Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Bit About Trade

Most of the developed world seems to be at each other's metaphorical throats over trade.  Who has the surplus, who might be "taking advantage" of whom....

One respected business publication, Bloomberg, writes about "The $1.4 Trillion "Surplus" That Trump Isn't Talking About".  In a nutshell, the article argues that the USA does not have an overall deficit in trade with China, for example.
  "U.S. companies have sold more to the rest of the world than other countries have sold to the U.S. in the past ten years," writes chief China economist Zhang Zhiwei in the report.
Other economists argue that Trump is factually incorrect in his Twitter trade tirades, in this case against Canada.  
Derek Holt, vice-president of Scotiabank Economics, said the "thought processes" at the core of the U.S. administration are not grounded in "reason, diplomacy or facts."
Milk seems to be a particularly touchy point for Trump, even though Canada's supply management system is one that many American dairy farmers which they had.

The Guardian ran an article about the milk issue recently: Why Canadian Milk Infuriates Donald Trump. 
Trump’s latest trade war target is Canada’s protected dairy industry. But Canadians have no intention of abandoning it – because it works

Occasionally there are those who try to use humour (or humor, in this case) to describe the currrent situation.  The Washington Post recently published an opinion piece titled: "Finally, A president with the guts to stand up to Canada" 

O Canada: You had it coming, eh.
They inflicted Nickelback on us. We did nothing.
They sent us Justin Bieber. We turned the other cheek.
They were responsible for one abomination after the other: Poutine. Diphthong vowels. Hawaiian pizzaInstant mashed potatoes. Ted Cruz.
Still, we did not retaliate — until now.

How Capitalism Works - one more view

Appearing in The Guardian recently, this review of yet another book on Capitalism, which the authors refer to as a ruinous economic system that benefits a minority class.

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, by Patel & Moore

Patel and Moore’s essential argument is that the history of capitalism, and therefore of our current mess, can be usefully viewed through the lens of cheapness. (An earlier, more knottily theoretical work of eco-Marxism by MooreCapitalism in the Web of Life, argues that “cheap nature” is as central an imperative of capitalism as cheap labour.) The seven “things” of their misleadingly clickbaity title are not objects or consumer products, so much as conceptual categories: nature, money, work, care, food, energy and lives. 

More grist for the mill. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Orwellian Logic - Alive and Well in Canada

Although there are a large number of tired old arguments that are trotted out denying human-caused climate change and insisting that there's nothing we can do about it, empirical evidence clearly shows otherwise.

For more information about such denial claims, there is this: Denial Claims.

With the silliness between Alberta and BC over the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the issue of climate change mostly remains in the background.  Terms like "national interest" and "jobs" dominate the headlines, but the impacts of more tar sands expansion on our changing climate are avoided.  

In fact, the current Liberal Government's decision to give the Kinder Morgan project the green light is in direct opposition to what we need to be doing to deal with Climate Change.

One author who has been involved in this issue for many years has called this Orwellian Logic.

Trudeau's Orwellian Logic: We Reduce Emissions by Increasing Them

There are very few economic arguments that make such an expansion a good idea.  This article examines the main arguments.

In another article that appeared in The Tyee recently: Only Fantasies, Desperation and Wishful Thinking Keep Pipeline Plans Alive.

Just as one example of what often happens when the oil industry is finished with their pillage is described in this story.  You'd think Alberta would want to clean up its own mess before passing the potential of even more on to other provinces.

Here in BC, we don't want another pipeline and more tanker traffic.  It's not needed, it's not in the national interest and only makes our current problems worse.

A New Direction for Power Companies?

An interesting article that discusses a new direction for power companies.

Power Companies Have Resisted Climate Policy.  Now it Might be Their Only Hope.

Just one more change that's coming.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Monastery Fire in Lhasa

In the fall of 2016, Joel and I spent a week in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on our way to Nepal.

One of the numerous sites we visited was the Jokhang Monastery, located in the center of the city and one of the most sacred  sites for Tibetan Buddhism.  These three pictures were taken on our visit to the Monastery and we walked around the area several times while we were in Lhasa.

On Saturday evening, February 17th, 2018, a fire caused some damage to the Monastery.  This story was posted on BBC News.

Just another blow to the cultural identity of the beleaguered Tibetans in that country.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Deranged Spat Between Alberta and BC

Yes.  Deranged is possibly the best way to describe this schoolyard spat.

