Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Whisky galore

Biofuels get a bad rap for distorting agriculture and pricing food out of reach of poor people. So, here's a good Biofuel story:
A new company has been formed to commercialise a process for producing biofuel made from whisky by-products. Edinburgh Napier University's Celtic Renewables Ltd will initially focus on Scotland's £4bn malt whisky industry to develop biobutanol and other chemicals.
Admittedly, Whisky itself is non-essential (although, arguably, it is a useful storage mechanism for calories). Reusing byproducts, though, strikes me as a useful process. Again, as with the tide power below, diversity and inspiration will produce more and newer different ways of achieving the ends. So long as the biofuel industry remains a natural dependent variable on the whisky production, then it shouldn't produce distortions in the food market.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Bob-bob-bobbing along

Another innovative energy production method:
The Searaser machine works by using wave energy to pump water up to container tanks and the water is then released to a hydro-electric turbine.[...]He said that a full size machine would be about 1m wide and 12m deep and cost up to £250,000.
That's quite an affordable option to throw into the mix, and it has the capacity to smooth out demand, maybe with other forms of power (and of course, the principle applies, why not use wind driven pumps in land to stock up reservoirs?) Now, 230,000 homes isn't a huge number (this doc suggests there are 21 million households in the UK, and that's set to grow by 250,000 per year) but it is a start; and new technology begets new technology. Maybe more sites can be found?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Requiescat in Pascoe

I've been busy (what an excuse -- I've been idle) but I do have to stop by an blog the death of Reginald Hill. When I heard on Sunday, I went and count how many of his books I have on my shelf (twenty two, came the answer). I had a wee phase of trying to collect all the Dalziel and Pascoe novels. I had stopped because they were taking up too much space (especially as I was buying the hardback of each new one as they came out -- Hill was one of the handful of authors whose books I do buy the first available imprint of).

Reading his books was a physical pleasure. Could feel the enjoyment flowing through me: the mixture of mirth, dread and anticipation. He plotted to perfection (especially Midnight Fugue). He managed to combine high literature and low genre effortlessly. He was able to move from police procedural, to locked room and English country manor mysteries without breaking his fictional world. He also managed to keep the series alive, fresh and changing without ever 'jumping the shark' and being ridiculous or making silly changes. Unlike Christie, he seemed to actually like his bread and butter characters.

Throughout, he managed to inject a liberal and progressive sensibility into what is often a bastion of reaction. "It's a war on the streets" and all that. Dalziel was a reactionary pig, and Hill knew it, but humanised such a man.

I'll also throw in a mention of the perfectly villainous but also utterly ambiguous Franny Roote who was "persecuted" by Pascoe. I guess we'll never find out the truth about him now.

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