FERC Intercedes in Proposed Bailout of Ohio Utilities

first_imgFERC Intercedes in Proposed Bailout of Ohio Utilities FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Dan Gearino for the Columbus Dispatch:Federal regulators dealt a blow to Ohio utility profit guarantees on Wednesday, saying the plans cannot go into effect until after a review of whether federal rules are being violated. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asserted its authority in a pair of orders, finding that the plans are not valid unless American Electric Power and FirstEnergy apply for, and receive, approval from the agency.The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved the eight-year profit guarantees late last month, allowing Columbus-based AEP and Akron-based FirstEnergy to receive benefits for selected power plants that might otherwise close.Until Wednesday, it was not known whether the federal commission would intercede.A key issue in the federal complaint is whether AEP and FirstEnergy customers are “captive,” in that they have no choice but to cover costs related to the plans. The PUCO and the Ohio companies said customers are not captive because they continue be able to choose an alternative provider in the state’s open market.The federal commission disagreed, stating that “AEP Ohio retail ratepayers are nonetheless captive in that they have no choice as to payment of the non-bypassable generation-related charges” embedded in the profit guarantees. Opponents of the plans say that wording shows that the Ohio companies are facing a highly skeptical audience in the federal commission, as opposed to the more friendly panel in Ohio.Full article: Federal agency says it must OK profit guarantees for AEP, FirstEnergylast_img read more

Cool Tools in your Cellular Toolkit

first_imgBiochemists can’t help using familiar tools to describe what they are finding in living cells.Swiss army knife:  RNA polymerase 1, a molecular machine that builds the ribosome protein factory, is your “Swiss-army knife,” Science Daily says.  That’s because researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have found “it incorporates modules which prevent it from having to recruit outside help.”  The components it needs are all built in.  Even though that makes it bigger, it also makes it efficient; “Because everything is already assembled, there’s no time delay,” a team member remarked – which is good, because this Swiss-army knife keeps very busy.  It even has built-in regulators, removing the need for external regulatory elements.  Another Science Daily article says RNA polymerase 1 is a “very large and highly complex molecular machine” and calls it “a crucial cog in the machinery of all cells.” as well as a “central pacemaker for cell growth.”  See also Nature News for word about the latest mapping of the enzyme.Samurai sword:  The sword in your toolkit is katanin, an enzyme actually named for a katana, a Samurai sword.  PhysOrg describes how this enzyme cuts microtubules with precision to keep the cell’s “skeleton” just right.  Just as our bodies would fall limp without bones, “without our cytoskeletons, our cells, which come in roughly 200 different shapes and sizes, would all become tiny spheres and stop working.”  Researchers at Washington University at St. Louis found that without katanin, the microtubules became disorganized like cobwebs.  Katanin acts like a pruning shear that cuts microtubules when they cross over one another, keeping the cytoskeleton ordered and functional.  It also creates the “array patterning” that arranges the microtubules into “parallel bands like barrel hoops around the cell’s girth,” giving the cell strength.  Since there are typically “hundreds or thousands” of microtubules in a cell, a whole army of Samurai swordsmen remains at the ready.  See more about katanin in a Science Daily article that shows how it helps sprouted seedlings grow.Stretch sensors:  PhysOrg described integrins, machines that sense the cell’s external environment.  They do this by making “catch bonds” that can measure stiffness of the outside world.  The more the catch bond is pulled, the stronger it becomes.  “The cell therefore has a very useful instrument,” the article says. “An internal measurement unit – the number of bound catch bond integrins – proved to be a direct measure of the mechanical stiffness of the external environment.”  Another PhysOrg article described other machines that “feel” the environment, acting as “molecular muscles” that notify the cell when it needs to change shape, such as when it needs to squeeze through a narrow opening.Cargo carts:  A paper in Current Biology describes the motorized cargo carts that carry tubulin proteins up the cilium to the growing tip.  “The kinesin-2-driven anterograde transport of intraflagellar transport (IFT) trains has long been suspected to deliver cargo consisting of tubulin subunits for assembly at the axoneme tip,” the summary says. “Important new work identifies the tubulin binding site on IFT trains that is responsible for this cargo transport.”Clock drive:  Different proteins need to be made at different times of the day and night.  A paper in PLoS Biology describes how the circadian clock, the timekeeper in cells, regulates protein synthesis.  Researchers found that mid-day and midnight are key times for activity.  “Our work also finds that many clock cell processes, including metabolism, redox state, signaling, neurotransmission, and even protein synthesis itself, are coordinately regulated such that mRNAs required for similar cellular functions are translated in synchrony at the same time of day.”If there is any field of science that has revolutionized our view of life, it is the discovery of factories of molecular machines in living cells.  Look at them!  They are doing precise, coordinated work involving thousands of parts working together, all the time, even in our sleep.  When you realize that these discoveries have occurred in the lifetimes of many people alive today, and continue to accelerate each year, you realize how privileged we are to see this nano-miniaturized manufacturing phenomenon keeping us and every living thing alive.  This short article doesn’t tell the half of it, or the hundredth, of what new imaging techniques have revealed in the last 20 years.One can only wonder if Darwin would have dared to put forth a speculation that blind, unguided processes are responsible for life, had he known what we know today.  Think back also to the scientists and philosophers of earlier centuries, back to the Romans, Greeks and Babylonians.  If they had known what we know, how different a world might it have been?  How different would have been the religious, cultural and philosophical traditions of the nations?The modern world coasts on Enlightenment and modernist assumptions about life and its simplistic Darwinian notions.  The implications of this scale of complexity at the basis of life – the cell – have not yet had time to percolate into the culture.  Take time to think through those mind-boggling implications.  They are life changing!  Only intelligent design has a vera causa adequate to explain what biochemistry has revealed, and only biblical creationism has an adequate Designer.  Leeuwenhoek, the creationist father of microscopy, was astonished and delighted with what he saw through his crude instruments.  Oh, to be able to show him what we see now!  Play that role for him; don’t ever let the wonders of Swiss army knives, Samurai swords, clock drives and all the rest become mundane news.  This is epochal.  This is monumental.  This is world-changing.(Visited 52 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

