Neuer Europäischer Fahrzyklus

“New European Driving Cycle.” Contains the rules that define how auto manufacturers must test how many miles/kilometers their vehicles drive per gallon/liter of gasoline consumed. The N.E.F.Z. came into effect in the 1970’s and its mileage testing rules are scheduled to be replaced by the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedures (W.L.T.P.) in 2016, though the European auto manufacturers’ lobby A.C.E.A. is lobbying to delay the new rules until 2020.

Spiegel.de said the Financial Times (paywall) reported on the A.C.E.A.’s attempt to delay stricter mileage tests for four more years. Under the current rules, auto manufacturers can legally reduce gas consumption by hacking the mileage testing of their own products by using “light tires, special lubricants, taping off gaps on the hood or headlights for better aerodynamics. Some unclamp the battery to keep it from being charged, and they test at ideal environmental temperatures.”

The new mileage testing rules would require “more realistic” conditions, including faster accelerations, higher speeds and less idling time for the engines.

Meanwhile, two Spanish hackers who presented about a $26 tool they said they created that let them remotely access steering, speed controls, brakes and heating/cooling, in both a test car from a U.S. manufacturer and a test car from a Japanese manufacturer, said these mini-computers under the hood can improve mileage just by changing a few numbers.

“Would you like to spend less money on gas? Did you know that the difference between 100 horsepower and 130 horsepower version of your car is just some changes in the engine control unit firmware?”

Update on 30 Apr 2014: ZDF heute journal compared car owners’ reported mileage with the considerably better N.E.F.Z. mileage asserted in the manufacturer’s print and video ads for one model, then asked its manufacturer for an explanation. Ford drew their attention to a line in the fine print that said the mileage numbers printed in the offer were not part of the offer.

Then ZDF accompanied an automobile magazine’s consumer product testing of the mileage of several cars, driven along the same varied route during normal working hours by the same driver who is an expert in reducing gas consumption. “No one can get higher mileage out of a car than this guy.” In their test, the Ford model in question used 13% more gas than was advertized as its normal consumption, a Citroen deviated by 0%, a VW beat the value at -1%, an Opel beat the value at almost -2% and a Peugeot used >35% more gas than advertized.

(NOY ah   oy roe PÆ ish ah   FAH tsee clues.)

Datenjournalismus

Data journalism.

Germany has thousands of gas stations that tend to be owned by only a handful of chains affiliated with the world’s major oil companies. For years, people accused German gas stations of raising fuel prices right before weekends and holidays and especially holiday weekends, in concert, yet no one could prove collusion. So the government created the Market Transparency Office for Fuel. In 2013, the Markttransparenzstelle began requiring German gas stations to communicate their fuel price changes in real time, and then it broadcast the data to companies whose phone apps let consumers quickly and easily compare gas prices at the closest gas stations.

Süddeutsche Zeitung has now taken four weeks of gas price data from one of the larger phone apps and combed through the information looking for patterns in what they’re calling a “data journalism” investigation. They’ll be publishing their findings in a series of articles.

Update on 16 Apr 2014: Some immediately obvious outliers turned out to be caused by gas stations that were sending in prices without decimal points, or e.g. one was submitting the price “9999.” S.Z. said the system still doesn’t have a way to check whether the numbers submitted by gas stations are truthful. Currently consumers are to send complaints about incorrect price data to the phone app companies.

S.Z. said they too can’t prove collusion. But some gas station chains are more expensive (the chain with the highest fuel prices said it’s because their fuel is such high quality). Some chains are big enough that their price changes move the market, with smaller chains changing their prices after a bigger chain does so.

The lowest fuel prices tended to be in areas with dense populations.

One gas station chain tends to change its fuel prices >13 times a day, another only 9 times a day. Both are very likely to change fuel prices between 7 and 8 p.m., while several other chains are very likely to change prices between 9 p.m. and midnight. Apparently until this report was published the cheapest time to refuel was between 5 and 7 p.m., with fuel prices rising steeply after 8 p.m.

Update on 17 Apr 2014: The chain with the most gas stations in Germany has the highest fuel prices in Germany, in the data set the Süddeutsche Zeitung examined. The chain with the second-highest number of gas stations has the second-highest fuel prices. S.Z. said the ratio holds true for four other large “A brand” chains.

“B brand,” cheaper and smaller, gas station chains tend to use a strategy of selling fuel at prices only perhaps two eurocents below the prices of the closest “A brand” gas stations but the new pricing data shows that their prices average four to five eurocents below the A brands’ when looking at Germany as a whole. The C.E.O. of one of the fuel price phone apps said, “The strategy of the B brands is actually: one or two cents cheaper is okay, that won’t start a price war.”

