Electric cars

November 24, 2008

I see Australia is the latest country to start the switch to electric cars and wean its population off dependence on oil.

It follows Denmark and Israel’s lead.

New Zealand has already clinched a deal with Mitsubishi for a fleet of electric cars to be introduced in 2009. And in Japan, Japan Post is replacing its vehicles with electric equivalents.

In England, London has already been at the forefront of electric car usage and Boris Johnston has given a grant for the scheme to be extended across the boroughs of the city.

Now Brighton and Hove are planning a similar system. They successfully secured a £2.2 million grant from the EU for their project. Their 10 charging points will cost £30 000 altogether or £3000 each, quite a bit cheaper than the London counterparts.

The Australian model will be powered by renewable energy. The recharging stations will be powered by wind turbines.

Project Better Place will raise $1 billion to provide 250 000 recharging stations in the east of the country.

This works out at $4000 per recharging station.

Thats a lot cheaper than the £7000 it takes to install a recharging station in London, but I guess the price difference is down to the sheer massive scale of the Australian project.

The similar Danish system is also run by wind turbines. Around 20% of Denmark’s electricity production comes from wind, but the fact that the car batteries are traded in to charge – and they store electricity from the grid – with a number of batteries charging at any one time means that wind power can provide base load even when the wind is not blowing.

In fact, 2 million electric cars in circulation would provide Denmark with a standby capacity of electricity over 5 times its needs.

Project Better Place are in discussion with another 30 countries keen to implement the system. The mayor of San Francisco wants electric cars there.

The same company has already done the same in Israel.

Norway has about 50 recharging stations, but plans to have 400 on the go by 2011. The Norwegian Car company Think currently makes around 10 000 electric cars a year and can’t up with demand but does plan to open new factories to increase production.

Not to be left behind the Swedish Government are planning to provide a network of recharging stations across the country. It plans to be oil-independent by 2020.

The Finns seem to have taken a different approach. They have started a scheme where they convert your existing car to electric using lithium ion batteries. They claim that the top speed of your car will be a little less but the acceleration of the car will be better.

Even the Icelanders – slated by new Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy as being in an ‘Arc of Insolvency’ – have just shook hands on a deal with Mitsubishi to fleet test their electric cars in the country in 2009, similar to the New Zealand deal.

Another country in Murphy’s ‘Arc of Insolvency’, Ireland, will shortly announce plans to have 10% of all its cars powered by electricity by 2020. Project Better Place are already in talks with the Irish Government. Its predicted around 50 000 jobs could be created in Ireland with the establishment of such eco-friendly policies.

So much for the environmentally aware Scandanavians and the forward thinking Irish in their Arc of Prosperity you might say. What about Scotland?

Until recently Scotland had only one electric car. That was a G-Wiz, the electric car much used in London, with a slightly dodgy safety record. It also had only one public recharging station, in the Braehead Shopping Centre.

Clydebank Housing Association has provided electric cars for its tenants at Radnor Park. They are recharged at the local power station that provides electricity for the flats.

Its been funded by a £37 000 Community Scotland grant.

The Department of Transport is also planning to pilot a ‘green van’ scheme in various locations in England from Newcastle, Gateshead, and Liverpool to Leeds and Coventry. In Scotland only Glasgow has been selected.

James May, of BBC’s Top Gear, is not a fan of the Westminster Government’s ‘green transport’ policy:

‘People think it’s about style or performance, but it’s down to the science. There has to be a hydrogen infrastructure in place to provide the energy to make electric vehicles work properly. We are nowhere near that point.’

Far from ‘kick-starting’ the revolution, May says the Government is simply ‘window-dressing’. ‘There’s a feeble bit of Congestion Charge relief if your drive an electric vehicle. This is no more a Green-vehicle strategy than my cat,’ he says.

Newer electric cars like the Smart Fortwo Electric can plug into a mains socket, has a top speed of 70 mph and can travel for 75 miles without a recharge.

The new Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car, assembled by Lotus. It can do 0 – 60 in 3.9 seconds and can travel 244 miles on a single charge of its battery. Of course it does cost 99 000 euros or around £84 000.

Tesla Roadster

75% of Scots in a recent survey said they would consider changing to an alternative powered car if they became readily available.

