By Bruce Wolpe. Senior Fellow at the United States Studies Centre and Ticker News US political contributor
The big economic news at the end of the week, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:
“Hiring in the U.S. unexpectedly slowed in April, a sign the nation’s recovery from the pandemic still faces challenges as many businesses struggle to find workers or remain cautious about the economic outlook.
U.S. employers added a modest 266,000 jobs in April, a report Friday by the Labor Department showed, far short of the one million that economists had forecast and the weakest monthly gain since January.
The deceleration came after payrolls rose a downwardly revised 770,000 in March and left total employment down by 8.2 million from its pre-pandemic level.”
The White House was expecting jobs growth of close to 1 million for April, so this news was a real hit on expectations.
For Republicans, the message was: workers are not coming back because the government support they receive is too generous.
And they know that poor economic news is bad for Biden’s standing.
Biden was having none of it.
“When we passed the American Rescue Plan, I want to remind everybody, it was designed to help us over the course of a year, not 60 days. A year. We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days everything would be fine.Joe Biden – US PRESIDENT
Today, there’s more evidence that our economy is moving in the right direction. But it’s clear we have a long way to go.
All told, our economy has added more than 1,500,000 new jobs since I took office. That’s the most number of jobs created in the first three months of any presidency in our history,” the President said.
This places even greater urgency on Biden’s getting Congress to approve his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. It is another make-or-break moment.
If Republicans can stop it — and the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said exactly that is what he intends to do — Biden will hit a ceiling in what he can win in Washington.
If he can succeed, Biden will have more political capital with voters across the country. So there is a lot at stake.
We should know by July 4 if this key legislation can at least pass the House of Representatives.
Read more about Biden’s contributions here.
Supersonic flights – Are you ready? | Ticker Original
It’s the news about Boom supersonics that av-geeks have been waiting for since… well 2003. Why 2003? I’ll explain in a moment.
The leap of faith by US airline United is exactly what aviation startup Boom Technology needed to show the market it was onto a winner with its next-generation supersonic jet.
October 2003 was the last time the world saw a supersonic commercial airliner take to the skies, as the final Corcorde jet landed for the last time and British Airways and Air France retired their remaining aircraft.
It was the end of an era. The romantic super wealthy supersonic jetliner had been fictionalised as the jet of the future. But high fuel costs, low passenger numbers, and a deadly crash in Paris (even though it wasn’t the fault of the aircraft) sealed its fate.
So the decision by one of the world’s biggest airlines to purchase Boom’s new Overture aircraft is huge. Not just because of the delivery, but because of who is buying it. Traditionally, US carriers stick to what they know. Most of the time its Boeing, and sometimes Airbus, but mostly just to keep Boeing on its competitive toes.
“Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travellers access to a stellar flight experience.”United CEO Scott Kirby
So for one of the old guard to place an order for 15 Overture jets is a really big deal. But is it a really good idea?
The Boom sales pitch
Before we tear the dream apart, let’s look at the promise from Boom and United.
Supersonic flight is when an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound.
At an altitude of 60,000ft (18,300m), that means flying faster than 660mph (1,060km/h).
A typical passenger jet may cruise at about 560mph (900km/h) but the supersonic Boom Overture is expected to reach speeds of 1,122mph (1,805km/h) – also known as Mach 1.7.
That cuts the flying time over the Atlantic or Pacific literally in half. Something that helped Concorde become the aircraft of choice for busy businessmen.
There’s that great episode of Absolutely Fabulous, where Eddie and Patsie travel to New York and back in a day to buy a door handle, all thanks to the Concorde.
But for the rest of us, and those of us too young to take a keen interest in flash-fashion doorknobs, the Concorde was nothing more than a dream.
Denver-based supersonic developer Boom Technology is promising to bring back the era of supercharged flying.
Is the industry ready?
The flying public, sick of the ever tightening capacity of 737s or A320s probably love the idea of flying to their destinations faster, if it allows them to unpack their legs out of the vacuum seal and cut their journey times in half.
But as Boeing often reminds us, it’s airlines who buy passenger planes, not passengers. And with the price of oil reaching 100 dollars a barrel, efficiency, not speed, has been on the minds of aviation executives for the past 25 years.
It’s one thing to create the supersonic jet of the future, it’s another thing to make it work. Boom says the supersonic Overture will be able to fly on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and be the first commercial plane to immediately reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Sounds great, except when you think of the logistics to make this happen. Not every aviation expert believes they can.
“Is there infrastructure in the pipeline and existing to ramp up the supply? if this plane takes off in 2029, that’s eight years away. Can we see the ramp up of sustainable aviation fuel and capacity to power this aircraft?” asks aviation journalist Joran Chong.
“I think there’s been a lot of advancements for stable aviation fuel plants in Europe and the US. The technology and science is coming up with more ways to produce sustainable aviation fuel. That’s the ambition, that’s the hope,” Jordan says.
The lesson from the A380
While Boeing was deciding whether to go for speed or efficiency before eventually deciding on the 787 Dreamliner, the US aircraft manufacturer was also in a semi culture war with Airbus over a simple question. Was the future of aviation about flying hub to hub, or flying point to point?
Airbus believed major airports were reaching capacity for available slots, and invested heavily in the double decker A380. Boeing believed future orders would more likely come from airlines wanting to fly more boutique routes for passengers, and opted for smaller aircraft. Airlines like Qantas who fly both the A380 and the 787 found it would be cheaper to put two 787s on the same route as an A380.
