The Keystone in a bridge to our future

History teaches us that we must be careful to not be too sure of ourselves. When the intercontinental railroads were first proposed, many finance people said they would be a waste because most of the time the expensive steel tracks just sit there without any actual trains on them; however, the combination of visionary thinkers and military desire to settle the West won the day. When the interstate highway system was proposed by General/ President Eisenhower, many saw it as a waste, but again visionary thinkers and strategic concerns won the day. Do we remember the crazy idea of the ARPAnet linking defense computers? What about launching flocks of GPS satellites so we could place missiles and troops anywhere we wanted in the world?

Fast forward: environmentalists drive their SUVs to protest the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico as an affront to Nature. Meanwhile the slippery hydrocarbon crowd claim wind turbines in the Great Planes are silly because there is no grid connection to bring the power to where it’s actually needed.

Everyone needs to take off the special interest blinders and think creatively and strategically. The cake is big enough for all to have a piece! While the pipeline is being built, grid connections can be laid along the same route. Oil flowing in the pipeline can keep our cars running while massive Great Planes wind farms feed their power into the new spine of the nation. The added cost of the grid connection should be considered as an investment by the pipeline financiers, who can charge for every kWh that flows through it. One day the wind farms will provide much of the electricity needed for a nation whose cars run on electricity and then the oil pipeline can be turned off, and the pipeline owners will make more money than ever.

The Keystone pipeline in combination with a new electric power trunk line is of strategic national importance as it is the keystone in a bridge to our future. It can greatly help reduce our dependence on intercontinental imported oil and help rebuild our domestic manufacturing industry by mobilizing hundreds of thousands of skilled workers who will not only build the pipeline, but also build, install, and maintain hundreds of thousands of wind turbines to generate the hundreds of gigawatts of electricity we need to power us back to the future.

Alexander H. Slocum
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Printing quotas will change

The UA Committee on Technology and Information Services & Technology (IS&T) are happy to announce that following a semester of feedback gathering, discussion, and review, the page quota for printing is going to be replaced with a “soft quota.” Effective Registration Day of the Spring semester, registered students will be able to print above 3,000 pages a year without being charged; students going over the 3,000 page quota may instead be contacted by IS&T and the UA to find out more about what drives their printing needs and to suggest solutions that might be more resource efficient for bulk printing. A firm 3000 page quota will remain in effect for non-students using Athena printing resources. IS&T and the UA will continue reviewing printing activity and will revisit the issue of non-students printing to Pharos printers over the summer.

When the quota was first considered last year, the primary motivation was to create a disincentive for excessive printing. 3,000 pages a year was chosen as a number that should suit the vast majority of legitimate student needs and that would thus not actually affect the majority of students. Several months into the fall semester, aggregated statistics from Pharos printers indicated that this has indeed remained the case, with the vast majority of users printing well below a rate that would cause them to exceed the quota.

Members of the UA Committee on Technology met with representatives of IS&T over the fall to discuss various aspects and features of Pharos printing, including student feedback regarding the quota. While many of the effects of the quota appeared to be favorable, students were concerned about the stress of having one’s account accidentally charged. Additionally, the effects on certain student groups who have traditionally used printers for their legitimate needs had not been fully realized. It was therefore decided that it would be most appropriate to maintain a soft quota that would still result in the desirable speed-ups, without placing a large amount of stress or inconvenience on students with legitimate printing uses.

IS&T and the UA will continue as always to listen to feedback and periodically review Pharos printing as issues arise. To voice a concern or provide feedback about Pharos printing, please email student-printing-feedback@mit.edu.

Leonid Grinberg
Chair, UA Committee on Technology