Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Energy 102, Germany's CDU/CSU and FDP rejecting the Greens' anti-coal agenda

I like the development in the new German government. #1 CDU getting closer with #4 FDP (Free Democratic Party) in climate and energy policies while potential partner #5 Greens go more idiotic and watermelon-ic (green outside, red inside) in demanding zero coal power. The Greens have more commonality with #2 SDP and #6 Linke (commies). CDU is correct -- if they follow the Greens for the sake of coalition-majority, #3 AfD will greatly benefit and further expand as AfD is explicitly anti-renewables alarmism and cronyism. Germany having 3rd highest electricity prices in the world might move to 2nd or 1st if the Greens-SDP agenda will prevail.


“If coal plants are closed down in Eastern Germany and thousands of workers are made redundant, very soon 30% of voters will support the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD),” Laschet warned. ... Prime Minister Laschet announced that he would not make substantial concessions: “If push comes to shove we will have to crash the talks.” He said that environmental policy was a bigger hurdle for the negotiations than immigration policy: “The latter is easier to settle than the closure of power stations.”
(translated to English by The GWPF)

"Kellner reiterated the Greens’ position that Germany should quickly close coal-fired power stations to help fight climate change, a position resisted by the other parties." 
October 26, 2017.

"While all parties agreed in principle this week that they want to uphold the Paris climate accord, the FDP is pressing for a commitment to curb government measures to promote renewable energy, which help make German power prices the second-highest in the European Union after Denmark’s.

“We certainly have to reduce carbon dioxide,” the FDP’s Suding said. “In Germany, this is much more expensive than in other countries and we have to find a way to reduce CO2 emissions more cheaply. Of course, there won’t be a complete phase-out of coal by 2030.”
October 27, 2017.

"According to Lindner (FDP):
The project of the century Energiewende [transition to green energies] has failed. None of the agreed targets will be reached. Climate protection is stalled, energy prices are rising and they are burdening us as electricity consumers, just as they are the industry and middle class. And not least of all it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee a secure power supply during the winter months.” 

It is good that both CDU/CSU and FDP are jointly resisting the deindustrialization goal of the Greens. One reason why AfD rocketed high to nearly 13% of the votes despite being created only 4 years ago is on the energy mini-suicide of the watermelon groups.

See also:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

US economic growth of 3%, due to deregulation?

If we exclude the years 2008-09 because they were outliers (global financial upheaval), the Obama years seem to be the weakest since 1990. Never experienced growth of 3% or higher.

Early peek of the Trump admin first 3 Quarters of 2017, experienced 3% growth in the last 2 quarters (Q2 and Q3). 

Fastest 6-months growth since 2014, because of Trump or Yellen or something else? One of Financial Times' headlines today.

If the 3%+ is retained in Q4, it will be called the "fastest 9-months growth since ____".

This chart below could be one explanation -- US stocks growth the past year was rather fast compared to other major markets (China/Shanghai, Japan/Nikkei, Germany/DAX). 

The 2008-09 crash was a product of multi-decades of moral hazards problem in housing finance, not just 8 years of the Bush Jr. era.

A friend noted that "an institutional collapse like 2008 is followed by many years of slow growth and stagnation. The Philippines had the same experience from 1983 through the 90's. From 1991, Japan nearly had two decades of below-average growth."

Good points, he was arguing the slow growth momentum, which actually applied also to the rest of  G7 economies. But not to China, India, other Asian economies.

My hypothesis for the rather fast growth of the US economy in the last 2 quarters -- somehow a growth momentum due to some of his deregulation, de-bureaucratism policies. And the big tax cut plan, it's seeping into business decisions, big investments may be coming to the US from abroad and big investments in the US won't migrate to other countries anymore.

See also: 
US and China stockmarkets, huge divergence, June 20, 2017 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

BWorld 160, A high carbon tax is irrational

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last October 19, 2017.

Political science masquerading as climate science insist that the gas that we humans and our animals exhale, the gas that is used by trees, flowers, fruits and other crops to grow and feed the world — carbon dioxide or CO2 — is a pollutant that must be over-taxed and over-regulated.

Far from the truth. CO2 is a useful gas, not a pollutant.

Since it is useful, the optimal carbon tax for coal in particular is not P10/ton, not P20, not P600, but zero. However, a zero tax on coal is unpopular from the world of climate alarmism, so we classify these tax rates as follows: P0 tax is optimal, P10/ton is rational, P20/ton is compromise, P600 is irrational.

Recently, eminent economist Dr. Ciel Habito made a follow-up paper, “The case for the carbon tax” and insist that the carbon tax for coal should be raised from the current P10/ton to P600/ton.

To support his claim, he used some ridiculous numbers that are peddled by the watermelon (green outside, red inside) movement. Here are two:

(1) “Dominated by CO2 (72%), GHGs trap heat… .”