The Scottish Government has planned a consultation exercise on electric cars this Autumn. But there are already calls for the SNP Government to try and get Project Better Place’s network in Scotland.

But if it doesn’t act soon Scotland could be the poor relation of Europe in electric car takeup.

Spain has announced a target of 1 million electric cars on its roads by 2014.

Germany is launching its own network of electric car recharging stations.

Portugal is also announcing its own network of recharging stations. It will build 1300 stations by 2011.

France has recently announced a $549 million investment in electric and hybrid cars.

With the SNP Government’s commitment to renewal energy surely the Danish model based on wind turbines is the way forward? The combination of providing much more base load than we need and have the rest exported, the reduction of carbon emissions and the prospect of being oil independent when the oil finally runs out must be the favourite way ahead.

Back to James May:

‘The wind blows, the waves roll, the sun shines. The moon in the sky plucks at the sea to makes the tides, and Tennyson’s wild cataract leaps in glory. And he wasn’t talking about an eye infection. All of this will go on for as long as there is a world, and we need convert only a very tiny amount of it to electricity to keep driving until the sun goes out.’

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Sarah Palin’s prank call

November 2, 2008

In all the furore over the BBC Radio 2 prank call from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to Fawlty Towers’ actor Andrew Sachs, a brighter type of prank call was played on Sarah Palin by two Quebec DJs Marc Antoine Audette and Sebastian Trudel Audette.

The Masked Avengers, as they are known, phoned Sarah Palin pretending to be Nicholas Sarkozy.

‘Nicholas Sarkozy’ talked to Sarah Palin about hunting, killing baby seals and his wife being so hot in bed! And from his house he could see Belgium!

A transcript of the prank call can be found at Daily Kos.

Eventually the Masked Avengers owned up it was a prank.

It was a prank call in a much better spirit than Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’ effort to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs. For Jonathan Ross to tell a 78-year old grandfather that Russell Brand had ‘f**ked his granddaughter’ was in poor taste. Even if the grand-daughter, Georgina Baillie, is in a Burlesque group called The Satanic Sluts.

I don’t so much blame Brand and Ross for their call; sometimes comedy does go over the edge.

I blame the producers putting the show on air. Even after Andrew Sachs complained to the BBC that the call was offensive, it was still put on air.

If the call was pulled from the show and Sachs given a personal apology then all of this hoopla wouldn’t have begun.

Now Russell Brand has resigned, the Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas has resigned, and Jonathan Ross has a 12 week suspension.

Jonathan Ross is an experienced broadcaster and one of the BBC highest earners. His indiscretion, I felt, was worse than Russell Brand’s. Does his £18 million contract intimidate radio producers?

That’s the only thing I can think of why this call was aired.

Brand and Ross may have overstepped the mark. But they were doing their job. The producer wasn’t.

The BBC have now lost Brand and may still lose Ross.

They could probably do worse than give the Masked Avengers a shot.

They can see satire from their house.

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Gordon Brown: A busted flush?

October 31, 2008

A short piece on Gordon Brown’s management of the economy by the Renegade Economist Fred Harrison somewhat brings the Prime Minister’s policies into focus.

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Palestine football team

October 26, 2008

I don’t think anyone would argue that sport isn’t a factor in modern national identity.

Thats one reason that I don’t support Gordon Brown’s GB Olympic football team in the 2012 London Olympics.

To put at threat four nations football teams in order to promote Gordon Brown’s Britishness agenda is a ridiculuous notion.

But is Gordon Brown’s Britishness agenda beginning to unravel due to lack of public support? If reports from The Times are correct then the planned British Day has bit the dust:

“The great national day debate arrives at a consensus – let’s call it off.

“You can pack up the Union Jacks, cancel the street parties and tell the pet shop that you won’t be needing that bulldog after all. The government has quietly dropped plans to have a British Day.

“Gordon Brown had called for a day to celebrate British identity in a speech delivered in 2006, when he was still chancellor.

“Earlier this year an official report by Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney-general, had proposed that the first patriotic bank holiday should be held to coincide with the 2012 Olympics.

“However, Michael Wills, the justice minister (who says he’s responsible for something called “the governance of Britain agenda”), told MPs last week: “There are no plans to introduce a national day at this time.” ”

If anyone doubts the influence of sport in national identity then they should look at today’s historic football match between Palestine and Jordan.

