Thursday, 12 January 2012

The future of biofuels

Full article in JPG format: page 44/45 & page 46/47 & bio

Talk to an airline executive anywhere in the world today, and you're virtually guaranteed to hear the same fundamental complaint. With Brent Crude prices hovering around $110 per barrel – up 350% in the space of two years – it's now all but impossible to make money from the business of flying people around.

Of course airlines have several tricks up their sleeves. Hedging fuel contracts is one strategy, albeit a risky one if you misjudge the market. Cutting operational costs and hiking airfares are two others. Perhaps the most pragmatic approach is to fork out a few billion dollars for some next-generation, fuel-efficient jets. In the current financial climate, though, few have that option.

The inconvenient reality is that aviation is well and truly addicted to oil. In order to get a 650-tonne Airbus A380 off the ground, the high energy density required makes anything short of the black stuff a feeble substitute. And that means, in contrast to electric cars, battery-powered planes will never make their commercial debut in our lifetimes...

Friday, 6 January 2012

It's Not Racist to Say Some Black People Are Racist

Full article on

A curious thing happened to me last Thursday while I was reading Bim Adewunmi's article on The Guardian website. Adewunmi was describing, in a very rational and factual manner, the circumstances surrounding her Twitter chat with Diane Abbott - which made headlines after the Shadow Health Minister seemingly accused all white people of being colonialists who "love playing divide and rule". I appreciated Adewunmi's dispassionate article, and I aired my opinion to that effect. Here's my comment in its entirety:

"Thanks for this explanation, and congratulations for (unwittingly or otherwise) exposing Diane Abbott's true views about white people. Last time I checked, I'm not a colonialist. So I now consider her a racist."

Harmless enough, I thought. And my fellow readers appeared to agree. As the tenth comment in a thread which now runs into the hundreds, my highly visible two cents quickly became the second-most 'recommended' post beneath the line. But The Guardian's moderators took umbrage to my contribution, deleting it under the pretext that it had failed to "abide by our community standards". I hastily re-posted the comment, appending a request that they explain which specific standard - racism, offensive behaviour, or another - had been breached. But that post also disappeared within minutes...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Interview: Peter Hill, Oman Air CEO

Full article in JPG format

After 50 years in the industry, Oman Air chief executive Peter Hill recently hung up his flight jacket for the last time. Though his successor has yet to be announced, Hill leaves the flag carrier with a well-defined “luxury boutique” business plan that will nurture the Sultanate’s tourism sector and help articulate its identity within the Gulf region.

As a founding member of Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Hill was headhunted by Oman Air four years ago to develop the plan begun by his predecessor, Ziad al Haremi, who had died tragically of a heart attack. In contrast to the mega-hub strategy Hill advanced in Dubai, the flight path for the Muscat-based carrier focused on selective long-haul expansion and a bespoke in-flight service that, in his words, “the bigger boys just can’t offer”...