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The crisis in British steel has been 40 years in the making

Steel_photo_02.jpg

The crisis in the British steel industry is the result of four big trends in the economy over the past 40 years.

Issue number one has been the opening up of world markets in the process known as globalisation. In the decades immediately after the second world war, governments were able to protect their domestic steel industries through the use of high tariffs. Now they can’t.

Issue number two has been the rapid development of China as the world’s dominant manufacturing force. China has developed a massive steel industry and, until recently, the rapid growth of industry and the building of new infrastructure meant homegrown demand pretty much tallied with supply. But now it doesn’t because the Chinese economy has slowed and is becoming less biased towards manufacturing. China has excess capacity and is dumping its steel at below-market prices on the rest of the global economy.

Issue number three has been the European Union, which has been slow to respond to the threat posed by China and which has tough rules that make it hard (if not impossible) for countries to ride to the rescue of their steel industries. The view from Brussels is that there is little sense in propping up steel plants that are losing money when the world is awash with unwanted steel. Some countries, Italy for example, have found ways of getting round state aid rules by saying that financial support is designed to meet tougher EU environmental standards.

Issue number four has been UK government action, or rather the lack of it. Whitehall has not only saddled the UK steel industry with higher energy costs than those in Germany or France, it has been blocking proposals by some other EU countries to tackle Chinese dumping through higher tariffs.

These four issues have come together in a perfect storm that threatens to blow away what remains of the UK steel industry. This creates a big headache for the government, which will come under pressure from critics to do for the steel workers of Port Talbot what it did for the bankers of the City of London. With a referendum on EU membership coming up on 23 June, ministers will be wary of saying that they would like to do more but are being prevented by Brussels from doing so.

So what are the options? The government could start showing the steel sector the tender loving care so noticeable by its absence in the recent past. Every steel industry in the developed west has shrunk in the past 15 years: Britain’s decline has been particularly marked. Cutting energy costs and business rates would help, but it is probably too late for that.

If they wanted to step things up a notch, ministers could announce an action plan to help the steel industry while an anti-dumping action is taken against China at the World Trade Organisation, something that is likely to take at least a year. It would boost infrastructure spending and say, notwithstanding EU procurement rules, that it would bend over backwards to favour UK producers. In the current circumstances, with the referendum looking close, it might meet little opposition in Brussels.

Then there are the “big bang” options. The government could pay foreign owners to keep UK plants open, which in the case of Port Talbot would mean an open-ended taxpayer subsidy to Tata. Or it could decide to renationalise an industry that has been in private hands since Margaret Thatcher’s government sold it off in 1988. Make no mistake, though, whether in state or private hands, and whether Britain is inside the EU or not, the problems of the steel industry will not go away.
Source: The Guardian

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EU Gas Use Grows 4% in 2015: Eurogas

Natural gas consumption in the 28-nation European Union grew by some 4% last year to 426.3bn m3, according to latest estimates from Eurogas, the trade association representing 43 gas wholesale and distribution companies.

It was the first annual increase in four years, after gas use by 2014 in the EU plunged to levels last seen almost 20 years earlier with the finger of blame pointed squarely at the erosion by cheap coal imports of gas’s share of the power generation market.

Eurogas said on March 30 that the overall rise in 2015 gas use was mirrored by a rise in LNG imports. These increased by one-third in Italy and roughly doubled year-on-year into the Netherlands. Spot LNG prices were lower in 2015 than in 2014.

Overall, temperatures in 2015 were closer to the average than in 2014, which meant that residential demand for gas in heating saw net increases in a number of countries – including Germany for which national data were recently published.

Eurogas said that the capacity of the gas grids to handle fluctuations in demand for heating, and in some countries also cooling, once again highlighted the flexibility of gas as a fuel. It has also argued that gas is the natural partner to offset renewable energy’s intermittency.

Several other factors were at play, aside from weather, added Eurogas. France, Czech Republic and Slovakia witnessed some economic recovery, and hence a rise in 2015 industrial gas demand. Compressed natural gas (CNG) use in the Czech transport sector grew by 46%, a significant change albeit from a low base. Other countries however continued to see gas use by industry decline.

Lower gas prices also saw more gas used in UK power generation than in 2014, whilst Italy and Greece used more for summer air-conditioning. But cheap coal continued to erode gas’s share of the power market in the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland.

Overall, the Netherlands was the only country among the six largest EU gas markets to record a decline (-0.8%) in overall gas consumption. Germany, Italy, the UK, France and Spain all saw overall gains, although the UK’s was slight.

The highest 2015 growth was in Slovenia (up 22.5%) and Portugal (up 11.7%). The sharpest decline was in Estonia (-23.1%). It was followed by Finland (-10.8%) where Eurogas said that tax changes had discouraged gas consumption.