Germany also has many gas stations not affiliated with the large oil-company chains, but the current database groups independent gas stations in the same category as ones that belong to a large non-oil company such as a chain of car washes or supermarkets. The larger category of independent gas stations plus gas stations belonging to non-oil-company chains had higher average fuel prices than the B brand gas stations, yet S.Z. said “a look at the data” showed that in fact car wash and supermarket chains sell the cheapest fuel, because they’re hoping customers who arrive to buy gas will stay to wash cars or buy groceries.

Austria is trying to regulate gas stations’ pricing to benefit consumers more by mandating that gas stations there can only change fuel prices once per day, at noon. It’s not known whether the advantages of this model will outweigh the disadvantages: German and other officials are watching to see how the experiment works out.

(DOT en jure nah LIZ moose.)

Vorteil nehmen von rechtsstaatlicher Abwesenheit daheim und rechtsstaatlicher Anwesenheit in London

Benefitting from the absence of rule-of-law in Russia and from the presence of rule-of-law in London.

An argument that Russia’s economic elites’ use of the relative safety of western countries’ financial and legal systems should depend on whether in Russia those people have participated in what would be considered lawbreaking in the western systems.

An interesting pundit said on Australian radio, for example, that money from selling exported Russian oil and gas is often moved through western financial leveraging instruments before being imported into Russia, to make it harder for that cash to be arbitrarily seized there. Even well-connected Russians are just as hostage to Vladimir Putin as the Crimean Tatars.

He said a counterargument holds that oligarchs will learn from living and working in rule-of-law countries and import some of that back to their homeland. Yet with the west’s inadequate oversight members of these groups might likewise grow corruption in their partner countries and firms. It does look as if German power utility companies who worked with post-Soviet Russian partners who demanded bribes in Russia might have started using extralegal shortcuts to achieve their goals at home; at the very least, their German competitor utilities would have had to compete with them while they were using such methods. Corruption really does seem to breed more corruption: apparently after the multinational Siemens developed streamlined procedures for paying bribes in corrupt countries it began offering them in relatively clean countries.

In a worst-case outcome, it would be interesting to see how western jurists would determine culpability in a country without an independent judiciary.

(FORE tile   nay men   fun   rect SHTOTT lichh ah   OB vaze en height   da HIME   oont   rect SHTOTT lichh ah   ON vaze en height   inn   LAWN dawn.)

Dammbruchargument

“Dam breach argument,” warning that if someone does something then a consequences dam will break or a plane will tilt, sliding everyone toward bad effects.

Inspired by Andrew Bacevich’s amusing classification of four Ronald Reagan-era foreign policy decisions—to send troops into Lebanon, to hassle Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, the so-called “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf from 1984–88 and to support the Taliban in Afghanistan throughout the 1980’s—as “Operation Slippery Slope,” saying they appeared to be based on short-term thinking and had in common that they only made sense against a backdrop of overriding U.S. interest in foreign oil reserves.

(Dohm BROOCHH awg you MENT.)

“Verhandlungen alle zwei Monaten”

“Negotiations recurring every two months.”

“What Putin is offering is to renegotiate the [price] every two months, to exert new pressure, and that’s the case for energy prices. The first billion Russia delivered, they fulfilled maybe 750 million of that, to pay old Ukrainian debts. That means, and Janukovytsch knows this, that if he continues to go with Russia based on prior experience he’ll get more and more knotted up in it, and that’s when he’ll really lose his power. To Moscow this time.”
—Elmar Brok (C.D.U.), chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, speaking briskly but interestingly in an interview from Kiev.

(Fair HOND loong en   oll ah   tsvy   moan AH ten.)

Energie-Plus-Eigenheim

Single-family house the Technical University in Munich is planning to build in Fürstenfeldbruck that will combine passive energy conservation with a rooftop photovoltaic array that can produce about 6000 kW/year, Süddeutsche.de wrote, and thus take care of the family’s energy needs. About one-quarter of the electricity generated will be surplus to the house’s requirements and could be sold back into the grid or used e.g. to recharge an electric car. In good weather, the family could thus be able to drive approx. 150 kilometers/day on rooftop sunlight alone, totalling ~11,000 km/year in Germany’s climate.

A four-person family is scheduled to move in and test drive the house for one year after construction has finished in August 2014 and the engineers have checked all the systems.

Construction is projected to cost about 350,000 euros.

(En air GHEE   PLOOSS   EYE g en high m.)

Reibach, Rebbach

Profit.

