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Senate Confirms Dan Brouillette to Lead Energy Department



WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday confirmed Dan Brouillette, a former lobbyist for Ford Motor Company, to be President Trump’s second secretary of energy, replacing Rick Perry, who has become embroiled in the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump.

Senators voted 70 to 15 in favor of Mr. Brouillette’s confirmation. Several Democrats including Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois joined Republicans in approving him.

Since 2017 Mr. Brouillette has been Mr. Perry’s second-in-command at the Department of Energy. He has pressed the Trump administration’s policy of “energy dominance,” which includes the rapid expansion oil and gas drilling and a bolstering of American fossil fuel exports.

“I’m proud to have been a small part of the incredible success we have seen in American energy,” Mr. Brouillette told lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearing in November.

While Mr. Brouillette sailed through a confirmation vote before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month, lawmakers on Monday criticized him for not answering questions about Mr. Perry’s dealings in Ukraine.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said Monday that Mr. Brouillette “failed to provide substantive answers to key questions about Mr. Perry’s dealings.” He called Mr. Brouillette’s lack of response a “full court stonewall.”

Other Democrats came to Mr. Brouillette’s defense.

“He’s up to this enormous task. He’s a good man,” Mr. Manchin said.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, praised both Mr. Perry and Mr. Brouillette. He said he hopes to see continued funding increases for Energy Department research centers such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in his state.

“He understands the important work being done there,” Mr. Alexander said.

Mr. Brouillette has promised to fight for the Department of Energy’s budget, even though the administration in the past has proposed cutting some agency programs by more than half and eliminating key research and development programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The bulk of the department’s budget goes to nuclear weapons research, development, maintenance and cleanup.

He also has walked a fine line on climate change. Mr. Brouillette has described planetary warming as “something we need to work on” but has questioned the scientific consensus that climate change poses a serious threat. He has promoted statistics that show American emissions have fallen 13 percent since 2005, but he also is a critic of the Paris Agreement, a pledge among nearly every nation to curb emissions that Mr. Trump intends to abandon next November.

Mr. Brouillette has argued that reductions of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are being nullified by rising emissions in China.

In replacing Mr. Perry, Mr. Brouillette becomes the latest lobbyist and seasoned second-in-command to take over for an embattled, higher-profile cabinet secretary.

Last year Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who worked as the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Scott Pruitt, took the helm when Mr. Pruitt resigned amid ethics scandals. David Bernhardt, an oil and gas lobbyist, served as deputy to Ryan Zinke, Mr. Trump’s first secretary of the Interior Department, then assumed the top position when Mr. Zinke departed, also facing ethics investigations.

Mr. Perry, a former Texas governor who once embraced abolishing the Energy Department, has largely avoided scandal, and Mr. Trump has at various times reportedly considered him for other high-profile posts in the administration. Mr. Perry has returned the admiration, saying recently that Mr. Trump was “ordained by God” to lead the country.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Perry has emerged as a player in the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, facing scrutiny over his role in promoting energy exports to Ukraine and whether he was involved in the withholding of military aid to the country.

Sunday was Mr. Perry’s final day in office, and he released a farewell video saying his service as energy secretary had been a “wonderful, fabulous trip.” He applauded his country’s status as the world’s top oil and gas producer.

Before becoming deputy energy secretary, Mr. Brouillette was chief of staff to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was assistant secretary of energy for congressional and intergovernmental affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

He also worked as an executive at the United Services Automobile Association, a financial services provider to members of the military, and Ford Motor Company. He once was a member of Louisiana’s State Mineral and Energy Board.

Mr. Brouillette is a Louisiana native and a graduate of the University of Maryland. He and his wife, Adrienne, are United States Army veterans and longtime Republican donors. According to, a website that tracks money in politics, Mr. Brouillette and his wife gave $30,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2012 and more than $50,000 to Republican candidates, including Mr. Perry, between 2005 and 2016.

