ATHENS — In the wealthy, northern suburbs of this city, where summer temperatures often hit the high 90s, just 324 residents checked the box on their tax returns admitting that they owned pools.
So tax investigators studied satellite photos of the area — a sprawling collection of expensive villas tucked behind tall gates — and came back with a decidedly different number: 16,974 pools.
That kind of wholesale lying about assets, and other eye-popping cases that are surfacing in the news media here, points to the staggering breadth of tax dodging that has long been a way of life here.
Such evasion has played a significant role in Greece’s debt crisis, and as the country struggles to get its financial house in order, it is going after tax cheats as never before.
Why have women played such a crucial role in the crisis? To put it simply, they voted overwhelmingly to reject the bail-out package suggested for their country. Almost two in three women – or 62.3 per cent – voted “No in the referendum, a figure higher than their male counterparts.
This is intriguing.
I had assumed that women would be less likely than men to vote No (which serves as a reminder to never assume anything before checking the facts). As a generalisation, women tend to lean towards the status quo in referendums, and to be less risk averse than men.
In the Scottish referendum, for instance, women were significantly less likely to vote for independence than men. According to the biggest study of the results, by Edinburgh University, 56.6 per cent of women voted No compared to 46.8 per cent of men.
Greek premier Alexis Tsipras never expected to win Sunday's referendum on EMU bail-out terms, let alone to preside over a blazing national revolt against foreign control.
He called the snap vote with the expectation - and intention - of losing it. The plan was to put up a good fight, accept honourable defeat, and hand over the keys of the Maximos Mansion, leaving it to others to implement the June 25 "ultimatum" and suffer the opprobrium.
This ultimatum came as a shock to the Greek cabinet. They thought they were on the cusp of a deal, bad though it was. Mr Tsipras had already made the decision to acquiesce to austerity demands, recognizing that Syriza had failed to bring about a debtors' cartel of southern EMU states and had seriously misjudged the mood across the eurozone.
Instead they were confronted with a text from the creditors that upped the ante, demanding a rise in VAT on tourist hotels from 7pc (de facto) to 23pc at a single stroke.
Mike Vincent, a well-completion engineer who teaches the technique to industry workers, said he’s been overwhelmed by the sudden interest in the class. He even had to abandon plans he had been making to spend a week fly-fishing in the Rocky Mountains over the summer. “I’m booked every week teaching refrack classes out to November,” said Vincent, who runs a Denver-based firm called Insight Consulting. “It’s amazing how much passion there is.”
Years of working on traditional wells have shown that they can be restimulated multiple times, Vincent said. In the industry’s lingo, a well that has been blasted five times is a “Cinco de Fraco.” Eight times gets you an “Octofrac.” When done right, the procedure not only boosts the flow of crude, but can also increase the estimate of reserves held in the well. Vincent said it’s common to see oil recovery climb 60 percent or more.
“I’ve seen a well get 10 fracs through the same perfs, and it appears that we’re adding reserves every time,” he said.
In Japan, country club memberships famously went for millions of dollars in the late 1980s. Then, too many courses were built in 1990s and 2000s during a real estate boom. Now the nation faces the question of what to do with its abandoned golf courses.
Meanwhile, Japan’s energy strategy in the aftermath of Fukushima calls for roughly doubling the amount of renewable power sources in the country by 2030. It is already building solar power plants that float on water. Perhaps inevitably, then, the nation has turned to building solar plants on old golf courses.
Last week, Kyocera and its partners announced they had started construction on a 23-megawatt solar plant project located on an old golf course in the Kyoto prefecture. Scheduled to go operational in September 2017, it will generate a little over 26,000 megawatt hours per year, or enough electricity to power approximately 8,100 typical local households. The electricity will be sold to a local utility.
Google’s boldest energy move was an effort known as RE<C, which aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants do. The company announced that Google would help promising technologies mature by investing in start-ups and conducting its own internal R&D. Its aspirational goal: to produce a gigawatt of renewable power more cheaply than a coal-fired plant could, and to achieve this in years, not decades.
