Day: August 29, 2023

Government: Hungary remains GMO-free 

The Hungarian government is not planning to change its strategy of keeping the country’s agriculture free of GMOs, the agriculture ministry said on Thursday, noting that the European Union had started negotiations on the regulation of new genetic technologies (NGT).

According to a draft published by the European Commission last week, produce created using NGT would fall into two categories, the first of which would no longer be governed by current GMO regulations, the ministry said, adding that in the absence of any prior risk assessment, labelling or monitoring, organisms may enter the environment. As for the second category, licensing procedures would be made much easier, “with far less data and impact analyses than that which apply to existing GMO“. Moreover, in the case of some organisms, “follow up would be absent and any harmful effects would never be assessed.”

Read the full text here

Outdated rules create inflated costs for consumers at DCA

It’s not a great time to fly. According to the consumer price index for airfare, ticket prices are at an all-time high after jumping 25% this summer. Airlines are grappling with fuel price hikes (up 150%), staffing shortages, increases in labor expenses (up 19%), and burdensome debt accrued during the pandemic — all of which have a negative spillover effect on price points for passengers.

Although demand for air travel has come back strong, airlines are finding it difficult to meet the needs of consumers when it comes to flight costs and destination spots. Removing any unnecessary added expense or barrier to flying is more important now than ever.

Consumers should have access to the airports most conducive to their pocketbooks and travel plans, and it is for these reasons that the Direct Capital Access Act is being proposed for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

DCA is the only airport that is required to abide by what’s known as the “perimeter rule,” which limits inbound and outbound nonstop flights to a 1,250-mile radius. DCA must also adhere to a “slot rule,” which only two other airports, LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, must follow. The slot rule requires flights to have a reservation for takeoff or landing, and “slots” at DCA are capped at just 60 per hour. 

The Direct Capital Access Act aims to eliminate these rules, and below are some considerations for why.

Irrelevant rules

DCA has been operating since 1941, and in those early years, both the perimeter and slot rules made perfect sense. Airplanes required more runway space, they had significantly longer takeoff and landing times, and the noise was of concern to surrounding neighborhoods. That’s in part why Dulles International Airport was established in 1962, to alleviate air traffic to DCA and accommodate international aircraft flying greater distances.

Throughout the 1960s, the perimeter and slot rules for DCA served a purpose from an operational standpoint and had the added benefit of helping to develop a market for the newly established Dulles option.

Times change, and so has the business of air travel. According to a recent analysis by the American Action Forum, density concerns and flight capabilities have evolved and improved dramatically since then, so consumers should be able to capitalize on these advancements.

Passenger preference

Instead of being able to fly into DCA, many consumers must fly to Dulles or Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and spend extra time and expense for ground transport to get to where they really want to go. As for those able to secure a DCA direct flight, upfront costs for tickets are high due to supply and demand pressures.

The added expense for DCA, however, is competitively countered by airport convenience. DCA offers quick and easy access to ground transportation from the gates and is in an optimal location for heading to Capitol Hill or downtown Washington. Yet only those with the financial means to do so can take advantage of the benefits of DCA has to offer.

Airline arguments

Removing the perimeter and slot rules for DCA is not only of interest to consumers but also to airlines. Delta Air Lines is a proponent of the bill, asserting that it would meet the needs of consumers, and other advocates for the bill claim it would increase competition, reduce ticket costs, and generate new job opportunities for the metropolitan region.

In opposition to Delta’s stance is United Airlines. United has a vested interest in passengers being directed to Dulles because it unofficially owns that airport. Dulles is referred to as a “fortress hub” for United flights since United controls 70% of the gates.

Not to be left out of the DCA debate is American Airlines. American has preestablished designated slots at DCA, and given that there is a “use it or lose it” approach to reservations, some of American’s connecting flights are routed to DCA simply to safeguard slots.

If the slot and perimeter rules were to be removed, it is likely that passengers flying into DCA would actually be staying in the metropolitan region and flight patterns could be used more efficiently.

As rightly noted by Stephen Kent at the Consumer Choice Center, “Travel can be stressful enough as it is for consumers without artificially imposed barriers to efficiency and competition in the Washington, D.C. market.”

