Friday, August 24, 2007

GM is moving forward

CNN:GM unveils diesel-like gasoline engines

General Motors revealed two drivable concept cars with new engines that burn gasoline in virtually the same way that a diesel engine burns diesel fuel.

The engines will get 15-percent better fuel economy than ordinary gasoline engines, GM estimates, but will not need the expensive exhaust treatment that diesel engines require.

Several car companies have been working on this type of engine technology, commonly known as homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI. The technology promises the fuel economy of a diesel engine, which is typically much more efficient than a gasoline engine, but with the much cleaner exhaust of a gasoline engine.

It only works on a warm engine under light load right now but this looks promising to cut cruise fuel consumption for smaller engines that cannot use variable displacement. If they can extend the operating parameters farther out this could give hybrid-like boosts to fuel economy without the weight and cost of batteries.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pretty Nifty

There are some new ideas for B-Trains that look to make the combinations more maneuverable.

The Denby/Fliegl systems in Europe use a countersteering lead trailer (like a tillerman on a fire department ladder truck) to enable the combination to safely negotiate tight turns.

The HECT trackaxle (HECT stands for High Efficiency Container Transport) in Australia uses swiveling 4 axle bogies (similar to the design of "Trailer Train" railcar sets) to allow tight turns.

This playing field looks a little crooked

Land-Line: Mexican Truckers Promised Financial Help
Mexican motor carriers selected to participate in the proposed cross-border program could receive financial assistance from the Mexican government to make them more competitive.

Apparently, government financial assistance has been promised to truckers and trucking companies that participate in the cross-border program to help them carve out a competitive edge. The money would be used to develop infrastructure like loading docks, support trucks and light-service trucks – elements that would make their business operations more competitive with their U.S. counterparts, according to a translated article from the Mexican publication T21.

Tirso Martinez, president of CANACAR – a Mexican trucking association – said in the article that the funding was approved by the Mexican Secretary of Economy, but had not yet been put in place.

So, in addition to cut-rate wages, US truckers will be disadvantaged by direct subsidies to Mexican trucking firms. It's a good thing the Administration's rush to get the Mexican trucks program rammed through by January 09 is all about allowing the "free market" to work.

Mexican trucks will also not have to meet US emissions standards and can fuel up with high sulphur (ie cheap diesel) before crossing the border. The average US fleet faces over $20,000 in extra lifecycle costs per power unit due to the new emissions standards for trucks and spends and extra 5 cents a gallon for Ultra-Low Sulphur diesel (or about $5,000 over each tractor's lifespan) to keep the emissions systems working. I like clean air, but if it's important enough for American and Canadian carriers to pay for it should be important enough for Mexican carriers to pay for too.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

That Didn't Take Long

Yahoo: Investors fixate on Fed in hopes of new rate cut
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Investors are fixating on the Federal Reserve after its discount rate cut Friday, hoping the US central bank will take stronger action to ease the credit crunch roiling markets worldwide.

The Fed took markets by surprise Friday by slashing its discount rate, the interest rate charged on loans to commercial banks, by a half-percentage point to 5.75 percent.

Equity markets cheered the decision, announced before Wall Street opened: the Dow Jones industrial jumped 1.82 percent, the first time it closed higher in seven sessions. The news lifted the major European stock markets out of earlier losses.

Yet the central bank did not touch its key federal funds rate -- the overnight rate banks charge each other -- despite investor cries for relief.

Man, those Wall Street boys sure are a bunch of spoiled rich kids. The Fed steps in Friday and before the weekend is over they're bleating like stuck sheep.

Privatization and the Loss of Sovereignty

THe Nation: The NAFTA Superhighway

In my conversations with people in Texas, it seemed that the privatized nature of the road was what got folks the angriest. Bad enough that drivers would face tolls, that ranchers would have their land cut out from under them, but all for the financial gain of a foreign company?......

"What really drives this is economic," activist Terri Hall told me. "It's about the money. We're talking about obscene levels of profit, someone literally being like the robber barons of old. And this is one thing that government actually does well, build and maintain roads."

Hall is an unlikely defender of the public sphere. A conservative Republican and an evangelical Christian who home-schools her six children, she first got interested in road policy when TxDot announced plans to toll the road near her house, which runs into San Antonio. Outraged, she brought it up with her local State Rep, and when that didn't work, she began organizing. She founded the San Antonio Toll Party (like the Boston Tea Party, she notes) by pamphleting at intersections and calling friends. "It's really like the old days, during the American Revolution...just fellow citizens trying together to effect change."

.....Hall had arranged to meet me in the San Antonio exurbs, in a home design center that doubled as a cafe. Outside, a thunderstorm lashed the windows with rain. As she spoke, her newborn son propped next to her swaddled and napping, it occurred to me that she was living the twenty-first-century version of the American dream. She and her husband had moved to Texas from California in pursuit of cheap housing, open space and a place to raise their family. Their web-design business was successful; their children healthy. Why, I found myself thinking, was she so upset about a road?

[Texas Transportation commissioner] Ric Williamson must often ask himself the same thing. Just as the White House was blindsided by the opposition to the Dubai ports deal, just as NASCO was shocked to find that a simple schematic map attracted angry phone calls, just as the Commerce Department was shocked to find a simple bureaucratic dialogue the subject of outrage, so too have Perry and Williamson seemed ambushed by the zealous opposition of people like Hall.

But what people like Williamson don't seem to understand is how disempowered people feel in the face of a neoliberal order whose direction they cannot influence. For corporatists within both parties (Williamson, it should be noted, was a Democrat while in the Statehouse), selling port security or road concessions to a multinational is inevitable, logical, obvious. To thousands of average citizens in Texas and elsewhere, it's madness or, worse, treason. Both the actual TTC and the mythical NAFTA Superhighway represent a certain kind of future for America, one in which the crony capitalism of oil-rich Texas expands to fill every last crevice of the public sector's role, eclipsing the relevance of the national government as both the provider of public goods and the unified embodiment of a sovereign people.

For Williamson, this is progress; for Hall, it's an outrage and a tragedy. "We have so little control over our own government," she told me, the alienation audible in her voice, thunder punishing the air outside. "We are really the last beacon of freedom in the world--the land of the free and home of the brave--and we're letting it slip away from under our noses."

That's the Upshot of both the left and the right, whether it is the World Trade Organization or Cintra, unelected entities are being handed control by Federal and State governments unable or unwilling to do their historic jobs. Citizens expect to have a voice at the ballot box on trade policy, the building and administration of roads, and all of the other things governments do. The Democrats with their slavish devotion to multinational political organizations and neoliberal trade polices and the Republicans with their devotion to multinational corporations and privatization both are choosing to hand over more and more control to these entities, and neither sees a problem.

The job market that has gotten much nastier and much harder to predict. Service sector jobs that may have seemed safe from trade are becoming tradable. Thousands of corporate jobs disappear overnight when financial engineering runs awry. Health insurance is getting stingier and retirement is a source of anxiety, not comfort. You can work hard and a decision half a world away by someone who you've never laid eyes on can take away your benefits or send you out on the street.

Is it any wonder folks are yelling "whoa!"?

Monday, August 06, 2007

He's tanned, rested, and ready......

to run another business into the ground.

Bob Nardelli, late of Home Depot, is taking over the Top Job at Chrysler.
I feel bad for any of the employees who haven't taken a buyout yet. The Private Equity chimps deserve every bit of what they will get.