By Martin Webber
Editor, World Service Business programmes
Businesses are moving from Hong Kong to escape the pollution
Energy prices and climate change were twin topics which cropped up regularly during 2006.
Drivers and airline passengers
complained bitterly as the price of
crude oil hit its highest level for
20 years, reaching almost $80
But oil prices slipped back again, to
end little changed over the past
The environmental impact of
China's frenetic growth
continued to be debated.
It has been the fastest industrialisation
in history - the past six years of
growth in China equates to double
the total annual economic output of India.
That growth has taken close to 400 million people out of poverty in China, but pollution is getting worse.
Growth at a price
More and more business people are now
moving out of Hong Kong to go to
Singapore to escape South East
Jim O'Neill, chief
global economist at the bankers
Goldman Sachs, believes the issue is being addressed by the Chinese government.
The world wants China's cheap goods
"I've noticed in the past year that the authorities have got dramatically more concerned about the sustainability of this growth from an environmental prospective," he says.
But environmental agencies in China have only a handful of people and local party chiefs don't take much notice of them when they want to provide more jobs and faster growth.
In just five years, China is expected
to overtake the United States as
the world's biggest emitter of the
global warming gas carbon dioxide.
The climate change issue continued
to be much talked about, without
anyone coming up with effective
policies to tackle it.
Companies spotted an increasing
public relations advantage in
announcing they were "going green" while European governments announced they wanted
to deal with rising emissions but still pushed ahead with
plans for expanding airports.
Meanwhile, the British entrepreneur,
Sir Richard Branson, said he was now
very worried about global warming but insisted he wasn't going to sell
his most profitable venture - his
transatlantic Virgin airline.
He argued that
flying long distance could not be stopped
as it was vital to economic
growth, but new airline practices could
allow air traffic to
grow without destroying the planet.
Sir Richard said he wanted to change the way
planes move about on airport runways
and wanted more money spent on better
air traffic control systems.
But Jeff Gazzard from
the Green Skies alliance, a pressure group
that wants to crack down on air travel, said
he did not believe the numbers.
"Richard Branson has obviously had an idle moment on a train and has sketched these out on the back of a fag packet. Civil aviation worldwide emits about 600 million tons of CO2 - that's slightly more than the entire UK economy," he says.
Old guard falters
Lego has moved production to cheaper countries
The collapse of
Enron five years ago rocked confidence in
American business and led to sweeping new regulations. The two top men at the former
US energy giant were found
guilty of fraud.
Kenneth Lay never went to jail -
he died of a heart
attack a month after the verdict, while Jeffrey Skilling began a 24-year prison sentence.
There was more trouble for the
old guard of the US motor industry.
Ford announced 30,000 jobs
were to go and 14 factories were to
close in the next six years.
"These cuts are a painful last resort and I'm deeply mindful of their impact," said Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford who founded the company in 1903.
"They're going to affect many lives, many families and many communities."
Away from the manufacturing gloom,
overall the US Stock market had a
healthy year, gaining 15%.
It was technology that once again
set pulses racing - a company with just
70 workers was sold for a
The outfit snapped up was a
video-sharing website, called YouTube,
which hosts files ranging from TV shows to
home movie clips.
YouTube claims clips on
its site are viewed 100 million times every day.
The company that bought YouTube was Google -
the search engine which floated
on the stock market just over
a year ago.
Staring at computer screens may have
a certain fascination, but that's nothing compared
with the time spent slotting
together plastic bricks.
The Lego brick has
filled countless happy childhood hours since
it was invented in Denmark in1949.
In the past year, Lego announced it was
moving most of its production from Denmark
and the US to Hungary, the Czech Republic
Chief executive Jorgen Vig Knudstorp says Czech staff
cost only 20% of those in Denmark, but he insists the family owners are determined to hang onto the iconic Lego brick.