Wrong. CO2 is 400 ppm or only 0.04% of all greenhouse gases (GHGs). About 95% of GHGs is water vapor — the clouds, evaporation from the seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, stomata of leaves, etc. The remaining 4%+ are methane, nitrous oxide, others.

(2) “CO2 averaged about 280 parts per million (ppm) for the last 10,000 years…In 2015… 400 ppm for the first time…. now triggering much more frequent extreme weather events.”

This is perhaps 5% geological science and 95% politics.

The Minoan, Roman, and Medieval Warm Periods (when there were no SUVs, no coal plants, no airplanes) were much warmer than the Modern Warm Period (mid-1800s to roughly 2000). There were wild swings in global warming and global cooling cycles regardless of the CO2 level. How would one call this — “much less frequent extreme weather events than today?” Garbage.

Climate change (CC) is true. All skeptics recognize climate change, recognize global warming. Planet Earth is 4.6 billion years old and there were climate change all those years because climate change is cyclical (warming-cooling-warming-cooling…) and natural. Global warming is true, and so is global cooling.

It is political science that masquerades as climate science to say that there is no climate cycle, that there is no global cooling that takes place after global warming.

From the recent energy and economic experience of our neighbors in Asia and some industrial countries in the world, the hard lessons are these: (a) Countries that have coal consumption of at least 2.1x expansion over the past two decades are also those that experienced fast GDP growth of at least 3x expansion.

Prominent examples are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Pakistan. And (b) Philippines’ coal consumption is small compared to its neighbors; its 2016 use is just nearly 1/2 of Malaysia and Vietnam’s, just 1/3 of Taiwan’s and almost 1/5 of Indonesia’s, 1/6 of South Korea’s, 1/9 of Japan’s. (see table)

A high carbon tax is irrationalI have repeatedly argued that CO2 is a useful gas. For those who insist that CO2 is a pollutant, they can certainly help curb further CO2 emission even without legislation and carbon taxation through the following:

• Stop breathing too often; more exhalation means more CO2 emission.

• Stop adopting pets (if any), stop eating chicken, pork, meat because these animals exhale CO2.

• Stop using their cars, not even jeepneys or buses, they emit CO2; skateboards and bicycles only.

• Stop riding airplanes and motorized boats, they emit CO2; solar planes or big kites and sailboats only.

• Stop connecting from the grid and from Meralco because 48% of nationwide electricity generation comes from coal; no gensets either. Use only solar-wind-biomass + candles at home.

• Tell their friends, business associates, family members, to do the same so that there will be more people emitting less CO2.

The Habito proposal of more expensive electricity via P600/ton carbon tax on coal is dangerous because while the Senate version of TRAIN adopts a P20/ton excise tax, the P600 can spring up somewhere during the final and Bicameral Committee meeting. The proposal should be exposed as based on political science, not geological or climate science.

See also:
BWorld 148, Energy Trilemma Index 2016, September 16, 2017 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

IPR and Innovation 38, Recent IP developments in some ASEAN countries

Property rights protection of both physical and non-physical/intellectual -- trademark/logo, copyright, patent, etc. -- is among the cornerstones of dynamic, mature and market-friendly economies. Individuals and enterprises develop new products and services via innovation and they create new value, new wealth for society.

I am reposting some developments on IPR in the ASEAN. Thanks to the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) for the bi-weekly IP updates.

The Nation, October 02, 2017 

There's a role for intellectual property protection in the Thailand 4.0 vision and initiative, and the national government's Intellectual Property Department sees a role for itself promoting innovation through offering increased knowledge sharing and more convenient services.

"We are a key mechanism in protecting new technology and innovation vital to economic development, and we do this by motivating new developments," said Thosapone Dansuputra, director-general of the department.

Lexology, October 04, 2017

As of November 2017, Thailand will accede to the so-called Madrid Protocol as member no. 99. This entails cost savings compared to previously when trademark proprietors are to register their trademarks in Thailand. The Madrid Protocol is an international system through which trademark proprietors may apply for protection in several countries through one basic registration.

The Edge Markets, October 10, 2017 

Website blocking in Malaysia has significantly reduced online piracy, with a 74% fall in traffic to pirate websites recorded in the six months after the government initiated its sixth effort to block such sites in June 2016, says the Motion Picture Association (MPA). As pirate websites generate income through advertising revenue, a disruption to their business model can help stop online piracy, said Oliver Walsh, regional director at the Asia-Pacific hub for Motion Picture Association International (MPA-I).

XinhuaNet, September 19, 2017

The number of trademark registrations is lagging in Laos as many businesses lack understanding of their rights and fail to register to protect their intellectual property, according to the Intellectual Property (IP) Department under Ministry of Science and Technology on Monday.

PRA, October 6, 2017 

According to a study by the Intellectual Property (IP) Department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, only about 40,500 trademark applications have been filed in the Southeast Asian country since 1991. This is a relatively low number of applications for trademark protections for a country of 7 million and an economy with a GDP of $37.3 billion.

