scientific basis for making subsequent projects more successful.
At first glance, the designed experiment idea might seem to echo practices that already exist. Environmental consultants have been a part of most development projects for decades. But they almost never do long-term research on a project, says Felson. “Adaptive management,” the idea of continually monitoring environmental projects and making steady improvements over time — or “learning by doing” — has also been around in ecological circles since the 1970s. But a recent survey in Biological Conservation found “surprisingly few practical, on-ground examples of adaptive management.” In part, that’s because “long-term investigations are notoriously difficult to establish and maintain.”
To deal with that challenge, Felson proposes incorporating ecologists into the design team, so that designers and ecologists build a relationship and complement each other’s strengths from the start. As part of its Million Tree Initiative, for instance, New York City was proposing in 2007 to plant almost 2000 acres of new and restored forest over a ten-year period. The project fit the city’s sustainability agenda to reduce air pollution, sequester
As part of New York’s Million Tree Initiative, a scientific team proposed experiments for the planned forests.
carbon dioxide, control stormwater run-off, and provide wildlife habitat.
But planners didn’t have much basis for determining which species were more likely to achieve those goals, or where to plant them. The usual feedback about whether an urban tree planting project is successful boils down to a single question: “Are they alive or are they dead?” Nor could science provide much guidance. A literature search turned up only a single long-term study of new urban forests planted with native tree species.
So Felson and a team of scientists and designers proposed designed experiments for New York’s planned forests — plantings with different species, in varying configurations, some with compost or other amendments, some without — to learn what worked best.
The proposal represented a compromise between two sensible but contradictory ideas. On the one hand, it is widely accepted that the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago — or, failing that, right now. On the other hand, Felson writes, you “would not build a wastewater treatment plant if it did not achieve water-quality standards, so why plant an urban forest without knowing that it performs the intended function?”
Because experimental plots are not typically scenic, the ecologists worked with park managers to disguise the test plots within a more natural-looking forest. The first test forest went in at Kissena Corridor Park in Queens in 2010, and a second at Willow Lake in 2011, on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.
The ambition is to study traits like carbon sequestration and how species patterns change over decades. But the study is already producing results that may be useful within the context of the Million Tree Initiative, according to Felson and Yale co-authors Mark Bradford and Emily
The Chinese park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff.
Oldfield: If the goal is to get trees to canopy height as quickly as possible, for instance, competition from shrubs will actually make them grow faster, not slower. Some trees, like basswood, do better in more diverse plantings; others, like oaks, prefer less diversity. Compost doesn’t seem to make much difference for the first two years but kicks in during year three.
The designed experiment idea has begun to turn up in restoration projects around the world, notably in China. The northeastern city of Tianjin, for instance, was struggling in 2003 to deal with a 54-acre former shooting range that had become an illegal dumping ground and was also heavily polluted by urban runoff. It hired Kongjian Yu, founder of the Beijing design firm Turenscape, who had trained at Harvard with Richard T.T. Forman, a leading thinker in urban landscape ecology.
The result, Qiaoyuan Wetland Park, opened in 2008, with none of the great lawns and formal plantings seen in conventional Chinese parks. Instead, Yu’s design features a naturalized landscape of ponds, grasses, and reeds, with walkways and viewing platforms for local residents.
Traditional landscape design in China is “based on art and form,” says Yu. “My practice is to find a scientific basis.” The park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff as it moves through the site. Yu calls it “peasant” landscaping, based on traditional rice farms. But the ponds are of different sizes and depths, with the aim of monitoring how
As urban crowding increases, cities may require new projects to deliver multiple ecosystem services.
each microhabitat affects water quality, PH values, and the character of the evolving plant community.
Ecologists on staff at Turenscape and Yu’s students at Beijing University do the monitoring. Among other results, they recently reported that three families of Siberian weasel now call the park home, a remarkable development in a city of 7.5 million people. Yu acknowledges that the experimental results don’t hold much interest for city officials, who have sometimes tried to replace “messy” reeds with playgrounds and formal plantings. But Yu has employed the results from Tianjin to improve his subsequent projects, which also incorporate designed experiments.
The pell mell pace of urban development in China, combined with the often catastrophic environmental after-effects, together create a demand for landscape designs that do more than look pretty, according to Yu. The usual engineering solutions — for instance, “larger pipes, more powerful pumps, or stronger dikes” to handle monsoon flooding — often just aggravate other problems, like the water shortages and falling groundwater levels that now afflict 400 Chinese cities. Yu sees naturalized landscapes as urban “green sponges” to retain and filter water, with designed experiments to show whether or not they deliver the promised services.
