Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Nonsense About Clean Coal Exposed

As Treehugger, my favorite renewable energy and environmental blog broke this story which some may have missed, here is a reprise based upon their follow-up on this story:

A dyke holding coal ash broke in tennessee two days ago leaking 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash sludge and destroying 400 acres of farmland, 12 homes and a train and leading to lawsuits worth $ 165 million against the Tennessee Valley Authority. Leave the lawsuits aside - I think the landowners deserve every penny of what they are asking for - the filth that has escaped into the open contains mercury, selenium and arsenic, though, in its infinite wisdom, the EPA does not consider it hazardous.

Now, my qiestion, especially because Coal India Ltd has gone overboard buying coal mines in Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming, is this: do you want a similar disaster in India? In a country where the average farm is 15 acres in size and provides barely more than subsistence to the farmer? Just imagine if this happened in the rich agricultural town of Neyveli which already has several thermal power plants and is planning to build several more. Would be great for the already poor food supplies, wouldn't it? India imports wheat these days. How about importing rice as well once the fields get destroyed in Northern Tamil Nadu from an environmental disaster of this kind?

Stupidity will never cease. I guess that is why Mirza Ghalib wrote (referring to India, his beloved country and to Delhi, his dear city) in the 19th century: "Iss duniya mein bewakoofon ki kami nahin hai Ghalib / Ek dhoondho to dus hazaar milte hain." Roughtly translated into English, this means, "There is no shortage of fools in the world. If you go looking for one, you are certain to find ten thousand instead."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

US Now Largest Wind Power Producer

Ecogeek brings this news via Cleantechnika that the USA has beaten Germany as the world's foremost wind power producing nation: In what has otherwise been a pretty bad year, this is amazing news, indeed, and I hope that the American spirit of competitiveness and a similar spirit in other countries would make the world use as much additional wind power as possible in the future. This can only be good news to a blog that aims to show fossil fuels the fist. Way to go, America! Congratulations and don't slow down, please!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Problems that renewable Energy Businesses Face

Mohanakrishnan has sent me this piece from The Deccan Herald about how Wind Energy producers have been getting shafted by electric utilities in my former home state of Tamil Nadu in India (where Mohanakrishnan resides now) - please go to and go on to Page 6. Turns out that even after getting funding and setting up a business to get it running, you are nowhere close to making routine, steady profits thanks to the arrogant and stupid ways of the Central and various State governments in India. Is there any doubt over why this sector has not been advancing much, if it has been advancing at all? And, do you see why I continue to remain a pessimist as far as my country of birth is concerned?

A Cheap Refrigerator for Use in The Third World

EcoGeek has this piece about a very interesting development in refrigeration - a refrigerator that is heated on a stove or using any kind of cheap fuel and then placed inside a special thermos type container where it freezes whatever is placed inside it for 24 hours: The price also seems to be very reasonable. I can see a huge demand for this especially in South Asia. Every tea shop in the little bazaars, for example, would need these as would farmers who bear the worst brunt as far as getting regular supplies of electricity are concerned.

WARNING: DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS PROVIDED BELOW THE ECOGEEK POST. They lead to a fraud anti-virus site. Google up information about Adam Grosser instead.

Green Businesses and the Possible Dangers of Investing in Them

Good friend Mohanakrishnan posted this analysis on his investments blog about a company that has plans to manufacture biodiesel in the Southern Indian city of Hyderabad: and raises some very interesting questions that highlight not only the possible benefits and risks of investing in green businesses, but also, by extension, of the difficulties that potential entrepreneurs in this area face. The company that he speaks about is planning to manufacture and supply Bio-diesel to a Bus Transport company. It also plans to make money by selling carbon credits for the whole business of growing Jatropha and collecting carbon offset payments from polluting industries elsewhere. While, on the surface, this seems like a good idea, how is a potential investor to evaluate the business concerned before putting their money into the concerned company's shares? And, conversely, how is a potential entrepreneur who has plans to do something similar, to raise money for his / her business? The questions are intriguing, and, if you ask me, worrying as well. On them depends the future of the green dconomy to use a heavily clicheed term. Any responses to this question would be most welcome.

