Europe


It feels stupid not being able to go into all the rooms of your apartment any more.”  (via Outside Story).

I’m about as cynical as you can get when it comes to government, but I couldn’t make this stuff up.

BERLIN, Feb 2 – More than 100 German housing association tenants are obediently following tough new rules by agreeing not to use all the space in their apartments to avoid being forced to move out.

The local housing authority in the eastern town of Loebau said on Friday the new regulations stipulate the tenants — who all live on welfare — now only qualify for smaller homes.

Because there is a shortage of smaller dwellings, the tenants are being allowed to stay, so long as the space they use does not exceed the new limit.

“The recipients are only allowed apartments of a certain size, but there aren’t enough smaller apartments available,” said Matthias Urbansky, head of the local housing authority.

“The people involved seem to be quite happy with the new set up,” he said, noting that inspectors nevertheless make regular patrols to ensure the rooms standing empty are not being used.

Not everyone sees the sense of living in an apartment with off-limits areas.

“It feels stupid not being able to go into all the rooms of your apartment any more,” one 49-year-old woman was quoted as saying in the Dresdner Morgenpost newspaper.

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Biofuel Stupidity (via Coyote Blog and TJIC).

Once a Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be an Eco-Nightmare (The New York Times)

Just a few years ago, politicians and environmental groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the early and rapid adoption of “sustainable energy,” achieved in part by coaxing electrical plants to use biofuel — in particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia.

Spurred by government subsidies, energy companies became so enthusiastic that they designed generators that ran exclusively on the oil, which in theory would be cleaner than fossil fuels like coal because it is derived from plants.

But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this green fairy tale began to look more like an environmental nightmare.

Rising demand for palm oil in Europe brought about the clearing of huge tracts of Southeast Asian rainforest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer there.

Worse still, the scientists said, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peatland, which sent huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Considering these emissions, Indonesia had quickly become the world’s third-leading producer of carbon emissions that scientists believe are responsible for global warming, ranked after the United States and China, according to a study released in December by researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands.

I’m shocked and amazed that a government program meddling in the market at the behest of special interests has backfired.  It seems I’m not the only one.

“It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil,” said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group.

Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.

And, with friends like these . . .

Friends of the Earth estimates that 87 percent of the deforestation in Malaysia from 1985 to 2000 was caused by new palm oil plantations.

It only gets better.

To makes matters worse, once dried, peatland is often burned to clear ground for plantations. The Dutch study estimated that the draining of peatland in Indonesia releases 660 million ton of carbon a year into the atmosphere and that fires contributed 1.5 billion tons annually.

The total is equivalent to 8 percent of all global emissions caused annually by burning fossil fuels, the researchers said.

But, this is the most depressing part of it all.

The government, environmental groups and some of the Netherlands’ “green energy” companies are trying to develop programs to trace the origins of imported palm oil, to certify which operations produce the oil in a responsible manner.

It’s like these people just can’t learn.

The Englishman at An Englishman’s Castle reminds us that yesterday was the Red Letter Day of King Charles the Martyr, marking the 358th anniversary of his execution.

Charles’s statements at his “trial” from The Society of King Charles the Martyr.

“Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the judgement of God upon this land. Think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater … I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it, to answer a new unlawful authority; therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.

“I do stand more for the liberty of my people, than any here that come to be my pretended judges … I do not come here as submitting to the Court … Let me see a legal authority warranted by the Word of God, the Scriptures, or warranted by the constitutions of the Kingdom, and I will answer.

“It is not a slight thing you are about. I am sworn to keep the peace, by that duty I owe to God and my country; and I will do it to the last breath of my body. And therefore ye shall do well to satisfy, first, God, and then the country, by what authority you do it. If you do it by an usurped authority, you cannot answer it; there is a God in Heaven, that will call you, and all that give you power, to account.

“If it were only my own particular case, I would have satisfied myself with the protestation I made the last time I was here, against the legality of the Court, … it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties. For if power without law, may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life, or any thing that he calls his own.

“… It was the liberty, freedom, and laws of the subject that ever I took – defended myself with arms. I never took up arms against the people, but for the laws …

“For the charge, I value it not a rush. It is the liberty of the people of England that I stand for. For me to acknowledge a new Court that I never heard of before, I that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England, for to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws, indeed I do not know how to do it.”

No, Charles was not talking about the European Court of Justice, but I can see where one might get confused.

Edit:  In an interesting piece of trivia, the Virginia Colony, now the Commonwealth of Virginia, was given its nickname of “The Old Dominion” by Charles II because it had remained loyal to Charles I during the English Civil War.  And, anyone who has read David Hackett Fischer’s wonderful book, Albion’s Seed, would not find it surprising that Virginia remained Royalist.

This map has been making the rounds.  (HT Coyote Blog).  The map equates the GDP of various nations with individual states in the U.S.

_pics_2007_countrymap

The map reminds me of a recent study, EU versus USA, done by Swedish researchers Dr. Fredrik Bergström and Mr. Robert Gidehag.  The study compares GDP per capita of European countries with the GDP per capita of individual U.S. states to see where the European countries would fit in the hierarchy of U.S. states.  The study contains this chart.

_pics_2007_euvusa-gdp

It turns out that Sweden, that paragon of Scandinavian socialism would slot in at 46th, right after Alabama and ahead of Oklahoma.  Britain, France, Finland, Germany and Italy would fair a little worse at 47th, between Oklahoma and Arkansas.  With the exception of Luxemburg (a banking sector driven anomaly), the highest EU country would be Ireland at 38th.

The study also compares retail consumption and finds similar results.  82% of U.S. households have a clothes dryer compared to only 18% in Sweden.  I can’t tell you how much my wife loves line drying clothes.

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