Washington, D.C., is the most expensive location for domestic flights. By removing the pernicious perimeter rule, consumers could save substantially on flight costs, and by scrapping the slot rule, our nation’s capital could become a more accessible destination rather than a pit stop for connecting flights.

We’ve come a long way since the first flight in 1903, and if aircraft can advance as rapidly as it has, so too should the operations and stipulations of the airports that serve those taking to the skies.

Originally published here

Biden’s Department of Energy doesn’t know what will save Virginians money

In the first weeks of 2022, it came time to replace a number of appliances in our Manassas, Virginia home.

The attic’s insulation was no longer effective and the AC/heating system was struggling to push air into every room.

Thanks to a detail-focused handyman, we also learned that the water heater was in dire need of replacement.

HVAC repair was enough to bust whatever budget we had in mind for home repairs to get us through winter, and the subject of also buying a water heater was insult atop injury.

We considered our options and financed a new $800 water heater and far more expensive HVAC system at 9.99% interest over a 12-month period.

Like everyday consumers across America, my wife and I have the most intimate understanding of our finances and the conflicting priorities within our monthly budget.

Does Joe Biden’s administration and his Department of Energy under Jennifer Granholm, presume to know what was best for us when we needed new home appliances?

In July, Biden’s DOE released new proposed energy-efficiency standards for water heaters, following a contentious few months of defending their intent to restrict consumer’s use of gas range stoves.

The administration both defended its policy while simultaneously claiming the coming restrictions were pure fiction dreamed up by their opponents in Congress.

Come 2029, these regulations would mandate that new boiler installations employ electric heat pumps. These heat pumps draw warmth from the surrounding air to heat water, as opposed to internally heating the water.

The standards for traditional gas-fired water heaters will be tightened, with the inevitable effect of increased costs.

The economics of this are quite simple. Heat pump water heaters are more energy-efficient machines because they take in surrounding heat rather than having to create every bit of heat from nothing.

Consumers stand to save several hundred dollars per year on a heat pump system. The Biden administration and its environmentalist hawks favor pumps because they produce less emissions than gas boilers.

The problem is that heat pump water heaters are more expensive, sitting anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 upfront for the device — whereas conventional gas heaters are usually only $500 to $1,000.

In a perfect world, consumers would think long-term about every expenditure and investment they make. But since we live in the real world, people are just trying to get to tomorrow.

Collectively, Americans now owe over $1 trillion in credit card debt, led primarily by credit card balances.

Virginia is in the top 10 nationwide, with the average Virginian needing at least 13 months to pay down their balances, according to a study by WalletHub.

A lot of us are spending money we don’t have, and it’s gotten so bad during this period of high inflation that even groceries are being purchased on credit in record numbers. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone, I’ve been there.

If you’re debt-free or financially secure, the DOE rules which would force you toward a more expensive and efficient water heater will not seem like a big deal.

If you’re like the millions of Americans treading water due to the rising costs of living, that water heater will more than likely go onto your credit card tab. With credit card delinquency rates rising, any savings from energy efficiency will disappear.

The ugly thing about making big purchases on credit is that you’re gambling on nothing else bad happening in the no-interest period of the debt. In our case, go figure, more bad stuff happened. Fifteen months later we’re still paying for that financed water heater and sorting through the accumulated interest.

The White House has recycled DOE Secretary Granholm’s talking point about consumers saving around $1,000 over the lifetime of the heat pump water heaters, but don’t be surprised if they quietly walk back the projected consumer savings like just happened with the Department of Energy’s report on gas stove regulations.

Regardless of whether one device or another saves my family money month to month by being more energy-efficient, regulators don’t know what’s going on in my life or my bank account.

Consumers will buy the products they need when they need them and in the case of expensive appliances, that probably just means adding to their debt. Consumers truly save money when they can afford the products they buy and get to choose from a wide range of appliances on the market.

We’ll manage our home, Secretary Granholm, you manage yours.

