Saturday, 19 February 2011

How to get an EU grant - without having to try too hard

This is no longer a secret. If you and your colleagues/friends/relatives etc. are in need of a cash injection from the European Union, for whatever activities you would like to occupy yourself with, there is one foolproof method that is guaranteed to succeed:

You start by devising a project. It does not matter at all what the project is about; the only thing you have to remember is, THE PROJECT MUST IN SOME WAY BE CONNECTED TO CLIMATE CHANGE. It cannot be overemphasised: Without the link to climate change, your project application most likely will fail abysmally. (A tip: it is good to try to involve some likeminded people from at least a couple of other EU countries in your project. This “internationalisation” gives your project an aura of credibility, which is much appreciated by the EU bureaucracy).

The next step is to actually apply for EU money. It may be worthwile to try to try to get some assistance from one or several of the numerous green lobby groups in Brussels. They are all good buddies with the EU green bureaucrats, who make sure that the money actually is delivered. Don´t forget that he bureaucratic wheels of the European Union are not the quickest to turn. Finally your patience will be amply rewarded.

For educational purposes only, here is an example of a succesful project that has received over €2,2 million from the European Union (contributed by European taxpayers). The IMAGINE 2020 project was one of thirty projects presented for 600 people at the “Culture in Motion: Pathways to EU2020” conference in Brussels recently:

The IMAGINE 2020 – seeing climate change through art project, which backs associations in Germany, France, the UK, Netherlands, Portugal, Latvia, Slovenia and Croatia which are supporting artists who tackle the issue of climate change through art and who present environmentally sustainable performances. The project, which runs from 2010 to 2015, received a grant of €2.2 million – equivalent to 50% of its costs. Theresa von Wuthenau, project coordinator, says that the EU support helps to “explore how artists can help the shift towards a low carbon economy, by engaging a generation of artists in Europe with climate issues and by promoting creative exchanges with the world of science, philosophy and history.”

Read the entire article here.

The IMAGINE 2020 project has a website, but at least today (19.2.2011) it was empty:
(It is, of course, possible that the emptiness is intentional. Could it exemplify an "environmentally sustainable performance"?)

I was able to locate the following information on the IMAGINE 2020 from a pdf powerpoint presentation available on the net:

Artists and the cultural sector can and must play
an important role in the necessary cultural
shift needed if we want to maintain hope for a
sustainable, human and beautiful future.

6 partners – 4 countries
2 years (June 2008 – May 2010)
Budget: € 467 865 EU: €200 000
Kaaitheater – Brussels (BE)
Théâtre Le Quai – Angers (FR)
Domaine d’O – Montpellier (FR)
LIFT – London (GB)
Artsadmin – London (GB)

11 partenaires – 9 pays
5 ans (Juillet 2010 – Juin 2015)
Budget: € 4,427,510 EU: € 2,213,754.00
Partenaires Thin Ice +
Rotterdamse Schouwburg (NL)
Kampnagel, Hamburg (DE)
Transforma, Torres Vedras (PT)
Domino, Zagreb (HR)
NTIL, Riga (LV)

Imagine 2020
To research the unique role European artists/arts
organisations can play as catalyst for change
To practice environmentally sustainable ways of
producing /touring while maintaining trans‐national
mobility of artists/art works
To create unexpected spaces for dialogue between arts,
science, and civil society
To contribute to the cultural memory of this crucial time

Imagine 2020
Expected Results
A strong body of innovative artistic work addressing
Climate Change
A consolidation of cultural initiatives to become an
important voice in the European Climate Change
Awareness among diverse audiences and change in their
A set of tools for artists/arts institutions to integrate
Climate Change concerns in their working practices

IMAGINE 2020 will certainly employ project coordinator Theresa von Wuthenau and a number of "artists" for a few years, but is this really how European tax payers´ money should be spent at a time when governments almost across the line are introducing an ever growing number of austerity measures? I think not.

Visitors coming via Tom Nelson´s blog: Welcome!

Friday, 18 February 2011

American shale gas success stops Russia´s Shtokman gas project?

The predicted reverberations of the succesful American shale gas exploration are already to be seen in Russia. It looks  more and more likely that Gazprom will never launch its troubled Shtokman gas field. Ant this is only the beginning. Wait until shale large scale shale gas production starts in Poland and other European countries ...

