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Shawn H Corey
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  • Bishop's University
    Math & Comp Sci, 1976 - 1981
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Don't stop where the ink does.
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Master Programmer & Avid Gamer
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Survived Galt
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    Web Deigner Consultant, present
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Shawn H Corey

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The inquisition was about finding people guilty so the inquisitioners could confiscate that person's wealth. Religion was just a pretense.
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Rainbow Six: Reality Check
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Once again, the Old World doesn't understand that unrestriction is just a VPN away. New column on Privacy News.

Four pieces of news in the past week show just how little the lawmakers and courts continue to understand of the Internet: Australia introduced Data Retention, Spain ordered The Pirate Bay censored, and Denmark ordered another eleven sites blocked. The old guard actually seems to think that the net can be controlled, or that it has chokepoints that can be controlled. They don’t understand that everybody’s an equal on the Net and that providers aren’t anything like phone companies.

What AU lawmakers don’t get is that insisting on your rights and evading the pre-emptive wiretapping of suspects-to-be is just a VPN connection away.

This is not circumventing the law or acting like a criminal. On the contrary, it’s just a tangible non-acknowledgement of a command to submit your liberties at the door. Noncompliance with such nonsense is absolutely key; lawmakers and courts will take all liberties they can get away with taking at the moment. Technical means to retain your privacy, exercising analog-equivalent rights, are absolutely paramount.

https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2015/03/once-again-the-old-world-doesnt-understand-that-unrestriction-is-just-a-vpn-away/
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"Religious morality doesn't exist. They're just following orders." - Ray Spurrill
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Yeah, I don't agree with some of those articles and others are so vague as to be absurd.
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Volvo has long traded on its reputation for passenger safety, but it is also looking out for cyclists and pedestrians. Its newly announced Life Paint is aimed at making cyclists easier to see at n...
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Since it pops up from time to time in my stream, and as I currently work in the field, I thought I should write about the current status of Germany's Green Energy Revolution.

The Green Energy Revolution was started in earnest by the Social Democratic/Green government coalition of 1998-2003. The goal was to create as much of Germany's electricity from renewable energy sources as possible - perhaps even close to 100%. This would be the work of decades, but I do think this goal is feasible. A major part of pushing renewable energy sources were very generous "feed-in tariffs" - essentially, the German government guaranteed that those who installed new renewable power generation facilities would receive fixed compensation for each kWh they produced and fed into the grid. Furthermore, the Greens fulfilled a long-standing election promises and pushed through a very gradual phase-out of German nuclear power plants.

After 2003, the Social Democrats and Greens no longer had enough seats in the German parliament and Merkel became chancellor. And was is not exactly a fan.

Around that time, prices for PV panels began falling through the floor - but the feed-in tariffs for PV panels weren't adjusted for some time. Which resulted in enormous profits for those installing PV panels, which in turn triggered an enormous boom for them. However, because of the feed-in tariffs the overall electricity prices increased, because the electricity bills paid for the feed-in tariffs. This caused the first (and second and third) Merkel government to introduce all sorts of "exemptions" for "export-oriented industries", which grew to cover more and more companies with only very tenuous links to exports, and "energy-intensive industries", which had the perverse effect of encouraging companies just below the threshold to consume even more electricity so that they could get classified as "energy-intensive". Of course, this increased the electricity bill even further for those who weren't exempt - including private consumers. Thus, while the Green Energy Revolution started out as a fairly popular project, it became less so over time, and Merkel probably thought she was getting close to junking this whole project for good.

Then the Fukushima disaster happened.

And Merkel was panicking. She had always been very vocally pro-nuclear power, but suddenly there was a new disaster that reinforced German skepticism of nuclear power plants. So while she had delayed the closure of nuclear power plants in the preceding years, she now flip-flopped radically and introduced a new plan which would close them far faster than originally planned (incidentally, this radical change in plan seems to have been done so amateurishly that the power companies will likely be able to successfully sue the government for compensation...).

This was not sufficient to prevent the state of Baden-Wurttemberg - one of the most conservative states in Germany - from falling to the first ever Green Party-led state government. However, after that her opinion polls gradually stabilized and increased again - and to Merkel, that's what really matters.

However, you simply can't alter a nation's power supply overnight - it's the work of decades, with careful planning. Therefore the very rapid phase-out Merkel implemented led to a shortage. Which is why the Merkel government started talking about "we need more reserve power!" Which meant coal power - which is the reason why, perversely, German CO2 emissions have increased as of late. If they had stuck to the original plan, this likely would not have been necessary, but her rapid phase-out made things difficult - though they probably overstated the need for it. When the Social Democrats rejoined her government again back in 2013, they only encouraged this - the Social Democrats had always been allies to the coal industry.

