June 27, 2013 – LONDON – Britain’s risk of electricity blackouts by 2015 is more serious than previously thought, regulator Ofgem warned on Thursday. The country’s spare electricity supply margin could fall as low as 2 percent in 2015/16, down from around 14 percent currently. Last year Ofgem gave an estimate of 4 percent. “Electricity supplies are set to tighten faster than previously expected in the middle of this decade,” Ofgem said in a report, adding that the chance of supply disruptions would rise to one in 12 years in 2015/16 from one in 47 years now. Britain has seen a vast number of power plants close and being mothballed due to emissions-reduction policies and the loss-making economics of gas-fired power plants. Ofgem said it had lowered its estimate of the amount of conventional power capacity expected for 2015/16 by more than 2,000 megawatts due plant closures and delays in building new ones. Energy Secretary Ed Davey admitted, “Without timely action, there would be risks to security of supply.” While it played down the actual likelihood of blackouts, saying the market managed the problem effectively; the regulator said its findings showed that urgent action is needed. Britain’s network operator National Grid and the government on Thursday outlined proposals to better manage electricity demand to balance the market at times of tight supply. They include payments to energy users for reducing their demand when necessary. At the same time, the government on Thursday published details of its proposed capacity market, a mechanism that will pay certain power plants to be on standby to produce additional electricity when supply is tight. The government next year will hold the first auction for power plants to participate in the capacity market for delivery of electricity in 2018/19. The costs of the capacity agreements will be borne by energy users, but the government said that lower wholesale prices and protection against costly blackouts will offset the payments. RWE npower, one of Britain’s biggest power producers, said it was concerned the capacity mechanism favoured certain power plants, such as gas-fired ones that can respond at short notice. “Government’s proposal for a capacity mechanism must pass the simple test of whether it keeps the lights on at the lowest cost to consumers,” RWE npower chief executive Paul Massara said in a statement. “A mechanism that treats all power plants in the same way will do that, but the current proposals do not suggest this non-discriminatory approach.” –Reuters
June 27, 2013 – ECONOMY – The European Union agreed on Thursday to force investors and wealthy savers to share the costs of future bank failures, moving closer to drawing a line under years of taxpayer-funded bailouts that have prompted public outrage. After seven hours of late-night talks, finance ministers from the bloc’s 27 countries emerged with a blueprint to close or salvage banks in trouble. The plan stipulates that shareholders, bondholders and depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($132,000) should share the burden of saving a bank. The deal is a boost for EU leaders, who meet later on Thursday in Brussels, and can show that they are finally getting to grips with the financial crisis that began in mid-2007 with the near collapse of Germany’s IKB. “For the first time, we agreed on a significant bail-in to shield taxpayers,” said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, referring to the process in which shareholders and bondholders must bear the costs of restructuring first. The rules break a taboo in Europe that savers should never lose their deposits, although countries will have some flexibility to decide when and how to impose losses on a failing bank’s creditors. “They can affect German savers just as well as they can affect any other investor in the world,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said after the meeting. Taxpayers across much of Europe have had to pay for a series of deeply unpopular bank rescues since the financial crisis that spread across the bloc to threaten the future of the euro. The European Union spent the equivalent of a third of its economic output on saving its banks between 2008 and 2011, using taxpayer cash but struggling to contain the crisis and – in the case of Ireland – almost bankrupting the country.
But a bailout of Cyprus in March that forced losses on depositors marked a harsher approach that can now, following Thursday’s agreement, be replicated elsewhere. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici signaled that ministers also agreed to French demands that the euro zone’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, can be used to help banks in the 17-nation currency area that run into trouble. “It makes the whole thing coherent,” said Moscovici. “It creates solidarity for the system and a system of solidarity,” he told reporters. Under the rules, which would come into effect by 2018, countries would be obliged to distribute losses up to the equivalent of 8 percent of a bank’s liabilities, with some leeway thereafter. Europe can now focus on building the next pillar of a project to unify the supervision and support of banks in the euro zone, known as “banking union.” But thorny issues lie ahead, not least whether countries or a central European authority should have the final say in shutting or restructuring a bad bank. The European Commission, the EU executive, is expected to unveil its proposal for a new agency to carry out this task of “executioner” as early as next week, officials said. Many Europeans remain angry with bankers and the easy credit that helped create property bubbles in countries including Ireland and Spain, which then burst and plunged Europe into a recession from which it has yet to recover. –Reuters
June 27, 2013 – ARIZONA – Temperatures will be at full throttle later this week over the interior West, reaching dangerous levels, challenging records and elevating the wildfire threat. While many folks over the interior West are accustomed to and expect hot weather during the summer the developing pattern will take the heat to the extreme. In some cities record highs for any date throughout the year could be equaled or breached. The weather this week will favor an expanding area of sunshine and building heat over the West. As temperatures soar to record-challenging levels, dry fuel and the potential for spotty dry thunderstorms will push the wildfire threat to new areas and raise the risk in other locations. Once the pattern sets up, the heat wave will last through next week in many areas. Grassy and wooded areas that are green now may become dry fuel for fires as the atmosphere heats up. Cities that will experience record-challenging heat on a daily basis during the pattern into next week include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Boise, Idaho, Rawlins, Wyo., Medford, Ore., and Fresno, Calif