After international news showed architect’s drawings of the thoughtless shopping center scheduled to replace one of Istanbul’s last green parks, people outside Turkey started wondering how much excess power the country’s developers might be exercising over the country’s democratic processes. And if developers could pull such strings, who else could?

Now a recent kerfuffle has exposed that the state might be one of the developers.

Last week Istanbul police made dawn arrests to bring in for questioning “scores” of people who included three sons of Erdoğan ministers, an Erdoğan-party mayor, three “lions of construction,” “the general manager of Turkey’s largest housing developer, the partly state-owned Emlak Konut GYO” and the boss of a government-owned bank; one of the construction tycoons “recently made headlines with controversial mega-projects and works for the notoriously opaque state housing agency (Toki),” according to the Guardian. At the time of the arrests, the accusations in the air were wild and wonderful: hoarding millions in shoeboxes, bribery, building illegally, illegally converting nature preserves into development land, money laundering, “dubious gold deals with Iran,” reported Süddeutsche.de.

Less than a day later, the heads of five Istanbul police departments involved in the arrests, which Süddeutsche.de described as an “anti-corruption fishing expedition,” had lost their jobs. The decapitated police departments included Financial Crimes, Organized Crime and Smuggling units, and the unsonned cabinet ministers were Interior, Economics and Environment & City Planning, according to the Guardian.

Süddeutsche.de said Gezi Park protesters had always claimed that large construction projects in Istanbul were corrupt and used to make “the big Reibach.” If you had connections to Mr. Erdoğan’s conservative-religious AKP (“Party for Justice and Development”).

The arrests and police firings may have been an outward symptom of a fight for influence between Mr. Erdoğan’s associates and the associates of a Turkish cleric named Fethullah Gülen, “who directs an international religious community from his U.S. exile,” warned Süddeutsche.de. The two religious groups used to “dominate” Mr. Erdoğan’s ruling conservative-religious AK party. Mr. Gülen could help persuade voters, while Mr. Erdoğan could protect Mr. Gülen’s business interests, wrote Spiegel.de, which included media outlets, a bank, schools and training centers that have helped millions of high school students pass college entrance exams (“repetitories” in German, dershane in Turkish). In any case, the increased international attention on Turkish news and better information about Turkish politics and business is welcome.

The strange variety in the accusations against the arrestees might make more sense were they to indicate pieces of networks once used for circumventing the old embargoes against Iran:

“The flight into conspiracy theories doesn’t change the fact that it still must be clarified whether the manager of the state-owned Halkbank helped an Iranian businessman with money laundering, with the sons of the Interior and Economy Ministers allegedly assisting in various ways. Washington [D.C.] people had been taking negative notice for some time of the fact that Turkey was using detour routes to pay for its gas and oil deliveries from Iran ever since sanctions had excluded Teheran from the interbank system. Again and again, couriers with suitcases full of gold were spotted in the Istanbul airport. That’s why it’s remarkable that Ankara people are denying they knew anything about these questionable activities, long ago.” –Süddeutsche.de article

“Suitcases full of gold” must be a metaphor in the Turkish press.

Update on 22 Dec 2013: Mr. Erdoğan has now fired 70 top police and justice officials. He might be not only firing them but having some arrested as well.

FAZ.net concluded its update with an assessment of Mr. Erdoğan’s current situation:

“[Mr.] Erdoğan, who has held this office since March 2003, has taken a hit. Presumably he would still win any election that took place now. But the once-charismatic prime minister has turned into a table-thumping/blustering choleric. For him, democracy means having elections; liberal values such as protecting minorities are not part of his idea of democracy. More and more people are objecting to the fact that [Mr.] Erdoğan is acting as the nation’s morals police, who wants to tell people what to eat and how many children to have. He’s lost from view the fact that the AKP, which has been ruling without a coalition partner since 2002, owes its rise among other things to the image of being a ‘clean party.’ The kemalist parties that ruled Turkey until 2002 were voted out of office for, among other things, corrupt business practices that drove Turkey to the edge of bankruptcy in 2001. In recent years, corruption around [Mr.] Erdoğan has begun spreading like a cancer again. The Gülen movement is ‘clean’ though, says [Mr.] Arinc. The Erdoğan vs. Gülen war will continue.”

Update on 24 Dec 2013: Spiegel.de wrote that Mr. Erdoğan has threatened to break the hands of troublemakers and that more journalists were imprisoned in Turkey than in any other country.

