WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT from POLITICAL CAUSE

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT THE MARKETS

When governments direct markets the very best that they can possibly hope to achieve is misdirection.

 

Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

By SPIEGEL Staff

Photo Gallery: The Costs of Green EnergyPhotos
DPA

Germany’s agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty pricetag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.

If you want to do something big, you have to start small. That’s something German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier knows all too well. The politician, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has put together a manual of practical tips on how everyone can make small, everyday contributions to the shift away from nuclear power and toward green energy. The so-called Energiewende, or energy revolution, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s project of the century.

“Join in and start today,” Altmaier writes in the introduction. He then turns to such everyday activities as baking and cooking. “Avoid preheating and utilize residual heat,” Altmaier advises. TV viewers can also save a lot of electricity, albeit at the expense of picture quality. “For instance, you can reduce brightness and contrast,” his booklet suggests.Altmaier and others are on a mission to help people save money on their electricity bills, because they’re about to receive some bad news. The government predicts that the renewable energy surcharge added to every consumer’s electricity bill will increase from 5.3 cents today to between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a 20-percent price hike.

German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energypolicy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country’s most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan two and a half years ago, Merkel quickly decided to begin phasing out nuclear power and lead the country into the age of wind and solar. But now many Germans are realizing the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) is unable to cope with this shift. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the public has any more confidence in a potential alliance of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. The political world is wedged between the green-energy lobby, masquerading as saviors of the world, and the established electric utilities, with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.

Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin.

Former Environment Minister Jürgen Tritten of the Green Party once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn’t going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today his successor Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to “eat everything on the ice cream menu.”

Paying Big for Nothing

For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.

If there is too much power coming from the grid, wind turbines have to be shut down. Nevertheless, consumers are still paying for the “phantom electricity” the turbines are theoretically generating. Occasionally, Germany has to pay fees to dump already subsidized green energy, creating what experts refer to as “negative electricity prices.”

On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.

If there is still an electricity shortfall, energy-hungry plants like the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Hamburg are sometimes asked to shut down production to protect the grid. Of course, ordinary electricity customers are then expected to pay for the compensation these businesses are entitled to for lost profits.

The government has high hopes for the expansion of offshore wind farms. But the construction sites are in a state of chaos: Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting.

In the current election campaign, the parties are blaming each other for the disaster. Meanwhile, the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely. “It exposes us to criticism,” says a government spokesman. “There are undeniably major problems,” admits a cabinet member.

But this week, the issue is forcing its way onto the agenda. On Thursday, a government-sanctioned commission plans to submit a special report called “Competition in Times of the Energy Transition.” The report is sharply critical, arguing that Germany’s current system actually rewards the most inefficient plants, doesn’t contribute to protecting the climate, jeopardizes the energy supply and puts the poor at a disadvantage.

The experts propose changing the system to resemble a model long successful in Sweden. If implemented, it would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place. Instead of bureaucrats setting green energy prices, they would be allowed to develop indepedently on a separate market. The report’s authors believe the Swedish model would lead to faster and cheaper implementation of renewable energy, and that the system would also become what it is not today: socially just.

Trouble Paying the Bills

When Stefan Becker of the Berlin office of the Catholic charity Caritas makes a house call, he likes to bring along a few energy-saving bulbs. Many residents still use old light bulbs, which consume a lot of electricity but are cheaper than newer bulbs. “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal,” says Becker. In other words, saving energy is well and good — but only if people can afford it.

A family Becker recently visited is a case in point. They live in a dark, ground-floor apartment in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood. On a sunny summer day, the two children inside had to keep the lights on — which drives up the electricity bill, even if the family is using energy-saving bulbs.

Becker wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity shut off for not paying their bill. After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power — leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.

Once the power has been shut off, it’s difficult to have it switched on again. Customers have to negotiate a payment plan, and are also charged a reconnection fee of up to €100. “When people get their late payment notices in the spring, our phones start ringing,” says Becker.

In the near future, an average three-person household will spend about €90 a month for electricity. That’s about twice as much as in 2000.Two-thirds of the price increase is due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted. As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.

THE WAY IT GOES

Lol. I don’t know the Truth of this, because I’m not familiar the particulars or the principals involved, but given my own personal experiences with both the federal government (FBI, Justice, DHS) and private security contractors it would in no way surprise me.

The Spy Who Scammed Us?

Jamie Smith says he was recruited into the CIA as an undergraduate at Ole Miss, cofounded Blackwater, and has done clandestine intelligence work all over the world, operating out of a counterterrorism boot camp in the woods of north Mississippi. Plenty of people believed him, including the Air Force (which paid him $7 million to train personnel) and William Morrow, which signed him up to write his memoir. There’s just one little question: How much of it is true?

By: Ace Atkins and Michael Fechter

Jamie Smith’s new book, indefinitely waiting for release, makes claims that old friends and foes say are exaggerated at best.

