There is now a process which makes it easier to transport gas over longer distances. It’s called liquefied natural gas. Put simply, gas can now be frozen into liquid form and transported to distant countries in refrigerated tankers. When the LNG is delivered it is heated and converted back into gas form. Then it is supplied to customers using local pipelines.
Having said that, there are two main risks associated with LNG: financial and political. Firstly, the cost of producing and shipping LNG today is still higher than transporting oil, although rapid innovations are reducing the costs. For instance, bigger tankers can now be used. What’s more, the energy industry is expected to invest a massive $100 billion in LNG over the next ten years despite the high capital costs.
Secondly, Russia and the former Soviet Union hold the world’s largest natural gas reserves. Some analysts are therefore concerned that Russia will have a high level of control over the global LNG market within the next decade.
So, as we can see there are political and financial risks associated with the LNG business. Yet, the potential profits are enormous for energy firms with the capital to develop LNG projects. And many experts believe that gas will be the dominant fuel for at least another 50 years.
Unit 3 FROM THE HISTORY OF COMPUTER
This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.
Silicon Valley in Northern California is home of the world’s largest technology companies. These include Apple, Google, Oracle, Intel, Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard. The valley is also home to the Computer History Museum in Montain View. It reopened last month after nineteen million dollars worth of improvements. The project took nearly two years. One of the additions is permanent exhibit called “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing”. Alex Bochannek is a curator at the museum. Mr. Bochannek says the new exhibit tells the story of more than one thousand historical objects.
Alex Bochannek: “Some of the oldest items are actually not computers. They are devices that helped people calculate. And the first object people see walking into the exhibit is an abacus from the 1800. Because this is a daily-use device made from wood, few of them have survived.
Mr. Bochannek says people have the chance to handle some of the objects in the exhibit. He says one of the more popular items is a portable computer from 1981.
Alex Bochanek: We think of portable computers today as laptops. But Osborne One was about the size of sewing machine and weighed 24 pounds. So, just been able to pick one of those up will help our visitors to understand how difficult portability was about 30 years ago.
Unit 4 ROBOTICS
A Japanese company started selling a futuristic home robot on September 16. The meter-high humanoid may make housework a thing of the past – for the rich. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries put its internet-linked Wakamaru robot on sale at a price of $150,000. Just 100 of these home helps will initially be available. The robot is the idea of Japanese designer Toshiyuki Kita. He said his creation was “designed in the shape of a human being so that it is not considered simply a machine” and that it has an “independent personality”.
The robot has an impressive number of features. It is capable of recognizing up to ten individuals by name and has a vocabulary of 10,000 words. It can also navigate its way around the house. The Wakamaru website* explains three major functions that will help the lives of the robot’s users: It can live with the family and provide daily schedules; it can speak with the family and be a friend; and it has its own role of looking after the house when no one is home. However, the price needs to come down to make it affordable by all.