quarta-feira, janeiro 03, 2007

Gathering Storm

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Click to Enlarge / Click para AumentarNothing much left to say really (except maybe an extended rotten raving rant with every curse & palavrão I know upon the Muggles & Hobbits - puta que pariu ...), just repeating myself, oh well ...

     1. Thomas Pynchon - Entropy.
     2. Ian Herbert & others in The Independent, (Source).
     3. Richard Blackwell in the Globe, (Source).
     4. some Globe commentary on 3. while it lasts.

A-and later if I have time, the pollyannas at Wiki think they have invented a new paradigm ... maybe so ... Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams. then again, maybe not - is a company called 'New Paradigm' redundant?

1. Thomas Pynchon - Entropy (Back).

I posted this before, thanks to the excellence of Google I cannot quickly find where it was ... somewhere in the blog, okokok, I finally found it in the Annex: Thomas Pynchon - Entropy, a short piece which sums it up for me.

03/01/07, Ian Herbert & Ben Russell & Andy McSmith, Planes, trains, and the road to ruin, (Back).

Soaring rail fares are boosting the growth in domestic flights and undermining the fight against global warming.

Environmentalists and passenger groups have attacked the Government for driving rail passengers on to low-cost flights by presiding over a fourth consecutive year of inflation-busting train fares.

Sixty per cent of tickets sold have unregulated fares, which are set by private rail companies. These prices have gone up by as much as 8.4 per cent - more than three times the Government's target rate of inflation - so that a standard open return ticket between Manchester and London now costs £219, or £337 for first class.

The transport union TSSA said the increase meant UK rail fares were "by far and away the most expensive in Europe". Michael Meacher, a former environment minister, said the Government had "missed a golden opportunity to point up the benefits of public transport, and to make a very strong point about climate change". Instead of allowing train fares to go up, the Government should have capped or lowered them, he said.

Jason Torrance, campaigns director of the Transport 2000 pressure group, said the price rises flew in the face of "the Government's rhetoric about climate change".

Despite a poor image, with expectations of late trains and bad service, the railways have recently become popular. Approximately 83 per cent of trains ran on time in 2005 and customer satisfaction levels are at an all-time high of 80 per cent.

The train operating companies cannot keep up with demand and increased fares - rather than increased investment - are being used as a way of tackling the problem. That means flying is attracting more customers.

Those hit hardest by the fare increases are people who use trains at peak times. A standard open return ticket on the London to Glasgow service now costs £240. A standard open ticket from London to Plymouth is £214.

Business travellers have been hit harder than those who can choose to travel at off-peak times or can plan ahead. A Manchester to London ticket can be picked up for as little as £12.50 for those booking weeks in advance. But business travellers are those who are most likely to switch from rail to air, according to environmentalists. "Rail is an ideal solution for tackling the increase of low-cost airlines but these increases are instead pushing more people to use them," said Mr Torrance. "That's a disaster. The CO2 emissions from a London to Brussels trip by rail is 10 per cent of that by air."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said the Government's "limited green record" had been shot to pieces at a time when vast airport expansions were being permitted. "Motoring costs have been steadily declining as a share of income while the cost of public transport has steadily risen," said Mr Huhne. "These trends have to be reversed if we are to tackle climate change. Gordon Brown's claim to be environmentally friendly is clearly nonsense. Transport emissions are up 18 per cent since the Kyoto base year of 1990. Any climate change programme which does not tackle this sector is not worth the paper it's written on."

Chris Grayling, the shadow Transport Secretary, said: "This is further evidence that high fares are a deliberate part of government strategy to tackle overcrowding on trains. We can't expect people to leave their cars at home if they are being priced off the railways."

The TSSA union compared the £219 London to Manchester (200 miles) fare with the £34.50 it costs to travel from Paris to Calais. Travelling from Madrid to Barcelona (387 miles) or from Berlin to Bonn, (365 miles) costs just £63 in each case.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the Government was already spending record sums - on average £88m a week on the railways - meaning that 42 per cent of the costs of the railway are met by taxpayers. "We regulate some fare increases," he said. "Most commuter tickets and saver fares have their average increases capped at inflation plus 1 per cent. Setting fares which are not regulated is a commercial decision for train operators. It is in their interests to provide an attractive range of fares and to encourage more passengers to use the railway."

Why we took the plane from Manchester to London:

"We never use trains any more. We don't feel safe on them; they're
full of yobbos and drunks. Flying is much more convenient. It's more
comfortable, and the cost doesn't really enter into it. I wouldn't
care if the train was much cheaper; I would still want to fly."
   Bernard Dewhurst, 67, from Lancashire, and his wife, Vivien.

"I'm flying because I find trains really unreliable. I would use
trains if they ran regularly, but now the prices are going up it makes
them look even less attractive, and who wants to have to book ahead
anyway? The whole point of getting a train is being able to jump on
it. I do consider the damage to the environment flying makes, but this
doesn't stop me. In this instance I'm doing the convenient thing."
   Maxine Shapira, 39, a secretary from Rochdale.

"I find trains completely unreliable and I'd rather get the plane. I
can get from Manchester to London in 40 minutes. Planes are faster,
more convenient and more comfortable. If the prices are going up for
trains, I think more and more people will fly. I'm just not very
environmentally sound, I'm sorry to say."
   Alison Gilroy, 35, a teacher from Lancaster.

