Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Africa's Rising Star - Mozambique


Published: May 29, 2005

Beguilding Mozambique
After years of civil war, Mozambique, home to 1,500 miles of pristine Indian Ocean beachfront, is one of Africa's rising stars.

AS the heavy rain pelted the windows of the taxi, Julio, my regular driver in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, hardly seemed worried. He calmly piloted the cab through the flooding streets, as water rose above sidewalks and spilled onto people's front lawns.

Approaching my hotel, near the beach in a low-lying area of the city, the rain picked up, and soon I felt my feet getting wet. I looked down, and saw rain coming through the bottom of the taxi, like a boat taking on water. Still, Julio wasn't concerned. "No problem, no problem," he said, and continued chatting on his mobile phone while driving.

At that moment, the car stalled, leaving us stuck in the middle of a waterlogged street. "No problem," Julio said again. And he was right. Within five minutes, a group of men had emerged out of nowhere to help us push the car to the side of the road. They expertly tipped the cab on its side, letting the water run out the bottom like a child's toy. Julio smiled and shrugged, opened a big bottle of fruit juice, and lay down in his car until the rain stopped.

Julio clearly had absorbed the laid-back Mozambique ethos. After nearly two decades of civil war, the country, a former Portuguese colony - and home to over 1,500 miles of undeveloped Indian Ocean beachfront, some of the finest diving and deep sea marlin fishing in the world, and a unique Afro-Iberian-Brazilian culture - is rediscovering its place as one of Africa's most alluring, and most relaxing, tourism destinations.

This is, in fact, the country's second chance to get tourism right. Mozambique had one brush with mass tourism before - in the 60's and early 70's, before the decades-long war between the government and guerrilla insurgents, and then civil war afterward, which made this country off limits to most tourists. Back then it was a playground for white South Africans, thousands of whom would flock here on low-cost package vacations, rarely spending much money in the country itself. This time around, local travel specialists say the tourism ministry is rebuilding the infrastructure and focusing on the development of intimate resorts, hoping that a more-well-heeled class of traveler will follow.

"We need to promote Mozambique more as a boutique destination," Sylvia Campos, a veteran Mozambican travel operator, told me over thimble-sized cups of European coffee at the Girassol Bahia, a boutique hotel in Maputo. "We are trying to position ourselves for high-end tourism," she said. "We need good investments that will conserve the cultural landscape."

The Girassol is one of many new addresses in Maputo, which has witnessed a building boom since the civil war ended in 1992. When I arrived in Maputo in February to begin a weeklong trip to Mozambique, the city's broad, Iberian avenues, wide, zocalo-like public spaces, and new skyscrapers were on a much larger scale than my previous destination, Lilongwe, the tiny capital of neighboring Malawi.

But Maputo, population roughly a million, still feels like a small town. At stoplights, Julio would frequently encounter friends in nearby cars; at the Girassol, Sylvia ran into one old pal after another, and was constantly getting up to kiss cheeks. And unlike residents of many African cities, which empty at night, Mozambicans crawl their vibrant city at all hours - snacking at sidewalk stands offering enormous yellow mangoes and papayas and popping into hundreds of bars for some of the Portuguese-language Afro-Brazilian funk that wafts out into the streets.

All this activity makes Maputo one of the safer capitals in Africa - certainly safer than the wealthier, but more crime-ridden, cities of South Africa. Even heavy afternoon rains during monsoon season dissipate by early evening, hardly crimping any activity.

On my days in Maputo, I would spend mornings wandering up from my hotel, the Holiday Inn, to the downtown, perched on a bluff overlooking the water - the city sits both on the Indian Ocean and at the confluence of three rivers.

For the rest of the article:

49, Day 2

Urgh. But at least the day is done.

The last time I regularly caught buses to work, was off Brislington Road in Bristol, and sometimes in London 9when it was raining and too dangerous to cycle to Canary Wharf).
Today I wanted 10 minutes longer than usual, which makes me feel like it's time to get a MTB. More bucks, but maybe I can recoup the bus money. Will think about it some more.

Just before I got off the bus I saw a guy on a bike, with a bus in front of him, and meand my bus behind. Just as he turned around to see where my bus was, his bus turned towards the sidewalk and I don't know how he managed not to bang his front wheel against it. As it was, he was forced to come to a dead stop, and wait for the bus to depart. In the cities, cycling is simply suicide because the lanes alongside the sidewalks are bus lanes, and every so often the buses hug the curb. Danger danger.

Going to eat a delicious chicken stir fry, like last night - this time with some Steer spices.
Will watch National treasure after, and try to sleep early and get some rest.

Into Thin Air Again...

By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, Associated Press Writer Mon May 30, 4:34 PM ET
KATMANDU, Nepal - At least 30 climbers scaled

Mount Everest on Monday, exploiting a break in treacherous weather to reach the world's highest peak, officials said.

They were the first to reach the 8,850-meter summit from the Nepalese side during this year's climbing season, which ends Tuesday, said Rajendra Pandey, a Mountaineering Department official.

At least two climbers have died in previous attempts this year, as strong winds and snowstorms have made climbing conditions miserable, forcing climbers to remain at the base camp for weeks.

According to the latest reports from the mountain, the climbers were moving safely along the route, but wind was picking up speed and cloud cover was moving over the peak as the climbers make their return journey.

The return is considered more dangerous, because climbers tend to be exhausted and have less oxygen to spare.

Dozens of climbers left the highest South Col camp at 26,240 feet around midnight and trekked in the dark across the icy slopes toward the summit. The section above South Col is known as the "death zone" for its extreme weather and thin atmosphere.
Mountaineering officials in Katmandu said the weather forecast was favorable, with low winds and clear skies � the first calm weather on the south side of the mountain this climbing season.

Some climbers have scaled Mount Everest from the Chinese side in recent days.
Since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first conquered Everest on May 29, 1953, more than 1,400 climbers have scaled the mountain. About 180 people have died on its unpredictable slopes.
On the Net:
News about Everest: http://www.mounteverest.net

Jincha Sick

Last night the sides of my throat felt like a dry scab, and this morning I woke up croaky.
Feeling feverish and crappy. Is this the 2nd or 3rd time I've gotten sick in 2 months?
Wish I could send out a clone to do my job!


Is Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Ark) an exceptional historical figure. Absolutely, and for more reasons than you might think.

Have a look at some of the images below. If you look carefully you'll notice that none agree on what Jeanne actually looks like. Even in her testimony, and the extensive records we have of her (and she is one of the earliest people to be so thoroughly documented, and I think her are the first complete set of original court documents we have) there is very little mention made of her appearance, other than that she cut her hair short, or something about her clothing. We do have a google that one of the judges made on the side of a court document, a drawing he made of her.
In this day and age of celebrity, a fixation with appearance, it's incredible to look back to one of the most heralded women in history, who is wholly remembered for her spirit.

Jeanne also brings us to the subject of nationalism. When a nation is in decay, it can be a good thing. When it is one nation firing itself up against others it might not be.

I'll present some of the interesting aspects of Jeanne here, such as her diet (wine and bread), her mission and prophesies (including about her own capture and death) and how some depictions of her in movies get it all wrong.

I will also be including court documents (this is real testimony, words she spoke, responses she gave translated from French). This is perhaps the most self-evident stuff that speaks of an amazing young woman from France.

Jeanne's Trial (Part 1)


Jeanne was captured as a result of the French, a faction of the French, capturing her and giving her over to the English, who had made their attempts to occupy France increasingly difficult, to say the least.

Having captured her, that did not want to turn her into a martyr (knowing full well the public support she had), so they wanted to ruin her reputation, declare her a heretic and kill her. The court case was a contrivance to that end. This is an excellent example of hypocrisy, where the leaders of the church assemble to exercise their power, with no regard for the actual truth of things, unless the truth serves their purposes.

Prior to the testimony below, there is a long and boring speech about the church and how sanctimonious it is. At the end of the day, you have a Bishop and 42 assessors (at one point Jeanne had 60 judges trying to incriminate her). If you can imagine 1 18 year old girl, with hardly any education, who could not even write, or take notes (as her judges were), you might think the court case would have been over and done with in a few hours, or days. In fact, it took months and months. Bare in mind that Jeanne was a prisoner of war, while she was on trial, and her guards were soldiers. Can you imagine what a difficult situation that must have been for her for such a protracted length of time.

She found it difficult - so much so that she at one point jumped out of the prison/castle window and miraculously survived the fall, but wasn't able to escape.
All in all, her testimony lasts about 1 year. It is interrupted by her suffering food poisoning at one point, but otherwise, recorded as it is, word for word, in her own words, it provides an extraordinary glimpse into the world, especially life in France, in 1430.

For more background, go to this link: http://www.stjoan-center.com/Trials/sec01.html


On Wednesday, February 21st, at 8 o'clock in the morning, in the Chapel Royal of the Castle of Rouen.

The Bishop and 42 Assessors Present.

And in the first instance we did require her, in the appointed form, her hand on the Holy Gospels, to swear to speak truth on the questions to be addressed to her.

To which she did reply:

"I know not upon what you wish to question me; perhaps you may ask me of things which I ought not to tell you."

"Swear," We did then say to her, "to speak truth on the things which shall be asked you concerning the Faith, and of which you know."

"Of my father and my mother and of what I did after taking the road to France, willingly will I swear; but of the revelations which have come to me from God, to no one will I speak or reveal them, save only to Charles my King; and to you I will not reveal them, even if it cost me my head; because I have received them in visions and by secret counsel, and am forbidden to reveal them. Before eight days are gone, I shall know if I may reveal them to you."

Again did We several times warn and require her to be willing, on whatsoever should touch on the Faith, to swear to speak truly. And the said Jeanne, on her knees, her two hands resting on the Missal, did swear to speak truth on that which should be asked her and which she knew in the matter of the Faith, keeping silence under the condition above stated, that is to say, neither to tell nor to communicate to any one the revelations made to her.

After this oath, Jeanne was interrogated by Us as to her name, and surname, her place of birth, the names of her father and mother, the place of her baptism, her godfathers and godmothers, the Priest who baptized her, etc.

"In my own country they call me Jeannette; since I came into France I have been called Jeanne. Of my surname I know nothing. I was born (2)....(On January 6th, 1412. "In nocte Epiphiniarum Domini." (Letter from Boulainvilliers to the Duke of Milan. Quicherat, vol. V., 116.) in the village of Domremy, which is really one with the village of Greux. The principal Church is at Greux.

