Tag Archive | ncryption machine

Creating a New Market

Clare Donohue spent her teenage years growing up in the Catskill Mountains hamlet of Roscoe where water was central to the area’s way of life. Her family often fished at a nearby reservoir and so many fly fishers liked to visit the spot where two pristine rivers converged that Roscoe dubbed itself “Trout Town USA.”

“When you walked into the house,” Donohue recalled, “the first thing you did was go to the sink and fill a glass of water. It was so delicious.”

Donohue, 52, runs a small business and has lived in New York City for the past 30 years. When she learned from friends three years ago that 85 well sites had been leased for future drilling for natural gas in a village close to Roscoe, she was concerned. She watched Gasland, Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated documentary, and later joined friends at a West Village community board meeting. There, officials from Spectra Energy sought to mollify local concerns about an underground natural gas pipeline that the company was bringing into the neighborhood.

“I just sat there unbelieving, because everybody was just calm and polite and they were all asking questions like whether the cement in the sidewalk would be put back the way it was, things that I thought were totally irrelevant in terms of the disaster that was being described. And I kept thinking, ’What is wrong here? Why aren’t people screaming?’”

Donohue has been raising her voice ever since as a co-founder of the Sane Energy Project, which she helped start with a dozen other activists to fight the Spectra pipeline. The group’s focus has since broadened as they confront a growing web of projects that could drive a surge in New York City’s use of natural gas obtained by fracking. In addition to Spectra, a second pipeline is slated to enter via the Rockaways and go up Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue. There is also a deep water liquefied natural gas import terminal proposed for off the coast of Long Island.

New Yorkers currently consume 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. And these new infrastructure projects would increase that by between 16 and 30 percent, according to a study commissioned by the mayor’s office.

“It is a strategy to hook the city on fracked gas,” said Occupy the Pipeline activist Patrick Robbins.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, requires injecting millions of gallons of water laced with an array of toxic chemicals deep into the earth to cause fissures that allow drillers to tap previously unreachable deposits of natural gas. The technology has been blamed for poisoning underground drinking water supplies in areas near well sites.

Large parts of central and southern New York State sit atop the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that is believed to contain large reserves of natural gas. While activists have won a moratorium against fracking in New York and are fighting for a full ban, Pennsylvania landowners have seen a fracking boom in the past decade, especially as smaller operators have been gobbled up by transnational companies. These corporations, owning large acreage and seeking fast profits, drive the push for increased drilling.

While natural gas is heralded as a cleaner-burning “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future, it is in fact a potent greenhouse gas. When released directly into the atmosphere, it traps 72 times more heat than carbon dioxide and remains 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide after a century in the air.

Creating a New Market

With natural gas prices at a low and billions of dollars sunk into drill sites, the natural gas industry is looking for a way to increase demand, boost profits and garner more financial backers. Through that lens, New York City, a huge energy consumer, presents a golden opportunity.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2011 mandate to convert the boilers in New York City buildings to the “cleanest fuels” has set the stage for skyrocketing demand as many buildings switch to natural gas systems. The new heating oil regulations will ban the two dirtiest heating fuels available: Number 6 and Number 4. These heavy fuels create fine soot, known as particulate matter, which is highly polluting. Soot exacerbates asthma, irritates lungs and increases the risk of heart attacks and premature death.

The regulations will require New Yorkers to instead heat their buildings with either ultra-low sulfur Number 2 oil, biodiesel, natural gas or steam, according to PlaNYC.

The trouble, Donohue said, is that natural gas also produces particulate matter and at a higher rate than Number 2. In comparison, biofuel produces zero emissions and zero particulate matter. And while converting an average New York City building to biodiesel and Number 2 oil costs about $10,000 to $30,000, natural gas conversions can start at $500,000, a cost often transferred from landlord to tenant through rent hikes.

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Sustainable Energy boss’s windfarm ‘conflict of interest’

Labour Senator John Whelan has warned that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte will have to address the “apparent conflict of interest” where the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland chairman Brendan Halligan, a long-term Labour apparatchik, is also a director of Mainstream Renewable Power; one of the major wind-farm developers in Ireland.

Mr Whelan issued the warning in the wake of a major demonstration outside Dublin Castle against proposals to erect 2,500 “185 metre high wind turbines, higher than the spike in Dublin, near family homes in 14 counties across Ireland”.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he warned the status of Halligan was leading to “much public disquiet and fuelling public cynicism with regard to wind energy policy and an increasingly controversial planning process.”

The Labour senator asked, “How can Mr Halligan serve both the public interest and the commercial interests of a private company? This is not best practice and will have to be addressed; there is no way around it.”

He added that “it is unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue and I will now be raising the issue with both Minister Rabbitte and the Oireachtas Committee on Energy and Natural Resources”.

This is likely to lead to tensions between the senator and Mr Rabbitte, who has made renewable energy one of his core departmental objectives.

But Whelan warned that on this issue Labour “can’t come across all pious and highly principled on other issues and then turn a blind eye when [it] suits us. In public life you cannot serve two masters”.