Originally published here

Neue Studie: Von Deutschlands Fehlern lernen – Energiesicherheit in der Schweiz

Das Consumer Choice Center (CCC), eine globale Konsumentenorganisation, hat seine neueste Policy Note zur Energiesicherheit in der Schweiz veröffentlicht. Die Arbeit wurde von Fred Roeder, Emil Panzaru, Frederic Jollien, Bill Wirtz und Luca Bertoletti verfasst und betont die Bedeutung von Technologieneutralität und Offenheit in der Energiepolitik.

Laut der Studie ist es anmassend und ineffektiv, konkrete Ziele zur schrittweisen Abschaffung bestimmter Energiequellen festzulegen. Stattdessen argumentieren die Autoren, dass technologische Innovationen und die Wahlmöglichkeiten der Konsumenten, die Schlüssellösungen sind, um sowohl die Energieversorgungssicherheit als auch die Nutzung vielversprechender und kosteneffizienter Energiequellen sicherzustellen. Deutschlands gescheiterte und kostspielige Energiewende sollte eine Warnung für den Standort Schweiz sein.

Roeder betont, dass Politiker aufhören sollten, fossile Brennstoffe für Autos, Heizsysteme und die Kernenergie verbieten zu wollen. Er empfiehlt, die Entscheidung zur Abschaltung der verbleibenden vier Atomreaktoren in der Schweiz rückgängig zu machen und Bewilligungen für neue Kernkraftwerke zu erteilen. Ausserdem wird die Unterstützung vielversprechender Durchbrüche in der Kernenergie, wie beispielsweise kleiner modulare Reaktoren, gefordert.

Read the full text here

Banning plastic food packaging would be a second big plastics mistake

Much has been made of the federal government’s ban of single-use plastics like straws, takeout containers, grocery bags and cutlery. Though environmentalists claim it was a significant win for the environment, the evidence suggests it will be a net environmental negative in the long run. Not to mention that it will increase the hospitality sector’s costs as it switches to more expensive alternatives. In sum, the ban amounted to symbolic policy, driven more by uninformed perception than reality.

Unfortunately, Ottawa has now set its sights on a new target for regulation: plastic food packaging. Earlier this month, the federal government opened consultations on food packaging waste, with the ultimate goal of having Canada “move toward zero plastic waste.” But if Ottawa introduces a ban, as it did with single-use plastics, it will create a world of hurt for Canadian consumers and ultimately do more harm than good when it comes to protecting the environment.

Scratching beneath the surface of a prospective ban reveals that plastic food packaging is often the most environmentally friendly option. A study publishedin the journal Environmental Science & Technology concluded that “When comparing the relative environmental impacts of single-use glass and plastic, plastic has been shown to be significantly better in terms of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and multiple other environmental impact categories.”

How much better for the environment is plastic than glass? Researchers in Switzerland, looking at baby-food containers, concluded using plastic rather than glass reduced emissions by up to 33 per cent due in part to its lighter weight and lower transportation costs. That same metric applies to almost all food that needs to be stored in airtight packaging. It’s obviously hard to effectively package food items like baby food in paper or bamboo alternatives.

Not only is plastic better from an emissions standpoint, it is often the superior option for reducing food waste. Compared to the alternatives, including no packaging, plastic does a significantly better job of keeping food whole and fresh and extending its shelf life. Research on this issue suggests spoiled or damaged food may have a significantly higher impact on the environment than the type of packaging the product comes in. How? Food production generates emissions. Eliminating plastic food packaging would increase the volume of food that spoils, which means more food would have to be produced, transported, refrigerated and put on grocery store shelves. All of which generates additional emissions.

A shift away from plastic food packaging would also drive up costs for consumers. When asked about the impact of Ottawa’s proposed shift on food packaging Dalhousie University’s Sylvain Charlebois explained “My guess is that it will compromise our food affordability. Any alternative solutions will cost more money.” Right now, of course, the last thing Canadians need is higher food costs: food prices in July were up 8.5 per cent over a year ago. Does Ottawa really want to add more fuel to the food inflation fire?

The federal government is repeating the same mistakes it made with its first plastic ban. Yes, banning plastic food packaging will likely reduce the total amount of plastic waste generated in Canada. If that’s all you care about, then this policy is a win. But if you also care about total greenhouse gas emissions, food waste, food availability and, most importantly, food affordability, a ban on plastic food packaging would be a nightmare.

