Eradication of leaded petrol to save $2.4tr for global economy

Eradication of leaded petrol to save $2.4tr for global economy
By 2016, after North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan stopped selling leaded petrol, only a handful of countries were still operating service stations providing the fuel. (AFP)
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Updated 31 August 2021

Eradication of leaded petrol to save $2.4tr for global economy

Eradication of leaded petrol to save $2.4tr for global economy
  • Algeria, the last country to use the fuel, exhausted its supplies last month

Eradication of leaded petrol would “prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year, increase IQ points among children, save $2.44 trillion for the global economy, and decrease crime rates,” said the UN Environment Programme on Monday.
“The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP.
Nearly a century after doctors first issued warnings about the toxic effects of leaded petrol, Algeria — the last country to use the fuel — exhausted its supplies last month, UNEP said, calling the news a landmark win in the fight for cleaner air.
Even as recently as two decades ago, more than 100 countries around the world were still using leaded petrol, despite studies linking it to premature deaths, poor health and soil and air pollution.
When UNEP launched its campaign in 2002, many major powers had already stopped using the fuel, including the US, China and India.
But the situation in lower-income nations remained dire. By 2016, after North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan stopped selling leaded petrol, only a handful of countries were still operating service stations providing the fuel, with Algeria finally following Iraq and Yemen in ending its reliance on the pollutant.
UNEP warned that fossil fuel use in general must still be drastically reduced to stave off the frightening effects of climate change. Vehicle sales are set to climb globally exponentially, particularly in emerging markets.
“The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions and is set to grow to one third by 2050,” UNEP said, adding that 1.2 billion new vehicles would hit the streets in the coming decades.
“This includes millions of poor-quality used vehicles exported from Europe, the US and Japan, to mid- and low-income countries.
“This contributes to planet warming and air polluting traffic and (is) bound to cause accidents,” the global body said.
Oil market
Oil edged higher on Monday, but remained below session highs as Hurricane Ida weakened after forcing shutdowns of US Gulf oil production, and OPEC+ looked set to go ahead with a planned oil output increase.
Brent crude rose 49 cents a barrel, or 6.7 percent to 73.19 by 12:24 ET (1624 GMT), having reached $73.69 earlier, the highest since Aug. 2. US crude rose 37 cents, or 0.51 percent to $69.11 a barrel, having earlier touched $69.64, the highest since Aug. 6.
US gasoline was up almost 2 percent, lending support to crude. Power outages added to refinery closures on the Gulf coast and traders weighed the possibility of prolonged disruptions.
Brent has rallied 40 percent this year, supported by supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, and some demand recovery from last year’s pandemic-induced collapse.
OPEC+ meets on Wednesday to discuss a scheduled 400,000 bpd increase in its oil output, in what would be a further easing of the record output cuts made last year.
OPEC delegates say they expect the increase to go ahead with the plan.


‘Like fire and nuclear, there must be rules for AI,’ says leading tech voice

‘Like fire and nuclear, there must be rules for AI,’ says leading tech voice
Updated 13 sec ago

‘Like fire and nuclear, there must be rules for AI,’ says leading tech voice

‘Like fire and nuclear, there must be rules for AI,’ says leading tech voice

Humanity needs rules for dealing with artificial intelligence (AI) in the same way it learned to manage fire and nuclear technology, one of the sector’s up and coming voices has claimed.

Bruno Maisonnier, founder and CEO of AI firm AnotherBrain, admitted there was a danger with the new technology, but that is no different from every major discovery since the dawn of man.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyad, Maisonnier said: “There’s risk with AI as well as there are risk with every new technology, that’s part of human history 

“We brought fire and people died from fire, we brought nuclear and people died from that . 

“Each time we have the same reaction: First we fear and then we start to put the feedback and learn and put rules to get the positive out of this technology

“The same goes with AI. The question is when do we have to set these rules?

“Rules must be put but first we must allow the evolution to happen.”

Also speaking at the forum, Pascal Weinberger, CEO and co-founder of tech firm Bardeen AI, insisted that machines will never be able to fully replace humans in many environments.

“There are a lot of things that machines are better at than humans, and vice versa — especially at common sense,” he said.


Nokia's quarterly profit beats on 5G demand

Nokia's quarterly profit beats on 5G demand
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Updated 4 min 19 sec ago

Nokia's quarterly profit beats on 5G demand

Nokia's quarterly profit beats on 5G demand
  • The company expects comparable operating profit margin to be towards the upper end of the target range of 10 percent to 12 percent

Nokia reported a stronger-than-expected third-quarter operating profit on Thursday on higher demand for 5G gear, but warned the global shortage of semiconductors would hit its supply chain.


Shares of the Finland-based company were up 5 percent as investors lauded its efforts to get back on track following product missteps last year by riding on 5G demand and taking market share away from rivals, particularly in China.


