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Jeremy Hunt has stepped up pressure to end the use of legal gags on whistleblowers as he faced calls for an independent inquiry into his own department's involvement.
In a letter to the chairmen of every Trust, the Health Secretary warned against a culture in some quarters of "institutional self defence that prevents honest acknowledgement of failure".
In order to avoid a repeat of the Mid-Staffordshire scandal it was vital to "recognise and celebrate staff" who had the "courage and professional integrity" to speak out over safety concerns, he suggested.
He called on all bodies to ensure their actions met both the letter and the spirit of NHS whistleblower guidance.
The high number of unexpected deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust could have been prevented
On Friday Mr Hunt warned United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust that it faced action if it had wrongly tried to silence a former chief executive from speaking out about patient safety concerns as part of a unfair dismissal case settlement.
Gary Walker was threatened with legal action related to his reported £500,000 payout after breaking his silence to allege he was forced out of his job in 2010 because he put patient safety ahead of Whitehall targets.
The trust is one of 14 being investigated by health chiefs over high mortality rates in the wake of the public inquiry report into serious failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust that led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths.
Members of Cure the NHS demonstrate outside Stafford Hospital, during an inquiry into standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
Mr Walker welcomed the Health Secretary's intervention as a "very positive move" but said the threat of action against him for an interview with the BBC's Today programme on Thursday had still not been lifted.
And he suggested that Whitehall had a hand in prompting the action and should also be investigated.
"The threat against me has still not been withdrawn, despite the reassurance that it should not be in place," he said in his latest interview with the programme.
"I don't think I want to be too negative about Mr Hunt. He has clearly taken a personal interest and said that he will personally carry out the investigation and get to the bottom of it."
He questioned though how the Trust had known in advance of his decision to speak out.
"The Trust were never contacted by me or the Today programme so somebody from the Department of Health, and I do not know who that was, clearly spoke to them.
"I don't think that Mr Hunt can investigate his own department so I think he should be looking for someone exceptionally independent from all of this so I don't think it should be a civil service investigation.
"The whole chain of command needs to be looked at if Mr Hunt wants to stand by the transparency agenda."
Hunt 'can't investigate his own department' said NHS whistleblower Walker
He has claimed that NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson ignored him when he raised concerns about patient safety in 2009. He told the Daily Mail that Sir David was "not interested in patient safety" and called on him to resign.
The Francis Report into the Mid-Staffordshire scandal called for a ban on the use of gagging orders that prevented concerns being raised about patient safety.
Mr Walker was sacked in 2010 for gross professional misconduct over alleged swearing at a meeting but insists he was in fact forced out for refusing to meet Whitehall targets for non-emergency patients when the trust came under pressure because of soaring demand for beds for emergency patients.
He defended his acceptance of the so-called "supergag", which prevented him even from revealing the existence of the agreement, saying the saga had help break up his family, left him unable to pay his mortgage and left him with "no choice".
East Midlands Strategic Health Authority rejects Mr Walker's claims and insists that it acted at all times "in the interest of patients".
A British health manager warned the boss of the NHS four years ago that his hospital was a threat to patients’ safety. A nationwide investigation into avoidable hospital deaths has found that such warnings from doctors were often silenced or ignored.
Gary Walker, the former chief of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, was silenced in 2010 under a £500,000 ‘super gag’ agreement; he is now risking legal action by the NHS by speaking out. Walker reportedly received the payment last year; his former employer now faces a major investigation over its unusually high death rates, in the midst of the Stafford inquiry fallout.
Walker said that the chief of the NHS chief was “not interested in patient safety,” and called on him to resign to end the “culture of fear” he had created in the NHS, Britain’s Daily Mail reported.
Walker spoke to the BBC in an exclusive interview for its ‘Today’ show on Radio 4, in which he explained that his hands had been tied: “I was in danger of losing my house – I have children to support. And one thing you must remember that if you're attacking the very top of the NHS the sanctions are pretty dramatic.”
On Tuesday, shortly after learning of his plans to appear on national radio, the NHS wrote a letter to Walker reminding that, “If you have provided an interview or should this interview proceed you will be in clear breach of the agreement and as a result the Trust would be entitled to recover from you the payments made under the agreement.”
