Thursday, December 31, 2009

EU's new energy commissioner - what to expect?

A while back, I wrote about my incomprehension at cabinet appointments in the new governing coalition in Germany. People seem to have been assigned to positions atop fields that they have not necessarily been very involved in, much less specialized in.

Now, a certain Mr. Guenther Oettinger has been appointed as the new European Energy Commissioner, replacing Latvian Andris Piebalgs.

What can we expect from Öttinger? Well, he used to be governor of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where I live. And while a lot of photovoltaics is going up here -- the state is second in terms of photovoltaics after only Bavaria -- that success is not the result of his leadership, and the state government in Stuttgart has been blocking wind power over the past decade, even to the point of hampering projects accepted by locals. Öttinger has close ties to nuclear and coal through his relations to EnBW (Energie Baden-Württemberg), one of Germany's four biggest utilities (we have hundreds -- I was once told the figure was around 900).

Given that Piebalgs was also known for his pro-nuclear stance, I wonder if there will be much of a change at all. But mainly, I wonder why such people are appointed to such positions. What qualifies this guy to be head of energy specifically?

On a more personal level, I do not look forward to seeing this guy in the news. Öttinger has one of the most whining voices I have ever heard, and despite the attempts to present photos of him with smiles at Wikipedia, the man seems to have as much trouble mustering a smile as most of us do touching our toes without bending our knees.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"My country, right or wrong"

Did you know a German American is partly behind that phrase -- and do you know what the entire phrase is?

Germany has a number of American cultural centers, which are generally called an Amerika-Haus. The one here in Freiburg is named after Carl Schurz, who is not actually from this part of Germany, but was involved in the Revolution of 1848, which was very strong in Baden. (For those of you who think that Germany does not have historical roots connecting it to democracy, there was not only this revolution, but the Revolution of 1918-1919.)

Anyway, the saying above was apparently in circulation during Schurz's lifetime (having apparently been coined generations before by a Mister Decatur), and he had something to say about it:

I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: "Our country, right or wrong!" They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."

That was in 1899. And while he was right about US chauvinism -- which somehow goes under the epithet of patriotism in the US, though any equivalent spirit abroad is degraded as nationalism -- his confident trust was misplaced. 100 years later, the saying is still being debunked, i.e. that thinking is still alive and well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Split infinitives

In a recent article about gender neutrality in the third person, I wrote that there were basically two camps on the issue, and I belong to the third. Now, in a recent review of Fowler's grammar, I see that there are five camps on split infinitives, and I belong to the sixth:

The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know & condemn; (4) those who know & approve; & (5) those who know and distinguish.

The sixth camp correctly holds that infinitives in English cannot be split, ergo there is really no such thing as a split infinitive. For some reason, we have been told that the infinitive in English includes the prefix "to," but there is actually no reason to accept that description.

  1. I could prove it if I wanted to.
  2. But I don't have to.
  3. And I'm not going to.
As you can see from all of these sentences, "to" actually belongs to the previous word, not the missing infinitive. Indeed, if there ever were a case of splitting infinitives, these cases of lopping off the semantic part from its functional companion would certainly be considered an egregious error, but I do not believe I have ever heard of anyone objecting to such sentences on the basis of split infinitives (though there is the asinine claim that we shouldn't end sentences in prepositions -- yet another instance of an attempt to force poorly understood Latin grammar onto English, which happens not to be Latin, nor even primarily of Latin origin).

The opposite of sentence 2 above, for instance, could easily be 4a, but not 4b:

4a.I must.
4b. *I have.

It follows that we no longer need to speak of "bare infinitives" with modal verbs (such as 4a) at all. Occam's Razor holds that the simplest explanation is the best, and I have just demonstrated that the insistence that infinitive verbs in English include "to" brings about such unnecessary things as split infinitives and bare infinitives in the first place.

Since English is actually far more closely related to modern German than to Latin, a comparison of how infinitive clauses work in the two languages is also illustrative:

5. I helped him to cross the street.
6. Ich half ihm, die Strasse zu überqueren.

Notice that, although German never considers the infinitive to include "zu" (which is essentially equivalent to the English "to") and it does not even have the concept of split infinitives (the German Wikipedia entry for split infinitives discusses the issue as a problem affecting English and gives the example of "to boldly go" from Star Trek), no native German speaker would ever be able to put any word between "zu" and "überqueren":

7. I helped him to safely cross the street.
8. I helped him to cross the street safely.
9. Ich half ihm, die Strasse sicher zu überqueren.
10. *Ich half ihm, die Strasse zu sicher überqueren.

