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From Plate to Plough: Harvesting solar to breathe easy

Jacob Scott

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For replacing coal in power generation, solar and wind is the way to go at all-India level

When I was born into this world, I thought I had a right to breathe fresh air provided free by nature. But being born and brought up in Delhi, I now feel that fresh air has become a luxury, which I can avail only for a few days in a year. For the rest, I have to gasp for fresh air. My life span is already cut short by almost three years by polluted air, as per medical experts. And if business as usual continues, millions in the National Capital Region (NCR) will be choking as it turns into a ‘gas chamber’.

Supreme Court (SC) judges have rightly pulled up the Delhi and Central government for not doing enough to correct this dire situation. They also remarked what message we are sending to the world. If one looks at the capitals of G20 countries, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) during November 1st to 15th, 2021, is by far the worst at 312 (see graph). But India’s distinction goes beyond Delhi. The World Air Quality Report of 2020 shows that of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, 22 belonged to India. So, the problem is much deeper, raising doubts about the quality of our urbanisation.

Before thinking of how to cure this, we need right diagnostics. As per the Report of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, energy generation (largely coal-based) is the biggest culprit, with a share of 44% in GHG emissions, followed by manufacturing and construction (18%), agriculture (14%), transport (13%) industrial processes and product use (8%), and waste burning (3%).

For replacing coal in power generation, solar and wind is the way to go at all-India level. In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did a commendable job in Glasgow by committing that 50% of India’s energy will be from renewable sources by 2030. But the current model in solar energy is heavily tilted towards companies. They are setting up large solar parks on degraded or less fertile lands. These tracts of land are committed only for solar energy for the next 25 years. It is good from efficiency point to minimise the cost of power generation, which is now even cheaper than the cost of thermal energy. But what if we supplement this model by developing solar farms on farmers’ fields? This would require solar panels to be fixed at 10 feet height with due spacing to let enough sunlight come to plants for photosynthesis. These ‘solar trees’ can then become the ‘third crop’ for farmers, earning them regular income throughout the year, provided the law allows them to sell this power to the national grid. Delhi government’s pilot in Ujwa KVK land on these lines showed that farmers can earn up to Rs 1 lakh per acre per year from this ‘solar farming’. This is on top of the two crops they can keep growing under those solar trees. This will double farmers’ income within a year! The investment of ‘solar trees’ on farmers’ fields is still done by companies. Only thing that farmers have to sign on is a sort of bond that they will not uproot these solar trees for 25 years, as that is the lifecycle of such solar projects. Doubling farmers’ income by 2022-23 is a dream that Prime Minister Modi has aspired, and here is chance to turn that dream into a reality.

But let me come back to Delhi’s pollution. As per the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the reasons for poor AQI differ from day to day. For example, during the five days from November 9th to 13th, 30% of Delhi’s air pollution was due to stubble burning, another 22% from transport, 18% from external (other than stubble burning) factors, 12% from industries, 4% from biofuels, 8% from dust and the rest local (6%). But this contribution of stubble burning will drop to just 8%, if the period considered is from October 30th to November 3rd, 2021. On a particular day, say November 7th, stubble burning contributed 48% to Delhi’s air pollution, which fell to just 2% on November 18th. The fact is that even for a day, when AQI is above 350 and Delhiites are already gasping for breath, this stubble burning acts as the last proverbial straw on the camel’s back. The Centre needs to sit down with neighbouring states and come up with a plan to reduce rice area in this belt. It is well known that rice cultivation is fast depleting the water table and emitting methane and nitrous oxide. So, farmers need to be incentivised to switch to other crops through better returns than in rice cultivation.

To tackle vehicular pollution, we need massive drive towards electric vehicles (EVs), and later perhaps towards green hydrogen, when its production is cost-competitive to fossil fuels. Scaling up EVs quickly requires creating charging stations on war footing, more like we developed vaccines for Covid-19 and scaled up hospital beds. Each parking lot in offices, housing societies, hotels, hospitals, etc, needs to have fast charging points. This is a business opportunity, but policymakers can get it expedited by changing the rules of the game and providing upfront subsidies on EVs, if need be, equal to taxes imposed on diesel/petrol vehicles. The hesitancy to buy EVs due to lack of charging stations must go.

However, Delhi also needs a good carbon sink. Rejuvenating the ridge area with a dense forest, and also developing thick forests on both sides of the Yamuna may help.

The author is Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at ICRIER

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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