 European gas consumption, 2015

 

bn m3

% +/- 2014

Austria

8.2

6.1

Belgium

16.5

9.5

Bulgaria

2.6

6.5

Croatia

2.6

6.8

Czech Republic

7.5

4.8

Denmark

2.7

0.2

Estonia

0.5

-23.1

Finland

2.7

-10.8

France

41.6

7.8

Germany

79.9

4.7

Greece

3.2

7.4

Hungary

9.2

7.4

Ireland

4.5

0.6

Italy

66.2

9.1

Latvia

1.3

0.7

Lithuania

2.5

-1.5

Luxembourg

0.9

-8.8

Netherlands

34.2

-0.8

Poland

16.5

2.8

Portugal

4.7

11.7

Romania

11.3

-4.6

Slovakia

4.6

5.9

Slovenia

0.8

22.5

Spain

29.2

4.4

Sweden

0.8

-9.3

UK

71.8

0.4

EU-28 *

426.3

4.1

 Other Europe    

Switzerland

3.4

6.6

Turkey

48.8

0.8

Source: Eurogas preliminary data for 2015; * EU-28 includes Cyprus and Malta that have yet to receive gas supplies;

Eurogas data is based on terawatt hours (TWh) but the bn m3 figures provided above are its own, converted at 10.8 TWh per bn m3

Mark Smedley


Natural Gas Europe welcomes all viewpoints. Should you wish to provide an alternative perspective on the above article, please contact editor@minoils.com  

Kindly note that we only lightly edit content for grammar and do not edit externally contributed content.

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Yei farmers complain tractors sitting idle as rainy season begins

YEI (31 Mar.)

Farmers in Yei River county of Central Equatoria state have raised concerns over the delayed distribution of tractors to the community.

Earlier this year, the office of the president has sent at least twenty new tractors to Yei for the purpose of boosting food production and fight food insecurity, but so far they have not been put to use.

According to farmers, the absence of mechanised farming stands a major obstacle for them. They demanded that the government deploy the tractors as the rainy season begins.

“The rain has started and we are planning to begin as early as expected,” said one farmer. “If they are there just redundant without any use then the purpose of bringing them to the county has no meaning.”

The farmer added: “This year is a year of hunger and this hunger cannot be forced out using small hoes. The private tractors are rented out at a rate of 1,200 SSP which is so expensive for the farmers to afford.”

The farmer said the tractors were not brought to Yei to sit in town.

The farmer added that he blames the delay on the appointed authorities of the proposed Yei River State.

“We thought the delay was because those days we were still under Juba, but now that we are under new Yei River state and things are brought closer, I really don’t understand the delay,” the farmer said.

The state minister for agriculture and forestry Huda Michael Laila said the tractors would be distributed very soon.

“Let them be patient because this time when we give out these tractors they must be managed properly and multiply themselves. One word I want to say to the farmers last year the production was not good because of the rain. This time we need to prepare so that we need to increase our productivity and produce enough food this year,” he said.

Dara Felix, a civil society activist working for centre for democracy and development, recommended the distribution of the tractors through organised cooperative societies.

Dara said institutionalising and personalising tractors by the government will lead to misuse without tangible output.

“Our experience has shown that most of these tractors coming to our country have ended up being personalised and disappeared,” Dara said. “This time we are of the opinion that these tractors will best benefit the farmers if they are handed over to the cooperatives.” 

“It is a call up on leadership locally to ensure that farmers are organised in cooperatives,” Dara continued. “Secondly it’s important that these farmers develop sustainability plan. If it breaks down should we call President Salva Kiir to repair it? We need to think about sustainability plans so that when they are given to them should be able to work.”

Yei lies in South Sudan’s green belt region which has highly fertile soils.

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Tavant Technologies Named Top Innovative Technology Company Second Time in a Row

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 31, 2016 /PRNewswire/ —

Recognized by HousingWire for its Game-Changing Mortgage Technology Experience

Tavant Technologies, America’s leading innovative mortgage technology provider, announced today that it has earned its place in HousingWire’s 2016 HW TECH100™ list, which highlights the housing economy’s top 100 technology innovators. This is the second time in a row that Tavant has been recognized for its leading-edge, customized mortgage technology solutions .

     (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150306/732869 )

“Tavant Technologies has been committed to developing cutting-edge technology solutions that produce game-changing results for mortgage companies. Recognition from HousingWire for two consecutive years is truly an honor,” said Hassan Rashid, Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Tavant Technologies.

Tavant has been selected for its Accelerated Portal Development Framework, which is a suite of advanced development patterns, frameworks, libraries and testing tools that provide an accelerated path to portal design, development, testing and production deployment. It allows Tavant to develop portals that are highly customized, configured and aligned with their customer’s needs but designed, developed and deployed in record time.

