Moving to E85

While we are debating if rising oil prices leads to less freedom or vice versa, the point of truth is that, oil prices are rising. The price of crude is going up and the price at the pump is moving faster. Various businesses have decided to pass on the the rising costs directly to the consumer. Since consumers are already struggling to make ends meet, they probably may not notice this slight increase in price for almost everything. The situation is so bad that President Bush raised the CAFE standards, which sets the fuel economy for vehicles.

Meanwhile American car makers are seeing their cars sitting on the lot, while Toyota cannot make enough Prius for American consumption. Is there a way to get rid of the oil dependency and at the same time boost the slowing sales of American cars? Tom Daschle and VInod Khosla seem to have a solution. Their proposal is to give automakers incentives for making vehicles which can run on gasoline or E85 fuel, a blend of ethanol and gasoline.

First, it could set America free from its dependence on foreign oil. As Brazil’s “energy independence miracle” proves, an aggressive strategy of investing in petroleum substitutes like ethanol can end dependence on imported oil.

Second, switching from gasoline to ethanol produced from perennial energy crops like switch grass can slash our carbon dioxide emissions.

Third, it could build on a comparative advantage of American automakers. American auto manufacturers are churning out hundreds of thousands of flex-fuel vehicles. Their foreign competitors make far fewer. Promoting these vehicles will help our automakers build on their already strong market share.

And fourth, by encouraging the production of ethanol and new renewable fuel technologies, this new CAFE standard could invigorate rural communities in America’s heartland and innovation and research centers along its coasts. [Miles Per Cob]

When the Wall Street Journal agrees with New York Times, then you know either an asteroid is going to hit the earth or something serious is going on. Currently US imports ethanol and there are tariffs and duties on it making it not so competitive. A bill has been introduced to suspend taxes on imported ethanol till 2007

Ethanol based cars are not without issues for this fuel results in lower fuel economy. This would result in the driver paying more and currently it is not cost effective compared to regular gasoline based vehicles. According to Business Week “it would cost around $3,368 per year to run a Dodge Ram 1500 pickup on regular gas and $3,615 on E85.” Even if you want to buy a flex fuel car, there are not many choices right now. If you own one, then you don’t have many fueling stations.

A lot has to happen before E85 becomes a viable alternative to oil. Atleast people are thinking about it.

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On Deepa Mehta and New York Times

Sandeep on the New York Times article about Deepa Mehta’s Water.

THIS is the problem with coconuts–to borrow Richard Crasta’s delightful term for pseudo-westernized Indians like Mehta–who stoop to any antics to impress the White skin by painting their own culture black. Add to this a dash of their message of social reform and liberation and you have a hideous caricature that defies description. On the contrary, this actually aptly describes the likes of Deepa Mehta. Deepa Mehta is no social reformer or maker of meaningful cinema but a crass opportunist who is out to earn fast money by misrepresenting a culture she is ashamed to belong to. Unable to counter genuine criticism by people like Gurumurthy, she takes refuge in pompous statements [Hindu-Baiting New York Times]

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Rashomon Effect – Episode 4

Two Indian parliamentarians talk to American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice together. When they come out they have two stories on what the Secretary said

Shahid Siddiqui

Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui of the Samajwadi Party told reporters that ‘our main concern was over expected amendments to the legislation, but she (Rice) said, if the amendments are within the spirit of the July 18 agreement, then you should be prepared for it.The message was that there are going to be amendments and we should be ready for it’.

Sachin Pilot

But Sachin Pilot of the Congress party told rediff.com that Rice had not spoken about any amendments but agreed that ‘the essence of the agreement is what we should focus on and that’s what we are going to achieve. That whatever the understanding the two governments have, that’s what it is. There’s been no additions or deleting’.

See Also: Episode 1, 2, 3

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Surrounded by failed states

Foreign Policy magazine has announced its failed states index. The indicators of instability include factors like demographic pressures, public services, external interventionand delegitimization of state. The top countries in the list are Sudan, Congo, Ivory Coast, Iraq and Zimbabwe.

In this list India’s neighbourhood does not look promising at all. Almost all its neighbours, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma are among the toppers in the failed states list. Leading the list in our region is Pakistan with a ranking of 9, just faring better than Somalia and Chad. Even a war torn Afghanistan did better than Pakistan. Regarding Pakistan, the report mentions that it remains “acutely vulnerable to internal conflict and social disintegration”.

Pakistan moved from 34th last year to ninth in the new report – one of the sharpest changes in the overallscore of any country on the list. The contributing factors were Pakistan’s inability to police the tribal areas near the Afghan border, the devastating earthquake last October in Kashmir and rising ethnic tensions, the report said. [Pakistan 'is a top failed state']

The others did not do much better. Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are ranked 18th, 19th, 20th and 25th respectively. China is ranked 57th, while India did much better with a ranking of 93.

The authors cite India as an example of a state which has pulled back from the brink, saying that in the 1970s analysts predicted dire consequences as a result of population growth, economic mismanagement, poverty and corruption. Now, they say, India today has turned itself around and might have the edge over China (ranked 57) in the long run. Pauline Baker, president of the Fund for Peace, told the Associated Press news agency that India had greater social mobility and was more decentralised than its more populous neighbour. [Pakistan 'is a top failed state']

While India is facing both internal and external threats, the failing of these neighbours should be a major concern. The Acorn’s item number 2 & 10 on the Foreign Policy Objectives has to be pursued seriously to avoid another 1971 type of situation.

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Monsoon caused Indus Valley decline

The Indus Valley civilization flourised between the time period of 3300 – 1700 BCE. Around 1900 BCE, people started leaving and the cities started to decline. There are many reasons attributed for this decline, and the theories include tectonic activity along the Indo-Asian plate boundary, or flooding. Another reason could be the disappearance of the Ghaggar-Hakra river system which was part of Sarasvathi. Then there is the infamous Aryan invasion theory.

Now according to new research, it was not Aryans, but monsoons, which were responsible for the demise of the Indus Valley Civilization. Geologist Anil Gupta of IIT Kharagpur studied the effect of monsoons over the past 10,000 years and have come to the conclusion that a strong monsoon helped the civlization grow, while a weakening monsoon might have led to its decline.

The Arabian Sea sediments and other geological studies show that the monsoon began to weaken about 5,000 years ago. The dry spell, lasting several hundred years, might have led people to abandon the Indus cities and move eastward into the Gangetic plain, which has been an area of higher rainfall than the northwestern part of the subcontinent.

“It’s not high temperatures, but lack of water that drove the people eastward and southward,” Gupta said.

About 1,700 years ago, the monsoon began to improve again, leading to increased farm produce for several centuries and contributing to the relative prosperity in India during the medieval ages, from AD 700 to 1200. [Indus cities dried up with monsoon]

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