Decisions, he said, “to be made around wind farm policy and planning are going to have a profound effect on thousands of rural families for generations to come”.

Whelan’s position was echoed by the Labour Senator John Kelly who noted “all that the people want is for the Government to sit up and listen to them, that they don’t want to live beside residential wind turbines for reasons of health, noise, and the safety of their children.

He said Friday’s protest was peaceful and passionate, held by decent families trying to protect their human right to live in peace and tranquillity, not surrounded by wind farms “that are bigger than the spike”.

Kelly added: “It is indeed ironic that Enda Kenny is saying the Seanad is ineffective, whilst at the same time, when I brought a Wind Turbine 2012 Bill through the Seanad, achieving cross-party support, it was Enda who blocked the same bill going the Dail. He considers this to be democracy, when in fact he himself is blocking democracy”.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent Mr Whelan also claimed “much of the public disquiet would be resolved and allayed if the Government accepted Deputy Willie Penrose’s and Senator John Kelly’s legislative proposals affording 1.5km setback from family homes”.

The other side of the story

Last week, former security company CEO Stew Henry made a presentation to Hamilton Township Council predicting that the 20-year green-energy contracts being let by OPA, if the generation goal of 10,700 megawatts of green, renewable energy is reached, would cost taxpayers significantly more than the $58 billion he previously predicted based on an 80/20 split between wind and solar.

Given the state of the economy, this is an extra cost that could be reduced by going another route entirely, he said.

Henry urged that council petition Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to meet with her Quebec counterpart to negotiate an agreement to have Quebec use its hydro surplus to meet Ontario’s green needs, instead of letting more OPA contracts. He asked the local council not to support the provincial direction of the Act, and to demand the Ontario Auditor General review the existing contracts for expensive cancellation clauses, and if found, cancel them.

Council heard the presentation and, in conjunction with a report on wind turbines heard at its corporate services committee meeting of March 6, directed township staff to arrange a meeting to hear from both sides of the debate.

During the March 6 committee meeting, a recommendation was also made to hold a public meeting to see if township residents wanted to “be a host for large scale wind turbine/solar energy projects” and to possibly identify the municipality as an “unwilling host” for them.

No vote was taken about it at the committee of the whole level and presumably it will be discussed after the upcoming meeting at which a professional with the OPA and/or Green Energy Act will be present to provide the flip side of the green-energy story.

Nearly a month ago, during the Ontario Good Road Conference, Hamilton Township Deputy Mayor Isobel Hie and Councillor Donna Cole met with Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and 10 other municipal representatives to express concerns about the Act and contracts being let though the FIT Program.

She also raised concerns about the changes to the Act’s regulations whereby wind and solar proponents seek municipal letters of support to gain points on their applications.

In a written document presented to the energy minister, Cole stated that in their view “the Ontario government has not considered… Hydro Quebec’s excess generating capacity” as an alternative, green energy source for Ontario; the ” true cost of the FIT Program’s green energy”; the Dec. 2012 World Trade Organization ruling against Ontario’s requirement for specified Ontario content in alternative energy infrastructure; “the need for municipal involvement in the FIT Program Application”; as well as how wind turbines affect the health of Ontarians.

Chiarelli replied with a standard thank you letter but did not respond to the specific questions put to him, Cole said.

Meanwhile, shortly before Cole’s presentation to the energy minister, Guelph University professor Ross McKitrick wrote the Ontario Energy Board quoting the Ontario Auditor-General’s 2011 report which warned that “no comprehensive business-case evaluation was done to objectively evaluate the impacts of the billion-dollar commitment” of the province’s direction with the Green Energy Act.

At Page 89 in the 2011 report, wrote McKitrick, the Auditor-General stated that “wind and solar renewable power will add significant additional costs to ratepayers’ electricity bills. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are also not as reliable and require a backup from alternative energy-supply methods such as gas-fired generation…. A typical residential electricity bill would rise about 7.9% annually over the next five years, with 56% of the increase due to investments in renewable energy.”

McKitrick also noted in his correspondence that surplus wind power is generated when Ontario’s peak periods are over and then is “dumped into the export market” sometimes requiring taxpayers to pay some other jurisdiction to take the excess.

Is where wind comes in

The province in one way is already a leader on the wind front. Tiny Nova Scotia ranks third behind Ontario and Alberta in numbers of farms while its 324 megawatts in current capacity puts it in fifth place country-wide.

The young industry has had a bumpy start in Nova Scotia, where commercial wind projects are awarded under a request for proposals process. Though turbines have been turning in this province since 2002, the real wind capacity only started coming onto the grid two years ago.

Talk about bad timing. That coincided with the start of the global recession and a slump in the worldwide wind sector.

The upshot: a restructuring of the province’s wind sector which saw many smaller players lose their toehold in the industry.

