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back to article El Reg man: Too bad, China - I was RIGHT about hoarding rare earths

So this is where El Reg's rare earths spiv gets to do the victory dance. That would be me then, bopping around the dance floor as only a middle aged white man can. For I've been saying for years now that this "China will control all the rare earths" thing is nonsense and so it has turned out to be: nonsense. Not that it hasn't …

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Uhm..

"Failed for the reason we'd expect from communist state: its officials don't understand free market economics."

I think you're missing some of the global picture here. If this were true then how come that China is one of the largest fund suppliers for the US? When looking at the US national debt you'll notice that China sits very high on that list, and quite frankly I don't believe that China has supplied those funds and bonds simply from the bottom of their hearts.

Personally I think they understand all too well how Western economics works and are very carefully exploiting it to some extend. After all, money is power, that's the way it goes over here. And amazingly enough; it seems a lot of that is also sitting with the Chinese.

I don't think this issue is as black and white as you portrait it.

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Re: Uhm..

It is that black and white if you just consider the market for rare earths. Plainly they didn't understand it. In any event, the rare earth monopoly was merely a step on the way to the main event, the complete control of global manufacturing of the commodities that rely on rare earths.

Thankfully, that's proved to be a bust. Long may it continue.

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Anonymous Coward

It's just business Jim

It's just business Jim, but not as we know it.

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Re: Uhm..

What didn't the Chinese understand? They're no longer a Communist economy (only a Communist state). They did the Capitalist thing - charged as much as the market would stand until supply increased elsewhere, then shut down their own excess supply until demand rises later on. A stupid Communist would still be demanding high prices, still mining the stuff and wondering what went wrong. The Chinese are not. QED

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Re: Uhm..

The United States owes the following sums to the described entities below. Notice that China is the third largest holder of US debt., and that the US Social Security System is the single largest holder of US Debt.

Starting at the bottom:

Taiwan: 184.4 x 10^9

Carribean Banks: 224.8 x 10^9

Brazil: 237.4 x 10^9

Insurance Co.'s: 253.7 x 10^9

Oil Expoorters: 254.5 x 10^9

Depsitory Institutions: 286.3 x 10^9

US Medicare Trust Fund: 324.6 x 10^9

State & Local Government: 444.6 x 10^9

Mutual Funds: 797.9 x 10^9

Pension Funds

(Public and Private) 903.4 x 10^9

Japan 1,083.0 x 10^9

Savings Bonds 1,102.0 x 10^9

China 1,169.0 x 10^9

Federal Reserve

(The Fed) 1,659.0 x 10^9

US Social Security

Trust Fund 2,670.0 x 10^9

Total we owe to ourselves = 7,104 x 10^9

Total we owe to China = 1,169 x 10^9

The United States owes much more to itself than it does China, right at six times as much.

All of these numbers came from CNBC's website:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/29880401/page/1

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Re: Uhm..

It is very difficult to understand what China is in political terms until you start thinking of it as an Oligrachy that hides behinds Marxist/Maoist sloganeering. Economically, China is fascist in nature. Now, I am standing by to be accused of racism.

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FAIL

Re: Uhm..

So the U.S. has a near monopoly as the place for China to park it's cash?

Dangerous.

Been going on a long while, to the detriment of the ruled in China.

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Re: Uhm..

China is a major funds supplier because their money is cheap to borrow. As any business person will tell you, why use your money when you can use theirs?

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@Shell.user

" If this were true then how come that China is one of the largest fund suppliers for the US? "

Because the Yanks (like us, and a fair chunk of Europe) live beyond our means and import far more than we export, particularly with China. The only way the money-go-round keeps spinning such that we keep buying Chinese tat is if they indirectly lend us the money. If they bought more from us (and the balance of trade was balanced) then China wouldn't be sitting on a large pile of foregn denominated debt.

Whilst the outlook from this persistent overspending is grim, it is grim all round. The only way out is inflation (stealthy or otherwise), so the Chinese are sitting on a big pile of US treasury bills whose value is slowly evaporating. That evaporation may get faster.

