HP Innovates in the Third World

Hewlett-Packard delivers a creative technology solution to poor villages in India. Very impressive!

Neelamma, a 26-year-old woman, has found opportunity as a new type of entrepreneur. She’s one of a dozen itinerant photographers who walk the streets of their farming communities carrying small backpacks stuffed with a digital camera, printer, and solar battery charger. As part of an experiment organized by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ ), Neelamma and the others are able to double their family incomes by charging the equivalent of 70 cents apiece for photos of newborns, weddings, and other proud moments of village life.

To make this happen, HP had to throw out its notions of how the tech business works. Anand Tawker, the company’s director of emerging-market solutions in India, and his colleagues wrestled with fundamental questions: Does computing technology have a place in villages where electricity is fitful? Could it improve people’s lives? How could villagers living in poverty pay for the latest digital wonders? And they came up with answers. In place of standard electricity, HP designers created the portable solar charger. Instead of selling the gear outright, HP rents the equipment to the photographers for $9 a month. “We asked people what they needed. One thing kept coming up: ‘We want more money in our pockets,”‘ says Tawker. “So we do experiments. We launch and learn.”

Link BW Online | September 27, 2004 | Tech’s Future

CalTech Scientist Discusses Replacing Our Dependence on Oil

This article is adapted from a presentation by Caltech vice provost and professor of physics and applied physics David Goodstein:

So, what does the future hold? Well, for one thing, there will be an oil crisis very soon. Whether that means it has already begun or won’t happen until later in this decade or sometime in the next decade, I don’t know. In my view, the numbers are not dependable enough for us to say. However, while the difference between those estimates may be very important to us, it’s of no importance at all on the timescale of human history. Either we, our children, or perhaps our grandchildren, are in for some very, very bad times. If we turn to all the other fossil fuels and burn them up as fast as we can, they will all probably start to run out by the end of the 21st century. Assuming that our planet remains habitable after such a vast consumption binge, we will have to invent a way to live without fossil fuels. (See sidebar “Too Hot To Handle?”)

How about hydrogen? Both President Bush and California governor Schwarzenegger have publicly embraced hydrogen as a solution to our fuel problems. But there are only two commercially viable ways of making hydrogen. One is to make it out of methane, which is a fossil fuel. The other is to use fossil fuel to generate the electricity that you need to electrolyze water and get hydrogen. The economics of doing that are such that you end up using the equivalent of six gallons of gasoline to make enough hydrogen to replace one gallon of gasoline. So this solution is not a winner in the short run. In the long run, if the problem of harnessing thermonuclear fusion can be solved and we have more power than we know what to do with, you could use that form of energy to make hydrogen for mobile fuel. I’ll get to that a little later.

There is also wind power, which many now see as a viable energy alternative. And it is, but only to a limited extent. In regions like northern Europe, where fossil fuels are very expensive and the wind is really strong, wind power will someday come to rival hydroelectric power as a source of energy. But there are relatively few places on earth where the wind blows strongly and steadily enough for it to be a dependable energy source, and people don’t really like wind farms—they’re ugly and they’re noisy. Wind power will always be a part of the solution. But it’s not a magic bullet. It’s not going to save us.

In recent years, the debate over nuclear power has revived, with proponents maintaining that we can find environmentally sound and politically acceptable ways to deal with the waste and security hazards. But even assuming that to be true, the potential is limited. To produce enough nuclear power to equal the power we currently get from fossil fuels, you would have to build 10,000 of the largest possible nuclear power plants. That’s a huge, probably nonviable initiative, and at that burn rate, our known reserves of uranium would last only for 10 or 20 years.

As things stand today, the only possible substitutes for our fossil-fuel dependency are light from the sun and nuclear energy. Developing a way of running a civilization like ours on those resources is an enormous challenge. A great deal of it is social and political—we’re in the midst of a presidential election, and have you heard either party say a word about this extremely important subject? But there are also huge technical problems to be solved. So, you might well ask, what can Caltech do to help?

The ultimate solution to our energy problem would be to master the power of controlled thermonuclear fusion, which we’ve been talking about doing for more than half a century. The solution has been 25 years away for the past 50 years, and it is still 25 years away. Beyond those sobering statistics, there are at least five or six schemes for harnessing fusion energy that I know of.