The letter reiterated that he was legally obliged not to inform anyone, besides family, of the terms of the gag agreement. The letter was released by the Lincolnshire Independents, a minor British political party, alongside other correspondences. The party said it was “shocked at the documents we have uncovered.”
Walker was fired in 2010, allegedly for using profanity during meetings. He and his supporters claimed that he was forced out for whistleblowing.
Leaked Letters reveal systemic neglect
New leaked letters have shown that doctor concerns over the Lincolnshire hospital were constantly ignored, despite that medical staff often challenged management about policies that threatened patient safety. The number of ‘excess’ deaths at Lincolnshire Hospital stood at 677 between 2009 and 2012, according to David Bowles, the former chair of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. Bowles said he quit over such dangerous target-setting.
In one letter, a doctor described a complex 10-hour medical procedure as a “major operation with major risks attached.” The patient’s operation was then postponed, because there were no Intensive Care Unit beds available at Lincolnshire Hospital in central England.
Another letter outlined the serious threat to the public caused by excessive targets, as well as intimidation from above: “I must make you aware of my concerns about the balance between patient safety and targets and inform you that in my view the current bullish and sometimes ruthless pressure from above on the management team in my Directorate is unfair and unacceptable,” a clinical director told Paul Richardson, NHS Trust Chair of United Lincolnshire Hospitals.
One more anonymous doctor begins, “I am writing in the immediate aftermath of today’s tragic death of an otherwise well patient,” adding that ward staffing levels were inadequate for postoperative care, and that the “enormous pressure” exerted by target requirements resulted in ad-hoc arrangements for short notice surgery.
Lincolnshire Hospital is one of nine others that over the last week were slated to be investigated for unusually high death rates in the wake of the Stafford inquiry results. The Stafford inquiry was part of a long-term investigation into the hospital’s filthy wards, unnecessary deaths and understaffing.
The revelation comes shortly after inquiries into some 1,000 ‘avoidable’ UK hospital deaths in Stafford, central England, which concluded earlier this month that “corporate self-interest and cost-control” were to blame for the wider-scale NHS problems that allowed the deaths to happen.
Inquiry head Robert Francis, QC, urged for greater protection for NHS whistleblowers, as it emerged that many who try to speak out against hospital management are silenced. Many complaints were voiced about standards of patient care at the central England hospital, but they either went ignored or were given no adequate response, despite the approximately 1,000 deaths.
Harrowing accounts of poor standards of care and hygiene and patients dying in undignified circumstances plagued the institution; further reports emerged of patient neglect and the failure to supply basic provisions.
One patient’s relative reported that health and safety rules prevented drinks from being left out at night, leading thirsty patients to drink water out of a flower vase. Relatives of two other patients reported that their family members had been dropped.
Others fell victim to deadly infections rampant in the filthy wards, such as the superbugs C. dificile and MRSA. One relative said that her mother was so badly infected with C. dificile that she had to be buried in a sealed body bag.
There have been serious attempts to discredit, bully, or fire NHS whistleblowers, which resulted in a media scandal last August.
Kay Sheldon, a board member of a UK healthcare watchdog, raised concerns that poor leadership and performance were a threat to public safety. She was diagnosed as possibly suffering from schizophrenia by an external assessor in a clear attempt to discredit her.
Many whistleblowers fear reprisal, as it there is a high possibility that they could be fired by those they raise concerns about. And in September, Labour MP Katy Clarke pointed out that lawyers representing the NHS were all too often silenced using gagging clauses when settling employment cases.
“I warned [David Nicholson, NHS boss] that Lincolnshire was going to become the next Mid Staffordshire. He didn’t investigate those concerns, and now look what’s happened,” Walker said.
“We cannot allow the disgraceful culture highlighted in the Mid-Staffordshire report to put Lincolnshire patients at risk,” said Chris Brewis, an independent politician on the Health Scrutiny Committee at Lincolnshire County Council.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) chief Sir David Nicholson should resign for his failure in 1,200 preventable deaths at Stafford Hospital, highlighted by an inquiry, one of Britain's biggest unions says.
