Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Tale of Two American Economies

Nouriel Roubini | Nov 18, 2009
From the Globe and Mail:

While the United States recently reported 3.5 per cent GDP growth in the third quarter, suggesting that the most severe recession since the Great Depression is over, the American economy is actually much weaker than official data suggest. In fact, official measures of GDP may grossly overstate growth in the economy, as they don't capture the fact that business sentiment among small firms is abysmal and their output is still falling sharply. Properly corrected for this, third-quarter GDP may have been 2 per cent rather than 3.5 per cent.

The story of the U.S. is, indeed, one of two economies. There is a smaller one that is slowly recovering and a larger one that is still in a deep and persistent downturn.

Consider the following facts. While America's official unemployment rate is already 10.2 per cent, the figure jumps to a whopping 17.5 per cent when discouraged workers and partially employed workers are included. And, while data from firms suggest that job losses in the past three months were about 600,000, household surveys, which include self-employed workers and small entrepreneurs, suggest a number above two million.

Moreover, the total effect on labour income – the product of jobs times hours worked times average hourly wages – has been more severe than that implied by the job losses alone, because many firms are cutting their workers' hours, placing them on furlough or lowering their wages as a way to share the pain.

Many of the lost jobs – in construction, finance, and outsourced manufacturing and services – are gone forever, and recent studies suggest that a quarter of U.S. jobs can be fully outsourced over time to other countries. Thus, a growing proportion of the work force – often below the radar screen of official statistics – is losing hope of finding gainful employment, while the unemployment rate (especially for poor, unskilled workers) will remain high for a much longer period of time than in previous recessions.

Consider also the credit markets. Prime borrowers with good credit scores and investment-grade firms are not experiencing a credit crunch at this point, as the former have access to mortgages and consumer credit while the latter have access to bond and equity markets.

But non-prime borrowers – about one-third of U.S. households – do not have much access to mortgages and credit cards. They live from paycheque to paycheque – often a shrinking paycheque, owing to the decline in hourly wages and hours worked. And the credit crunch for non-investment-grade firms and smaller firms, which rely mostly on access to bank loans rather than capital markets, is still severe.

Or consider bankruptcies and defaults by households and firms. Larger firms – even those with large debt problems – can refinance their excessive liabilities in or out of court, but an unprecedented number of small businesses are going bankrupt. The same holds for households, with millions of weaker and poorer borrowers defaulting on mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, student loans and other consumer credit.

Consider also what is happening to private consumption and retail sales. Recent monthly figures suggest a rise in retail sales. But, because the official statistics capture mostly sales by larger retailers and exclude the fall by hundreds of thousands of smaller stores and businesses that have failed, consumption looks better than it really is.

And, while higher-income and wealthier households have a buffer of savings to smooth consumption and avoid having to increase savings, most lower-income households must save more, as banks and other lenders cut back on home-equity loans and lower limits on credit cards. As a result, the household savings rate has risen from zero to 4 per cent of disposable income. But it must rise further, to 8 per cent, in order to reduce the high leverage of the household sector.

To be sure, the U.S. government is increasing its budget deficits to put a floor under demand. But most state and local governments that have experienced a collapse in tax revenues must sharply retrench spending by firing policemen, teachers and firefighters while also cutting welfare benefits and social services for the poor. Many state and local governments in poorer regions are at risk of bankruptcy without a massive federal bailout.

Moreover, income and wealth inequality is rising again. Poorer households are at greater risk of unemployment, falling wages or reductions in hours worked, all leading to lower labour income, whereas on Wall Street, outrageous bonuses have returned with a vengeance. With the stock market rising and home prices still falling, the wealthy are becoming richer, while the middle class and the poor – whose main wealth is a house rather than equities – are becoming poorer and being saddled with an unsustainable debt burden.

So, while the United States may technically be close to the end of a severe recession, most of America is facing a near-depression. Little wonder, then, that few Americans believe that what walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is actually the phoenix of recovery.

Nouriel Roubini is professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and chairman of RGE Monitor.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Minister of Transportation, Luke Ouellette, has pronounced that Anglin is DANGEROUS!

(Rimbey) November 13, 2009 -- Joe Anglin, the leader of the Lavesta Area has been traveling the province to raise public awareness about the proposed legislation -- Bill 50.

Bill 50 will eliminate and transfer the authority of the Alberta Utilities Commission to the government cabinet, in all transmission line approvals that the cabinet arbitrarily deems is critical or necessary.