My father is called Jacques d'Arc ; my mother, Ysabelle. I was baptized in the village of Domremy. (3)....(The Font and Holy water stoup in the old Church at Domremy are said to be of the 15th century, and to have been used at Jeanne's baptism.) One of my godmothers (4)....(Jeanne appears to have had a great many godparents. In the inquiry made at Domremy in 1455, eight are mentioned, viz. : Jean Morel, Jean Barrey, Jean de Laxart, and Jean Raiguesson, as godfathers; and Jeannette Thévenin, Jeannette Thiesselin, Beatrix Estellin, and Edith Barrey, as godmothers.) is called Agnes, another Jeanne, a third Sibyl. One of my godfathers is called Jean Lingué another Jean Barrey. I had many other godmothers, or so I have heard from my mother. I was, I believe, baptized by Messier Jean Minet; he still lives, so far as I know. I am, I should say, about nineteen years of age. From my mother I learned my Pater, my Ave Maria, and my Credo. I believe I learned all this from my mother."

"Say your Pater."

"Hear me in confession, and I will say it willingly."

To this same question, which was many times put to her, she always answered: "No, I will not say my Pater to you, unless you will hear me in confession."

"Willingly," We said to her, "We will give you two well-known men, of the French language, and before them you shall say your Pater."

"I will not say it to them, unless it be in confession."

And then did We forbid Jeanne, without Our permission, to leave the prison which had been assigned to her in the Castle, under pain of the crime of heresy.

"I do not accept such a prohibition," she answered; "if ever I do escape, no one shall reproach me with having broken or violated my faith, not having given my word to any one, whosoever it may be."

And as she complained that she had been fastened with chains and fetters of iron, We said to her:

"You have before, and many times, sought, We are told, to get out of the prison, where you are detained; and it is to keep you, more surely that it has been ordered to put you in irons."

"It is true I wished to escape; and so I wish still; is not this lawful for all prisoners?"

We then commissioned as her guard the noble man John Gris, (5)....(John Gris, or Grey, a gentleman in the Household of the Duke of Bedford, afterwards knighted. He was appointed chief guardian to the Maid, with two assistants, all members of the King's Body Guard. They appear to have left her entirely in the hands of the common soldiers, five of whom kept constant watch over her.) Squire, one of the Body Guard of our Lord the King, and, with him, John Berwoit and William Talbot, whom We enjoined well and faithfully to guard the said Jeanne, and to permit no person to have dealings with her without Our order. Which the forenamed, with their hands on the Gospels, did solemnly swear.

Finally, having accomplished all the preceding, We appointed the said Jeanne to appear the next day, at 8 o'clock in the morning, before Us in the Ornament Room, at the end of the Great Hall of the Castle of Rouen.

Jeanne's Trial (Part 2) (48 assessors present)

We warned and required her, on pain of law, to make oath as she had done the day before and to swear simply and absolutely to speak truth on all things in respect of which she should be questioned; to which she answered:

"I swore yesterday: that should be enough."

Again We required her to swear: we said to her, not even a prince, required to swear in a matter of faith, can refuse.

"I made oath to you yesterday," she answered, "that should be quite enough for you: you overburden me too much!"

Finally she made oath to speak truth on 'that which touches the Faith.'

Then Maitre Jean Beaupère, a well-known Professor of Theology, did, by Our order, question the said Jeanne. This he did as follows:

"First of all, I exhort you, as you have so sworn, to tell the truth on what I am about to ask you."

"You may well ask me some things on which I shall tell you the truth and some on which I shall not tell it you. If you were well informed about me, you would wish to have me out of your hands. I have done nothing except by revelation."

"How old were you when you left your father's house?"

"On the subject of my age I cannot vouch."

"In your youth, did you learn any trade ?"

"Yes, I learnt to spin and to sew; in sewing and spinning I fear no woman in Rouen. For dread of the Burgundians, I left my father's house and went to the town of Neufchateau,(1)....( There is no certain date for this event. By some it is placed between the first and second visits to Vaucouleurs, in 1428; by others, earlier, at the time of the Picard ravages of the neighborhood in the September of 1426.) in Lorraine, to the house of a woman named La Rousse, where I sojourned about fifteen days. When I was at home with my father, I employed myself with the ordinary cares of the house. I did not go to the fields with the sheep and the other animals. Every year I confessed myself to my own Cure, and, when he was prevented, to another Priest with his permission. Sometimes, also, two or three times, I confessed to the Mendicant Friars; this was at Neufchateau. At Easter I received the Sacrament of the Eucharist."

"Have you received the Sacrament of the Eucharist at any other Feast but Easter?"

"Pass that by [Passez outré]. I was thirteen when I had a Voice from God for my help and guidance. The first time that I heard this Voice, I was very much frightened; it was mid-day, in the summer, in my father's garden. I had not fasted the day before. I heard this Voice to my right, towards the Church; rarely do I hear it without its being accompanied also by a light. This light comes from the same side as the Voice. Generally it is a great light. Since I came into France I have often heard this Voice."

"But how could you see this light that you speak of, when the light was at the side?"

To this question she answered nothing, but went on to something else. " If I were in a wood, I could easily hear the Voice which came to me. It seemed to me to come from lips I should reverence. I believe it was sent me from God. When I heard it for the third time, I recognized that it was the Voice of an Angel. This Voice has always guarded me well, and I have always understood it; it instructed me to be good and to go often to Church; it told me it was necessary for me to come into France. You ask me under what form this Voice appeared to me? You will hear no more of it from me this time. It said to me two or three times a week: 'You must go into France.' My father knew nothing of my going. The Voice said to me: 'Go into France !' I could stay no longer. It said to me: 'Go, raise the siege which is being made before the City of Orleans. Go !' it added, 'to Robert de Baudricourt, (2)....(Robert de Baudricourt, Squire, Captain of Vaucouleurs in 1428; afterwards knighted and made Councilor and Chamberlain to the King and Bailly of Chaumont, 1454.) Captain of Vaucouleurs: he will furnish you with an escort to accompany you.' And I replied that I was but a poor girl, who knew nothing of riding or fighting. I went to my uncle and said that I wished to stay near him for a time. I remained there eight days. I said to him, 'I must go to Vaucouleurs.' (3).... (Of the ancient chateau the "Port de France" alone survives. From this gate Jeanne rode out with her escort to visit the King at Chinon. The crypt of the chapel remains, where Jeanne constantly prayed.) He took me there. When I arrived, I recognized Robert de Baudricourt, although I had never seen him. I knew him, thanks to my Voice, which made me recognize him. I said to Robert, 'I must go into France!' Twice Robert refused to hear me, and repulsed me. The third time, he received me, and furnished me with men; (4)....( This is said to have been on account of the impression produced on him by Jeanne's prediction, on February 12th : "To-day the gentle Dauphin has had a great hurt near the town of Orleans, and yet greater will he have if you do not soon send me to him." This 'great hurt' proved to be the Battle of Rouvray, in which the French and Scottish troops were defeated by the English under Sir John Fastolf.) the Voice had told me it would be thus. The Duke of Lorraine (5)....( Charles I, the reigning Duke de Lorraine in 1428, was in very bad health, and, having no son, the succession was a matter of some anxiety. He died in 1431, and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rene of Anjou, who had married his only daughter, Isabella. This Rene was a brother of Queen Mary, wife of Charles VII, and father of, the English, Queen Margaret, married in 1441 to Henry VI.) gave orders that I should be taken to him. I went there. I told him that I wished to go into France. The Duke asked me questions about his health; but I said of that I knew nothing. I spoke to him little of my journey. I told him he was to send his son with me, together with some people to conduct me to France, and that I would pray to God for his health. I had gone to him with a safe-conduct: from thence I returned to Vaucouleurs. From Vaucouleurs I departed, dressed as a man, armed with a sword given me by Robert de Baudricourt, but without other arms. I had with me a Knight,(6)....(Jean de Novelomport, called de Metz, Bertrand de Poulengey, Colet de Vienne, the King's Messenger, and three servants.) a Squire, and four servants, with whom I reached the town of Saint Urbain, where I slept in an Abbey. On the way, I passed through Auxerre, where I heard Mass in the principal Church. Thenceforward I often heard my Voices."

"Who counseled you to take a man's dress?"

To this question she several times refused to answer. "In the end, she said: "With that I charge no one."

Many times she varied in her answers to this question. Then she said:

"Robert de Baudricourt made those who went with me swear to conduct me well and safely. 'Go,' said Robert de Baudricourt to me, 'Go! and let come what may!' I know well that God loves the Duke d'Orleans; I have had more revelations about the Duke d'Orleans than about any man alive, except my King. It was necessary for me to change my woman's garments for a man's dress. My counsel thereon said well.

"I sent a letter to the English before Orleans,(7)....(March 22nd, 1428.) to make them leave, as may be seen in a copy of my letter which has been read to me in this City of Rouen ; there are, nevertheless, two or three words in this copy which were not in my letter. Thus, 'Surrender to the Maid,' should be replaced by 'Surrender to the King.' The words, 'body for body' and ' chieftain in war' were not in my letter at all. (8)....(This letter appears later, p. 36. Jeanne may have forgotten its contents, as both these expressions occur; or the Clerics who acted as her amanuenses may have inserted them without her knowledge.)

"I went without hindrance to the King. Having arrived at the village of Saint Catherine de Fierbois, I sent for the first time to the Castle of Chinon, (9)....(Jeanne was entertained by command of the King in a small room on the first floor of the Tour de Coudray, within the Castle walls. Her room was approached by a staircase outside the tower. The vaulted roof of the room has fallen in and the fireplace is in ruins, but the room could easily be restored. Jeanne stayed here from March 8th to April 20th, 1429. She was two days at Chinon before she obtained access to the King.) where the King was. I got there towards mid-day, and lodged first at an inn. After dinner, I went to the King, who was at the Castle. When I entered the room where he was I recognized him among many others by the counsel of my Voice, which revealed him to me. I told him that I wished to go and make war on the English."

"When the Voice showed you the King, was there any light?"

"Pass on."

"Did you see an Angel over the King?"

"Spare me. Pass on. Before the King set me to work, he had many apparitions and beautiful revelations."

"What revelations and apparitions had the King?"

