There is a genre of English-language joke in which a saucy quip is followed by an attribution on the lines of: ‘as the actress said to the bishop’. Familiar or not with this formula, you may grin (or grimace) at the following rendition: There is no fuel like an old fuel, as the pretty Enron auditors’ document-shredder girl said to the serially divorced superintendent of the rdf-fired power station.

The whole world has rung with the failures of the globally reaching US energy corporation, Enron, and its auditors, but, as my editor points out, the initials rdf may not be globally recognised as an abbreviation for refuse-derived fuel. He is right, as ever.

It is true that one of Enron’s great ambitions was to spread electricity round the world. Unfortunately some people found the price exorbitant, and all that Enron got from them was a reputation for charging the earth.

Pity the poor power pariah

Roughly when I was raising my eyebrows on this page at the suddenish reappearance in the USA and UK of nuclear power as a mentionable possibility, something was happening in the opposite direction. A new range of stock market indices, called the FTSE4GOOD (pronounced ‘footsy for good’*), was launched in the UK. The new indices embraced companies with ‘socially responsible’ attitudes in the UK, Europe, USA and elsewhere. The index compilers’ guiding definition of socially responsible investment excluded tobacco, arms and other tradables deemed unethical. Among the excluded sinners were, as you have guessed, the nuclear power companies.

Did the claimedly more responsible investors feel even nobler for possibly acting against their own financial interests while nuclear prospects were improving? Contrariwise, might those improving prospects have made the index-setters feel a mite less certain about their attributions of sin and virtue?

More trouble for wind farmers

Here is some curious information about aeoliculture. According to the learned press some Danish and Dutch researchers have discovered that serious consequences can follow the accretion of insects’ dead bodies on the leading edges of slow-moving wind turbine blades. The impairment of the aerofoil sections can reduce their aerodynamic efficiency and even, at high speeds, cause rotors to stall.

Icing is a well known problem for aerofoils on wind turbines and aircraft alike. Insectile encrustation would seem to be a variation on the same theme but perhaps calls for a different type of solution.

An undergraduate trainee at a wind farm is said to have therefore put forward a scheme for continual spraying with insect-repellent fluid, but I understand that this did not appeal to his seniors. The tale is that, as well as doubting the idea, they feared reaction from a local protest movement.

The movement’s environmentalist members already objected to the wind turbine generators’ visual, aural and avian affronts: and the windfarmers thought that chemical as well as impactive hazard to flying insects could cause the protesters to amplify their outcry.

Watch fabulous rates at Itaipu

An Associated Press writer, reflecting on the drought-driven energy crisis in Brazil, described that country’s famous Itaipu plant as ‘a symbol of a country hostage to its own hydroelectric power’. In an article issued by his agency the AP man observed that, although the plant had been declared one of the seven engineering wonders of the world when opened in the mid 1980s, and had been hailed by the Brazilians as a big step towards national energy independence, it was now inadequate.

Electricity was being rationed to such an extent that many people believed themselves ‘transported back to the time when microwave ovens, personal computers and other modern energy-eating appliances did not exist yet for mass consumption’. So, at Itaipu, the noise of construction was back, the writer reported. “A consortium led by France’s Alston (sic) is installing two additional turbines to raise its output by 1400 megawatts per hour to 14 000 megawatts per hour by 2004.”

Which makes you think, does it not?