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Pint

Re: @Shell.user

Inflation also means that you won't get anything when you reach pensionable age. Checkmate.

> If they bought more from us

Alternatively, if "the West" didn't think that going into debt and spewing out paper money from teller machines was A-OK and the way to Superland. Thank you very much Keynesians, Leftists and Central Banksters.

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Re: @Shell.user

Quote: "The only way the money-go-round keeps spinning such that we keep buying Chinese tat is if they indirectly lend us the money"

Part of their ability to do so is a function of them not being a true market economy. In fact if you look really deep into that we all live thanks to a large chunk of the world economy being "communist" command and control system.

If China becomes a true market economy we are all going to be in really deep sh*t. So from this very selfish perspective let the communist dictatorship there live long and prosper.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Shell.user

"Thank you very much Keynesians, Leftists and Central Banksters."

The author obviously doesn't realise the printing presses are controlled by private banks (e.g. the Fed is private, Gordon Brown ceded political control of the BoE to the banksters, how he was cheered for that). All the currency shenanigans that is going on is intended to do one thing only - to protect the private banks from the consequences of their own greed. The ordinary people are the ones paying the price.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Shell.user

Also, the austerity regime being imposed by the banksters is the very antithesis of Keynesianism. But, hey, why let facts get in the way of ideology.

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Re: @Shell.user

AC:12:36

Up to a point that's true - but if they were a proper market economy, then the growing middle classes would be able to buy imported products, rather than having to settle for home grown products (some excellent, some ersatz rubbish). And in a proper market economy a floating exchange rate would cause the yuan to rise against the dollar (currently pegged), making their exports more expensive and their imports cheaper. That wouldn't be good for China's artificial growth rate, but it would be very healthy for the world economy. You and I would have to get used to paying more for our consumer goods, of course, offsetting which the Chinese might buy more British made stuff (yeah...).

Interesting to note that two of main growth and prosperity stories in the world today (Germany and China) are both benefiting from artificially low exchange rates, leading to a high trade surplus and the build up of foreign reserves. In Europe, Spain, Greece and Portugal are paying the price for Germany's full employment. Globally we've yet to see that happens between the US and China, but somebody is going to lose out, I'm afraid. I rather think that in the long term it will be the Chinese, for a range of reasons, most important of which is demographics.

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Re: @Shell.user@AC 12:47

"Also, the austerity regime being imposed by the banksters is the very antithesis of Keynesianism. But, hey, why let facts get in the way of ideology."

What fucking austerity? Public spending is still at such an epic level that out of every six quid the government spends one quid is borrowed. And that's now been going on for the better part of a decade.

You try that at home - spend a sixth more than you earn each month, and see how long you can keep it up, and what the consequences are after a decade (if you get that far).

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Re: @Shell.user@AC 12:47

What fucking austerity? Public spending is still at such an epic level that out of every six quid the government spends one quid is borrowed. And that's now been going on for the better part of a decade.

While this is certainly true...

A large part of that is interest on acquired debt. Another large part is used to prop up industries with no feasible benefit except the enrichment of vested interests (wind power, anyone?) and one hell of a lot is spent pursuing private citizens and small businesses in order to squeeze tax out of them while ignoring, for example, Starbucks and Vodafone. And then there's the circle-jerk of employment and regulation which is used to ensure that government services operate as "businesses" and buy from each other - each thus requiring purchasing and accounts departments and HR and other services used only to maintain a fiction.

Oh, and finally, there's the biggest circle-jerk of all, to wit - why do government employees pay tax at all? Would it not be sensible to simply pay them a tax-free salary at a lower level and stop incessantly running around in circles taxing money which is already tax? How many HMRC hours are spent calculating the taxes of HMRC? And then who audits those? It's madness.

Meanwhile, what do we do? Kill investment, snatch money from working families who get benefits (this bit is great - working tax credit means by definition that you're not being paid enough to live on and yet this is viewed as a good thing?) and pretend everyone who isn't a billionaire tax-dodger is just lazy.

Fantastic.