MOSCOW — Russia's energy giant Gazprom may decide to delay the launch of its troubled Shtokman gas field by two more years because of the United States' rapid development of shale gas, a report said Thursday.
The Barents Sea project has experienced repeated delays caused by the 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent development of shale gas in the United States, Canada and other Western countries.

Read the entire piece here.

In an article in the FT, Gazprom export chíef Alexander Medvedev tries to belittle the importance of shale gas, but what else is he supposed to say:

Mr Medvedev predicted that, as with the internet bubble, many shale gas companies would be forced out of the industry. "The massive production of shale gas is impossible against a price which is below $6-$8 per million BTU," he said. "Therefore we do not see in the development of shale gas any threat to us."

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Investors warn about financial crisis in China

Warnings about a looming financial crisis in China are becoming louder day by day. According to a new Bloomberg poll almost half of the international investors interviewed expect an end to the current Chinese growth miracle quite soon. Another 40% believe that the crisis will hit China after 2016:

GLOBAL investors are bracing for the end of China's relentless economic growth, with 45 per cent saying they expect a financial crisis there within five years.
An additional 40 per cent anticipate a crisis after 2016, according to a quarterly poll of 1000 Bloomberg customers who are investors, traders or analysts. Only 7 per cent are confident China will escape turmoil indefinitely.
''There is no doubt that China is in the midst of a speculative credit-driven bubble that cannot be sustained,'' said Stanislav Panis, a currency strategist at TRIM Broker in Bratislava, Slovakia, and a participant in the Bloomberg Global Poll, which was conducted last week. Mr Panis likened the expected fallout to the aftermath of the US subprime mortgage meltdown.
Any Chinese financial emergency would reverberate around the world. The total value of the country's exports and imports last year was $US3 trillion, with about 13 per cent of that trade between China and the US. As of November, China also held $US896 billion in US Treasury notes.
Fifty-three per cent of poll respondents said they believed China was a bubble, while 42 per cent disagreed. China's neighbours were the most concerned: 60 per cent of Asia-based respondents identified a bubble in the world's second-largest economy.

Read the entire article here.

It is obvious that a future financial crisis in China will cause particular problems for the German economy, which has grown very well recently, much due to strong exports to China.

Standard & Poor´s: Russia in decline

In spite of all its natural riches, the medium and long term outlook for Russia is rather grim, according to a research note published by Standard & Poor´s:

Russia's debt may surge to 585 percent of gross domestic product by 2050 as the population declines and the government ramps up spending, pushing the credit rating below investment grade, Standard & Poor's said.
The population will probably shrink to 116 million by 2050 from 140 million last year, forcing the government's age-related expenditures to rise to 25.5 percent of GDP from 13 percent in 2010 in the rating agency's "base-case scenario," S&P credit analysts led by Frank Gill in London said in a research note last week.
The demographic decline will lead to "prolonged fiscal imbalances," putting Russia's credit rating under "rising pressure" after 2015, according to S&P. The government's debt is rated BBB at Standard & Poor's, two notches above junk.

Read the entire article here.

The problems described by Standard & Poor´s will, however, not affect Vladimir Putin and his henchmen in the Kremlin. As former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev indicated a couple of days ago, they have quietly been sending their money out of the country.

EU fraud

(More about the yellow Ferrari in the end of this post)

Britain, The Netherlands and Sweden on Tuesday withheld approval of the Europen Union´s accounts for 2009. With this symbolic move the three countries wanted to highlight their concerns over a budget that is mostly spent on agriculture subsidies and funds for poorer member countries.

"The slow pace of reforms to the financial management of EU funds is detrimental to the credibility of the EU budget as a whole," the three countries said in a joint statement. The trio - noting that there has been insufficient progress in combating EU fraud - also pointed out that the EU´s own auditors had failed to give an unqualified sign-off to the Union´s accounts for 16 consecutive years.
The reaction from the Commission was, as always, the usual one:
A Commission official pointed to marked improvements in the auditors’ annual reports on the EU budget in recent years, and said that it was pushing for more transparency from member states as part of a package of reforms.

Some of you may still remember this report from November last year:

A new report has revealed that the amount of EU funding lost in fraud and "irregular payments" last year almost doubled to €1.3bn.Fraudulent use of EU cash includes claims for a lemon and orange grove orchard that did not actually exist on the Italian island of Sicily.

In another case, thousands of euros were paid out to livestock owners in Slovenia for "non-existent" cattle.

