Top Stories

October 18, 2012


European Commission's proposals anger biofuel industry

Europe's biofuel industry has threatened to sue the European Commission if it goes ahead with a proposal to limit global land conversion for biofuel production. Following concern over biofuels’ indirect effect on CO2 emissions and food insecurity, the commission announced a reduced emphasis on food-based biofuels in reaching its 10 percent renewable energy target. According to today’s proposal, the cut will stimulate the development of alternative, second generation biofuels from non-food feedstock – like waste or straw – which emit substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and do not interfere with global food production. “For the first time, the estimated global land conversion impacts – ‘Indirect Land Use Change’ (ILUC) – will be considered when assessing the greenhouse gas performance of biofuels", said the commission. (Edie)

Corporate Reputation

MPs to question HMRC about Starbucks tax avoidance

Two parliamentary committees are due to question tax officials about how Starbucks has been able to avoid paying tax on £1.2bn of sales since 2009. MPs said that reports of a Reuters investigation showing Starbucks had been telling investors its UK business was highly profitable, while telling the authorities it was lossmaking and therefore not liable for tax, undermined public trust in the tax system. Margaret Hodge, the Labour chair of the Public Accounts Committee, is one of several MPs who have called for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to launch an investigation into Starbucks' tax affairs. (Guardian)

Finance & Banking

Tampering with Libor to become criminal offence

The setting of Libor will become a regulated activity and submitting false information or otherwise tampering with the interbank rate will be a criminal offence. So announced the UK Treasury on Wednesday as it fully accepted the conclusions of an independent review of Libor. Sponsorship of the rate, which serves as a benchmark for $360tn in contracts worldwide, will be removed from the British Bankers’ Association and handed to a new, regulated administrator. These changes will be included in the ‘financial services reform bill’ which is currently before parliament. The move is part of efforts to restore faith in Libor after a manipulation scandal that engulfed more than a dozen financial institutions on three continents. (Financial Times*)


Jacob Zuma calls on striking miners to return to work

South African President, Jacob Zuma, has called on workers to return to their jobs after weeks of wildcat strikes, some of which have turned violent, in the beleaguered mining sector. After a five-hour meeting with union and business leaders, Mr Zuma called on mining production to be "normalised" and called on business leaders to take a year-long salary freeze. Last week Anglo American Platinum fired 12,000 striking workers; and 15,000 miners at Gold Fields, one of the world’s largest gold miners, face the sack if they do not return to work by 2pm local time today. (BBC, Reuters)

Policy & Research

UK’s Green Investment Bank cleared by European Commission

The Green Investment Bank being set up by the UK Government has been given the go-ahead by the European Commission which ruled that the plan to lend for low carbon investment projects did not break Europe's state aid rules. Permission to use £3bn of government funds has been given for four years but may be withdrawn after that, if lending markets open up to low carbon projects. It is conditional on lending only to projects that cannot find sufficient funding from commercial markets. (BBC)

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