To my taste, this comparison clearly shows that the German language does not have a history of stupid grammarians going around making up rules to ban things that feel right for all native speakers because you couldn't translate the construction into Latin (though you certainly can translate the meaning). In contrast, English has a number of rules -- split infinitives being only one -- that would rule out things that sound perfectly fine to all native speakers. Even after generations of attempts to stamp out split infinitives, all native speakers -- including those who say that split infinitives do not sound good -- continue to use them when they sound right, the opponents merely doing so only when they let their guard down.

Granted, I personally like sentence 8 above more than sentence 7, but there are slews of examples where the supposed split infinitives actually sounds best to me -- "to boldly go" being one good example.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas trees from Freiburg

As you all sit around your Christmas trees today (what are you doing reading this blog at the Christmas tree?), you should all think about Freiburg, Germany, where it all began:

The oldest report tells about a tree decorated with apples, wafers, nuts and gingerbread which has been erected [sic] by the guild of bakery servants in Freiburg i. B. [sic] in 1419. This simple decoration was often enhanced by paper flowers, sugar canes, cheese or sausage and could be raided by the [sic] children.

(Those folks should get a real translator...) While it might sound crazy to be dragging trees into your home, around 1400 a lot of the homes in Freiburg would have been more hut than house -- and would probably have had a fireplace in the middle somewhere with a simple hole in the roof to let the smoke out. People were dragging wood into their homes all the time, so a live tree to decorate would probably not have seemed that unusual at all.

It also turns out that, until the 20th century, a lot of Christmas trees were actually hung up from the ceiling. Queen Victoria, who was of German descent, used to hang them up herself.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Faveread: New Yorker on Obama

Like many people, I cannot understand all of president Obama's decisions, such as the recent announcement that the US would continue to use landmines -- an indefensible position as far as I'm concerned. I can, however, distinguish between Obama and the spineless Democratic Party when it comes to closing Guantánamo.

Now, the New Yorker's George Packer has published a few comments on Obama's recent performance, including the following:

Return of the right. Over the past eighteen months, I and others (e.g., Sam Tanenhaus) have written that conservatism is dead. I’ve been asked a few times whether I still believe it. Intellectually, absolutely: the August tea parties, the extremist language on the Capitol steps, the Palin self-promotional orgy, even the lockstep voting habits of congressional Republicans, are all symptoms of a debased movement composed of celebrity and bile. But in the past ten months I’ve remembered how powerful a thing it is for conservatives to have a target. Post-Reagan conservatism, with its overwhelming negativity, is back to doing what it does best—without even pretending to have a viable governing agenda. I imagined that in the aftermath of their historic defeat, Republicans would spend months, if not years, engaged in a serious internal debate between reformists and purists. Instead, the party has become more monolithic and shrill than ever. And in our constitutional system, a brain-dead minority party that spouts simple-minded slogans on TV and votes in rigid unison can be a serious obstacle to achieving anything.
The rest of his synopsis seems correct to me as well.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy holidays, Phillipines!

Two months ago, I added the visitor counter over to the right. It was my seventh month of blogging, and based on the quite low number of comments people were writing, I assumed that I only had a handful of readers -- and was thinking about discontinuing this blog.

The counter revealed that I actually have close to around 40 readers a day, which was enough to keep me very motivated and try to provide enough quality to keep everyone's attention.

But one thing did surprise me: the large number of readers from the Philippines. I have a good idea of who my readers are from the US, Germany, the UK, and Canada, but the Philippines have been battling Canada for fourth place nearly from the beginning, and I have no idea who any of you are.

So I'd very much like to hear from some of my readers from the Philippines. Welcome! But who are you, and why do you enjoy reading this blog by an American about German/American matters?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trash City, Egypt

Some more interesting photos, this time from Trash City, Cairo. And if you are wondering why so many of those buildings (practically all of them) have an unfinished top floor, it's because of Egyptian tax law. You do not have to pay property tax on the floor below an unfinished floor, so Egyptians build the number of floors they want and then add on a never-to-be-finished floor on top.

