15 October 2011

Greenhouse Gases, Energy Technology Capabilities, and the Re-localizing of our Village

Graciela, Miguel and I did something to reduce our carbon footprints. Our son goes to school 15 miles away. I was driving daily, that's 60 miles each day plus errands and after-school activities. Thanks to a classmate of his, I learned that our local transit authority here in Haverhill, Massachusetts (the MVRTA) actually goes there. The take-away: since they don't advertise much, one must look at the transit routes. Okay, onto the point.

To wordsmith a question - -  The LinkedIn.com  poll of the day queries where will technology bring the "greatest new capabilities" in the next three years - "Energy", "Transportation," Healthcare," or "Other?" Admittedly, I can't answer how "the greatest new capabilities" is quantified, perhaps through Twitter and  popular opinion, market analysis, scientific polling, royal decree or presidential executive order.

However, I can answer this: tonight 37% of the responses are "Energy", followed by 31% for "Healthcare" (the other areas are 16%, 9% and 7%). I applaud the notion that healthcare will yield great breakthroughs in research or perhaps healthcare delivery, and let's all hope so. But, the question posed is about "capabilities." 

I read the logic from this as, "Healthcare + New Technology =  New Healthcare Capabilities" -- but it is a non sequitur for me. I may be out of my league here, but healthcare isn't totally driven by technology - it is about delivery and distribution, and I find at least a few folks agreeing that there has to be a better use of resources; that will make the access-to-healthcare happen. For more logic and explanation on both sides of the healthcare capability syllogism, see this intelligent medical economics blog: http://economiclogic.blogspot.com/2011/05/medical-expenditure-and-technology.html  Perhaps someone reading this with with, say, an  undergrad philosophy degree, perhaps from B.U. and perhaps who is also a 3L at Suffolk Law School could do out a Venn Diagram and test this for me....

So, for healthcare, we need policies and people that can make what we already have work. No software, cure or transplant device is going to do that. The answer "Healthcare", is more appropriate to the question: "In the next three years, policy evolution and money will bring the greatest new capabilities to...."  Healthcare delivery, rather than capability, will be driven strictly by policy (and money), not technology. Whether new technologies make healthcare more affordable, and thus lead to greater new capabilities is a second-tier analysis.

Inventive Technology will lead to new energy capabilities. Though like healthcare we will need intelligent policy to drive, implement and manage new technologies (i.e., we were/are not scientifically, socially or ethically evolved to properly manage atomic power), we must have the technology before any new "capabilities" in production, storage, delivery and distribution will happen. Consider then as true:  Energy + New Technologies = New Energy Capabilities.

In responding to the LinkedIn.com poll tonight, I believe these great changes will be in the sustainable and renewable energy realm. I have two primary reasons and a third possible reason that supports my opinion. (1) The EU already has a targeted plan, 'ENERGY 2020: A strategy for competitive, sustainable and 
secure energy" (see the links below), and (2) there are great strides is some EU countries (like Germany) toward the first 20% goal. Third, my wishful-thinking (and why I will vote for President Barack H. Obama again) is, (3) The USA must kick-start a focused, competitive program during or after the 2012 presidential election year. If it does, there will be practically unlimited resources pulling and pushing in the right direction quickly. 

Working in a reverse metric one-year after the Presidential Inauguration Day, January 20, 2013 the LinkedIn three-year target is about right. I am not discounting an industrial drive to the finish here, as the utilities and collateral industries are developing programs and seeking the solutions, but I am discouraged that there is no targeted, widely accepted collaborative approach as in the EU. Rather, It appears to be a free market distributive (winner-loser) approach in the USA for energy technology solutions.

Edison's carbon filament lamp, 1880.

The light bulb was only as good as the power system providing its power. Edison's DC system vs. Nikola Tesla's AC system. We do not have that kind of time to start the process fresh. Tesla's last research worked on problems of transmitting electric power without wire in a day where the power infrastructure was new, and the frontier, vast.

The Village getting back to being local. We are re-evolving to a re-localized economy and village with the benefit of Global connectivity the game changer. An over-the-road interstate economy is becoming too costly. We cannot keep up with travel both personally and at corporate levels. We have to re-evaluate carbon as Edison did for his long-lasting filament; we have to know about our own carbon footprints, greenhouse gases. We will be staying closer to home, working closer or at home and driving fewer miles in our still-inefficient vehicles. This means closer, smaller or home schools, community centers that are truly local, accessible community centers or villages, nearer places of worship or sub-congregations, localized food production or larger storage capacity - the mega-Market Basket in our area is the edifice that testifies to this, and if you please -- Mass Transit that gets us "there and back again", which it appears to be doing.

Much will be done in interactive energy monitoring. This is where the PC and your kid's iPod comes in. Look, some 9th grade tech genius is writing the code right now in her basement, and she will sell it to NSTAR, NGRID and the U.S. Government, or China. AND we need the true collaboration of the great minds that are with us, and new ones of the likes of Edison, Swan, Tesla, and Jobs to step to the fore. 

Click for the European Union's European Commission energy plan document: EU's Energy2020 Plan 
Click for the EU Citizen's Summary Document: EU Summary Document
Till the next time,
Jonathan C. Goldfield  15 Oct.. 2011