The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Peak demand leaves refineries idle

-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

U.S. refiners have emerged as the biggest losers from the previous surge in oil and push for cleaner energy. The industry's brief golden age has swiftly given way to a prolonged dark period of adjustment and decline.

What went wrong? Like other sectors, refiners have been hit by the cyclical downturn, which has cut trade volumes and the related demand for transport fuels such as aviation fuel and marine diesel especially hard.

But cyclical factors are compounding a structural decline in consumption that began around 2007 and has continued through the recession, as high prices and legislative responses force greater conservation and a shift towards biofuels.

Even as the economy recovers, U.S. consumption of petroleum-derived gasoline and distillate fuels is unlikely to exceed the record set in 2007. The resulting "demand peak" has left up to 10 percent of total U.S. refining capacity (around 1.8 million barrels per day) surplus to requirements.

Live blog: 1pound40 conference

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twitterWelcome to our live coverage of the 1pound40 conference, a joint endeavour by Reuters and the Amplified network which brings together users of Twitter to discuss the idea that social media has evolved to the point that it can help solve real world problems.

Attendees will also be discussing whether the power of Twitter can be harnessed to improve the news and help re-engage a jaded electorate with the political process.

Ghosts of Germany’s communist past return for election

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kirschbaum_e- Erik Kirschbaum is a Reuters correspondent in Berlin. -

Will the party that traces its roots to Communist East Germany’s SED party that built the Berlin Wall soon be in power in a west German state?

Or is the rise of the far-left “Linke” (Left party) in western Germany to the brink of its first role as a coalition partner in a state government with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) simply a political fact-of-life now so many years after the Wall fell and the two Germanys were reunited?

from The Great Debate:

How the bailout feeds bloated banker pay

jamessaft1-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Rising pay in the finance sector in the wake of the global financial crisis is no surprise and is driven partly by the government's bailout itself and the underwriting of banks that are too big to fail.

News that some financial firms benefitting from government largesse actually increased the share of revenue they pay their employees sparked a lot of outrage but more heat than light.

from The Great Debate:

Pensions and the coming savings boom

jamessaft1-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The explosion in company pension fund shortfalls in Britain nicely illustrates issues which will dominate economics and investment in coming years: the re-pricing of risk, a disillusionment with equity markets, and the boom in savings these shortfalls will help to drive.

Under current accounting rules, the pension funds of companies in Britain's FTSE 100 index are together 96 billion pounds ($170 billion) underfunded, more than double the deficit of a year ago and an all-time record, according to a report from pension fund consultants Lane, Clark & Peacock.

from The Great Debate:

BoE extends QE, fears 1930s re-run

John Kemp

-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

The Bank of England's decision to continue with its asset purchase programme, or quantitative easing (QE), at the rate of 50 billion pounds per quarter in Oct-Dec, unchanged from Jul-Sep, shows bank officials are more worried about ending support for the recovery too soon than about risking inflation by leaving it too late.

The problem with QE is that you have to keep buying the same amount of assets each month to maintain the same monetary stance. With interest rates, the Bank can cut them and they stay cut. If asset prices drop with QE, it represents a tightening of monetary policy.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Elvis and America’s birthers

Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own. --
Nobody ever landed on the moon, the televised images are a hoax. John F. Kennedy was murdered in a complex plot involving the Mafia and the CIA. Elvis Presley lives. Barack Obama was born outside the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president.

All these claims stem from conspiracy theories and myths born in the U.S. and they throw a question mark over the long-held view of experts that such ideas flourish most in societies where news is controlled, access to information difficult and barriers to independent inquiry difficult to overcome.

Regulatory changes needed to end Heathrow hell

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- Rupert Darwall is a guest columnist. The views expressed are his own. A London-based strategist, he is author of Reluctant Managers, a study of Whitehall performance (KPMG, 2006) –

If April is the cruellest month, then July can be awful for people using Heathrow. Business travel is still humming and the holiday season is getting into full swing.

from The Great Debate:

Bernanke’s deficit warning helps Obama

obama-- James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Sorry, Larry Summers. It's looking more and more likely that you're going to be stuck in the West Wing for the duration.

See, if your boss fails to reappoint Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman come January, it would be a public betrayal worthy of the television reality show "Survivor." For President Obama has no greater ally: Bernanke is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

A reality check from Standard & Poor’s

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REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Standard & Poor’s could have chosen a better day to kick the British economy, by placing the UK onto “negative outlook”, the usual precursor to a downgrade of S&P’s rating of an issuer’s debt.

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