Don't ask me where I got that information from, because I honestly don't remember -- but you read it here ;-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mea culpa, BMW

Embarrassingly, I have fallen prey to some completely unreliable reporting. A few days ago, I wrote about a decision that BMW had reportedly made to abandon hydrogen technology. In that post, I also wondered why nothing had been reported in English yet.

I now know why: the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Although I first heard the story on the Nightly News on German TV, which you would think would be a reliable source, it turns out that some journalists misunderstood a company spokesperson -- or perhaps the spokesperson misspoke. Anyway, BMW is not abandoning hydrogen technology.

To make things worse, some reports conflated fuel cells with hydrogen. In the case of BMW, that mix-up is completely misleading since the Bavarian car maker is known for working on hydrogen as a fuel in internal combustion engines; BMW is not focusing on fuel cells at all. I actually knew that (it was reported in this magazine, for which I was the editor), but some German media completely conflated hydrogen with fuel cells, including some major German papers, and I repeated the confusion.

You win some, you lose some -- last week, I happened to catch an error in Die Zeit, where the author had spoken of "solar cells" providing hot water for a hotel in Tunisia. Of course, solar cells produce electricity, and the solar collectors on the hotel just heat up water. That mistake, at least, was immediately obvious to me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

German PV crosses 1% threshold

Sonne, Wind & Wärme reports that Germany will have gotten more than one percent of its electricity from photovoltaics in 2009. Last year, some 4.3 terawatt-hours of photovoltaic power was generated, but that figure is expected to rise to 6.4 TWh this year, slightly more than one percent of the approximately 615 TWh in Germany.

By 2020, photovoltaics would reportedly make up five percent of gross power generation at current growth rates.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

German environmental minister speaks of "clear overpayment"

In the Friday issue of Handelsblatt (premium content, so see Bloomberg), Norbert Röttgen says Germany's Renewable Energy Act is "too inflexible." It sounds as though he not only wants to have a one-off rate reduction, which seems likely anyway, but also tweak the system itself.

Currently, if the 1,500 MW ceiling is surpassed, the automatic reduction (around 9%) increases by 1%. Perhaps he is thinking that this added reduction is too marginal, especially since Germany actually installed some 2,400 MW from Q4 2008 to Q3 2009. And the forecast for 2010 is even greater.

So maybe we will get some heavy reduction if the ceiling is reached - which would not be the end of the world as long as the first 1,500 MW are retained. After all, Germany's 3,200 MW for 2009 as a whole (forecast, but another forecast is for 2,200) is slightly more than 50% of new installations globally, a share that is far too great (the US probably won't make up 10%). So if the others can't catch up, maybe Germany will have to slow down?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The difference between German and US solar businesspeople

On a recent flight to California, a colleague of mine met a well known solar financial analyst. She was sitting next to Joshua Redman, who went to school with my colleague -- and with Charlie Hunter. Three great people from one class - that was back in the days when California had the best public schools.

But I digress. Anyway, my colleague was chatting with Joshua, who just happened to be sitting next to this financial analyst, so they also started chatting because my colleague mistakenly thought she was traveling with Joshua. Since we occasionally come across her research in our work, he told her about what we do and talked about me. Although she and I have exchanged e-mails, she could not remember who I am, which is fine -- but then she apparently said, "If I don't know him, he's a nobody."

My colleague then asked her more about her work, and she said, "Nobody does what I do," but then refused to really tell him what it is. He says he was satisfied to leave it at that, but she repeatedly continued talking about how important she was as though to beg the question again. He says he found it weird that she wouldn't stop talking about it, but whenever he asked what "it" was, she said she didn't want to talk about it (see minute 4:40).

I was disappointed to hear about this conversation because this person's work is very good, at least as far as I can judge. We certainly need economists like her on our side. My favorite financial analyst is definitely Claudia Kemfert, though she does not solely focus on solar and generally takes a much more macroeconomic view (warning: you do not want her critiquing your work if it is not great). But it is certainly not true that nobody does what this US solar financial analyst does. I personally know a handful of people who more or less do what she does -- and, of course, we can pretty much all say that nobody does what we do. I know that nobody specifically does exactly what I do because my clients tell me so.

I'm sure that there are some German businesspeople in the renewables sector that are also full of themselves, but I honestly haven't met them yet. Indeed, everyone over here treats me as though they are glad to have me on their side. That's because German renewables advocates see themselves as brothers-in-arms in a fight to make the world a better place (many of them started off as nuclear protesters after Chernobyl), whereas Americans primarily want to make money -- even the enviros. (Note to self: write a post sometime about how movie reviews in the US always focus on the box office, whereas such reviews in Germany and France almost never mention money - we're talking about art, after all, and I'm not going to see a movie because of box office sales.)