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Airport van service SuperShuttle going out of business at the end of the year




LOS ANGELES — SuperShuttle, the shared van service that has carried passengers to and from airports across the U.S. and in Latin America, Canada, Europe and Asia, is going out of business, according to a newspaper report Thursday.

A letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times from the company to a Los Angeles-area franchisee says: “SuperShuttle plans to honor all reservations and walk-up requests for service” through Dec. 31.

Founded in 1983 to serve Los Angeles International Airport, SuperShuttle has lost ground to competitors such as Uber and Lyft. In recent weeks it has pulled out of airports serving many cities, including Phoenix, Baltimore and Minneapolis, the Times said.

Attempts by the newspaper to reach Mark Friedman, identified as general manager in the letter’s signature line, were unsuccessful Thursday. SuperShuttle executives could also not be reached for official comment. But two SuperShuttle reservations agents reached by telephone confirmed to the Times that the company was going out of business, as did a company executive who was not authorized to speak publicly.

SuperShuttle is one of the few services that can still pick up riders curbside at LAX after the airport’s recent changes to help ease congestion. In November, Lyft, Uber and taxis were relegated to a pickup lot next to Terminal 1. Travelers can either walk to the lot or wait for an airport shuttle to ferry them.

The letter to the franchisee cited “a variety of factors” for the company’s closure, “including increasing costs and changes in the competitive and regulatory landscape” that “have called into question the economic and operational viability of the company’s operations.”

The company stopped operations at Hollywood Burbank Airport at the end of November, terminating the contract with the airport’s authority, airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf wrote in an email Thursday.

SuperShuttle is owned by an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital Holdings, a private investment firm based in Bethesda, Maryland, court documents show. Blackstreet describes itself as specializing in acquiring small or mid-size firms “that are in out-of-favor industries or are undergoing some form of transition.”


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Japan vs. China : Why does Japan see China as a threat not as an opportunity?h

China and Japan are two vastly different countries with a difficult past and history with each other. Both are super powers in Asia, but are very different in almost every way imaginable.

In geopolitical terms China is a nightmare for Japan.

China occupies the whole continental East Asia and puts Japan in a corner. Imagine a Europe in which France, Germany, Italy, Benelux get united and leave only Britain outside. Britain will have no chance to bargain or influence the continental Europe (what is happening now).

Historically Japan’s strategy was to block, undercut, or keep China divided so much as possible.

In 1905 after the first Sino-Japanese war Japan demanded the annexation of Liaodong Peninsula, which would block the whole Chinese northern plains and broke the barrier of the Bohai sea, which otherwise was a Chinese domestic lagoon. This was found by the Western powers to be too much, under whose pressure Japan exchanged Liaodong for Taiwan, which in its term would block the Yangtze estuary, the most prosperous region of China.

During 1912 – 1931 Japan tried all its best to keep China divided under several equally strong warlords and keep them kill each other.

In 1931 Japan found Manchurian warlord was launching a very promising industrialization program, it annexed Manchuria.

In the following years it encouraged the splitting of North China and Inner Mongolia.

In 1937 Japan sensed that China’s Yangtze Delta was experiencing a boom of economy, it started the second Sino-Japanese war.

Eventually due to a series of misstep, the China adventure landed Japan in a disaster.

Up to 2001 China’s WTO entry ; Japan has an informal investment ban on China. On several occasions Chinese side sought the industrial co-operations from Japan, which were categorically rejected. At the same time Japan provided a huge amount of Overseas Development Aide to China, only to encourage China to stay in raw materials, timber, and agricultural goods production (for which many Japanese think even today that China should be thankful).

But since the economic crisis of 1997 when the Japanese business in Southeastern Asia was flattened, the rise of China as a manufacturing hub has become inevitable. Most Japanese companies entered China reluctantly only when they realized that, if they stayed out, they would be rolled over by the bus. But when they came to China, the Chinese market was largely occupied by other developed countries, mainly the Europeans, later also the Americans.