The two-year inquiry, chaired by Robert Francis QC, has been set up to assess unnecessary deaths of hundreds of patients at Mid Staffordshire Trust.
In his 1,782-page report, Francis found failings at “every level” of the NHS system and therefore called for a shake-up of health watchdogs as well as criminal charges against those instrumental in patients’ deaths by poor care and negligence.
“Sir David Nicolson, who has thrown down the so-called Nicolson challenge of £20bn cuts, is not the person to lead the NHS into the world of patient-focused care as outlined by Robert Francis,” said Rachael Maskell, Unite the union's national officer for health.
“A complete overhaul of dysfunctional management in the NHS needs to happen as a matter of urgency and the first person out the door should be Sir David Nicolson, chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board - perhaps, the most powerful person in the coalition’s new NHS,” she added.
This comes as Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the British trades unions' fedetaion the Trades Union Congress also warned that such appalling neglect and mistreatment should never happen again.
The much-anticipated report from the public inquiry into serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is set to be published, kickstarted by a grief-stricken woman after her mother died.
The landmark report is expected to propose wide-ranging reforms of the NHS.
It has been suggested that chair of the inquiry Robert Francis QC will recommend that hospitals should face tough new scrutiny by teams of inspectors which include doctors and nurses.
Julie Bailey, of campaign group Cure the NHS, who lost her mother Bella, aged 86 whilst she was a patient at Stafford General Hospital
The move will form part of an overhaul of the array of regulatory bodies that failed to detect failings in patient care at the trust, it has been reported.
It is also expected that Francis, a specialist in medical legal issues, will recommend a "duty of candour" that would see fines or threat of closure used against hospitals that fail to tell their patients if their treatment went wrong.
The public inquiry was ordered after it was revealed that between 400 and 1,200 people more people died than expected at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009 amid "appalling" standards of care.
Julie Bailey set up the campaign group Cure The NHS after her mother, Bella Bailey, 86, died at the scandal-hit hospital in 2007.
Patients were left for hours sitting in their own faeces, food and drink was left out of reach and hygiene was so poor that relatives had to clean toilets themselves.
Gillian Peacham, whose husband Arthur died in the hospital in 2006, said that without the campaign people still would not know what happened at the hospital.
"I really truly believe that if it hadn't been for Cure The NHS this would all have been brushed under the carpet," Peacham said.
In addition to basic care errors there was a string of clinical blunders including botched operations, misdiagnoses and drugs were not given or given late.
Francis's first report, drawn from the independent inquiry he chaired between 2009 and 2010, concluded that patients were "routinely neglected" while the trust was preoccupied with cost-cutting and targets.
Members of Cure the NHS demonstrate outside Stafford Hospital, during an inquiry into standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
Concerns have been raised that other organisations may suffer the same fate amid the NHS £20 billion efficiency drive.
Indeed cases of poor care standards at the trust are still surfacing.
Last week the trust confirmed that an employee at Stafford Hospital was suspended after taking photographs of patients.
And the week before it emerged that police were investigating after a baby was found with a dummy taped into its mouth.
Human rights lawyer Emma Jones said her firm Leigh Day is investigating claims of abuse at 10 other hospitals.
Jones, who represented 120 victims of abuse at the trust, said: "Every day abuse against patients takes place, and it is usually the most vulnerable who suffer and without widespread reform it will continue.
"People who are admitted to hospital are vulnerable. They are often frightened and have not been told what is wrong with them, or what treatment they will receive.
"These issues need to be addressed and reforms put into place as a matter of urgency to ensure such a situation does not arise again."
The Patients Association said that the Government must urgently address the "care deficit" in the NHS.
The high number of unexpected deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust could have been prevented
Chief executive Katherine Murphy said: "Whilst our first thoughts must be for those families and friends who lost loved ones so tragically in Mid Staffs, every possible action must be taken to avoid such an appalling scandal ever happening again.
"Our Helpline hears from patients, relatives and carers every day who raise concerns about basic standards of care and safety, from not receiving adequate pain relief to a lack of assistance to go to the toilet, not being met.
"There are a number of urgent issues the Government and the NHS must confront to address this care deficit and provide the highest quality services possible.
