Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
A few notes on the issues discussed here so far:

Most of that wind capacity expected for 2020 is already being commissioned, so it is more or less guaranteed, plus wind is popular. As for the dams nothing seems that solid right now; the Socialists had been for it for some time but the real push came from the President (a liberal ex-prime minister). There is great opposition from the remainder of the left, especially the Greens, but even at the right I do not see much enthusiasm; if this government falls to be replaced by a Liberal/Conservative coalition it might not be easy to go ahead with it; with a Liberal majority it might be possible.

The new dam programme is absolutely paramount to take full advantage of the coming wind, and later on solar, capacity. The Greens have been mildly successful at inducing public weariness of Hydropower, just as they did in the past with Nuclear. They say these dams could be replaced by wind, without specifying how storage and load balancing would be made. These new dams are also very important to start reducing Coal imports, actually the only objective option to do so at the moment beyond Nuclear.

Portugal is such a dry place that a few years back had the second largest water consumption per capita in the EU. South of the Tagus, in the region of Alentejo, there are some issues of irrigation mainly due to questionable choices of culture; this is pure cork oak country, but some insist in other things that get  money back sooner. Droughts happen occasionally, if I recall correctly, in 2004 the Guadiana (one of the largest rivers of the Peninsula) almost went dry after a strain of several months without proper rain; but these are rare events, fortunately. Alqueva was finished just after that, providing steady water supplies to most of eastern Alentejo. Irrigation was always the main objective of building Alqueva, not electricity per se.

In fact, at least half of Portugal's hydroelectric potential is unused, which is close to a crime. Certainly the environmental impacts are there, but methods exist to deal with them. To the awe of many, Portugal was the first state to finish a dam fully compliant with the Water Framework Directive, in a time when most member states where still questioning if after this Directive building new dams was even possible. And this was accomplished with Alqueva, that created the largest artificial water body in Europe.

As for transport the Socialist government actually as a plan, sort of. It's a combination of TGV with electric cars and imported bio-diesel. I wont waste my latin with the former. As for electric cars I'm still waiting to see what the proposals by Renault or Mitsubishi are bringing of new comparatively to early XX century electric vehicles; I have a 150 Km bike ride tomorrow, Renault's car can't do something like that. Finally the TGV, this project is still on rails but hanging by a thread, the Socialists are the only party at parliament that support it, everyone else is against it, for this or that mindless reason. Contracts are signed and works should start next year on the Lisbon-Madrid line; later on links from Oporto to Vigo and from Algarve to Seville should be contracted too. If this government is overthrown before that I fear none of it will ever get build... For the TGV to work it will need the commitment from Spain, which with Zapatero is more or less guaranteed, and France for one or two Trans-Pyrenean links. So far the will has been there for all of this to come into place, but who knows what happens if some smart ass gets into government.

There are two obviously flaws with the government's Energy/Transport policy (a) freight transport (b) Coal. Freight transport is the sector where a shift away from fossil fuels can be accomplished with lesser impacts on daily lives. Proper mid-speed rail lines linking to the Pyrenees (which might be accomplished by upgrading existing ones) and the correct incentives to rail a shiping should do it. Certainly, it might mean the re-absorption of many hauling industry workers, but they can be diverted to the new rail or shipping industries. As for Coal, it is the visible part of a larger problem, replacing fossil fuel electric baseload generation. Especially if the private car fleet is shifted to electric the renewable programme might not be enough. Either another large-scale renewable is brought into maturity to complement wind, say solar or tidal/wave, or Nuclear is inevitable. No politician seems ready to take either option.

