Europe’s Oil Refiners Choke On Flood Of U.s., Asian Imports

Europe should shift focus to bowel cancer screening to save lives: scientists

(Photo: Lionel Bonaventure, AFP/Getty Images) SHARE 9 CONNECT 23 TWEET COMMENTEMAILMORE It’s no day at the plage operating a giant, successful, multinational American company, once you’ve run up against some very un-American notions about tax policy from abroad. Such as the “data tax” on Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, about to be proposed by France for adoption by the European Union. Apparently, France would like to impose a data transmission tax on those companies — and only those companies — because they are the dominant platforms for Internet usage in Europe just as they are in the US, but they are “non-European,” that is, American. Their dominance therefore prevents European competitors from emerging from obscurity. (How taxing the most popular sites will make other sites more popular with consumers is not clear.) A French member of the European Parliament tells the Wall Street Journal that a data tax should be imposed because the European nations have become “just the puppets of financiers and multinationals.” Or, as Forbes puts it in a now-classic headline: “Gibbering Nonsense From France About Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon.” The tax plan is just one piece of a proposal that would establish a new Internet regulatory agency within the European Union. In part, the agency would be empowered to impose other rules aimed at leveling the playing field for European competitors, such as forcing the American companies to enable portability among devices for digital purchases. French Technology Minister Fleur Pellerin told the Wall Street Journal that the absence of such regulations is effectively “blocking innovation from all of the other actors,” and making it difficult for European companies to emerge. The call for regulation gets real impetus from another issue that has entangled US technology companies in Europe: data privacy. The issue gained a great deal of heat after revelations of the US government’s continuing collection of private data on a massive scale, and with the cooperation of some of its biggest technology companies. The proposals are expected to be presented in late October at a summit of European leaders. At this point, the data transmission tax is the part of the proposal that seems least likely to succeed. For one thing, it’s not clear how such a usage-based tax could be imposed, though Pellerin told the Financial Times that her agency is looking at data transfer, traffic, and interconnection to work out how the big Internet companies make their money and, therefore, what part of their (free) services could be taxed. In addition, it appears that Great Britain will oppose the idea, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph, not least because the European Union does not currently have the power to levy taxes. The proposal appears to have the support of European telecoms, which have long resented the low tax rates enjoyed by American companies that are, after all, using the physical networks the telecoms built.

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Many governments devote significant funds to breast cancer screening, but studies in recent years have found that routine breast mammograms can also lead to so-called “over-diagnosis” when tests pick up tumors that would not have caused a problem. The risk of over-diagnosis in bowel cancer screening is very low, while gains in terms of reducing deaths are large – making routine testing cost-effective, Philippe Autier, a professor at France’s International Prevention Research Institute, told the European Cancer Conference in Amsterdam. “There is now an irrefutable case for devoting some of the resources from breast and prostate cancer screening to the early detection of colorectal (bowel) cancer,” he said. A large European study published last year found that breast screening programs over-diagnose about four cases for every 1,000 women aged between 50 and 69 who are screened. Colorectal cancer kills more than 600,000 people a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In Europe some 400,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. Results of a study conducted by Autier using data from 11 European countries between 1989 and 2010 showed that the greater the proportions of men and women routinely screened for bowel cancer, the greater the reductions in death rates. In Austria, for example, where 61 percent of those studied reported having had colorectal screening tests, deaths from this form of cancer dropped by 39 percent for men and 47 percent for women over the decade. Meanwhile in Greece, where only 8 percent of males had had bowel cancer screening, death rates rose by 30 percent for men. In the light of the results, Cornelis van de Velde, an oncologist at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and president of the European Cancer Organisation, said it was “very disappointing” there are such wide differences in European governments’ approaches to colorectal screening. “People over 50 should be informed of the availability of the test, and pressure should be put on national health services to put more effort into organizing screening programs,” he told the conference. Screening for early signs of bowel cancer involves either a faecal occult blood test, which checks a sample of feces for hidden blood, or endoscopy, where a tiny camera is introduced into the large bowel to look for the polyps that can be a precursor of cancer. In some European countries, such as France, Germany and Austria, many men and women over the age of 50 have regular colorectal screening examinations, while in others, such as The Netherlands and Britain, screening is much less common.

Danger for Europe’s refiners is also rising in the east. The earlier-than-expected start of production at the giant 400,000 bpd Jubail refinery in Saudi Arabia, a joint venture with Total, is already remaking global trade flows as demand in the Middle East for refined product from Asia weakens. That means that Asian refiners such as India’s Reliance Industries are keen to ship more diesel and jet fuel to Europe. While diesel flows into Europe grow, European exports of excess gasoline volumes to the U.S. East Coast market, a long-established trade, are rapidly dwindling. U.S. gasoline imports averaged 562,000 bpd in July August, when demand traditionally peaks, the lowest level since 2001, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. MOST VULNERABLE PLANTS Some 1.8 million barrels per day of European capacity have been mothballed since 2009, according to Deutsche Bank, leaving around 10.7 million bpd of operating capacity in the European Union plus Norway. The plants most vulnerable to closures are the less complex refineries in the Atlantic basin that rely heavily on gasoline exports, Matti Lievonen, Chief Executive of Finland’s Neste Oil refinery said earlier this month. Phillips 66 is seeking buyers for its 71,000 bpd Whitegate refinery in Ireland and U.S. firm Murphy Oil is reported to be trying to sell its Milford Haven plant in Britain. “Gasoline competition in the market and the lost arbitrage will limit crude runs which means more closures. The number of refineries in Europe cannot be sustained because of surplus gasoline productions,” Leitch said.