Friday, September 30, 2011

Energy Miracle

At the influential TED conference last year, Bill Gates declared that if he were allowed one wish to improve humanity’s lot over the next 50 years, he would choose an “energy miracle”: a new technology that produced energy at half the price of coal with no carbon dioxide emissions. He explained that he’d rather have this wish than a new vaccine or medicine or even choose the next several American presidents. To help understand the reasoning behind Gates’s thinking, one should read Daniel Yergin’s intelligent new opus, “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.”

The Quest — By Daniel Yergin — Book Review -

Even though the abundance of fossil fuels is finite, it will continue to be available in the foreseeable future. However other risks of fossil fuels remain.
Unless we shift our ways. Burning fossil fuels has a cost — perhaps an
unbearable one. We now have a mountain of evidence that the 30 billion
tons of carbon dioxide that humans pump into the atmosphere every year
are changing the earth’s climate in ways that will have negative effects
for most people.
And currently the alternative energy sources do not fit the bill. Solar, wind, even nuclear all have their issues. The need for new technology in energy is at the forefront like never before.
The reason Bill Gates wishes for a technology that creates energy at
half the price of coal with no carbon dioxide emissions is that he wants
a technology so compelling that it is adopted by poor countries as well
as rich ones. Coal is plentiful worldwide, and unless the new
technology is much cheaper, China and India will never adopt it. And if
these two countries — which together are building four coal-fired power
plants a week — don’t get off coal, nothing that happens in the West
matters, since the levels of carbon dioxide they will pump into the
atmosphere will be well above the danger mark. Half the price of coal
and no carbon: That’s a tall order, which is why Gates is looking for a
miracle. But what he means is a technological miracle of the kind that
happens from time to time. The steam engine, the automobile, the
computer, the Internet are all miracles. We need something on that order
in energy — and fast.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

East and West

In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.

If It Feels Right -

While the author laments the disappearance of the group as a moral unit in favor of individualism in the West, there still too much of it in the East. While the individual freedom prevails in the West, this same freedom is curtailed in the East. Neither condition is ideal. A happy middle of personal freedom and morality will hopefully emerge one day East or West.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

French Revolution

With Dominique Strauss-Kahn out of the running there is just one French Socialist primary candidate who understands all this. Manuel Valls, a deputy and mayor with a refreshingly modern view of the left, says Socialists are not being straight by promising retirement at 60. He dares utter such truths as “we need to tell the French that the [budgetary] effort…will be as great as that achieved after Liberation”. Alas, the 49-year-old Mr Valls is considered too young to be a serious contender. The day the paleo-Socialists of the Mitterrand generation allow such figures to emerge would be the dawn of a real revolution.

Charlemagne: Among the dinosaurs | The Economist

Will France catch up with the revolutionary spirit that is taking place in different parts of the world?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Buy Signal?

The recent gyrations in global stock markets are just the beginning, says U.S.-based economist and author Harry Dent, who believes the Dow will fall below 10,000 in the near term before crashing to around 3,000 in 2013.

Dow Could Crash to 3,000 in 2013: Author - CNBC

Remember the book Dow 40,000? When published in 1999 perhaps it was an early sell signal and a predictor of the Dot Com crash that followed. As the height of optimism indicates a downturn, the trough of pessimism could be a buy signal! As the saying goes sell when they yell and buy when they cry. Dow 3,000: they are crying already!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reversal of Furtunes

He returned to Apple as an adviser in 1996, when the firm was in dire straits. A year later he was made interim chief executive. Asked at the time what he thought Mr Jobs should do with Apple, Michael Dell, a rival computer-maker, helpfully suggested that he should shut it down.
Mr Jobs ignored that advice. Instead he led the company on to its greatest triumphs.

Steve Jobs resigns: The minister of magic steps down | The Economist

Interesting case of reversal of fortunes. At the time Apple was in trouble, Dell was dominant.. Now it is the other way around. Could things turn around yet again?