Obama Should Kill the Combustion Engine - MemeBox's Garry Golden on The Takeaway

November 13 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 13 Hot

MemeBox’s Garry Golden, Editor of The Energy Roadmap, just meme-blasted the minds of morning commuters across the country with his analysis of the near-term future of transportation and suggestions for our new President-elect. [Podcast of Interview]

Appearing on PRI’s The Takeaway with John Hockenberry, Golden was asked how he would advise Congress and the upcoming Obama administration on the proposed U.S. multi-billion dollar auto industry bailout. He responded by unequivocally advocating the avoidance of “any further investments into the old combustion engine model” arguing that the country needs to quickly move past hybrids by leap-frogging “to an all-electric platform.”

Garry pointed out that “the electric vehicle is … going global quickly”, thus opening a market window to countries like China who are developing competencies in areas such as battery production. So it’s now incumbent upon U.S. companies like GM to successfully adapt to the new conditions, possibly by building out the new electrically powered chassis that will serve as platform for new transport structures.

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Report: US Electricity grid needs $1.5 - 2 Trillion investments by 2030 (7 Ideas to Watch)

November 11 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

What happened?
An Edison Foundation funded report conducted by The Brattle Group has some sobering news that could radically change the tone of infrastructure investment in the incoming Obama Administration, and lead to a boom in energy startups able to deliver lower cost, innovative solutions.

The new report “Transforming America’s Power Industry: The Investment Challenge 2010-2030” [Full Report / Exec Summary] estimates that the U.S. utility industry will have to invest between $1.5 and $2.0 trillion between 2010 and 2030 to maintain current levels of reliable energy service for customers throughout the country.

“This study highlights the investment challenges confronting the power industry in the coming decades,” according to Brattle Group Principal Peter Fox-Penner. “The industry is facing enormous investment needs during a period of modest growth, high costs, and very substantial policy shifts.”

Why is this important to the future of energy?
This investment figure challenges some deeply held assumptions and visions of the future promoted by people on all sides of the political spectrum. Free market advocates will have to confront role of government spending on infrastructure. Unless we completely abandon the centralized power plant to home model that exists today, most of these investments will come from states and the federal government.

But the more emotional conversation deals with the dreams of new sources from solar, wind and ocean power. This report confirms the brutal reality- Renewables alone, cannot scale to meet demand through 2030. While Al Gore’s We Campaign is trying to make a convincing case that we can go ‘all green’ in a decade, the numbers do not add up without a radical social-industrial engineering project with no budget limits.

The most likely near term future through 2030?
All sources of energy used in electric power generation will grow.

What to watch for
These types of reports often grab headlines, but are quickly forgotten by the public. Yet there is evidence to suggest that America is preparing to make significant investments in our energy infrastructure and change its regulatory framework to enable the Utility industry to transform its business and operating models. [Until those regulatory changes are made, the utilities will remain locked in their current business models, and will be unable to introduce innovative and cost saving efforts.]

Here are Seven Ideas to Watch:

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Algae biofuel industry continues to expand community and refine its vision of future

November 07 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2014   Rating: 3

We expect algae to become a mainstream energy buzz word in 2009 as more people become aware of this promising form of energy conversion. But first, leaders must close the great disconnect around the conversation of ‘biofuels’ and the future of bioenergy. The general public is lagging behind in the conversation by the near-term political distraction of corn derived ethanol, while policy makers, researchers and entrepreneurs are already moving forward on next generation biofuels derived from non-food crops like Jatropha and microbes like algae and biofuels. More forward looking bioenergy advocates argue that next generation biofuels will soon make corn irrelevant. Now they must begin the public awareness campaign to bring the public and policy makers into the future.

Why bioenergy?
The idea of bioenergy is simple. Tap power of biology to convert carbon into useful forms of energy. How? By following Mother Nature. Most forms of energy arrived via biology. Coal is ancient ferns and biomass, oil is likely ancient microbes that lived in shallow seas. Both bio systems used the power of sunlight to combine carbon with hydrogen (from water) to form complex hydrocarbon chains. The modern Industrial world is based on capturing energy from blowing up those chemical bonds. Rather than extract ancient bioenergy, the 21st century might be about ‘growing energy’ using those same biological principles.