"Whatever the specific recommendations are from the Francis Inquiry, a fundamental shift in the culture of NHS organisations so that both appalling and good care are viewed as learning opportunities is crucial."
The report was due to be published in October but Mr Francis announced that it was to be delayed.
The inquiry, which sat for 139 days, heard from heard from victims, their family members, patients' groups, charities, medics, politicians, unions and representatives of some of the royal colleges.
So far, the bill for the Inquiry has exceeded £13 million.
Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, said he hoped the report would act as a spur for strengthening of patient and public voice in the health service.
He said: "No matter how good, regulators and inspectors cannot be everywhere at once. Patients, families and staff are the eyes and ears of the health service. We must ensure that they are in a position to speak out and be listened to."
‘Shameful’ Chancellor Hammond accused of ‘bragging’ of financial success as nurses turn to foodbanks
Comprehensive Trade And Economic Agreement And The Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership: Don’t Let...
Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – A major economic crisis is looming in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico, a US Commonwealth will be the center of attention in the world of finance in the coming months ahead. Puerto Rico’s economy has been in a recession since 2006 and its bonds are close to junk status. Puerto Rico is facing an alarming economic downturn that is clearly unsustainable. The economy is headed for a major collapse, one not seen since the great depression, this time it could be far worse. Puerto Rico has $70 billion in debt and an underfunded government pension system that will be eventually face cuts which only adds to more economic uncertainties for the population. Unemployment levels are at 14.7 percent and a mass migration of the Puerto Rican people to the United States in search of better opportunities has taking hold. Puerto Rico’s economy is dependent upon the United States government and its corporations, which many are pharmaceutical conglomerates. It is politically and socially a “Colonial Possession” of the United States since the Spanish-American war of 1898. However, Puerto Rico is not alone. The United States has other colonial possessions namely Guam, American Samoa in the Pacific and the U.S. Virgin Islands. France and Great Britain also has “Colonial Possessions” or “Overseas Territories” in a number of regions throughout the world. Puerto Rico is no exception to the rule; it is a colony that has been exploited politically and economically for more than a century under US rule.
Puerto Rico’s economy is in a dire situation. As of October 2013, the official number of people who are unemployed is at 14.7 percent, perhaps a lot higher if you count those that have dropped out of the labor force because they are no longer looking for employment opportunities. The Public debt is currently at $70 Billion and increasing daily. Early this month an article written by Justin Velez-Hagan who is executive director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce for Forbes magazine titled ‘Default: Puerto Rico’s Inevitable Option’ describes what lead to Puerto Rico’s debt crises:
With triple tax exemption (federal, state, and local), combined with higher-than-average yields, Puerto Rican bonds became so popular in recent years that it was able to rack up $70 billion of debt now held by institutional investors and mutual funds alike. The debt-to-GDP ratio is now nearly 70% and growing, not including pension obligations, which raises the ratio to over 90%. With a per capita debt load of $19,000 and growing, Puerto Ricans shoulder almost 4 times the burden of U.S. leader Massachusetts which carries a deficit of $5,077 per citizen
Puerto Rico’s debt is 4 times larger than Massachusetts who Velez-Hagan acknowledges as the most indebted state per citizen with $19,000. The Washington Post also sounded alarm bells concerning Puerto Rico’s economic crises. In ‘Puerto Rico, with at least $70 billion in debt, confronts a rising economic misery’ Michael A. Fletcher describes what the commonwealth faces with cuts to pensions and government jobs and a rise in taxes all across the board including small and big businesses causing a migration of Puerto Ricans to major US cities:
The economy here has been in recession for nearly eight years, crimping tax revenue and pushing the jobless rate to nearly 15 percent. Meanwhile, the government is burdened by staggering debt, spawning comparisons to bankrupt Detroit and forcing lawmakers to severely slash pensions, cut government jobs and raise taxes in a furious effort to avert default.
The implications are serious for Americans outside Puerto Rico both because a taxpayer bailout would be expensive and a default would be far more disruptive than Detroit’s record bankruptcy filing in July. Officials in San Juan and Washington are adamant that a federal bailout is not on the table, but the situation is being closely monitored by the White House, which recently named an advisory team to help Puerto Rican officials navigate the crisis.
