Cyberwanderer’s Blog

December 8, 2009

Rich and Poor Nation Fight Over Climate Change

The big story today seems to be a leaked document that was going to be passed as the new climate change treaty. The document was alleged to have been put together by a few rich nation including host country Denmark and seems to reduce the emission cut obligations of the rich nations. It also hands power for future negotiation to the rich countries (ABC News Australia reported). Poor countries are threatening to walk out.

The noise generated by pro and anti Climate change advocate is a bit tiring. As far as I am concern, oil are controlled by few Texan and Middle Eastern Royalty cartel artificially making it expensive. In some countries, price fixing is illegal. Then why is oil cartel tolerated? It is also a pollutant. No question about it. Not even taking into account the global warming equation, it’s a no brainer that we should move toward renewable energy. Hong Kong already have electric car. And China are actively investing in infrastructure and research to help promote electric car (China’s BYD cheap electric car beat GM, Nissan and Toyota -CNN). Unfortunately the one spearheading this new technology is not the usual developed countries but developing country like China. It is not a question of science, the facts and technology is there, it is a question of commitment by the rich countries. Unfortunately, a lot of the  rich countries have stake in oil and would keep on dragging their feet as long as they can. The wave of change is coming, either we get on board or get left behind.

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October 19, 2009

AECL Privatization Does Not Add Up

Filed under: Canada,Politics — cyberwanderer @ 8:36 pm
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The government’s argument for privatizing AECL does not add up. They claimed they are trying to save Canada’s nuclear industry but refuse to put in a condition that the buyer, who could be AECL’s competitor, can’t decide to get rid of CANDU after buying it. They claim Canada is not competitive internationally while contracts are being signed in China, who is expected to be one of the world’s largest market for new reactor build. China already uses CANDU technology and was happy with the on time and on budget completion of the projects. This weekend, international news is talking about deal being work out by AECL and India’s 3 utilities. So imagine all this expected influx of profit in the near future from new nuclear plant going to foreign companies or whichever private firms buy AECL. A likely scenario is Areva or its major competitors buy it just to get rid of the competitor.

An AECL scientist said:

“Historically, whenever you sell a technology to a foreign country, you lose it,”

The government want to sell off the only division at AECL that has large potential to see huge profit in the near future (the Nuclear plant division) while retaining the research division. But that’s not the end of it. The research division will be contracted out. Based on past contract related scandal, contracting out the research division open up huge potential for corruption. Haliburton, Sponsorship Scandal, the “billion dollar with nothing to show for it” Ontario’s Health Contract are just few of the latest and most prominent scandal. Contracting out work especially when it involves research just does not make sense unless you are a lobbyist of contracting firm.

AECL would do better if they are left alone without constant political interference and constantly changing executive officials made up of political appointee of which ever political party happens to be ruling at that time. We can have the brightest scientist and engineers but if the upper management who are indebted to politicians, who are in turn indebted to their campaign contributor, is constantly reorganizing and restructuring the company, then it won’t matter. Politicians who constantly sell profitable or soon to be profitable division (like Mulroney selling off medical isotope division profit to Nordion) to private firms, then public funds will just continue to be wasted.

Harper’s government claim AECL need to be commercialized. But with Canada’s energy future at stake, can we just simply dumb down the value of scientific research to how much profit we can make right now? What’s more troubling is there’s enough evidence that the expected and inevitable nuclear renaissance, and the foothold AECL’s CANDU already have in China and India – two potentially biggest market in the near future, are about to provide AECL with influx of rich revenue. But the government is now rushing to privatize them? This same division is also where AECL get most of its profit right now with the continuous contract in refurbishment of Canada’s nuclear plant fleet.

Privatize the revenue generating division and contract out research division? Make sense for private company looking to make profit but does not make sense if you care about Canadian interest and its future international reputation in research and technology. So taxpayer would be left with a totally profitless crown corporation and paying more to contracting firm.

For now, Harper is keeping a tight lid on the privatization plan for AECL.

October 5, 2009

Dust Storm – disease or cure; Electric Vehicle stall in Canada

Filed under: World News — cyberwanderer @ 9:13 pm
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As incidence of dust storm increase in frequency, not only in China and Australia but now also in U.S., scientist are reporting that dust storm are usually linked to outbreak of diseases. This weekend, Washington state dust storm caused pileup on the highway forcing its closure. It has just been re-opened today. Dust storm are reported to carry bacteria, viruses and fungal spores and its minute particle when inhaled are harmful to human’s respiratory system, even without the disease carrying organism.

Japanese observed that in one incident, large amount of dust (800,000 tonnes) was pickup from China’s desert and carried twice around the world. This indicate that one country’s problem, e.g. deforestation, could affect people in other parts of the world. China have recently announced a big project of planting lots of trees to mitigate climate change and sand storm problem.

Source: Guardian.co.uk article

But aside from the ominous news about the harmfulness of dust storm, scientist are also looking at the benefits to marine life and possibly carbon capture (nothing to do with the carbon capture farce for coal power plant). The iron content in dust storm is believed to be leading to a boom in ocean’s algae,  a valuable food source for marine life and big absorber of CO2. Personally, it seems surreal to me that some scientist are thinking of artificially injecting iron into the ocean to produce algae in hope that it would absorb the CO2 produced by our excessive use of fuel. I think in this case, the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies.