In 2009, Nova Scotia Power, essentially the only market for Nova Scotia wind producers, jumped in to buy two wind farms that had stalled because of their owners’ dire financial problems. A year later, Emera Inc., Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, bought a distressed farm in Digby Neck. In 2011, Sprott Power of Toronto bought out a farm near Amherst from Spanish wind power giant Acciona Energy, which had been hobbled by the economic meltdown in Europe.

Part of the problem is the price of getting into the game: $2 million to $2.5 million per kilowatt hour of wind power produced. The latest batch of wind farm awards underscores that the sector isn’t for the little guy.

Oxford Frozen Foods, controlled by the Bragg family, and Minas Basin Pulp and Power, controlled by the Jodrey clan, were given the go-ahead to spend $200 million on wind projects in Lunenburg County. In both cases, their partner is Nova Scotia Power, which also joined the Municipality of the District of Guysborough on a $25-million wind farm near Canso.

That only became possible after the Nova Scotia government revised rules that barred Nova Scotia Power from investing in wind power operations. But the power company’s sudden ascendance has raised some eyebrows. Andrew Younger, the Liberal energy critic, is worried about the potential for conflict of interest.

“NSPI, which controls the grid, is competing with those who want access to the grid,” he said.

The decision by the provincial government’s renewable electricity administrator to award the new sites to a pair of prominent Nova Scotia business families with little experience in the wind world also drew criticism.

“It’s a tough business at the best of times,” said a former wind company executive, now out of the industry, who did not want to be identified. “To go out and try to compete against these kinds of companies makes it almost impossible.”

The industry already has an image problem that goes beyond a few wealthy folk like Anne Murray complaining that turbines ruin their view of the ocean — and, in some cases, a heavy-handedness in dealing with local communities. Medical complaints against wind turbines are credible enough that Health Canada is conducting a study on the connection between turbine noise and health.

The uproar from the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) crowd is sure to grow as increasing numbers of retirees head for pastoral rural Nova Scotia — precisely where any new wind farms are sure to be located.

One possible solution: put the farms out in the ocean. Offshore wind has become a key component of many coastal countries’ plans — particularly where opposition to onshore farms is stiff.

A dozen countries, almost all in Europe, have offshore wind turbines. The United States, where wind farms are in the works for the waters off Rhode Island and Massachusetts, is about to join that group.

Could Nova Scotia be next? Not in the foreseeable future, from the looks of it. A worldwide survey released last month put the price of offshore wind at about $5.1 million per megawatt of capacity — double what it costs onshore in this province.

Cryptologists Reunite at NSA’s 60th Anniversary

Nibouar trained at Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Fla., where she met Johnson, and the two became fast friends, with no idea they were forging their place in history by obscuring troop movements and other classified material.

“What was really, really difficult was all the messages came in five random letter groups separated by spaces,” Nibouar said. And though she typed about 100 words per minute, putting code to tape was considerably more painstaking.

“You couldn’t type very fast because you couldn’t make a mistake or it would mess up the message,” Nibouar said.

After Florida, Nibouar’s cryptology journey took her to California, Hawaii and even Japan. And though Johnson worked in different locations, the women wrote letters to keep in touch.

All the while, a shrouded, arduous work life and extended time apart from family became the norm for the two women. A single message could take hours to process. They often received messages so secret that even they were excluded from seeing them.

“The first thing the message would say is ‘eyes only,’ and we had to stop, not hit another key, get up and go somewhere,” Nibouar said. “And an officer in charge came and decoded the message, taking it by hand straight to Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur.”

When asked what she thought the messages might have said, Nibouar quipped, “It might have been to have a party.”

Transition back into normal life couldn’t come too soon for the women, they said.

“I just wanted to go home and get married,” Johnson said.

Nibouar also wed, had three children, became a teacher and spent a great deal of time volunteering — which, at age 91, she continues to this day.

She marvels at modern intelligence technology, but describes SIGABA developer Frank Rowlett as a genius for the machine’s simple design and complex capabilities.

National Cryptologic Museum Curator Patrick Weadon said the SIGABA derives from an earlier randomizing system, Enigma, developed by the Germans.

During World War II, people frequently used electro-mechanical devices to communicate securely, Weadon said.

“Enigma was thought to be utterly secure by the Germans because it produced permutations and possibilities of 3×10114 which made it theoretically impossible to crack,” he said.

But the Allies did crack Enigma — as early as 1940 — prompting the Signals Intelligence Service to develop SIGABA, Weadon said.

SIGABA designers looked at the shortcomings and the frailties of Enigma and designed a machine that had the power of Enigma without its shortcomings, Weadon said.

SIGABA’s distinctive ability to advance rotors with another set of rotors made it impenetrable, Weadon explained.

“It was never cracked, it was a perfect machine from the moment it was put on line and it was perfect the day that they took it off,” he said. “You’re talking about a perfect encryption machine, which many people even today believe is practically impossible [to crack],” he added.

Weadon said he’s sure the courage and bravery of U.S. and Allied troops won the war, but the ability to communicate securely on a more consistent basis than the Axis powers ultimately cinched victory.