According to Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, “People driving through desert areas during the pattern should make sure their vehicle can make the journey and that they carry extra water in case their vehicle breaks down.” With time, the heat can expand to part of the California coast by way of a slight offshore flow. However, the worst of the heat will hold up just inland. The pattern will make the beaches a hot spot to avoid the heat. The system producing the heat and sunshine will allow widely separated, pop-up thunderstorms with time. Most of the storms will form and die over the mountains, but there will be a few exceptions. A few locations can receive a downpour. However, many of the storms will bring little or no rainfall. This phenomena, commonly called “dry lightning,” can spark new wildfires. Meanwhile, on the U.S. East Coast, as rainfall continues to pile up into early July, some locations could be hit with major travel disruptions, flooding damage and even a life-threatening weather situation. –Accuweather
June 27, 2013 – CHINA – Shanghai health officials today reported another death from the H7N9 flu virus, in a man whose infection was first announced in early April and whose wife was among the first in the city to die from the disease. The 56-year-old man whose surname was Gu died early this morning, raising the number of outbreak fatalities in China to 40, according to a report from Xinhua, China’s state news agency. His case had been confirmed on Apr 11. The man’s 52-year-old wife died from an H7N9 infection on Apr 3, according to previous reports. Family-cluster infections aren’t surprising in outbreak settings and can result from common exposures or human-to-human contact. So far the man and his wife are the only known couple to be infected in the outbreak. In a May 15 report, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the couple’s 26-year-old daughter, Kelly Gu, who is a doctoral student in France, said her mother was probably infected on her daily trip to the market near the couple’s home in Shanghai. She questioned the treatment her mother received early in the outbreak and said the woman had been sick for 5 days before China’s government announced the H7N9 outbreak, according to AFP. Gu said her father had been sedated and on a ventilator. Gu also made headlines on Apr 22 when she spoke up at a press conference in Shanghai with health officials and a visiting team from the World Health Organization (WHO). She asked about possible treatments for her father, but health officials stopped her before she finished, according to the AFP report. Researchers are still assessing the severity as the H7N9 outbreak, and although no new cases have been reported since the end of May, some patients sickened earlier in the outbreak are still hospitalized. The latest assessment by a team from China in a Jun 24 issue of The Lancet said H7N9 infections are less serious than earlier assessments, with more mild infections than previously thought. So far the virus has sickened 131 people, all but one from China. Taiwan reported a case in a man who had traveled to the outbreak area in China, which puts the global total at 132. –CIDRAP
June 27, 2013 – SPACE – NASA said the 10,000th near-Earth object (NEO) has been discovered using the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope in Hawaii. Astronomers spotted asteroid 2013 MZ5 on the night of June 18, marking a significant milestone for the NEO search. The space agency said 90 percent of all NEOs discovered were first detected by NASA-supported surveys. “But there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington. In order to be classified as an NEO, a comet or asteroid must approach Earth at an orbital distance to within about 28 million miles. They range in size from as small as a few feet to as large as 25 miles for the largest NEO. Asteroid 2013 MZ5 is about 1,000 feet across and will never be close enough to Earth to be considered potentially hazardous. “The first near-Earth object was discovered in 1898,” said Don Yeomans, long-time manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Over the next hundred years, only about 500 had been found. But then, with the advent of NASA’s NEO Observations program in 1998, we’ve been racking them up ever since. And with new, more capable systems coming on line, we are learning even more about where the NEOs are currently in our solar system, and where they will be in the future.” About 10 percent of the 10,000 NEOs discovered are larger than six-tenths of a mile, which is roughly the size that could produce global consequences if one struck Earth. However, NASA says its program has found that none of these larger NEOs currently pose an impact threat. NASA said scientists predict there to be about 15,000 NEOs that are one-and-a-half football fields in size, or 480 feet.
There could be more than a million NEOs that are about one-third of a football field in size. An NEO hitting Earth would need to be about 100 feet or larger in order to cause significant damage in a populated area. The space agency said less than one percent of the 100-foot-sized NEOs have been detected. “These days we average three NEO discoveries a day, and each month the Minor Planet Center receives hundreds of thousands of observations on asteroids, including those in the main-belt,” said Tim Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center. “The work done by the NASA surveys, and the other international professional and amateur astronomers, to discover and track NEOs is really remarkable.” Earlier this month, NASA announced a grand challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations. This “Great Challenge”is to ask citizen scientists, along with industry professionals, to focus on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learn how to deal with potential threats. “We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. The space agency also invited industry and potential partners to offer up some ideas on accomplishing NASA’s goals to locate, redirect and explore an asteroid. –Red Orbit
Top Democrat Pushing For “One Child” Population Control In America
One of the most foul things in China is the “one-child policy.” Initially enacted because China feared its population would outrun its resources, it’s led to infanticide, forced abortions and sterilizations, rampant corruption, and the disappearance of at least 100 million girls who would have been born but for the fact that their parents didn’t want their legal “one-child” to be female. Now, a Florida Democrat wants to bring Chinese ideas about population control to America. CONTINUE
- London could face rolling blackouts by 2015 (endtimeheadlines.wordpress.com)