The fact that these and similar scientific and technical efforts are under way at Caltech and elsewhere are encouraging, but they are not enough. What we really need is leadership with the courage and vision to talk to us as John F. Kennedy did in 1960, when he pledged to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It’s the same kind of problem. We understand the basic underlying scientific principles, but we have huge technical problems to overcome.

If our leaders were to say to the scientific and technical community, “We will give you the resources, and you—right now, even before it becomes imperative—will find a way to kick the fossil-fuel habit,” I think that it could be done. But we have to have the political leadership to make it work.


via Jamais Cascio

Inflation: The Optimistic View

Here’s the short-term view that inflation is not a problem, from A. Gary Shilling:

The deflationary forces that I’ve been addressing since 1998 and 1999 are still hard at work. Besides global excess capacity and the increasing importance of mass retailers like Wal-Mart, robust productivity growth will be promoted by the ongoing burst of semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, the Internet, biotech and other new tech. These and other factors will, I believe, lead to an era of mild, 1% to 2% annual deflation rates—the good deflation of new tech driven productivity increases and excess supply, as was seen in the U.S. in the late 1800s and 1920s, and not the bad deflation of deficient demand experienced during the Great Depression and, more recently, in Japan.

So I see the current rise in inflation as being one more brief up tick within the disinflationary trend of the past 23 years. And, so far, the Federal Reserve apparently agrees. The central bank will probably continue to raise its federal funds target rate at a moderate pace, perhaps by one-quarter of a point every six weeks at its policy meetings, through the end of the year.

And then, as concerns about inflation turn to renewed worries about deflation, the Federal Reserve will switch from raising to cutting interest rates.

Link InvestorsInsight.com

Inflation: The Pessimistic View

Here’s a long-term view of the consequences of current economic policies from Jim Puplava:

The government has three ways of obtaining money. Unfortunately increasing taxes is not a popular choice. Taxation is unpopular with the people. The last two presidents to raise taxes in the U. S. were George Bush senior and Bill Clinton. Bush Senior lost his reelection bid over the tax issue and Clinton lost Democratic control over Congress. Because taxes are unpopular with the people, governments resort to an indirect means of taxation. It is what we know as inflation. If the government can find a means of expropriating resources without the direct knowledge of its subjects, they will do so. In effect what the government resorts to is a form of counterfeiting. By creating money “out of thin air,” the government is creating its own money that wasn’t appropriated directly through taxation. Counterfeiting is simply another name for inflation.

As I mentioned earlier, inflation creates no social benefit for society. It is simply a means of redistributing wealth from producers to nonproducers. Inflation creates no new wealth. No new goods or capital stock are created by it. Wealth is simply transferred to those who benefit first from the creation of the new money. This is usually the bankers and the financial system through fractional reserve banking or the government through debt monetization. It takes time for inflation to work its way through the financial system and the economy. Those who receive the new money first profit the most from it. By the time the expansion of money works its way through the system in the way of higher prices, the people are the last to know. The inflation profiteers have long since made their profits. Society as a whole must now bear the cost of that inflation through higher prices.

However, in order to keep playing the game and expropriate the people’s money, the inflation profiteers must keep the people fooled. That is why all government and central bank actions are shrouded with an air of mystery or secrecy. FOMC meetings are enshrined with a religious reverence. The meetings are conducted under the air of priestly secrecy. In his book “Secrets of the Temple,” author William Greider says it well by stating, “Like the temple, the Fed did not answer to the people, it spoke for them. Its decrees were cast in a mysterious language people could not understand, but its voice, they knew, was powerful and important…The Public’s confusion over money and its ignorance of money politics were heightened by the scientific pretensions of economics. Average citizens simply could not understand the language, and most economists made no effort to translate for them.” [8]

It is my belief that we are now embarked on a journey that will take us into a hyperinflationary depression. There may be brief deflationary spurts that punctuate this journey along the way, but an examination of history leads me to conclude hyperinflation is much more likely than deflation. Unlike the U.S. economy during the 1930s or Japan in the 1990s, the U.S. economy is no longer self sufficient in capital, manufacturing, and energy. And unlike the 1930s, our currency is no longer backed by gold. The U.S. is now the world’s largest debtor nation versus the world’s largest creditor nation as we were in the 30’s. We are no longer self sufficient in energy as we were during the last depression. We import 60 percent of our energy needs, a percentage that is growing each decade. We must also compete with other nations for the world’s last remaining barrels of oil as we enter into the twilight of the oil age. During the 30’s the U.S. created the Texas Railroad Commission to regulate oil and prop up prices because of the abundance of oil in this country. In contrast to the 1930s, U.S. oil and natural gas production decline each year. This forces the U.S. to import more of its energy needs, energy we pay for with dollars. When the world no longer accepts those dollars as payment, the full impact of inflation will hit home.