The A380 would suffer an untimely death for passengers. Not just because of COVID, but also because airlines just didn’t buy them, or fulfil the orders they thought they might need. While passengers loved the comfort and space of an A380, airlines found them tough to fill.
But might Boom have the opposite problem?
Speed v Space
While the Concorde looked stunningly stylish from the outside, the interior of the supersonic jet left a lot to be desired.
“It was a lot more like premium economy,” says Jordan Chong.
In order to fit as many people into the small aircraft as possible, the seats were far narrower than business travellers are used to today.
Which raises a key question for business travellers who might have to make a choice in 2029. Would you rather fly business class more comfortably, but on a longer journey? Or would you rather fly faster with no flat bed?
“The argument could be made that if you’re flying for only three to four hours, do you really need a lie flat seat given they are short distances? You’re paying for speed rather than comfort or amenity,” Jordan says.
Is there demand for supersonic travel?
Boom Technology seems to think so, but they need more than United to agree. After years of losses, it was only in Concorde’s final years that it began to make a profit for British Airways.
Today, wealthy travellers have many choices. From competitively priced Business Class and First Class fares, to the choice of their own private jets – a lot has changed since the Concorde left our skies.
Boom will begin tests flights of its Overture jets in 2026.
But for now, it’s still only a paper plane.
Will Indonesia’s ‘Work From Bali’ save the island? | TICKER VIEWS
Indonesia is launching the ‘Work From Bali’ program to revive the Island’s battered economy – but will it go far enough?
The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has announced their upcoming ‘Work From Bali’ scheme, which will allow public servants to live and work in Nusa Dua. The program will send 25 per cent of Indonesian public servants from seven different Indonesian ministries to live and work from hotels in Nusa Dua. This comes in an effort to boost tourism on the island.
As Bali suffers, does ‘Work From Bali’ go far enough?
The COVID pandemic hasn’t been easy for any of us, but it’s been tougher on Bali than most. International travel bans brought tourism in Bali to a jarring halt.
Official figures released by the Indonesian government suggest over 80% of Balinese locals have been impacted as a result of the island’s COVID tourism slump.
The tourism industry is crucial to Bali’s economy, with many locals relying on international guests for income. In 2019, 6.3 million international tourists visited the island. In 2020, that number dropped to about 1 million.
This year, the island welcomed just 25 foreigners from January to March. Last year 1.1 million tourists visited the island in the same period. The pandemic has seen more than 4.3 million Balinese people out of work.
Will the scheme help the people who need it?
Australian expat Amanda runs the ‘Let’s Help Bali’ Facebook group, which has almost 14,000 members. She explains that many Balinese locals leave their villages to get jobs in tourism, which are more often than not in the city.
“This means the impact doesn’t just affect that immediate person but the whole family who rely on that income,” she told Ticker NEWS.
Amanda says she thinks the scheme “will help very few people”, and the Indonesian government needs to reopen Bali’s borders to support locals in a meaningful way.
“Until the borders are open, I don’t see much changing here,” she said.
“Bali needs help from everywhere”
While support for the program isn’t universal, it appears as though everyone can agree that Bali is suffering. Ketut Ardana, Vice Chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, says the Work From Bali program is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough.
Health risks of COVID
Despite these efforts to reopen Bali to tourists, COVID remains an issue on the island with almost 2 million total cases, and over 500 active cases.
Nusa Dua is one of Indonesia’s three “green zones,” where the vaccination roll-out has been prioritised. Local newspapers have reported more than 8,000 staff in Nusa Dua, have received a second dose of the vaccine.
Ketut Ardana says he’s “not worried” about the potential health risks of opening borders for travel.
“We are ready and safe to receive tourists,” he said.
Solar grants to support small business | TICKER VIEWS
The Victorian Government Minister for Solar Homes, Lily D’Ambrosio, reveals a new program of $3,500 grants, for small businesses to install solar power systems. As a result, the grants will help businesses cut back on electricity bills and boost jobs in the solar industry.
Cutting electricity bills:
The new program, “Solar For Business,” will allow Victorian small businesses to apply for rebates to install rooftop solar. This will see business owners slash their electricity bills and reduce upfront costs of installation. Businesses will save hundreds of dollars on their annual energy bills and reap the benefits of the solar panels longevity. Any Victorian small business employing 20 or less people will be eligible.
The program will run with the Labor Government’s $1.3 billion Solar Homes Program. Minister for Solar Homes, Lily D’Ambrosio, says a key focus is to help businesses save cash.
Creating jobs in the solar industry:
As Victoria remains in its fourth lockdown, the program will also create jobs for the solar industry, with thousands of panels being installed across the state. The program is available for systems with a capacity of up to 30kW. In addition, it will see 15 000 solar PV rebates delivered over three years. The solar systems must be delivered by authorised retailers and installers and included in Solar Victoria’s approved product list.
Andy McCarthy is a mover and shaker in the solar industry. He is the Chief Executive Officer and Director at leading solar business, RACV solar. RACV solar is located in the Gippsland, the centre of coal country. but he is defying the odds, making it the home of his solar empire. McCarthy says the grants are a big push in the right direction.
Small businesses, the solar industry and the climate will benefit from the “Solar For Business Program.”
For more information, including eligibility criteria and authorised retailers, can be found at solar.vic.gov.au/business. Applications are now open.
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