Maybe this American analyst was having a bad day, but I have unfortunately met other American businesspeople in the renewables sector who were having similar bad days. And with solar people thinking of others on their side as "nobodies," it's no wonder the US is going nowhere with solar.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Three goods things about Obama's Nobel award

1) Esperanza Spalding

2) An articulate speech showing an understanding of war and peace given seemingly by heart.

3) "I face the world as it is."

There are times when I wonder why he is doing the presidency to himself, but #3 answers that quite well.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good for Germany, bad for America

The New Yorker recently published an interesting article about the history of the health care debate in the US. Germany, of course, was one of the very first countries to have something that could be called "universal health care" way back in the late 19th century. The objections to this "German idea" starting in 1917, when all things the German suddenly became bad, sound a lot like the opposition I sometimes face when trying to peddle German renewables policy to Americans:

“Born in Germany. Do you want it in California?” (“If you are opposed to a thing these days,” one frustrated health-care advocate wrote, “the cheapest way to attack it is to call it ‘German.’ ”)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Finally, somebody tells the, uh, truth about carbon

The upcoming issue of new energy contains the following contention:

Doing right by the environment means limiting every individual on Earth to one ton of CO2 emissions annually by 2050. The daily equivalent could be one cold meal and one hour's TV. Or a ten-minute shower at 40 degrees and 500 g of yoghurt. Or buying an ecological T-shirt and doing one round of laundry at the low-energy setting. Or half of a hot meal.

Statements like that are exactly what I don't like about the whole carbon debate. I can hear 99.99 percent of readers reacting, "Okay, I'm out." (I, Craig Morris, am certainly out.)

I'm not sure whether the magazine is intentionally trying to put people off, but this phrasing is certainly one good way to do it. Imagine how useful this contention will be in the hands of climate skeptics: "See, if these crazy tree huggers get their way in Copenhagen, you're not even going to be able to eat hot food anymore!"

There is a better approach, such as the one from a recent book entitled "$20 a gallon":

... many people's lives... will be improved across a panoply of facets. We will get more exercise, breathe fewer toxins, eat better food, and make a smaller impact on our earth.

I'm not quite as optimistic as that author, but I would add a few other things:

  • real musical instruments will replace iPods
  • games like chess and checkers will replace computer games, and the people you face off will be sitting with you in the same room
  • labor skills will become more important as expensive energy increasingly makes labor the cheaper option (think "full employment")

And check out this report about a study in the Lancet, which found that we should basically stop building roads already and start putting in bike paths and decent sidewalks for health reasons -- even before we run out of gas.

But not everything is going to be painless. I am an American living in Europe. We have no alternative fuel for kerosene in sight, so flying back to the states will be prohibitively expensive within my lifetime.

Which only goes to show that, at least in the case of oil, the shortage itself is going to bring down emissions. We probably only have to do something about coal emissions.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Update: BMW dumps hydrogen

(Update: see comments)

Remember all the talk about how we would have fuel cell cars by 2010? Yesterday, BMW announced that it was abandoning research into fuel cell cars altogether.

As of late last night, I did not see any news about this in English, but German media are full of the news. So remember where you heard this first ;-)

For the record, I have been doubting fuel cell cars since 2003 -- and calling for more emphasis on battery-powered vehicles.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unemployment drops and rises simultaneously?

The New York Times reports:

In the best report since the recession began two years ago, only 11,000 jobs disappeared last month, the government said on Friday, and the unemployment rate actually dipped, to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent the previous month.

Amazing that the number of people working can be cut, but the overall ratio of working to non-working can decrease. Obviously, some creative math is involved -- people who have given up looking disappear from the tally.

Obviously, the same thing happens to some extent everywhere, but here are the latest figures for Germany:

The Federal Labor Office said the German unemployment rate narrowed by 0.1 percentage points from October to 7.6 percent. A total of 3.22 million people were out of work in November, down from 3.23 million in October.