Link FSO Perspectives “The Great Inflation, Part 1 The Nature of Money” by Jim Puplava 09/23/2004

via Charles Kirk

The Carbon Trade

While some NGOs and “green” businesses favor the carbon trade and view it as a win-win solution that reconciles environmental protection with economic prosperity, some environmentalists and grassroots organizations claim that it is no answer to environmental problems and that it does not address the causes of global warming. By Carmelo Ruiz

Global warming has spawned a new form of commerce: the carbon trade. This new economic activity involves the buying and selling of “environmental services.” Such “services,” which include the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, are identified and purchased by eco-consulting firms and then sold to individual or corporate clients to “offset” their polluting emissions. While some NGOs and “green” businesses favor the carbon trade and view it as a win-win solution that reconciles environmental protection with economic prosperity, some environmentalists and grassroots organizations claim that it is no answer to environmental problems and that it does not address the causes of global warming.

The carbon trade works like this: an eco-consultancy that brokers environmental services conducts an eco-audit of a client and comes up with a presumably accurate estimate of how much carbon the client’s activities release to the atmosphere. Carbon is the common denominator in all polluting gases that cause global warming.

At the other end of the operation, the firm scours the world in search of environmental services that could offset its client’s emissions. These services are usually forests and tree-planting projects and are known in the business as carbon assets or carbon sinks, because trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in their wood. The activity of these sinks is often called carbon sequestration.

Using a variety of methodologies, the environmental services broker arrives at an estimate of how much carbon a particular sink sequesters, and then assigns it a monetary value and sells it to a client. The client then subtracts from its carbon account the carbon sequestered by its newly purchased carbon sink. The client is said to be carbon-neutral or climate-neutral when its carbon assets equal its carbon emissions.

Link GreenBiz News | The Carbon Trade

Carmelo Ruiz is author of a bilingual blog on biotechnology, globalization, free trade, and the environment.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August issue of Z Magazine.

Energy Use and Greener Buildings

Energy prices and atmospheric temperatures are rising—putting energy efficiency on everyone’s front burner as a smart environmental and business practice. Reducing energy consumption—particularly from nonrenewable sources—will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operating, manufacturing, and consumption costs.

Buildings consume approximately 37% of the energy and 68% of the electricity produced in the United States annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The good news is that by increasing efficiency, businesses and industry can also save money. Energy-management practices and energy-efficient equipment can reduce a plant’s energy costs by at least 20%—a net savings opportunity worth more than $11 billion by 2010 for the U.S.

But that’s not the whole story. Carbon-dioxide emissions from energy consumed by the commercial sector have jumped nearly 30% since 1980, the fastest rate of increase of any sector in the United States. Industry is another big emissions culprit: In 1997, industrial users burned fossil fuels to run motors, generate heat, operate machinery, and light buildings, consuming 37% of total U.S. energy and sending approximately 1.5 billion metric tons of emissions boiling into the atmosphere—a dangerous brew of carbon-dioxide, methane, and nitrous-oxide gases.

The upside is reduced long-term costs. Many energy-efficiency measures do not require additional first costs. Those measures that do result in higher first costs often create savings realized from lower energy use over the building lifetime, downsized equipment, reduced mechanical space needs, and utility rebates. Payback periods for many off-the-shelf energy efficiency measures are generally short.

Use of on-site renewable energy technologies can also result in energy cost savings, particularly if peak hour demand charges are high. Renewable energy can be generated on a building site by using technologies that convert energy from the sun, wind, and biomass into usable energy. On-site renewable energy is superior to conventional energy sources such as coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas, and hydropower generation, because of its negligible transportation costs and impacts. Utility rebates are often available to reduce first costs of renewable energy equipment. In some states, first costs can be offset by net metering, where excess electricity is sold back to the utility.

Link Greener Buildings | Backgrounders

Builders Break Ground on ‘World’s Most Environmentally Responsible High-Rise Office Building’

NEW YORK, Aug. 4, 2004 – Bank of America and The Durst Organization have broken ground on the construction of the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, a 945-foot-tall crystalline skyscraper that will rise in Midtown Manhattan. Located on the west side of Sixth Avenue, between 42nd and 43rd Street, the high-rise office tower is scheduled to open in 2008.

