Wednesday, 29 April 2009

minus + minus = -?

Wall Street Journal: original article

-0.5 + -6.3 + -6.1 = -12.46[%]

The -12.46% stands for the shrinkage of the US economy since 01-07-08, so 3rd. and 4th. quarter 08 as well as 1st. quarter 09; nine months.

This is still quite an artificial number, far from being punchy.

You will find more numbers
here, e.g. +0.4, -23.0, -51.8 which end up at 37.3% of what it was on July 1st last year, a recess of round about 63% representing the decrease of the 'gross private domestic investment'.

This is like a ship that under full steam drops anchor; like a complete economy going on strike; I guess tax revenue will mirror that.

Carpe diem!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

50 m anni

original article

Fifty Million Years

The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere has never been higher "in history" than today - and still rising. The Guardian article talks about 50m years, this graph goes back 400,000 years and relates CO2 levels to surface temperatures:

Whether 400,000 or 50,000,000 years this is like eternity in comparison to my life, my children's lives and their children's lives - not so to the globe's age. Is it relevant? May be this makes it clearer:

source: UNEP: click here

400,000 years and temperature has followed CO2 levels like a shadow, which humans, in this case scientists have been able to measure in significant, rising magnitudes even during that tiny fraction of time you and I have so far spent on this globe.

It is irrelevant what you call it, (Global Warming, Climate Change) but I know, we are up for warmer periods and less ground to live on and from, unless we do something now.

Carpe diem!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Ownership comes with Responsibiliy


Bail Out, but to completion!

More and more articles and reports are accumulating: unemployment bankruptcies and insolvencies on the rise; companies in reverse, or closing down, many laying people off: the common denominator; lack of liquidity in the markets.

The government claims, it bailed out the banks; to me it is obvious that this solution has only been half baked; if that. There is the ongoing discussion about the installation of one or more "Bad Banks" - after all the months of pouring public money into the banks, the same politicians tell us we will need "at least"

£606bn of new debt over four years but they still refuse to think the disaster to its end and go the whole hog.

Clearly, this is putting at risk what was invested so far! Tax money that was used to "bail out" the banks (not in full as we have learned), this same money in the hands of the polluters is now denied to play its role - and this is not to say that irresponsible lending has to re-start. No, it is responsible lending that is now needed to help the economy recover from this bank crunch; the crunched rather want it to be a global economic crisis in order to distract from their own failures. This must be stopped.

So, we must go the full way, now, bail them out to completion, now!
Install this "Bad Bank" and put things straight. Why not call it what it is though, the "Good Bank" as it is the bad ones that desperately need the good one.

Otherwise this investment into owning the banks will only become toxic, bad debts.

Carpe diem!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Fast…? How fast?

NSIDC: website

Models' values?

A wee question in between all the good and bad banking stuff: Take a look at the graph below on real and "expected" ice extent in the Artic: if the blue area represents the "Standard Deviation of Models" and the red line represents the reality: how will we make sure that our models catch up with and actually reflect reality?

The graph represents the reliability of our combined efforts to understand this globe and its rules by putting thousands of scientists and tons of money into models that refuse to portray reality - or for that matter even take reality into account.

We should accept that we know too little; and then too much to accept this fact.

As always!

Carpe diem!


SPIEGEL ONLINE: original article

A chance to compare future debt levels: UK/Germany

The above “secret” article on a secret paper is only in German; you will immediately understand why I could not find it in any other language… so far:

BaFin is a federal institution governed by public law. It has legal personality (a legal entity) and operates within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Finance(Germany) (Bundesministerium der Finanzen - BMF.

Bad Bank? Here is the chance to understand how bad such a "Bad (German) Bank" will have to be causing debt levels unheard of: mysteriously a list has made its way into the (German) public domain, a list that BaFin put together on 17 German banks and their exposure to toxic papers. The list differs between toxic papers and currently “non marketable” papers giving a combined total of € 816bn. From an accounting point of view what is the difference? May be a “higher Memo Value”?

Die 816-Milliarden-Summe setzt sich nach SPIEGEL-Informationen so zusammen:

* Landesbanken: 355 Milliarden Euro Davon 180 Milliarden toxische Papiere, 175 Milliarden Euro derzeit nicht handelbare Papiere. Allein für die HSH Nordbank setzt die Bafin rund 100 Milliarden Euro an - etwa 13 Milliarden Euro davon sollen Giftpapiere sein. Nach Informationen der "SZ" sind bei der Landesbank Baden-Württemberg 92 Milliarden in der Bilanz, bei der Westdeutschen Landesbank 84 Milliarden.

