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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 9:55 PM

When All Else Fails Blame "Free Markets"

It's rather amazing how people blame "free markets" for things that are 180 degrees removed from "free markets".

For example, and in response to Political Greenwashing: US Exports Coal Pollution to Europe; What About China? reader Over Exposed writes "Excellent example of a complete and utter failure of the free market to deal with pollution".

I see and hear this every day. I would have hoped that people would have learned by now what a "free market" is and isn't.

  • Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are not "free markets"
  • Chinese growth targets at any cost are not "free markets"
  • Interest rate manipulation in the US have nothing to do with "free markets"
  • Chinese and Swiss National Bank currency manipulations have nothing to do with "free markets"
  • Ben Bernanke's and Janet Yellen's 2% inflation target - horrendously applied - and ignoring asset bubbles are as far removed from "free markets" as you can get.

Complete fools blame the "free market" for problems 100% caused precisely because we do not have "free markets".

Popular Myths

Contrary to popular myth, free market libertarians do not support slavery, anarchy, or pollution. Rather, we strongly believe in property rights and human rights. No one can own anyone else.

No one can kill you, steal your goods, or damage your property. Laws and regulations that protect property rights and prevent fraud are welcome.

It is amazing how people clamor for more regulation to cure problems caused by regulation and excessive interference in free markets.

Can We Please Try "Free Markets"?

We've tried everything else, and it did not work. Can we please try "free markets" with the minimum number of regulations and laws needed to preserve property rights, preserved human rights, and prevent fraud?

Sadly, I suspect the answer is no. Neither vested interests nor jackasses who have no idea what is really going on, want "free markets".

It's a powerful combination, and we all lose because of it.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

1:58 PM

Political Greenwashing: US Exports Coal Pollution to Europe; What About China?

While president Obama brags about clean energy advances in the US (mostly hot air and subsidies to uneconomic businesses), the US quietly exports pollution to Europe. Coal is a particular good example.

Please consider US Exports Help Germany Increase Coal, Pollution

LUENEN, Germany - One of Germany’s newest coal-fired power plants rises here from the banks of a 100-year-old canal that once shipped coal mined from the Ruhr Valley to the world. Now the coal comes the other way.

The 750-megawatt Trianel Kohlekraftwerk Luenen GmbH & Co. power plant relies completely on coal imports, about half from the U.S. Soon, all of Germany’s coal-fired power plants will be dependent on imports, with the country expected to halt coal mining in 2018 when government subsidies end.

Coal mining’s demise in Germany comes as the country is experiencing a resurgence in coal-fired power, one which the U.S. increasingly has helped supply. U.S. exports of power plant-grade coal to Germany have more than doubled since 2008. In 2013, Germany ranked fifth, behind the United Kingdom, Netherlands, South Korea and Italy in imports of U.S. steam coal, the type burned in power plants.

On the American side of the pollution ledger, this fossil fuel trade helps the United States look as if it is making more progress on global warming than it actually is. That’s because it shifts some pollution — and the burden for cleaning it — onto another other country’s balance sheet.

“This is a classic case of political greenwashing,” said Dirk Jansen, a spokesman for BUND, a German environmental group. “Obama pretties up his own climate balance, but it doesn’t help the global climate at all if Obama’s carbon dioxide is coming out of chimneys in Germany.”

It’s a global shell game that threatens to undermine Obama’s strategy of reducing the gases blamed for global warming and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem.

The explanation for Germany’s increase is simple: Coal is cheaper than alternatives, particularly natural gas. So, too, are the prices on the carbon market in Europe. Companies can afford to buy the right to release more pollution.

In the U.S., the opposite is happening. Any new coal-fired power plants will have to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground if the Obama administration gets its way. Few if any new coal plants are expected to be built.

But the U.S. and other countries have no problem supplying Germany and the world with coal.
Global Warming Slant

The article's "global warming" slant is of course ridiculous. Yet, the article does expose the hypocrisy of the Obama administration on that subject.