The goal of incorporating designed experiments more broadly in restoration and development projects is likely to meet resistance on both sides. Developers may regard ecologists as natural adversaries, and research as a costly nuisance. The idea of working within the agenda of developers and government agencies may also strike some ecologists as a fatal compromise.
But China is no means the only place with rapidly worsening environmental issues. As urban crowding increases worldwide and the effects of climate change become more evident, cities may require every new development or restoration project to deliver multiple ecosystem services. The stricter financial standards of the green marketplace will also oblige project managers to demonstrate that those services are real and quantifiable.
“There are certainly problems with what we’ve been doing in restoration projects, but it doesn’t mean we should stop,” says Franco Montalto, a Drexel University environmental engineer who has written about the designed experiment idea. “We should be trying to figure out what doesn’t work and stop doing that, and figure out what does work and do more of it. That’s what you learn from experiments.”
POSTED ON 17 MAR 2014
In first days of July 1937, Chinese and Japanese soldiers skirmished in Wanping, a few miles southwest of what is now the Chinese capital. China’s Chiang Kai-shek then knew his army was no match for Japan’s, and he had many opportunities to avoid battle with a vastly superior foe. Yet he ultimately chose war.
So why did Chiang decide to fight? And how did a minor—and probably accidental—clash turn into years of disastrous conflict? Now, analysts think today’s Asia feels like 1914 Europe, and last month in Davos Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likened today’s situation involving his country and China to that of England and Germany a hundred years ago. The better comparison, however, is 1937. The parallels between then and now, unfortunately, are striking.
The “China Incident,” as the Japanese then called the war, began on the banks of the Yongding River in Wanping during the night of July 7, 1937. Imperial troops, shooting blanks in an evening exercise, found themselves under fire, presumably from elements of the Chinese 29th Army. After the minor exchange near Lugouqiao, commonly known as the Marco Polo Bridge, Japanese officers were alarmed when one of their soldiers failed to turn up for a roll call. They then demanded that Chinese guards let them search nearby Wanping, where the Japanese had no general permission to enter.
A refusal triggered days of skirmishes. Once the fighting started, it did not matter that the stray Japanese private, who is thought to have wandered off to urinate, eventually turned up unhurt. Soon, Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China was at war. The Japanese in short order would take the Marco Polo Bridge, cut off Beijing from the rest of the country, and seize that city. They would then drive Chiang’s forces from the metropolis of Shanghai, the capital of Nanjing, and most of the rest of eastern China.
Chiang could have avoided the descent into a war in July 1937. In fact, both sides had agreed to a truce after the initial fighting around the Marco Polo Bridge. Yet the agreement did not hold. Oxford professor Rana Mitter compares the events then to those surrounding the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914. War, in both cases, was coming.
It is not hard to see why conflict between China and Japan was inevitable in the late 1930s. Japan was obviously determined to control portions of continental Asia. Its troops were stationed near Wanping pursuant to a 1901 treaty signed after foreign powers, including Japan, had put down the Boxer Rebellion. Japan had previously humiliated the Qing dynasty in a quick war ending in 1895, wresting control of Korea and Taiwan. Japan had also grabbed a portion of northeastern China from the Russians in the first decade of the twentieth century and invaded Manchuria in 1931, establishing puppet state of Manchukuo there. The Japanese massacred Chinese under their control.
In the late 1930s there were many incidents involving China’s troops and those of Japan. Most of these were settled quickly because Chinese commanders on the ground would give into Japanese demands or make concessions of some sort. In July 1937, officers guarding Wanping refused Japanese demands and Chiang realized he would have to make a stand. “The dwarf bandits have attacked at Lugouqiao,” he wrote in his diary, using one of his favorite terms for his enemy. “This is the time for the determination to fight.”
In order for our current level of debt-fueled prosperity to continue, the rest of the world must continue to use our dollars to trade with one another and must continue to buy our debt at ridiculously low interest rates. Of course the number one foreign nation that we depend on to participate in our system is China. China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the planet(including the United States), and most of that trade is conducted in U.S. dollars. This keeps demand for our dollars very high, and it ensures that we can import massive quantities of goods from overseas at very low cost. As a major exporting nation, China ends up with gigantic piles of our dollars. They lend many of those dollars back to us at ridiculously low interest rates. At this point, China owns more of our national debt than any other country does. But if China was to decide to quit playing our game and started moving away from U.S. dollars and U.S. debt, our economic prosperity could disappear very rapidly. Demand for the U.S. dollar would fall and prices would go up. And interest rates on our debt and everything else in our financial system would go up to crippling levels. So it is absolutely critical to our financial future that China continues to play our game.