Click on the dangerous links below to view Anglin’s Bashaw, AB presentation on Bill 50. Part #2 and #6 debunk the government’s reasons for justifying the bill. Part #7 offers evidence that the government is not being truthful about the issue of export. All viewers are warned to take extra protective measures when watching the videos. It is believed the Minister of Transportation is fearful that the public may be harmed by the TRUTH!

The public and press is welcome to use and post the links as they see fit.

Bill 50 Part 1 Introduction

Bill 50 Part 2 Loss Factors

Bill 50 Part 3 History and Legislation

Bill 50 Part 4 Time has run out!

Bill 50 Part 5 Reliability Issue and HVDC

Bill 50 Part 6 Costs and Bias

Bill 50 Part 7 EXPORT

Bill 50 Part 8 Hypocrisy –What they said

Bill 50 Part 9 The Vision and Plan

Friday, November 13, 2009

Complaint letter to the Alberta Utilities Commission

Joseph V Anglin
Box 346
Rimbey, Alberta T0C 2J0

November 12, 2009

Alberta Utilities Commission
Fifth Avenue Place,
4th Floor, 425 - 1 Street SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 3L8
Phone: (403) 592-UTIL (8845)
Fax: (403) 592-4406

Ref: Complaint

To whom it may concern,
Please accept this written submission as a complaint to the Commission concerning the conduct of Alberta’s Independent System Operator, otherwise known as the Alberta Electric Systems Operator, and/ or AESO. This complaint is being filed in accordance with section 26(1) of theElectric Utilities Act [2003 cE-5.1 s26; 2007 cA-37.2 s82(4)]
The Alberta Electric System Operator in not in compliance with section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act, and the Transmission Regulations. This non-compliance has led to public confusion over the necessity and urgency for approving new transmission infrastructure for the province of Alberta, and the public’s interest. Further, AESO’s non-compliance with the Act and the
regulations have clouded the public’s ability, and our elected officials’ abilities, to make an informed decision about a proposed piece of legislation Bill-50, otherwise known as the “Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009.”
Section 16 the Electric Utilities Act (EUA) or ACT, mandates that AESO MUST exercise its powers and carry out its duties, responsibilities and functions in a timely manner that is fair and responsible to provide for the safe, reliable and economic operation of the interconnected electric system and to promote a fair, efficient and openly competitive market for electricity.
The EUA and the Transmission Regulations, clearly define AESO’s responsibilities, specifically, section 34(1) of the EUA, which mandates that the AESO MUST file a Needs Identification Document (NID), when the Independent System Operator determines that an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system is or may be required to meet the needs
of Alberta.
On May 7, 2004 the AESO submitted to the Energy Utilities Board (EUB) the NID titled “Edmonton - Calgary 500 KV Transmission Development Needs Application.” On May 5, 2005 the EUB issued Decision 2005-031 approving AESO’s “Edmonton - Calgary 500 KV Transmission Development Needs Application.” On September 30, 2007 the EUB reversed its previous decision that approved the “Edmonton - Calgary 500 KV Transmission Development Needs Application.” Dr. Tillman wrote the unanimous decision wherein he stated, “In summary, the Board has determined that the need decision and related review and variance decision and subsequent 500 KV Edmonton to Calgary proposal application are void”
On November 20, 2007 the Alberta Court of Appeal [Appeal number 0601-0345-AC] delivered its judgment in the matter of the Energy Utilities Board (EUB) V. Lavesta, relating to the approval of a Needs Identification Document advanced by the Alberta Electric Systems Operator (AESO) referred to in the previous paragraphs. The Hon. Madame Justice Conrad wrote the
unanimous decision for the three member panel and stated, “The appeals are allowed and the orders and rulings are quashed.” In paragraph #9 of the court’s decision, Justice Conrad stated, “We allow the appeals on the basis of apprehension of bias. We vacate all of the decisions and orders under appeal.”
On or about June 2009, the AESO released its long-term transmission system plan. The plan outlines $16.6 billion of proposed infrastructure projects. Since the plan’s release, AESO has engaged in a public relations campaign, including the creation of a website; “” that suggests that Alberta’s transmission grid has to be urgently
upgraded. On October 1, 2009 I was informed by the AUC’s Executive Director – Facilities, Wade Vienneau, that the AESO has not filed a Needs Identification Document pursuant to section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act, with the board.
On November 5, 2009 The Minister of Energy stated for the record that the AESO has determined critical need for more transmission lines. A copy of the Hansard is printed below for your convenience.
Hansard, Nov 5, 2009

Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Despite what this government claims, the case for massive transmission development is anything buproven. Two professors of economics and engineering at the University of Calgary yesterday put out a scholarly paper stating that the power lines between Edmonton and Calgary, the ones that the government wants to force on Alberta consumers, the ones that the government wants to call critical transmission infrastructure, are “an overbuild that is not warranted by its economics.” In a proper regulatory system, of course, these opinionswould be heard by the regulator and would influence the regulator’s decision. To the Minister of Energy: why do you want to cut experts such
as these out of the regulatory process?