Lexology, October 11, 2017

On August 28, 2017, the Brunei Intellectual Property Office (BruIPO) signed an agreement to introduce a new patent examination initiative - the Patent Prosecution Highway Plus (PPH+) - with the Japan Patent Office (JPO), which commenced on October 1, 2017. Using this PPH+ system, patent prosecution procedures in Brunei are accelerated by allowing BruIPO to reuse the search and examination results of corresponding patent applications filed in Japan - thus reducing examination workload and time, minimizing costs, and improving patent quality.

See also:

Lion Rock 22, Hong Kong's early policies on free trade, zero income tax

I like this article by a friend since 2004, Andrew Pak Man Shuen, Director and Co-Founder of the Lion Rock Institute in Hong Kong. I thought it was Sir John Cowperthwaite who was the first engineer of HK free trade policy. Reposting, did not include the first four paragraphs. Photo I got from wiki.

THE CONSERVATIVE | June 2017 | Issue 4 | Andrew Pak Man Shuen

… Sir Henry Pottinger was our first colonial governor. After the Opium War, he turned Hong Kong into an outpost of the British Empire so distant that Victorian parents would threaten to send unruly children there as a punishment.

He laid out the three basic governing tenets of Hong Kong. The first was that there must be no direct taxes: government revenue would come from land leases, licensing fees etc. The second was to “respect local customs”. Finally, Hong Kong would allow free trade, including with the enemies of the British Empire.

From the perspective of the 21st century, it is easy to conclude that Potting must have been a liberal. No direct taxes. Multiculturalism. Free trade. And all for a city built on commerce.

But, before celebrating, we must bear in mind that Pottinger was a hard-nosed colonialist. He and his colleagues had no qualms about butchering the “yellow peril” as they barrelled into Qing-dynasty China.

So why those three seemingly enlightened tenets? Remember that this was before the telegraph and the Suez Canal. Britain was not all that keen to hold a colony that was not only far away but surrounded by hostile powers. London sent the message to Potting that he would not be receiving much in the way of manpower or budget.

Hence it was out of realpolitik that Potting embraced those principles. First, the collection of direct taxes is extremely labour-intensive; without them, he could manage with a much smaller civil service. Second, although the Chinese of that era engaged in polygamy, female pedal mutilation and (perhaps most objectionable to the British) eating dogs, Pottinger knew that he was in no position to engage in mass behaviour-modification. If everything the Chinese were doing was allowed to stay legal, the police force could remain small and still be effective in the protection of property rights.

The decision to make Hong Kong a true free port where even the enemies of the British Empire could trade was a master-stroke. Pottinger understood that the colony would be hard to defend with military force.

To sail from Plymouth, the home port of the South China Sea fleet, round the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Straits and then up the South China Sea was a logistical nightmare even in peacetime.

However, Pottinger also knew that, as Hong Kong possessed no natural resources to be pillaged, together with the fact that attacking any part of the British Empire would incur a cost for the invader, any assault must be part of a grander strategy for an invader in search of a prize other than this colonial outpost. If the would-be invader discovered that they could purchase whatever they coveted from Hong Kong, it was not worth the effort.

This explains what happened during the Korean War. The British colonial administration must have known about the smuggling activities of Henry Fok, who was transporting massive resources to Communist China. The latter had been placed by the United Nations under a total trade embargo. This meant that free-trade colony under British control was a lifeline for Mao, and far more useful than a Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

As a result, Hong Kong remained British until 1997 – that is, 50 years longer than India. Its sovereignty was preserved because the power most likely to invade was protecting it. This makes Pottinger look like a geopolitical genius.

Of course, Hong Kong’s sovereignty did change hands once before 1997. In 1941, Japan invaded as it simultaneously rained bombs on Pearl Harbour, and we surrendered in three weeks. If Pottinger’s adoption of free trade was such a master-stroke, how come Hong Kong fell to the Imperial Japanese?

Next to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates the war dead, there is a museum that is basically an attempt by the Japanese to explain what they did. One word is crucial: oil.

According to Pottinger’s theory, if the Japanese could have bought oil through Hong Kong, the Pacific War with the Allied forces might have been averted. Of course, this also means that Hitler would have never declared war on America. And that was not what Churchill wanted. That raises the question of why Hong Kong uncharacteristically participated in the oil embargo and suffered invasion – but we can leave that discussion for another day.

To conclude, the logic of “when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will” that underpinned the Treaty of Rome was on full display in Hong Kong. Peace and sovereignty flow from the fountain of authentic free trade, even in the absence of soldiers and Ian Fleming’s secret agents. And, of course, there is another consequence of authentic free trade, which is massive and widely shared prosperity. That is also on full display in Hong Kong.