Unfortunately, there are signs that China has now decided to start looking for a smooth exit from the game. In November, I wrote about how the central bank of China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves”. That means that the pile of U.S. dollars that China is sitting on is not going to get any higher.
In addition, China has signed a whole host of international currency agreements with other nations during the past couple of years which are going to result in less U.S. dollars being used in international trade. You can read about many of these agreements in this article.
This week, we learned that China started to dump U.S. debt during the month of December. Many have imagined that China would try to dump a flood of our debt on to the market all of a sudden once they decided to exit, but that simply does not make sense. Instead, it makes sense for China to dump a bit of debt at a time so that the market will not panic and so that they can get close to full value for the paper that they are holding.
As Bloomberg reported the other day, China dumped nearly 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December…
China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced holdings of U.S. Treasury debt in December by the most in two years as the Federal Reserve announced plans to slow asset purchases.
The nation pared its position in U.S. government bonds by $47.8 billion, or 3.6 percent, to $1.27 trillion, the largest decline since December 2011, according to U.S. Treasury Department data released yesterday.
This is how I would do it if I was China. I would try to dump 30, 40 or 50 billion dollars a month. I would try to make a smooth exit and try to get as much for my U.S. debt paper as I could.
So if China is not going to stockpile U.S. dollars or U.S. debt any longer, what is it going to stockpile?
It is going to stockpile gold of course. In fact, China has been voraciously stockpiling gold for quite some time, and their hunger for gold appears to be growing.
According to Bloomberg, more than 80 percent of the gold that was exported from Switzerland last month went to Asia…
Switzerland sent more than 80 percent of its gold and silver bullion and coin exports to Asia last month, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration said today in an e-mailed report. It imported most from the U.K.
Hong Kong was the top destination at 44 percent on a value basis, with India at 14 percent, the Bern-based customs agency said in its first breakdown of the gold trade data since 1980. Singapore accounted for 8.6 percent of exports, the United Arab Emirates 7.9 percent and China 6.3 percent.
When China imports gold, most of it goes through Hong Kong. We know that imports of gold from Hong Kong into China are at an all-time record high, but we don’t know exactly how much gold China has accumulated at this point because they quit reporting that to the rest of the world a number of years ago.
When it comes to global finance, China is playing chess and the United States is playing checkers. China knows that gold is a universal currency that will hold value over the long-term. As the paper currencies of the world race toward collapse, China could end up holding most of the real money and that would be a huge game changer when they finally reveal that fact…
The announcement of China’s new gold hoard will send shockwaves through the financial markets, and make China and the Chinese yuan (their national currency) even bigger players at the international table.
International banking expert James Rickards compared it to a game of Texas Hold ‘Em poker:
“You want a big pile of chips. The U.S. has a big pile of chips, Europe has a big pile of chips. The U.S. has 8,000 tonnes [metric tons] of gold, 17 members of the euro system have 10,000 tonnes. China at 1,000 tonnes is not a player, but at 5,000 tonnes, they are a player.”
There are some really good points made in the quote above, but I do take exception with a couple of things. First of all, I believe that China now has far more than 5,000 tons of gold. Secondly, I seriously doubt that the U.S. still actually has 8,000 tons of gold or that Europe still actually has 10,000 tons of gold.
As China (and eventually the rest of the world) moves away from a U.S.-based financial system, the consequences are going to be dramatic.
For instance, right now the average rate of interest that the U.S. government pays on debt is just 2.477 percent. That is ridiculously low and it is way below the real rate of inflation. It is simply not rational for anyone to lend the U.S. government money so cheaply, and at some point we are going to see a dramatic shift.