"I will not tell you ; it is not yet time to answer you about them; but send to the King, and he will tell you. The Voice had promised me that, as soon I came to the King, he would receive me. Those of my party knew well that the Voice had been sent me from God; they have seen and known this Voice, I am sure of it. My King and many others have also heard and seen the Voices which came to me: there were there Charles de Bourbon (10).... (Charles de Bourbon, Count de Clermont Governor of the Duchy of the Bourbonnais and the Comte of Auvergne, during the captivity of his father in England.) and two or three others. There is not a day when I do not hear this Voice; and I have much need of it. But never have I asked of it any recompense but the salvation of my soul. The Voice told me to remain at Saint-Denis, in France; I wished to do so, but, against my will, the Lords made me leave. If I had not been wounded, I should never have left. After having quitted Saint-Denis, I was wounded in the trenches before Paris ;(11)....(On September 8th, 1429.) but I was cured in five days. It is true that I caused an assault to be made before Paris."

"Was it a Festival that day?"

"I think it was certainly a Festival."

"Is it a good thing to make an assault on a Festival ?"

" Pass on."

And as it appeared that enough had been done for today, We have postponed the affair to Saturday next, at 8 o'clock in the morning.

Jeanne's Trial (Part 3) (62 assessors present)

Saturday, 24th February, in the same place. The Bishop and 62 Assessors present.

In their presence We did require the forenamed Jeanne to swear to speak the truth simply and absolutely on the questions to be addressed to her, without adding any restriction to her oath. We did three times thus admonish her. She answered:

"Give me leave to speak. By my faith! you may well ask me such things as I will not tell you. Perhaps on many of the things you may ask me I shall not tell you truly, especially on those that touch on my revelations; for you may constrain me to say things that I have sworn not to say; then I should be perjured, which you ought not to wish."

[Addressing the Bishop:] "I tell you, take good heed of what you say, you, who are my Judge ; (1)....(Up to the end of her life, Jeanne spoke of the Bishop as the person responsible for her trial and death. "Bishop, I die through you," was her last speech to him, on May 30th, the day of her martyrdom.)

you take a great responsibility in thus charging me. I should say that it is enough to have sworn twice."

"Will you swear, simply and absolutely?"

"You may surely do without this. I have sworn enough already twice. All the clergy of Rouen and Paris cannot condemn me if it be not law. Of my coming into France I will speak the truth willingly; but I will not say all: the space of eight days would not suffice."

"Take the advice of the Assessors, whether you should swear or not."

"Of my coming I will willingly speak truth, but not of the rest; speak no more of it to me."

"You render yourself liable to suspicion in not being willing to swear to speak the truth absolutely."

"Speak to me no more of it. Pass on."

"We again require you to swear, precisely and absolutely."

"I will say willingly what I know, and yet not all. I am come in God's name; I have nothing to do here; let me be sent back to God, whence I came."

"Again we summon and require you to swear, under pain of going forth charged with that which is imputed to you."

"Pass on."

"A last time we require you to swear, and urgently admonish you to speak the truth on all that concerns your trial; you expose yourself to a great peril by such a refusal."

"I am ready to speak truth on what I know touching the trial."

And in this manner was she sworn.

Then, by Our order, she was questioned by Maître Jean Beaupère, a well-known Doctor, as follows:

"How long is it since you have had food and drink?" (2)....(This, and a subsequent inquiry, on February 27th, as to Jeanne's habit of fasting, would seem to suggest a desire on the part of the questioner to prove that her visions had a more or less physical cause in a weak bodily state resulting from abstinence. As Jeanne's usual food consisted of a little bread dipped in wine and water, and as she is reported to have had when at home (not in war) but one meal a day, it need hardly be supposed that she suffered much from the results of a Lenten Fast.)

"Since yesterday afternoon."

"How long is it since you heard your Voices?"

"I heard them yesterday and today."

"At what hour yesterday did you hear them?"

"Yesterday I heard them three times,-once in the morning, once at Vespers, and again when the Ave Maria rang in the evening. I have even heard them oftener than that."

"What were you doing yesterday morning when the Voice came to you?"

"I was asleep: the Voice awoke me."

"Was it by touching you on the arm?"

"It awoke me without touching me."

"Was it in your room?"

"Not so far as I know, but in the Castle."

"Did you thank it? and did you go on your knees?"

"I did thank it. I was sitting on the bed; I joined my hands; I implored its help. The Voice said to me: 'Answer boldly.' I asked advice as to how I should answer, begging it to entreat for this the counsel of the Lord. The Voice said to me: 'Answer boldly; God will help thee.' Before I had prayed it to give me counsel, it said to me several words I could not readily understand. After I was awake, it said to me : 'Answer boldly.' "

[Addressing herself to Us, the said Bishop:] "You say you are my judge. Take care what you are doing; for in truth I am sent by God, and you place yourself in great danger."

Maître Beaupère, continuing, said: "Has this Voice sometimes varied in its counsel?"

"I have never found it give two contrary opinions. . . . This night again I heard it say: 'Answer boldly.'"

"Has your Voice forbidden you to say everything on what you are asked?"

"I will not answer you about that. I have revelations touching the King that I will not tell you."

"Has it forbidden you to tell those revelations?"

"I have not been advised about these things. Give me a delay of fifteen days, (3)....(The fifteen days' respite would coincide with the first Examination held in the Prison, May 10th, the first day on which the Allegory of the Sign was given.) and I will answer you. If my Voice has forbidden me, what would you say about it? Believe me, it is not men who have forbidden me. To-day I will not answer: I do not know if I ought, or not; it has not been revealed to me. But as firmly as I believe in the Christian Faith and that God has redeemed us from the pains of Hell, that Voice had come to me from God and by His Command."

"The Voice that you say appears to you, does it come directly from an Angel, or directly from God; or does it come from one of the Saints ?"

"The Voice comes to me from God; and I do not tell you all I know about it: I have far greater fear of doing wrong in saying to you things that would displease it, than I have of answering you. As to this question, I beg you to grant me delay."

"Is it displeasing to God to speak the truth ?"

"My Voices have entrusted to me certain things to tell to the King, not to you. This very night they told me many things for the welfare of my King, which I would he might know at once, even if I should drink no wine until Easter: the King would be the more joyful at his dinner!"

"Can you not so deal with your Voices that they will convey this news to your King ?"

"I know not if the Voice would obey, and if it be God's Will. If it please God, He will know how to reveal it to the King, and I shall be well content."

"Why does not this Voice speak any more to your King, as it did when you were in his presence?"

"I do not know if it be the Will of God. Without the grace of God I should not know how to do anything."

"Has your counsel revealed to you that you will escape from prison?"

"I have nothing to tell you about that."

"This night, did your Voice give you counsel and advice as to what you should answer?"

"If it did give me advice and counsel thereon, I did not understand."

"The last two occasions on which you have heard this Voice, did a light come [with it ?"]

"The light comes at the same time as the Voice."

"Besides the Voice, do you see anything?"

"I will not tell you all; I have not leave ; my oath does not touch on that. My Voice is good and to be honored. I am not bound to answer you about it. I request that the points on which I do not now answer may be given me in writing."

"The Voice from whom you ask counsel, has it a face and eyes?"

"You shall not know yet. There is a saying among children, that 'Sometimes one is hanged for speaking the truth.'"

"Do you know if you are in the grace of God?"

"If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest in all the world if I knew that I were not in the grace of God. But if I were in a state of sin, do you think the Voice would come to me? I would that every one could hear the Voice as I hear it. I think I was about thirteen when it came to me for the first time."

"In your youth, did you play in the fields with the other children?"

"I certainly went sometimes, I do not know at what age."

"Do the Domremy people side with the Burgundians or with the opposite party?"

"I knew only one Burgundian (4)....(Gerardin of Epinal, to whose child Jeanne was godmother, is probably the person alluded to; he gave witness in 1455 that Jeanne had called him" Burgundian.")

at Domremy: I should have been quite willing for them to cut off his head - always had it pleased God."

"The Maxey people, were they Burgundians, or opposed to the Burgundians?"

"They were Burgundians. As soon as I knew that my Voices were for the King of France, I loved the Burgundians no more. The Burgundians will have war unless they do what they ought; I know it by my Voice. The English were already in France when my Voices began to come to me. I do not remember being with the children of Domremy when they went to fight against those of Maxey for the French side : but I certainly saw the Domremy children who had fought with those of Maxey coming back many times, wounded and bleeding."

"Had you in your youth any intention of fighting the Burgundians?"

"I had a great will and desire that my King should have his own Kingdom."

"When you had to come into France, did you wish to be a man?"

" I have answered this elsewhere."

"Did you not take the animals to the fields?"

"I have already answered this also. When I was bigger and had come to years of discretion, I did not look after them generally; but I helped to take them to the meadows and to a Castle called the Island, (5)....(A small fortress in an island formed by two arms of the Meuse, nearly opposite the village of Domremy.) for fear of the soldiers. I do not remember if I led them in my childhood or not."

"What have you to say about a certain tree which is near to your village ?"

