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United Kingdom - Jan 17

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Barclays shares in new collapse as bank crisis enters second phase

Phillip Inman and Jill Treanor, Guardian
Shares in Barclays and Royal Bank of ­Scotland plummeted as huge losses at two of America's biggest ­financial institutions sparked fresh fears for the future of Britain's banking industry.

In a frantic hour of trading, Barclays lost almost a quarter of its value - marking the second wave of a banking crisis that has already dragged the industry to the edge of collapse. The dramatic fall, which also shook the newly merged Lloyds TSB and HBOS, forced banking chiefs to cancel a planned summit in the City and ­triggered a flurry of emergency meetings in Whitehall.

... Analysts said Barclays had suffered a severe loss of confidence following speculation that it faces further losses on hundreds of billions of pounds worth of toxic ­investments.
(16 January 2009)



Tories steal a march on Labour with new energy policy

George Monbiot, Guardian
How the
The Tories' new energy policies leave Labour looking like the Luddites they are – but there is still much to improve
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You have to pinch yourself. Three years ago, when my book Heat was published, critics lined up to tell me that the plans it contained were "unfeasible", "unviable", "too expensive" and "politically impossible". Now these ideas, none of which were mine alone – such as a smart grid used to transmit information between appliances and electricity suppliers, offshore energy parks connected to the grid with high-voltage DC cables, universal grants for insulation, a low-carbon heat grid – have become so mainstream that they've been adopted as policy by the Conservative party. The theory of energy provision has changed beyond recognition since 2006. The practice is still stuck in the dark ages.

That the Conservatives, following the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, can outflank Labour so easily on this issue shows how attached the governing party has become to "sunk costs". By this I mean the lobbying power of companies which have already made their investments and want to squeeze every last drop out of them before they expire.

Blair used to talk endlessly of the "knowledge-based economy", but except when he doled out contracts to Labour donors in the pharmaceutical industry, he seemed to be referring to the knowledge of 50 years ago. Labour's expensive attachment to the old economy – internal combustion engines, opencast coal mines, airports and motorways – has been a standing impediment to the new energy technologies now being adopted by the rest of Europe. Listen too closely to business lobbyists and you end up without a business vision.
(16 January 2009)
U.S. conservatives looking for a new direction after Bush might consider how the Tories are outflanking Labour. -BA

Related at the Guardian:
Tories seize the green power initiative
'To deliver a low-carbon economy you have got to have a vision'
Labour and the Tories: who is greenest?
Cameron's revolution begins at home
Cameron: we will build £1bn 'smart grid' to green Britain
Tory plans give householders up to £6,500 to improve energy efficiency



Heathrow third runway gets go-ahead

Dan Milmo, Guardian
Government attaches three environmental conditions to expansion project, as well as announcing high-speed rail link
---
The transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, gave the go-ahead to a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow airport today as opponents promised a decade of legal protests and direct action.

Hoon brushed off concerns over the environmental impact of the decision to announce that a third runway should be built by 2020, adding an estimated 400 flights a day at the west London site and increasing annual passenger numbers through the airport from 66 million to around 82 million.

"Doing nothing will damage our economy and will have no impact whatsoever on climate change," he told the Commons.

However the government attached three conditions to the announcement, alongside confirmation that a company would be formed to build a high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham via Heathrow. The three conditions were:
(15 January 2009)
Related:
Can a bigger Heathrow be green? (BBC)
Price of expansion is fury at blighted life for thousands (Times)
Advisers, activists and scientists join forces to oppose Heathrow expansion (Guardian)

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