In numbers: South Africa’s global competitiveness

first_imgMary AlexanderThe World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index ranks South Africa as the 56th most competitive economy out of 144 countries, the highest standing on the African continent (the island of Mauritius comes in at 39) and ahead of its Brics developing economy partners India and Brazil.While the country’s competitive rating has slipped from the 50th position it held in 2011/12, it still punches way above its weight in certain areas, particularly the development of its financial market. For the strength of its business auditing and reporting standards, and the regulation of its securities exchanges, South Africa is ranked first in the world.The full rankings are below.GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS INDEX – OVERALL INDICATORSPILLARSCORERANKGCI 2014–2015 4.456 Basic requirements (40.0%) 4.389 Institutions 4.536 Infrastructure 4.360 Macroeconomic environment 4.589 Health and primary education 4.0132 Efficiency enhancers (50.0%) 4.443 Higher education and training 4.086 Goods market efficiency 4.732 Labour market efficiency 3.8113 Financial market development 5.47 Technological readiness 3.966 Market size 4.925 Innovation and sophistication factors (10.0%) 4.137 Business sophistication 4.531 Innovation 3.643 GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS INDEX – DETAILED INDICATORSPILLAR 1: INSTITUTIONSITEMSCORERANK1.01 Property rights 5.6 201.02 Intellectual property protection 5.3 221.03 Diversion of public funds 2.8 961.04 Public trust in politicians 2.6 901.05 Irregular payments and bribes 4.5 481.06 Judicial independence 5.4 241.07 Favouritism in decisions of government officials 2.6 1041.08 Wastefulness of government spending 2.8 891.09 Burden of government regulation 2.8 1201.10 Efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes 5.2 151.11 Efficiency of legal framework in challenging regs. 4.9 91.12 Transparency of government policymaking 4.5 351.13 Business costs of terrorism 6.0 301.14 Business costs of crime and violence 2.8 1331.15 Organized crime 4.3 991.16 Reliability of police services 3.6 1021.17 Ethical behaviour of firms 4.7 351.18 Strength of auditing and reporting standards 6.7 11.19 Efficacy of corporate boards 6.0 31.20 Protection of minority shareholders’ interests 6.1 21.21 Strength of investor protection, 0–10 (best)* 8.0 10 PILLAR 2: INFRASTRUCTUREITEMSCORERANK2.01 Quality of overall infrastructure 4.5 592.02 Quality of roads 4.9 372.03 Quality of railroad infrastructure 3.4 442.04 Quality of port infrastructure 4.9 462.05 Quality of air transport infrastructure 6.0 112.06 Available airline seat km/week, millions* 1,117.0 282.07 Quality of electricity supply 3.6 992.08 Mobile telephone subscriptions/100 pop.* 147.5 252.09 Fixed telephone lines/100 pop.* 9.2 90 PILLAR 3: MACROECONOMIC ENVIRONMENTITEMSCORERANK3.01 Government budget balance, % GDP* –4.3 973.02 Gross national savings, % GDP* 13.5 1193.03 Inflation, annual % change* 5.8 1023.04 General government debt, % GDP* 45.2 773.05 Country credit rating, 0–100 (best)* 59.1 51 PILLAR 4: HEALTH AND PRIMARY EDUCATIONITEMSCORERANK4.01 Malaria cases/100,000 pop.* 32.5 274.02 Business impact of malaria 5.1 304.03 Tuberculosis cases/100,000 pop.* 1,003.0 1434.04 Business impact of tuberculosis 3.7 1364.05 HIV prevalence, % adult pop.