When that day arrives, interest rates are going to rise dramatically. And if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent (and it has been much higher than that in the past), we will be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
Even more frightening is what a rapidly changing interest rate environment would mean for our banking system. There are four large U.S. banks that each have exposure to derivatives in excess of 40trillion dollars. You can find the identity of those banks right here. Interest rate derivatives make up the biggest chunk of those derivatives contracts. As John Embry told King World News just the other day, when that bubble bursts the carnage is going to be unprecedented…
“Stockman brought up a brilliant point, the fact that we have hundreds of trillions of dollars of interest rate swaps, which are polluting the world’s banking system. If we see growing volatility in interest rates, and I think that’s inevitable with what’s going on, that would cause spasms in the financial system. And if something goes wrong in the derivatives market, Heaven help us because the leverage that is imparted to the banking system through these derivatives is unholy.”
Unfortunately, very few of the “experts” will ever see this crash coming.
Very few of them saw it coming in 2000.
Very few of them saw it coming in 2008.
And very few of them will see it coming this time.
I really like what Paul B. Farrell had to say about this…
Early warnings of a crash are dismissed over and over (“just a temporary correction”). They gradually numb us about the inevitable. Time after time we forget history’s lessons. Until finally a big surprise catches us totally off-guard. Financial historian Niall Ferguson put it this way: Before the crash, our world seems almost stationary, deceptively so, balanced, at a set point. So that when the crash finally hits — as inevitably it will — everyone seems surprised. And our brains keep telling us it’s not time for a crash.
Till then, life just goes along quietly, hypnotizing us, making us vulnerable, till a shocker like Lehman Brothers upsets the balance. Then, says Ferguson, the crash is “accelerating suddenly, like a sports car … like a thief in the night.” It hits. Shocks us wide awake.
Don’t let the upcoming crash take you by surprise.
The warning signs are very clear.
Get ready while you still can.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), operator of the crisis-ridden Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, said it found a new leak near the tanks holding contaminated water at the disaster site.
The utility, which serves 29 million customers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, is collecting soil where the leak occurred and doesn’t believe any water reached the ocean, company executives said at a briefing in Tokyo. About 100 metric tons (26,400 gallons) of water may have escaped a concrete barrier, the company said.
“Such a water leak was found despite a variety of measures taken by the company,” Masayuki Ono, an official at the utility’s nuclear power and plant division, said. “We are sorry to have caused concern,” he said.
The finding is a reminder of the task still facing Tokyo Electric as the utility, known as Tepco, battles to manage the plant almost three years since the earthquake and tsunami.
Beta radiation readings of 230 million becquerels per liter were taken in a sample collected from a gutter on top of the leaked tank at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, according to a statement from the Tokyo-based utility. Japan’s safety limit for radioactive materials in drinking water is 10 becquerels per liter, according to the health ministry.
Radioactive water overflowed from the 10-meter long tank after two valves — which were supposed to be closed — had been opened, Ono said today. The leak was found 700 meters (0.4 miles) from the ocean in an area isolated from any drainage ditch, he said.
Setback to Decommissioning
Japan’s nuclear regulator, which is planning to check the utility’s probe of the leak and planned preventative measures, said today that it has asked Tepco to ensure no more leaks from the same type of water storage tanks occur.
The leak highlights difficulties for the regulator as it seeks to force Tepco to limit radiation at the site without slowing down its decommissioning.
“We need a balance of the best regulation and also the quickest decommissioning at Fukushima Dai-Ichi because we really want to have the reduction of the risk at the site,” Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said today in Tokyo.
Tepco has installed about a thousand tanks at Fukushima to store hundreds of thousands of tons of water used to cool fuel after the nuclear accident in March 2011.
Some 300 tons of contaminated groundwater seep into the ocean each day at the Dai-Ichi station 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, Japan’s government has said.
Between May 2011 and August 2013, as many as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium entered the ocean via groundwater, according to past statements from Tepco.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why the Obama Administration Will Not Admit that Fukushima Radiation is Poisoning Americans | Global Research
Why isn’t GE being held accountable?
by Chris Carrington
We all know that the radiation from the stricken Fukushima plant has spread around the globe and is poisoning people worldwide. We all know that the West Coast of the United States is being polluted with radioactive debris and that the oceans, the beaches that border them, and even the air is becoming more polluted by radioactivity as time goes on.
You have to ask yourself why the government won’t admit this. It’s not like a disaster half a world away is their fault, is it?
Or is it? Could the United States government have done something to prevent the situation getting to this point?
Nothing in this article is a state secret, everything is in the public domain, but the information is so disseminated that it appears disconnected.
- the US government knows only too well that the West Coast is polluted with radiation and that the situation is getting worse by the day.
- the US government and General Electric knew that Fukushima was a disaster waiting to happen, and they did nothing to prevent it.
