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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Pot pouri

24 January 2018

No single issue caught my eye this morning so I'm going to just touch on a few of the more interesting news items I found whilst doing my daily browse.

The USA is going to slap a 30% tariff on Chinese solar panels -- woohoo!

Why am I cheering?

Well if the laws of supply and demand come into effect, this could mean cheaper panels for us!

Clearly the USA is moving to protect its own solar panel industry which, at the moment, means trying to give Elon Musk's nascent solar roof tile concept a bit of a boost by allowing them to be more competitive with conventional solutions imported from Sino-land.

However, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the most popular and proven solar panel technology still comes from the likes of Panasonic and LG doesn't it? I'm not sure that I'd bet the house (and its energy requirements) on a bunch of Won-hung-lo brand panels I scored off AliExpress for half the price of a name-brand.

And in other unmissable news today, DJI has announced a new drone (yawn!).

The new DJI Mavic Air looks as if it's a solution in search of a problem.

It is more capable than the last DJI drone to be launched (the Spark) but it's also bigger and heavier.

Commentators are trying to figure out where this new drone is supposed to fit in DJI's product line since it doesn't really seem to offer any significant benefits such that existing users would want to upgrade.

The most ironic aspect of this new drone (and the rest of DJI's consumer product lineup) is that they're boasting an operating range which allows flight well beyond the legal restriction of "line of sight". The Mavic can fly up to 7Km away and the new Air is claimed to have a 4Km range.

Excuse me?

DJI keeps crowing to regulators that it has built in software to prevent people flying near airports or above a certain altitude -- yet they continue to advertise that it can exceed the legal maximum distance by a factor of up to 10 times?

Closer to home... I pity the poor motorists who found that a recent batch of petrol from three big-name suppliers has rooted the fuel-level sensor in their cars.

Apparently the cause was put down to excessively high levels of "active sulfur" in that batch of fuel.

Excuse me... don't they mean high levels of sulfuric and/or sulfurous acid?

I guess it sounds less worrying if the fuel companies call it "active sulfur" than if they admit that your car's entire fuel system has been exposed to a nasty corrosive acid or two.

The immediate effect was the failure of the rather delicate fuel-level sensor and, to their credit, the fuel companies are picking up the tab for repairs to as many as a thousand affected vehicles. However, I'm wondering what the longer-term effects will be.

Look for a spate of premature fuel-pump failures a year or two down the road or perhaps rapidly corroding exhaust systems? I doubt the fuel companies will not be so quick to ante-up with compensation at that stage.

And, just in case you missed it... NZ and 10 other countries look set to sign up to the TPPA next month.

WTF?

I thought Labour was opposed to the TPPA and criticised the National-led government for their support of this trade agreement.

Yes, the USA has withdrawn but I've not seen very much coverage of what this means in respect to thorny issues such as the protection of intellectual property and changes to copyright provisions. Perhaps a reader can enlighten me.

Is the new TPPA devoid of all that silly nonsense that the USA was trying to force upon us or has Labour just forgotten what it said in the past and decided to give the finger to those who voted for them?

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