Mr. Knight: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to be clear about one thing, and that is that the government of Alberta did not proclaim anything about critical infrastructure. It’s AESO. AESO is an independent group of about 250 technicians and engineers that have the ability and the resources to determine what is necessary for the electrical transmission
system and the electrical system, generally speaking, in the province of Alberta. I didn’t determine this; AESO determined it

The Electric Utilities Act details an explicit process for determining the approval of a “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system. The AESO has a duty and an obligation to comply with the Electric Utilities Act. It is incumbent upon the AESO to submit a Needs Identification Document (NID) to the Board pursuant to section 34(1) of the
Act, consistent with the Transmission Regulations. Only the Alberta Utilities Commission (the board) has the legislative authority, and is empowered by the Act, to approve a ‘NEED” pursuant to section 34(3). The requirement for the AESO to submit a Needs Identification Document (NID) pursuant to section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act cannot be confused or mistaken with AESO’s obligation to maintain and publish a long-term plan pursuant to section 10(1) of the Transmission
Regulations. The criterion to construct a NID is considerably more complex than a long-term plan, and the dissimilarities of the two documents would not confuse a competent and qualified employee of the AESO or the AUC.
The NID titled “Edmonton - Calgary 500 KV Transmission Development Needs Application” was voided by the EUB and the Alberta Court of Appeal. AESO has not amended and resubmitted the application and to rely upon the application as proof of “NEED” could be viewed as contempt of a Board decision to void the application, and contempt of a ruling by the
Alberta Court of Appeal to void the application. I make this observation not as an accusation but as a matter of grave concern.
Further, section 139(2) of the criminal code embraces the matter of obstruction of justice “in any manner” and is in some ways is a catch all that requires the careful weighing of all circumstances and the drawing of inferences by the competent court trying the offence. That said, intentional deprivation of a party to information to that party’s possible prejudice, or even mere knowledge of withholding of information could support a case for obstruction in a given context. It is for these reasons, I believe the AESO and its employees would not intentionally mislead the Minister of Energy, Mel Knight, or the public into believing that the AESO has complied with section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act and has established an approved “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system. How then can it be that the Minister of Energy is quoted in the record, November 5, 2009 Hansard, stating that the AESO has determined a “NEED”, for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system, when the AESO has not yet complied with its mandate
pursuant to the Electric Utilities Act?
I respectfully submit this matter is extremely important and sensitive. The current debate on transmission lines in the legislature, and in the public, is being conducted while the AESO is not in compliance with the Act. AESO’s non-compliance is fuelling misinformation, and its unintentional consequence is creating a dilemma whereby decisions are being made based on
assumptions and the misinformation that the AESO has obtained an approved “NEED”. Now more than at any other time in recent history, it is imperative that the AUC board and the AESO fulfill their legislative obligations to ensure that accurate information is made available for public consumption to debate the future of the electricity transmission system.
I respectfully request that the board rule pursuant to section 26(3) of the Electric Utilities Act, and order the AESO to change its conduct as follows:
1. The AESO shall submit a Needs Identification Document (NID) pursuant to section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act within the lesser of four hours, or by the end of the business day, on the day of receiving this Board order.
2. Until the AESO submits a Needs Identification Document (NID) pursuant to section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system, the AESO shall cease and desist from making any claims, or from supporting any claims, that a “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system has been approved.
3. Until the AESO submits a Needs Identification Document (NID) pursuant to section 34(1) of the Electric Utilities Act for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system, and the board approves the same; the AESO shall post and maintain on its website a public statement that announces that the AESO has not proved a “NEED” exists, and that the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has not approved a “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system.
The public statement should be announced to the public and the press, not less than but reasonably equal to, and in the same magnitude as the public relations campaign that has misled the public into believing that a “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system has been approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).
4. AESO shall issue an apology to the public, the Minister of Energy, and the government for inadvertently contributing to the misinformation that would have led people to believe the “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system had been determined and approved.
I respectfully submit my complaint and request for a remedy on the basis that the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is the sole legitimate legislative authority for determining and adjudicating the establishment and existence of a “NEED” for an expansion or enhancement of the capability of the transmission system.


Joseph V. Anglin
Lavesta Area Group
(403) 843-3279