I am in favor of reducing pollution, for current health reasons, not absurd global warming claims.

Pollution in China

Check out Images of Chinese Pollution.
Here's a small sampling taken from dozens of images.

Chinese Deaths Due to Pollution

In 2010, over 1.2 million Chinese deaths were attributed to pollution.

China.Org has the report.

Chinese GDP Massively Overstated

The world is in awe of Chinese growth.  But that "growth" comes at huge expense. There is a massive cleanup cost associated with this rampant pollution, and Chinese growth is overstated by the future cost of cleanup.

Chinese growth is also overstated by malinvestment - vacant cities, vacant malls, unused infrastructure, and totally unproductive State Owned Enterprise (SOE) debt Ponzi schemes.

Subtract malinvestments and pollution, and China is barely growing, if growing at all.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

3:30 AM

M.A.D. Sanctions; Two Games at Once

M.A.D. Sanctions

Sanctions are a lose-lose-lose game. Consumers lose, businesses lose, countries lose. And the hypocrisy alone is appalling.

The EU wants sanctions to hurt Russia "more" than the EU. Thus the EU let a French military sale to Russia go through, while blocking transactions and travel of Russians who had virtually nothing to do with this mess.

Knockout Blow?

For all their efforts will the US or EU accomplish anything with the sanctions on Russia?

Financial Times writer Christopher Granville has the answer in his take EU’s Sanctions on Russia Will Fail to be a Knockout Blow.

The main burden of the EU sanctions mooted by the commission would appear to fall on the UK. The core measure targets debt and equity capital raising by the Russian state banks and bans European intermediaries from offering associated underwriting and advisory services, and the bulk of such business is done in the City of London. Capital market funding is also a small portion of overall foreign funding of Russian banks (about 3.5 per cent as of March 2014), so an important detail about the EU sanctions package as regards both overall impact and burden sharing between the member states will be whether the prohibition on financing Russian banks will extend to ordinary lending. The international syndicated loan market for Russian borrowers is dominated by continental European banks. French banks have the largest exposure of $52.5bn.

This analysis presupposes that the EU will never go for the “nuclear” sanctions option of banning gas imports from Russia, and that the EU and US together will not try to replicate against Russia the ban on oil exports imposed on Iran. The EU cannot for now substitute its present annual gas import volumes of 150bn cubic metres from Russia, and the loss of Russia’s present level of crude oil exports – 7m barrels a day, compared to Iran’s 2.5m b/d – would trigger a sharp rise in the oil price and a global economic slump. This would be the economic equivalent of the Cold War-era concept of nuclear deterrence based on mutually assured destruction.

Short of the “MAD” options, the Russian economy will decline and Europe will suffer, but there will be no knockout blow and, as so often in Russia’s history, the Russian nation may be expected to rally around in the face of hardship caused by foreign foes.
Loser Analysis

According to Granville, Europe and Russia will both suffer. On that, I agree.

Granville thinks the UK will suffer most.

From a financing standpoint, I suspect Granville is correct. But from a manufacturing and trade standpoint, I believe Germany will be the big loser.

Two Games at Once

MAD is really a game of chicken.

Granville misses the mark in one respect: The choice to go “nuclear” is not only in the hands of the EU.

Yes, the EU could ban all imports. But they won't.

Here's the MAD game at hand: The US and EU want to apply pressure on Russia but not so much pressure that Russia cuts off natural gas supplies to the rest of Europe.

Europe needs the gas, and Russia needs the hard currency. It's mutual destruction if gas is shutoff.

Fool's Mission

If things do get MAD, there will be a knockout blow to global trade, not just to Russia. Yet, if the US and EU pressure Russia too much, then Russia may feel like it has nothing to lose. Why not go down fighting?

The US/EU game of chicken all starts with the notion that Putin will react as expected and eventually blink first.

I wonder how long the expected lasts. I suggest not as long as the bureaucrats think. Regardless, the exercise is a fool's mission from the start given that everyone loses from sanctions.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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