Any problem in supplying to customers on time might dent those ambitions.


"At the moment, we are limited by semiconductor availability, that will affect Q4 and it's quite possible that this challenge will get bigger before it starts getting better," Chief Executive Officer Pekka Lundmark said in an interview.


Global producers of goods from televisions to cars have faced a host of supply chain issues ranging from a shortage of vital components, manpower, logistics snarls, and delays at plants because of power cuts in China.


Rival Ericsson last week also warned of supply chain issues.


"We are working every single day with the suppliers on all levels of the organisation and I have also been personally involved in these discussions," Lundmark said.


Nokia's quarterly net sales rose 2 percent to 5.4 billion euros ($6.27 billion) from 5.3 billion a year ago, in line with analysts' expectations.


The company expects comparable operating profit margin to be towards the upper end of the target range of 10 percent to 12 percent


Comparable operating profit during July-September surged to 633 million euros from 486 million last year, beating the 488 million euros forecast by 11 analysts polled by Refinitiv.


While its mainstay mobile network business suffered from lost business in the United States, network infrastructure grew 6 percent in constant currency and cloud and network services rose 12 percent.


"The 5G market is still growing and we expect that it will still take a couple of years before it reaches its peak," Lundmark said


In July, Nokia won its first 5G radio contract in China, while rival Ericsson lost market share after Sweden last year decided to ban Chinese vendors from their 5G networks.


Lundmark said revenue from China has started to flow in but the available market there for non-Chinese vendors was limited.


Transport problems holding back $2-a-kg hydrogen fuel, says Aramco's technology chief

Transport problems holding back $2-a-kg hydrogen fuel, says Aramco's technology chief
Updated 33 min 55 sec ago

Transport problems holding back $2-a-kg hydrogen fuel, says Aramco's technology chief

Transport problems holding back $2-a-kg hydrogen fuel, says Aramco's technology chief

RIYADH: Low-carbon hydrogen can be produced at a cost of $2 per kg but the issue is transporting the fuel to where it is needed, according to the chief technology officer of Aramco.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyad, Ahmad Al Khowaiter said the technology for capturing the gas has proven itself reliable “over many years” and is “at scale today”.

Khowaiter claimed that hydrogen is the only option in “many of the harder to decarbonise sectors” as the world seeks to drastically reduce its carbon footprint.

He confirmed that Aramco, the Saudi-state owned oil and gas company, has been operating its own production pilot with the capacity for 800,000 tonnes a year of hydrogen for the last six years with “no problems, no challenges”.

“I really do believe that technology is mature, the cost structures are very compatible with the competitive energy costs that are needed for hydrogen” he told delegates at the conference, adding: “It really does allow, for example, low carbon hydrogen to be produced today at scale with very competitive costs.”

Khowaiter went on: “The challenge with hydrogen is transport, so the big challenge is converting it to something that can be transported or compressing it in transport. 

“At the point of production we’re talking $1.5 to £2 a kg range, which is far below alternatives for now, as the alternatives have to scale up.”

 


Before Lebanon's current financial crisis, central bank faced a $4.7 billion hole in reserves: IMF memo

Before Lebanon's current financial crisis, central bank faced a $4.7 billion hole in reserves: IMF memo
A member of the Lebanese security forces stands at the entrance of the Central Bank after anti-government protesters broke down a construction barrier. Getty Images
Updated 45 min 10 sec ago

Before Lebanon's current financial crisis, central bank faced a $4.7 billion hole in reserves: IMF memo

Before Lebanon's current financial crisis, central bank faced a $4.7 billion hole in reserves: IMF memo
  • One of the deepest depressions in modern history, has propelled 74 percent of the population into poverty

Lebanon's central bank had a $4.7 billion hole in its reserves by the end of 2015 that was not disclosed to the public, an early warning sign of the financial collapse that has since all but wiped out many people's savings.


The figure is contained in an April 2016 report drawn up for Lebanese financial authorities by the International Monetary Fund and seen by Reuters.


The confidential report, known as an aide memoire, said that while the gross reserves of the Banque Du Liban central bank (BdL) were high at $36.5 billion, "reserves net of the commercial banks' claims on BdL and gold were negative USD 4.7 billion in December 2015".


Lebanon's central bank has been headed by Riad Salameh since 1993. In late 2016, it began what it called "financial engineering" - funding a ballooning fiscal deficit and keeping banks buoyant by paying ever higher interest rates for dollars.


By the time investor confidence wore out amid civil protests against the ruling elite in 2019, the central bank's losses had multiplied.


Three people with knowledge of the matter said Salameh himself had insisted to IMF officials that the figure not be published by the IMF on the grounds it would destabilise the financial market.


Asked why the negative net reserves figure was not published in a January 2017 IMF report, a central bank spokesperson, speaking on behalf of Salameh, said "the central bank does not have the power to change IMF reports" and declined to elaborate further on that point.