See also: 
Lion Rock 19, Not enough capitalism in Hong Kong, May 12, 2016 

Lion Rock 20, Hong Kong's labor welfarism and rising unemployment, July 08, 2016 

Lion Rock 21, Dangers of Universal basic income (UBI) philosophy, August 11, 2017 
Hong Kong and John Cowperthwaite, Part 2, October 09, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Energy 101, Disinformation and fake stories by the watermelon movement

Fake stories and disinformation can be rampant in the energy sector because of the climate alarmism drama and renewables cronyism agenda. A recent example is one published in BWorld last Thursday, The Philippines’ Ill-Advised P1 Trillion New Coal Gamble, October 20, 2017 By Sara Jane Ahmed.

The lady seems to be ignorant of many data before writing their anti-coal drama. Some things she wrote:

1. “High electricity prices are driven by imported fuel and subsidies; electricity surcharges…”

à Wrong. Check Meralco website for customer charges, http://www.meralco.com.ph/consumer-information/rates-archive. Here, October 2017 charges, if one consumes up to 300 kWh, he would pay a total of P2,880, one-half of which is for generation charges and the other half for 11 other charges including taxes and FIT subsidy for mostly wind-solar. 

From the generation charge, about half of which are from Malampaya natgas-using plants in Batangas; there are hydr0, geothermal, coal could be about 40% of Meralco energy mix.

2. “Diesel dependence, much like our growing national coal dependence, is a result of subsidies…”

à Wrong, diesel has no subsidy, or maybe she refers to the current zero excise tax for diesel but under Duterte TRAIN, it will soon be slapped with P6/liter excise tax.

3. “Coal subsidies assure the private sector guaranteed returns…”

à Wrong. Currently coal excise tax is P10/ton but under TRAIN, to rise to P20/ton. Now Dr. Ciel Habito proposes a P600/ton excise and carbon tax for coal. I criticized his proposal here, http://bworldonline.com/carbon-tax-wrong/

4. “Meralco is currently underwriting a solar power supply deal for 85 megawatts (MW) at P2.99 per kWh.”

à True, and that’s the exception, from Solar Philippines of Leandro Leviste, son of Sen. Loren Legarda. Many solar farms here are given the cronyist FIT or guaranteed price for 20 years of P8.69 to P10+/kWh.

5. “Philippine’s financial sector as massively exposed now to the eventual stranding proposed new coal fleet to the tune of more than 10,000 MW in overcapacity and P1.05 trillion in financial risk”.

-> See this: “Countries that have coal consumption of at least 2.1x expansion over the past two decades are also those that experienced fast GDP growth of at least 3x expansion. Prominent examples are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Pakistan.” http://bworldonline.com/high-carbon-tax-irrational/

Finally, the lady is highly disoriented, talking about diesel and coal subsidies when there is none. Yet silent on renewables subsidies, haha. P10B in 2015, P18.5B in 2016, P24.4B this 2017, and P26B next year. The main recipients of this renewables cronyism are the wind farms of the Lopezes/EDC, Ayalas' Caparispisan and Bangui, Phinma, Alternergy/Vince Perez, etc. http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=why-the-fit-all-is-a-burden-to-consumers&id=145326

The "planet saviours", the renewable cronyism lobbyists, they want more government intervention -- in arm-twisting consumers to pay higher electricity to subsidize renewables; in coercing the grid to prioritize the intermittent, unstable, unreliable, non-dispatchable energy sources; in choking and even killing stable, reliable, dispatchable 24/7 sources like coal, gas and nuke. Watermelons -- green outside, red inside.

See also:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

BWorld 159, Electoral reforms and the President

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last Monday.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been on a rampage recently, repeating his warnings about declaring a “revolutionary government,” as if he has the authority to issue laws and orders without consideration or fear of opposition from independent-minded legislators.

Among his previous rants include his order to his loyal leaders in Congress to (a) impeach the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres D. Bautista, (b) impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, (c) impeach Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and (d) create new rules in electoral exercises such as postponing and resetting the barangay elections.

Speaking of electoral reforms, some things are better retained and while others should be changed. Among these are the following.

1. Retain automation and do not entertain the proposal by certain sectors to go back to manual counting of the votes. The number of voters in the country is rising and machines should take care of the counting and processing of results (see table).

The lobbying of the son of a former dictator, Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., to discredit the results of the 2016 national elections and canvassing for vice-president has been rejected by the Supreme Court — good riddance. It was a dangerous attempt by Mr. Marcos to unseat the elected VP so that he can be the second highest official in the country, a position that is just heartbeat away from the Presidency, a position held by his father for 20 years (1965-1985) via deception and large-scale military coercion.

2. Elections of barangay officials should be as scheduled and not subject to postponement by the President or Congress.

Elections should held at regular and predictable intervals to give space and opportunity for the people to directly demand accountability from their elected leaders. Existing laws mandate fixed terms of office for elected national and local leaders.

3. No to state subsidy to political parties as proposed by certain sectors. This is a wasteful use of taxpayers money. Politicians and political parties have resources of their own or have access to a network that allows them to solicit big donations from their friends and supporters. Keep the tax money for direct subsidy to the poor, or cut taxes instead so that people can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Meanwhile, if the proposed charter change (cha-cha) should materialize, the following reforms should be considered.