According to the European commission's "Fight Against Fraud" report, irregularities in the common agricultural policy (CAP), which accounts for about half the EU budget, cost €1.2bn, up 23 per cent.

However, the worst area for fraud in 2009 was cohesion policy, where funds go to Europe's poorest regions and which takes up more than one third of the whole EU budget.

Suspected fraud and irregularities in this area was €1.2bn last year, up a huge 109 per cent.

An estimated one euro in every five handed out in aid was said to be "siphoned off by corrupt officials".

About two-thirds of alleged EU fraud concerns just six countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain.

The revelations come after EU leaders agreed to a 2.9 per cent increase in the EU budget for 2011 and as member states introduce tough austerity measures.

Ukip MEP Marta Andreasen, who was sacked from her job as the European commission's chief accountant after she blew the whistle on the state of the EU's accounts, was quick to respond. She said, "Why does the EU allow this situation to continue?

Also then, a typical reaction from the Commission:

A European commission spokesman said, "We take the issue of fraud very seriously and have made considerable efforts to improve the system for finding and dealing with it."

Opens Europe has published a list with "100 examples of EU fraud and waste". It makes interesting reading. Here is just one item from the list:

A dentist in Cosenza used EU funds to buy a yellow Ferrari Testarossa, which sells at around €200,000 and a Formula One car, along with 55 other luxury cars, which he stored in warehouses. He received EU money by inventing a solar-panel business that never saw the light of day. The dentist was part of a larger fraud scheme involving a staggering €80 million, in which four business organisations siphoned off funds during a four year period to buy luxury items such as cars, motorbikes and yachts


The sad reality is that EU fraud continues and even grows, and no-one ever gets sacked for misspending or fraud. Only the whistleblowers loose their jobs.

Gorbachev warns of Egypt-style revolt in Russia

1990 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev does not mince his words when he speaks about the men who now lead Russia:

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said he is "ashamed" with the way Russia is run today and warned the Kremlin could face an Egypt-style uprising.
Nearly two decades after his reforms led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Gorbachev denounced Russia's "ruling class" as "rich and dissolute," in an interview published Wednesday in Novaya Gazeta, the opposition newspaper of which he is part-owner. "I'm ashamed for us and for the country," he said.

He lambasted the Kremlin for eroding the free media and elections that he introduced in the 1980s, and warned that its grip on power could be threatened.
"If things continue the way they are, I think the probability of the Egyptian scenario will grow," he said in a separate radio interview released Tuesday, referring to the popular rebellion that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak last week. "Here it could end even more staggeringly," he said.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal article here.

Also the Daily Mail notes what Gorbachev has to say about the present leadership in Russia:

He accused the leaders of 'skimming off property and quietly sending money out of the country' while launching bogus battles against corruption.
'They are hiding everything in offshore structures,' he said. 
And he said the leadership was too dominated by 'Chekists' - figures linked to the secret services. 
'This is not normal. The domination of the special services, their ability to decide political matters, their active interference in the lives of citizens - this is unacceptable.'
He said the the decision on who would lead Russia after the 2012 presidential elections would be taken not by the people but two men - Putin and president Dmitry Medvedev.
'This is shameful,' he said.

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Lavrov and Hague announce diplomatic breakthrough

A new hotline between Kremlin and Downing street was celebrated as a major achievement during the Russian Foreign Minister´s visit to London:

LONDON — At the start of an official two-day visit to Britain, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Tuesday that a new hotline would be installed between London and the Kremlin in an effort to improve strained relations between the two countries.
"It will be a modern communication link for a modern relationship," said his counterpart, British Foreign Minister William Hague.

Read the entire piece here.

According to realiable government sources in London, the "modern communications link" - in accordance with the government´s new austerity programme -  will allow David Cameron to make one free weekly  iSkype 3G call to Putin´s assistant Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin. The Russians are delighted, too, because the new phone link will give Medvedev a chance to be the first person to tell Cameron that they are absolutely blameless, when the next former KGB/FSB spy gets the polonium treatment in London.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Are we going to see solar powered aircraft carriers?