"Not far from Domremy there is a tree (6)....(According to local tradition, this tree stood to within the last 50 years, and was struck by lightning; another has been planted in its place. The house, in which Jeanne was born, remained in the possession of the De Lys family till the 16th Century, when it passed into the hands of the Count de Salm, Seigneur of Domremy. In the 18th Century it became the property of Jean Gerardin, whose grandson, Nicolas, gave it up in 1818 to the Department of Vosges ; so that it is now preserved as National property.) that they call 'The Ladies' Tree '-others call it 'The Fairies' Tree'; near by, there is a spring where people sick of the fever come to drink, as I have heard, and to seek water to restore their health. I have seen them myself come thus; but I do not know if they were healed. I have heard that the sick, once cured, come to this tree (7)....(This is probably a survival of the Fontinalia, an old Latin festival. The custom of decorating the wells and springs was kept up in England until the last century, and still exists in a few remote villages. The name 'Well Sunday' survives, though the processions of youths and maidens have long passed away. The 'fontaine aux Groseilliers' is still in existence. It is an oblong tank of water, with the original spring flowing through it. The great beech tree stood close by.) to walk about. It is a beautiful tree, a beech, from which comes the 'beau may.' It belongs to the Seigneur Pierre de Bourlement, (8)....(Pierre de Bourlement, Head of the ancient house of Bassigny, and Lord of the Manor of Bourlement. He was the last of his race.) Knight. I have sometimes been to play with the young girls, to make garlands for Our Lady of Domremy. Often I have heard the old folk - they are not of my lineage - say that the fairies haunt this tree. I have also heard one of my Godmothers, named Jeanne, wife of the Marie Aubery of Domremy, say that she has seen fairies there; whether it be true, I do not know. As for me, I never saw them that I know of. If I saw them anywhere else, I do not know. I have seen the young girls putting garlands on the branches of this tree, and I myself have sometimes put them there with my companions; sometimes we took these garlands away, sometimes we left them. Ever since I knew that it was necessary for me to come into France, I have given myself up as little as possible to these games and distractions. Since I was grown up, I do not remember to have danced there. I may have danced there formerly, with the other children. I have sung there more than danced. There is also a wood called the Oak-wood, which can be seen from my father's door; it is not more than half-a-league away. I do not know, and have never heard if the fairies appear there; but my brother told me that it is said in the neighborhood: 'Jeannette received her mission at the Fairies' Tree.' It is not the case; and I told him the contrary. When I came before the King, several people asked me if there were not in my country a wood, called the Oak-wood, because there were prophecies (9)....(Merlin had foretold the coming of a maiden out of an oak-wood from Lorraine; and a paper containing a prophecy to this effect had been sent, at the beginning of Jeanne's career, to the English Commander, the Earl of Suffolk. There was also an old prophecy (quoted by Jeanne herself to Catherine Leroyer) that France, which had been "lost by a woman, should be saved by a Maid." The conduct of Isabeau of Bavaria, wife of Charles VI, might certainly be said to have fulfilled the first half of this prophecy; and a tradition in the eastern counties that "deliverance should come from a maid of the Marches of Lorraine" must have directed many hopes to the mission of the Maiden from Domremy, though she herself does not seem to have known of the last prediction until some time later. The oak-wood covers the hills above Domremy to this day.) which said that from the neighborhood of this wood would come a maid who should do marvelous things. I put no faith in that."

"Would you like to have a woman's dress?"

"Give me one, and I will take it and begone; otherwise, no. I am content with what I have, since it pleases God that I wear it."

This done, We stayed the interrogation, and put off the remainder to Tuesday next, on which day We have convoked all the Assessors, at the same place and hour.

Refining Problems Swell Oil Prices

Greater investment in oil refineries is needed to bring down the price of oil, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries President (OPEC) and Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahd Al-Sabah said last weekend.

For over 30 years, the refining sector has suffered from poor profitability, which has lead to insufficient investment in upgrading capacity. This has constrained the ability of refineries to produce enough gasoline, with serious effects upon crude oil prices.

There has been a fundamental disagreement between Washington and OPEC over the source of higher oil prices. The Bush administration emphasizes shortages of crude, urging OPEC to increase production. OPEC argues that the problem lies with U.S. refining. The reality is that both issues are affecting the price of oil, but investment in refining facilities has been lacking for too long.

Difficulty within the refining industry arises from the underlying cost structure of a refinery. The industry is extremely capital intensive and is characterized by very high fixed costs and low variable costs.

High fixed costs require maximum-capacity operation. Lower throughput increases average fixed costs exponentially, which seriously damages profitability. Hence there is an incentive to operate over capacity. The market thus has a natural tendency to oversupply, since all refiners maximize their individual utility by operating at or above capacity. This forces down margins and pushes refineries into loss.

Low variable costs mean refineries do not close, despite widespread losses, providing that variable costs are met. Continued operation makes some contribution to fixed costs.

Between 1999 and 2003, the major integrated oil companies earned roughly 20% on average capital employed in the upstream, but refining and marketing companies earned less than 10%. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that investment in refining has been lacking.

The industry is faced with the challenge of increasing gasoline supplies and supplies of lower sulphur products. Their failure to do so contributes to higher prices. The major problem with the refining industry is its need to upgrading capacity--upgrading oil from sour to sweeter crudes--rather than primary distillation capacity--the first process in refining, whereby a barrel of crude is "cooked" to split it into the various products.

The supply problem is further aggravated by the fact that most governments around the world are tightening sulphur specifications on diesel. Therefore, costly desulphurization equipment is required to produce the lower sulphur products.

The only other way to increase gasoline supplies and supplies of lower sulphur products, absent investment in upgrading and desulphurization, is for refiners to use lighter and sweeter crude. However, the increases in crude oil production from OPEC seen over the last year are of heavy, sour crudes. Therefore, the price of light, sweet crudes, when compared with sour crudes, has risen due to shortages in upgrading capacity.

Washington's recent interest in building new refineries on unused military bases will do nothing to rein in the headline prices of oil, as the problem is not a shortage of primary distillation capacity, but a shortage in upgrading capacity. Increasing OPEC output will not help either, and there are signs that OPEC is concerned that its efforts to reduce headline prices could cause a surplus of heavy crudes. If overdone, this could cause a speculator-driven price collapse.

Problems in refining go a long way to explain the relatively high price of certain oil products. The obvious solution is greater investment in upgrading current refineries, though this would not be a quick fix because of the long lead times on such projects. Furthermore, tight upgrading capacity has greatly improved refinery margins, and it is difficult to see why oil companies would invest to change this situation.

Eyes On Myanmar As Thirsty Neighbors Look For Gas, Oil

By Sherry Su
Of Dow Jones Newswires

SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)-Energy-thirsty China is taking a hard look at one of its neighbors, a country with major gas reserves and the possibility of finding a lot more, Myanmar.

The governor of South China's Yunnan province, Xu Rongkai, visited Myanmar last week to discuss energy relations, and, it's widely believed, the possible construction of an oil pipeline between the two.

China, which is trying hard to diversify its imported energy sources and improve energy security, isn't the only one eyeing reserves of hydrocarbons in what some regard as a pariah state.

But prospecting for and producing oil and gas in Myanmar is a delicate matter given its troubled history of human rights abuses and military rule, and consequent economic and political sanctions imposed by some countries.

Even so, foreigners have a well-established presence - companies from more than 10 countries are active there, including big players such as France's Total (TOT), U.S. firm Unocal Corp.(UCL), South Korea's Daewoo International Corp. (047050.SE) and Japan's Nippon Oil (5001.TO).

India, one of China's main rivals in the search for foreign oil and gas assets, and also a neighbor, is among those wooing Myanmar.

India and Myanmar signed a deal in January to build a US$1.0-billion, 290-kilometer gas pipeline between them, via Bangladesh, to help narrow India's huge energy deficit.

That pipeline, to be completed by 2010, should be able to transport up to 40 million cubic meters a day of gas, India's Petroleum Secretary Sushil Tripathi said recently.

Myanmar has 46 onshore oil and gas blocks, and 25 offshore blocks. But so far, output is modest and the size of its reserves is unclear, in part due to the country's uncertain investment climate.

BP's Statistical Review of World Energy puts Myanmar's end-2003 proven gas reserves at 364 billion cubic meters, accounting for just 0.21% of total world gas reserves.

"A good gas potential has been proven in the offshore area. But for the onshore area, there hasn't been a lot of exploration because of political problems," said Mario Traviati, the head of Asia-Pacific Energy Research of Merrill Lynch.

Offshore exploration is concentrated in the Yetagun and Yadana natural gas fields. Gas worth some $1 billion a year from there is sent to Thailand via a pipeline, satisfying 15%-20% of Thailand's needs.

The International Energy Agency has put Myanmar's gas output in 2002 at 5.44 million metric tons of oil equivalent, and crude oil output 507,000 tons.

Oil Pipeline Talks

Over the last few years, India, which relies on imports to satisfy its 70% energy needs, has moved gradually to improve relations with Myanmar - the two have a history of animosity going back centuries.

India's major oil companies, like Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY), and GAIL India Ltd. (532155.BY), now hold stakes in gas projects in Myanmar.

India's growing energy links with Yangon may well have been a factor prompting China to speed up its talks with Myanmar on its oil pipeline project.

Chinese planners envisage this being built from Myanmar's western port of Sittwe to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

While there isn't enough domestic oil output in Myanmar, for now, to justify such a project, there is a geo-political imperative for such a project.

"The bulk of China's oil imports are coming through the Malacca Strait. Building a China-Myanmar oil pipeline will help reduce the risks caused by over dependence on the Malacca Strait," said Professor Li Chenyang, the head of Institute of Southeast Asian Studies of Faculty of International Relations, Yunnan University.

A pipeline would cut the distance needed to get Middle East oil to China by some 1,200 km.

China is studying several ways of bypassing the Malacca choke point, including backing an oft-talked-about plan to build a Suez-like canal and pipeline across southern Thailand, although recently it hasn't shown much enthusiasm for that particular project.

Potential Risks

Despite Myanmar's potential, foreign companies feel some constraints, and some are reluctant or unable to go prospecting there.

"Certainly, the political risk had been a deterrent in the past for exploration...(Even at present) it's still perceived to be a risky area," Merrill Lynch's Traviati said.

Total and Unocal, two of the major investors in Myanmar, have been severely criticized for their involvement there.

Total argues that it's gone to great lengths to adhere to national and international laws, and to contribute to local social and economic development.

Working with other co-investors, Total has so far allocated $10 million to build or renovate hospitals, health centers, schools, roads and water supply systems, said Jean du Rusquec, Total's ranking official for Myanmar.

The cost of projects like these are a price that foreign entrants into the Myanmar energy scene will need to pay.

Added to costs like those are U.S. sanctions against Myanmar, which bar foreign oil and gas firms from U.S. technology in that country.

Even so, there's no shortage of companies, and countries, ready to dive into the Myanmar energy scene.

Five months ago, a unit of China National Offshore Oil Co. and two partners signed three onshore and offshore oil and gas production-sharing contracts with State-owned Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise covering 52,600 square kilometers.

That contract followed on the heels of a smaller contract last December they'd signed for onshore exploration.

H5N1 'a rarity'

A web-based Chinese-language news service called Boxun (Abundant News), which allows correspondents to freely post information on its site, reported on 25 May that 121 people in 18 villages in the sparsely-settled western province of Qinghai have died of bird flu, and more are ill. Some 1300 people, have been isolated, it reported, according to Dr Henry Niman, founder of Recombinomics, a biotech firm set up to develop vaccines against flu.

On the number of birds infected, Jia Youling said: "It is a rarity for such large-scale deaths to occur, whether in China or other parts of the world. We have never heard of such a thing."


The Pandemic Preparedness Project is readying nations worldwide for an expected global flu epidemic, according to reports on the Science and Development Network website. Researchers agree that it is a question of when, not if, a global flu epidemic occurs.

