Thursday, November 30, 2006

Micro turbines: mis-selling likely

I've been waiting on tenterhooks for Newsnight's Ethical Man to get his micro turbine. Rather than say anything about them, this being television, you have to buy one and film it and see what happens. Well, it's off. Windsave have changed their mind about the suitability of his property.

Justing by Justin's description, the property seems typical to good for wind, so what is going on? It appears that Windsave have realised that this would be bad publicity for them, so they pulled out. Even worse publicity than backing out at this stage.

I blogged about this before., saying that the Jury was out. Well it's not looking good now.

As Justin says, a turbine rated 1kW at 12 m/s is only going to produce 120W at 6 m/s, barely useful. But 6 is still above the usual average windspeed. Turbulence will reduce gains further, so it would appear that there are very few domestic sites suitable for this kind of turbine. A larger turbine could be useful, but there would be structural issues to contend with.

If you buy a turbine from B&Q, they will survey your site and tell you if it is unsuitable. But I do wonder how little power they will expect before they declare a site unsuitable and lose the sale: 200W? 100W? 50W? 50W on windy days? Who knows. But at all these levels the turbine is not going to save a third of your electricity bill or pay for itself within its lifetime. And it certainly doesn't justify any kind of government grant.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Greenpartywatch: Derek Wall elected Principal Speaker

I remember Derek from my Green Party days. He always seemed to keep out of the way of the rest of the party, you would find him in the bar, or at his own fringe meetings, plugging books, grumbling that the party wasn't Marxist enough.

Derek is articulate and intelligent. He wrote a history of the Green Party, part 1 of which I referred to earlier. Part 2, part 3, part 4. All quite frank and interesting.

But the thing is that Derek's politics are way out there. They always were a bit extreme even for the Green Party! Probably the party has now moved a little to meet him, all the more reason to expose it for what it is.

In his own words (from here):
Marxism is a sophisticated, subtle, philosophical system with inexhaustible insights. As an eco-Marxist I believe that only a socialist society will meet human needs and sustain ecological diversity, politics is based on class struggle, it isn't a matter of changing a few laws we live in a social totality that is utterly destructive and must be replaced.

I used to think this sort of revolutionary talk was benign but misguided. I no longer think it remotely benign. Revolutions in democratic societies make things worse. There are problems intrinsic to Marxism that make something like Stalinism fairly inevitable. An awful lot of what we enjoy in modern western societies is extremely good: human rights, prosperity, freedom, public services and so on. This is not a totality that is utterly destructive, and anybody who suggests it is clearly hasn't the slightest idea of what they should be fighting for.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christianity abolished by BA. Dawkins influence suspected'd think wouldn't you, listening to the hyperbole.

But I've just seen a BA manager on Newsnight who was confident there was no discrimination going on and was apparently oblivious to the degree of outrage that has been whipped up.

So what is going on?

1. BA have a uniform policy of no jewellery around the neck outside the clothes.

2. Er...

3. That's it.

They do not ban turbans, for example, because turbans are a religious requirement, and to do so would discriminate against Sikhs. Crosses are not a religious requirement for Christianity, so there is no need, on discrimination grounds, for making caveats to the uniform policy to allow them.

Of course I would prefer that airlines and other companies didn't have anal uniform policies at all, but that doesn't seem to be the prevailing opinion in the corporate image department. So if the question is, why shouldn't people be allowed to wear a cross, the answer is of course that they should be, that BA are a bunch of muppets. Because their uniform policy is anal, not because it is discriminatory.

This is not a religious issue, as the BA manager kept insisting, thousands of christians work for BA and are happy with the uniform. Yet there was something pathetic about his insistence. This issue has more momentum than an unreasonable but non-discriminatory intent can stamp on.

Why does it have this momentum? Because there is a mass movement behind the narrative that Christianity is discriminated against in this country, that up and down the country militant atheists are banning Christmas, promoting teen pregnancy and tolerating gays.

It is a pervasive narrative. Last year Nick Clegg's Christmas cards to constituents didn't mention Christmas - because we weren't confident they would be delivered in time for Christmas. This year they will mention Christmas. To some of our members this has been quite a big deal. Make them proper Christmas cards, they said, it matters to us, you really won't offend anyone. And I agree. It won't offend (hardly) anyone. The offensiveness of Christmas is as mythical as the discrimination against Christianity.

But every year, we have a silly season of stories about some local authority or other buying fewer christmas lights than the previous year; that a whole city isn't allowed to say the word Christmas, based on some memo a pen pusher sent in 1997; that some christmas-related activity or other has been discontinued - even if this bucks the trend.

Normally all this impinges most on civil society, and perhaps it has passed the busy hardnosed people of BA by somewhat. They need to factor in to their business plan the possibility of fashionable hysteria. Doubtless they will give in. Doubtless before long wearers of other jewellery will demand equal treatment. And if that loosens up uniform policy in general, I can cheer that.


UPDATE: It appears there is also a health and safety reason for not allowing dangling jewellery near moving conveyor belts.