Soon to be solar powered?                    
(image by US Navy)

UN climate chief Christiana Figueras has been talking to Spanish parlamentarians in Madrid about what "generals" could and should do in order to fight (imaginary) human induced global warming/climate change. She mentioned that some American bases in Afganistan are experimenting with solar power. However, she stopped short of telling "generals" to start using solar powered or electric tanks, jet fighters or aircraft carriers. Figueras will probably include those in her next scare speech ...
This will change the ugly face of the military-industrial complex for ever. Just imagine, Greenpeace, Al Gore and all the other greenies lobbying in Washington for Lockheed MartinNorthrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Honeywell and the other big providers! And Obama will be able to announce the creation of thousands of new "green" jobs (of course accompanied by some trillions $ of government "green" subsidies)!

Figueres said much of the funding that pays for the growth of armies today could help curb carbon emissions that fuel global warming. It also could help poor countries in the most vulnerable and unstable parts of the world to protect themselves from the most devastating effects of climate change.
Militaries should pursue their historic role as technology innovators, she said. "This is an opportunity for the military industry to become the cutting edge of clean technologies that are urgently needed."
She cited estimates by the U.S. Defence Department that it costs $400 per gallon to supply gasoline to NATO military forces in Afghanistan, and protecting the fuel convoys is a major cause of casualties. Some military bases have begun using solar power to help cut the need to truck in liquid fuels, but the experiments are limited.

Read the entire article here.

The real China: One half of all children in rural China in foster homes

George H. Wittman, writing in the American Spectator, describes the flip side of the Chinese "miracle":

The vaunted great managerial ability of China's political and economic leadership falls far short of the accomplishment for which it is given credit. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the gigantic social price being paid by the inequitable economic basis of China's modern development is the fact that the extolled factory system of the nation is based to a great degree on the brutal totalitarian system of separating workers from their rural families.
Official estimates indicate nearly 60 million children have been left behind in foster homes due to the economically forced migration of their parents to work in the cities. This is approximately one half of all the children of rural China. It is said that their poorly educated parents have chosen to live separate lives from their families; that it is a conscious sacrifice for their good and the good of modern Chinese society.
The reality is that this system is the basis for what President Hu Jintao characterized as creating a "moderately well-off society." The entire principle is an outgrowth of the Mao Tse-tung willingness to break down the Chinese family in order to replace it with a state-controlled system. Mao succeeded in the separation but not the destruction of the family. Today's statist China hides a similar device, but in the end is doing the same thing. China's economic life is dictated by such exploitive justification camouflaged by political economic rhetoric.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Climate skeptic play easily beats alarmist "competitor" in London

Climate change (formerly Global warming) is the subject of the plays currently showing in London. Jeremy Lovell, writing in the New York Times, thinks that the play that takes the skeptic viewpoint easily beats its politically correct competition:

Lovell on "The Heretic":

The play follows university geodynamics lecturer Diane Cassell, whose mantra is "I am a scientist. I don't 'believe' in anything," and who becomes increasingly ostracized by her colleagues for stating repeatedly and publicly that there is no proof of human-induced climate change.
She notes that climate change has become the new religion both in language and in attitude, with belief replacing empirical evidence and unbelievers denigrated.
Science is seduced by politicians
The underlying message is not so much that nothing bad is happening to the climate, but that science and scientists have become so ensnared by politicians and money that they have lost their crucial objectivity, and with it, their basis of trust -- at best, overlooking data that fail to fit their models, and at worst, trying to bury them.

And on "Greenland":

"Greenland" at the National Theatre in London's South Bank arts complex weaves together work by four writers looking at the impacts of climate change on the planet, society and individuals.
First, a young girl argues with her skeptical parents, then a climate scientist tries to illustrate the looming Armageddon. A political aide campaigns for action; meanwhile, a birdwatcher in the increasingly less frozen North laments the changes, and two women argue over what to do.
But the playlets fail to coalesce, the tone is hectoring and the end product fails to engage the emotions while barely glancing off the intellect. It has been universally panned by the critics.

A comparison of the two plays:

"The Heretic" succeeds where "Greenland" fails because it engages rather than lectures the audience. It is a linear story following a small group of people on personal journeys of self-discovery. Meanwhile, "Greenland" is a rather frayed patchwork of stories that never really interconnect -- at one stage, the cast bursts into a dance routine prompting rather pale comparisons with "Enron," the musical.

"Greenland" makes even the most praiseworthy sentiments of the environmental lobby sound trite to the point of being laughable. At one stage, it even has a cynical Greenpeace eco-warrior talking earnestly about the need for a new economic paradigm -- not a phrase often heard on a drama stage.

Read the entire article here.