Some called it G.I. Joe Fantasy Camp, and for good reason. In the piney woods of north Mississippi, professionals and wannabes alike would come to the 60-acre compound of an outfit called SCG International to play war games, fire live weapons, conduct mock interrogations, and run around like kids, zinging paintball rounds across creeks and seeking cover in open fields.

But this was serious business, too. During SCG’s heyday, between 2008 and 2012, the U.S. government and local law-enforcement agencies paid a lot of money to get people trained so they could function capably in war zones, shoot-outs, and other dicey situations.

It was an exciting place to be, even for amateurs. If you displayed some talent, you might get a nod from one of SCG’s professional tough guys—lawmen and military veterans who could, if they wanted, find you a job with the company someday. If that happened, you were told, exciting work would follow: protecting a cargo shipment in the Middle East, say, or running special missions deep inside a war-torn African nation. The money was said to be very good…

 

WHAT SHOULD BE, AND WHAT ACTUALLY IS…

What the Federal government can and should and must do if it is to survive, (and frankly I don’t care if it does) and to encourage Capitalism, Free Enterprise, and the Building of Wealth among American Citizens:

1. Lower Rates of Taxation, at both the Corporate and Individual Levels, and abolish many forms of taxation, such as Social Security taxes, institute a fair tax or consumption tax, and thereafter encourage the development of just and beneficial allodial and fee-free tax systems.

2. Abolish much of government.

3. Spend far less on government.

4. Assist in educating Private Citizens and the entire Society on the advantages of Capitalism, Free Enterprise, Private Industry and Individual Wealth Building, and how these things are actually accomplished (versus the socialistic and communistic principles now being taught as pseudo-science and distorted macro-economics in Federally supported public schools and universities).

5. Abolish many forms of regulation, and severely curtail many other forms of regulation to the lowest possible level in order to still maintain acceptable safety protocols, as well as abolishing subsidies to industry.

6. Eradicate Social Security and all others forms of failed socialistic economic policies and instead replace these with tax incentives and education programs to encourage and develop individual savings and investment and insurance accounts.

7. Abolish Public Education at the Federal level.

8. Return the Federal government to its necessary and very limited functions. Acknowledge and eradicate its numerous and unnecessary losses, rather than encouraging and subsidizing constant and continual states of failure.

9. Employ far fewer people at far less pay and benefits (especially at the Congressional, Court, and Administrative levels), see itself as a Service Oriented and temporary Career or Profession, rather than as a permanent and fixed political class (America should be political-class-free) and a personal benefits industry and life-long occupation. Government is not a “calling,” service in government is a calling. But government is not, and should never be, a life-long enterprise. It is public service, not life-long employment at Public Expense. Americans are not Imperial-era Romans, and neither should we be run like a Third World Banana Republic. To this end it is also extremely necessary to institute Tort and Court reform.

10. Actually become Pro Business, Capitalism, Free Enterprise, Industry, and Private Wealth Creation, as well as becoming Self-Limited and self-limiting, and self-disciplined.
What the Federal Government actually does:

1. Seeks any and every opportunity to raise tax rates and to increase the bureaucratic tax burden.

2. Seeks constantly to grow itself at the expense of the nation, the culture, and the People.

3. Seeks constantly to spend more, and to bankrupt itself, the nation, and the American People.

4. Seeks constantly to engage in Socialistic Care-taking policies like Social Security, subsidizing failed enterprises, and seizing control of whole industries like the Medical and Defense Industries.

5. Seeks constantly to increase the regulatory burden of government on every sector of the economy, finance, and enterprise, and even on individual behavior even when the evidence is clear that such regulations cripple or destroy market and national competition and entire sectors of industry and the economy.

6. Constantly grows socialistic programs while at the same time funding them by means that would in every other circumstance be considered illegal and immoral, while suppressing the development of Individual Business and Saving and Investing and Charity and Philanthropy incentives and programs that would actually work, both societally and financially.

7. Constantly fails to educate most people, at great and ever increasing public expense, and the educational efforts it does operate are inefficient and more often than not outright erroneous and inaccurate.

8. Constantly seeks to enlarge and spread its creeping, corrupting, and nefarious influence into all aspects of American life and culture. Continually excuses and subsidizes its own abysmal rates of failure, moral and financial bankruptcy, and horrendous and miserable acts of unrepentant incompetence.

9. Seeks constantly to swell its rank of employees, dependents, unionized collectives, and supporters to give its gargantuan and bloated bulk an apparent and superficial legitimacy it does not really enjoy.

10. Engages in constant acts of sabotage, injury, regulatory destruction, and burdensome taxation and exhaustion against Individual and Corporate acts of Business, Capital Accumulation, Charity and Philanthropy, Free Enterprise, Market Development, Productive Industry, and Private Ownership and Wealth Creation.