* 17.9 1404.06 Business impact of HIV/AIDS 3.4 1364.07 Infant mortality, deaths/1,000 live births* 33.3 1054.08 Life expectancy, years* 56.1 1294.09 Quality of primary education 2.4 1334.10 Primary education enrolment, net %* 85.0 118 PILLAR 5: HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAININGITEMSCORERANK5.01 Secondary education enrolment, gross %* 101.9 245.02 Tertiary education enrolment, gross %* 19.2 935.03 Quality of the education system 2.2 1405.04 Quality of math and science education 1.9 1445.05 Quality of management schools 5.2 245.06 Internet access in schools 3.2 1175.07 Availability of research and training services 4.5 445.08 Extent of staff training 4.9 18 PILLAR 6: GOODS MARKET EFFICIENCYITEMSCORERANK6.01 Intensity of local competition 5.5 366.02 Extent of market dominance 4.0 486.03 Effectiveness of anti-monopoly policy 5.1 146.04 Effect of taxation on incentives to invest 4.3 266.05 Total tax rate, % profits* 30.1 416.06 No. procedures to start a business* 5 326.07 No. days to start a business* 19.0 906.08 Agricultural policy costs 3.9 656.09 Prevalence of trade barriers 4.8 236.10 Trade tariffs, % duty* 6.0 766.11 Prevalence of foreign ownership 5.1 426.12 Business impact of rules on FDI 4.0 1046.13 Burden of customs procedures 4.1 626.14 Imports as a percentage of GDP* 40.7 856.15 Degree of customer orientation 4.6 676.16 Buyer sophistication 4.0 31 PILLAR 7: LABOUR MARKET EFFICIENCYITEMSCORERANK7.01 Cooperation in labour-employer relations 2.5 1447.02 Flexibility of wage determination 2.7 1397.03 Hiring and firing practices 2.1 1437.04 Redundancy costs, weeks of salary* 9.3 337.05 Effect of taxation on incentives to work 4.5 157.06 Pay and productivity 2.7 1367.07 Reliance on professional management 5.5 217.08 Country capacity to retain talent 3.7 507.09 Country capacity to attract talent 3.9 397.10 Women in labour force, ratio to men* 0.77 84 PILLAR 8: FINANCIAL MARKET DEVELOPMENTITEMSCORERANK8.01 Availability of financial services 6.1 68.02 Affordability of financial services 5.3 218.03 Financing through local equity market 5.4 38.04 Ease of access to loans 3.5 328.05 Venture capital availability 3.2 378.06 Soundness of banks 6.5 68.07 Regulation of securities exchanges 6.4 18.08 Legal rights index, 0–10 (best)* 7 43 PILLAR 9: TECHNOLOGICAL READINESSITEMSCORERANK9.01 Availability of latest technologies 5.5 399.02 Firm-level technology absorption 5.4 299.03 FDI and technology transfer 4.8 509.04 Individuals using Internet, %* 48.9 699.05 Fixed broadband Internet subscriptions/100 pop.* 3.1 899.06 Int’l Internet bandwidth, kb/s per user* 3.7 1269.07 Mobile broadband subscriptions/100 pop.* 25.2 74 PILLAR 10: MARKET SIZEITEMSCORERANK10.01 Domestic market size index, 1–7 (best)* 4.8 2410.02 Foreign market size index, 1–7 (best)* 5.3 3410.03 GDP (PPP$ billions)* 596.5 2510.04 Exports as a percentage of GDP* 31.3 92 PILLAR 11: BUSINESS SOPHISTICATIONITEMSCORERANK11.01 Local supplier quantity 4.8 4711.02 Local supplier quality 4.9 3811.03 State of cluster development 4.2 4411.04 Nature of competitive advantage 3.7 6211.05 Value chain breadth 3.8 6811.06 Control of international distribution 4.4 3511.07 Production process sophistication 4.5 3811.08 Extent of marketing 5.2 2411.09 Willingness to delegate authority 4.5 27 PILLAR 12: INNOVATIONITEMSCORERANK12.01 Capacity for innovation 4.3 3512.02 Quality of scientific research institutions 4.7 3412.03 Company spending on R&D 3.4 4812.04 University-industry collaboration in R&D 4.5 3112.05 Gov’t procurement of advanced tech products 3.0 11212.06 Availability of scientists and engineers 3.5 10212.07 PCT patents, applications/million pop.* 6.5 45last_img read more