Monday 11 May 2009

Evening Roundup

  • Rex Murphy on a star-crossed eco-voyage to the North Pole
    Unfortunately even the most glassy-eyed idealism can be confronted by reality, and such was the case with Carbon Neutral's expedition. They hit a bad patch of weather. Their poor boat was thrice capsized. And the fickle Gods of Global Warming must have been taking a siesta, for in one of those incidents one of the team "hit his head and the wind generator and solar panels were ripped from the yacht." I can only imagine them at this moment, staring soulfully into the hurricane-whipped sky, and pleadingly imploring: "Al Gore, Al Gore, why has thou forsaken us? "

    They were in a powerless pickle. Solar and sail had failed them and green intentions will not float your boat - they were not so much "carbon neutral" as carbon deprived. Bobbing around the North Atlantic in a gale without motor power of any kind is not the most soothing experience. Fortunately, Providence, in one of its most artful facsimiles, was on hand in the shape of the Overseas Yellowstone - a ship that was, to put it mildly, not relying on solar power or a wind turbine.

    It was a 113,000-ton oil tanker, carrying 680,000 barrels of crude oil. We may reach for many adjectives to describe the Overseas Yellowstone but "carbon neutral" will not be among them. Indeed, the Overseas Yellowstone, looked at from a carbon-neutral perspective, is the Life Raft from Hell. Nonetheless the oil tanker picked up the eco-people.
  • Wind Power's mafia links in Sicily: no-work contracts for windmills
    Multinationals are starting to find out something that is well known to Italian investors: that concealed beneath Europe’s most generous system of incentives – supported by “green credits” that industrial polluters have to purchase – there exists a web of corruption and shady deals.

    Rossana Interlandi, recently appointed head of Sicily’s environment department, explains that project developers – she calls them “speculators” – were also lured by the appeal of a law that obliges Italy’s national grid operator to pay wind farm ownerseven when they are not producing electricity.
  • Can we ever understand another culture? Contrary evidence.
  • I always prefer studies rationalizing my diet: eating fat helps my memory
  • More fake Elsevier journals. The Guardian reports. There's serious room for an event study on pharmaceutical stock prices: do drugs shilled in fake journals take a hit when the journal proves fake?
  • Andrew Leigh points to a David Brooks column on the massive successes of charter schools for disadvantaged children.
    Promise Academy produced gains of 1.3 and 1.4 standard deviations. That’s off the charts. In math, Promise Academy eliminated the achievement gap between its black students and the city average for white students.

    Let me repeat that. It eliminated the black-white achievement gap. “The results changed my life as a researcher because I am no longer interested in marginal changes,” Fryer wrote in a subsequent e-mail. What Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone’s founder and president, has done is “the equivalent of curing cancer for these kids."
  • Dilbert on the importance of trust in contract enforcement

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