by Tony Bellows
Word has reached La Baguette that Santa may need to abandon his traditional reindeer for more modern technology if the island removes his Christmas fuel allowance. An elf wishing to remain anonymous gave our reporter access to specs on various alternatives Old Saint Nick is considering to cover his 145-million-mile route yet still be able to deliver to Jersey.
Reindeer consume vegetation, and are very cheap to run, but generate waste products which can be unsightly when left on rooftops. Santa was initially interested in converting reindeer-generated methane into fuel to heat the toy factory, but this is still fairly inefficient and currently not cost-effective, there are also potential tax implications.
TTS have suggested a electric sleigh running on liquid-cooled lithium-ion batteries comparable to those powering some electric cars already on the road in Jersey. But the paucity of charging stations, however, renders this plan unviable - at least for now. St Helier has some in multi-story car parks, but there are none in St Brelade - or anywhere else in the island for that matter.
They had also considered proposing a solar powered sleigh. It would be clean energy, but despite promising tests in the day, it proved to be not viable because Santa flies at night. The consultants hadn't spotted that.
DVS tests had estimated that an internal combustion engine would consume around 92,000 gallons per Christmas eve, getting 50 miles to the litre for a fully laden. But unfortunately their test engines have been recalled because of faulty emissions data.
A nuclear powered sleigh on the other hand would last a long time. The lifetime fuel cost for a uranium-powered sleigh would be negligible - less than a litre of petrol - but the reactor's upfront cost would be in the millions. Smaller reactors using thorium to produce uranium-233 are in development, but the technology isn't quite there, but students at Les Quennevais School are working on that one.
However, the weight of necessary lead shielding for a sleigh-size unit could make this option impractical. 'So for now, Rudolph's nose will be the only thing glowing' said Archie Rondel (aged 11)
A balloon has also been considered. This would use propane to heat balloon air, wind for propulsion. The cost is around £50,000 for a spiffy gondola balloon - possibly less if non-unionized elf labour on zero hour contracts are used. 'However, variable wind speed and weather patterns could reduce on-time deliveries' said an expert from a local ferry company.
But Dasher and Blitzen need not worry about job security. Magic reindeer are amazingly cost-effective for Santa's Medium Term Financial Plan.