Australia to build nation’s largest wind farm in far west

Australia’s biggest wind farm with almost 600 turbines, is to be be built in far western New South Wales.

State government approval has been given for the project, which will generate enough electricity for 200,000 homes.

Premier Nathan Rees said on Wednesday the $2.2 billion venture near Broken Hill would help secure NSW’s future energy needs.

“The construction of Silverton Wind Farm Developments (SWFD) wind farm is great news for jobs and the economy in the far west and even better news for the environment…” Mr Rees said the wind farm would create 700 jobs in the Broken Hill area during the five-year construction period and 120 jobs when up and running…

Stage one will involve erecting 282 wind turbines, with the number increasing to 598 by the final stage.

NSW had approved 14 wind farms with a total capacity output of 2,486 megawatts since 2005, Mr Rees said.

“When all of these wind farms are up and running they will save more than six million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually,” he said. “This is the same as taking over one million cars off the road and will have capacity to power approximately 800,000 houses.”

Crikey! Looks like a lot of space in my neck of the prairie. In winter. We get a little greener than this.

I only wish we had the wind power, politicians, utility companies and conviction to match. PNM – our electric company here in New Mexico – functions as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Los Angeles County.

Biz rivals sue each other over quacking kazoos

For the last four years, John E. Scannell has run Bay Quackers, a tour company whose open-air amphibious vehicles, known as ducks, roam the streets of San Francisco. As the vehicles cruise past sights and eventually plop down in the bay, passengers use a kazoo-like device to quack at passers-by.

It is, Mr. Scannell said, a purposefully absurd way of introducing visitors to a city that is often purposefully absurd.

“You have permission to regress a little bit,” he said. “It’s not so much the sound that’s cool, but it’s when people look over and see this duck beside them, people turn and wave and smile at you. And if you’re a visitor from another city, there’s no better way to be greeted.”

But if a new duck in town, if you will, has its way, Mr. Scannell’s quacking days could be over. Last month, a rival company, Ride the Ducks, filed suit in Federal District Court here to stop Bay Quackers from using quacking devices on its tours.

At issue is a “sound mark,” the auditory equivalent of a trademark, which Ride the Ducks says it holds on a quack created by a yellow bill-shaped kazoo (called a Wacky Quacker) and which it says Bay Quackers has violated by using a similar kazoo that creates an identical quack.

“If you blew theirs and ours, you wouldn’t hear any difference,” said Bob Salmon, vice president of marketing and sales for Ride the Ducks, whose company has been using its kazoo for more than a decade. “It’s a very important part of our product. We’re very interactive with people on the street, and the way that we interact is using our Wacky Quackers…”

The suit seeks not only a preliminary injunction on the use of the rival’s kazoos, but also destruction of “all noisemakers or other implements” that produce quacks on Bay Quackers tours.

RTFA – if you feel like it. I think these people should get a fracking [quacking?] life!

Bad enough we have some of the dumbest decisions on the planet about intellectual property, style, look-and-feel. Now, we’re supposed to fight all the way to bankruptcy court over stupid sounds. Cripes!

British Prime Minister lambasted after another cabinet minister quits

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Gordon Brown’s ability to command his cabinet has “simply disappeared”, says David Cameron.

The Tory leader accused the prime minister of being in denial about his waning authority at a highly-charged prime minister’s question time just 90 minutes after Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, confirmed that she will resign from government in the impending reshuffle.

She is the second cabinet minister – and the fourth member of the government – to declare that they no longer want to serve under Brown within the last 24 hours, and her move suggests confidence in his leadership is plummeting.

Opening the assault on Brown, the SNP MP Mike Weir said: “We are witnessing the pathetic sight of a cabinet reshuffling itself. When will he [the prime minister] admit his authority is gone and call and election?…”

Brown paid tribute to the work of both the communities secretary and Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, who yesterday announced she would also step down.

But Cameron said: “The prime minister is in denial. If these people have done such good work, why are they walking away from their jobs?

“The minister for local elections is walking away the day before local elections. Isn’t it a challenge to his authority?…”

In her resignation statement, she declined to offer the customary expressions of praise and thanks to the prime minister, and instead declared that she wanted to “help the Labour party to reconnect with the British people, to remind them that our values are their values, that their hopes and dreams are ours too”…

Some Labour MPs are reportedly collecting names for a “declaration of no confidence” in the prime minister, and Blears’s move will increase the pressure on Brown ahead of tomorrow’s elections, in which Labour are expected to do very badly.

