Wednesday, November 09, 2016

In Praise of the Global Economy's Enlightened Attributes

Sustainable Rural Development in an Interconnected World

By Jonathan Braun

Globalization was understandably a dirty word in the hard-fought U.S. elections as voters expressed righteous anger over Corporate America’s morally indefensible hollowing out of the U.S. economy under the banner of free trade. While much of the anti-Globalization sentiment is justified—there is nothing progressive about race-to-the-bottom offshoring—we should not allow anger to blind us to the wondrous, unprecedented flow of goods and services and ideas and capital that characterizes the Global Era.

Simply put, Enlightened Globalization is a positive force that develops, rather than destroys, communities.

I write from experience, as a member of the Baby Boomer generation who was fortunate to have been born and reared in an unusually internationally influenced neighborhood, Manhattan’s Upper West Side, in America’s greatest and most cosmopolitan city, New York—U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump’s hometown. Growing up in the shadow of Columbia University, where I would earn a master's degree from the nation’s most prestigious journalism school, I was early on exposed to people and cultures from other nations. The experience was truly transformative.

As an undergraduate student of international relations at the City College of New York, for example, I was introduced to Japanese Buddhism; and my enduring interest in Japan eventually led to my developing a long and productive relationship with a veteran Japanese entrepreneur and his network of business associates and institutional investors. Together, we started and successfully managed pioneering, privately owned and publicly traded companies in the fields of natural medicine, Internet broadcasting, and energy and natural resources.

Our involvement in renewable energy is a virtual advertisement for the global economy’s best—that is to say, its most humanistic—attributes. On a rail-served, biofuels-approved property in northeastern New York State’s rural Washington County, where responsible forestry operations play a vital role in the local economy, we’re developing a job-creating, job-preserving project that will produce sustainable, woody biomass-derived pyrolysis oil (bio-oil) for co-processing in an East Coast petroleum refinery in order for it to be able to send renewable products downstream, and for a Canadian company’s co-located specialty chemical plant. The pyrolysis oil is a fossil oil substitute. It's also a more sustainable substitute than vegetable oils because inedible woody biomass that results from responsible forestry operations does not compete with food crops for precious land and water resources.

The pyrolysis oil technology that we have selected, following a global search, was developed and commercially proven in the Netherlands; a large U.S. subsidiary of a multinational company that is based in France will provide a turnkey engineering and construction solution. Japanese investors will provide a portion of the project’s equity; one of these could be a strategic investor interested in co-processing pyrolysis oil in Japan.

In addition to producing pyrolysis oil, our Renewable Fuels and Chemicals Manufacturing Center will produce bio-coal (torrefied biomass) using a roasting-like technology, called torrefaction, that is similar to pyrolysis. The torrefaction technology provider is American; the equipment, made in America.

Just as bio-oil can be co-processed in oil refineries, bio-coal can be co-fired in coal power plants to reduce carbon emissions. There is pent-up demand in the United States and abroad for qualifying test batches of bio-coal; and our plant will be set up to export these samples by rail to customers across North America and by ship via the NY State ports of Albany, on the Hudson River, or Ogdensburg, on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

So much for logistics. The project’s public relations potential is enhanced by the fact that Washington County is the birthplace of the first U.S. Consul General to Japan, Townsend Harris, who also founded my alma mater, CCNY, as an institution of higher learning for the children of New York City's ever-growing immigrant population. A wealthy merchant, Harris is credited with opening Japan to foreign trade and culture and is remembered with reverence to this day by the Japanese people.

Harris was born in 1804 in a village in what is now the town of Hudson Falls, NY, not far from the site of our project. He died in 1878. The merchant-diplomat, whose family moved with him to New York City when he was a boy, could never have imagined that Japanese investment in the corner of New York State from which he hailed--which was part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland before it was part of the British colony of New York--would one day fuel the production of renewable energy for a future industry such as petroleum refining.

Is such a development merely a case of historical coincidence, or, is it, as my Buddhist friends might say, proof of the incomprehensible Mystic Law of simultaneous cause and effect that underlies all life and the workings of the universe?

I’m inclined to think it’s the latter; but of this, at least, I'm certain: my project is made possible by the global economy, and I'm grateful to be part of it.

The promise of the incoming Trump administration's trade policy is that after experiencing globalization's distinctly negative and unenlightened--downright destructive--side for so many years, millions of American workers, including legions of left-behind rural residents, will at last be able to make a similarly positive statement: My company ... my job ...  is made possible by the global economy, and I'm glad to be part of it. 

Jonathan Braun is Chairman of NextCoal International, Inc. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The involvement of a French engineering firm adds to the renewable fuels and chemical project's inherent historical interest, given its geographic location and focus on energy independence. French aid to the American Revolution, much of which passed through a neutral Dutch West Indies port, contributed to General George Washington's survival against the British military offensive in 1776 and 1777 and was a key factor in the defeat of General Burgoyne's expedition down the Champlain Corridor that ended in a British disaster at Saratoga, about 50 miles southwest of the project site in Hampton, NY, near the present-day NY-Vermont border. Burgoyne's defeat was a major turning point in the Revolutionary War.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Deutsche Bank Plunge Sparks Talk of 'Lehman Moment'

Nick Beams reports on a looming event that could rip through the global banking system:

Shares in Deutsche Bank plunged yesterday in the wake of reports in a German news magazine that Chancellor Angela Merkel had ruled out assistance to the bank following the imposition by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) of a $14 billion fine over its dealings in the sub-prime mortgage market leading up to the financial crisis of 2008.