Transparent Photovoltaic Windows

Treehugger has this entry about a very exciting new technology that could make harnessing the energy of the sun not just easier, but also in keeping with the glass framed esthetics of modern buildings: A company called RSI Solar has developed windows that are transparent like normal glass windows and which convert sunlight falling on them into electricity. I can see how valuable this would be in the huge software complexes that are being built all over India not to mention large office blocks which try to mimic buildings in North America if the owners of the buildings were to replace their regular windows with these. And there is an additional benefit - these windows would also reduce heating inside and make the demand for power required for airconditioning smaller. All in all an excellent option for improving energy efficiency while keeping the appearance of buildings conventional.

RSI Solar's website is: Do check the link out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Greenpeace's Youtube Page

While I am not personally convinced about Greenpeace (or, for that matter about any NGO) they do have a decent Youtube page with some documentaries: Their stand against fossil fuels is encouraging but the reason why they oppose its use are very different from those that I have. In the end, I guess, their views boil down to their extreme left wing views on politics and economics. Mine are more conservative. But, hey, if people like me are to spread a world-view about showing fossil fuels the fist, the easiest way to do this would be to ride in the wake of the waves that a huge outfit like Greenpeace creates with every one of its campaigns.

Good luck to them with their work. And do enjoy their videos when you find time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What Does Not Work for Renewable Energy in the West is Exactly What Would Make it Work in India

The one thing that the media in South Asia in particular need to look at is how the Western media focuses on issues of importance to the markets that they cover and to the rest of the world by extension - there has been a major focus on renewable energy in recent months in virtually every major US newspaper and magazine as journalists fill a very strong public need for more information on this subject. The facts are clear - the world cannot afford to depend on the Middle Eastern monarchies to blackmail it over its energy needs. Correspondingly, we cannot afford pollution caused by fossil fuel based vehicles, powerplants etc. There has to be an effort at maximizing efficiency and the positive thing is that increasing public sentiment in favor of this is making even reluctant governments to act. This is not a debate over global warming - that is for scientists to concern themselves with and let those of us who are not as well informed know what the facts are. That said, this is about the environment that we live in. If our water and air are cleaner, if the foods we eat are healthier and if we spend less on transport, on heating our homes etc, we all stand to gain.

Which brings me to the point of this post: the record cold weather this winter across the USA and Canada has forced several solar powered homes to draw electricity from the grid as this New York Times piece shows: Which suggests that for parts of the world which do not endure snow ever, and this means 90% or more of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, or about one and a half billion people in all, solar power is a very real substitute for coal or other dirty power. The warmer weather that these parts of the world experiences also means that biodiesel can be used the year round if active efforts are made at collecting used cooking oil for example and also that wind turbines are a much better option because there is no question of their blades icing and fracturing. In effect, this means that these countries are ideally endowed with everything that would be required to use renewable energy year round.

The unfortunate part is that stupid politicians and bureaucrats and incompetent policy commentors are responsible for throwing a spanner in the works whenever anyone even thinks about any of this. It is unfortunate that the negative posts here outnumber the positive ones two to one, but that is how it is. Hopefully, things will change for the better. Personally, I prefer to be an optimist even if what I see around me is nothing but doom and gloom.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Interesting New Concept for Storing Wind Power

While I subscribe to the New York Times' Green Inc Blog along with several other excellent ones and they are all accessible from my page, I always post information that I find particularly fascinating and this is one such article: The main argument against wind power (and for that matter solar or tidal power) has been consistency. Wind speeds, for example, vary at different times during the day, resulting in varying power generation. This article talks about Compressed Air Energy Storage, one of the new ideas for storing power to use it when required.

This is a very positive development because, if it is perfected, this would enable wind power to be used as an only power source instead of being a supplementary one. One mroe development to watch with fingers crossed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A New and High Tech Wind Turbine Design

As visitors here would know, I have been following the Pickens Plan whenever I find time. You do get some very interesting ideas there from engineers and entrepreneurs and even those who are in countries other than the USA need to look at this website from time to time to check some of these ideas out. One of the very interesting new ideas that has been written about there by the developer is that of the Dragonfly Wind Turbine: Looking like a jet engine turned into a wind turbine, this is designed around the Bernoulli's Principle. if I go back to my high school days in India, that principle reads, in the quaint English that is still used in India, "when air passes through a tube of unequal cross-section, at the point of constriction, the pressure decreases and the velocity increases." It is this principle that is used to build aerofoils and to give the curved top shape to aeroplane wings. The Dragonfly team are working at designing this into a turbine design.