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Re: @Shell.user

One would also assume they know your pension amount to begin with... if they hadnt suffered data or memory manipulation, a lock out from their own systems or that thing we call a 'mistake' ... human complacency a.k.a. procedural error

When regulations get involved aswell, this is just asking for the tweedle dum and tweedle dee where nobody knows much!?

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Re: @Shell.user

The "Yeah" is unnecessary. There are British firms which are regarded as prestigious in China - some of them in my own neck of the woods. They just make high value stuff in relatively small quantities, and Mulberry isn't going to flog 50 million bags at iPhone prices, nice as it would be. The problem for the Chinese government seems to be that they are as afflicted with short-termism as Western governments. They are kind of following Confucianism ("Deal with the problems of the people if you would sit calmly on your throne") but the expectations of growth rate seem to have become unrealistic.

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Re: @Shell.user

lol

so the economy disappearing up its own arse is all down to Maynard Keynes?

get a grip man!

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Re: @Shell.user

"so the economy disappearing up its own arse is all down to Maynard Keynes?"

Nobody suggested that, do try and keep up. And why "Maynard Keynes"? He didn't have a double barrelled surname.

"lol"? Do you think this is Twitter?

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Boffin

Re: @dogged

"A large part of that is interest on acquired debt."

About £45 billion a year, out of total public spending of around £680 billion. So not actually that large, but certainly a problem, and half of the national debt is entirely down to that idiot Smiling Gordon Brown. The man should be tried as a traitor and then hung drawn and quartered.

And it is a problem that will get worse because the current government won't stop spending more than they get in... never mind, our kids can pick up the tab for that. To nit pick, wind turbines are funded by a tax, but it's through mandated aspects of your electricity bill. So that isn't officially part of public spending or tax (although it is actually both), it doesn't appear in the governments books, and it isn't counted as part of the public spending deficit.

Your comments about government administration are broadly speaking correct - but back office accounts for only about 5-6% of government spending. You could halve it if government were as efficient as a large well run company, but that still only gets you £20bn. Corporate tax avoidance is worth perhaps £5bn all told, although it's not clear government now have the freedom to plug the loopholes they created. That combined £25bn is worth having, but it doesn't make a difference in the grand scheme of things until you address the public spending deficit of around £120bn a year. And if you want to pay less interest, then you also need to start to pay down the existing national debt of over half a trillion quid - where's that money going to come from?

To read the pathetic whining and hand wringing in the Graun, you'd think somebody had actually done something, but at the moment we remain firmly set on the disaster course charted by New Labour. Taxes need to rise considerably, or spending needs to be slashed. Given the poor standard of public "services" I'm firmly in favour of slashing spending, but for those who wish to differ, then if they want to undo the "cuts" made so far, and continue to have the "services" they are so enthusisastic about, then we need to raise aggregate taxes by of the order of 30% - and that won't be achieved by wringing out Starbucks, I'm afraid.

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@ledswinger

We could probably knock a lot of it on the head with a Public Select Comittee - ie, a group of actual citizens, not MPs - going through all laws passed since 1900 and just striking off the ones that don't make any sense or are just pissing away money for no reason.

"Wars on drugs" do massive amounts of financial harm in terms of lost revenue (we should tax that shit), police expenditure, prison expenditure, courts expenditure, lost taxes of otherwise law abiding working folk...

To follow on, if regional independence is such a top plan, let the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and Stormont raise their own taxes so that England can stop paying for every bugger's free prescriptions. And they'd no longer get MPs which is also a nice saving on salaries, pensions and those mad, mad expenses.

After that a genuine cost-benefit analysis on what Britain gains from the EU. And NOT the usual divel about "80% of our trade" because that's inbound trade so it's a cost, not a benefit. At that point, we need to get out of damaging and expensive treaties like the CAP and refuse to pay for two European parliaments (because Strasbourg exists only to appease the French anyway).

Then we need to start stripping away the layers of active handicapping in small businesses. A builder I know who employs ten men spend 7/10ths of his time doing paperwork and HSE mandated nonsense rather than building anything and this is pretty representative.