Focusing on Algae-derived biofuels
The idea of carbon eating algae derived biofuels continues to gain momentum around bioenergy researchers and investors. Last month business leaders, investors, and researchers gathered in Seattle, WA for the 2nd Annual Algae Biomass Summit sponsored by The Algal Biomass Organization.

Renewable Energy.com has a short recap of the event including a look at featured speakers and presence of the wider biofuels industry leaders. The number of attendees doubled to 700 from the inaugural conference of 350 people. And the profile of investor star power was raised as cleantech investor Vinod Khosla delivered the event’s keynote.

If things continue to expand, carbon eating ‘algae’ could become a big story in 2009 as investors continue to pump money into startups trying to scale low cost systems.

[Comprehensive list of algae biofuel companies]

Related posts from TheEnergyRoadmap.com

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IBM's vision of 'Smart Planet', expects sensors and software to launch era of Smart Infrastructure

November 07 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2020   Rating: 7 Hot

What happened?
Mark your calendars! The business case for ‘smart infrastructure’ has been made by one of the world’s biggest companies. On November 6th, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano delivered a speech (text / video) at the New York Council on Foreign Relations. Palmisano highlighted ‘Big Blue’s vision of a ‘Smart Planet’ and the tremendous near term opportunities in building out the global smart infrastructures for energy, water, information, and transportation of people and goods.

Palmisano echoed a vision described by visionaries and futurists long ago of a ‘digital planet’. Now we might expect broader endorsements for ‘smart infrastructure’ by mainstream business and policy leaders especially in the US under the incoming Obama Adminstration. We can also build more reliable forecasts and roadmaps based on expectations for investments and application of technologies that improve the flow of traffic (without adding more lanes), more efficient energy grids, wider access to clean water and food, improved personal safety, and more secure information flows around financial, governance, and healthcare information.

Quotes from Palmisano’s address:
What’s making this possible?
First, our world is becoming instrumented
There will likely be 4 billion mobile phone subscribers by the end of this year… and 30 billion Radio Frequency Identification tags produced globally within two years. Sensors are being embedded across entire ecosystems—supply-chains, healthcare networks, cities… even natural systems like rivers.

Second, our world is becoming interconnected
Very soon there will be 2 billion people on the Internet. But in an instrumented world, systems and objects can now “speak” to one another, too. Think about the prospect of a trillion connected and intelligent things—cars, appliances, cameras, roadways, pipelines… even pharmaceuticals and livestock.

Third, all things are becoming intelligent
New computing models can handle the proliferation of end-user devices, sensors and actuators and connect them with back-end systems. Combined with advanced analytics, those supercomputers can turn mountains of data into intelligence that can be translated into action, making our systems, processes and infrastructures more efficient, more productive and responsive—in a word, smarter.

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

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Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity is Not a Religion

November 06 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 4 Hot

At last week’s Singularity Summit, Future of Gadgets Editor John Heylin had the opportunity to ask a swarmed Ray Kurzweil, the face of exponential change and the Singularity, one question. As I scrambled to pull out my flip cam to capture the moment, he cut straight to the heart:

Do you feel the Singularity has become its own religious movement inside the science community?

Kurzweil began his response by acknowledging that though there are some people who seek the rapture according to their own preferences, that “the idea of the Singularity did not start from religion.” Instead the concept sprang from “over 30 years of technology trends research.”

But he did admit that it can seem similar to some of the concepts contained in religion:

“Some of the ideas look like a way of transcending our limitations. You can argue that’s what technology does in general, and given that it’s exponential it ultimately feels supposedly transcendent, so people use words like rapture.”

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How Many Pardons Will George W. Bush Award in the Coming Months?

November 06 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Government   Year: 2009   Rating: 7 Hot

Now that the 2008 U.S. presidential election has been settled it’s time to turn our attention to not just the next four years, but also the next 2 months. During this span the White House and Vice President’s Mansion will be non-stop flurry of activity. Documents will be stored, or shredded. New executive orders and signing statements will be generated. And presidential pardons and commutations will be awarded.