4. Abolish the party list system. This is wrong in both theory and practice. In theory, there are no marginalized sectors, only marginalized individuals. Women are not a marginalized sector. The country had two women Presidents already, a number of senators and House members are women. Youth is not a marginalized sector as many young leaders are occupying very high political and corporate positions. Farmers are not marginalized as there are many rich farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs, although many farmers are indeed poor. Electric cooperatives do not belong to the marginalized sector.

In practice, many non-poor individuals and groups have entered the legislature through the backdoor afforded by the party-list system.

5. Abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK). Young people should not be encouraged to enter the world of politics early because government, by nature, is force and coercion. Young people should focus instead on voluntary and civil society action and learn the arts of entrepreneurship early.

6. Elect only the political party, not candidates, should the Philippines become parliamentary. Once put in effect, parties will stay focused on their political ideologies and advocacy and not on personalities.

7. Go back to the two-party system. Very often, debate on public issues can be limited to whether there should be increased government interventions and regulations or fewer, whether there should be more and higher taxes or less, whether there should be free trade or protectionism. Candidates and voters can align themselves on either of two opposing positions.

Many candidates can be accommodated by the two parties and they will all go through primaries and knock themselves out until only one will represent the respective party. This could have prevented a Duterte win because many candidates in the 2016 elections talked about respecting the rule of law while Duterte repeatedly argued for breaking the law and short cut the process of winning the drugs war.

8. Or retain the multi-party system but have a round two elections where only the top two candidates will contest and “knock out” the other candidate in an open electoral system.

Again, this could have prevented a Duterte win because supporters of the 3rd, 4th and 5th placers can rethink their position and choose only either the 1st or 2nd placer. This will avoid having a “minority President.”

See also:

Energy 100, Bjorn Lomborg on World energy mix

I am reposting here a post by Bjørn Lomborg in his fb wall early today. Thanks for this great piece, Bjorn.

The world is mostly run on fossil fuels (81.4%). Nuclear makes up 5% with 13.6% from renewables. Solar panels and wind turbines contribute less than 0.7%.

When you hear 13.6% renewables, you will likely think 'wow, things are going pretty well with the change-over to renewables'. But these are not the ones you hear about. The biggest contributor is wood, used in the poor world to cook and keep warm. This leads to terrible indoor air pollution – it is actually the world's deadliest environmental problem, killing some 4.3 million people each year. We should definitely hope the poor will have to use *less* polluting wood in the future.

The other main contributors of renewables are biofuels (e.g. the American forests, cut down and shipped across the Atlantic to be burnt in European power plants to be called green and CO₂ neutral) and hydropower. In total, that makes up 12.1%. The last 1.5% comes mostly from geothermal energy (0.54%) and wind turbines (0.53%) along with solar heaters in China, tidal power etc. (0.29%) and solar panels (0.13%).

Contrary to the weight of news stories on how solar and wind is taking over the world, solar panels and wind turbines really make up a very small part of the global energy mix. (I started out coloring solar panels yellow, but the thin sliver at the top became invisible.)

Sources: The International Energy Agency has released their latest Renewable Energy Information 2017, http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/.../renewables-information.... It contains 488 pages of data, with preliminary data for the rich world for 2016, but for the entire world for 2015. Unfortunately, the data is not free.

Since solar PV constitutes such a small part of the energy supply, the International Energy Agency combines it with tidal, solar CSP and solar thermal (the water heaters on rooftops for direct hot water). In 2014, the split was 34% for solar PV, 0% for tidal, 6% for CSP and 60% for thermal, so I applied the same split to the data for 2015.

All data is Total Primary Energy Supply, which is the International Energy Agency's own main measure, also used in all their graphs for global energy balances.

See also:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mining 57, More photos during Mining PH 2017 conference

Posting some of the quotes-with-photos made by the Secretariat during the Mining 2017 Conference last September 5-7, 2017.

Some of my photos at the farewell dinner.

With the Stratbase-ADRi group.

And in a brief karaoke segment, I sang on stage, "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles :-)

Meanwhile, reposting this article today by JB Baylon.

Who’s afraid of open pit mining?
By Jose Bayani Baylon
October 16, 2017

THERE’S a lot of brouhaha about open pit mining these days, spurred by Ma’am Gina Lopez alleging that they create acids that will bedevil all of humanity for life. And you know how convincing she can be, so even the President has expressed apprehensions about open pit, apprehensions that could extend to actually banning this form of mining.

While listening to my mining colleagues discuss the issue, my genetic make up (I am the son of a doctor and a nurse and brother to two more doctors) kicked in and a very medical image cropped up.

Mother Earth and many women have something in common - they are gifted with blessings that need to be brought into the world so that life can be better. For Mother Earth these are her mineral wealth; for many women, this is a child.