Finally, I'd like to see VAT abolished and put on income tax. This would show people how much tax they actually pay and cause the revolution almost instantly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Shell.user@AC 12:47

You try that at home - spend a sixth more than you earn each month, and see how long you can keep it up, and what the consequences are after a decade

actually, i've done just that for the last ten years. ended up with quite a lot of maxed out credit cards at the end of last summer, and couldn't get any more to keep the 0% balance transfers going.

so i re-mortgages, wiped out all the credit cards, and i'm now paying less each month on the mortgage than i was previously on the mortgage + card repayments. woohoo!! so i can do it again now for the next decade :)

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Re: @Shell.user

It was John Maynard-Keynes and yes, he sat in two chairs at the same time having at least twice as much ass as anyone else.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Shell.user@AC 12:47

Sigh.

The difference between a nation state and a household is that the nation state can issue its own currency. Try that at home and see how far you get...

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Re: Ledswinger

«And in a proper market economy a floating exchange rate ...» Interesting ! Are you telling us that prior to the US going off the gold standard in 1971 and the collapse of Bretton Woods a couple of years later, that none of the North American and European economies, between wihich exchange rates were fixed according to the decisions of governments, were «proper market econom[ies]» ? Or is that merely a term you swing around like a club to smash phenomena of which you don't approve (X is not a proper market economy !), without understanding what it means ? Do you consider Germany a «proper market economy» ? The United States, with its constant bullying of other countries to revalue their courrencies and its own history of frequent «quantative easing» ?...

Henri

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Re: Ledswinger

There were no proper market economies prior to 1971 and there are none now. All economies prior to 1971 were still recovering from WWII and prior to that, we were all recovering from WWI. War necessarily distorts economic conditions. It is difficult to carry on trade while people are intent on killing one another instead of trading with one another. The only country you could conceivably say was a "proper" market economy was the Republic of Venice. It lasted longer than the Roman Empire did. However, once the Venetians began to debase their currency, it was all downhill until Napolean came along and conquered them. Debased currencies = debased societies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Shell.user

Please...

Weren't it for state laws, CB's and private banks wouldn't exist, and the same goes for the fake paper money.

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Re: @ledswinger

I you were in charge, you would cause a revolution?

You haven't really thought this through, have you?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Shell.user@AC 12:47

Why Vodafone, the so-called 6 Billion tax avoided was nothing of the sort, just a meme for the useful idiots to repeat ad nauseam. That money was earned on sales in Germany, and was therefore taxed in Germany. It was not taxable income in the UK.

Nothing like a large sum of money soundbite to get the lefty stealers salivating.

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Re: @Shell.user

Wrong about state laws being needed. International trade prospered in various ways for a long time before there was any form of internationally enforceable law to support it, and private banks existed long before paper money and effective state laws on credit.

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Re: @Ledswinger

"...if government were as efficient as a large well run company..." (My emphasis.)

I'm not convinced that "well run" companies are the norm. Comparisons between the public and private sector always compare the public sector with the best the private sector has to offer. It's time to start comparing the public sector with average companies.

(And I work in the private sector.)

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Happy

Malthus was right, sort of...

Yup, spot on with the not so rare earths. The thing that I noticed was that the whole thing was being portrayed as 'peak rare earth' and as an example of the resource shortages we're bound to have over the next few decades if we don't mend our filthy capitalist ways.

I used to be a closet Malthusian and was convinced that there were going to be fundamental problems in supporting the planets population at a European standard of living. In recent years I've been changing my mind and have gradually come to the conclusion that technology may yet save us all. Not in a dramatic fashion, but just by steady incremental change that lets us do more with less and re-use what was once 'rubbish' and process by-product.

After all, in a sense, Malthus was right, we are resource constrained. But perhaps he didn't realise that actually, the most limiting resource is technology. With the right technology you can do an awful lot with very little, all you need then is the market to drive innovation.

Oh God, I've turned into a neo liberal.....

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Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

Yet, if nobody was concerned about future resource constraints, there would be no market nor motivation to develop those technologies which mitigate future resource constraints.