It is the first time the Palestine team will be playing on ‘home soil’. Its in the West Bank in front of a capacity 6500 crowd in the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in AIRam, north Jersualem.

The Palestine football team was only recognised by FIFA in 1998, after the creation of the Palestinian Authority.

In fact, sport is the only realm where Palestine officially exists, in all other areas the Palestine people are represented by the Palestinian Authority, even at the UN.

So having an actual Palestine football team playing in the West Bank must be incredibly symbolic to Palestinians. It represents another step on the road to a fully independent Palestine.

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Atheist buses

October 22, 2008

I see that there is a campaign to put atheist slogans on London’s buses.

An atheist bus

The slogan reads ‘There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’

Its a pity they use the word ‘probably’. Its not an agnostic campaign. But I understand its due to British law not wanting to offend religious groups.

I preferred the slogans offered on Blood and Treasure.

Personally I think the campaign is a little misplaced:-

I think London Buses are the wrong place for the advert!

The British Humanist Association should instead have targeted Rangers and Celtic football clubs.

Both clubs with a history of sectarian troubles.

Imagine the strips:

atheist celtic strip
atheist Rangers strip

Now wouldn’t those make a concerted campaign against sectarianism?

Given that they started the campaign this morning and got enough funds by 10.06am they should now really go for the Old Firm!

It’s backed by well known evolutionist Professor Richard Dawkins:

“Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.

“Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.

“This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Is thinking anathema to religion?

Stephen Green, of pressure group Christian Voice:

“Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.

“I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti.

“People don’t like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don’t like it.”

With no hint of irony either.

Amazing!

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HBOS merger could end Treaty of Union

October 20, 2008

I thought it was interesting listening to Jim Spowart, founder of Standard Life and Intelligent Finance, on Sunday’s The Politics Show on BBC Scotland.

He offered the view that if the HBOS merger with the Lloyds TSB happened it could break the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England.

Spowart has been a long-time advocate against Scottish independence, so his views should be taken as a warning to Unionists over the proposed bank merger.

He estimated that around 100 000 jobs in Scotland, primarily in the central belt, could be lost if the proposed merger happens.

That figure includes jobs from businesses indirectly linked to the HBOS headquarters in Scotland, as well as the losses expected from HBOS themselves.

An absolutely huge figure.

The merger is seen as supported by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and even caused by his mismanagement of the economy in the first place.

So if 100 000 people did lose their jobs in the central belt I doubt they would have much incentive to vote Labour.

The fact that Labour’s heartlands in Scotland are in the central belt, especially in the west, probably won’t have escaped many Labour councillors, MSPs, MPs etc.

And as witnessed in the Glasgow East by-election those voters will predominately switch to SNP en masse.

The HBOS merger might just lead to Labour meltdown in Scotland.

And bring Scottish independence that much closer.

For all that, I doubt the SNP are cock-a-hoop wanting this merger to happen to finally realise their dream of independence. Independence could happen with any number of political scenarios; I very much doubt the SNP want Scotland to lose 100 000 jobs to achieve it.

Why pick the worst option to achieve independence when there is something inevitable about it happening anyway?

Any number of political scenarios could bring about independence for Scotland. The challenge for the Unionists is that each scenario they have to win; nationalists only have to win once: can anyone name a nation who once democratically free and independent actually wanted to go back to its old imperialist masters? That fact alone suggests that independence must be the best way forward for Scotland.

I don’t see Ireland wanting to be back in under UK rule, or Iceland – even with its current financial troubles – wanting to be back under Danish rule.

Independence will happen anyway. It would be a shame if it happened like this.

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Rankings and levers

October 12, 2008

Newspapers have been quoting the survey by the World Economic Forum in which business leaders have been rating the solvency of world banks.

The rankings however were compiled just before the recent £50 billion bail-out by the UK, the nationalisation of the Icelandic banks and the larger US bail-out.

The website has the co-authors interviewed from the 3rd to the 7th of October. The report itself was published on the 8th October.

