Which dark continent again?

High-speed trains for Tangier, not Milwaukee.

Via Atrios and Steve Benen, an unsurprising report :

Talgo Inc. will shut down its Milwaukee train manufacturing operations in 2012, leaving only a maintenance base, because plans for a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison have been abandoned, the company announced Friday.
The Spanish-owned company acted after the federal government withdrew nearly all of the $810 million in stimulus funding for the rail project, which Governor-elect Scott Walker [R] had vowed to kill. Talgo had hoped to land contracts to build two trains for that line.

Meanwhile from Africa, an update :

France has finalised a 400-million-euro deal to supply Morocco with high-speed TGV trains. The French group Alstom is to provide the north African country with 14 high speed train sets that will enter service in December 2015 on the Tangiers-Casablanca route.

Why do Republicans hate trains, like Mrs Thatcher? I don´t mean just ¨think uneconomic¨. Subsidies for shopping malls are fine to Governor Christie of New Jersey, just not for needed rail tunnels. It´s not only His Majesty King Mohammed VI Whom God Preserve and the Chinese Politburo – their kind of people – who are train fans. I can´t imagine the Romanovs, the Kaiser, Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, Viceroy Dalhousie and the American robber barons of the Gilded Age without their private carriages. Ayn Rand´s heroine Dagny Taggart runs a railroad. Booze, women, music, and zooming past the contemptible houses of the peasantry: for a plutocrat, what´s not to like?

From December 19, you can catch a TGV from Paris to Figueres in Catalonia (zooming definitely, take your own booze, women and music – pas question). This is just right, if you are famous and lucky, for dining at El Bulli at nearby Roses before it closes.

Only interconnect

Jersey Electricity and Jersey Gas fight over marginal carbon emissions from imported electricity.

A nice classroom case on green economics. An inter-corporate fight has broken out in Jersey (the original small island off Normandy) between Jersey Electricity and Jersey Gas. Gas is all imported in small tankers; since 1984, electricity has been imported from France through a submarine cable, now leaving only vestigial local generation. So Jersey Electricity trumpets its low carbon footprint, as French generation is 78% nuclear and 88% low-carbon (2004). Jersey Gas isn’t happy as there’ s nothing it can do to lower its carbon footprint short of dying.

The States of Jersey are revising building regulations to set a carbon emission standard that gas can’t meet. With its back to the wall, Jersey Gas looked for talking points against electricity. They took out a full-page advert in the local paper:

ELECTRIC HEATING – HOPE YOU LIKE IT, BECAUSE YOU’RE STUCK WITH IT. No matter what the cost to you and the environment
…the States of Jersey Environment Department think that electricity is low carbon and good for the environment. They are wrong. On island electricity generation is high carbon. about 3 times that of gas. The JEC will confirm this. European electricity – what do the French think? The French Secretary of State for Ecology … interviewed in Le Monde, 1 October 2008, “We have a serious problem with electricity heating in France. It was a mistake to develop it …” … THIS IS GOING TO COST: YOU. Electricity is more expensive than other fuels. THE ENVIRONMENT. Electricity is not a low carbon fuel …”.

Jersey Electricity complained to the UK Advertising Standards Authority and won.

What’s worth a second look is the claim Jersey Gas’ lawyers made in the proceedings that since the European electricity market is integrated, the carbon intensity of Jersey’s electricity is that of marginal European supply: which is mostly fossil, and higher carbon than locally consumed gas. If that’s so, then the claimed advantage over gas disappears.

Right or wrong? The answer is relevant to any region within a grid, like California (connected to the rest of the continental USA), the USA (connected to Canada) and China (connected to Russia).

Answers welcome – for once I can guarantee the attention of a live policymaker.

My take: Jersey Gas has one good point but is still wrong.

Continue reading “Only interconnect”

Hunter-gatherers tame the truffle

French scientists tame the black truffle.

Via Brad deLong, a report by Nicholas Wade for the NYT that determined hunter-gatherers, in the shape of Dr Francis Martin of the University of Nancy, are at last making progress in domesticating the black truffle. DNA analysis has revealed that truffles need sex, contrary to the previous CW. So inoculation of oak tree roots may work better, assuming Dr. Martin can help you tell a girl truffle from a boy truffle.

Two more mycological insights to turn you off your expensive dinner.

The fungus’s major concern is to spread its spores, a matter of some technical difficulty for an organism that lives underground. So it produces the redolent odors that will compel surface dwellers of all kinds to search for it, eat it and distribute its spores after they have dined.

So modern human gourmets are a dead loss from the truffle´s point of view, since we gave up retiring behind an oak tree to recycle our waste constructively and instead sterilise it in giant sewage works.

Second, the added protein.

..There are the truffle flies which lay their eggs in the truffle. From the fungus’s perspective, the insects are just another way of spreading its spores. So it attracts them by releasing anisole and veratrole, two insect pheromones, when the truffle has reached maturity. Truffles can often be detected by looking for congregations of truffle flies.

Don’t the fly’s eggs and larvae degrade the edibility of the truffle? It seems the opposite is the case. “If collected at late maturation stages, the truffles will likely carry eggs and larvae — adding proteins and aroma to the truffle,” Dr. Martin said.

Bon appetit.