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US economy, the world, and Turkey

Turkish Daily News - Monday, June 30, 2008

Fed Chairman Bernanke's strange statement on June 25 saying that inflation is a great threat but the Federal Reserve would not do much about it shook the U.S. economy the next day and investors ran to grab more oil contracts after the speech by OPEC. Ironically, the authorities are doing everything to destroy the U.S. economy and other economies in the world. Greed is the main driving force lately. Now, it is speculators' heaven and it will cost all the citizens of the world a lot.We need to watch not only oil and gold but also some other commodities: wheat, corn, soy bean. How are the poor nations going to feed their hungry? Shouldn't American and European Parliaments do more? What happened to the determination of the U.S. Congress to work on the issues when they were considering the Armenian Genocide resolution? Why is the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House discussing the Caucasus instead of the food and oil markets, financial institutions and speculator actions in this country? Do we need to create new wars in the world by bringing up the old atrocities or shall we help the world to overcome the latest economic crisis?

Recession, inflation or both:

These are very hard times. General Motor's shares are at their lowest since 1955. Oil hit the highest levels in history at more than $140 per barrel. Wheat and corn prices have doubled. Is there a bottom for this free fall or can anyone see the light at the end of the tunnel?Stagflation (inflation and recession happening at the same time) is very hard to deal with. However, the worst way to deal with this problem of modern times is doing nothing. When the Federal Reserve left the interest rates alone last week, Mr. Bernanke must have considered one of the following: Leave everything alone until the election in November to give a better hand to McCain, or leave the economy alone to let it bring itself up and running again. The first scenario is too harsh for the U.S. economy and second is completely wrong. The United States will be able to hang in under these conditions until the end of the year but many other countries will not. Polls are showing the disappointment: Barack Obama is leading McCain by 15 points at home and is very much admired all over the world.

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executives are accusing oil speculators in New York for the record oil prices. The speculators are saying it is world demand that is driving the prices to record levels. There is an excellent way to see who is telling the truth: the U.S. Congress and other parliaments in the world take steps to allow more oil drilling and see what the speculators do.

Another double standard:

The U.S. environment is important but so are the environments of all other countries. U.S. drilling companies are punching holes in the lands and oceans all over the world but not in the United States. Isn't this a double standard? If we all believe in free market economy and leave the prices alone, let oil drillers do their work in the United States as well. If we are policing the drillers, well, then let's also stop the oil speculators.Norway is one of the most careful countries when it comes to environmental issues. Norwegians do not even put their solid waste in landfills. One of the most educated nations with one of the best democracies in the world, Norway is also one of the major crude producers. Even ocean cleanliness so important to Norwegians, they accepted clean and secure drilling. I believe the U.S. Congress and the president should follow the path that Norway took. The United States and the world need more oil and more energy. Fortunately, many problems come with potential solutions hidden in them. Now, since the world has an energy crisis, everyone considers secondary resources for clean energy: solar, wind and biomass. The first two are energy sources which do not cause a problem if they are left alone. However, the last source is a huge problem if nothing is done to turn it into energy.

Turkey's energy problem:

Turkey with her very high population increase rates is killing her nature by filling its valleys in the countryside with household waste. There are only 12 licensed landfills in the country according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry. Remaining garbage of 2,000 municipalities is thrown in the neighboring valleys. Heavy metals are poisoning drinking water and methane and carbon dioxide are polluting the air. Instead of producing organic agriculture-friendly compost and electricity from this source, Turkish companies are bringing old-tech coal burners from Europe to produce electricity and pollute the already polluted air even more! If the cities polluting the Mediterranean with their wastewaters were listed, one page would not be enough for their names. Turkish Parliament should take necessary steps to clean up the country and subsidize Turkish companies producing energy from waste and biomass. Peoples of the United States and Turkey gave the authority to their parliaments to act responsibly and promptly in the time of crisis. These representatives should start acting now and provide people with the legislative and regulatory basis for the fast evolving economic conditions. People need more food on their tables as well as cleaner air and unspoiled land. Politicians need to act fast because, after all, they are only ordinary citizens once their terms are over.

Vural Cengiz is the president of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce.

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