Update on 07 Jan 2013: Last night Mr. Erdoğan fired hundreds of police, 350 in Ankara alone, according to the Dogan press agency and CNN Turk, said Süddeutsche.de. Those relieved of their duties included police officers and 80 higher-ranked officials in the divisions of Financial Crimes, Organized Crime and the anti-smuggling authority.

Update on 08 Jan 2013: Mr. Erdoğan removed from their posts Turkey’s deputy police chief and the police chiefs of 15 provinces, including the capital city of Ankara. On Tuesday night his party submitted draft legislation to give the government more power in naming judges and prosecutors. The E.U. commission is concerned, the Financial Times said, “that government moves to remove, reassign and fire police officers and investigators ‘could undermine the current investigations and capacity of the judiciary and the police to investigate matters in an independent manner'” in Turkey.

(RYE bochh,   rebb ochh.)

Preisagenturen, die den täglichen Referenzpreis von Öl ermitteln

“Price agencies that determine the daily reference price of oil.”

An F.A.Z. article described the way price agencies such as Platts, mainly Platts but also e.g. Argus and I.C.I.S., set a daily world reference price for oil using sales data provided by “market participants.” An expert commented to the newspaper that estimated data are also allowed to flow into those equations because not everyone makes a sale in every oil product type every day. Yet oil sellers have the unhealthy incentive of being able to sell their oil products at higher prices for the next 24 hours after submitting higher price data to the price agencies. Oil financial product sellers that are somehow involved with these price agencies, or somehow involved with the market participants supplying the data used in the agencies’ price-setting formulas, would presumably have similar inflationary incentives.

(PRIZE ogg en TOUR en,   dee   dane   TAY glichh en   ref ah RENTS prize   foor   ILL   ə MITT ell n.)

Ölpreis

In 2011 a Goldman Sachs study apparently stated that market speculation had indeed helped drive up the price of oil for consumers. In 2012 U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Bart Chilton said, “Using the Goldman Sachs research figure, and multiplying 10 cents times 233.9 million, would mean that theoretically there’s a ‘speculative premium’ of as much as $23.39 a barrel in the price of NYMEX crude oil.” Mr. Chilton has also said that the commodities business is a possible loophole for banks in the U.S.’s new frequently-postponed “Volcker rule” intended to reseparate banking from investment gambling.

Potential oil bottleneck points persist in privately held and/or operated oil infrastructure. Oil traders now own oil refineries. Pipelines are included in the infrastructure large banks have somehow acquired part ownership of. U.S. bank Morgan Stanley invested in the “global oil tanker operator” Heidmar in addition to “fuel chain supply manager” TransMontaigne. An F.A.Z. article described how the world’s three largest oil trading firms, Switzerland-based Gunvor, Vitol and Glencore—”prescient” commodity markets pioneer Marc Rich’s old firm—work today, supposedly on the basis of fast-computer-based price arbitrage rather than speculation. Moving into production, Glencore is now invested in oil wells, coal mines and metals mines, after its late-2012 fusion with Swiss competitor Xstrata.

Apparently a landmark 2003 U.S. Federal Reserve decision allowed U.S. investment banks to start “trading oil cargoes.” In July 2013 the Fed announced it was “reviewing” that decision. Though Fed deregulation may have unleashed the Wall Street side of recent international commodities speculation problems, the Fed probably cannot fix it now without simultaneous coordinated reforms from other regulators around the world.

(ILL prize.)

Schwimmender Gashafen als Anlandepunkt für internationale Flüssiggastanker

“Floating gas harbor as a landing point for international liquid gas tankers.” Steve Coll wrote that the first liquid natural gas (L.N.G.) contract was signed between Britain and Algeria in 1961, with conversion plants and transport ships that used refrigeration. Figuring out how to engineer natural gas into liquid forms made it possible to ship it cheaply around the world and created an international gas market. Initially the big oil companies searched for and developed gas fields outside their home countries, liquefying and exporting Middle Eastern and African natural gas instead of the pre-shipping method of just burning or flaring it off at the wellhead because building, protecting and maintaining pipelines requires quantities of time, money and cooperation that companies and countries aren’t always prepared to invest. Later, fracked gas from doing… terrible things to domestic rock was sold in the new gas market created. Much initial L.N.G. tech investment was driven by South Korea and Japan’s need for power, Coll wrote.

South Korean shipyards are now building giant floating harbors where international L.N.G. tankers can dock and unload. These giant floating harbors—they must be interesting-looking!—can be sailed around the world. They will make it possible for countries that previously had no natural gas or were dependent on e.g. one pipeline to buy gas at relatively competitive international prices. Might also reduce the total number of lands willing to frack themselves to a few fracking “specialist” countries.

