2008-01-30

Why feed-in tariffs are a bad idea.

I'm a member of Greenpeace. Have been since my teens. They've just sent me an email on energy policy in which they say call for a Feed-in Tariff (FIT). Bad idea, and here's why.

The problem we've got is the emission of greenhouse gases. Therefore we should make it more expensive to emit greenhouse gases, preferably using a carbon tax. The two main problems with the FIT are:
  • It only affects electricity consumption, which is not the sole cause of CO2 emissions.
  • It subsidises a particular solution (renewable electricity).

I believe that it's the job of government to increase CO2 emissions costs, and it's the job of the market to find ways of avoiding those costs (a complex mix of reduction and renewables).

2008-01-22

Own-Id outage

Own-Id was down from 2008-01-18 15:16 GMT to 2008-01-19 12:47 GMT. Sorry to everyone for this outage. The reason was that the Java VM ran out of memory. This means that Own-Id probably has a memory leak.

One of the problems was that it took a long time for me to find out that the server was down. I've now set up Montastic to send me an email if the server goes down again, they also provide a web feed of server status. This should mean that if there's another outage, I should know much sooner.

There remains the problem of finding the memory leak. I'll let you know how I get on!

2008-01-15

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of those films you know a lot about before seeing it. Some would say, 'it carries a weight of expectation'. Well, one thing I can certainly say is that afterwards you really feel you've seen a *proper* film. I expect that Lawrence of Arabia would have the same effect.

Someone asked, 'what's the story?'. As I started to explain, I realized there were big gaps in my understanding (this happens a lot). My friend Jonathan has read the book and has a better grasp of these things than me, and set me straight on a few points.

The other question people ask is, 'what does the last bit mean?'. It seems to be aliens communicating with the human, and trying to find a common visual language. In short, I don't know what it means.

Each scene of the entire film is exquisitely shot; visually a pleasure. It's funny how much 2001 looks like the 60s though!

The film has an intermission. An intermission! Bring back intermissions.

Road pricing

I heard someone on the radio advocating road pricing. I'm in favour of this, so I've added an article on road pricing to the Political Manifesto. My twist is that the money should go to maintenance of the road network, and any left over should be divided up equally between the population.

2008-01-14

Cabbage juice

Well I was boiling some red cabbage and potato and I was about to pour away the juice. Then I thought, 'Hugh Fearnly-thingamygig wouldn't have thrown it away'. So I saved it to drink and it's actually really nice, and probably quite good for one.

2008-01-13

Nuclear power

The UK government has given permission for companies to build nuclear power stations. The government say that they will not be subsidised by the taxpayer. As long as they really aren't subsidised (including insurance) then that's okay with me, and I'll explain why.

Some complain that, 'the UK doesn't have an energy policy', or 'energy is too important to be left to the free market'. I think that the UK is doing absolutely the right thing in having a free market for electricity. There are two genuine problems in energy at the moment, peak fossil fuels and climate change.

With peak fossil fuels our free market means we're well placed to deal with the problem. As fossil fuels run out, their price will increase. As they increase, two things will happen: more renewable generation will become profitable and usage of fossil fuels will decrease. From Adam Smith we know that both of these will happen in such a way as to maximise the UK's wealth.

Unfortunately, peak fossil fuels won't happen soon enough to avoid climate change, and so we need a carbon tax. A tax on carbon doesn't mean we'll be abandoning our free market.

So back to the original question of nuclear power; this is simply the market working as it should and delivering the best bet in the long and short term.

By the way, I think the companies are mad to build nuclear power stations because:

1. Uranium is running out (peak uranium).
2. Other technologies are improving and look like they'll be more profitable than nukes, when you take into account the huge costs of building and decommissioning and storage of waste.

However, I could be wrong and it's their money they're wasting! And this illustrates the benefit of free markets; it doesn't depend on a single person or institution having all the answers.

2008-01-10

Blood Diamond

An excellent film that brought up all sorts of moral questions. Boringly, the solution to the problem of conflict diamonds is good regulation. Since the diamond trade is international, it covers many jurisdictions and this makes regulation more difficult. So the meta solution is supra-national political entities such as the EU, which can regulate accross a wide area. The best solution is a democratically elected world government.

The Illearth War

The Illearth War, the second book after Lord Foul's Bane is a bit more violent, but Covenent continues his tortured existence. I wonder if the author, Stephen Donaldson was beset by such angst? I think if I were in such a state I couldn't settle down and write a book, and if I wasn't I couldn't remember what it like in order to describe it properly. I suppose that's why I'm not a writer. Wordsworth said that poetry is: 'emotions recollected in tranquility'.

2008-01-06

Poundstone's back

An interview with William Poundstone convinced me to update the manifesto to say that my preferred voting system is Range Voting.

Btw, I remember William Poundstone from reading a book of his in the mid-eighties. Good book.

2008-01-02

Own-Id 003

I've made a new release of the Own-Id code. There's no single big change, just an accumulation of small things. At the suggestion of John Murray I've changed the 'about' page to a FAQ. Let me know what you think.

Own-Id fact: there are now 88 OpenIds on Own-Id.

2008-01-01

Lord Foul's Bane

Possibly the last time I read a book in the fantasy genre was at school in the 4th and 5th year when I'd go to the library to escape the rough bullying types, and congregate with the weedy misfits. David Eddings was one author I remember. From what I see in libraries he's still popular (do they take books off library shelves if they're not popular?).

I've always avoided fantasy subsequently. Gnomes and wizards just seem silly. I've never got on with Terry Pratchett or Harry Potter books.

It was by mistake that I picked up The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson at Bath Central Library a few weeks ago. I thought it was sci-fi, but then saw it was fantasy. Ahhh!

On the cover it said it was a classic from the 70s and for some reason that appealed to me. I know you shouldn't go by covers, but I do. The Chronicles is a trilogy, and I've finished the first book, Lord Foul's Bane. It was great! I like the central character, a reluctant hero. An anti-hero I suppose. The Donaldson dude uses a lot of unusual words; can I have the book in electronic form so that I can click on a word and see its definition please?