Many experts, including those of the World Health Organisation, predict the next outbreak will result from the current bird-flu epidemics in south-east Asia.

Leading scientists warn that we are in a race against time to prepare for a global flu epidemic and that current efforts lack both funding and coordination.

But countries in Africa and South America appear to be very poorly prepared for the expected epidemic, warned Nelson Gonzales, Pandemic Preparedness Project coordinator for the United Kingdom Royal Institution's World Science Assembly.

"Some national governments are putting together decent preparations, but that is six to 12 countries at most," said Gonzales, referring to vaccine research and drug stockpiling that is under way in North America and Europe.

"We are dealing with a 'weakest link' phenomenon," said Gonzales. "It doesn't matter how prepared you are if your neighbour is unprepared."

One of his major concerns is making sure that governments outside Asia, Europe and North America are prepared for an eventual pandemic. The initiative will not hand out funds.

"Our responsibility is to catalyse the interest, momentum and partnerships that need to happen," explained Gonzales. "We feel the science has done a really good job of determining what the needs are. What is lacking is the political will."

The Pandemic Preparedness Project is chaired by Rita Colwell, former director of the United States National Science Foundation, and includes Klaus Stöhr, coordinator for the World Health Organisation's Global Influenza Programme.

Commenting on the absence of representatives from south-east Asia, where epidemics are currently occurring, Gonzales said the project is waiting for replies to invitations to representatives in the region to join the steering committee.

Bird flu is caused by a virus, H5N1, now believed to be widespread in poultry in parts of south-east Asia. It has killed 21 people in the region since December last year, and 53 in total since December 2003.

Although the virus does not easily jump from human to human, it kills about half of the people it infects, and some researchers say it is only a matter of time before the virus becomes able to spread from person to person.

While some drugs are available, doctors in many countries are not familiar with administering them. The medicines need to be used as soon as possible, but flu symptoms are notoriously vague. In addition, if a pandemic occurs, the drugs may need to be combined with quarantine of the victim and his or her family.

Overdue pandemic

There were three flu pandemics in the 20th century and experts say the next one is overdue. The pandemic in 1918 -- the year of Nelson Mandela's birth -- killed 20-million people. The 1957 and 1968 pandemics were mild in comparison, each claiming one million lives.

Earlier this year, leading researchers issued a series of stark warnings that the world is unprepared for an "inevitable" global bird-flu epidemic, which even optimistic estimates predict could kill millions of people -- hitting developing countries hardest.

Ron Fouchier and his colleagues at the National Influenza Centre in The Netherlands have called for a "global task force" to translate scientific findings into effective policies.

Fouchier and his team said the costs of an integrated approach to the bird-flu threat would be "dwarfed" by the economic losses brought by a full-blown pandemic. They point out that bird-flu outbreaks in 2003 cost The Netherlands, Thailand and Vietnam $1,3-billion in agricultural costs alone.

Thailand and Vietnam have been at the centre of debates over whether to respond to H5N1 outbreaks in poultry by mass vaccination or culling of birds.

There are concerns that vaccines could promote the evolution of H5N1 into a more deadly form. But Robert Webster and Diane Hulse, virologists based at the St Jude Children's Research hospital in the US, argued in a separate article in the journal Nature that high-quality vaccines might reduce the amount of the virus circulating to a manageable level.

"The technology for producing inexpensive agricultural vaccines using reverse genetics is available and should be developed," they wrote.

China used poultry vaccines to control an H5N1 outbreak in 2004 and has not reported any outbreaks in domestic poultry since. But with memories of China's 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome still fresh, many believe that how China — which has 13-billion chickens — faces bird flu could have a major impact on other countries.

David Ho of the Aaron Diamond Aids Research Centre at Rockefeller University in the US said that while China's disease surveillance system looks good "on paper", many faults remain.

"The disease surveillance system is grossly underfunded, and consequently lacks sufficient human resources and technical capacity," said Ho in his contribution to Nature.

Ho called on China to spend more money on microbiology research to understand bird flu and other pathogens better, and to create enough Chinese experts able to advise policy-makers.

"China must make microbial threats to health a top priority in its national research agenda," said Ho. "It has a moral obligation to its own people, and to the world, to rectify the situation as soon as possible."


Creating a vaccine to prevent people from becoming infected with bird flu is the most important challenge, said Michael Osterholm of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in the US.

Currently, just 5% of the world's population living in a handful of rich nations receive flu vaccines, said Osterholm. But he warned that a vaccine against a pandemic strain of the bird-flu virus will not be ready for at least six months after the pandemic begins. Even then, there will only be enough vaccines to protect 14% of the global population.

Wherever the predicted pandemic begins — likely to be in one of the Asian nations where the virus is currently circulating — a vaccine will not be delivered fast enough.

By acting now, said Osterholm, we might be able to change its course. He urged the rich nations of the Group of Eight most-industrialised nations to recognise the threat and act decisively by investing in vaccine research and other efforts to minimise the number of people the epidemic kills.

We are in a race against time, agreed Anthony Fauci, of the US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"Unlike the situation before previous flu pandemics, we now have the knowledge and technology to develop countermeasures for this disease," he said. "However, unless we improve our capacity to produce such countermeasures, we may experience again the devastation of past epidemics."

But rich governments are not inclined to help poor countries monitor animal viruses because they see it as a form of economic assistance. In this, they ignore the global threat posed by these viruses.

The journal Nature called the state of global inaction on this issue "scandalous". -- SciDev.Net

Monday, May 30, 2005

Get ready for the interesting half of the year 2005

May 30, 2005
It's a measure of our country's desperation that many hopes among US government officials are pinned to the just-completed 1000-mile oil pipeline between Baku on the Caspian Sea and the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. The idea is to get oil from Kazakhstan on the far eastern side of the Caspian sea through several other former Soviet states, bypassing a shorter, older route through the Black Sea, and creating an alternative to the ongoing horror show of the Persian Gulf.

The main problem is the idea that the American economy, and the easy-motoring lifestyle that holds it hostage, will now depend on a 42-inch wide oil pipe running through nations fraught with Muslim-Christian conflict on top of post-Soviet gangster politics. The good news is that the $4 billion pipe is buried underground so it will not be vulnerable to the small arms so abundant in that part of the world: shoulder-launched missiles, rocket propelled grenades, or .50 caliber bullets. The bad news is that it is only a few feet underground and can still be blown up by five pounds of Semtech strapped to a donkey. Also, the pipeline traverses some of the most rugged terrain in Asia Minor and presents many opportunities for mischief.

Another problem: Kazakhstan is right next door to China. China needs foreign oil as desperately as the US does. Nothing prevents China from commandeering Kazakhstan's oil, by means ranging from legal contracts to Chinese soldiers on-the-ground. That logically raises the question as to whether America would entertain a land war with China over landlocked Kazakhstan, 12,000 miles away from here. What would you say our prospects would be in such a venture? The Russians might have some interests there, too, not necessarily identical to ours. World War Three anyone?

Finally, the wish back in the 1990s that Central Asian oil would bail the west out of dependence on the Persian Gulf nations has faded with exploration which now indicates the region has far less oil than the 300-billion barrels originally hoped for (more like 16 to 40 billion now), and that it mostly consists of low quality "sour" crude, heavy on sulfur and more expensive to refine.

But such is the nature of strategic thinking in Washington these days that it all comes down to a 42 two inch pipeline for us now. You have to wonder, for instance, why we couldn't take that $4 billion and refurbish at least part of the US passenger railroad system -- as compared to the roughly $290 billion slated for this year's federal highway construction and maintenance bill.

Get ready for the interesting half of the year 2005. The summer vacation motoring season is officially underway with the Memorial Day weekend. Oil prices are back up near $52 a barrel after falling to $46 for a few weeks in May. Americans are not going to drive fewer miles this year. Just look at how we've arranged things on the landscape. Most have to drive all over the place whether they like it or not. By the fall, motorists (i.e. American citizens -- a.k.a. "consumers") are going to be very disappointed with the way things are going, and they are going to start blaming the people responsible for our strategic thinking.


Week 49, Day 1

A lot of sneezing today, sniffing, coughing and chills. Feel a bit crappy, but would like to go for a cycle tomorrow. Call it impatience, maybe it is a bit rash, but if I am getting sick, might as well get into the thick of it, and get it over with.

It was sticky in class again. Gawd, June and July...I think I'm gonna melt, or turn into an ooze. Some classes have aircon, but not all, and not the staff room.

I'm feeling more settled in. I mean, I arrived back from work at 8pm, bought some icecream and small batteries for my TV's remote control, and then hung up my washing.

Someone in South Africa mentioned to me that my blog is becoming boring. Is it? I'd like to maintain the focus on oil and health issues (particularly related to flu). I agree though that focussing only on this isn't healthy, so I'd like to offset this gloomy reporting with some more uplifting stuff.

Right now I'm thinking of focussing a bit on Jean d-Arc. I read exhaustively on this subject when I studied advertising in Cape Town in 2000. Fascinating. It gave me a new respect for the Roman Catholic Church, and I was really inspired to see how faith can move mountains, in Jeanne's case, whole armies, an entire country. There are so few people like this these days, who truly live out their faith, for their community instead of themselves. Mandela is a living example. Maybe Oprah Winfrey is too, but I'd say one of the qualities of saintliness, is selflessness. Oprah's selfless, but she's also one of America's richest women. You can't blame rich people for becoming comfortable and accustomed to their wealth, but I think we respect people more who aren't changed by it. Ted Turner represents that, or seems to, to some extent.

While unpacking I found a sketch that Glen did (an ex- student). I marvelled at how beautiful the watercolors are. I originally asked her to do some demo illustrations for a short story I wrote called, 'My Friend Frank'. I can't believe, after seeing these beautiful pictures, I didn't get her to finish the job (and obviously reward her for her effort.

I'll have to ask the teachers at Kang's if she is still there, and see if I can get this children's story done with her help.

Tomorrow...cycling at 5am...

Scary Stuff in Europe

French "No" stings leaders of France, Europe

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Europe licked their wounds on Monday after French voters dealt what politicians across the continent said may have been a knockout blow to the European Union constitution.

Defeated in one of the biggest referendum turnouts for years, President Jacques Chirac hinted he could replace Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who told reporters after meeting Chirac to expect unspecified political developments by Tuesday.