Read more. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Diplomacy: Moscow's Perspective on Rising Tensions

How Russia Views the West

Russia has had a rough year: it lost to Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest; some of its athletes were banned from competing in the Rio Olympics; and the European Union (EU) decided to renew its sanctions against Russia. Many Russians think these events are Western conspiracies designed to keep Russia down. What does this tell…

Monday, August 08, 2016

Transcript of Emperor Akihito's Address to the People of Japan

A Sharing of Thoughts, A Hope for Understanding

His Majesty The Emperor 

Editor's Note: Health concerns have led the head of the world's oldest monarchy, Japan's Emperor Akihito, 82, to consider abdication, which would require changing the nation's Constitution. The Emperor, who has served 28 years, addressed Japan in a rare, pre-recorded video broadcast on Monday. A transcript provided by the Imperial Household Agency appears below

Message from His Majesty The Emperor

As I am now more than 80 years old and there are times when I feel various constraints such as in my physical fitness, in the last few years I have started to reflect on my years as the Emperor, and contemplate on my role and my duties as the Emperor in the days to come.

As we are in the midst of a rapidly aging society, I would like to talk to you today about what would be a desirable role of the Emperor in a time when the Emperor, too, becomes advanced in age. While, being in the position of the Emperor, I must refrain from making any specific comments on the existing Imperial system, I would like to tell you what I, as an individual, have been thinking about.

Ever since my accession to the throne, I have carried out the acts of the Emperor in matters of state, and at the same time I have spent my days searching for and contemplating on what is the desirable role of the Emperor, who is designated to be the symbol of the State by the Constitution of Japan. As one who has inherited a long tradition, I have always felt a deep sense of responsibility to protect this tradition. At the same time, in a nation and in a world which are constantly changing, I have continued to think to this day about how the Japanese Imperial Family can put its traditions to good use in the present age and be an active and inherent part of society, responding to the expectations of the people.

It was some years ago, after my two surgeries that I began to feel a decline in my fitness level because of my advancing age, and I started to think about the pending future, how I should conduct myself should it become difficult for me to carry out my heavy duties in the way I have been doing, and what would be best for the country, for the people, and also for the Imperial Family members who will follow after me. I am already 80 years old, and fortunately I am now in good health. However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now.

I ascended to the throne approximately 28 years ago, and during these years, I have spent my days together with the people of Japan, sharing much of the joys as well as the sorrows that have happened in our country. I have considered that the first and foremost duty of the Emperor is to pray for peace and happiness of all the people. At the same time, I also believe that in some cases it is essential to stand by the people, listen to their voices, and be close to them in their thoughts. In order to carry out the duties of the Emperor as the symbol of the State and as a symbol of the unity of the people, the Emperor needs to seek from the people their understanding on the role of the symbol of the State. I think that likewise, there is need for the Emperor to have a deep awareness of his own role as the Emperor, deep understanding of the people, and willingness to nurture within himself the awareness of being with the people. In this regard, I have felt that my travels to various places throughout Japan, in particular, to remote places and islands, are important acts of the Emperor as the symbol of the State and I have carried them out in that spirit. In my travels throughout the country, which I have made together with the Empress, including the time when I was Crown Prince, I was made aware that wherever I went there were thousands of citizens who love their local community and with quiet dedication continue to support their community. With this awareness I was able to carry out the most important duties of the Emperor, to always think of the people and pray for the people, with deep respect and love for the people. That, I feel, has been a great blessing.

In coping with the aging of the Emperor, I think it is not possible to continue reducing perpetually the Emperor’s acts in matters of state and his duties as the symbol of the State. A Regency may be established to act in the place of the Emperor when the Emperor cannot fulfill his duties for reasons such as he is not yet of age or he is seriously ill. Even in such cases, however, it does not change the fact that the Emperor continues to be the Emperor till the end of his life, even though he is unable to fully carry out his duties as the Emperor.

When the Emperor has ill health and his condition becomes serious, I am concerned that, as we have seen in the past, society comes to a standstill and people’s lives are impacted in various ways. The practice in the Imperial Family has been that the death of the Emperor called for events of heavy mourning, continuing every day for two months, followed by funeral events which continue for one year. These various events occur simultaneously with events related to the new era, placing a very heavy strain on those involved in the events, in particular, the family left behind. It occurs to me from time to time to wonder whether it is possible to prevent such a situation.

As I said in the beginning, under the Constitution, the Emperor does not have powers related to government. Even under such circumstances, it is my hope that by thoroughly reflecting on our country’s long history of emperors, the Imperial Family can continue to be with the people at all times and can work together with the people to build the future of our country, and that the duties of the Emperor as the symbol of the State can continue steadily without a break. With this earnest wish, I have decided to make my thoughts known.

I sincerely hope for your understanding.