Unfortunately, not every Google moon shot leaves Earth orbit. In 2011, the company decided that RE<C was not on track to meet its target and shut down the initiative. The two of us, who worked as engineers on the internal RE<C projects, were then forced to reexamine our assumptions.
That realization prompted us to reconsider the economics of energy. What’s needed, we concluded, are reliable zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over soon—say, within the next 40 years. Let’s face it, businesses won’t make sacrifices and pay more for clean energy based on altruism alone. Instead, we need solutions that appeal to their profit motives. RE
Consider an average U.S. coal or natural gas plant that has been in service for decades; its cost of electricity generation is about 4 to 6 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. Now imagine what it would take for the utility company that owns that plant to decide to shutter it and build a replacement plant using a zero-carbon energy source. The owner would have to factor in the capital investment for construction and continued costs of operation and maintenance—and still make a profit while generating electricity for less than $0.04/kWh to $0.06/kWh.
That’s a tough target to meet. But that’s not the whole story. Although the electricity from a giant coal plant is physically indistinguishable from the electricity from a rooftop solar panel, the value of generated electricity varies. In the marketplace, utility companies pay different prices for electricity, depending on how easily it can be supplied to reliably meet local demand.
“Dispatchable” power, which can be ramped up and down quickly, fetches the highest market price. Distributed power, generated close to the electricity meter, can also be worth more, as it avoids the costs and losses associated with transmission and distribution. Residential customers in the contiguous United States pay from $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh, a significant portion of which pays for transmission and distribution costs. And here we see an opportunity for change. A distributed, dispatchable power source could prompt a switchover if it could undercut those end-user prices, selling electricity for less than $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh in local marketplaces. At such prices, the zero-carbon system would simply be the thrifty choice.
Unfortunately, most of today’s clean generation sources can’t provide power that is both distributed and dispatchable. Solar panels, for example, can be put on every rooftop but can’t provide power if the sun isn’t shining. Yet if we invented a distributed, dispatchable power technology, it could transform the energy marketplace and the roles played by utilities and their customers. Smaller players could generate not only electricity but also profit, buying and selling energy locally from one another at real-time prices. Small operators, with far less infrastructure than a utility company and far more derring-do, might experiment more freely and come up with valuable innovations more quickly.
Similarly, we need competitive energy sources to power industrial facilities, such as fertilizer plants and cement manufacturers. A cement company simply won’t try some new technology to heat its kilns unless it’s going to save money and boost profits. Across the board, we need solutions that don’t require subsidies or government regulations that penalize fossil fuel usage. Of course, anything that makes fossil fuels more expensive, whether it’s pollution limits or an outright tax on carbon emissions, helps competing energy technologies locally. But industry can simply move manufacturing (and emissions) somewhere else. So rather than depend on politicians’ high ideals to drive change, it’s a safer bet to rely on businesses’ self interest: in other words, the bottom line.
In the electricity sector, that bottom line comes down to the difference between the cost of generating electricity and its price. In the United States alone, we’re aiming to replace about 1 terawatt of generation infrastructure over the next 40 years. This won’t happen without a breakthrough energy technology that has a high profit margin. Subsidies may help at first, but only private sector involvement, with eager money-making investors, will lead to rapid adoption of a new technology. Each year’s profits must be sufficient to keep investors happy while also financing the next year’s capital investments. With exponential growth in deployment, businesses could be replacing 30 gigawatts of installed capacity annually by 2040.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Forget Fort Knox or the Federal Reserve. Texas has decided to start keeping its gold holdings within in its own borders. But what makes sense politically in such a sovereignty-loving place is creating a logistical conundrum.
Texas is the only state that owns an actual stockpile of gold, according to public sector and financial industry experts — not just gold futures or investment positions, but approximately 5,600 gold bars worth around $650 million. The holdings, stored at a New York bank, for some harken back to century-old fears about the security of currency not backed by shiny bullion.