Furthermore, the new vice-chancellor and minister for Economics and Energy - one Sigmar Gabriel - had his own plans for sabotaging renewable energy. The worst plan he proposed was charging all consumption of electricity with the fees for the feed-in tariffs (exempting again the "export-oriented" and "energy-intensive" industries). This meant that if someone installed PV panels on their roof, and used up the electricity generated by the panels themselves instead of feeding it into the grid, they would still have to pay those fees.

Which removed all incentives for not feeding all the generated electricity into the grid - a very bad idea, since that would only exacerbate peak production times. To make the renewable energy revolution work, we want people to consume the electricity that they generate. Fortunately, this measure was not fully implemented - but that Sigmar Gabriel was willing to back such a scheme shows how hostile he is to renewable energy sources.

Despite all this, renewable energy sources continue to grow - currently, they represent 25.8% of electricity generation in Germany, and that percentage will likely increase further.

So you might ask: What's the point of renewable energy generation?

If the goal is reduction of CO2 emissions - which certainly is one of the major reasons - then some people might say that Germany should just focus on nuclear power. One argument against nuclear power is the safety angle - while it is possible to build very safe nuclear power plants, they are very complex systems that need very large organizations to run - and the larger the organization, the more likely it is that someone will screw up sooner or later. And if an advanced nation like Japan can screw up as badly as it was the case with Fukushima, then how much can we trust less advanced and corrupt nations with this technology?

Which brings me to my own personal argument against nuclear power: We simply do not trust many nations with this technology. Witness the current negotiations with Iran - we are worried that they will misuse nuclear power for weapons. And apart from this misuse, worrying that poorer nations will cut corners when it comes to nuclear safety and waste disposals is not an unreasonable concern.

So if the rich nations stick to nuclear power in order to reduce their carbon footprint, what should the poorer nations do? If they can't use nuclear power, that leaves fossil fuels... or renewable energy. Obviously, the latter is preferable when it comes to CO2 output.

Which makes it all the more important that a wealthy, technologically advanced nation like Germany tries to implement renewable energy on a massive scale. If Germany can pull it off - make something approaching 100% renewable power generation work, and learns how to deal with its many challenges - then it becomes something for poorer nations to emulate and implement on their own.

So what are the challenges? The price of renewable energy sources is not the issue - while they are still high, they are rapidly falling. Neither wind nor solar power are mature technologies, and they are both improving quickly. The economies of scale have caused a spectacular collapse in price for PV panels in particular.

The main challenge is the intermittency of renewable energy generation - wind power and solar power fluctuate during the day, and from day to day. This can be compensated in part by connecting these energy sources into large-scale grids - while some regions may experience less wind or less sun on some days, some other regions will experience more of it, and thus can compensate for the loss of power generation.

However, this too is solvable. Physical storage systems, such as batteries, will certainly play a part - in particular as electric vehicles become more common. But anything that helps shifting loads or electricity generation is useful here. Gas turbines provide flexible power generation for peak times. Reservoirs, cooling or heating systems can be used to store energy in a non-electric form.

And above all, there must be real price incentives for consuming electricity at certain times while saving it at others. For the private consumers, this usually isn't the case unless they have their own PV panels - even those power companies that offer variable electricity prices have fixed prices for every hour of the day, and the prices rarely vary more than 10% between peak production and peak consumption times. But at the European Energy Exchange, prices vary much more drastically - even sinking down to zero or below it during times of peak production. Such variance in prices must be offered to smaller consumers so that they have an incentive for active energy management. Furthermore, electrical devices must become more easily controllable by energy management software - so that your washing machine and dryer operate at the optimal times, your refrigerator cools the most when electricity is cheapest, your air conditioning or electrical heating optimize their schedules for these electricity prices while still staying in the optimal temperature ranges, and so forth.

All this is doable. It's a lot of work - literally the work of decades - and fairly expensive the first time it is implemented, as it is the case with all prototypes. But I believe it is worthwhile, and if it works out we have an entirely new system of power generation with vastly reduced CO2 emissions that will work in most of the globe without nasty environmental or political side effects.

Time will tell if I am right.
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NDP Environment critic Megan Leslie (Halifax) made the following statement on Earth Hour:

“Each of us can make simple changes to reduce our energy use and help build a sustainable future.
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