* Hypo Real Estate: 268 Milliarden Euro

* Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken: 54 Milliarden 25 Milliarden davon toxische Papiere und 29 Milliarden derzeit nicht handelbare Papiere

* Privatbanken - wie Commerzbank und Deutsche Bank: 139 Milliarden Euro
Davon werden 53 Milliarden als toxisch angesehen, 86 Milliarden als nicht handelbare Papiere. Die Deutsche Bank hat allerdings so gut wie keine Giftpapiere.

[German Milliarden = British billion]

The majority of the banks mentioned are in public hands anyway (Landesbanken + HRE = €623bn). BaFin on Friday night tried to limit the damage by arguing the list would “not only include toxic papers” but also “questionable assets”; by “no means” this list would allow for “any conclusions” on the risk or creditworthiness of the listed German banks; “this list” had “not meant to become public”; therefore the Munich office of investigation was called in to go: find the leak!

The equity capital of all German banks sums up to approx. €330bn; put the above figure in and the result will make the term “the banks are factually insolvent” this century’s understatement.

Has anybody spotted the equivalent UK, US or, better still, the combined EURO-countries’ list so far?

Carpe diem!

Thursday, 23 April 2009


BBC: original article

The next steps!

If you are interested in the
technology the above article summarises it nicely; but don’t forget …:

  • coal fired power plants running under CCS schemes will face a severe reduction in overall efficiency (> own energy demand), approximately -40%: so there must be more and/or bigger plants ….
  • The additional cost per ton of CO2 captured is estimated at $50 to $100. A ton of coal when burned emits between 2.6 to 3.2 tons of CO2 – the lower the quality the more CO2 - a ton of coal today costs around $80; its CO2 captured will add $130 to $320 to that price.

One question, can someone please explain why no matter who on this globe talks about CCS, the above English gentleman, a German Herr or a French Monsieur each one is eager to emphasise the fact, that his country would be(come) the one and only global leader of this technology? A technique that in theory works but has yet to be proven: very long term!

Carpe diem!

Bad…? How bad?

Production and wholesale prices: some food for thought.

It does not make sense to compare the Great Depression with what is happening today; there are just too many antipodal differences that are misleading anyone who thinks he can take shortcuts in order to understand and/or – forbid – to explain coherences.

The (IMF) graphs below open the horizon for getting used to big numbers: industrial production down >40% in the US, wholesale prices down 30 to 45% over a span of three to six years. If anything, today’s global setup will play with the time scales of the down and up but then it will also influence the spread/spans.

Oil price has come down from >$150 per barrel to now around <$50; that is 70% off a price level caused by the casino-hype fuelled from speculation multiplied by an abundance of monetary liquidity divided by greed. As much as the finance was available to fill this balloon, as such both have now vanished. We are now in for deflation, lots of that; then we will be in for inflation; even more of that, as it will be the only way out to compensate the numerical values plus interest of the debts printed during the fall; then we will be in for new money: why not take a shortcut?

There are solutions!

Carpe diem!

Budget 2009

A miracle: £606bn and it all fits in the Gladstone Box.

Joking aside, it is one thing to comment and tear apart the dice thrown projections but it is quite another to make suggestions, let alone present real solution(s). As much as we are all sceptical and critical of what the Chancellor had jump out of his box, what would you do if you occupied Number 11 or were asked by he who does how to bail this country out of what it is (free) falling into? And I mean “do” as in “action” referring to the big and important measures – not collecting peanuts while spending coconuts (I know: this allegory could do with even smaller but then also bigger nuts).

David Cameron will need a clear, clean and logical concept to make the difference; just talking and criticising – as much as it is necessary – will not solve anything. It is a global crisis and needs appropriate responses.

This global aspect has not really been taken in: one example is the worries over Sterling weakening because of UK’s disastrous debt levels; this has to be put into context; in this case it is an artificial currency called the Euro, a sleeper, just about to explode facing enormous “debts” and – worse – the suicidal imbalance between Euro Zone countries; that taken into account it should force us to do our homework and prepare for the explosion to come. While Nobody(’s) Darling speaks about a negative growth of -3.5%, Germany, the strongest part of the Euro Zone, officially discusses -6% and is afraid of social turmoil.

I personally believe to cure a disease you have to address the problem, the cause, its origin; then deal with it fast and furious, target-oriented; this is not done by presenting a carte blanche, call it “a bail out” and then watch a bank crunch mutate into a global economic disaster.

Carpe diem!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Tradition ver1.01

original article

bycatch @ bye catch!

There is an updated WWF report out on the dark sides of global fishery.

Under common perspective it is regarded as highly efficient to select what is caught at sea right there and then in order for the boat and crew to arrive back in the harbour presenting only the most profitable fish which is then deducted from the quota given.