Here's wishing them all the very best! They have assured me that I would get continuous information from them as their work goes ahead and I hope to post more regularly as I have this information. Do check their website out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More of What Won't Be Available in India Thanks to Governmental Stupidity

To add to the duffer-headedness in Delhi which makes for no real availability of clean power, there are good vehicles which would work on electricity and which would be excellent for India considering the low speeds that are typical of Indian city traffic, very high fuel costs, and the horrendous pollution that is a hallmark of Indian cities.

They won't be available because the country doesn't want to build the infrastructure to support them. Look at what is missing and which will continue to remain missing and weep:

1. The Optimal Energy Joule Van How about a 7 seat passenger van which runs on electricity and can go 400 km on a full charge?

2. The Nemo Urban Truck Like a number of Canadian electric neighborhood vehicle designs (all are restricted to 30 km/hr maximum speeds and are not permitted on expressways) this would be a superb, low polluting vehicle for the Indian streets especially for transporting food etc - home and office deliveries are becoming big in India. Why can't the country look at making life easier for the Mumbai dabbawalas, for example? Do the hard working, simple dabbawalas who have the country's first six sigma business, not deserve to modernize? And if they could do it using clean power, wouldn;t it be even better?

3. Considering how many townships are being built (luxury ghettos is what I call them) how bad would it be if the promoters kept cars away from individual buildings in garages at an external perimeter and used vehicles like these to transport people to their homes and back to the parking areas? The buildings could have thin film solar photovoltaic generators on their roofs to cherge them, or rooftop wind turbines. Keeping cars away from the actual buildings would keep the children safer, keep pollution further away and also provide security especially if visitors are also vetted and kept away until they are actually brought to the buildings in these vehicles by security staff. After Mumbai, you would think that some common sense would enter the builders' brains. Sadly, these seem infected with the same stupidity virus that affects the babu-neta cliques across the country.

Yes, this is one more angry post. If you're as angry as I am in agreeing with me, or for that matter, angry at me for my views, do post back. Yes, I am interested in seeing what happens in response to these posts. As I always tell my friends, bouquets and brickbats are equally welcome.

I Wonder What Will Wake the Delhi Dunderheads Up and Get them to Look at This . . .

The city of New York, arguably one of the world's wealthiest cities even after the thieves on Wall Street stole billions and continue to steal more, has decided, very wisely I must admit, to harness the power of the rivers flowing through it to light the city. The company in question, Verdant Power: is also doing projects in Canada. There are British, Spanish and Portuguese companies who are equally advanced in this area. But one country with a long coastline and a centuries old seafaring tradition, the land of my birth, cannot be bothered to look at using this inexhaustible source of energy - India.

As I think of heavily energy-deprived coastal and riverside cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Vizag etc, there is absolutely nor eason why these cities should not get power from the water that flows on their shores or through the cities themselves. There is no reason why these cities should find themselves with 10 hours or longer in power cuts a day just because the bozos who rule the states that they are located in and the bigger bunch of clowns who are in Delhi don't have the slightest clue about what to do.

Let me point out the sheer stupidity of what is happening in India here:

1. Coal India Ltd has been buying up coal mines in Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming to ferry coal across to India and ruin the already stinking air even more as there is a shortage of coal in the country to generate power with. What about the cost of transporting the coal there? What happens if the Saudis and their partners in crime at OPEC decide to unilaterally hike oil prices like they are working on at the moment? Does anyone in Delhi have the slightest clue about how they would handle this other than get buffoons like P Chidambaram to make pious claims about how great the Indian economy is?

2. Over the past two years, the Neyveli Lignite Corporation has commissioned a 400 MW coal fired powerplant and is set to acquire an additional 1000 MW one. Once again, the coal will come from overseas - the air in Chennai wills tink even more, and the relatively clean air in Pondicherry, Cuddalore etc will also be affected. Fantastic, yes? And Indian money - difficult to earn under the best of circumstances what with bribes paid to the thieves in various government departments - will be squandered on buying and transporting coal from overseas instead of on building permanent infrastructure that would never require any fuel if they build wave powerplants

3. My good friend in Chennai, Mohanakrishnan who has a superb investment blog and I have been talking about the power situation in Chennai in particular and it is particularly bad. News that I have from Bangalore from another very savvy friend, Manoj Barai, is equally unfortunate. Now, when common people are as concerned about the problems that face the country and are aware of the technologies that the rest of the world is using successfully to fight the fossil fuel crisis, why on earth can't the morons in Delhi get their brains to work and find out about the state of the art worldwide? Is this because most of the clowns in government cannot even figure out how to use the internet? But when "commentators on public policy" like the often criticized C A Sadanand (on these blogs at least, where I have little sympathy for ignoramuses who fob themselves off as "authorities" on subjects that they are particularly ignorant about) are the government's eyes and ears on issues like this, what on earth can anyone expect?