Originally published here


L’Europe a choisi de ne pas devenir le marché mondial pour les produits et services innovants, préférant devenir le terrain de jeu ultime des restrictions bureaucratiques. 

Récemment, le commissaire européen au Marché intérieur s’est rendu à San Francisco avec une importante délégation de bureaucrates. Sa mission : s’attaquer de front aux grandes entreprises technologiques américaines.

Le rôle important de Thierry Breton – ancien PDG de France Télécom et d’Atos, entre autres, mais aussi ex-ministre de l’Economie sous Jacques Chirac – au sein de l’organe exécutif de l’UE consiste à superviser le commerce dans le système du marché unique européen, qui compte près de 500 millions de consommateurs et de citoyens. Ce rôle lui confère un pouvoir considérable. Quel autre homme politique européen pourrait organiser des réunions avec Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg et Sam Altman en une seule journée ?

Bien que le mandat de M. Breton soit assez vaste – il couvre tous les domaines, du haut débit aux plateformes en ligne, en passant par le changement climatique –, son objectif à San Francisco était de rencontrer des géants de la technologie et des PDG américains afin de les préparer à l’application imminente de la loi sur les services numériques (Digital Services Act, DSA), une loi européenne globale destinée à créer un « espace numérique plus sûr » pour les Européens. Cette loi entrera en vigueur à la fin de ce mois d’août et imposera des dizaines de nouvelles obligations aux sociétés de l’Internet qui souhaitent servir des utilisateurs dans l’Union européenne.

Cette législation sur les services numériques pourrait être décrite comme le modèle réglementaire européen pour les grandes entreprises technologiques et l’Internet. Le seul problème est qu’une infime partie des entreprises visées par la loi sur les services numériques pour des restrictions ou des réglementations sont basées dans l’UE. Sur les 17 entreprises désignées comme « très grandes plateformes en ligne » par la loi – ce qui signifie qu’elles seront soumises à la réglementation et aux règles les plus contraignantes – une seule est basée en Europe : Il s’agit de Zalando, un commerce de mode en ligne.

La responsabilité des autres

Les autres viennent principalement… vous l’avez deviné… des Etats-Unis. Il s’agit d’entreprises telles que Meta, Twitter, Google, Snapchat et Amazon, mais aussi d’entreprises chinoises telles que TikTok et Alibaba.

Le DSA met en œuvre une série de restrictions et de règles étendues qui vont bien au-delà de toute réglementation américaine sur ces groupes : des limites sévères sur la publicité ciblée, une modération plus diligente des contenus pour supprimer ce que l’UE considère comme des contenus « illégaux », des protocoles pour éliminer la « désinformation », et bien d’autres choses encore.

Si l’on considère à quel point les grandes entreprises numériques ont été contraintes de censurer les utilisateurs pour apaiser les régulateurs aux Etats-Unis, la situation ne fera qu’empirer à l’étranger. Si les principaux objectifs du DSA sont bien intentionnés – préserver la vie privée des consommateurs et protéger les mineurs – la manière dont ces dispositions sont appliquées ou interprétées devrait préoccuper tous ceux d’entre nous qui croient en un web ouvert.

Tout d’abord, la désinformation et les contenus illégaux sont soumis à la responsabilité des plateformes.

Aux Etats-Unis, la section 230 du Communications Act de 1934 exempte les plateformes de toute responsabilité à l’égard des messages publiés par les utilisateurs. En Europe, toutes les grandes plateformes en ligne seront obligées de contrôler instantanément leurs utilisateurs ou de s’exposer à des sanctions sévères, tout en étant confrontées à des questions impossibles à résoudre. Les plateformes décideront-elles de ce qu’est la désinformation ou les gouvernements fourniront-ils des exemples ? Que se passera-t-il si un gouvernement se trompe, comme dans les premiers jours du Covid ? Ou s’il a des intentions plus malveillantes, comme dans les sociétés de surveillance non libres ?

