Friday, 27 June 2008

"Positive" Discrimination

The UK Government is proposing legislation which would make it legal to discriminate against white males in, for example, promotions at work. Their reasoning is that they want to try to even up gender and racial imbalances in the work place.

If we are going to have positive discrimination to even up gender imbalances in the workplace, can we have positive discrimination in divorce courts to even up the imbalance of custody between men and women in divorce cases (90% of single parents are women)?

Or drop the whole stupid idea. Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcomes.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Lisbon treaty

Henceforth I will fly only by Ryan air and drink only Irish whiskey. The Irish people have spoken for 400 million disenfranchised European citizens and kicked the wretched EU constitution into touch.

One wonders what part of the word "no" our politicians are struggling with. Most of us are in favour of an economic community (facilitating trade) but do not want a political union. If it ever happens it will be the beginning of the end of democracy in Europe - for the same reason that democracy doesn't work well in parts of Africa. Tribalism. One-person-one-vote only works if those persons loyalty is primarily to the political entity whose leaders they are choosing. Most of us feel national loyalties more strongly than European ones.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Cars and Commuting

There has been some discussion at work about greening the workplace. There are lots of politically correct things to do like recycling paper and ink cartridges and using low-power laptops. Most of these things pale into insignificance however when compared with the impact of commuting to the workplace.

As a ball-park figure, a car needs about 1 Kilowatt-hour to go 5 miles. Even ignoring engine and drivetrain efficiency (lousy, especially for the first part of the journey in winter when the engine is cold), this still works out to a Megawatt-hour per day for 250 people doing 10 miles each way. There are several possible ways to reduce this.

  • Encourage home working, maybe following BT's lead and having people formally based at home and hot desking when they come into the office for meetings.
  • Apply pressure for better public transport links (minibuses to business parks from park-and-ride locations??)
  • Encourage care sharing/pooling
  • State a policy to provide electric vehicle charging points at work. Many of us could commute in currently-available electric vehicles if there was recharging at work.
Electric vehicles still burn power, but less of it and produced with:
  1. a greater range of energy sources other than oil (including renewables)
  2. greater thermal efficiency (a fixed power station is more efficient than the true lifetime efficiency of a car engine which some sources put below 5%)
  3. more efficient distribution (electricity is distributed by wires with a small loss compared with the additional fuel burn of petrol tankers)
  4. less atmospheric pollution (fixed power stations again)

Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have a further longer term emergent eco-system benefit. With the right control software a critical mass of electric vehicles nationally could be used to smooth power demand. At present a significant amount of generating capacity has to be kept on idle standby to cope with peaks and troughs in demand (e.g. everyone putting the kettle on at the start of cup-final half time). A million EV batteries could do the same job (the grid charges the batteries during play and borrows a bit back at half time)