(SHVIM men dare   GAUZE haw fen   olz   ON lond ah POONKT   foor   internot SEE OWN ALL ah   FLOOSS ig gauze tonk ah.)

Bundeskartellamtliche Bußgeldleitlinien

The German Federal Cartel Authority‘s fining guidelines. Appeals to the record-breaking fine imposed on some cement companies for anticompetitive behavior in the 1990’s have prompted discussion of the rules governing Germany’s current maximum limit on cartel fines and how those rules do or do not fit into European and other international structures.

According to Hans Jürgen Meyer-Lindemann’s 08 May 2013 article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Cartel Authority updated its relevant rules in 2006 to match European regulations. IIUC, the German fine for collusion is based on the company concerned’s total collusion sales, averaging 20% of that for the “base fine”; but according to European and now German law the fine cannot exceed 10% of the total worldwide gross from the fiscal year before the year the sanction is imposed. Mr. Meyer-Lindemann wrote that the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg decreed for this purpose the definition of the company should be given a broad interpretation, and thus according to the ECJ not just a national subsidiary’s but the parent corporation’s entire worldwide sales should be used in calculating a maximum upper limit for fines for cartel law violations.

Mr. Meyer-Lindemann felt there remain some loose ends in conforming German to European regulations on this issue. Under European law, he said international corporation parent companies have responsibility in antitrust violations committed by their European subsidiaries. The German supreme court in Karlsruhe’s recent decision on the appeal to the cement companies’ cartel fine merely dealt with how to use international corporate assets to calculate more appropriate maximum antitrust fines and did not deal with assigning responsibility when international corporations are involved in such matters. The European approach of having a 10% maximum limit to cartel fines, he wrote, “has been massively criticized by some German commentators.”

(BOON dess car TELL omt lichh ah   BOOSS geld LIGHT lean ian.)

“Nicht mit Ruhm bekleckert”

“Didn’t dribble glory on themselves,” in predicting the 2008 global financial troubles—from Thomas Thiel’s review of social scientist and publicist Werner Rügemer‘s 2012 book about the world’s three major financial ratings agencies.

In his book, Rügemer discussed the “curious financing model” in which clients pay for the grades they receive. Managerially, Rügemer said, many of the same people are members of the boards of the big three ratings agencies, the companies that own the ratings agencies, and the ratings agencies’ clients. Thiel:

“The deeper Rügemer goes into the ownership relationships, the more there unfolds a conglomerate of hedge funds, banks and companies that is worrying in how functionally interwoven it is. Market leader Standard & Poor’s for example belongs to the media house McGraw Hill, which mainly belongs to large investment funds such as BlackRock and Vanguard. These funds own many companies that are regularly/standardly/by default evaluated by the ratings agencies. In addition, many of the same funds are the shareholders behind Moody’s and S&P, such as the investment giant Capital Group. Seated on the supervisory boards (Aufsichtsrat) of the agencies there are companies like Coca-Cola or the pharma company Eli Lilly, plus banks and insurance companies such as Allianz, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.”

McGraw Hill owns another agency that is very important for setting world oil prices: Platts. Der Spiegel said Platts is the world’s largest energy information service. On Tuesday, 14 May 2013, the EU raided Platts’ London offices and offices of three big European oil companies, Shell (Holland), Statoil (Norway) and BP (UK), seeking information about price fixing allegedly achieved by slight distortions of data going into Platts. If said international oil price distortion occurred, it may have started in 2002.

Background info from the Wall Street Journal: the international “physical-oil market” is worth $2.5 trillion. “Index-publishing firms like Platts derive their prices from self-reported transaction data from participants in deals.”

(Nicked   mitt   ROOM   bah KLECK aht.)

Gießkannenprinzip

“Watering can principle,” in which subventions are distributed evenly throughout a group without regard to individual needs or priorities, a principle some European arms exporters say they won’t follow if allowed to resume exporting weapons to Syrian rebels. They say they will only give guns to good guys. The UK and France don’t want to renew the EU’s embargo on Syrian arms shipments, which is about to expire.

Update on 27 May 2013: Because the member states could not reach a unanimous decision, the EU embargo on sending more weapons to Syrian rebels will expire. The UK indicated they were only proposing voting against renewal of the embargo because they want to increase pressure on the Assad family (which is currently fighting to the death, of all its members, unless they agree to a better solution at the upcoming peace talks in Switzerland). We shall see whether France and the UK now indeed export more weapons to that corner of the world.

(GEESE Cannes en prints EEP.)

“Stud Oil”

German pronunciation of Norwegian petroleum company Statoil.

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