Now women who are blessed with a child have two ways of bringing God’s gift into the world - the normal laborious method, or the sometimes quicker Caesarian section. These are two accepted methods that are used depending on the situation of the mother or the child, or both; the fact is some women can be at risk - and the child in their womb as well - if an OB Gyne does not resort to the “C-section.” My mother, for one, had to go through the C-section three times; thankfully she had the late great Dra Gloria Aragon watching over her.

Again: whether a woman gives birth via the normal way or by C-Section is determined by the situation and managed by the experts. No one can say we will ban Caesarian because it leaves an ugly scar and puts a woman at risk with her anesthesia etc etc etc.

Similarly the ore deposit determines which form of mining is done in order to bring out into the world the mineral wealth with which Mother Earth is blessed. An ore deposit or body near the surface of the earth is therefore mined using surface mining or open pit; an ore body that is in the form of veins or goes deep into the recesses of Mother Earth is mined via underground mining. Like a pregnant woman, Mother Earth’s situation determines the way her gifts are brought out into the light. Again one cannot force only one method of mining because the ore deposit or body determines what is used.

Are there risks? Of course there are. But that’s why you have experts who require pre testing and constant monitoring during the procedure. Are there accidents? Of course there are. But they are few and far between and sometimes they just happen. Are there examples of successes? Well, my brothers and I are just three of hundred of millions of examples of successful C-Section births, while for mining there countless examples around the world of open pits rehabilitated into such destinations as golf resorts.

The point is, in life, one can always choose to focus on the dangers. But then what happens? “Oh my gosh an airplane crashed! We should ban flights and shut down all airlines!”. Or “ An elevator got stuck! Let’s do away with lifts and use the stairs!”.

That’s why there are tests: for humans these range from blood tests to BP monitoring, while for environmental projects you have Environmental impact assessments and clearances. Once a patient or a project passes these tests then it means the experts are more than confident everything will turn out fine.

So: it’s right to worry about open pit mining just like it’s right to worry about Caesarian operations. But trust your experts. That’s the reason they’re there.

And if you like, pray or do yoga.

See also: 

Inequality 33, Decline in global poverty

Cool, useful chart below. Global poverty has declined, significantly. To read it, choose a level of annual income on the vertical or y-axis and then use the blue and red lines to find on the horizontal or x-axis the corresponding share of the world population living with less than that income.

If you think the poverty line should be $1,000 per person per year, the 2003 line shows that 48% of the world population was below this poverty line; and ten years later, in 2013, 29% was below this line. A decline of 20 % points in one decade relative to this poverty line.

Source: "No matter what extreme poverty line you choose, the share of people below that poverty line has declined globally", April 05, 2017 by Max Roser, https://ourworldindata.org/no-matter-what-global-poverty-line

The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting middle class status. Not all of course but many of them. The poor used to ride bicycles or cow de carabao, now they ride motorcycles or 2nd, 3rd-hand cars.

See also:

BWorld 158, Why a carbon tax is wrong

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last week.

Coal power produced nearly 48% of Philippines’ actual electricity generation in 2016 despite having only 34.6% share in the country’s installed power capacity of 21,400 MW or 21.4 GW, Department of Energy (DoE) figures show.

Renewables (hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, biomass) produced 24.2% of total power generation in 2016 despite having 32.5% of installed power capacity. In particular, wind + solar combined contributed a small 2.3% of total power generation.

At a forum organized by the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) at the UP School of Economics last Oct. 5, the speaker Dr. Francisco Viray, former DoE secretary and now president and CEO of PhinMa Energy Corp., showed in his presentation a screen shot of Dr. Ciel Habito’s article, “Let’s get the carbon tax right.” Ciel was arguing among others, that the carbon tax for coal power should be raised from the current P10/ton to P600/ton and not P20/ton as contained in Senate bill No. 1592 of Sen. Angara.

I commented during the open forum that Ciel’s article in reality has a wrong title, it should have been “A carbon tax is wrong.” And here are the reasons why.

One, as mentioned above, coal power was responsible for nearly 48% of total electricity generation nationwide in 2016 and it is wrong to restrict its supply and/or make its price become more expensive. Kill coal or even drastic cut in coal power would mean massive, large-scale, and nationwide blackouts for several hours a day, something that consumers wouldn’t want to endure. After all, even a one minute brownout can already cause widespread disappointment.

Two, the Philippines’ overall coal consumption – in absolute amount and in per capita level – is small compared to the consumption of its neighbors in Asia (see table).

The Philippines has only 100 kilos or 0.1 ton per head per year of coal, the smallest in the region. There is no basis to suggest restricting further coal use given the fast demand for electricity nationwide.

Three, it is wrong to advocate more expensive electricity via high carbon tax given that subsidies to renewables via feed-in-tariff (FiT), among others, are already adding upward price pressure. A higher carbon tax may be more acceptable to the consumers if the FiT scheme is discontinued and ultimately abolished. If this is not done, better to keep coal excise tax as low as possible.