4. The Indian economy is a mess - take it from me. A year and a half ago my wife was keen on buying a home in India and went there to check the place out. She returned determined not to waste any money on the place. It took her more than an hour to do a short trip from my former workplace to my parents' home, a trip that, even in the heavily crowded past when I drove there, took less than 20 minutes. The pollution was horrendous back then. I can imagine how much worse it is now. But no, the jokers who run the country have no idea what they should do. No intention, therefore, of putting up clean generation systems and of focusing on electric transportation. Companies like Tata sell electric cars in Norway but cannot do this in India thanks to the miserable goernment of India. When Indian businesses try to do something, they are let down by the government

Yeah, this is an angry post. I am continuously frustrated by the stupidity that exists in Indian government offices - the people of the country are intelligent but, somehow, they manage to get the biggest jokers you can find anywhere to rule over them. Some of them live abroad - I do myself - but we keep our Indian passports, and, friends who have become American or Canadian citizens decades ago, cherish their Indian dual citizenship (I call it second class citizenship because it is worthless as anything other than a multi-entry visa) more than they do their US or Canadian citizenships. This pathetic state of affairs has to end - will it ever? Again, I am a pessimist on this.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Excellent Forbes Opinion Piece on Solar Energy

I have posted from several business magazines here before to make a case for renewable energy - if these hard-nosed journals think that this is a good idea, I cannot understand why ill-informed skeptics get so much attention. In any case, here is an excellent piece from Forbes:

I wish they had an article-specific Permalink but they don't seem to have that. That said, they have a Clean Tech RSS Feed and that goes right into my list of Blogs that I shall be following if any visitors here want to check them out.

My hat's off to Forbes for this very intelligently written piece.

UPS Begins to use Pedal Power and Hydraulic Hybrid Trucks

In the New Yorl Times' Green Inc Blog there is this interesting article about UPS now using pedal transportation to make deliveries for the Christmas season along with Hydraulic Hybrid Trucks: I do think this is a good idea - fortunately, in South Asia, bicycles are used by Postal services quite well. But the idea of hydraulic hybrid trucks is very interesting to say the least. It does look like a technology that could be used by the various van manufacturers in India on their vehicles without all that much difficulty - just check the Youtube video at the link.

But, better yet, amid a flurry of new car introductions especially in India (all small ones and none that is a gas guzzler, fortunately) I received this e-mail from Optimal energy Ltd in South Africa telling me how the Indian auto industry still hasn;t got its act together: Their Joule Electric Vans are perfect vehicles for an Indian manufacturer to manufacture under license. Now haven't I been saying that about the APtera car as well . . .

Somehow, I am a borderline pessimist about the country that I was born in, these days..

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some Hard Facts for the Clowns Who Say that Solar Power is Too Expensive

I have talked in this blog about self-styled "experts" like C A Sadanand in India who have been shooting their mouths off about solar power being excessively expensive and not a substitute for dirty fossil fuel derived power. Well, here's something that makes these bozos look like the clowns that they are: This solar power system in Nevada has reached grid parity without any subsidies. This means that it produces electricity cheaper than conventional fossil fuel based plants without any subsidy whatsoever.

Now, will some brave entrepreneur start something like this in India / Pakistan / Bangladesh / Sri Lanka and prove the jokers who have been talking BS wrong? What is more, whoever gets into this would enjoy profits that would have them laughing all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Electric Vehicle Manufacturers Get Hit by Bad Economy

When even large manufacturers of conventional cars like GM and Chrysler come close to being shuttered permanently and Toyota and Honda end up with huge losses and forced to sell their cars at massive discounts (a very good friend was able to get a new Camry turning her two year old one which must have met with a hundred accidents for more than $ 12000 just because the dealer was desperate to get the new car off his lot and had Toyota's backing to do this) small electric vehicle manufacturers cannot, but be affected.