The problem with this is not only are 30 to 80% of what is caught regularly thrown back into the sea as either being the wrong species or merely being too small; this habit reduces the pressure on the quota but builds up the pressure on global fish stock dramatically not to mention the massive disruption and the reduced capability of the decimated stock to recover.

You can assume that 100% of that bycatch is either heavily stressed, hurt, but in most cases dead before it hits the water.

Surely it can take no more than a modicum of intelligence to understand this time bomb?

Carpe diem!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Dog that Watches

businessweek: original article

FSA investigating banks

Britain’s finance watchdog, the FSA, is now trying to find out what and how it happened when out of the blue the banks needed bailing out by the taxpayers.

A great opportunity for those audit companies that are selected to help finding the obvious:

  • The conduct of bank directors had mutated into a dogma of profitability following the juggernaut named “shareholder value”.
  • Risk evaluation had dissolved into creative belief, guessing and estimation.
  • At no time – until today – had those banks given enough information. The opposite with not revealing the truth but by feeding it out slice by slice the poisoned salami survived until today; shorter, though; but so far taxpayers’ digestion is still hanging in there.
  • When it happened the banks’ balance sheets had already collapsed, ever since the adjustment of accounting principles is trying to catch up with what is deteriorating and factually bankrupt.

This is the second shortest version of what the watching dog called FSA will find out; the shortest version is just one word: “casino”; the longer versions will lack precision making them implausible but not any truer! So where can I collect my fees?

By the way, the Financial Services Authority, the FSA, is …
…accountable to Treasury Ministers, and through them to Parliament. It is operationally independent of Government and is funded entirely by the firms it regulates. The FSA is an open and transparent organisation and provides full information for firms, consumers and others about its objectives, plans, policies and rules…

More of that on the FSA website! In their own words! And in their own world!

Who called it watchdog? Enough!

Carpe diem!


An easy “NO!” to avoid progress

You might have heard it like a broken record from planners: “It should follow traditional design…!” or “... this is not what our tradition is!”

It is worthwhile to think about this making use of the term “tradition”.

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary on “Tradition”:

a belief, principle or way of acting which people in a particular society or group have continued to follow for a long time, or all of these in a particular society or group

…same on traditional:

following or belonging to the customs or ways of behaving that have continued in a group of people or society for a long time without changing

Misused this is the formula to avoid change, hinder progress and declare any debate as unwanted. Every generation (e.g. of planners, architects, builders) has developed its own understanding of tradition which is affected by – you knew it: tradition.

This makes it a vicious circle; the moment behaviors and habits need to be altered or adjusted, only; the process is retarding, a least; very often it is frustrating and it can become very dangerous when it hinders necessary progress.

Planning regulations are all based on traditions of how we live and how we build; tradition in general terms analyzed over a longer time span does include the ability to learn – but this time the learning process might take too long.

Even more so as the process of implementing the lessons into the traditions of seven billion people on this globe will be a global and fierce task.

May be a musical will do the trick:

Carpe diem!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

“The Chicken or the egg” thing…

It appears there are two major ways to reduce energy consumption of buildings from fossil fuels:

  • Renewables are to be part of the consideration when planning a new build and have become mandatory.

  • Building regulations have been tightened to improve energy efficiency of all constructions.

Where the chicken or the egg comes in, is where the two issues are off balance.

To require excessive installation of alternative technologies on a construction while its insulation level is suboptimal is a waste of resources, money and energy; its impact turns out to be dramatic once the lifespan of such a wrong decision becomes part of the consideration >

Modern, existing and proven insulation and construction technologies allow energy reductions of 70 to 90% compared to existing regulations which is far beyond what current building regulations require. However, once those highly efficient technologies are implemented the decision requirement to use “renewables” on such a construction, be it PV, solar, heat pumps, wood chips, etc. comes much easier because the cost impact of such devices will be less dramatic: It is a simple fact that demanding less energy reduces the necessary scale of investment into alternative energy generating devices.

Of course and very important, it reduces running cost, it lessens emissions, it improves comfort and well being. Now, who would mind all that?

Consequently, even though building regulations do not cover what is possible it makes sense to go way beyond such requirements and make up for that in the long run; in this case I believe it is the egg that should come first.

Carpe diem!

Cereal, Friend, Car or CHP?

Imagine you bought a house in the middle of nowhere, beautiful, romantic and no electric grid connection; an “island off the grid”.

  • If you belonged to house buyer type “C” you would sit and have your cereal while the sun goes down and you would try to make it to bed before it became too dark to find it.

    The more comfortable solution would be to get a diesel generator supplying electricity.

  • House buyer type “B” would sweat on his bicycle while charging a battery to be able to watch TV and have some light, at least.

    The more comfortable solution would be to watch a friend riding the bike.

