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    Daily Digest 12/20 – Iceland Offers Economic Lessons for Ireland, Retail Hit by Show Chaos, Gas Prices Quadruple in Iran

    by DailyDigest

    Monday, December 20, 2010, 4:00 PM

  • Seoul Unveils Levy on Banks’ Foreign Debt
  • Iceland Offers Economic Lessons For Ireland
  • Shops Hit By Snow Chaos And Panic Buying
  • Success of Appliance Rebate Program Raises Questions about Environment, Economy
  • Emergency Unemployment Benefits Reauthorized
  • Cuts in Subsidies Quadruple Gas Prices in Iran
  • Will Shale Gas Turn Out To Be An Energy Sink?

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Economy

Seoul Unveils Levy on Banks’ Foreign Debt



Seoul will impose a levy on the balance of foreign-currency-denominated debt, excluding foreign-currency deposits, of Korean banks and local branches of foreign banks, possibly from the second half of next year, financial authorities said in a joint statement Sunday. The announcement came after the International Monetary Fund gave its blessing for emerging economies to adopt capital-control measures at the latest summit of the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations in early November. It also follows two plans by Seoul this year to lower the adverse effect of rapid flows of foreign capital.

Iceland Offers Economic Lessons For Ireland



Evidence of economic recovery in Iceland means the Irish can no longer convince themselves that things are worse elsewhere. Figures released on Dec. 7 showed that Iceland’s gross domestic product rose by 1.2 per cent in the third quarter. (Ireland’s third-quarter GDP rose by 0.5 per cent, according to figures published on Dec. 16.) The Icelandic central bank’s benchmark interest rate has fallen to 4.5 per cent, from a peak of 18 per cent. The halving of the dollar value of the Icelandic krona at the height of the crisis pushed inflation as high as 18.6 per cent. It has since fallen close to the central bank’s 2.5 per cent target. The “misery index,” a crude grading that sums unemployment and inflation rates, suggests Iceland is now doing better than Ireland.

Shops Hit By Snow Chaos And Panic Buying



Brent Cross shopping centre in North London, one of Britain’s biggest, was forced to close on Saturday afternoon, losing trade worth up to an estimated £5m. In some supermarkets there were long queues and empty shelves as shoppers began to panic buy amid fears food supplies would not reach stores in time for Christmas. One of Britain’s biggest hauliers said empty shop shelves were “inevitable” in some areas as stranded lorries were unable to make deliveries. It was supposed to have been ‘Super Saturday’ bonanza for retailers, with Britons due to have splurged an estimated £4bn on Christmas food and gifts.

Success of Appliance Rebate Program Raises Questions about Environment, Economy



The MEA administered rebates for “more than 18,500 clothes washers, 4,500 refrigerators and 6,000 central air conditioners and air sources heat pumps,” according to Thursday’s press release.  Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the MEA estimates the program will save $19.6 million and 9,000 MWh.   The program, which ended on November 12, 2010, does more than demonstrate the commitment of Marylanders to saving energy.  It also raises a few important questions.   What role should the federal and state government play in promoting energy efficiency and responsible environmental stewardship?  Can programs to promote energy efficiency help enliven our economy?  

Emergency Unemployment Benefits Reauthorized



For the past year, eligible jobless workers could receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, collected in this order: up to 26 weeks of regular benefits, up to 53 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) and up to 20 weeks of extended benefits. Today’s action extends the EUC program, but does not expand the total weeks available. Therefore, people who have already collected all of their EUC benefits are not eligible for these additional benefits.

Energy

Cuts in Subsidies Quadruple Gas Prices in Iran



After midnight on Sunday, the price of subsidized gasoline jumped to 38 cents a liter from 10 cents a liter. Similar increases went into effect for compressed natural gas and diesel fuel, with subsidy reductions for other commodities expected to be phased in gradually. Security forces with riot shields took positions at gas stations in Tehran, bracing for a possible repeat of the unrest that followed the introduction of gasoline rationing in 2007, but there were no reports of violence.

Will Shale Gas Turn Out To Be An Energy Sink?



The environmental and health horrors associated with shale gas drilling are now in the news on a daily basis. But I have begun to think about the issue in another way. All of these externalized costs have an energy cost. And, the toxic fracturing fluid–millions of gallons of which are pumped into each and every shale gas well–will stretch out the time frame during which such costs are borne. No one knows what will happen to the half of that fluid which never returns to the surface during operations. There is concern that it could migrate to drinking water aquifers and destroy the drinking water not just for the few who happen to live near a drilling site, but for people living in huge swaths of the United States by polluting water sources for large cities such as New York.

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