- they also know that the many nuclear reactors in the United States are also prone to catastrophic meltdown, and they are doing nothing about it.
- research by doctors and scientists is being suppressed, and research by private citizens is being written off purely because they have no scientific background.
All the warnings were ignored
The narrative that leads us to the state we are in today starts in 1972.
Stephen Hanauer, an official at the atomic Energy Commission recommended that General Electric’s Mark 1 design be discontinued as it presented unacceptable safety risks.
The New York Times reported:
In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of theNuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission,said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.” (source)
Then, three years later in 1975, Dale Bridenbaugh and two colleagues were asked to review the GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). They were convinced that the reactor was inherently unsafe and so flawed in its design that it could catastrophically fail under certain circumstances. There were two main issues. First was the possible failure of the Mark 1 to deal with the huge pressures created if the unit lost cooling power. Secondly, the spent fuel ponds were situated 100 feet in the air near the top of the reactor.
They voiced their opinions, which were promptly pushed aside, and after realizing that they were not going to be allowed to make their opinions public all three resigned.
Over the years numerous other experts voiced concerns over the GE Mark 1 BWR. All have gone unheeded.
Five of the six reactors at Fukushima were GE Mark 1 BWR. The first reactor, unit one, was commissioned in 1971, prior to the first concerns about the design being raised. The other reactors came on line in 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively. Although all six reactors were the GE Mark 1 design only three were built and supplied by GE. Units 1, 2 and 6 were supplied by GE, 3 and 5 by Toshiba and unit 4 by Hitachi. (Now Hitachi-GE)
Why isn’t GE being held accountable?
Why wouldn’t GE be held accountable? Here’s one possibility: Jeffery Immelt is the head of GE. He is also the head of the United States Economic Advisory Board. He was invited to join the board personally by President Obama in 2009 and took over as head in 2011 when Paul Volcker stepped down in February 2011, just a month before the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima.
Paul Volcker was often seen as being at odds with the administration, and many of his ideas were not embraced by the government. The appointment of Immelt, a self-described Republican, was seen as a move to give Obama a leg up when dealing with the Republican majority in the House.
There have been calls from many organizations for GE to be held accountable for the design faults in the reactors that powered the Fukushima plant. The fact that they had been known for so long does seem to indicate that the company ignored and over-ruled advice from nuclear experts.
GE ran Fukushima alongside TEPCO, but it isn’t liable for the clean-up costs.
A year after the disaster, Tepco was taken over by the Japanese government because it couldn’t afford the costs to get the damaged reactors under control. By June of 2012, Tepco had received nearly 50 billion dollars from the government.
The six reactors were designed by the U.S. company General Electric (GE). GE supplied the actual reactors for units one, two and six, while two Japanese companies Toshiba provided units three and five, and Hitachi unit four. These companies as well as other suppliers are exempted from liability or costs under Japanese law.
Many of them, including GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, are actually making money on the disaster by being involved in the decontamination and decommissioning, according to a report by Greenpeace International.
“The nuclear industry and governments have designed a nuclear liability system that protects the industry, and forces people to pick up the bill for its mistakes and disasters,” says the report, “Fukushima Fallout.”
“If nuclear power is as safe as the industry always claims, then why do they insist on liability limits and exemptions?” asked Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.
Nuclear plant owner/operators in many countries have liability caps on how much they would be forced to pay in case of an accident. In Canada, this liability cap is only 75 million dollars. In the United Kingdom, it is 220 million dollars. In the U.S., each reactor owner puts around 100 million dollars into a no-fault insurance pool. This pool is worth about 10 billion dollars.
“Suppliers are indemnified even if they are negligent,” Stensil told IPS. (source)
GE will not have put anything into this ‘pot’ to cover Fukushima, as it is not in the United States. They have walked away, even though they knew their reactors have design faults.
Wait! There’s more!
It’s not that simple, though; and here’s where keeping quiet and denying what’s happening comes into its own.
So far I have not explained why Obama is keeping quiet about the radiation contamination. Well, that’s the easy part.
There are 23 nuclear plants in the United States that use the GE Mark 1 BWR.23.
There are 23 nuclear plants in the United States where the used fuel rods are suspended, in a pond, 100 feet above the ground. (source)
Any admission that radiation has spread across the Pacific Ocean and contaminated American soil is an admission that the technology was flawed, and that same flawed technology is being used in the United States. The government does not want anyone looking closer at the situation. They don’t want people poking around asking questions about why the radiation got out in the first place…it’s too close to home.