Speaking of prevention, electric car is coming to China and that country plan to offer incentives on top of their already heavy investment for helping research and development of electric car. BYD of China will be rolling out their electric vehicle by the end of this year.  Here in Canada, other than tax breaks being offered by Ontario, the federal government have no plans and are happy to drag their feet on this and have even scaled back funding for scientific research and universities.  A Canadian manufacturer of  electric car (Zenn) got zero support from Canadian government. The government deem it  unsafe even in 50 km/h rural road (citing its 40 km/h limit). The Zenn passed U.S. regulation but are prevented from selling here.  So they are unable to sell to Canadians and have to rely on customers abroad. Meanwhile, bicycles are legally allowed on the road. Albeit, a lot of people are still unaware that bicycle have right to full lane, but that’s another story.

Sadly, Zenn is now pulling the plug on their electric vehicle. Back in 2007, the founder have blamed Federal government for putting a road block and preventing their sale here in Canada.

December 17, 2008

Why GM Can’t Fail; China’s Electric Car Plan

Filed under: Technology,World News — cyberwanderer @ 4:50 pm
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This is a follow-up to my previous blog about China’s plan to accelerate their push to put electric car in the market.  I came across this opinion piece in the internet, which makes several good points. Summary of his opinion follows with few of my comments added.

  • Car is the source of our problem – oil dependence leading to war, etc and pollutions leading to climate change.
  • Solution can be found by helping GM while letting Chrysler go under. Make it medium term commitment only (10-year). Obama appoints new head for GM. Offers rebates for purchase of electric car. Government and taxpayers become part owners (medium term) giving more incentives for Americans to purchase GM cars.
  • The Chinese government already plan to support the production of electric car announced by BYD (which will go on sale end of the year and to U.S. market by 2010). BYD is partly owned and invested by Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway’s investor guru with reputation for good foresight).  U.S. should not lose the opportunity to be at the forefront of the future of car industry.

This is just a summary, read the full article here >> Jim Kingsdale: If cars are the problem, they can also be the solution. I don’t think I could have said it any better.

Letting all three automakers fail would set U.S. and North America so far back in the auto industry. Meanwhile, countries like China would get the upperhand and have greater chance of dominating the future of car industry.

Even with government support, GM would face some challenges in rolling out their electric car. The batteries needed are made mostly in Asia. Nevertheless, this is certainly not a time for doing nothing and just standing idly by. Moment of crisis offers the best chance for renewal. Either we cease this moment or be contented to lag behind.

The other often quoted reason that GM should not be allowed to just fade away is the half a million job that would be lost in Ontario alone. Toronto Mayor Miller warned that not only that, but when people lose their homes as a result of losing their jobs, then the bank would lose tremendous amount of money and even the banking jobs would be lost.

That scenario would lead to deep recession at best, another great depression at worse.

May 14, 2008

World’s disaster and human role

Filed under: World News — cyberwanderer @ 11:18 am
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We’re being inundated with news after news of disasters around the world, from Burma’s cyclone, U.S. deathly tornadoes, Chile’s Mt. Pinatubo -like volcano eruptions to China’s massive 7.9 earthquake. Natural disaster seems to be increasing in frequency and in the scale of casualty and damage it is inflicting. A lot of it could be attributed to human action – i.e. global warming and human build structure. I was watching BBC News when one of their guest were talking about how large deaths in earthquakes are usually a result of human build structure collapsing. Toronto Star reported today that one school in China collapsed trapping almost all the students. However, the buildings beside it only suffered minor damage. It begs the question – was the collapsed building a result of constructor and builders corruption? Granted it was a huge earthquake measuring 7.9 but a stronger building might not collapse right away giving time for students to escape.

Toronto Star – Trapped Students had no time to escape:

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The school collapsed so rapidly – one floor “pancaking” atop another – that there was practically no time to escape.
…..
Engineers said the school’s walls and support columns gave way almost instantly.

“These buildings just weren’t made for that powerful of a quake. Some don’t even meet the basic specifications,” said Dai Jun, a structural engineer and concrete specialist in Chengdu who was surveying damage in the area.
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As I write these, there’s threat of another cyclone hitting Burma and possibility of Dam bursting in quake affected area in China.

The response of government to the disaster is a story of contrast between China and Burma. China’s premiere were on his plane right after the earthquake. Within hours, he was directing operation in the ground and comforting the victims. This is something rarely seen from leaders anywhere in the world, especially right after a disaster. In contrast, Burma’s government have been totally inept and I was dumbfounded to read that Burma’s military stopped a well known actor from giving aid directly. Chinese have been streaming from their bikes, cars and foot to volunteer and help. At a time of disaster it is inconceivable that the Burmese government would prevent a citizen from helping others. They insist that something as trivial as giving food to the victims should go through the government. As I stated in my last blog, this is no time for stupid politics.


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