RANKINGS

1. Canada

2. Sweden

3. Luxembourg

4. Australia

5. Denmark

6. Netherlands

7. Belgium

8. New Zealand

9. Ireland

10. Malta

11. Hong Kong

12. Finland

13. Singapore

14. Norway

15. South Africa

16. Switzerland

17. Namibia

18. Chile

19. France

20. Spain

21. Barbados

22. Bahrain

23. Slovak Republic

24. Brazil

25. Estonia

26. Austria

27. Panama

28. Mauritius

29. Kuwait

30. Qatar

31. United Arab Emirates

32. Trinidad and Tobago

33. Senegal

34. Israel

35. Portugal

36. Iceland

37. Cyprus

38. Botswana

39. Germany

40. United States

41. Lithuania

42. Peru

43. El Salvador

44. United Kingdom

45. Greece

46. Benin

47. Costa Rica

48. Malawi

49. Guyana

50. Malaysia

51. India

52. Puerto Rico

53. The Gambia

54. Montenegro

55. Mexico

56. Croatia

57. Czech Republic

58. Jordan

59. Ghana

60. Suriname

61. Brunei Darussalam

62. Latvia

63. Saudi Arabia

64. Kenya

65. Jamaica

66. Honduras

67. Zambia

68. Burkina Faso

69. Slovenia

70. Sri Lanka

71. Pakistan

72. Philippines

73. Republic of Korea

74. Romania

75. Thailand

76. Madagascar

77. Colombia

78. Cote d’Ivoire

79. Italy

80. Bulgaria

81. Hungary

82. Cameroon

83. Georgia

84. Oman

85. Tunisia

86. Paraguay

87. Nigeria

88. Armenia

89. Morocco

90. Dominican Republic

91. Bolivia

92. Malia

93. Japan

94. Tanzania

95. Moldova

96. Bosnia and Herzegovina

97. Poland

98. Nicaragua

99. Venezuela

100. Uruguay

101. Guatemala

102. FYR Macedonia

103. Syria

104. Albania

105. Nepal

106. Mozambique

107. Russian Federation

108. China

109. Uganda

110. Serbia

111. Egypt

112. Ukraine

113. Vietnam

114. Turkey

115. Bangladesh

116. Azerbaijan

117. Taiwan, China

118. Ecuador

119. Mauritania

120. Mongolia

121. Indonesia

122. Zimbabwe

123. Tajikistan

124. Kazakhstan

125. Cambodia

126. Burundi

127. Chad

128. Ethiopia

129. Argentina

130. East Timor

131. Kyrgyz Republic

132. Lesotho

133. Libya

134. Algeria

Yes. That’s right.

The UK lies behind Peru and El Salvador.

Now given this report was a survey of the world’s economists whose advice our banks were no doubt taking; should we believe it?

Are the UK’s banks really behind Peru, El Salvador and Senegal?

Or is it an accurate representation that is slightly out of date, compiled as it was slightly before the bail-outs?

That must depend on whether you believe the bail-outs will work.

If reports are to be believed the Royal Bank of Scotland is next in line to be nationalised tomorrow. If that happens then there will be further pressure on the remaining UK bank’s to be nationalised too. The banking sector could be picked off one by one by the market and the taxpayer forced to pick up the tab.

On that Iain Dale post there have already been comments about the English taxpayer bailing out the Scottish bank.

It must be a pity, to all those who carp, that Scotland is not already independent.

An independent Scotland with a similar oil fund like our neighbour Norway could be similarly insulated from these turbulent times.

It would also have the economic levers to maintain its economy best, not just for the South-East of England as remains the case today. Remember Eddie George, the former Governor of the Bank of England: Unemployment in the north is a price worth paying for affluence in the South!

Although the credit crunch is global, take a look back at those rankings.

Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands. All small countries lying in the top 10.

Even Ireland, who have recently guaranteed all deposits in their banks, are sitting 9th.

The argument that Scotland is too small to be financially unstable is farcical! I don’t hear anyone saying that Denmark is too small and should be run from Berlin. (Not since the days of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War anyway!)

As countries large and small struggle with the credit credit crunch from the U.S. and Russia down to Iceland with its 300 000 population, this population argument of independence must be seen to be invalid. Iceland, with a population slightly smaller than North Lanarkshire, isn’t exactly Miramont Gardens in Pimlico!

Passport to Pimlico

What matters now is that we take the right decisions to get out this mess.

Those decisions may be different for each country. They may even be different for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That’s why its important key economic levers are devolved away from Westminster.

Otherwise the Eddie George syndrome will hamper ‘the North’ recovering for years.

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