Better to say that the radiation is within safe levels, and then if such a disaster happens here they can mourn those in the immediate fallout zone and maintain that the rest of the country is okay, just as it was after Fukushima.
The fact that the CEO of GE works for Obama just highlights the facts. There is no way that Immelt doesn’t know about all the warning his company was given about the design flaws of the Mark 1; and if he knows, the government knows.
Ask yourself this, why after such a monumental event are all the scientific papers regarding the disaster singing the same song?
It is impossible to have so many scientists and doctors agreeing to this level. Nothing has been published regarding the increased rates of miscarriage and childhood thyroid cancers. Why is that?
After Chernobyl there was a plethora of papers announcing to the world the increased cancer risks, the risks to pregnant women and young children. I suggest that because Chernobyl was in Russia, a place where no American technology was used, that there was no suppression of the facts.
GE cannot afford a corporate law suit, and neither can the Obama administration. It wouldn’t be pretty if a senior advisor to the president was hauled through the courts. There’s a chance it would not just be GE that went down in the wake of such a case.
The President of the United States knows that the radiation from Fukushima is worse than it would have been had the reactors used at the plant been of a different design.
Know to the US government, the delicate and hazardous task of removing and storing the spent fuel rods is going to take years, and that one mistake can exacerbate the problems ten-fold.
23 sites in America are using the same flawed reactors and the government is doing nothing about it.
The President of the United States is holding the lives of tens of millions of Americans in his hands and he refuses to even admit there is a problem. He needs to understand that the people of the West Coast are not just pawns in his political game. Moreover he should be explaining what is causing all the fish die-offs if it is unconnected to radiation.
Obama knows that millions of American citizens are being poisoned due, in part, to a failure of American technology. I recognize that the earthquake and tsunami were forces of nature, but the damage sustained could have been reduced considerably by not using the Mark 1.
I understand that these reactors were not installed on his watch, but he’s there now. He’s the one that can make the difference now. It is he who can look into the nuclear power stations on American soil in the hope of preventing a meltdown here.
Our nuclear power stations are old, past their sell by date in some cases. It’s not just the reactors that are the problem either. Hanford, right on the Columbia River in Washington state, as one example, constantly leaks radioactive liquid into the ground, and possibly the groundwater.
Something has to be done before one of our aging power stations starts Fukushima Part ll.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Wake the flock up!
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pressed by China and seeking to strengthen ties with the U.S., is considering Japan’s biggest change in military engagement rules since World War II.
Barred by its interpretation of a pacifist constitution from protecting other nations’ troops, Japan needs broader deployment abilities, according to Abe, 59. Having increased defense spending two years running and set up a U.S.-style National Security Council, Abe is now seeking to allow Japan to come to the aid of its allies, telling parliament yesterday that “it’s about whether we can exercise this right that every country has.”
China’s escalating challenge to Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea played into Abe’s plans to strengthen the military, said ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa. The initiative, which requires backing by Abe’s coalition partner, faces public opposition and risks further straining ties with China and South Korea that soured in December with Abe’s visit to a war shrine in Tokyo.
“Abe is determined to do this now because otherwise it is very difficult to get support,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow at The Tokyo Foundation research center. When regional tensions are low “people don’t see the need for it.”
Abe has shown a willingness to expend political capital on national security. His approval rating dipped below 50 percent after he passed a bill in December to stiffen penalties for leaking state secrets that was favored by the U.S. but opposed by a majority of Japanese. His popularity is back above 55 percent and there are no national elections before 2016, giving him some protection from the fallout of loosening the rules on collective self-defense.
Fifty four percent of Japanese are against the change, according to a poll by Kyodo News on Jan. 25-26. “This is partly to do with postwar pacifist sentiment in Japan, given that Japan was engaged in a very atrocious and damaging war of aggression,” said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.
Such a change would also escalate tensions with China and South Korea, where memories of Japan’s occupation resonate almost 70 years after the end of World War II.
“Japan should build mutual trust with countries in the region, including South Korea, China and Southeast Asian ones, rather than pursue collective security now,” South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung Joo said, according to a Nov. 6 ministry statement.
Enabling collective self-defense could help ensure the U.S. backs Japan militarily if China asserts its claims over the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. In November, China set up an air identification zone over part of the East China Sea covering the islands, increasing the risk of confrontation with Japan and the U.S.
