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.’

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites

Advertisements

Yes We Can: Lessons from Obama

November 8, 2008

More thoughts on the Glenrothes by-election.

It was strange. The SNP ahead in the polls, a short Labour surge to level, before the SNP went once again ahead.

The SNP confident, Labour overly pessimistic.

Pundits predicting a narrow SNP win.

Since I wrote yesterday about the Obama effect on the by-election, the parallels between the Glenrothes by-election and the New Hampshire Democratic Primary came to my thoughts.

An election which Obama was widely predicted to win.

The polls were good; pundits were agreed. Hillary Clinton seemed resigned to the loss.

But Hillary Clinton took the state’s nomination.

Of course, later Barack Obama went on to defeat Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic Presidential nominee.

And went on to win the U.S. Presidential election in an historic victory.

Obama used the lessons in the New Hampshire election to spur on his support, warning them of the dangers of complacency:

“For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky or think this is all set, I just have two words for you: New Hampshire”

In the middle of October when things were looking rosy he reminded his campaign staff:

From Ben Smith’s blog:

‘On a conference call with his campaign staff just now, Barack Obama delivered the same message he’s been telling donors: Don’t get cocky.

‘Obama got on the staff call with campaign manager David Plouffe to praise his staff, but also to tell them not to become overconfident, because — in my source’s paraphrase — “too many people are counting on us not to screw this up.’

‘Eighteen days, he reminded them, is a long time, and he told them to “run scared,” run as though they were 10 points down, and “remember New Hampshire.”

Glenrothes is the SNP’s New Hampshire.

And like Barack Obama’s ‘two words: New Hampshire’, Glenrothes should sound as a future warning to complacency.

As people depended on Barack Obama; Scotland’s future depends on the SNP.

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


‘Dead Cat’ holds Glenrothes

November 7, 2008

So the Gordon Brown ‘Dead Cat’ bounce has held Glenrothes for Labour.

Its probably bought a few months of air fresheners for the ailing Gordon Brown Government. And probably keep Gordon Brown in his job till the forced General Election in 2010.

But I suspect the public will notice the cat is still dead is due course.

No amount of air fresheners can cover up the decay.

So if that’s Labour what about the SNP?

By-elections give momentum, and although the SNP increased their vote and ate substantially into Labour’s 10 600 majority, many pundits expected them to take the seat.

So the SNP’s blistering momentum from the Glasgow East victory has been slowed.

Still going forward but at a more steady pace.

Alex Salmond has said that his party needs to take a look at how it can combat Labour’s negative campaigning.

I agree, but surely there is only one way to go?

That’s to become even more positive.

Once you become mired in negative politics then not only do you demean your party – and play into the hands of your opponents – but you switch off the voters. Labour does negative campaigning well; they need to – their backs are against the electoral wall, and they lack any vision of where New Labour is going. Although the SNP ran a positive campaign, perhaps they should have killed the negative Labour stories faster.

I think the last thing Scotland needs in its politics is the negative campaigning usually seen in the U.S. The Unionist parties and press are halfway there already, I’d hate to see it get worse!

As Barack Obama shows a positive campaign with the right message can achieve fantastic results.

The SNP dusted off their 1997 election slogan ‘Yes we can’ after Barack Obama’s historic victory in the United States.

In hindsight, they should have used it much earlier when they saw the polls favouring the Obama campaign.

It might have got them some decent press for once.

Then on Obama winning they might have had their own bounce.

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


Labour give up on Glenrothes

November 6, 2008

Benedict Brogan of the Daily Mail has said that Labour have admitted defeat in the Glenrothes by-election:

“By the way, Labour word is that Glenrothes is a lost cause.

“The SNP will take it by 1500, give or take 500.

“I don’t detect a Brown Central attempt to prepare a “shock” win. Instead they say that had they had a few days more it might have made a difference, and that without Gordon and Sarah Brown’s personal intervention the result would be far worse.

“So the good news is that defeat will be masked by the Obama euphoria.

“The bad news, as Team Dave will doubtless put it, is that the Novice won, and Gordon lost.”

The same bad admission by Labour is repeated by The Evening Standard:

‘Party insiders conceded that the contest was a “lost cause” despite evidence that the Scottish National Party’s lead in the seat had been narrowed in recent days.’

‘A No10 insider said that if the party had a couple more weeks to campaign, it could have pulled off a victory against the odds. “But we just don’t look like getting it.” A Labour source added that the seat was now a lost cause, though the SNP majority would be tight at possibly around 1,000 votes.’

Interesting that Labour think another couple of weeks would have helped their campaign. Of course no-one knows for sure.

The bookies though give a probability of a Labour win at around 25%, the SNP around 75%.

And interestingly, the Labour probability was falling and the SNP probability was rising over the last week.

It hardly backs up Labour’s perception of ‘just another couple of weeks’ to campaign, does it?

The media are already bracing themselves for another change of position on Gordon Brown.

As seen in The First Post:

‘Senior Labour party figures are braced for an election defeat to a strong Scottish National Party in today’s byelection in the former safe seat of Glenrothes. A heavy defeat could trigger renewed speculation over Gordon Brown’s ability to lead Labour to an election victory.’

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


Obama’s Negative Flakeage Rate

November 4, 2008

I thought I’d heard a lot of political doublespeak in my time.