The proposed P600/ton excise tax on coal power would translate to P0.24/kWh hike in power generation charge. Using Ciel’s numbers, one ton of coal can generate 2,519 kWh electricity on average. So P600/2,519 kWh = P0.24/kWh. That is equivalent to FiT-Allowance that each electricity consumer from Luzon to Mindanao must pay monthly for many years to come.

Four, it is wrong to demonize and over-regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant because it is not. CO2 is invisible, colorless, and odorless unlike those dark smoke coming from vehicles and chimneys of old manufacturing plants.

CO2 is the gas that humans and animals exhale, the gas that flowers, trees, rice and other crops use to produce their own food via photosynthesis. More CO2 means more plant growth, faster greening of the planet. CO2 therefore is a useful gas, not a pollutant gas that the UN, Al Gore, and other groups and individuals would portray it.

While the hike in coal excise tax from P10 to P20/ton as contained in the Senate version is somehow acceptable, there is danger that the P600/ton proposal will spring out of nowhere during the bicameral meeting of the House and Senate leaders. This should not be allowed to happen.

Continued demonization of coal and rising favoritism of variable renewables like wind-solar would mean more expensive electricity, more unstable grid, and darker streets at night. Dark streets would mean more road accidents, more robbery, more abduction and rapes, more murders as criminals benefit from anonymity provided by darkness.

Energy irrationality can kill more people today, not 40 or 100 years from now. The irrationality and insensitivity of rising government taxes should be restricted and limited.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PPP vs ODA tax-tax-tax

Related to my BWorld article yesterday, Build-build-build is possible without new taxes, are the following articles and reports, all from BWorld.

1. Last week, an article by a friend Romy Bernardo. I disagree with his position of course. Hi Romy :-) http://bworldonline.com/bye-bye-build-build-build/

2. Related article from another friend, Karla Michelle Yu of AER. I disagree also with AER's  "halleluiah tax-tax-tax Dutertah" position. http://bworldonline.com/angaras-train-deception/

3. Two weeks ago, this paper was well-shared and circulated because of the hard facts narrated by the author -- many foreign investors are taking the wait-see or abandon-PH stance. Mainly because of Du30. http://bworldonline.com/investors-shifting-sentiments/

4. No need for tax-tax-tax in this huge, multi-billion CALAX project. The private consortium has the money, eng'g expertise and other corporate network to finance, build and operate these big infra.

"The P35.43-billion CALAX project involves the construction of a 44.6-kilometer four-lane toll road between the Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx) in Kawit, Cavite and the SLEx-Mamplasan Interchange." http://bworldonline.com/calax-cavite-segment.../

5. Also the Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expway (CTBeX), 49 kms long, P22.4 B. http://bworldonline.com/dpwh-may-approve-ctbex-project.../

6. And the P18.7 B Kaliwa dam, zero need for tax-tax-tax as it will be an integrated PPP project but Du30 insists we should pay more taxes because we will pay more China loans. BBB (build-build-build) can also mean Beijing-borrowings-barkada ni Dutertah.

7. The Mactan-Cebu airport new passenger terminal is a PPP, Megawide contract, P17.5 B project cost. Bigger, construction period shorter, compared to ODA-funded Iloilo airport project. Zero need for tax-tax-tax to build this big, modern, passenger terminal.

The DOF and Dutertenomists are sad in this report, that they cannot confiscate more money from the pockets of citizens. They badly need hundreds of billions of new tax money per year on top of trillions of tax money, so there will be more economic central planning, more social engineering. After all, they are very bright people. http://bworldonline.com/tax-reform-legislation-hurdles.../

The tax-tax-tax policy will further sour the business sentiment here. Less money in the pockets of citizens, more money in the coffers of Du30, Alvarez, and thousands of their minions in the Executive and Legislative branches.

See also:
BWorld 142, PPP vs ODA, Part 3, August 08, 2017 

BWorld 156, Integrated PPP vs hybrid PPP, October 04, 2017 
BWorld 157, Build-build-build is possible without new taxes, October 09, 2017

Monday, October 09, 2017

Hong Kong and John Cowperthwaite, Part 2

I have heard about Sir John Cowperthwaite for the first time about 2004 or 2005, from my friends at the Lion Rock Institute in Hong Kong and I was impressed of him. Prior to that, I thought that it was deliberate on the part of the British government to institute a free market colonial economy in HK after WW2. No, it was not the case. The man as Britain-appointed Administrator of HK simply has a firm conviction of positive non-interference by government in encouraging individual and enterprise innovation and entrepreneurship.

A book was recently published about the man and here are two of many book reviews.

Adam Smith in the finance ministry
The Economist, October 5th 2017

Sir John Cowperthwaite is that most unlikely of things: a bureaucrat hero to libertarians

Architect of Prosperity: Sir John Cowperthwaite and the Making of Hong Kong. By Neil Monnery. London Publishing Partnership; 337 pages; £24.50.