The island’s problems have ignited an exodus not seen here since the 1950s, when 500,000 people left for jobs on the mainland. Now Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, are again leaving in droves. They are choosing the uncertainty of the job market in Orlando or New York City or Philadelphia over what they view as the certainty that their dreams would be crushed by the U.S. territory’s grinding economic problems.
Bloomberg Businessweek also published an article with concerns affecting the “Muni-Bond Market” that can rattle Wall Street’s Mutual Fund companies. ‘Puerto Rico’s Borrowing Binge Could Rock the Muni-Bond Market’ stated the facts:
The island’s plight affects almost anyone with a mutual fund invested in the municipal-bond market. Exempt from local, state, and federal taxes in the U.S., Puerto Rican bonds are held by 77 percent of muni funds, according to research firm Morningstar (MORN). About 180 funds, including ones run by OppenheimerFunds, Franklin Templeton Investments (BEN), and Dreyfus (BK), have 5 percent of their assets or more in Puerto Rican bonds.
General-obligation bonds, or GOs, which account for about 15 percent of the commonwealth’s public debt, carry the lowest investment-grade rating from Moody’s Investors Service (MCO) and S&P. A downgrade could force many mutual funds to sell part of their Puerto Rican holdings, flooding the market. “Puerto Rico could represent a systemic issue for the municipal-bond market,” says Carlos Colón de Armas, an economist and former official of the Government Development Bank, which conducts the island’s capital-markets transactions. “We are now in a situation where the bonds are trading like junk. I think the ratings agencies have been careful not to lower the GOs further, to avoid creating havoc in the muni-bond market.”
The Obama administration is sending a team of economic advisors according to Bloomberg News last month “With a $70 billion debt load and a substantially underfunded government pension system, the island has fueled market speculation it may need a bailout from Washington.” The report also stated what was on the agenda:
Most of the group’s work will focus on improving Puerto Rico’s management of federal funds to ensure officials are getting the amounts they are entitled to and putting them to effective use, according to the officials. “There is less here than some people think,” said Jeffrey Farrow, who served as the Clinton White House’s liaison on Puerto Rican affairs. “This is pretty straightforward and an extension of what they have been doing in the past, but more intense, formalized and public.”
The first team of officials was scheduled to be from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Health, Education and Housing and Urban Development departments, officials said. Puerto Rico’s education, health and housing departments are among of the biggest recipients of federal funding and have also been responsible for past Puerto Rico budget shortfalls.
The EPA’s intervention may stem from concerns regarding the ability of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to comply with new federal air quality regulations that take effect in 2015.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the agencies participating under Washington’s request. Washington has required that the Puerto Rico government and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) comply with new federal air quality regulations by 2015. The online news source Caribbean Business reported back on July 11th, 2013 ‘PREPA falling behind on 2015 EPA Deadline’ that Puerto Rico is in a race to meet Washington’s air-quality standards by 2015:
A high-ranking regulatory official is concerned that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) isn’t moving fast enough to comply with strict federal air-quality standards taking effect in two years, as industry sources told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that key decisions on the compliance process won’t be taken until next spring. Prepa plans to either close or convert most of its oil-firing units to natural gas to comply with the new air-quality standards, but it won’t select a liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplier and decide on a method to deliver the gas to north-coast plants until March 2014, according to industry sources. That means the final contracts would probably not be enacted and finalized until the fourth quarter of 2014, they added.
Meanwhile, Prepa has an agreement with Texas-based Excelerate Energy to construct an offshore LNG terminal to feed the massive Aguirre powerplant in Guayama. A formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was filed in April and the project remains in the permitting phase. Excelerate officials have said they expect the facility to be in service in early 2015, but that outlook depends on getting timely federal approval on its environmental impact statement and several permits.