Bank of America Tower will serve as the headquarters for Bank of America’s operations in New York City, and house its global corporate and investment banking, wealth and investment management and consumer and commercial banking businesses. The bank will occupy roughly half of the 2.1 million square foot structure. The unique size of the building’s footprint will enable Bank of America to operate six major trading floors there, ranging in size from 43,000 to 99,000 square feet.

Upon completion, Bank of America Tower will be the world’s most environmentally responsible high-rise office building and the first to strive for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation. The project incorporates innovative, high-performance technologies to use dramatically less energy, consume less potable water and provide a healthy and productive indoor environment that prioritizes natural light and fresh air.

With an emphasis on sustainability, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and energy and atmosphere, the Bank of America Tower will be constructed largely of recycled and recyclable building materials. It will feature a wide range of sophisticated environmental technologies, from filtered under-floor displacement air ventilation to advanced double-wall technology and translucent insulating glass in floor-to-ceiling windows that permit maximum daylight and optimum views. It also will include a state-of-the-art onsite 4.6-megawatt cogeneration plant, providing a clean, efficient power source for the building’s energy requirements.

The Bank of America Tower will save millions of gallons of water annually through such innovative devices such as a gray-water system to capture and reuse all rain and wastewater, while planted roofs will reduce the urban heat island effect. Taking advantage of heat energy from the cogeneration plant, a thermal storage system will produce ice in the evenings, which will reduce the building’s peak demand loads on the city’s electrical grid. Daylight dimming and LED lights will reduce electric usage while carbon dioxide monitors automatically introduce more fresh air when necessary. By fundamentally changing the way buildings are conceived, Bank of America Tower will lead the change in the way high-rise buildings are built.

Link GreenBiz News | Builders Break Ground on ‘World’s Most Environmentally Responsible High-Rise Office Building’

LEED Trends in 2004

Four years after its debut, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System continues to make inroads into the development industry. There are over 1,200 registered projects now, and five new LEED products in development. Council membership is now over 4,500 companies, with many of those new members joining because of LEED.

What is driving such a cautious and conservative industry to accelerate adoption of something new and different — even risky — at such a pace? The answer is complex but clearly revealed through five key trends: knowledge based demand, wide owner adoption, deep sector penetration, strong creative demographics, and innovators pushing limits.

Knowledge-Based Demand

There is a growing concern about the consequences of what and where we build. Building owners are increasingly focused on how their projects can create environmental, economic and social benefits, as opposed to impacts….

Wide Owner Adoption

LEED seems to be just as appealing to the private sector as to the public sector — the trend is running at about a 50/50 split….

Deep Sector Penetration

As most owners learn that a goal of LEED certification can also lead to people, prosperity and planet performance improvements, they are using the standard in new ways to fit their building typology. LEED has been used to drive the design of offices sure, but it is also driving design of schools, wastewater plants, military barracks, retail, courts, banks and even jails!…

The Creative Demographics

As you investigate LEED certified buildings, a curious pattern emerges at the highest level of the development teams. On green building projects that push the envelope you will invariably find the creative class present….

Innovators Pushing Limits

In the diffusion of innovation theory, innovators lead their peers to new technologies and strategies. As their efforts become known, the early adopters and early majority begin to implement the same moves. A singular characteristic of innovators is that they are not afraid to fail, and if they do so, they are not afraid to try again. Early adopters are also driven by the need for something different, not by cost issues….

Right Time, Right Place

These five trends indicate that the time for change in the development industry is upon us. Quality information about what we build and its effect on the environment and people is widely available. Owners are asking for a new outcome; they want to change the relationship of man and the built environment. These concerns are universal: all market sectors are experiencing the same phenomenon.

People are beginning to act. The creative class, those readers of labels, are reading about buildings and they want to buy the best. Best for their people, best for the environment, and best for their business. And at the forefront of this movement are the innovators. They understand that sustainable development is not an option; it is essential for our nation, for the world. They are putting the lead in LEED.

Link Greener Buildings | News

Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government: Church and State

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." –Thomas Jefferson to Danbury Baptists, 1802.

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." –Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1813.

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." –Thomas Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814.

Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government

Jefferson on Politics & Government: Governed by Reason

"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth." –Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804

"A government of reason is better than one of force." –Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1820

Link Jefferson on Politics & Government: Governed by Reason