Indeed, the German workforce seems to be weathering the crisis rather well; take a look at this chart - stable unemployment rates since 2008. In late 2008, Paul Krugman was vociferous about how Germany was not doing enough to help mitigate the financial crisis (which the US, not Germany, created), even calling the German government "boneheaded" (an unfair charge coming from the country that screwed everything up), but we now see that Krugman himself has changed his mind, though he does not admit he was wrong when he now writes:

Germany’s jobs miracle hasn’t received much attention in this country — but it’s real, it’s striking, and it raises serious questions about whether the U.S. government is doing the right things to fight unemployment.

Of course the US isn't doing the right thing to fight unemployment; otherwise, it wouldn't have doubled. The US economy jumps from one bubble to the next: subprime,, and remember the S&L? The Germans don't have magic policies, but rather relatively honest people trying to make a decent living. And a focus on technologies the world needs, like renewables. No BS real estate bubble here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The German filibuster that wasn't

The German president -- yes, president, not chancellor -- has recently made news for his refusal to sign a law so it can take effect. As you probably know, Germany has a Chancellor: Merkel, Schröder, Kohl, etc. But Germany also has a president, who is largely a symbolic figure, but does play a number of roles, including the following (from Wikipedia):

All federal laws must, after counter-signature, be signed by the president before they can come into effect.[11] Upon signing, the President has to check if the law was passed according to the order mandated by the constitution and/or if the content of the law is constitutional. If not, he has the right (and, some argue, the duty) to refuse to sign the law. This has happened only eight times. The constitution is not explicit on whether the President can refuse to sign a law merely because he disagrees with its content, i.e. if he has a power of veto, but it is generally held that he does not have such a power. In any case, no President has ever refused to sign a law unless he believed the constitution was being violated.

Now imagine that the United States has such a person. If there is a Republican or Democratic majority in the House and Senate, the president elected would then be a member of the majority party. Now imagine that this person cannot technically veto a law without saying that it is unconstitutional.

Do you think, in American politics, it would be possible for that person to refrain from exercising that right in all cases but eight over the past 60 years?

That's another thing I like about Germany -- so many people try to play fair. To see the number of times the filibuster has been used in the US, see this chart.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Photons says 3-4 GW of new PV next year

In a new report (PDF in German), the German edition of Photon forecasts growth of 3 to 4 gigawatts of photovoltaics next year in the country despite all the talk about falling rates. If that figure holds true, photovoltaics will come close to making up two percent of Germany's electricity supply next year.

Photon puts the newly installed capacity for 2008 at 1.93 gigawatts. Starting in 2009, we will have official figures from Germany's Network Agency, which began keeping a registry of grid-connected PV systems on January 1. A few years ago, Photon began collecting these statistics itself (collated from grid operators) because no figures were officially collected.

There is one really nice statistic in the article: Bavaria was the first German state with approximately one solar module per capita on the average (188 watts per person) -- and that was in 2008.

Friday, December 4, 2009

MP says priority still on renewables in Germany if nuclear is extended

SolarServer reports that the energy spokesperson for the CSU (which is basically the CDU in Bavaria, except that Bavaria apparently has to have its own party) has stated that renewable energy will still have priority even if the service lives of current nuclear power plants are extended beyond 32 years ("Auch bei Laufzeitverlängerungen bleibt der Einspeisevorrang für regenerativen Strom erhalten").

Under the Schröder government, Germany chose to shut all of its nuclear plants down after 32 years of service (popularly called the "nuclear phase-out" or Atomausstieg). The current governing coalition plans to review all of these commissions and extend them indefinitely on a case-by-case basis under criteria that have yet to be specified.

"Priority" means that intermittent renewable energy (mainly solar and wind) must be purchased, even if central power plants have to be ramped down. Germany's popular Renewable Energy Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz or EEG) actually has a longer official name: the Act on Granting Priority to Renewable Energy Sources.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bad customer feedback III

The latest round of bad customer feedback has occurred. This time, I simply got an e-mail from the client saying, "We were not pleased with the quality of this translation." I wrote back saying that the feedback is useless without some examples, and this is what I got:
Customer feedback: Why did you translate Bundestag as "lower house of the German parliament"?
The Bundesrat co-decides about federal laws that afflict Länder competences, but German constitution commentators do not consider it a parliament or a chamber of the parliament. The only federal parliament in Germany is the Bundestag. Nonetheless foreign commentators tend to compare it to upper houses such as the U.S. Senate or the House of Lords in the UK.