"I would use trains if I was going to central London... but I'm
getting a connecting flight today. If I knew I was going somewhere I'd
book ahead and take advantage of the cheaper [rail] fares."
   Helen Kaye, 37, hairdresser from Huddersfield.

Manchester to London by rail:
The numbers: Every day, 34 trains - many of them packed - leave Manchester
Piccadilly bound for London Euston.
The price: The cost of a ticket varies, but after yesterday's increase a standard
open return is now priced at £219 (an 8.4 per cent rise).
The true cost: Each passenger's journey produces 14.8 kg of CO2.

London to Manchester by air:
The numbers: Every day, 48 flights take off from London bound for Manchester airport.
The price: Costs vary but return tickets for travel today were available last
night for £171 (including tax).
The true cost: Each passenger's journey produces 90kg of CO2.

02/01/07, Richard Blackwell, Wind power faces gathering storm, (Back).

Canada's wind power business could face a tough year in 2007, with increasing doubts about this green energy source promising to buffet the industry.

While a record amount of wind power is likely to come on-stream next year, with close to a dozen projects across the country set to be commissioned, questions about the safety of the turbines and the reliability of the power they generate are blowing across the landscape.

The controversy comes as the industry is blossoming: According to numbers compiled by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), projects generating close to 1,000 megawatts of wind power are scheduled to be completed in 2007.

That would outpace 2006's record installations, where wind power capacity more than doubled nationally to almost 1,500 MW.

As much as 450 MW of that new capacity is scheduled to come on-stream in Quebec, with another 275 MW in Ontario and 135 MW in Alberta.

CanWEA president Robert Hornung said delays might slow down the launch of a few of the projects set to be complete in the coming year, “[but] I feel pretty confident in saying that we're looking at probably a minimum of 600 MW of projects next year.”

Each 100 MW of wind power is enough to continuously supply a city about the size of Lethbridge, Alta.

There are two main controversies that have popped up to trouble the wind power business: local opposition to turbines from people who live nearby, and concerns over the reliability and efficiency of the electricity produced by wind farms. Increasingly, the two issues are being linked.

The fight against wind development from residents who live near planned projects has taken on a life beyond the usual NIMBY (not in my backyard) complaints. Wind opponents are now using broad arguments about wind reliability to bolster their other concerns over noise, bird safety, vibration and destruction of natural vistas.

That's going to accelerate in 2007, said Tom Adams, executive director of Toronto energy watchdog Energy Probe.

“The NIMBYs are going to be more capable [and better able] to analyze and bring serious arguments, rather than just aesthetic concerns, into the discussions.”

Energy Probe helped crank up the debate in November when it issued a report that said wind turbines are much less reliable than expected. Data collected from three wind farms near Lake Huron during the summer and fall showed the turbines produced only 22.3 per cent of their potential capacity for electricity generation. Another problem: The wind often died in mid-morning when customer demand was gearing up.

Mr. Adams concedes that other data he has seen since that report was completed — from other wind projects across the country — show some wind farms have much higher energy production than those in his study. Still, he said, the output of even the most productive wind farms is never at the level forecast before the projects begin.

The concern over the consistency of wind energy has prompted the Alberta government to put a temporary cap on that province's wind power production. The province doesn't want more than 900 MW of wind — it now has close to 400 MW — because its unreliability could destabilize the power grid at higher levels.

CanWEA's Mr. Hornung, whose organization lobbies on behalf of wind power builders and producers, says he's confident Alberta will lift the cap once it adds new “tools” such as sophisticated wind forecasting, better geographic diversity of turbine construction, and better use of links with power grids in adjacent jurisdictions.

“I'm extremely confident that we'll be moving well beyond 900 MW in Alberta,” Mr. Hornung said.

He also said he was “really frustrated” by the Energy Probe study of Ontario, because it was based on such limited data from a small number of wind farms that are close together. Having wind farms spread across the province will dramatically cut the variability of wind power, Mr. Hornung said. “The wind does not start or stop blowing all over Ontario at the same time.”

One area Energy Probe and CanWEA agree on: There needs to be much more study and analysis of how wind fits into the whole energy picture.

But research in other countries has also cast doubts on the long-term role of wind power as a major contributor to energy production.

In Britain, a report from the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) — an independent non-profit organization that evaluates “green” energy — found that most onshore wind projects in that country were underperforming. REF also projected that wind farms will be able to generate a relatively small proportion of Britain's power over the long term, and that there's a need for a much broader spectrum of renewable energy sources.

Mr. Adams predicts that in the coming years, the wind industry — particularly in Ontario — will have to shift its focus to offshore wind farms. Offshore turbines will experience greater wind speeds, with fewer safety concerns from blade failure or icing, he said. While rare, blades have occasionally broken in European installations and flown considerable distances. And ice is sometimes thrown off moving blades when temperatures are low.

Offshore wind farms are not going to pop up in the short term, however, because the Ontario government has frozen offshore development until it thoroughly examines the environmental impacts.

Mr. Adams also thinks there could be long-term potential for turbines suspended high above the ground from helium balloons, and for electricity storage systems that will help balance uneven wind power generation. (Back)

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