But this ‘Negative Flakeage Rate’ is a new one on me.

What that means is instead of people promising to volunteer (and then not bothering), instead people are volunteering and persuading friends to volunteer too.

This guy is Obama’s National Field Director, Jon Carson, and he’s pretty happy with the Obama campaign especially in the marginal ‘toss-up’ states.

It just makes me wonder about the Glenrothes by-election.

Will Labour or the SNP be wondering about their flakeage rates among their voters?

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


Glenrothes by-election campaign warning

November 1, 2008

OK – the headline is a bit of a tease. The story is somewhat tangential but stick with it.

Just surfing the net I found this incredible story of a baggage handler in Atlanta opening up the cargo hold of a plane and coming face to face with a live cheetah!

Obviously the flight was delayed (whilst they wrote the sequel to Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane, I imagine):

‘”They told us a large animal had gotten out of a container in the cargo hold and they were having to send someone to tranquilize it,” said one passenger, Lee Sentell of Montgomery, Ala.

‘He said luggage was delayed, but baggage handlers promised to send his bags to him in Alabama.

‘The good news for passengers: The escaped cheetah didn’t damage any of their luggage.’

So I got to thinking? What if this had been Scotland?

Would John Smeaton have wrestled the big cat into submission?

“Aye. Cheetah’s may be fast, but they’re no match for Glaswegians. We’ll just set about ye!”

It prompted a bit more internet surfing.

And here’s where the Glenrothes by-election campaign warning comes in:-

Apparently there is a big cat prowling around the constituency!

Here’s a photograph from an actual sighting in Methil, from ScottishBigCats.co.uk:

Methil Mauler

They say:

‘We revealed in last week’s edition that the organisation Big Cats in Britain was keen to set up webcams around Fife in a bid to prove the existence of big cats once and for all – but for Ms Miller there’s no question.

‘”They definitely exist,” she says, “I think there’s more than one around here to be honest.”‘

So watch out they may be a Big Cat in Glenrothes.

So that’s the reason why the Labour minders operate a ‘shoot to kill’ policy!

And the reason why Gordon Brown hardly ventures far from his campaign headquarters door!

Black fur. No doubt yellow eyes. The cat must be an SNP supporter!

add to del.icio.usadd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vinepost to facebookAdd to Technorati Favoritespost to NowPublicpost to googleadd to Yahoo! add to Live Favourites


Unionists voice is broken

October 24, 2008

Is the Unionist argument finally maturing?

David Cameron's new book

David Cameron declared today that:

“Of course it is possible that Scotland can stand alone – that is true”

Could this be the beginning of the end of the Unionist scare stories about Scottish independence?

Have the Unionists begun to realise that their constantly negative ‘can’t don’t’ attitude is a turn off to Scottish voters?

If so, nationalists may for once have a real fight on their hands.

It seems that the Conservative leader has realised the correct argument for the Unionists to take:

“I don’t think we’d ever succeed in saving the Union by frightening Scots to say you couldn’t possibly make it on your own.”

In other words, ditch the negative agenda and promote a positive one.

Of course many parties in Scotland support independence:- the Greens, the SSP, Solidarity and of course the SNP. There is also an independent MSP – Margo Macdonald – that supports independence.

Such is the size of the SNP, they are the main drivers for Scottish independence. They are the dominant party of Scotland:- in Government at Holyrood, on the rise in Westminster, and have the largest number of councillors compared to any other party. They have a clear voice to the Scottish public.

The Conservatives though have currently 17 MSPs in Holyrood and 1 Scottish constituency MP in Westminster. They don’t have a great platform in Scotland.

So can they persuade the other Unionist parties – Labour and the Liberal Democrats – to follow their positive agenda?

I doubt it.

Labour are so far stuck in a negative agenda that their MPs and MSPs should be kept in a darkroom! Witness Jim Murphy’s Arc of Insolvency slur towards Iceland, for example.

And the Liberal Democrats with their federalist ambitions are hardly the best bedfellows for the Conservatives.

The three have just about managed to keep the Calman Commission afloat, all paddling in different directions! Without Kenneth Calman at the helm it would have perished on the rocks a long time ago. And even the Calman Commission is looking into more powers for the Scottish Parliament, so its more of a soft nationalist approach in any case.

So if the Conservatives alone argue for a positive case for the Union, their voice will just confuse with Labour’s negative case for independence and the Liberal Democrats case for federalism.

In short, the voters will switch off to the Unionist message.

Leaving the clear SNP positive message to take centre stage.

I have previously argued that unless the Unionists argue with a coherent message, then it would always lack ‘stickiness’. Something that the independence message doesn’t lack.

‘Stickiness’ is the vital quality before achieving the political Tipping Point; the backing for Scottish independence amongst the voters. And if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book you’ll realise that the Tipping Point is usually well before a majority; its just an equilibrium point – after which the product or message reaches everyone.

The course is clear for Unionists. To save the Union both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have to follow the Conservative’s lead.

And have a grown-up debate on the matter.

add to del.icio.us:add to Blinkslist:add to furl:Digg it:add to ma.gnolia:Stumble It!:add to simpy:seed the vine:::Unionists voice is broken:post to facebook:Add to Technorati Favorites