Many voters -- and turnout was 69.7 percent -- used the vote to punish the government over France's economy and high unemployment. Chirac, 72, ignored calls from some members of the "No" camp that he step down.

EU leaders insisted the treaty -- intended to make EU decision-making easier -- was alive and member states should go on ratifying. But few doubted the result would hamper its chances elsewhere in the 25-nation bloc, notably in Wednesday's vote in the Netherlands.

The constitution requires the backing of all member states to go into force.

"There is a risk of contagion," European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso told French LCI Television after results of Sunday's vote showed a resounding 54.87 percent of French voters voted "No".


"It's a very serious problem. We can't talk about business as usual," he said, adding EU leaders would discuss the crisis in confidence at a June 16 summit in Brussels.

The bigger-than-expected victory for the "No" camp drove the euro down a third of a percent to $1.2528 (86 pence) in early trading. The charter, intended to ensure the smooth working of the enlarged bloc, requires the approval of all member states and investors now fear a bout of political uncertainty.

Luxembourg Prime Minister and current EU presidency-holder Jean-Claude Juncker said the result could harm the July referendum in his tiny, pro-Europe state and warned of consequences for the European economy.

"It cannot be positive for the economy of Europe," Juncker said on French RTL radio.

Juncker said the result could hit the standing of EU founder member France in the bloc, a concern echoed in much of the French press. "A masochist masterpiece" was the way the Paris daily Liberation described the vote against the treaty.

"The French know from experience that their country is doing badly. Unfortunately, it is doing even worse this morning."
The heavy defeat leaves Chirac something of a lame duck two years before presidential and parliamentary elections and was seen reducing the chances of a repeat vote on the treaty.

The Netherlands holds its own referendum on the EU constitution on Wednesday and Dutch ministers urged voters on Sunday to ignore the result in France. A Dutch "No" vote, as opinion polls forecast, would sting the EU even more.

Juncker said nearly half the 454 million EU citizens in nine states had already backed the charter and added: "The European process does not come to a halt today."


As a large crowd of flag-waving treaty opponents celebrated victory on Sunday night in Place de la Bastille in Paris, a major landmark of the 1789 French Revolution, Chirac dropped his heaviest hint so far that he planned to remove Raffarin.

"I intend to respond ... by giving a new and strong impetus to the action of the government," Chirac said in a televised address soon after the result was announced.

Many voters resent what they see as France's declining role in the Union, especially with the expansion to 25 members last year, and say the treaty enshrines economic policies that have failed to stop the loss of jobs to low-wage economies.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the EU needed time for reflection. He said there was no decision as yet on whether Britain would hold a referendum as planned next year.

"The referendum result is a blow for the constitutional process, but not the end of it," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said. "It is also not the end of the German-French partnership in and for Europe."

Nine countries have approved the treaty, including Germany which alongside France drove creation of the post-World War Two economic alliance that developed into the European Union.

Joan died 574 years ago today.

Washington - Today is Monday, May 30, the 150th day of 2005. There are 215 days left in the year.

1431 - After being handed over by the church, who judged her a heretic, Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc is the better to pronounce her name) is burned at the stake in Rouen, France, by the English and their French collaborators.

Summer Housewarming, Friday 3rd

I'd like to get some of my friends and colleagues together this Friday. Those who regularly read this blog, if you're in the neighborhood of Ilsan, and would like to drop by, send me an email (nicolasvdl@yahoo.com) and I'll provide directions, otherwise I will email or call people directly.

Come to my place around 10pm, and try to dress in a sort of surf/beach style. That means tong shoes, and shorts. Bring your own booze and I'll provide some snacks.

I wish!

M&M & Typhoons

Went swimming with Lonnie at M&M today. Was interesting, and different, but didn't really work for swimming training. The pool is only 20m (instead of 25m at OSC and Sung Ho), and has only 3 lanes. This would still be OK, except I could only use one lane, and only for 40 minutes before they took all the lanes out and started aquarobics.
I'll possibly go late in the evening, or slightly earlier, but a 20m pool is still a bit small for me.

I'm feeling a bit sick, AGAIN. Throat is feeling sore and irritated, and phelgm is another shade of yellow. Yergh.

The sky is really polluted today, very hazy, so I am looking forward to the typhoon season - it starts tomorrow. Nothing like a typhoon to swing around and vacuum all the gunk out of the atmosphere.

End of road for oil joyride looms as production peaks

May 30, 2005

Could the petroleum joyride - cheap, abundant oil that has sent the global economy whizzing along with the pedal to the metal and the air-conditioner blasting for decades - be coming to an end?

Some industry observers think so. They predict that this year, maybe next - almost certainly by the end of the decade - global oil production, having grown exuberantly for more than a century, will peak and begin to decline.

And then it really will be all downhill. The price of oil will increase drastically. Major oil-consuming countries will experience crippling inflation, unemployment and economic instability.

Princeton University geologist Kenneth Deffeyes predicts ``a permanent state of oil shortage.''

According to these experts, it will take a decade or more before conservation measures and new technologies can bridge the gap between supply and demand, and even then the situation will be touch and go.

None of this will affect vacation plans this summer - Americans can expect another season of beach weekends and road trips to Graceland relatively unimpeded by the cost of getting there. Though gas prices are up, they are expected to remain below US$2.50 a gallon (HK$5.15 a liter).

Accounting for inflation, that is pretty comparable to what motorists paid for most of the 20th century; it only feels expensive because gasoline was unusually cheap from 1986 to 2003.

And there are many who doubt the doomsday scenario will ever come true.

Most industry analysts think production will continue growing for at least another 30 years. By then, substitute energy sources will be available to ease the transition into a post-petroleum age.

``This is just silly,'' said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. ``It's not like industrial civilization is going to come crashing down.''

Where you stand on ``peak oil,'' as parties to the debate call it, depends on which forces you consider dominant in controlling the oil markets. People who consider economic forces most important believe prices are high now mostly because of demand from China and other rapidly growing economies.

But eventually, high prices should encourage consumers to use less and producers to pump more.

But Deffeyes and many other geologists counter that when it comes to oil, Mother Nature trumps Adam Smith.

The way they see it, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway and other major producers are already pumping as fast as they can. The only way to increase production capacity is to discover more oil. Yet there just is not much left out there to be discovered.

``The economists all think that if you show up at the cashier's cage with enough currency, God will put more oil in the ground,'' said Deffeyes.

There will be warning signs before oil production peaks, the bearers of bad news contend. Prices will rise dramatically and become increasingly volatile.

With little or no excess production capacity, minor supply disruptions - political instability in Venezuela, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico or labor unrest in Nigeria, for example - will send the oil markets into a tizzy.

So will periodic admissions by oil companies and petroleum-rich nations that they have been overestimating their reserves.

Oil producers will grow flush with cash. And because the price of oil ultimately affects the cost of just about everything else in the economy, inflation will follow.

Anybody who has been paying close attention to the news lately may feel a bit queasy at this stage. Could US$5-a-gallon gas be right around the corner?

``The world has never seen anything like this before and so we just really don't know,'' said Science Applications International energy analyst Robert Hirsch in Santa Monica, California.

Still, he added, ``there's a number of really competent professionals that are very pessimistic.''

But there also many experts who see no reason global oil production has to peak at all. It could plateau and then gradually fall as the economy converts to other forms of energy.

``Even in 30 to 40 years there's still going to be huge amounts of oil in the Middle East,'' said Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis.

A few years ago, geologists began applying geologist M King Hubbert's methods to the entire world's oil production. Their analyses indicated that oil production would peak some time during the first decade of this century.


Copyright 2005, The Standard, Sing Tao Newspaper Group and Global China Group. All rights reserved. No content may be redistributed or republished, either electronically or in print, without express written consent of The Standard.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Grocery Store Romance

I didn't cycle to Imjingak today. Feeling tired and...not 100% well. Headaches, slight chills. I am feeling pretty impatient and disappointed at how difficult it has been to get back into a training pattern.

Will rest and try to join the group on their next ride on Tuesday.
I called Lonnie to arrange a swim tomorrow morning at M&M. He says it's not really that busy in the mornings.

Went to Allalie to help her exchange TV's, and then to Carrefour for some groceries. A funny thing happened at the grocery store. Near the fruit section we ran into Elena. I stood around while Corneli and her chatted, and eventually lay on the handle of the trolley because the conversation just never swung to me. A few minutes later, unstairs, we bumped into Chris, and exactly the reverse happened. He and I spoke about a book he was reading (on the origins of the 2nd World War) and he barely said a word to Corneli. I guess it's unwritten Grocery Shopping etiquette. If you're a couple shopping, or have the semblance of a couple, then it is forbidden for a stranger to engage with a member of the opposite sex in conversation.

The sky today is very polluted. I believe there was a half marathon today. I'm sorry I missed it. Lately I'm feeling like I'm not quite in the loop.

Last week, on the spur of the moment, I wrote a song, and emailed it to a friend of mine who has been doing a bit of songwriting and composing lately, and even performed at a bar recently. He liked the song and asked if he could use it. I'ver asked him to record it and send me a .wav or .wmp file so I can hear it. It has a sort of U2/Bono feel to it.

I'm already looking forward to next weekend...

What is the Answer?

In terms of energy, it is easy to shoot down almost all the alternatives.

Despite Bush's speech in Virginia, Ethanol/biomass is not the answer, simply because huge amounts of land (in America, 10 x the size of Iowa) are required, and you also need energy to grow these crops and maintain these crops, and none of these crops can be used for food.

The answer is nuclear. Wired magazine describes it like this: It's the power to light a city in a lump the size of a soda can. It is expensive to start up, one plant costs $2 billion. Solar is extremely expensive, but Nuclear is about as cost-competitive as all the others, from coal, to wind, to biomass, once up and running. Nuclear requires a fraction of the land needed by wind and solar generators. To meet energy requirements in the States (and reducing carbon emissions by 15%), they will have to build five times the number of nuclear power plants. To do this in terms of Wind, they'd have to increase wind generators three hundred fold, and Solar, six thousand fold (source: Wired magazine). Here it is again:

Nuclear: 5x
Wind: 300x
Solar: 6000x

Nuclear power has come a long way, and is now safer and better. Few realise that coal produces more radioactive waste, a 100 times more radioactive pollutants and tons of other noxious stuff, into the atmosphere, than an equivalent nuclear reactor does.