Puerto Rico’s plan to convert most of its oil-firing units to natural gas will have an impact on its economy. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) does not have the economic capacity to invest in the construction of new plants that would supply natural gas. “While the cash-strapped public utility can’t afford to build its own plants, there is interest from large energy companies to construct new generation units through public-private partnerships (P3s)” the report stated. “That is especially the case because the move to natural gas isn’t just about compliance, but about bringing down power costs.” Caribbean Business said that Edgardo Fábregas, a former member of PREPA’s board confirmed that the public utility is considering a plan to construct a gas-fired plant “The former Prepa board member said the public utility was considering a longer-term plan to construct, through a P3 initiative, a massive natural gas-fired plant, probably on the site of Arecibo’s Cambalache plant, which is rarely used.” The report also said that Fábregas admitted to the costs associated with the project:
To do a project right, building a plant that could “flex up or down” rapidly and would have the capacity to power the entire north coast, would cost $7 billion, and take six years to build. The project would allow for the elimination of the Palo Seco and San Juan plants, Fábregas said. “We have to move to natural gas as soon as we can, but at the end of the day, you have to renew your system. I understand the cost and time implications involved, but if we don’t start, we will never finish,” he added.
According to Robert Bryce, a senior fellow with the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in New York City produced a report called ‘The High Cost of Renewable-Electricity Mandates’. He wrote about the effects of Washington’s new air-quality proposal:
Motivated by a desire to reduce carbon emissions, and in the absence of federal action to do so, 29 states (and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) have required utility companies to deliver specified minimum amounts of electricity from “renewable” sources, including wind and solar power. California recently adopted the most stringent of these so-called renewable portfolio standards (RPS), requiring 33 percent of its electricity to be renewable by 2020. Proponents of the RPS plans say that the mandated restrictions will reduce harmful emissions and spur job growth, by stimulating investment in green technologies.
But this patchwork of state rules—which now affects the electricity bills of about two-thirds of the U.S. population as well as countless businesses and industrial users—has sprung up in recent years without the benefit of the states fully calculating their costs. There is growing evidence that the costs may be too high—that the price tag for purchasing renewable energy, and for building new transmission lines to deliver it, may not only outweigh any environmental benefits but may also be detrimental to the economy, costing jobs rather than adding them. The mandates amount to a “back-end way to put a price on carbon,” says one former federal regulator. Put another way, the higher cost of electricity is essentially a de facto carbon-reduction tax, one that is putting a strain on a struggling economy and is falling most heavily, in the way that regressive taxes do, on the least well-off among residential users.
To be sure, the mandates aren’t the only reason that electricity costs are rising—increased regulation of coal-fired power plants is also a major factor—and it is difficult to isolate the cost of the renewable mandates without rigorous cost-benefit analysis by the states.
The new mandate is called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that automatically “require electricity providers to supply a specified minimum amount of power to their customers from sources that qualify as “renewable,” a category that includes wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal.” The report clarified what the results of the new energy plan would bring:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is similarly bullish on the state programs. The RPS rules are designed “to stimulate market and technology development,” the agency says, “so that, ultimately renewable energy will be economically competitive with conventional forms of electric power. States create RPS programs because of the energy, environmental, and economic benefits of renewable energy.”
Although supporters of renewable energy claim that the RPS mandates will bring benefits, their contribution to the economy is problematic because they also impose costs that must be incorporated into the utility bills paid by homeowners, commercial businesses, and industrial users. And those costs are or will be substantial. Electricity generated from renewable sources generally costs more—often much more—than that produced by conventional fuels such as coal and natural gas. In addition, large-scale renewable energy projects often require the construction of many miles of high-voltage transmission lines. The cost of those lines must also be incorporated into the bills paid by consumers.
What Edgardo Fábregas forgets to mention is that Bryce’s analysis on the price of producing electricity through renewable energy sources can be astronomical. It is an amazing prediction given by the EPA under the Obama administration’s directives. It is important to note that the major players in the RPS programs are connected to Wall Street and major banks that includes Goldman Sachs who is one of President Obama’s major campaign contributors. Author and journalist Matt Taibbi wrote an article on the history of Goldman Sachs and the US government’s relationship for Rolling Stone magazine called ‘The Great American Bubble Machine’. Taibbi explains how Goldman Sachs would benefit from Washington’s air-quality mandates:
The new carbon credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.