  • House buyer type “A” would avoid all this by modifying his car’s engine to where a PTO connection drove an electric generator instead of the gearbox – thus he’d have sufficient electricity and what is more he would connect the cooling system of the car to the central heating system and warm up the house.

    Basically he combined the generation of power and heat both coming from one source; the car’s engine revealed its true application of being a Combined Heat and Power unit, which at the same time boosted its efficiency dramatically by no longer just taking one person from A to B and back.

Using a CHP unit in an island-solution, an off-grid building or home (has) had its challenges, but it is all very possible and demonstrated here; it has supplied exactly what was needed in electricity and heat for the last three years and just that.

What turned out to be more challenging than developing the system is to make people understand the logic behind this highly efficient device: +92%; but in general terms CHP systems produce 1/3 of electric and 2/3 of thermal energy with the electricity being the much higher ranked energy; so it is a faulty comparison to evaluate a modern boiler’s efficiency of +92% with producing heat, “only”, and the above +92% of a CHP unit producing both energy forms.

Simple, known, proven technology driving efficiency.

Latest CHP systems on the market allow for the replacing of conventional boilers and building up an intelligent, decentralised grid supply; with efficiency levels drastically improved they will help to see an environmental turnaround.

Carpe diem!

Tories to Break up Banks?

Breaking up, but afore…?

Dismantling a bank is the privilege of the owner; no doubt and it will be necessary.

Prior to that however, the new owner’s accountancy has the responsibility to take provisions for any risks of the new asset(s). It will be interesting to see what kind of provisions Alistair Darling will have foreseen in the budget on the 22nd of April for all of our new shareholdings in the likes of RBS. Knowing that 70% ownership and rising, does indeed result in full responsibility for any kind of risk within the balance sheet he should by now be in a position to declare and define such risks and take provisions:

“The background … is that Royal Bank's balance sheet is considerably bigger than the total output of the British economy and it liabilities are considerably great (sic) than the entire public-sector debt of the UK.”

(Peston Picks 9th April 2009)

It is a qualified assumption that realistic provisions would be the overkill for any budget, hence, it is likely those provisions will undoubtedly not be seen as a breach of any basic accounting rules; in return this will again and even more spectacularly demonstrate how artificial the system – for financial institutions among others – has become where budgets are based on arbitrarily bendable balancing rules, shadow budgets and resourceful loop holing.

Equality of opportunities?

Carpe diem!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Snow in the Highlands, From Local to Provincial to Global

Living in the Highlands, the Scottish ones, we as recently as February 17th, 2009, followed the local newspaper’s call for:

"Share your blogs with us – and the world"

and made them aware of just that: this blog.

Knowing the Highlands by now it did not really surprise us receiving an answer today, April 8th, same year, though.

The answer alone and its logic was the surprise:

"Hi … and thanks for the email. My apologies for taking so long to reply – we’ve be (sic) snowed under!

Unfortunately we have decided not to use your blog on our website. The reason for this is that we try to keep these as localised as we possibly can.

Sorry about this but once again thank you for your interest".

Web Editor
Scottish Provincial Press

Since we only offered to “share” our blog with the local newspaper’s readers and the world the snowed under Scottish Provincial Press not “using” our blog somehow comes as a relief.

The discrepancy between what is said and what is then decided on is unfortunate; the call for sharing the blog is accompanied by the following clear criteria:

HAVE you a blog you think deserves a wider audience? This is your opportunity to get it known. We don't mind what you write about as long as it keeps us interested or entertained and the subject or the author is from our area.

So we are not localised enough? Or too provincial? But then may be too global?!

It would seem living 11 miles from Inverness overlooking the shores of Loch Ness is just that bit too far out in the big bad world for the Scottish Provincial Press.

Carpe diem!

Construction Industry: New Challenges - No!

The challenges have long been addressed; we just need to take action.
It was meant to happen before the credit crunch hit the construction industry so hard; with energy prices going through the roof and the awareness of the vast majority of people(s) that the globe will see severe climate alterations the way we design and build our homes and buildings must change dramatically.

In fact the dominating headline to reduce each individual’s footprint in order to make a real difference emphasises the need to re-think construction, a major player when it comes to CO2 emissions:

It might come as a surprise to some but all the instruments and means to reduce emissions from any building be it residential, commercial, or public by 85% and more are readily available, proven and affordable!

Even a 100% reduction, i.e. no emissions, are possible even though there is a global understanding to talk about “no net emissions” instead; the difference often is described as the transfer from a “Passive House” to an “Active House”.

Those terms and many more like insulation, ventilation, air tightness levels, dew points, condensation and more, but also different heating systems we will blog on in the coming weeks.

All the issues will help to get away from climbing that blue hill in the graph below…

Carpe diem!