Nuclear will also make hydrogen possible, if not plausible. As luck would have it, nuclear reactors do two things really really well: they generate electricity and very high temperatures. This is exactly what bis needed to produce hydrogen most efficently. Even so, Hydrogen is a difficult one to call. If you have huge amounts of energy to synthesise hydrogen, and you don't mind the extra cost, you still have to deal with a very tricky element that is corrosive, hard to store, and volatile. The real problem is that hydrogen is so light it has to be pressurised, and beyond that, it has to be stored in reinforced containers that are heavy and difficult to produce. So here you have this superlight substance that you transport in very heavy containers, and you have to pressurise it to get a decent amount of the stuff.

Still, the combination of Nuclear for electricity, and Hydrogen for fuel, seems to be the way to go. And it has to be pursued in that order: Nuclear first, and Hydrogen second.

Phony Real

Howard Hughes is an interesting subject. It's an odd combination of brilliance and madness, reality and phoniness, passion and perfection beside hypochondria and dysfunction. It seems to me that anyone can make a fortune (and lose a fortune), but not everyone has that extraordinary level of energy (or attention span) to pull off coup after coup after coup. A lot of millionaires, billionaires are driven by the same thing athletes and sportsmen are. Compulsion.

I've trained for a number of races, and every moment you're aware that your competitors are out there, using the available time to get stronger, fitter and faster. And you have to ask yourself, how can I do better with my time? Maybe the answer is to never rest, or seems to be. Often, that workhorse ethic, is part and parcel of success. Another thing is in forgetting and ignoring the risk, the downside. The adventure of it is what's important.

The love of aircraft is something I had too. I flew my share of kites (including a three eyed beast that went hundreds of metres up, and some even use for shark fishing), made my model aeroplanes. I went to the Air Force where the dream of flying fizzled. It seemed phony, the world around the airplanes, and the life in the armed forces was filled with such drudgery and retardedness, I couldn't wait to be rid of it. I was offered a contract to become a pilot (one of only two other candidates, subsequent to writing some math based aptitude tests) and I considered it. They were offering me a house, but they also wanted me to stay put, in this...environment...and the Air Force represented the 13th year of bondage (after 12 years of school) and I wanted to be free.

I can't say I like flying much anymore. Not on commercial aircraft, as a long haul passenger anyway. What could be a more boring way to fly than to wait hours for a plane, wait hours in a plane, seated....the only reward being the fleeting glimpse of a city, seen from the sky, as you disembark, and the magic appearance of a new destination from the sky.

My brother and I were lucky enough to fly in military and other helicopters when we were kids. That's still an abiding ambition, to pilot a helicopter. The area around Cape Town is notorious for its fires, as the dry season and windy season coincide. The seeds of many of the indigenous plants actually need to be smoked and/or burned in order to germinate.

There is a private company that operates Mi8's (helicopters)out of Cape Town with buckets slung underneath. Tragically one was lost, along with all 3 on board, in 1998 due to a tail-rotor strike while lifting an air conditioning unit onto the roof of a building in Town.

I've written at least 3 novels/works in progress featuring helicopters. One involves a shipwrecked Mi-26 (the world's largest helicopter) in the kalahari desert, which sets off an existential quest for the filling of the great wild, and empty heart of man. Another was a self-indulgent love story, which opens with a metaphorical resurrection (shipwrecked this time on a small boat, floating out to see, and airlifted/resurrected to safety)of the heartbroken protagonist. The third involved a pilot who inadvertently scoops up a shallow diver and tosses him, flippers and all, into a raging forest fire on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town.

A documentary of aviation explanes how these superaeroplanes (like Hughes' Spruce Goose, and even the Concorde to some extent) were superceded by smaller jets capable of using smaller runways. The latest airbus will probably be a casualty of oil, unless it can transport more people more cheaply. All this is reminiscent of the cheaper GSM phones wiping out a possible market for satellite phones, despite the technology being more sophisticated.

Back to Hughes, as he is depicted in the Aviator. Kate Blanchett is a work of artistic intelligence in motion, and her appearances in The Aviator are all interesting. DiCaprio is a good actor, but I can't help seeing him in every movie as a boyish character surrounded by older women.
The Aviator is an interesting movie, but it bares little resemblance to the real Howard Hughes, and only hints at the darker dealings he was involved with. Perhaps wisely, Scorcese has focussed on the flying aspect. That is possibly Hughes' defining magic, and what gave him some nobility and vision within all the corruption
that surrounded his life. The thing that Hollywood does, is it weaves a beautiful story of excess and love and passion, with all the rewards but not all the consequences.
We like to believe that life is like this, but if we really think it is, then we're phonies in a phony-real world.

The value in movies based on fact is that we once again remember people who have passed, how their era shaped them and made them, and that, into what is now. There is tremendous insight in hindsight, to go beyond just the glitz to exactly what they achieved and did that did not, and does still, endure today. What we see can help us be whoever we've made up our minds to be, or remind us in our forgetfulness, of all that we have forgotten to do.

The Aviator
(Director Martin Scorsese)

Reviewed by James Howard Kunstler

A peculiar story about a bizarre person, Howard Hughes, but rather grandly put together against the background of Hollywood in the early-to-mid 20th century -- an era that now seems as remote and enchanted as the medieval period.

Hughes's parents die when he is barely out of his teens, leaving him a fortune and an oil drilling equipment company that runs like a cash register. Rich young Howard, though, is magnetically drawn to the new movie industry in Los Angeles, with its air of risk, and adventure, and sex-on-demand.
Scorsese's evocation of the early Hollywood scene is the best thing about the movie -- the big set-pieces in the fabled Coconut Grove nightclub, the behavior of the slick young men and women who would become the stars of Hollywood's "Golden Age," all that glamorous fluff.

Leonardo DiCaprio is consistently interesting to watch. Whatever his public persona may be, the young feller can put across plausible behavior on screen, even with such an implausible character as Hughes for material.
The other big splash in the movie is Cate Blanchette doing a dead-on imitation of Katherine Hepburn, one of Hughes's more serious paramours. Blanchette doesn't really look anything like Hepburn, but she gets the weird, grating voice just right and the imperious manner.

The best scene in the movie, for my money, is the one in which Hepburn takes Hughes home to meet her family in Connecticut -- a clan of self-conscious and excrutiatingly phony rich bohemians, especially Katherine's censorious "socialist" mother who Howard neatly tells off. It seems to me that the movie ran about fifteen minutes too long, but it was all-in-all a competent and admirable job.

Remarks by President Bush on Energy (May 15)

Virginia BioDiesel Refinery
West Point, Virginia

...it is important for our country to understand we need an affordable, reliable supply of energy. And that starts with pursuing policies to make prices reasonable at the pump. Today's gasoline prices and diesel prices are making it harder for our families to meet their budgets. These prices are making it more expensive for farmers to produce their crop, more difficult for businesses to create jobs.

Americans are concerned about high prices at the pump, and they're really concerned as they start making their travel plans, and I understand that. I wish I could just wave a magic wand and lower the price at the pump; I'd do that. That's not how it works. You see, the high prices we face today have been decades in the making. Four years ago I laid out a comprehensive energy strategy to address our energy challenges. Yet Congress hasn't passed energy legislation. For the sake of the American consumers, it is time to confront our problems now, and not pass them on to future Congresses and future generations.

The increase in the price of crude oil is largely responsible for the higher gas prices and diesel prices that you're paying at the pump. For many years, most of the crude oil refined into gasoline in America came from home, came from domestic oil fields. In 1985, 75 percent of the crude oil used in U.S. refineries came from American sources; only about 25 percent came from abroad. Over the past few decades we've seen a dramatic change in our energy equation. American gasoline consumption has increased by about a third, while our crude production has dropped and oil imports have risen dramatically.

The result today -- the result is that today only 35 percent -- only 35 percent -- of the crude oil used in U.S. refineries comes from here at home; 65 percent comes from foreign countries, like Saudi Arabia and Mexico and Canada and Venezuela. You see, we're growing more dependent on foreign oil. Because we haven't had an energy strategy, we're becoming more dependent on countries outside our borders to provide us with the energy needed to refine gasoline. To compound the problem, countries with rapidly growing economies, like India and China, are competing for more of the world oil supply. And that drives up the price of oil, and that makes prices at the pump even higher for American families and businesses and farmers.

Our dependence on foreign oil is like a foreign tax on the American Dream, and that tax is growing every year. My administration is doing all we can to help ease the problem in the short run. We're encouraging oil-producing countries to maximize their production so that more crude oil is on the market, which will help take the pressure off price. We'll make sure that consumers here at home are treated fairly, there's not going to be any price- gouging here in America. But to solve the problem in the long run, we must address the root causes of high gasoline prices. We need to take four steps toward one vital goal, and that is to make America less dependent on foreign sources of oil. (Applause.)

We must be better conservers. We must produce and refine more crude oil here in America. We must help countries like India and China to reduce their demand for crude oil. And we've got to develop new fuels like biodiesel and ethanol as alternatives to diesel and gasoline. (Applause.)

Americans have been waiting long enough for a strategy. It is time to deliver an effective, common-sense energy strategy for the 21st strategy. And that's what I want to talk to you about today. The first step toward making America less dependent on foreign oil is to improve fuel conservation and efficiency. My administration is leading research into new technologies that reduce gas consumption while maintaining performance, such as lightweight auto parts and more efficient batteries.

We're raising fuel economy standards for sport utility vehicles and vans and pickup trucks, starting with model year 2005. When these reasonable increases in mileage standards take full effect, they will save American drivers about 340,000 barrels of gasoline a day. That's more gas than you consume every day in the entire state of Virginia.

To improve fuel efficiency, we're also taking advantage of more efficient engine technologies. Hybrid vehicles are powered by a combination of internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Hybrid cars and trucks can travel twice as far on a gallon of fuel as gasoline-only vehicles. And they produce lower emissions.

To help more consumers conserve gas and protect the environment, my budget next year proposes that every American who purchases a hybrid vehicle receive a tax credit of up to $4,000. (Applause.)

Diesel engine technology has also progressed dramatically in the past few decades. Many Americans remember the diesel cars of the 1970s -- they made a lot of noise and they spewed a lot of black smoke. Advances in technology and new rules issued by my administration have allowed us to leave those days of diesel behind. Our clean diesel rules will reduce air pollution from diesel engines by about 90 percent, and reduce the sulfur content of diesel fuel by more than 95 percent.