“What is lucky for the Abe administration is that China set up the ADIZ,” said the LDP’s Hirasawa, who tutored Abe as a child. “That proves that what the Abe administration has been saying is correct. China is taking a stronger and stronger stance.”
Japan was stung by accusations of “checkbook diplomacy” after the country contributed $13 billion and no troops to the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The government then began changing policy, allowing the first substantial contribution of troops to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992. Still, the 600 troops sent to Iraq in 2004 to support the U.S.-led war were limited to non-combat duties and had to be protected by Dutch and Australian soldiers.
The move comes as part of Abe’s policy of contributing more actively to international security and seeking a higher profile on the world stage, with a busy diplomatic schedule taking him to 30 countries in his first year in office.
“Abe is more of a globalist than just about any of his predecessors,” said Alan Dupont, a professor of international security at the University of New South Wales. “He sees a new role for Japan commensurate with its economic and political weight.”
Yousuke Isozaki, a special adviser to Abe on security policy, is spearheading the effort on collective self-defense and says the change will deepen security ties with the U.S. and allow Japan to reach out to other allies.
“We want to be able to discuss security with friendly countries other than the U.S.,”he said in a Jan. 17 interview. “If we are bound hand and foot, we cannot talk. We cannot even say we will protect one another if something happens.”
Isozaki guided Abe’s unpopular secrecy bill through parliament while thousands of protesters chanted outside the building.
“There’s no time to sit around,” he said. The process will accelerate once an advisory panel of mostly academics submits its recommendations in April. Isozaki is looking for the LDP and its pacifist partner New Komeito to adopt a joint position by June, and expects bills related to the change to be presented starting in autumn.
“Japan will be a more effective alliance partner if its Self-Defense Forces are able to help defend American soldiers or sailors if they are attacked,” U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy told the Asahi newspaper in an interview published Jan. 23.
Securing the reinterpretation will be complicated by the need for Komeito’s support. “Until now, we haven’t done a single thing without the agreement of Komeito,” Isozaki said. “Getting their approval is a must.” Komeito backed Abe’s on the secrecy bill and the NSC legislation.
Isamu Ueda, deputy head of Komeito’s policy panel, said he favors Japan’s pacifist policy, while being open to possible exemptions such as allowing troops to protect other countries’ forces during peacekeeping work.
“We believe Japan should keep its military power to a minimum,” Ueda said in a Jan. 21 interview. “Japan should not be involved in international conflicts outside the country.”
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Four of the five fastest-growing defense markets last year were in the Middle East, the study found, according to a statement by the company. The defense budgets of Russia and China combined will exceed total defense spending of the European Union by 2015.
“Russia, Asia and the Middle East will provide the impetus behind the growth in global military spending expected this year and will drive the recovery projected from 2016 onwards,” Paul Burton, director of IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defence and Security, said in the statement.
Russia, which is projected to increase defense spending by more than 44 percent in the next three years, now ranks as the third-largest military spender, pushing the U.K. into fourth place, the study showed.
The U.S. remained the top spender last year, at an estimated $582.4 billion, followed by China, with $139.2 billion. Russia spent $68.9 billion.
No region has seen a faster surge in defense spending than the Middle East, where Oman and Saudi Arabia have increased their military budgets by more than 30 percent in the last two years, the study said. Saudi Arabia’s budget has tripled in 10 years.
“We have seen a rapid acceleration of defense spending in the Middle East since 2011,” said Fenella McGerty, a senior IHS analyst, in the statement.
China, already the No. 2 spender, will spend more than the U.K., France and Germany combined by 2015, McGerty said. China is forecast to spend $159.6 billion that year, compared with $149 billion for the three largest markets in Western Europe.
Total global defense spending this year is projected to reach $1.547 trillion, a 0.6 percent increase from last year’s $1.538 trillion, after adjusting for inflation, the study said.
That increase is the first since 2009.
“The decline in global defense spending over the past five years or so has been heavily influenced by the decline of the U.S. defense budget,” which was cut as part of the drawdown from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said Guy Eastman, a senior analyst.
“Combined with decreases in Western Europe, the portion of global defense represented by the West has and will continue to decrease over the near term,” Eastman said in the company statement.
Major U.S. defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Raytheon Co., are expecting to increase their international sales — especially to the Middle East — for everything from jet fighters to missile defense, said Kevin Brancato, a Bloomberg Government defense analyst.
Even so, the global market for these companies may be unchanged or decline slightly this year, particularly if Russia and China are driving the overall growth, Brancato said.