Until today China is the largest overseas automobile market for Germany, France, and the US. German VW, French Citroën, and American Buick, which are hardly seen elsewhere Asia, are ubiquitous in Chinese cities. China’s market is the major reason that German VW has become the largest automobile manufacturer of the world since 2016.


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Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ opens door to economic renewal–and risks




Europe is taking a green gamble for its economy. The European Commission unveiled a plan this week to put its economy in line with the needs of the planet by imposing stricter caps on greenhouse emissions, changing taxation and creating new rules for companies.

With a target of being climate-neutral by 2050, Europe may
even change how it taxes trade with states that don’t meet its new green

If the so-called Green Deal works, advocates say investment
could deliver the kind of transformation not seen for half a century. But there
are risks it stumbles below lofty targets, or even raises uncertainty, costs
and trade tensions.

In its plans to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions, the commission said an extra €260 billion ($290 billion) in
investment will be needed every year. That would be a significant boost,
equivalent to 1.5 percent of 2018 economic output.

With euro-area growth and inflation stuck in a low gear, it’s
the kind of systemic rethink that could change the economy’s course. Plus,
record-low interest rates provide an opportune moment for massive investment.

Yet, it’s not that simple. Changes to regulation and taxes
will steer spending away from some industries. Jobs will likely be lost in some
areas, with no simple transfer of workers to new sectors.

The key will be whether governments get on with structural
reforms, particularly education and training so that workers can quickly retool
with the necessary skills.

“In the short term we should expect it to be a headwind to
growth,” said Societe Generale Chief Economist Michala Marcussen. “But that’s
not to say we shouldn’t do it because the alternative of kicking the climate
change can down the road is that the cost to GDP will far outstrip any
short-term costs today.”

The climate plan could allow for a change to fiscal rules so
states can unleash the kind of public investment the European Central Bank has
championed. The commission said it will look at “green public investment in the
context of the quality of public finance.”

However, the chance of a dramatic step, such as excluding
green spending from deficit and debt calculations, seems unlikely. The document
also noted the need for “safeguards against risks to debt sustainability.”

All of that will happen in a review by the commission and EU

“It’s postponing this decision, watering it down into a
bureaucratic procedure. So basically, nothing is going to happen soon,” said
Simone Tagliapietra, a research fellow at Bruegel.

With limited and uncertain margins of public finances, the
key may be the private sector. Bloomberg Economics estimates that the
additional annual investment to meet emission targets may be more like €400
billion a year, far higher than the EU estimates.

“Where will the money come from? As things stand, the
spending commitments by EU leaders seem tiny relative to the scale of the task,
placing a significant burden on the private sector to do the heavy lifting.
That’s a risky approach,” said Bloomberg’s economists Maeva Cousin and Jamie

To stand any chance of getting the level of investment needed, the EU will have to provide better visibility on regulation and carbon pricing. To that end, the promise of a climate law is crucial. For a sign of how uncertainty crimps investment, one need only look at the UK and Brexit, where business spending has fallen in six of the last seven quarters.“There is macroeconomic potential that can be favorable,” said Jean Pisani-Ferry, visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But it’s not clear it’s possible to mobilize it if we are not credible.”

Trade tensions

One of the most eye-catching shifts from the commission was
opening the door to a “carbon border adjustment mechanism.” That could consist
of taxes on imported products that do not meet the same stringent criteria as
those made in Europe.

The idea is to prevent companies outsourcing production to
avoid financial penalties, particularly to countries that, as the EU puts it,
“do not share the same ambition” on climate change. Without such a tool,
efforts to reduce emissions could come to nothing.

But such mechanisms could also be seen as protectionist. If any tariffs were to hit US goods, that probably wouldn’t go down well with Donald Trump, who’s already pulling out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.“It’s probably the most controversial thing because if the EU starts doing it then there might be a retaliation from other countries,” said BNP Paribas economist Raymond Van Der Putten. (Bloomberg)


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