Selasa, 26 Juli 2011

Amid dueling debt plans, Obama to address nation...>>> 1 of 8. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)(R) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) discuss U.S. debt reduction talks on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2011. ..>>..Little more than a week before the August 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, Republican and Democratic leaders traded blame in an acrimonious standoff as they pursued separate budget proposals, with no clear path to bring them together.>>>..Senate group offers $3.75 trillion deficit cuts...>>Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, one of the six Democratic and Republican senators who have been working since December on a deficit-reduction plan, said the proposed $3.75 trillion in savings over 10 years contains $1.2 trillion in new revenues....>>>..Analysis: Sticking with nuclear could be costlier Japan option...>>Can Japan afford to go nuclear-power-free? The country's atomic power industry and many big business clients say "No," arguing the step would boost electricity bills and pollution and hasten the hollowing out of Japanese manufacturing...>>>

Analysis: Sticking with nuclear could be costlier Japan option

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/26/us-japan-nuclear-future-idUSTRE76P0CB20110726

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Evacuees from Okuma, in white protective suits, return to Okuma to offer prayers for the victims of March 11's earthquake and tsunami disaster, in Fukushima prefecture July 24, 2011. REUTERS/Kyodo FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN

Evacuees from Okuma, in white protective suits, return to Okuma to offer prayers for the victims of March 11's earthquake and tsunami disaster, in Fukushima prefecture July 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kyodo FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN
TOKYO | Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:34pm EDT
TOKYO (Reuters) - Can Japan afford to go nuclear-power-free? The country's atomic power industry and many big business clients say "No," arguing the step would boost electricity bills and pollution and hasten the hollowing out of Japanese manufacturing.
But the Fukushima nuclear disaster is galvanizing a coalition of safety-conscious voters and future-minded companies who increasingly believe that Japan cannot afford to stick with the status quo if it wants to be globally competitive.
"Japan has a span of about a year to assert itself as a clear leader in clean energy, storage batteries, solar cells. They can compete, but they are no longer the only guys in the global game," said Jesper Koll, director of equities research at JP Morgan in Tokyo.
"This is where government policy helps -- it can create a domestic market that is captive and rich and creates jobs and puts Japan on the map as a global leader."
To be sure, short-term economic pain is in store if utilities, faced with deep public mistrust after the world's worst radiation accident in 25 years, are unable to restart reactors taken off-line for checks.
"We will have real pain for the next one to two years due to the holes opened up by the lack of nuclear energy," said Martin Schulz, an economist at Fujitsu Research Institute. "But the pain is there because of what was done in the past. The moment you focus on future opportunities, it's not so painful anymore."
Even nuclear power proponents acknowledge that their dream of supplying more than 50 percent of electricity from atomic energy by 2030, up from about 30 percent before Fukushima, has been dimmed by the radiation disaster.
More than 70 percent of voters in a Kyodo news agency survey published on Sunday supported Prime Minister Naoto Kan's call last month for a future free of dependence on nuclear power.
The vision has sent shivers through the nexus of political, business and bureaucratic interests dubbed Japan's "nuclear village," which has responded with dire warnings.
"If we completely abandon nuclear power generation ... I think most industries would lose competitiveness and go out of Japan," Masakazu Toyoda, chairman of the quasi-government Institute of Energy Economics, told Reuters.
"But 50 percent might be too much. Twenty-five or 30 percent might be digestible."
Kan has promised a blank-slate review of the 2010 national energy plan and vowed to promote renewable sources such as wind and power with a law that would require utilities to buy electricity from a wide range of sources through generous feed-in-tariffs -- subsidies paid by end-users.
That law, originally conceived as a way to promote renewables as a replacement for fossil fuels rather than nuclear power, looks likely to pass in a week or two. Proponents see the legislation as a welcome step toward moving away from reliance on centralized nuclear power production to a model of dispersed electricity producers linked by a high-tech "Smart Grid."
PRIVATE, LOCAL INITIATIVES
But with the unpopular premier under pressure to keep a promise to resign and the "nuclear village's" tentacles deep in both ruling and opposition camps, experts say the outlook for bolder measures may depend more on private sector and local government initiatives than the corridors of power in Tokyo.
Mobile phone carrier Softbank's charismatic president, Masayoshi Son, has become Japan's most prominent corporate apostle of alternative energy. This month, he launched a clean energy group with 35 of Japan's 47 prefectures keen to get involved in renewable energy projects.
"The vested interests dominate a lot of the political process, but we are seeing a challenge from the local government level," said Rikkyo University professor Andrew DeWit, adding that Son was also attracting interest from a range of companies and non-profits.
Hiroshi Mikitani, president of online retailer Rakuten Inc, has defected from Japan's biggest business lobby, the pro-nuclear Keidanren, out of pique with its opposition to opening the power industry to competition.
Electronics and IT firms are eager to help upgrade Japan's power network to a "Smart Grid" needed to handle an influx of electricity from decentralized, fluctuating power sources such as solar and wind farms and construction firms are eyeing profits from designing and building "Smart Cities."
Reactor maker Toshiba Corp, for one, has said it would increase its focus on renewables and smart grids and in May announced it would buy Swiss smart-meter maker Landis+Gyr.
"The companies are way ahead of the government," said an electronics industry analyst who declined to be identified. "But it would help to have a coherent policy to support what they are doing."
Still, formidable barriers to drastic policy changes remain, including a murky political outlook that makes it hard to predict who will be running the country a month from now.
Japan's massive public debt, already twice the size of its $5 trillion economy, means finding government funds to invest in new technologies and upgrading the power grid will be tough.
"The current strategy to rely on nuclear to replace fossil fuels is a non-starter. Nuclear power is much more expensive than people believed given decommissioning costs, long-term uranium costs and (waste disposal) costs," said Robert Feldman, chief economist at Morgan Stanley MUFG in Tokyo.
"But we can't just snap our fingers and have great energy technology ... We have to orient with a 50-year horizon."

