Letters: Revenge on sat-nav

A tiny village takes on the might of the sat-nav-guided HGVs


Sir: The letter from Councillor Mollie Toy from Southwell (30 August) about sat-nav luring HGVs to her small town with inadequate roads struck a chord with residents of our tiny village of Milton Malsor in Northamptonshire.

We regularly get huge HGVs stuck in our narrow streets, damaging the cottages as they struggle to get out. We believe some of them are aiming for Lodge Farm Industrial Estate, five miles away, rather than our Lodge Farm.

Can anything be done, asks Councillor Toy? Well, we have been pressing the county council to impose a weight limit on the access roads to our village, although it has dithered for months, worried about the policing of such a limit. It needn't be. We will be out there with our cameras dealing with lawbreakers until the haulage companies know that they can't mess with Milton Malsor without getting fined.



Sir: We should regard with foreboding the projected demise of the folding map and the road atlas, superseded by electronic devices (report, 31 August).

Gone will be the satisfaction of evading motorway gridlock, map on knee, through unfamiliar countryside and sleepy villages. Serendipity will be a thing of the past. No more finding oneself in the midst of a local pageant, a mushroom growers' harvest feast or the fête of an unknown saint, whose powers to cure the toothache or command the affection of sheepdogs is a byword in the neighbourhood. How can such events truly surprise and gratify if presented in advance, electronically, as mere tourist attractions?

What will become of our sense of adventure? When shall we ever experience the frisson of the benighted traveller or the relief of discovering an unexpected hotel among the mountain olive groves, while August thunder circles? In fact, why venture out at all, if all one has to do is download a miscellany of information from one's mobile phone?



Day of hope at the Drax protest camp

Sir: On the way to the Camp for Climate Action near Drax power station I found myself on the overcrowded 9.34am Oxford to Leeds and paying a £70 for the privilege.

I stood, thinking: how will the necessary 90 per cent reduction of CO 2 emissions take place? This drastic cut can in part be achieved by shifting from cars to trains. A move away from the comfort of our cars is possible, but if trains stay prohibitively expensive and uncomfortable it remains a distant prospect. On my return journey I had a seat, but also a one and a half hour delay.

At least between my journeys there was a happy interlude at the Climate Camp. It was an extraordinary event, brave enough to call for the necessary CO 2 cuts and providing a working model of alternatives. A tented town was built from scratch complete with a bio-diesel shuttle bus, bike library, wind and solar power, organic kitchens and even a bar with low-mile pints. Industry and government must feel shamed that a group of informed and committed citizens working on a shoestring have succeeded where they have failed. The camp inspired and mobilised action on a scale to match the challenge that climate change presents.

My congratulations to the organisers and my encouragement to potential climate campers - go there! It will be well worth the uncomfortable journey and a hole in your pocket getting there.



Sir: Steve Connor (31 August) mentions the proposal put forward by coal-power enthusiasts - the possibility of reducing CO 2 emissions from power stations in a similar way to the successful reduction of sulphur oxides.

These proposals need to be knocked firmly on the head before they get beyond the fantasy which they are. In coal, the sulphur content comprises a tiny fraction compared with the carbon, whose proportion by weight is over 90 per cent. The carbon cannot be removed by putting filters on the chimneys. Each kilogram of coal, when combusted, will produce around 3.5kg of CO 2 which is the reason for the prodigious amount of the stuff quoted in your front page article (20.8m tonnes per year for Drax).

The other oft-touted method for dealing with this problem is carbon sequestration - capturing the CO 2 emissions and storing them in liquid form, possibly in the very underground caverns created by the mining or extraction of the fossil fuel. But keeping CO 2 in liquid form would require a pressure of around 60 atmospheres and even then it would occupy a volume 5-10 times that of the original coal. Keeping this volume of CO 2 from escaping at these high pressures is indeed a fantasy.

The only form of carbon sequestration which should be seriously considered is to return to the old coking plant idea, where the coal is converted into town gas and coke, but without burning the latter. Town gas, like natural gas, is mainly methane and therefore has a relatively low CO 2 output compared with unprocessed coal. For this scheme to make sense of course, the coke (virtually 100 per cent carbon) has to be banned from being combusted by law. Then, this material could be stored underground safely for ever.



Sir: Drax emits 20.8m tonnes of CO 2 annually to provide 7 per cent of this country's electricity needs, compared to 91m tonnes emitted by vehicles and the total UK emission figure of 150m tonnes. The UK as a whole contributes 2.3 per cent of the world's annual emission of 6,500m tonnes.

Simple arithmetic shows that the closure of Drax would only influence global emissions by 0.3 per cent: and for this, the protesters would have us jeopardise our economy. If the decision to go nuclear is taken, as it must be without delay, maybe the coal-fired furnaces of Drax would be replaced by reactor cores some time in the near future. Would the same people who protest now be the first to protest then?

There is a lack of rational thought on such subjects, creating the haphazard planning that has bedevilled this country since the 1960s. Unfortunately, our political masters are given to expediency and short-termism. As gas prices rise, it will soon mean that we have to import electricity through underwater cables from France, which generates 70 per cent of its electricity from nuclear.



Sir: Closing Drax forthwith would cause frequent power cuts and economic disaster. Furthermore, being the most efficient, it should be the last power station to close.

But I have sympathy. Ostrich-like, since the First World War, engineers have done almost nothing to improve basic thermal efficiency of individual power stations. Meanwhile, almost two thirds of the heat energy is wasted.

