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Syria switches to euro amid confrontation with US

DAMASCUS – Syria has switched all of the state’s foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars amid a political confrontation with the United States, the head of state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria said on Monday.

…”It looks like a kind of pre-emptive action aimed at making their foreign assets safer, preventing them from getting frozen in case of any conflict,” said a Middle East economist who requested anonymity.
(13 February 2006)

IEA calls for more investment in renewable energy

Fiona Harvey, Financial Times
The International Energy Agency yesterday called for greater investment focused on harvesting solar power and energy from waves and tides in order to stave off climate change.

Raising the contribution of renewable energy to the world’s electricity supplies by just one percentage point by 2030 will cost $1,600bn (€1,300bn, £900bn), the IEA said in its report Renewable Energy: Research and Development Priorities.

But it said such investment was necessary in order to limit carbon dioxide emissions, which would grow by 50 per cent over the period if action was not taken.

The agency said renewable energy would account for 40 per cent of investment into power generation over the next 25 years, which would increase the global share of renewables in electricity generation from 18 per cent today to 19 per cent in 2030.

Claude Mandil, executive director of the IEA, said: “Renewable energy technologies are a crucial element in achieving a balanced global energy future. Renewables can make major contributions to the diversity and security of energy supply and to economic development.”

He urged governments not to leave such developments to the market: “We need to use public funds as effectively as possible in achieving this. Countries must improve their market deployment strategies for renewable energy technologies and above all, increase targeted renewables [research, development and deployment] simultaneously ensuring continued cost-competitiveness. There is much at stake.”
(15 February 2006)

U.S. concludes ‘Cyber Storm’ mock attacks

Ted Bridis, Associate Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer
WASHINGTON — The government concluded its “Cyber Storm” wargame Friday, its biggest-ever exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.


Participants confirmed parts of the worldwide simulation challenged government officials and industry executives to respond to deliberate misinformation campaigns and activist calls by Internet bloggers, online diarists whose “Web logs” include political rantings and musings about current events.
(10 February 2006)

A way to cut fuel consumption that everyone likes, except the politicians

Ropbert H. Frank, NY Times
SUPPOSE a politician promised to reveal the details of a simple proposal that would, if adopted, produce hundreds of billions of dollars in savings for American consumers, significant reductions in traffic congestion, major improvements in urban air quality, large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and substantially reduced dependence on Middle East oil. The politician also promised that the plan would require no net cash outlays from American families, no additional regulations and no expansion of the bureaucracy.

As economists often remind their students, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So this politician’s announcement would almost surely be greeted skeptically. Yet a policy that would deliver precisely the outcomes described could be enacted by Congress tomorrow — namely, a $2-a-gallon tax on gasoline whose proceeds were refunded to American families in reduced payroll taxes.

Proposals of this sort have been advanced frequently in recent years by both liberal and conservative economists. Invariably, however, pundits are quick to dismiss these proposals as “politically unthinkable.”

But if higher gasoline taxes would make everyone better off, why are they unthinkable?
(16 February 2006)

Ford Europe exec: addressing climate change requires radical change of mindset

Mike Millikin, Green Car Congress
Stating that tackling the challenge of climate change requires a “complete and radical change of mindset,” Lewis Booth, Ford executive vice president overseeing Ford of Europe and Premier Automotive Group, said the company acknowledged the importance of climate change and the responsibility to take action.

Booth made the remarks in a speech in London at the European Petroleum industry’s Europia conference.

He called for greater support from all key stakeholders—vehicle manufacturers, customers, national governments, the fuel industry and the European Commission—in adopting a more integrated approach to reducing CO2 from vehicles
(16 February 2006)