Senate group offers $3.75 trillion deficit cuts

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President Barack Obama (C) conducts a meeting with congressional leadership on deficit reduction in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, July 14, 2011. Pictured with Obama are House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (L), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). REUTERS/Jason Reed
WASHINGTON | Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:11pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday revived an ambitious budget plan that could provide new ideas for breaking the impasse in Congress over raising the nation's credit limit by August 2.
President Barack Obama threw his support behind the proposal by the "Gang of Six" senators, saying it was broadly consistent with his approach on reducing debt and deficits.
Obama urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a fellow Democrat, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to start "talking turkey" about it.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, one of the six Democratic and Republican senators who have been working since December on a deficit-reduction plan, said the proposed $3.75 trillion in savings over 10 years contains $1.2 trillion in new revenues.
The group briefed about half of the 100-member Senate and "the response was very favorable," Conrad told reporters.
He said the group asked fellow senators to take 24 hours to look at the proposal and "report back to us."
According to an executive summary of the plan, it would immediately impose $500 billion in deficit cuts, cut security and non-security spending over 10 years with spending caps, make the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs operate more efficiently and abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax.
Asked whether the plan could become part of urgent negotiations that link deficit reduction to raising the U.S. government's borrowing authority by August 2, Conrad said: "Could the two get married? Could they get combined at some point? I'm sure that's possible."
But leaders must first find out whether the proposal has enough support in the Senate, he said.
But a senior Senate Democratic aide said, for now, "there are no discussions" on incorporating Gang of Six ideas into legislation to raise the debt limit beyond $14.3 trillion.
TAXES AT ISSUE
Conrad was quick to say that while there are $1.2 trillion in new revenues, the overall plan envisions a $1.5 trillion tax cut that would be achieved through broad tax reforms.
Most Republicans, especially Tea Party members in the House of Representatives, have vowed to block any revenue increases.
The Senate group's hope has been that if the three conservative Republican members embrace revenue increases, the idea could catch fire among other Republicans in the Senate and House -- especially if popular but expensive entitlement programs such as Medicare also shoulder some cuts.
In another politically risky move, the Gang of Six plan would achieve significant savings in healthcare programs, Conrad said. The specific spending cuts would be decided later by congressional committees.
Conrad said a separate measure would reform the Social Security retirement program to stabilize its finances for the next 75 years.
The effort got a boost as conservative Republican Senator Tom Coburn rejoined the group after taking a "sabbatical" in mid-May amid heavy disagreement over Medicare spending cuts. It was not yet clear how Coburn's concerns have since been addressed.
On Monday, Coburn unveiled his own plan to cut $9 trillion in deficits over a decade, including nearly $1 trillion in revenue increases.
Revenue proposals are not likely to include income tax rate increases. Instead, they could center on repealing or rolling back special tax favors such as those for ethanol blenders and companies that operate corporate jets, as well as preferential tax treatment for fund managers.
Those specific decisions likely would be up to House and Senate tax-writing committees, along with broader tax reform questions.
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)

Amid dueling debt plans, Obama to address nation

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/25/us-usa-debt-idUSTRE7646S620110725