Portugal is both the worst and best place to be at this stage, one of the most dependent states on foreign energy, but possibly the one with the best prospects for renewables.


by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 03:44:09 PM EST
I take it that it is the latter (the freaking imported destruction of rainforest) that you did not deign to waste your latin on.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 07:20:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finally the TGV

By the way, a pure etymological question. I see both you and tiagoantao call it "TGV". Why is this? That is, why use it instead of the authority name "RAVE", or the Portuguese/Spanish/Italian acronym "AV", or the English "HSR"? Is it because the French (and Catalan) acronym "TGV" is commonly used in Portuguese media?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 03:07:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi DoDo,

RAVE is the name of a company - Rede ferroviária de Alta VElocidade - or in english High Speed Railroad Network. This is the company that will build and manage the rail lines (not the trains I think). The term TGV is used to specify the train class itself, paying homage to its country of origin; most folk are likelly unaware of its meaning.

Alta Velocide (portuguese for High Speed) is sometimes used in the media by the folk that now, but the really popular term is TGV. In Portugal there is a tendency not to translate these technical terms. Also the portuguese term for train, combóio, has a rather folkish flavour to it, since its original meaning was a group of beasts of burden. It doesn't marry very well with the futuristic high-tech image of the TGV :)


by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 04:10:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
paying homage to its country of origin

Well -- American media is more mindful of the real country of origin (Japan), preferring "bullet train" :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I give a slightly more broader/off-topic answer?

Until 10/15 years ago Portuguese cultural influences were mainly French. French was also the main foreign language (strangely enough there are more Portuguese speakers in the world than French).

You still can find that in many many ways, say my case: My undergrad is called Engenharia Informática (note the import from the French informatique and not the Anglo-common Computer Science - though informatics is definitely an Anglo thingy). All my degree was imported from France and it definitely had a French flavour (longer, more broad, more theoretically stronger than Anglo versions).

You still note strong undertones of French and German culture in Portuguese culture: more hermetic and more pedantic than Anglo culture. And before somebody says that I am stereotyping go the the Heidegger wiki page and search for a Bertrand Russell quote or find (youtube, maybe?) a famous debate between Chomsky and Foucault where Chomsky alludes precisely to this.

Of course, currently American and British influences are gaining ground.

And, of course, the interactions with Brasil and not be be discounted (import of Republic, legal systems, culture, ...)

by t-------------- on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 07:25:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Anglo-common Computer Science - though informatics is definitely an Anglo thingy

I believe "computer science" is more American English, "informatics" is common elsewhere (and in non-English languages, it's not just French).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 06:45:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My intention is not to nitpick, just trying to be rigorous and informative.

Here (UK), Computer Science is the norm. For instance in my school (Liverpool Uni) the department and the degree are both called computer science.

The most symbolic thing I know of, the Alan Turing statue in Manchester has a plaque that reads:


by t-------------- on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 08:26:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting. "Informatics" is definitely still in use at some places, so maybe this was another Americanism winning over in Britain. At any rate, it's "Informatik" in German, "informatica" in Dutch, "scienze dell'informazione" in Italian, "informatika" in Hungarian, "informatiky" in Slovakian. But the Russian version at least seems to be a literal translation of "computer science".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 12:58:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I speak against my argument. My area of work is bioinformatics.
by t-------------- on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 03:42:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And we'd like to know more about that, please ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 03:57:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A few notes:

  1. The "Green" party in Portugal is mostly a spin/puppet of the Communist party. The Communist party (PCP) has an extreme Stalinist tradition and NEVER goes to election alone (always a "broad coalition of popular movements"). While the "Greens" think partially for themselves if they went to elections alone they would get 0 MPs (they have 2 now). All the votes are really of the PCP.

  2. That being said, standard environmental NGOs seem to be utterly demential. I suppose they are OK with wind and solar. But other than that is only conservation (dams and, of course, nuclear are evil). Of course this totally not realistic so the end practical result is that they support massive imports ("dirty" production is OK as long as it is far away - can you say NIMBY? - nuclear is OK if French/Spanish, or oil/gas from not very recommendable places). Interestingly never heard any strong word against bio-diesel (which, IMHO, is the worst of any option).

  3. My biggest friend was actually an environmental engineer in the South (Alentejo) and the network losses of water (between source and tap/irrigation) were above 40% !!!
by t-------------- on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 07:08:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Top Diaries

Occasional Series