DURING the 1960s, governments were responding to political unrest and economic challenges with nationalisation, centralised planning and public spending (financed by heavy taxes and debt). There was intense pressure for Sir John Cowperthwaite, the financial secretary of Hong Kong, to join the crowd.

Civil servants in Whitehall had been urging their counterparts in Hong Kong to introduce high taxes for some time. Locals demanded spending to address a lack of housing for crowds of poor immigrants fleeing the horrors of post-revolutionary China, and a territory-wide shortage of drinkable water. Meanwhile, the territory’s export-driven economy was threatened by rising global tariffs, prompting demands for public incentives to reorient production towards the domestic market.

A new biography of Cowperthwaite by Neil Monnery, a former management consultant, tells of a man who replied to these demands with a qualified “no”, and in the process became that most unusual of things: a bureaucrat hero to libertarians. His approach would subsequently be labelled “positive non-interventionism”, meaning governance stopping just short of laissez-faire. Public housing would be funded, but only for tiny flats; reservoirs would be built, but users would be charged. Much of the rest was left to individuals and businesses to sort out, unfettered by government directives. “Money,” Cowperthwaite said, should be left “to fructify in the pockets of taxpayers”.

Cowperthwaite’s ability to resist bigger government was born in a lost era. He was educated in classics and economics at a time when the insights of Adam Smith prevailed. That gave him the foundation to debate with free-spending colleagues influenced by John Maynard Keynes.

In 1945, he arrived in a Hong Kong in ruins from a brutal Japanese occupation. A combined military-colonial administration engaged heavily in economic management, and Cowperthwaite’s early jobs included managing the trade in food and raw materials and administering price controls, roles that defined a heavy government hand. But he knew that the territory’s lack of natural resources meant that post-crisis prosperity depended on its ability to attract entrepreneurs and capital.

That meant government’s role was to provide freedom rather than help. Requests by industry for subsidies were routinely rejected. So too was deficit government financing, which could merely push costs to a future generation and make the territory vulnerable to financial upheaval. Some of his ideas were radical: to ensure that temporary fluctuations in business conditions were not used to justify government controls, he banned the collection of macroeconomic statistics....

When Cowperthwaite stood down in 1971 his tenure was reckoned a huge success, but that provided only limited protection for his policies. The embargo on data collection was reversed by his successor. Subsequent administrations, both British and Chinese, whittled away the restraints on government intervention.

One persistent objection to limited government particularly rankled Cowperthwaite—that it was callous. He was convinced that “the rapid growth of the economy…produces a rapid and substantial redistribution of income [and] makes it possible to assist more generously those who are not, from misfortune temporary or permanent, sharing in the general advance. The history [of Hong Kong] demonstrates this conclusively.” As that history becomes increasingly remote, a biography of a key architect becomes ever more valuable. There are few other examples.

Another review is from the Adam Smith Institute.

By Eamonn Butler

the small cadre of civil servants, like Sir John, whose job it was to run Hong Kong, fixed on the objective of making it economically prosperous, and knew that the best way to do that was to do exactly the opposite of what the home country was doing—with its nationalisations, controls, economic planning, high taxes, trade barriers, deficit spending, and all the rest. The Hong Kong administrators by contrast rejected the idea of government planning and spending to invest, believing that entrepreneurs knew how and where to invest, and how to manage their businesses, better than any government officials. They kept the government’s books balanced for nearly every year; they resisted high taxes, believing that low taxes would encourage private investment and would expand the long-term tax base.

Cowperthwaite was the most important person behind these policies, as a new book by Neil Monnery, Architect of Prosperity, demonstrates. He ran the trade and industry department after the war then became financial secretary in Hong Kong—effectively the colony’s Chancellor—until he retired in 1971.

One thing the book demonstrates is just how hard it is for any government body to prevent itself from interfering in an economy—with the inevitably counterproductive results. Sir John, it shows, fought off many such attempts. There is a story that the British government, then pursuing a full interventionist policy, sent a group of civil servants over to Hong Kong to ask Sir John why he was not keeping unemployment statistics, and to make him do just that. Sir John, goes the story, put them on the next plane back home, explaining that entrepreneurs know the precise state of the labour market from day to day, never mind quarter to quarter, and that if he kept unemployment statistics, people would want him to produce some counterproductive intervention to boost unemployment.

The story is not true, but it is not far from the truth. Cowperthwaite had to fight over and over to resist ‘enlightened’ interference with the Hong Kong people’s lives and businesses, and to maintain his doughty view that economic statistics were a double-edged sword and you should only collect the ones that are really essential….

See also:
John Cowperthwaite, Statistics and Central Planning, January 23, 2014
Free Trade 32: Hong Kong's Unilateral Trade Liberalization and John Cowperthwaite, February 12, 2014 

Hong Kong Democracy vs. China Dictatorship, September 25, 2014