About Tavant Technologies: 

Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Tavant Technologies is a specialized software solutions and services provider that provides impactful results to its customers across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Founded in 2000, the company employs over 1500 people and is a recognized top employer.

As a key solutions provider to the Consumer Lending industry, Tavant has demonstrated expertise in helping mortgage firms convert more leads, cut costs and retain borrowers.

Find Tavant Technologies on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

About HousingWire: 

HousingWire is the nation’s most influential industry news source covering the U.S. housing economy, spanning residential mortgage lending, servicing, investments and real estate operations. The company’s news, commentary, magazine content, industry directories and events give more than one million industry professionals each year the insight they need to make better, more informed business decisions. Winner of numerous awards, including a 2012 Eddie Award for national editorial excellence in the B2B Banking/Business/Finance category, HousingWire has been recognized for excellence in journalism by the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the American Society of Business Press Editors, the National Association of Real Estate Editors and Trade Association Business Publications International. Learn more at http://www.housingwire.com.

For further information, please contact:
Vibhor Mishra
Tavant Technologies
+1-408-519-5400
vibhor.mishra@tavant.com

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Aid Workers Reach Wau Shilluk After Access Restrictions Lifted-Off

Aid groups said it has started reaching restricted areas in South Sudan after access restrictions have been lifted from them in Wau Shilluk, Western Bank of the River Nile, Malakal amongst others.

 Aid Workers Reach Wau Shilluk After Access Restrictions Lifted-Off

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the UN protection of civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. [© IOM 2015]

By Jok P Mayom

JUBA, 31 March 2016 [Gurtong]-
According to the Humanitarian update release this week, the aid group said their access from Malakal to the west bank of the River Nile by boat was reopened in mid-March following intensive access negotiations.

“….After nearly a month of restrictions, the Government reopened humanitarian access from Malakal to the west bank of the River Nile by boat mid-March following intensive access negotiations” reads the humanitarian bulletin.

Aid groups said on 16th March, an inter-agency team of 18 aid workers, both South Sudanese and international, travelled from Malakal to Wau Shilluk, delivering critical health and WASH supplies.

Humanitarian partners have since resumed regular delivery of assistance.

“Although humanitarian access restrictions have been lifted, freedom of movement for civilians has yet to be granted and families stranded on either side of the river bank are unable to be reunited” said aid workers.

At least 84 cases of family separation have been documented between the Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site and Wau Shilluk.

A group of three siblings staying at Malakal PoC said to aid workers, “We miss our mother. She was sick when she went to Wau Shilluk more than a month ago. We have no idea why she can’t come back. We need nothing else, but our mother.”

The critical importance of family reunification was recently highlighted by families who were split during the fighting and fires in Malakal PoC on 17-18 February.

“There is nothing more painful than being separated from your child in war time, but there is nothing more joyful than reuniting a family in a war zone,” a mother who was recently reunified with her child in Malakal said to aid groups.

Ariane Quentier, UNMISS Spokesperson said on Wednesday at a press briefing that it has also been difficult for UNMISS to have access and support delivery of humanitarian aid.
Aid groups said, in the south of Mundri West County where clashes also broke-out in mid-February 2016, humanitarian partners managed to deliver food in Bari on 27 February and an inter-agency humanitarian team travelled to Mundri Town, Kotobi, Gariya, Landigwa and Bangolo from 2 to 4 March to deliver life-saving assistance and assess the situation.

Furthermore, in the western and southern parts of Wau town and surrounding villages – including Mboro, Kayango, Ngondo, Ngonjeko, Natabu and Ngomba were reported fighting in recent weeks, displacing tens of thousands of people.

“In Mboro, about 8,000 internally displaced people (IDP) stranded since February reportedly in need of urgent assistance were forced to flee when fighting escalated on 21 March. There are also unverified reports of around 10,000 to 12,000 IDPs further south in Suwe” said
partners.

Aid groups also said following fighting in February, about 30,000 people have reportedly been displaced in Pibor and Gumuruk counties, including about 2,300 people who fled to the protected site in Pibor.

“12 humanitarian partners on the ground in Pibor have been providing life-saving assistance to displaced people in the protected site, including access to safe water, emergency latrines and bathing areas, hygiene promotion to prevent disease outbreaks, distribution of high energy biscuits and other nutrition supplies for children under age 5, and medical treatment” said Aid groups as they reach Pibor.

However, South Sudan Government through its spokesperson Hon. Michael Makuei Lueth, Minister of Information has been denying the government involvement of blocking the humanitarian partners from delivering services to the needy.

Makuei reported that the government has been only doing the checking for security purposes.

UNMISS updates indicates that a total of 188,144 civilians are sheltering in Protection of Civilians sites (PoCs) including; UN House PoC I and III 27,950,  Bentiu 116,538, Malakal 40,448 Melut 700, Bor 2,289 and Wau 219.


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