"The misrepresentation of the causes of the crisis to concentrate (blame) on the BdL is unprofessional and being used to throw responsibility onto one institution, the only civil institution still keeping the (financial) system alive despite the acute crisis," the spokesperson added.


An IMF spokesperson, asked by Reuters why the figure was left out of published reports and whether the Fund should have been more proactive in demanding remedial action, declined to specifically address the omission of the $4.7 billion, but said the report "provided an early warning as well as possible solutions to strengthen the financial system".


"It emphasized the need to reduce economic and financial risks, including the reliance on new deposit inflows to cover large fiscal and external deficits," the spokesperson said. "It also pointed to significant resources that would be needed to ensure banks remained capitalized in the event of a severe shock."


When foreign exchange inflows dried up in 2019, the banks, many of them with leading politicians as shareholders, shut depositors out of their accounts. Withdrawals have since been limited, mostly made in Lebanese pounds which have lost 90 per cent of their value.

By 2020 the central bank deficit had grown to $50 billion with total bank losses to $83 billion, according to a rescue plan prepared by the finance ministry in April that year. Both the central bank and the banking association dispute these figures but have not publicly given alternatives.


A forensic audit of the central bank is a condition for Lebanon to secure an urgent IMF rescue package.

The audit resumed last week after an almost year-long hiatus due to disagreements over access to information.


The crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions in modern history, has propelled 74 percent of the population into poverty, according to the United Nations.


"The social impact, which is already dire, could become catastrophic," the World Bank said in April. Even during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, the banks remained solvent and functional.


Salameh has repeatedly said he was acting only to buy time for Lebanese politicians to agree reforms to cut the budget deficit and that it was not his fault that they failed to do so.


Asked if the IMF had a duty to be more proactive in pushing for the $4.7 billion negative net reserves figure to be published, the IMF spokesperson referred Reuters to the fund's transparency rules.


These say that a country may ask for non-public material to be removed from a report if it is: "Highly market-sensitive material, mainly the Fund's views on the outlook for exchange rates, interest rates, the financial sector, and assessments of sovereign liquidity and solvency."


The IMF spokesman declined to say whether Lebanon specifically made this request and also did not address whether there is a formal limit on the size of net reserves.


Earlier this year, Swiss authorities launched an investigation into "aggravated money laundering in connection with possible embezzlement to the detriment of the Banque du Liban (central bank)".

Salameh has denied any wrongdoing and said the investigation is part of a campaign against him.


Swiss newspaper Le Temps first reported earlier this month that key information had been kept out of the public eye by the central bank in 2015. The central bank had said the report "had nothing to do with the truth".


Sony ekes out 1% Q2 profit rise as PS5 costs squeeze margins

Sony ekes out 1% Q2 profit rise as PS5 costs squeeze margins
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Updated 28 October 2021

Sony ekes out 1% Q2 profit rise as PS5 costs squeeze margins

Sony ekes out 1% Q2 profit rise as PS5 costs squeeze margins
  • Sony ekes out 1% Q2 profit rise as PS5 costs squeeze margins

Japan's Sony Group Corp on Thursday squeezed out a surprise 1 percent rise in operating profit for its second quarter though costs from growing sales of its PlayStation 5 (PS5) console pressed on margins.


Weaker profitability in the key games segment could also not stop the group hiking its full-year operating forecast by 6 percent to 1 trillion yen ($8.81 billion) from its August forecast, driven by expected profit growth in areas including movies, music and electronics.


Sony said it has sold a cumulative 13.4 million units PS5 units since launch last November. That contributed to a 27 percent year-on-year jump in sales at its gaming unit, though profit was less robust as the conglomerate sold hardware below cost.


Game console makers frequently sell new devices below manufacturing cost as they build an install base for software sales. Sony said sales of first-party titles fell, though sales from other developers grew.


Sony aims to sell 14.8 million PS5 consoles this financial year - a target that takes into account the global semiconductor shortage.


Sony reported group profit of 318.5 billion yen for July-September. That compared with the 222 billion yen average of six analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv.


The conglomerate - spanning areas such as entertainment, sensors and financial services - switched to IFRS accounting standards from U.S. GAAP in the current financial year.


Sony also said it is considering partnering Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd in its plans to build a chip plant in Japan, amid a corporate scramble to secure long-term stable semiconductor supply.


Across its business, Sony is enmeshed in a global battle for consumer attention as entertainment giants look beyond the United States for growth and mine non-English-language creators for content.


In a blow to Sony's pop culture credentials, South Korea's top cultural export, boy band BTS, said last week it has dropped its Columbia Records label for a deal with Universal Music Group NV.


Other challenges include an investor attempt to oust the management of India's Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd , casting a shadow over merger talks with Sony's local unit.