If I stop to think about it, I probably would just call the Bundestag the Parliament and I would not know how to express "Bundesrat" without saying something like Upper House or Senate, which in turn would make the Bundestag the lower house. But I don't really see this as a crucial issue for photovoltaics -- if we were talking about politics, sure. But the article talks about solar; it does not try to describe the German legislature. The fact that the roles of upper/lower houses differ from one country to another is hardly important for us here. The French president is the person in charge, whereas the German president is a figurehead with no political power (technically). But they would both be called presidents in English. The other option is simply to call the thing Bundestag in English. But the translation as such is certainly defensible.
Customer feedback: Why didn't you translate youtube as YouTube?
This word was written in lowercase in the German, and with all of the specific rules the customer has about capitalizing company names, etc., we cannot know that the client wants us to write something the way the client didn't write it. In particular, we have been told not to use camel case in company and product names regardless of how they are written by the firm.
Customer feedback: "Südwestrundfunk (SWR)'s" should have been "Südwestrundfunk's (SWR)".
Yes, that should have been different.
Customer feedback: "Environmental Minister" is an abbreviation. The first time this title is mentioned, the ministry's full name must be used.
The German reads "Bundesumweltminister", and that is what we translated. If you want the full name of the ministry written out, do it in the German (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit), and we will follow that faithfully (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety).
Customer feedback: "the Association of German Industry (BDI)" should be "BDI, the Federation of German Industries"
Yes, your version is the official translation. I'm not sure where the translator got the other version, but perhaps here, which also looks pretty official to me. Overall, I would argue that "federation" is not the right translation of Bund at all. In the US, all of these industry lobby groups are associations.
Customer feedback: "chief whip of the CDU" should be "First Parliamentary Secretary of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group"

Im angelsächsischen Sprachraum werden sie Whip (Peitsche) genannt, da sie auch für die Disziplin beim Abstimmungsverhalten zuständig sind.

Customer feedback: "NRW Minister-President Jürgen Rüttgers"should be "NRW premier Jürgen Rüttgers"

If anything, I would change this into "governor" for US readers because this is the head of a state government, as opposed to the head of a national government. But I certainly think that the translation is fine as is:
There is some confusion about the correct English translation, the Ministerpräsident/-in is either known as "Minister-President" or "Prime Minister". (ex. Prime Minister of Brandenburg [1], Prime Minister of Lower Saxony [2]). The title can be translated as "Minister President", "Minister-President", or "(State) Premier".

For Rüttgers especially, see:
Jürgen Rüttgers (born June 26, 1951 in Cologne) is a German politician (CDU) and Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia

So it looks like, out of seven complaints, the only thing that is indisputably wrong here was the placement of the 's after SWR, and the "official" title of the BDI was taken from the wrong website. 5 of 7 complaints off the mark - pretty bad feedback. But not really unusual ;-(

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Deutsche Bank supports FITs

This news is already over a month old, but just in case anyone has missed it: Deutsche Bank recently published a report saying that emissions trading is not as effective as FITs. One website sums up the report's main conclusion as follows:

... emissions trading hasn't stimulated renewable energy investment and energy efficiency and governments should instead focus on introducing feed-in tariffs.

Of course, cap-and-trade trade proponents will argue that the goal of emissions trading is to lower emissions, not primarily ramp up renewables, but we must keep in mind that, in making coal power more expensive, emissions trading does not level the playing field for all renewables, so how are we going to replace dirty coal? With nuclear?

And anyway, you really have to love Deutsche Bank for its commitment to reliable economic studies on the environment and renewable energy. Imagine any major American bank doing the same.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gambit survey on health care

The Gambit, a New Orleans publication, has published a survey of 100 New Orleanians about healthcare. 70 of those surveyed had insurance; 30 did not. 69 of those surveyed support reform; 14 do not; and 17 were undecided.

But here's the part I like -- people were asked to make a statement, and those who do not support reform have some really strange reasoning. A few people said they do not support reform because they simply do not understand it. (For the record, I don't understand the health insurance I have in Germany -- I am constantly surprised to hear what is covered and what is not. But that doesn't mean I would rather do without it.)

And then there was the 32-year-old who claimed to be covered by Medicare (not impossible, but certainly unusual for someone that age -- it makes me wonder whether he knows how he is insured) and then stated the following:

"I just don't think the government should be in charge of my health care."

This guy claims to have governmental health care, does not want it, and opposes reform. He's gonna be pretty hard to please...