Today I saw a diesel-powered truck that can get up to 30 percent better fuel economy than gasoline-powered vehicles, without the harmful emissions of past diesels. I mean, the fellow got in the truck and cranked it up, and another man got on the ladder, and he put the white handkerchief by the emissions port, and the white handkerchief remained white. In other words, technology is changing the world. Our engines are becoming cleaner.

Consumers around the world are taking advantage of clean diesel technology. About half of newly registered passenger cars in Western Europe are now equipped with diesel engines. Yet in America, fewer than 1 percent of the cars on the road use diesel. According to the Department of Energy, if diesel vehicles made up 20 percent of our fleet in 15 years, we would save 350,000 barrels of oil a day. That's about a quarter of what we import every day from Venezuela.

To help more Americans benefit from a new generation of diesel technology, I have proposed making owners of clean diesel vehicles eligible for the same tax credit as owners of hybrid vehicles. America leads the world in technology. We need to use that technology to lead the world in fuel efficiency. (Applause.)

The second step toward making America less dependent on foreign oil is to produce and refine more crude oil here at home, in environmentally sensitive ways. By far the most promising site for oil in America is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. I want you all to hear the facts about what we're talking about. Technology now makes it possible to reach the oil reserves in ANWR by drilling on just 2,000 acres of the 19 million acres. Technology has advanced to the point where you can take a small portion -- 2,000 acres -- of this vast track of land and explore for oil in an environmentally sensitive way.

As a matter of fact, developing this tiny area could yield up to about a million barrels of oil a day. And thanks to technology, we can reach that oil with almost no impact on land or wildlife. To make this country less dependent on foreign -- foreign oil, Congress needs to authorize pro-growth, pro-job, pro-environment exploration of ANWR. (Applause.)

As we produce more of our own oil, we need to improve our ability to refine it into gasoline. There has not been a single new refinery built in America since 1976. Here in Virginia, you have only one oil refinery, the Yorktown refinery. And that was built in the 1950s. To meet our growing demand for gasoline, America now imports more than a million barrels of fully refined gasoline every day. That means about one of every nine gallons of gas you get in your pump is refined in a foreign country. To help secure our gasoline supply and lower prices at the pump, we need to encourage existing refineries like Yorktown to expand their capacity. So the Environmental Protection Agency is simplifying rules and regulations for refinery expansion. And they will do so and maintain strict environmental safeguards at the same time.

We also need to build new refineries. So I've directed federal agencies to work with states to encourage the construction of new refineries on closed military facilities, and to simplify the permitting process for these new refineries. By promoting reasonable regulations, we can refine more gasoline for more American consumers. And that means we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

The third step toward making America less dependent on foreign oil is to ensure that other nations use technology to reduce their own demand for crude oil. It's in our interest -- it's in our economic interest and our national interest to help countries like India and China become more efficient users of oil, because that would help take the pressure off global oil supply, take the pressure off prices here at home. At the G8 meeting in July, I'm going to ask other world leaders to join America in helping developing countries find practical ways to use clean energy technology, to be more efficient about how they use energy. You see, when the global demand for oil is lower, Americans will be better off at the gas pump.

The final step toward making America less dependent on foreign oil is to develop new alternatives to gasoline and diesel. Here at Virginia BioDiesel, you are using Virginia soybean oil to produce a clean-burning fuel. Other biodiesel refiners are making fuel from waste products like recycled cooking grease. Biodiesel can be used in any vehicle that runs on regular diesel, and delivers critical environmental and economic benefits.

Biodiesel burns more completely and produces less air pollution than gasoline or regular diesel. Biodiesel also reduces engine wear, and produces almost no sulfur emissions, which makes it a good choice for cities and states working to meet strict air quality standards. And every time we use home grown biodiesel, we support American farmers, not foreign oil producers. (Applause.)

More Americans are realizing the benefits of biodiesel every year. In 1999, biodiesel producers sold about 500,000 gallons of fuel for the year. Last year, biodiesel sales totaled 30 million gallons. That's a sixtyfold increase in five years. (Applause.) More than 500 operators of major vehicle fleets now use biodiesel, including the Department of Defense and the National Park Service and James Madison University. The County of Arlington, Virginia, has converted its fleet of school buses to biodiesel. And Harrisonburg is using biodiesel in its city transit buses.

In the past three years, more than 300 public fueling stations have started offering biodiesel. You're beginning to see a new industry evolve. (Applause.) And as more Americans choose biodiesel over petroleum fuel, they can be proud in knowing they're helping to make this country less dependent on foreign oil. (Applause.)

Another important alternative fuel is ethanol. Ethanol comes from corn, and it can be mixed with gasoline to produce a clean, efficient fuel. In low concentrations, ethanol can be used in any vehicle. And with minor modifications, vehicles can run on fuel blend that includes 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline.

Like biodiesel, ethanol helps communities to meet clean air standards, farmers to find new markets for their products, and America to replace foreign crude oil with a renewable source grown right here in the nation's heartland. (Applause.) Together, ethanol and biodiesel present a tremendous opportunity to diversify our supply of fuel for cars and buses and trucks and heavy-duty vehicles.

A recent study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory projected that biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, could provide about a fifth of America's transportation fuel within 25 years. And that would be good for our kids and our grandkids. (Applause.) So there are some things we can do to bring that prospect closer to reality. We have extended federal tax credits for ethanol through 2007, and last year I signed into law a 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for producers of biodiesel. (Applause.)

There's ways government can help. Congress needs to get me a bill that continues to help diversify away from crude oil. (Applause.) My administration supports a flexible, cost-effective renewable fuel standard. Its proposal would require fuel producers to include a certain percentage of ethanol and biodiesel in their fuel. And to expand the potential of ethanol and biodiesel even more, I proposed $84 million in my 2006 budget for ongoing research. (Applause.) I think it makes sense. I think it's a good use of taxpayers' money to continue to stay on the leading edge of change. And in this case, by staying on the leading edge of change, we become less dependent on foreign sources of oil. (Applause.)

My administration is also supporting another of America's most promising alternative fuels -- hydrogen. When hydrogen is used in a fuel cell, it can power a car that requires no gas and emit pure water instead of exhaust fumes. We've already dedicated $1.2 billion to hydrogen fuel cell research. I've asked Congress for an additional $500 million over five years to get hydrogen cars into the dealership lot. With a bold investment now, we can replace a hydrocarbon economy with a hydrogen economy, and make possible for today's children to take their driver's test in a completely pollution-free car. (Applause.)

As we make America less dependent on foreign oil, we're pursuing a comprehensive strategy to address other energy challenges facing our nation. Along with high gas prices, many families and small businesses are confronting rising electricity bills. Summer air-conditioning costs are going to make it even more expensive for our homes and office buildings. To help consumers save on their power bills, we'll continue expanding efforts to conserve electricity. We're funding research into energy-efficient technologies for our homes, such as highly-efficient windows and appliances.

To ensure the electricity is delivered efficiently, Congress must make reliability standards for electric utilities mandatory, not optional. (Applause.) We've got modern interstate grids for our phone lines and highways. It is time to put practical law in place so we can have modern electricity grids, as well. (Applause.) All this modernization of our electricity grid is contained in the electricity title in the energy bill I submitted to the United States Congress.

To power our growing economy, we also need to generate more electricity. Electricity comes from three principal sources -- coal and natural gas and nuclear power. To ensure that electricity is affordable and reliable, America must improve our use of all three. Coal is our nation's most abundant energy resource, and it provides about half of your electricity here in Virginia. As a matter of fact, we got coal reserves that will last us for 250 more years. But coal presents an environmental challenge. We know that. So I've asked Congress to provide more than $2 billion over 10 years for a coal research initiative, a program that will promote new technologies to remove virtually all pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

My Clear Skies Initiative will also result in tens of billions of dollars in clean coal investments by private companies. It will help communities across the state meet stricter air quality standards. To help Virginia clean your air and keep your coal, Congress needs to get the Clear Skills bill to my desk this year. (Applause.)

Improving our electricity supply also means making better use of natural gas. It's an important power source for our farmers and manufacturers and homeowners. We need to increase environmentally responsible production of natural gas from federal lands. To further increase our natural gas supply, Congress needs to make clear federal authority to choose sites for new receiving terminals for liquified natural gas. In other words, we're getting a lot of natural gas from overseas that gets liquified, and we got to be able to de-liquify it so we can get it into your homes. And we need more terminals, and Congress needs to give us the authority to site those terminals in order to get you more natural gas. (Applause.)

I don't know if you realize this, but here in Virginia, you get about a third of your electricity from nuclear energy. Yet America has not ordered a nuclear power plant since the 1970s. France, by contrast, has built 58 plants in the same period. And today, France gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. In order to make sure you get electricity at reasonable prices, and in order to make sure our air remains clean, it is time for us to start building some nuclear power plants in America. (Applause.)

Technology has made it so I can say to you I am confident we can build safe nuclear power plants for you. Last month I directed the Department of Energy to work with Congress to reduce uncertainty in the nuclear power plant licensing process. We're also working to provide other incentives to encourage new plant construction, such as federal insurance to protect the builders of the first four new plants against lawsuits and bureaucratic obstacles and other delays beyond their control. A secure energy future for this country must include safe and clean nuclear power.

Many of the initiatives I've discussed today -- and I recognize this is a comprehensive plan, but that's what we need in America; we need a comprehensive plan. And many of these initiatives are contained in the energy bill before the Congress. I want to thank the House for passing the energy bill last month. And now it's time for the United States Senate to act. (Applause.) You don't have to worry about George Allen. He'll take the lead. (Applause.)

For the past four years, Americans have seen the cost of delaying a national energy policy. You've seen firsthand what it means when the nation's capital gets locked down with too much politics and not enough action on behalf of the American people. You've seen it through rising power bills; you've seen it through blackouts and high prices at the pump. Four years of debate is enough. It is time for the House and the Senate to come together and to get a good energy bill to my desk by August, and I'll sign it into law. (Applause.)

I've set big goals for our nation's energy policy, and I am confident our nation can meet those goals. Americans have a long history of overcoming problems through determination and through technology. Not long ago the prospect of running a car on fuel made from soybean oil seemed pretty unlikely. I imagine 30 years ago a politician saying, vote for me and I'll see to it that your car can run on soybean oil, wouldn't get very far. (Laughter.) Here we are, standing in front of a refinery that makes it. (Applause.)