An international award of at least £100,000 should be offered for the first steam-raising power station that can prove that it sustains a thermal efficiency of, say, 42 per cent. This could lead to saving 10 per cent of the CO 2 from all of the world's power stations.



The right to choose the end of life

Sir: I agree wholeheartedly with A Sutherland's letter ("Time for a dignified and legal exit", 31 August). I am 60, and hope that by the time life becomes intolerable, due to pain, infirmity or senility, the law will have changed and I will have the right to end it in my own country, in my own home, surrounded by my loved ones.

In the interim, I have made an advance directive, drawn up by my solicitor and witnessed by individuals who will not benefit from my death. A copy is with my GP, every member of my family and my close friends. I keep a copy in my wallet with my driver's licence. This states that, if I am seriously injured, become terminally ill or suffer from any form of senile dementia, I am not to be resuscitated or kept on life-support under any circumstances. I have requested that I receive palliative care only, and that food and drink may be withdrawn from me.

This is not ideal, as it does not give me the right to ask for my life to be terminated artificially, and free the resources that A Sutherland so rightly states would be better allocated to the young, but it is a step in the right direction.



Triumphal progress of the Stuckists

Sir: I am afraid that David Rodway has completely missed the point (letter, 30 August). I didn't say the Stuckists painted like the Impressionists.

I said there were "parallels", which are indeed as he says "being ridiculed and attacking the art establishment", as well as bypassing it by putting on our own shows (which usually get ignored, condemned or laughed at in true Impressionist style), and having a generous donation of work rejected by a self-interested caucus at the national museum of art.

Oh, we've also attracted a strong American following of artists. Now we've got commercial interest in our work and are heading inexorably towards the triumph of Stuckism.



We're no school for killers and torturers

Sir: Noam Chomsky ("You ask the questions", 28 August) reminds me of the American humourist Will Rogers and his comment, "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." He may be absolutely knowledgeable of many things, but he knows nothing of the US Army's School of the Americas beyond the name.

I work at the successor institute that came into being six years ago when the US Congress closed the School of the Americas. As a retired Army officer who has attended several US Army schools during my career, I feel well qualified to contradict such gratuitous comments as the line in this article, "There is a good reason, for example, why the School of the Americas, which has trained many Latin American killers and torturers, boasts that the US army helped 'defeat liberation theology'." (You ask the Questions, 28 August) Can Mr Chomsky name one example of any training at SOA that led to criminal acts? If he were to do so, he would be the first. And who precisely made such a boast? Did anyone, or is this a rhetorical turn of phrase?

Anyone, including Mr Chomsky, is welcome to come here, sit in any classes, talk with students and faculty, and review instructional materials. Visitors are frequent; all that is required to enter Fort Benning is a photo identification card or passport. A couple of years ago, a British doctoral candidate spent two months here doing research. I don't know how we can be more open and accessible.



Prejudice against Polish plumbers

Sir: Steve Cook's children can't get apprenticeships as plumbers and his contacts in the construction industry tell him it's down to the Poles (letter, 31 August). Unless these building types are complete newcomers, they are showing the ability of racists to ignore the facts in favour of their prejudices.

As a careers adviser I have become sick of the words "plumber" and "apprenticeship" over the years. The media-driven notion of a shortage of plumbers who could charge the earth was given extra life by the Government's insistence that Modern Apprenticeships were available, leading to queues of hopefuls applying for training that wasn't there. The main culprits, however, are Mr Cook's building chums, who never took on apprentices in the first place.

But now they're here, let's blame the Poles (and, in anticipation, the inhabitants of Romania and Bulgaria).



Lib-Dem conference

Sir: Steve Richards (31 August) speculates about Charles Kennedy's address at the Bournemouth Conference Centre next month. Steve tells us that it will be "neither here nor there". Absolutely spot on Steve; our conference will be at Brighton.



Be bold, Mr Blair

Sir: Come on, Mr Blair, stop pussy-footing about. If the feeble-minded, the criminal and the dysfunctional adults can so easily be identified, why waste vast precious resources on "intervening" and taking their dubious offspring into care? The obvious logical answer is compulsory, state-funded abortion and sterilisation for all such people. It will save billions, cut crime and purify the race. Act now. You know it makes sense.



Fair warning

Sir: John Richards (letter, 29 August), complains that his daughter's friend was made to leave behind some make-up when travelling recently. Well, I also travelled through Heathrow last week and while queuing for security my travelling companion and I were reminded no fewer than 10 times that we could not take make-up on the flight with us. If this lady really wanted to post the items home why didn't she take the opportunity of any one of these reminders to leave the queue and mail the items? She had her chance.



Unintelligible pop songs

Sir: If Joe Brown (The 5-minute interview, 28 August) wants people to take more notice of the lyrics in songs, then "pop" singers need to take the microphone out of their mouths and learn to articulate their words properly.



A parakeet explosion

Sir: Like Joseph Mattey (letter, 1 September), over the past four years on visits to London I have noticed a steady increase in the sparrow population in south London and also in parts of Islington. Even more noticeable has been the dramatic population explosion in ring-necked parakeets.



Modern Marmite

Sir: Nick Kelly (letter, 1 September) must be using an old pot of Marmite. My perception is that modern Marmite is runnier and less concentrated than it used to be. So you do need to put lots on. I think they are working towards putting it in squeezy pots. That will be the end of civilisation as we know it.



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