Lai See

Why the reluctance to consider alternatives to incineration

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 January, 2014, 1:43am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 January, 2014, 3:23pm

We return to the matter of the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator and the government's troubled waste management plan, which has at its centre the controversial incinerator. This project is currently in limbo since it was refused funding by the Legislative Council last year and faces another judicial review. However, the government plans to have another go at getting funding for the project from Legco this year. Meanwhile, a group of academics and professionals has miraculously come out in support of it.

The Alliance for Promoting Sustainable Waste Management for Hong Kong claims to have no vested interests, though many of its members benefit from close links with the Environment Bureau. The bureau has steadfastly opposed any other technology. It is already struggling with landfills. Incinerators have produced dangerous emissions historically. It's not clear how safe so-called "modern" incinerators are. In addition to their emissions, they also produce toxic waste, which will have to be treated and then dumped in landfills. The number of incinerators is declining as the authorities turn to other cleaner ways of dealing with waste such as plasma gasification.

Professor Irene Lo Man-chi, of the University of Science and Technology's department of civil and environmental engineering, who is a member of the new waste management group, insists that the technology is "uncertain" and is not a "rational" choice for Hong Kong to pursue.

Nevertheless, it is increasingly being adopted by governments and local authorities around the world. Indeed, one of the largest plasma gasification plants is due to be commissioned this year in Teesside. So enamoured is the British government with the scheme that it has entered a long-term power purchasing agreement that enables Air Products to build a second project in the area. The plant will produce 50 megawatts of combined cycle power, which is enough to provide electricity for 50,000 homes.

Schemes such as this surely are an indication that the technology is worthy of more than the cursory glance the government or its consultants, Aecom, have given it.


Beware the penguin question

Those of you thinking of changing jobs this year need to prepare for the increasing prevalence of oddball questions. Most people expect to be asked about the technicalities of the job they are applying for and perhaps their strengths and weaknesses. But according to job site you need to be prepared for quirkier questions that are designed to test your creativity and how you react under pressure, while others are supposed to indicate if you are a good cultural fit.

Examples include "What do you think about when you are alone in your car?", "What song best describes your work ethic?", "A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?" and "On a scale from one to 10, rate me as an interviewer". The worst thing you can do when faced with one of these questions is say "I don't know".


Bankers' pay

A comparison of salary and bonus data for investment banking and markets suggests that people should start in New York, settle in London and retire in Paris where the cost of living is lower. Analysts can expect £55,000 (HK$700,000) in London but £75,000 in New York.

The survey by included data for New York, London, Paris and Milan. Surprisingly, London is well ahead of New York in terms of a senior banker's pay with a differential of £155,000.


Top hedge fund manager in 2013

Hedge funds have endured a tough few years. But there have been some notable exceptions. David Tepper, the founder of Appaloosa Management, with more than US$20 billion under management, anticipates clearing about US$3 billion in 2013, which would make him the highest-paid hedge fund manager of the year.

By the end of November, his Palomino fund grew 38 per cent, according to the New York Post, making him one of the few in the business to outpace the 29.1 per cent rise in the S&P 500 Index. Among Tepper's investments were US airline stocks, like Delta Air Lines and United Continental, which soared 128 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively, last year.


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