The success of a play like "The Heretic" is a sign of the healthy state of the theater in the UK. One can only hope that theaters in other countries will take it up. A guest performance in Brussels for the bureaucrats responsible for the EU climate madnesss, would be most welcome, although it might be difficult to persuade the alarmist Cameron government to sponsor such a worthwile cultural exchange.

Russia will soon be "former energy overlord" in Europe

Putin´s Russia will soon lose its position as Europe´s "energy overlord", thanks to shale oil. This will lead to a decisive strategic weakening of Russia´s influence in Europe and contribute to the removal of another tyrant - Vladimir Putin.

Last month's stock-swap deal between BP and Russia's Rosneft might, a few years ago, have caused strategic jitters in Washington. Never mind. The Putin regime remains as odious as ever, but the balance of power already is perceptibly shifting away from the world's petrocrats to consumers, thanks to shale gas.
The shale gas revolution has been a surprise, in a sector where surprises are still permitted.
The organized interests whose world is being knocked for a loop by shale gas surely aren't happy about it. The quality on display here is freedom to innovate, also known as freedom to disrupt the rich and powerful who would prefer not to be disrupted. In the U.S., landowners enjoy mineral rights and are free to sell or lease those rights to drilling companies, whatever the neighbors might say. It wasn't the Exxons and BPs but smaller companies that figured out how to make shale gas pay.
Under U.S. labor law, these companies were free to take a chance on new workers without making a lifetime commitment. Also important, back in the 1970s and '80s, a series of deregulatory moves eliminated price and usage controls on natural gas, without which the business would never have been interesting to innovators and entrepreneurs. One company, Mitchell Energy, worked out how "slickwater" fracturing combined with horizontal drilling could free gas from dense shale rock previously uneconomical to develop. The firm's founder, George Mitchell, last year received the Gas Technology Institute's lifetime achievement award.
The U.S. shale boom has ignited a search elsewhere, from China to Central Europe. Poland alone is estimated to hold shale gas reserves equal to half of Europe's existing conventional reserves—a fact already altering the strategic balance between Europe and its soon-to-be-former energy overlord, Russia.

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

New study confirms: "Green energy" does not create more jobs

         One of the last truly profitable and job creating wind energy sources

A new study by senior energy economist, Dr Gürcan Gülen at the Bureau for Economic Geology at the University of Texas, confirms that job creation "cannot be defended as another benefit" of well-meaning green policies. In reality, the jobs that these policies create are likely to be offset—or worse—by the number of jobs that they destroy.

Dr. Gülen finds that some research papers used to advocate the idea of green jobs investment have not distinguished between construction jobs (building the wind turbines), which are temporary, and longer-term operational jobs (keeping the wind turbines going), which are more permanent. Moreover, sometimes advocates have assumed, without justification, that the new jobs would pay more than careers in conventional energy. 
In other cases, the definition of a “green” job is so fuzzy that it becomes virtually useless. If a sustainability adviser quits a concrete factory and goes to work instead for a renewable energy project, can we really conclude that the number of green jobs has actually increased?
Dr. Gülen finds that some claims of job creation have rested on assumptions of green-energy production that go far beyond reputable estimates. 
And he finds that analyses often fail to recognize the higher costs or job losses that these policies will cause. Increasing the cost of electricity and fuel will hurt productivity, reduce overall employment, and cut the amount of disposable income that people have. Once these effects are taken into account, the purported increase in jobs is typically wiped out, and some economic models show lower overall employment. Despite a significant outlay, government efforts to create green jobs could end up resulting in net job losses.
Further, Dr. Gülen shows that there are other economic sectors, such as healthcare, that could actually create more jobs for the same amount of government investment.
And he examines claims of other economic benefits, including increased productivity, higher disposable incomes, and lower operating costs for businesses. Here, Dr. Gülen concludes that the assertions are “not backed up by any evidence and are inconsistent with the realities of green technologies and energy markets.”

Gülen´s research paper, written for the Copenhagen Consensus Center, can be downloaded here.

People should not believe Barack Obama and other "green" politicians, who continue to spread untruths about all the new "green jobs" that will be created.

Freedom House: Tyrants to go next

Freedom House presents a list of tyrants likely to share the same future as Egypt´s Mubarak:

Kim Jong Il, North Korea
Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
The Castros, Cuba

Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus

I have no objections to Freedom House´s choices, but they could have added at least one more name: Vladimir Putin