The new pipeline was approved awhile back, subject to 157 conditions.  I don't know what the 157 conditions are, but the Government certainly spent some time acting as a cheerleader for the project.

The pipeline is expected to triple the amount of bitumen arriving on the Lower Mainland and there is approval to increase the number of tankers from about 5 to 34 per month.

BC's NDP Government took a slightly different view, stating that bitumen shipments through BC would be limited until further study clarified whether the stuff could be cleaned up when there is a spill.  As a resident of BC, I don't see this as excessively unreasonable.

Alberta's Premier decided that going ballistic was the best reaction.
B.C.’s move was met with condemnation by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who has long championed the pipeline to get Alberta crude to new markets.  “Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the government of B.C. is now grasping at straws,” said Notley, calling the proposal rash, illegal and unconstitutional.
She followed that up by putting off talks on the purchase of electricity from BC and ordering Alberta's liquor commission to stop importing BC wine.

Opinion and reaction has been, predictably, mixed, depending on the commentator's place of residence.  A U of A scientist, however, took this view.

The Prime Minister was jeered at a Nanaimo town hall meeting by people opposed to the pipeline.

Some BC reaction has been more polite, but still resolutely opposed to the project.  It views this proposed project as a desperate attempt to fix decades of resource management in Alberta.  The project, of course, places nearly all of the risk on BC.

And, as the article points out, we're not even getting much as a nation for going the pipeline route.
If we are selling out core Canadian values like aspiring to be a global leader on climate policy, let’s at least negotiate a decent price. But as usual Canada seems to get very little for exploitation by others of our vast resource endowment.
There are many good reasons to oppose this project: more development of fossil fuel projects is incompatible with what's needed to tackle climate change; low global oil prices have impacted Alberta, certainly, but adding more oil to the global supply will not help that situation; reduced demand is coming but a pipeline almost guarantees another 30 years of business as usual and could very well give us an enormous white elephant in the bargain as demand declines.

It is beyond ironic to recall the time when Trudeau Sr brought in the National Energy Program "in the National interest", a program that was hated in Alberta.  The National Interest is now being used by oil industry supporters to promote this pipeline project.  Really?  really?

Perhaps it's time to draw a line in the sand.

[Postscript] - Since the real issue here is climate change and the expanded use of fossil fuels, this article in the National Observer was appropriate and worth reading.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - How to Travel For Less

One consideration when traveling is how to manage costs.  Here is a short guide to the costs of a trip in Taiwan.

First, getting here.  If you book early enough, you can get a round trip from Vancouver to Taipei for under $700 CDN, that being the price in mid-2017.  There are two major airlines that are headquartered in Taiwan, EVA Air and China Airlines.  I'd recommend either one.  Their equipment is new, the service better than North American carriers, and generally, they are less expensive.

Second, getting around.  Taipei has a great subway system.  It's easy to figure out, fast, safe and cheap.  Most rides will cost about $1 CAD.  That's only two $10 NT$ coins.
Getting between cities around the outside of the island is best done by train.  I've written about that in another post.

Then there are buses.  I did take a few bus rides.  Some scenic areas have shuttle bus service.  Examples would be Taroko Gorge, the east coast line north of Taitung and around Sun Moon Lake.  Also, the only way to get into the island's interior is by bus.

Taiwan has a high speed rail system down the west coast.  I didn't take it because, other than the excitement of going that fast, it was more expensive and the stations are further outside of each city they stop at.  Sometimes 15 to 20 km outside.  Not convenient for the hiker/backpacker.

Regular restaurant meals are somewhat similar in price to Canadian establishments.  Perhaps a bit cheaper.  However, you can eat from street vendors and small food stalls.  I've written about food elsewhere.  If your accommodation provides free breakfast, use it.  You can pick up steamed buns on the street for 25 NT$ (about $1.25).  Instant noodles are cheap here and there are many varieties.  Hot water is available many places.  Fruit is cheap and good.  The island is noted for it.

Accommodation is next.  I booked everything through Expedia, in advance, and I generally used hostels, picking cheap places close to the train station in each city.  Per night costs could be around 500 NT$ per night, which is around $25 CAD.  Some offer free breakfast, some don't.  All have free WiFi, most have kitchens, boiling water machines, fridges, showers with good hot water, but often no towels supplied.  Because of the time of year I was there (late Oct early Nov), dorms were not often busy.  In some cases, I was the only person there.