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Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned or that resources are infinite. The market ensures that if the price for something rises due to shortage, people will start to look around for ways to make consumption lower by efficiency, look for alternatives to the resource, exploit previously uneconomic reserves *and* use less, all because the price is too high. Then the price drops. The end result is that, generally, we're all still living the same lives, but that resource, whatever it is, is going further.

It's actually a rather cool feedback mechanism, and one that seems to be horribly underestimated/misunderstood by many politicians.

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Pirate

Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

'Malthusian being wrong' is the mantra of the Cornucopians.

However it doesn't matter how often he is 'proved wrong' if there is a chance that one day he will be proved right.

You can have all the ipads in the world..and no electricity to charge them with.

There is a law which is essentially a restatement of 'a chain is only as strong as its weakest link';

i.e. if you cant get just one component or element required no matter how much of the rest you have, production stops.

Right now the critical component is fossil fuel. production is almost flat, and price is rising to the point where we are simply not using it and suffering economic problems as a result.

Rare earths simply have been shown to not be on the critical path. It doesn't mean food or raw energy isn't though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

I don't think that is neoLiberalism. We have simply reached the stage where we can do more with less, where a 155MPH BMW can carry 4 people at motorway speeds using half the fuel per mile of an old MG two seater, and where we can carry in one hand a device with four radios each more capable than one WW2 radio that required two people to carry. What we cannot do is to provide a wasteful US standard of consumption to the whole world. This means that the US risks becoming irrelevant as resource constraints require everybody else to depend on European and Asian technology. The American neoLiberals have ultimately doomed themselves.

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Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

That bit about being a neo-liberal was actually tongue in cheek...

The truth is, none of us knows what the resource limits are. Two years ago, we were being assured by all and sundry that we were at, or had passed, peak oil and the greenies were assuring us that we would be saved from heat death because even if we wanted to burn it, there simply wouldn't be enough oil and gas to go around. Now, they're having to resort to FUD because shale is being exploited.

Given that these limits are still unknown, it would be wise to tread carefully and make the best use of what we know that we have. But I don't think we should fetter growth because of a fear of what we don't know, or at least can only guess at.

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Trollface

Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

neoliberals??

what about the neocons

think of the great merkin traditions regarding the second amendment and prayer in schools (I.E they know they are absolutely, undeniably wrongheaded but stick to their guns - like John fucking Wayne or something, and therefore make a virtue of ignorance and stupidity {take a bow mrs Palin}) this means merkin consumption will continue apace, and whatever the civilized world does wont make any difference. this wont make america irrelevant...

it makes them the enemy.

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@ribesome

What we cannot do is to provide a wasteful US standard of consumption to the whole world. This means that the US risks becoming irrelevant as resource constraints require everybody else to depend on European and Asian technology.

----

Perhaps you missed the reports that the US is now emitting greenhouse gases at the same rate as they were in 1992. Despite not signing on to Kyoto, the US may become the first major country in the world that actually reaches the Kyoto goal of turning back the clock on emissions to 1990.

The IEA is also now estimating that the US will be the world's largest oil producer, again, by 2020, and by 2030 will become a net exporter of oil by 2030 and self sufficient in energy by 2035.

Market forces don't always work as quickly as we'd like, but they do work. We knew about the problems in the 90s when the world was awash in cheap oil, but as oil prices have surged in recent years it encouraged investment to both increase energy efficiency and look for oil/gas in places that we previously lacked the means of extracting it, or found it to be too expensive to extract. The US developed this technology first, and is using it first. Others are racing to catch up.

So what were you saying again about resource constraints dooming the US to irrelevancy? If anything, being the world's biggest energy consumer gives the US more incentive than anyone to develop these types of technologies, which should allow the US to maintain its lead in this field for many years to come.