Norway's Think cars are in deep danger as are Nice Cars in the UK are in similar bad shape as they find it difficult to get capital and credit to continue their operations. The sad fact is that even with the current low gasoline prices, their cars are cheap to use compared to fossil fuel cars. But, overall market forces are against them. It is a sad day when companies founded on intelligent products that are very relevant to our times find themselves in trouble for no fault of their own. Somehow, I can only hope (as you are doing, too, I am sure, if you're reading this) that they manage to pull through. These companies deserve to. The world also deserves their superior products for its own future.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The New York Times is Cautiously Optimistic on Obama's Green team

While I have never been a big fan of The New York Times, today's editorial at: is one of their better written ones in a long time. For once, the Times isn't talking down to its readership like some of the arrogant morons at the newspaper enjoy doing. Neither is it talking out of its ideological hat.

Let's see if something comes out of this unsolicited advice that the Times loves giving everyone on earth. For once, I think they have something sensible to offer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

High Tech and the Autorickshaw

India's ubiquitous autorickshaws (and the Filipino Tuktuks and their equivalents in Thailand) are among the filthiest soot belchers on earth. I can think of no vehicle that I despise more and when I am in any of these countries, I do my best not to get into any of them as I do not want to add to the pollution that these countries already suffer from. Now, there's an attempt at making these more efficient. Treehugger has this very interesting piece about a San Jose State University development of a hybrid solar-human powered autorickshaw:

My feeling is that this very basic design could be improved easily or merely replicated anywhere else. Now, will some company in India take the callenge up? The target market includes India - Bajaj? TVS? Come on, guys!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Coffee Waste to Manufacture Biodiesel

I have fond memories of my parents' second home on Monteith Road in Madras, just a hundred or so yards away from the Coffee Board's offices. The street was lazy and my friends would come over and we would go walking towards the Rajaratnam Stadium in the evenings after class, practically every day. This, of course, was long before Madras became Chennai and that once lovely city began to stink from what has become its typical smell - a blend of the stink of rotting sewage and untreated vehicle exhausts.

Autoblog Green has some information that is partly positive - three scientists, all of Indian origin, working at the University of Nevada (a good state for the Renewable Energy Sector) have figured out a way to make biodiesel from coffee grounds which are actually waste which does not do coffee any good as far as taste is concerned. They estimate that their process could help manufacture 340 million gallons of biodiesel a year:

I have smelled the exhaust from biodiesel cars and it is far less irritating than the smell of fossil diesel. That said, I would like to see electric cars and trucks become more popular than merely tinkering with diesel or vegetable products to manufacture biodiesel. However, anything that makes the air around us even slightly cleaner is a big plus. I do hope that the Indian government gets its head out of its collective posterior and looks seriously at this use for coffee grounds. The country produces a huge amount of coffee after all and this could be a useful byproduct that reduces dependence on the Middle East as far as keeping its trucks and cars is concerned.

Electric Vehicle Sales Boom in Norway

Yes, the Norwegians make the Think, a car that they keep promising to launch in the USA but delay for some reason or the other. It turns out that the news isn't all that bad now - they have a boom in electric car sales in their country as Treehugger reports:

With all of Ford's woes, they must be kicking themselves for not having held on to this company which they once owned. In any case, the fact that a major oil producing nation is experiencing an electyric car sales boom is something very positive. Here's wishing Think go from strength to greater strength along with other companies like the Kewet Buddy. Yes, this means just 200 cars sold, but any number is a good one. That is 200 fossil fuel cars less.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Windmill Video

I visited by accident and found this video of an old Dutch windmill working as i did when it was first made: Not quite renewable energy and yet it is about hanressing the wind to perform a basic chore. Call me a Luddite if you want, but I find this fascinating and I do think that these would be vastly more picturesque than the powermills that we increasingly have these days. One of my favorite memories frm when I was a boy was going to a mill with my mother to watch flour getting ground. I would help her carry a sack of wheat and though the noise was deafening and the flour that came out too hot to touch, it was always an interesting experience. Thinking back, I cannot but wonder how much more fascinating it would have been if we had a windmill back then in Madras as Chennai was then known. The city is on the coast, after all, and receives very good winds. Well, sadly, if wishes were horses and all that . . .