While the African market is expanding, “it still accounts for less than 2 percent of defense spending globally, so growth will need to continue in order for more opportunities to arise in the long term,” McGerty said.
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That didn’t take long. On Monday, the Dow was down another 326 points. Overall, the Dow has now fallen more than 1000 points from the peak of the market (16,588.25) back in late December. This is the first time that we have seen the Dow drop below its 200-day moving average in more than a year, and there are many that believe that this is just the beginning of a major stock market decline. Meanwhile, things are even worse in other parts of the world. For example, the Nikkei is now down about 1700 points from its 2013 high. This is causing havoc all over Asia, and the sharp movement that we have been seeing in the USD/JPY is creating a tremendous amount of anxiety among Forex traders. For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much hope on the horizon for investors. In fact, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the planet. Just consider the following…
-Major currencies all over South America continue to collapse.
-Massive central bank intervention has done little to slow down the currency collapse in Turkey.
-Investors pulled more than 6 billion dollars out of emerging market equity funds last week alone.
-The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has risen above 20 for the first time in four months.
-Last month, new manufacturing orders in the United States declined at the fastest pace that we have seen since December 1980.
-Real disposable income in the United States has just experienced the largest year over year drop that we have seen since 1974.
-In January, vehicle sales for Ford were down 7.5 percent and vehicle sales for GM were down 12 percent. Both companies are blaming bad weather.
-A major newspaper in the UK is warning that “growing problems in the Chinese banking system could spill over into a wider financial crisis“.
-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is warning that the federal government could hit the debt ceiling by the end of this month if Congress does not act.
-It is being reported that Dell Computer plans to lay off more than 15,000 workers.
-The IMF recently said that the the probability that the global economy will fall into a deflation trap “may now be as high as 20%“.
-The Baltic Dry Index is now down 50 percent from its December highs.
If our economic troubles continue to mount, could we be facing a global “financial avalanche” fairly quickly?
That is what some very prominent analysts believe.
Below, I have posted quotes from five men that are greatly respected in the financial world. What they have to say is quite chilling…
#1 Doug Casey: “Now is a very good time to start thinking financially because I’m afraid that this year, in 2014, we’re going to go back into the financial hurricane. We’ve been in the eye of the storm since 2009, but now we’re going to go back into the trailing edge of the storm, and it’s going to be much longer lasting and much worse and much different than what we had in 2008 and 2009.”
#2 Bill Fleckenstein: “The [price-to-earnings ratio] is 16, 17 times earnings,” Fleckenstein said on Tuesday’s episode of “Futures Now.” “Why would you pay 16 times for an S&P company? I don’t care about where rates are, because rates are artificially suppressed. Why isn’t that worth 11 or 12 times? Just by that analysis, you’d be down by a quarter or 30 percent. So there’s a huge amount of downside.”
#3 Egon von Greyerz of Matterhorn Asset Management: “Nothing goes (down) in a straight line, but the emerging market problems will accelerate and it will spread to the very overbought and the very overvalued stock markets and economies in the West.
So stock markets are now starting a secular bear trend which will last for many years, and we could see falls of massive proportions. At the end of this, the wealth that has been created in the last few decades will be destroyed.”
#4 Peter Schiff: “The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said. “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”
“We’re broke, Schiff added. “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”
#5 Gerald Celente: “This selloff in the emerging markets, with their currencies going down and their interest rates going up, it’s going to be disastrous and there are going to be riots everywhere…
…So as the decline in their economies accelerates, you are going to see the civil unrest intensify.”
Those that do not believe that we could ever see “civil unrest” on the streets of America should take note of what just happened in Seattle.
After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, fans celebrated by “lighting fires, damaging historic buildings and ripping down street signs“.
If that is how average Americans will behave when something good happens, how will they act when the economy totally collapses and nobody can find work for an extended period of time?
We are rapidly approaching another great financial crisis. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned last time. It is being projected that the debt of the federal government will more than double during the Obama years, the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years, and the big banks have become more financially reckless than ever before.
When the next great financial crisis arrives (and without a doubt it is inevitable), millions more Americans will lose their jobs and millions more Americans will lose their homes.
Now is not the time to be buying lots of expensive new toys, going on expensive vacations or piling up lots of debt.
Now is the time to build up an emergency fund and to do whatever you can to get prepared for the great storm that is coming.
As you can see from the financial headlines, time is rapidly running out.