Here’s how it works: If the bill passes, there will be limits for coal plants, utilities, natural-gas distributors and numerous other industries on the amount of carbon emissions (a.k.a. greenhouse gases) they can produce per year. If the companies go over their allotment, they will be able to buy “allocations” or credits from other companies that have managed to produce fewer emissions. President Obama conservatively estimates that about $646 billion worth of carbon credits will be auctioned in the first seven years; one of his top economic aides speculates that the real number might be twice or even three times that amount.
The feature of this plan that has special appeal to speculators is that the “cap” on carbon will be continually lowered by the government, which means that carbon credits will become more and more scarce with each passing year. Which means that this is a brand new commodities market where the main commodity to be traded is guaranteed to rise in price over time. The volume of this new market will be upwards of a trillion dollars annually; for comparison’s sake, the annual combined revenues of all electricity suppliers in the U.S. total $320 billion.
One other important factor to consider regarding Puerto Rico’s energy demands in the future is the supply of natural gas. Puerto Rico is hoping to secure a steady supply of natural gas from the United States for the next 100 years. “A key part of the plan is to secure a long-term LNG contract with the U.S., which has the most economical prices in the world, the result of a boon in U.S. natural gas exploration, which has unearthed a supply that experts say will last a century” according to the Caribbean Business report. In the 2012 State of the Union Address, US President Barack Obama said “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” F. William Endahl, a research associate at Global Research wrote a ground breaking report, ‘The Fracked-up USA Shale Gas Bubble’ wrote that the 100 year supply of natural gas is in fact an inaccurate prediction:
In a sobering report, Arthur Berman, a veteran petroleum geologist specialized in well assessment, using existing well extraction data for major shale gas regions in the US since the boom started, reached sobering conclusions. His findings point to a new Ponzi scheme which well might play out in a colossal gas bust over the next months or at best, the next two or three years. Shale gas is anything but the “energy revolution” that will give US consumers or the world gas for 100 years as President Obama was told.
Berman wrote already in 2011, “Facts indicate that most wells are not commercial at current gas prices and require prices at least in the range of $8.00 to $9.00/mcf to break even on full-cycle prices, and $5.00 to $6.00/mcf on point-forward prices. Our price forecasts ($4.00-4.55/mcf average through 2012) are below $8.00/mcf for the next 18 months. It is, therefore, possible that some producers will be unable to maintain present drilling levels from cash flow, joint ventures, asset sales and stock offerings.” 
Berman continued, “Decline rates indicate that a decrease in drilling by any of the major producers in the shale gas plays would reveal the insecurity of supply. This is especially true in the case of the Haynesville Shale play where initial rates are about three times higher than in the Barnett or Fayetteville. Already, rig rates are dropping in the Haynesville as operators shift emphasis to more liquid-prone objectives that have even lower gas rates. This might create doubt about the paradigm of cheap and abundant shale gas supply and have a cascading effect on confidence and capital availability.” 
What Berman and others have also concluded is that the gas industry key players and their Wall Street bankers backing the shale boom have grossly inflated the volumes of recoverable shale gas reserves and hence its expected supply duration. He notes, “Reserves and economics depend on estimated ultimate recoveries (EUR) based on hyperbolic, or increasingly flattening, decline profiles that predict decades of commercial production. With only a few years of production history in most of these plays, this model has not been shown to be correct, and may be overly optimistic….Our analysis of shale gas well decline trends indicates that the Estimated Ultimate Recovery per well is approximately one-half the values commonly presented by operators.”  In brief, the gas producers have built the illusion that their unconventional and increasingly costly shale gas will last for decades.
However, Caribbean Business says that “Prepa has invited several suppliers to bid on a project to supply the north-coast plants with natural gas. It is spelling out its gas needs at its Palo Seco and San Juan plants, letting the energy companies decide the best way to supply the natural gas” and that “Prepa has made some progress on its natural gas conversion plan, which energy experts say is the only way to bring down the high cost of electricity.” Allowing energy companies decide how to supply gas would add to the price in the long run. Russia Today recently reported that “fracking technology” is causing major environmental problems within the United States. Since 2008, the state of Texas has been experiencing more earthquakes than ever before:
Between 1970 and 2007, the area around the Texas town of Azle (pop. 10,000) experienced just two earthquakes. The peace and quiet began to change, however, at the start of 2008, when 74 minor quakes were reported in the region. Now an increasing number of people, including scientists, are speculating that natural gas production by fracking – a process that forces high pressure water and chemicals into rock in order to extract natural gas reserves – is the culprit. The problem, however, is proving the claims.