More on Electric Carmakers' Problems

From the Wall Stret Journal:

US electric and hybrid carmakers have found that their big problems are 1. getting capital when oil prices have fallen sharply and 2. the fact that batteries are mostly manufactured in Japan, South Korea and "elsewhere in Asia." Well, with Lithium available in huge quantities in Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America, perhaps, the USA needs to look at developing these countries as a manufacturing base for batteries and help itself as well as the economies of these countries by setting up manufacturing plants there. I know this is not going to be easy in a recession, but this is something that the USA could make work. It has more experience dealing with the Western Hemisphere than any other country in the world with the possible exception of the erstwhile colonial powers of Spain and Portugal.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Some Sensible Business Plans in These Troubled Times

From Treehugger comes this significant piece of news - a company has been filing for permission to build wave and combined wave and wind energy platforms off the US coast at several locations: This is extremely sensible planning and it is certain to pay off when the fossil fuel producers raise the prices for their stinking stuff as they inevitably will in the future when they run out of money that they have amassed by selling their stuff at ridiculously high prices. Its good to see that there is at least one company that has its thinking processes working full time. My hat's off to them!

Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company's website is:

The Decline in the Electric Vehicle Business Must be Arrested

There has been much in the news about how electric vehicle development has been hurt by the current free fall in oil prices. Make no bones about this - the oil producing countries are really worried about their stranglehold on oil becoming irrelevant. It must be a small job for them to bring prices down for a while while they spend the money that they earned when oil hit record prices and kill the new alternative fuel businesses off completely. Once these are dead, they would literally have the rest of the world by the b@11s again until their oil runs out. This is a Trojan horse that the world's oil consumers need to look at very carefully and beware of.

Any failure to address this and we shall be back to square one in the blink of an eye.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why won't Tata sell the hybrid Indica in India?

Treehugger has this article about the new Tata Indica hybrid which goes on sale in Poland and Spain shortly: The Tatas are also planning to offer their electric Indica in Norway. Now why on earth are Indian car buyers being discriminated against? Come on, Tata! Sell these cars in India and save the country foreign exchange and also pollution.

In any case, I don't want to sound sour - for an Indian company to be ahead in this cutting-edge game is a fantastic thing. Congratulations!

Redone Aptera Website

Everyone who visits here knows that I have the same enthusiasm for the Aptera car that Popular Mechanics and other magazines have with one caveat - I am angry that I will not be able to buy it since I live in Sh1tc@go. I am also angry about the fact that no major company in India or elsewhere in Asia has looked at licensing this design and building this car there - with fuel efficiency which would easily exceed 100 miles per gallon (35 km per litre for friends in South Asia) and with its fiberglass construction which would make eminent sense to manufacture using human labor, this car has sophisticated simplicity as its USP. Those who live in Southern California are going to be able to buy this car - in any case, ther est of us can drool over the redesigned website:

Feel free to sign up for their newsletter and do push them (and any of the Indian or other companies where you may have contacts) to license the design and manufacture it elsewhere as well. This is about showing fossil fuels the fist, after all!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hawaii Focuses on Electric Cars

The beautiful state of Hawaii has decided to focus on electric cars and has brought in Israeli transportation pioneer Shai Agassi to help in this as this article in today's New York Times explains: Mr Agassi is an Iaraeli, the citizen of a country that faces a boycott from the Gulf nations for political reasons and he has chosen to make it his mission to reduce his country's dependence on oil for that reason. However, he belongs to a particularly intelligent group of people - the Jews are a capable, thoughtful people and they have many great achievements in several fields to their credit. I do think that the rest of the world needs to look at the Agassi projects in Israel, Hawaii, San Francisco and elsewhere.

Israel is a very good friend of India and I must stress that I believe that India looks at this project with the same interest that the US state of Hawaii and cities like San Francisco are looking. One more nail in the fossil fuel coffin would mean cleaner air for us to breathe, less money going to the Saudi despots among sundry tyrants around the world, and savings that stay at home helping local economies everywhere.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Mumbai Attacks and this Fossil Fuel Business