The fact that the US doesn't heavily tax energy as most of Europe does was a disincentive to invest when oil was cheap, and the US became more wasteful than Europe as a result. But the impact of rising oil prices has been far greater on the US than it was in Europe for precisely that reason. For example, in Europe, gasoline prices have at most doubled over the late 90s low. In the US, they've nearly quadrupled (creating much of the drag on the US economy in the past decade in their wake) Because of this, and the fact that energy prices are likely to continue to increase as China and other countries move more of their population from a third world to a middle class lifestyle, the US will continue to see energy prices rise at a faster rate than European countries, continuing to drive these investments in technological improvements.

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Re: Malthus was right, sort of...

Quite right about the yank level of consumption, yet they are subject to the same economic laws as the rest of us, and efficiency is improving rapidly throughout the states.

Examples: locomotives no longer burn coal (or wood), and the current Diesel engines are being supplemented with hybrid electrics. Automobile manufacturers are being dragged (kicking and screaming, but dragged nonetheless) into the 21st century. Potable water wastage is rapidly declining- in Los Angeles alone, per capita use has declined by one third. Etc. Etc.

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“major countries” reaching their Kyoto goals

DougS, depending upon how one defines “major country”, Russia, the UK, and Germany should be considered among the short list of “major countries” that look likely to meet their Kyoto targets.

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Re: @ribesome

RE:"The fact that the US doesn't heavily tax...investments in technological improvements."

In other words, we Americans have been subsidizing, by default not by design, European and British energy taxes with effectively higher cost per gallon of fuel.

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Re: @ribesome

In other words, we Americans have been subsidizing, by default not by design, European and British energy taxes with effectively higher cost per gallon of fuel.

Well, yes and no.

When oil prices were low, the Euro taxes on energy acted as a subsidy helping our economy because by reducing their own consumption they lowered overall world demand helping keep oil prices lower, for longer. This helped the US economy by allowing us to consume more energy (not that being wasteful is good, but cheap energy is good for a country's economic output) It made them weaker economic competitors than they otherwise would be by increasing the cost of exports that were resource intensive.

Now that oil prices are high, because of the relatively much greater increase in prices we see compared to the high tax Euro countries, it is a much bigger drag on our economy. This is the primary reason the US has experienced such low growth post 9/11 - soon after which energy prices started to really rise. We aren't really subsidizing the Euro energy taxes, but by virtue of the US being weaker economically of late we're making it easier for Euro economies to compete with us. Whether the US being a weaker competitor economically actually helps their economies is another matter, as our weakness almost certainly hurts them far more due to reducing what we would otherwise import from them.

As our economy resets to the point we're able to handle $80-$100/bbl oil prices, through greater efficiency and switching more energy use to far cheaper domestic natural gas, we'll be able to resume more normal growth. However, the difference in energy prices between the US and Euro countries will far less than before (unless they have a big increase in energy taxes such that taxes are a similar percentage of prices compared to what they were in the 90s) so the subsidy they were providing our economy will be quite small. In addition the major industrial power in Europe, Germany, has pushed a lot harder on renewable energy and efficiency than the US (and the rest of Europe/UK) so it will continue to punch above its weight export wise, so long as the Euro currency stays together.

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New Orderly Worlds in CHAOS

With regard to any perceived monopoly that the likes of a Microsoft may think they might exercise in the desktop/office/business environment, is it now lost to those and/or that which controls command and commands controls with intelligence servers and smarter services to and in Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems.

And there is no defence against the change/paradigm shift which is naturally evolutionary in systems which develop intelligence and quite revolutionary and disruptive and destructive in systems which don't and which default to reliance on hierarchical legacy methodologies.

Deny that by all means, but it does not alter the truth of the fact and the new reality which now runs the universal machine with enigmatic engines which will not be denied their rightful place in the great scheme of things noble and novel.

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Windows

Re: New Orderly Worlds in CHAOS

Errrrr? What?

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a defence

amanfromMars 1, there is at least one defence: abstention. (For example, the Amish rely upon neither CHAOS nor those hierarchical legacy methodologies.)

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WTF?

Re: a defence

Why are you replying to a robot?

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Re: a defence

He's not a robot, he just soliloquises like one.

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Kicking the can down the road is no solution in defence of anything

Is abstention the same as abdication? A ducking of responsibilities.

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