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1 of 8. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)(R) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) discuss U.S. debt reduction talks on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed
WASHINGTON | Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:21pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. lawmakers dueled with diverging debt plans on Monday that offered little compromise and raised the threat of a ratings downgrade and national default as President Barack Obama prepared to address Americans on the impasse.
Little more than a week before the August 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, Republican and Democratic leaders traded blame in an acrimonious standoff as they pursued separate budget proposals, with no clear path to bring them together.
The stalemate rattled investors worldwide, sending stocks and the dollar down and pushing gold to a record high, but falling far short of the panicky sell-off that some politicians in Washington had feared after weekend talks broke down.
Raising the stakes and seeking to seize back control of the debate, the White House said Obama would address the nation at 9 p.m. EDT about "avoiding default and the best approach to cutting deficits."
While administration officials have called a U.S. government default -- it would be the first in history -- "unthinkable," the showdown risks badly denting the image in global markets of the world's largest economy and only superpower, and threatening its recovery from recession.
Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled details of a two-stage deficit reduction plan that would start with an initial $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years. Obama is sure to oppose it because it would raise the debt limit for only a few months, something he has said he will not agree to.
Obama's Democrats presented their plan for $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade but with a debt limit hike that would carry through the November 2012 elections, when Obama and many lawmakers are up for re-election.
Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner dismissed the Democratic plan as "full of gimmicks." Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid insisted "extremists" within the Republican Party must not be allowed to dictate the outcome of the debt impasse.
Neither plan may be enough to avert a downgrade by ratings agency S&P, which has indicated it wants to see a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan over 10 years. Critics said both sides appeared more interested in scoring political points than forging compromise.
With markets increasingly focused more on the risk of a damaging cut in U.S. Treasury bonds than on the prospects for an unprecedented federal default, the stage was set for growing investor alarm if the stalemate goes down to the wire.
"PLAYING WITH FIRE"
"They are playing with fire and they could well be burned. No compromise would put us in unknown and dangerous territory at a very delicate moment for the world economy," said Carlos Vegh, economics professor at the University of Maryland.
 Joining a growing chorus of global concern, the International Monetary Fund urged swift U.S. action on its debt to avert broad negative fallout.
Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC said it saw a long-term U.S. debt problem and Ng Kok Song, GIC's group chief investment officer, said it was not simply a question of whether Congress was able to lift the borrowing ceiling in time, the Straits Times newspaper reported.
A lower credit rating could raise borrowing costs not only for the U.S. government but also for other countries, companies and consumers because U.S. Treasuries are the benchmark by which many loans are measured.
Obama and congressional leaders have tried to reassure global markets that the country will be able to service its debt and meet other obligations after August 2, when the United States will run out of money to pay all of its bills.
Should the impasse in Congress prove unbreakable for raising the debt ceiling, some legal scholars say Obama still has a constitutional escape hatch at his disposal, although he has expressed reluctance to resort to it.
He could bypass lawmakers and invoke a little-known clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the United States' public debt "shall not be questioned."
Boehner's plan would raise the debt limit in stages, forcing Congress to confront the politically painful issue again before the November 2012 election.
It proposes $1.2 trillion in spending over 10 years while providing a short-term, $1 trillion increase in the government's borrowing limit. It includes no tax hikes.
"It would be irresponsible for the president to veto this legislation," Boehner told reporters.
DOUBTS OVER VOTE SUPPORT FOR PLANS
But Boehner has had trouble roping in Tea Party-aligned Republicans who have been leery of any compromise after the fiscally conservative movement helped the party win control of the House in last November's elections.
"I vote no," said Republican Representative Todd Akin after being briefed on the Boehner plan. Another Republican representative, Jim Jordan, who leads a bloc of 178 House conservatives, said he would not support Boehner's plan.
Reid laid out a $2.7 trillion spending-cut plan that includes savings from domestic and defense programs and would provide borrowing authority to meet needs through 2012. It would include $1.2 trillion in savings that Democrats say Republicans already had agreed to.
The White House quickly endorsed Reid's approach and told the Republicans the "the ball is in their court."
In the Senate, Reid needs at least 7 Republican votes to advance his bill, and some liberal Democrats may decide that it gives too much away.
Reid's plan amounts to a substantial concession, as it includes no tax increases and calls for cuts to discretionary spending that Democrats had initially resisted. But it shields cherished programs like the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly and disabled and the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Caren Bohan, Alister Bull, Laura MacInnis, Deborah Charles, Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in Washington, Ryan Vlastelica in New York, Emily Kaiser in Singapore, Yoo Choonsik in Seoul; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Pascal Fletcher)

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