This blog does not usually go into international events other than environmental ones, or into issues like terrorism etc. I do write about those issues on other websites though I do not have specific blogs about them. That said, the recent Mumbai attacks have been something that I have had a long discussion with a very good friend in India about. My contention has always been that the huge oil reserves below the Saudi sands give the extreme nut cases who rule that country and their cohorts a large amount of money with which to threaten the rest of the world and to pay for acts of terrorism against anyone who doesn't meet their religious criteria. I have long argued that if these lunatics were to be sidelined, then the use of oil would have to ber educed severaly by the rest of the world in order to deny them the money with which to finance terrorism. There has been positive news from the USA in this sense over the past ten months when oil consumption has been falling on a month by month basis. WHile some recent data suggests that pickup truck and other gass guzzlers have been selling well in recent weeks after oil prices started falling, my personal view is that this is more due to the extreme incentives being offered by car manufacturers keen on liquidating old stocks before the new and significantly mroe fuel efficient vehicles come out in early 2009 and then onwards. We shall see how this goes, but I do not think that I am wrong. When Black Friday sales drop enough to cause a 680 point drop in the Dow, I doubt that sub $ 2 a gallon gasoline is going to make a difference in driving habits other than to get people to drive a heck of a lot less, especially in what promises to be a harsh winter.

But that is besides the point. Manoj's e-mail which he requested that I post in full on this blog entry is below:

Hi Mehul

Before I start off my reply, would like to keep you forewarned that since the latest happenings have hit Indians hard where it hurts the most, India is finally waking up and saying enough is enough, this is a wound that is raw in the hearts and minds of most Indians me included and so my response might sound a little harsh or ballistic. But that is the way most of us currently feel and it should not be held against us.

I agree with you that a lot of funding for global terrorism is from middle eastern oil money. Also fact is that funding is the lifeline of all activity and the best way to stop any activity is to cut off its funding. Point taken fully. But in a scenario like today, cars two wheelers airplanes and any other form of transport is a necessary evil. In this day and age of globalization and rapid change it is foolish to say people should stop travelling or commuting just so that the USA can achieve its aim of bringing the Saudi's to their knees. Alternate fuels are slowly emerging as viable options to oil guzzling means of transport, but they are light years away from fully replacing oil. Let us admit it not matter how much we may dislike doing so, OIL IS AND WILL REMAIN ONE OF THE CORE AND MOST IMPORTANT REQUIREMENTS FOR ANY COUNTRY THAT WANTS TO HAVE ANY KIND OF GROWTH.

The world is aware of the fact that the gulf war was more about oil and not about nuclear weapons or about the now famous "Weapons of Mass Destruction" none of which were even glimpsed in Iraq. Everyone now knows that while Bush and his thugs did not find a single weapon of mass destruction, what they did find and find in large quantities and take full control of was the oil wells which was anyways his main reason to plunge his country and a large part of the world into a mindless war that still seems to have no end whatsoever. Why is America making so much noise about reducing oil consumption now???? when it has been the world's highest consumer of oil all these years. Just because the US has become a developed economy by mindlessly consuming oil, it is now trying to preach reduction in oil consumption to the world???

Let's be honest, the US is reducing oil consumption more because it is unable to afford oil thanks to the recent financial crisis caused by greedy american financial institutions which has left the man on the streets in the midst of one of the worst ever crises seen anywhere in the world. One is also aware of the oil reserves in US and Canada which are being preserved for use when the middle east resources dry up. So one way or the other some one is looking to benefit from oil and its rampant use.

The same frustration and demand for change that is reflected in my email is also what drove the change in the US and brought Barack Obama to power, and there is no need for me to highlight all the factors and the firsts associated with his election.

While reduction in oil consumption and cutting of Saudi money flows are the long term ways to meet some of the global challenges, what my friends are asking for in the email (this was an e-mail asking for more action by the Indian government in response to the Mumbai attacks) are more immediate term solutions. The political scenario in India and the lack of political will to do anything positive for the citizen of the country are the issues that every Indian wants to see addressed immediately. The man speweing verbal garbage and screwing the common Indian on the streets to improve himself and his ilk who claims to be a leader of the masses has to be sent only one message and that is "India has had enough, and Indians are not going to take any more nonsense lying down" This message has to be made loud and clear and whatever change is required to improve the lives of common Indians will have to be brought about. To this extent we will send out as many emails and messages as may be required, and we would appreciate any and every kind of help from any corner, even if it means merely forwarding such emails to as many people as possible.

Once we are able to bring in the necessary change and have the right people at the helm, then all the long term solutions that you are proposing will get noticed and implemented themselves. To that extent running a country is no different from running a business corporation. Get the right people for the right jobs and the company will run smoothly and grow by itself. Its not rocket science and India is now discovering that fact. Let us hope and pray for the sake of this nation and its people that the desired change comes up sooner rather than later.