Har! Another toady to American neocon politics has his chickens coming home to roost.

That’s without even going into the corruption of hypocrites who campaigned against government waste and opportunism – and fell over each other to get a piece of the pie once in office!

Harvard to endow professorship in Gay Studies

Harvard University will endow a visiting professorship in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, a position that, it believes, will be the first endowed, named chair in the subject at an American college.

The visiting professorship, which the university is planning to announce formally as part of commencement exercises, was made possible by a gift of $1.5 million from the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus. With the gift, Harvard said it would regularly invite “eminent scholars studying issues related to sexuality or sexual minorities” to teach on campus for one semester.

The chair is being named for F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard scholar and literary critic who “stands out as an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-20th century.”

Professor Matthiessen, the release added, “leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room” in 1950, despondent, at least in part, over the death several years earlier of his partner, the artist Russell Cheney.

While lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies represents a relatively new field of study at American universities, Harvard’s would not be the first such endeavor. The first university program in gay and lesbian studies was established at the City University of New York in 1986, according to Harvard’s research.

Overdue. Welcome to the fields of social studies, history and other relevant areas – but, overdue.

U.S. combat troops on track to leave Iraqi cities by month’s end

U.S. combat forces will vacate all Iraqi cities on schedule by the end of this month, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said, including the still violent insurgent holdout of Mosul.

U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq’s towns and cities by June 30 and redeploy to bases outside, according to a security pact that took effect in January. Some U.S. and Iraqi officials had suggested this might have to be delayed in the case of Mosul, where al Qaeda and other insurgent groups still carry out frequent attacks…

“We will come out of the cities. We will provide some trainers and advisers, LNOs (liaison officers) … inside of Mosul … but that’ll be it,” he said in an interview. “We’ve made some good progress up there in the last several months. I feel much better about where we’re at in terms of security in Mosul … We’ll be able to turn it over,” he said…

He said that since 2006, Iraqi security forces had made huge leaps in the size of their forces, and better training and equipment, but U.S. forces would remain in Iraq in an advisory role until the end of 2011, the withdrawal date agreed with Baghdad in the bilateral security pact.

“I think it’s time for us to move out of the cities, I think it’s important that people understand we are going to abide by the agreement that we’ve signed,” he said…

“You’ll never know until you leave. As long as we’re here, we can’t say they’re standing on their own two feet,” he said.

It’s amazing. We seem to have acquired a generation of officers which contains a noticeable – albeit small – number of folks with brains and the ability to use them. Somewhere along the way between Ho Chi Minh City and Kabul.

If we continue to keep our homegrown ideologues out of the way maybe we’ll get to bring everyone home?

Brewing Spandex with bacteria


A company called Genomatica, based in San Diego, says that it can make the key ingredient in spandex from sugar, and do so at a cost that competes with current chemical processes, which use fossil fuels. It has developed genetically engineered E. coli bacteria that excrete a chemical called 1,4-butanediol, or BDO, which is used to make a number of products, including textiles, car parts, and pharmaceuticals.

The company announced that it has demonstrated a proprietary process that allows it to produce the BDO at greater than 99 percent purity, a technical milestone that clears the way for the one-ton-per-day demonstration plant that it plans to build next year. (Total worldwide production of BDO is about 1.5 million tons.) The company also reported increasing the productivity of the bacteria to a level that it says is near what’s needed to compete with petroleum and natural-gas-based processes.

Christophe Schilling, Genomatica’s CEO, says that its process will reduce energy use for making the chemical by about 30 percent. It will also decouple its cost from the cost of fossil fuels. He predicts that the company’s process will cost 25 percent less than conventional methods used to make BDO, provided the price of oil stays above $40 to $50 a barrel and the cost of sugar is about 10 to 12 cents a pound…

Pierce predicts that the next 15 years will see a significant shift toward using biological processes to make chemical intermediates, as fossil fuels become more expensive. “Historically, petroleum has been cheaper [than sugar]–that’s why we’ve had a petroleum age,” he says. “It’s been the place everyone goes to get cheap raw materials. We’re in a period of transition now, where it’s becoming more and more frequent that it’s cheaper to do a biological process.”

Agreed. I have a couple of old acquaintances who are molecular biologists and they are at the stage where they refuse to retire – because they’re having so much fun. Years of theory and experiment are finally coming together to produce more for humanity than they ever could have hoped for.