To date, George W. Bush has issued 157 pardons and commuted 6 people, including the infamous Scooter Libby. This already places him ahead of nine U.S. Presidents, mostly single-termers, on the list, but well behind Ulysses S. Grant (1332) and war-time leaders such as Harry Truman (2044), Woodrow Wilson (2480), and the all-time leader FDR (3687).

So how many pardons will W. award when all is said and done? It seems very likely that he will exceed his predecessor, Bill Clinton’s 456. But is it possible that he will eclipse FDR’s mammoth total? Judging by the way this administration has danced with the law (for good or for ill), is such a final flourish all that unthinkable?

Edit: Thanks to Will for pointing out that Grant was not in fact a war-time President, though he did serve as general during the Civil War.

X-Prize CEO Peter Diamandis Envisions a Race to Claim the Moon

November 03 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Space   Year: General   Rating: 2

As the costs associated with orbital escape and space flight continue to drop the stage will be set for a daring new company to lay claim to parts of the moon and nearby asteroids, posits X-Prize CEO Peter Diamandis.

Diamandis envisions that such a future could produce a “land rush” for rights to lunar surface area, as in this future fiction piece, and asteroid mining rights which could be valued at “hundreds of billions of dollars”. He believes such a resource race is likely to “drive huge investments in launch vehicles, brings the cost down, and open up the future in space that all of us can enjoy.”

Do you agree with such a scenario? Might space industry drive massive economic growth and get us up there along the way?

McKinsey Report: China could lead the world in Electric Vehicles within 20 years

October 30 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Transportation   Year: Beyond   Rating: 1

A recent McKinsey & Co publication titled “China Charges Up” believes that China should expand its capacity to build electric vehicles in the next two decades to avoid issues related to energy security and emissions.

Reuters provides highlights from the publication- ‘within twenty years China could create a world-leading industry and a domestic market alone worth up to US$219.4 billion, even if less than a third of drivers go electric.’ Not only is it plausible that China could emerge as a leader in this new industry, the report suggests is it the ‘Realistic Choice’ given expected constraints of oil supplies and carbon emission regulations.

Could rhetoric of ‘Independence’ fade, as Electric Cars go global?
We have written on several occasions (below) about how electric vehicles, based on the integration of batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors, are quickly becoming a globally integrated industry.

McKinsey does not need a crystal ball to conclude develop a forecast that China could tap its manufacturing might to lead the world in development of low-cost energy storage systems needed to transform the auto industry.

China’s real opportunity- Killing the combustion engine?
The world’s strategic opportunity is not to move beyond oil, but to kill the combustion engine platform which makes oil’s monopoly possible. Shifting to electric motors creates opportunities for ‘all’ energy inputs to create transportation fuels via electricity and hydrogen. (e.g. Today, you cannot put solar electricity into a combustion engine that uses liquid fuels) Domestic energy resources are only valuable to the transportation sector in a post-combustion engine and liquid fuel era.

Now we will see if this McKinsey & Co report brings a new way of thinking to a larger conversation dominated by the rhetoric of ‘energy independence’ that is not aligned with the reality of our global economy. The real upside of global economic interdependence might be the accelerated development of electric vehicles and industrial power provide by China.

Related posts from The Energy Roadmap.com
Detroit to World, Nobody has killed the Electric Car
GM plans to kill Combustion Engine
Electric vehicle industry going global as Asia invests in Energy storage
Hyundai releasing fuel cell car in 2012
India to produce electric cars for Europe
Warren Buffet invests in Chinese battery & electric car maker

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Robotic Pursuit Squads are a Forgone Conclusion

October 28 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Technology   Year: 2013   Rating: 2

How likely is it that 5 years from now, sometime in 2013, the U.S. government will employ a pack of search robots to track human fugitives, enemy combatants or other persons of interest?

Though such an endeavor would mark a serious increase in up-front and maintenance cost, it could also make operations safer for pursuing officers or soldiers and gradually increase the capture success rate. At the same time such a scenario would also thoroughly freak-out an American population increasingly on edge about government intrusion and technological capabilities.