Once again my apologies if I sound very drastic or ballistic about this issue, but that is exactly how I fell about it. I would be more than happy if you want to post my response in full (preferably) on your blog and I will be interested in the responses that it draws as well.

Warm Regards

Manoj Barai

Well, Manoj has no reason to be apologetic - energetic debate is something that simply needs to come on this blog as it does on some of my articles elsewhere. My response to the above is simple:

1. The economic situation is not as bad as some think, especially across sectors. Some sectors are doing well in business over here despite the mess on Wall Street and in the Housing industry. For example, while the Detroit Three are doing badly, there are 16 other companies manufacturing cars quite profitably.

2. The consumption of oil has fallen not just because some people have been hit hard by the recession but because Americans, in my opinion, are consciously driving less than they used to. This is on environmental grounds, because people are keen on not polluting the air around them and because many Americans have realised the pleasures of being witht heir families again in my opinion. And, if I got a penny for every time someone told me that they did not want their money going to the Saudis, I would make Bill Gates look like a pauper. I guess these views are common in the educational sector where I am involved full-time. But I hear these views increasingly all over the place.

3. India which has always been one of the biggest victims of Saudi sponsored terrorism is, sadly, among the world's biggest oil buyers these days. The stupidity of this approach is something that I cannot understand - in Norway, the Tatas sell electric cars to compete with Thinks. Tata BP Solar, for example, sells solar powered street lighting to countries like Afghanistan and across Africa under UN aid programs. No Indian city bothers to use these for reasons that only they know. And take the warm and sunny Indian weather - if there were a single country that was perfect for harnessing solar power on a mega scale, it is India. Vast government buildings, schools, colleges and universities etc not to mention mega-malls are all places where the newer thin film photovoltaic technology would make a heck of a lot of sense especially these days when power shortages are killing the retail sector. Somehow, Indian businessmen seem content to sit on their haunches and not do squat about something that would make them money. And the politicians and bureaucrats, the worst of the bums that populate the country, have even less of an idea what to do even though the tech is available and blogs like Treehugger, Green Daily, Autoblog Green etc work at a feverish pace highlighting advancements in this sector day by day

4. I still maintain that if the Arab madmen whose only desire is to spread murder and mayhem are to be brought to heel, the only way is to drastically reduce consumption of their oil. I know that several construction projects across the Middle East have been hit hard by the drop in oil prices from $ 140 plus a barrel to around $ 50. If even a further fifth of oil consumption were reduced - a very real possibility if large nations like India decide to do something pro-actively - they would, quite likely, implode. China is working hard to do this. India needs to catch up.

I would appreciate responses from my many friends who read this blog and comment to me privately to please respond either here or in e-mails to me. I hope you give me permission to post your responses here. This is a topic that I hope to popularize and push forward as I think it is important that we have a national debate on energy especially in India like the USA has thanks to the Pickens Plan. Do write in and have a wonderful day!

British Lawyer Proposes International environmental Courts

While International Courts do not have the clout to execute several of the decisions that they give judgement upon, they are an invaluable forum for highlighting sins of omission and commission by individuals, organisations and governments. Treehugger has this very interesting piece about an International Environmental Court proposed by a British lawyer at:

While they admit, themselves, that some prominent recent legal environmental action has not gone anywhere, I think this is a superb idea from a moral perspective. Pollution hurts people across national borders - there has to be a beginning somewhere to show polluters and those otherwise harming the environment that they are wrong. Many religious and secular groups have taken environmental issues on - in recent US elections, the torch for environmentalism has been carried quite strongly by evangelical Christian groups in recent months. It would not hurt, then, to have a legal dimension to this by having an international environmental court. Hopefully, in time, this could set an example and help the world's antions build their own environmental justice systems.

Berlin Electric Vehicle Conference on

As one of the world's leading centers for engineering and for building advanced cars, Germany is, surprisingly, somewhat of a new entrant to electric car design. But excellence is helping the Germans get ahead where they came in somewhat late as this detailed post on the BErlin Electric Vehicle Conference from Pege shows:

The blogger is a committed enthusiast as far as green technologies are concerned and other articles on his blog as well as links from his blog are well worth reading and enjoying just to see the possibilities that exist in automobiles, building technologies etc.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!