Cliff Frolich, earthquake researcher at the University of Texas, said waste water injection wells from fracking could be responsible for the recent spate of earthquake activity. “I’d say it certainly looks very possible that the earthquakes are related to injection wells,” he said in an interview with KHOU television.
Frolich left room for doubt when he said thousands of such wells have operated in Texas for decades with no quakes anywhere near them. Frolich co-authored a 2009 study on earthquake activity near Cleburne, just south of Azle, which concluded: “The possibility exists that earthquakes may be related to fluid injection.” A recent government study lent credence to Frolich’s findings.
There have been Anti-fracking protests around the world. Fracking or “hydraulic fracturing” is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals combined are injected underground with intensive pressure to fracture rocks that surround an oil or gas well. This process then releases extra oil and gas from the rock which flows into the well. “Fracking Technology” is proving to be environmentally dangerous for the health and safety of communities located in close proximity to these well sites. It causes many problems for the air we breathe and long-term environmental damage. For example, water can become contaminated from the toxins fracking has caused. It is an environmental hazard.
EPA rules and regulations also have the potential to impose a “carbon tax option” for states according to The Hill, A Washington D.C. based daily newspaper reported last month that Brookings Institution economist Adele Morris said that a carbon excise tax can be imposed on states:
Morris, a carbon tax supporter, argues that a carbon excise tax could be part of the “menu of specific approaches” that the agency gives states that will craft plans to meet the federal guidelines. Morris suggests that the EPA could “allow states to adopt a specific state-level excise tax or fee on the carbon content of fuels combusted by the power plants regulated under this rule.”
In other words, an excise tax associated with renewable energy supplies can be added only leading to higher energy costs for households, businesses and major industries. It would also allow Puerto Rico to contribute to the environmental degradation because of its future demands of natural gas which has no guarantee of supplies for the next 100 years. It is a recipe for disaster for both the economy and the environment.
Will new EPA rules bankrupt farmers?
It is estimated that Puerto Rico imports at least 85% of the food supply from the United States according to the Latin American Herald Tribune. ‘Puerto Rico Imports 85 Percent of Its Food’ stated that “Puerto Rico imports 85 percent of the food its residents consume due to the lack of competitiveness among companies in this U.S. commonwealth, Agriculture Secretary Javier Rivera told Efe.” Agriculture Secretary Rivera admits that the majority of food is imported from the United States even though Puerto Rico has the capability to produce its own food, but cannot compete with US food suppliers. Rivera continued “Although we have the technical capacity, we’re not able to produce competitively” Why? “The secretary attributed the drop in production to the high operating costs of growing food on the island, which are, in turn, a result of high labor costs, as well as rising energy and fertilizer prices. Rivera acknowledged that therefore many farmers – of which there are fewer than 2,000 on the island, according to recent statistics – have come to depend on government subsidies to stay in business.” With new EPA regulations, remaining farmers will bear higher-energy costs because of the EPA’s new federal air quality regulations that will start in 2015. Agriculture on the island would be affected and farmers would be economically bankrupt when energy prices begin to rise.
From the 1929 Great Depression to the Recession of 2014
Looking back to the 1930’s, Puerto Rico was in economic despair due to the effects of the Great Depression. In 1940, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) under the leadership of Washington’s puppet governor Luis Munoz Marin came to power with 37.9% of the vote compared to 39.2% of the Republican-Socialist coalition. The PPD also won the 1944 elections with 64.8% of the vote. The PPD was determined to transform Puerto Rico’s economy from an Agricultural farm-based to an export-driven modern industrial economy.
The US and Puerto Rico governments wanted to fast track the urbanization in many areas from a rural society to a modern, industrial urban center that would resemble New York City’s economy. For a short period of time, the project did increase living wages, improved housing conditions, health care and education. It also led to equitable land reforms,. At the same time the plan increased unemployment rates because many Puerto Ricans were unqualified for the types of jobs the new Ind