Here’s an example of what such a future might look like, drawn by MemeBox illustrator Lars Olson:

As it turns out, just a few days ago the U.S. Army put out this call for bids on exactly such a project. Their desired outcome is for some smart folks to:

Develop a software and sensor package to enable a team of robots to search for and detect human presence in an indoor environment. [and] Develop a software/hardware suit that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject.

If in fact you doubt the near-term likelihood of such a technology suite and program, then look no further than nascent functional technologies such as the surprisingly agile and stable Big Dog robot and already marketed aerial microdrone cameras.

A quick look at these prototype vids should quickly get you on the path to belief:

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Nova Spivack: "Web OS" Midde-Ware Will Transform the Cloud Into Your Personal Distributed Desktop

October 27 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

To facilitate more efficient interaction with data and services available in the emerging web Cloud, we should build a Web OS or “middle-ware layer developers can write applications to”, says Twine creator Nova Spivack. Ideally, such a layer would be “brand agnostic” and serve as a neutral “marketplace for finding and orchestrating [all] services rather than one company’s services.”

“The middle-ware should be able to handle this without making me subscribe to anyone’s proprietary API,” paints Spivack, “So if I say, ‘I need to store something,’ the middle-ware layer, this Web OS, should say ‘Hmm, where do I get the best deal on storage right now?’ Maybe it’s Amazon, maybe it’s Google, maybe it’s another location.’”

Clearly such middle-ware would save time and generate other efficiencies, especially in the context of exponential information growth, creating “a major commercial opportunity” for the right developer, as Spivack points out.

Here’s the full Web OS scenario as presented by Spivack:

So the question then becomes, which organization will end up building out such a structure?

The usual suspects Google and Microsoft immediately pop into mind. Both have made big browser plays and understand the significance of The Cloud and human attention.

But perhaps it will prove too large or complex an effort or present a fundamental conflict of interest for such companies, in which case open-source efforts facilitated by the likes of the Mozilla Foundation may prove most effective.

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Will the New York Times get Sold-Off or Turn to New Media to Save Itslef?

October 24 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Social Media   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

Yesterday the New York Times Company announced that it has been so affected by the recent economic downturn that it may default on its debt. Coming on the heels of the worst advertising year for newspapers since 1950 things are not looking good for the typically stalwart American brand. With the prospect of more financial woes on the horizon, it is conceivable the company will be required to liquidate a significant portion of its assets come the new year.

On the flip side of the coin, this is also a great opportunity for management at the great American newspaper to guide it towards a more situationally appropriate new media model. As upstart blogs rake in the big bucks it’s about time the New York Times got hip to the times. With a bit of common sense and some luck they company will be able to avoid the sinister fate that awaits former giants such as GM.

Will the New York Time Co. weather 2009 without having to sell of its flagship newspaper?

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The Future of Intellectual Attribution: Quantifying the Massive Idea Sea Requires Convergence

October 22 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Education   Year: 2018   Rating: 1

Intellectual attribution is far from perfect, but as we systematically quantify the nature of the vast Idea Sea in which we swim, we will also create a more effective and equitable market for new innovations.

Last week a pair of Nobel Prize winning scientists conceded that much of their research had been based on an earlier study by a geneticist who now drives a shuttle for $8/hour just to keep food on the table, but of course didn’t go so far as to offer him a share of the $1.5 million prize they’d been awarded. This example clearly brings into focus the limits of our current idea attribution economy, a system that clearly isn’t encouraging a Nobel-caliber scientist to continue innovating for broader social benefit.

But rather than jump on the IP- and patent-bashing bandwagon as many bloggers tend to do, I’d like to explore how our idea attribution system might evolve over the coming decade.

First, let me be clear about my definition of the term “idea”. Ideas can more specifically be broken down into memes – “ideas or behaviors that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation”, memeplexes – “groups of religious, cultural, political, and idealogical doctrines and systems”, and temes – “information copied by books, phones, computers and the Internet”. These structures co-evolve with humans to ultimately form a massive sea of what we commonly refer to as ideas. Though individuals often combine memes into valuable new memeplexes, no one person can ever truly claim total ownership of a concept that is essentially an outgrowth of the idea sea.

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