« Réglementer d’abord, innover ensuite »

En l’absence d’une protection de la liberté d’expression comparable au premier amendement américain sur le continent européen, nous savons que les demandes de censure des fonctionnaires européens engloutiront bientôt des budgets entiers d’entreprises technologiques pour s’y conformer, de l’argent qui serait autrement utilisé pour apporter de la valeur aux utilisateurs. Cela en vaudra-t-il la peine ? La nouvelle plateforme de médias sociaux de Meta, Threads, n’a pas été lancée en Europe, très probablement parce que l’entreprise n’a pas la certitude qu’elle ne sera pas frappée par une réglementation stricte qu’elle n’est pas en mesure d’appliquer.

Nous savons que chaque plateforme a la capacité de modérer ou de censurer comme elle l’entend, mais cela se fait généralement par le biais de politiques et de codes internes que les utilisateurs acceptent volontairement, et non en réaction à un policier qui tient la matraque réglementaire. Plutôt que de se concentrer sur la restriction et la limitation des entreprises technologiques américaines, les Européens devraient faire tout leur possible pour changer leurs propres règles afin de favoriser l’innovation que la Silicon Valley a été en mesure de fournir pendant des décennies.

L’état d’esprit promulgué par Bruxelles est « réglementer d’abord, innover ensuite », dans l’espoir que le talent et les idées naîtront d’un environnement stable et réglementé. Si tel était le cas, nous aurions des dizaines de licornes technologiques européennes se disputant la domination mondiale. Au lieu de cela, il n’y en a pratiquement aucune. Ou bien elles ont été rachetées par une entreprise américaine.

L’Europe a choisi de ne pas devenir le marché test mondial pour les produits et services innovants, préférant devenir le terrain de jeu ultime des restrictions bureaucratiques et juridiques. Alors que certains politiciens et régulateurs américains peuvent regarder la situation d’un œil satisfait, il est clair que les consommateurs et les créateurs sont laissés pour compte sur le Vieux Continent, et que les utilisateurs américains seront bientôt dans le collimateur.

Originally published here

What next after GEG? Ban on sugar, fatty food, flights to curb danger, Wan Saiful questions

KUALA LUMPUR – As Putrajaya pursues its controversial move to ban cigarettes for those born from 2007, a Bersatu leader has questioned Putrajaya if it will also ban flights, sugar and fatty food as it poses danger to health. 

Former information chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan said sugar poses significant health problems and flights carry inherent risks, even potentially leading to fatalities.

“So is the government going to take an easy way out to ban these products too. What next? Karaoke centres because there is a possibility of close proximity,” he said.

Wan Saiful said this during a discussion on the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, also known as the Generational Endgame (GEG) Bill, which is currently under review by the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on health

He said such short-sighted approach of blanket ban on cigarettes would not yield results as it would push youths underground, making matters worse as it will be hard to curb illicit markets.

“Issues like this should not be touched this way. There must be stakeholder engagement on how we could tackle this,” he said, adding that it was crucial to empower the public with knowledge.

He said as for secondary smokers issue, the government could empower people to stop people from smoking as inhaling secondary smoke was unhealthy.

“My fear is we are moving towards allowing the government to take over our choices of freedom,” he said.

Read the full text here

GEG enforcement may cost govt RM305mil a year, says researcher

KUALA LUMPUR: The total enforcement cost for the Generational End Game (GEG) bill may reach up to RM305 million a year, says a researcher.

Bait al-Amanah research director Benedict Weerasena said the estimate covers the cost of the track-and-trace system, public awareness campaigns and hiring of additional enforcement officers.

“Equipment, vehicles and training, administrative costs of fines imposed, and additional enforcement costs to curtail the growth of illicit cigarette markets are included in the estimate as well,” he said at an event today hosted by Consumer Choice Centre (CCC).

However, Weerasena said the estimate is dependent on the full details of the enforcement powers agreed upon in the final version of the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023, or commonly known as the GEG bill, whereby wider-ranging powers would translate into higher enforcement costs.

Weerasena and Bill Wirtz, a policy analyst for the CCC, said the government should not rush into legislating the GEG bill.

Read the full text here

Scroll to top