The Flow

Composing and Cogitating

Reflections and tips on tech, websites, the economy, investing, and other insights that come my way

Apprehensive Optimism

Apprehensive Optimism

Enough procrastination, it's time for the first blog post. I've been wracking the brain for days, looking for the hidden gem of an economic issue, hoping for the blue moon insight on an upcoming technology trend and I've come up with nothing. I have all sorts of notes with ideas for blog posts but they don't have the flash-bang I would love for the first blog post *drum roll-to-fizzle*. With or without a Nobel prize worthy topic (yeah, right...), it is time to get started.

I'm eager to hear the news from the United Nations Climate Summit that commenced this week. With China slogging through air pollution as thick as congee and the U.S. getting slammed a few times a year with climate-related natural disasters, can we be hopeful that the world leaders will put on their big-boy pants and make some agreements that will have many special interest groups screaming bloody murder? Let's hope so!!

Morocco's massive solar power facility

There has been an abundance of news items regarding new green technologies, trends toward eco-happy habits, and climate friendly energy developments. Today, a friend shared a marvelous article about Morocco's gigantic solar power plant, phase I of which will go on line next month. When completed, the plant will be the world's largest solar power facility. Phase I provide power to 1 million people, reducing Morocco's dependence on foreign oil and making a significant dent in CO2 emissions.

Schematic of the Stanford aluminum ion battery: Meng-Chang Lin & Hongjie Dai

Last April, Stanford University scientists announced the creation of an aluminum-ion battery that could eventually be used to replace (1) alkaline batteries (bad for the environment) and (2) lithium batteries (big fire hazard). These batteries have the potential to store large quantities of wind and solar energy and provide energy when there is no sunshine or wind. The experts are excited about using these batteries for grid energy storage. But if these batteries are used for storage of energy generated by home and business solar panels, then the grid could be relegated to back-up power! While additional development is needed to increase the voltage to match lithium-ion batteries, the application possibilities could be as revolutionary as the internet!

This morning, CBS has an interesting news item about the Norwegian electric car revolution. The government has made electric car ownership extremely attractive with incentives of free fuel, parking and driving (no tolls). Electric cars also get a free ride for sales taxes and registration fees. (CBS News - Norway Pushes for an Electric Car Revolution)

The likelihood that our children and grandchildren will inherit a world infrastructure with little or no dependence on fossil fuels is increasing very quickly. This is exciting for large portions of the population but for some, the future is looking rather bleak. The economic dislocations created by a rapid reduction in global dependence on fossil fuels will be massive.

In Montana and other areas of the country dependent on coal mining and coal fired power plants, legislators have been attacking the EPA for being heavy handed in their regulations regarding carbon emissions which promise to shut down coal fired power plants.  Senator Steve Daines and Representative Ryan Zinke have been diligently applying pressure in Washington to allow Montana's coal mining and coal fired power plants to avoid federal regulations.*  The uproar around these regulations will be a slight echo compared to the alarms that will go off as green power sources become more available and affordable.  The unemployed oil drillers and coal miners will be the first trickle of a flood of displaced workers.  The energy sector is currently 7% of the S&P 500.  Taking this as a proxy for the U.S. economy, consider the impact of the value of these investments falling to 3% or less.  Some of the large oil producers are attempting to shift to green fuels but these products can't possibly produce the same revenues as oil has (Exxon). There are also many ancillary businesses that support energy such as truckers and oil tankers that will likely be dessimated by the reduced need for oil and coal.  Huge fossil fuel infrastructures such as refineries will become sources for scrap. 

Another casualty of green energy production and cheap energy storage will be the utility companies.  Northwestern Energy, PG&E, ConEd and the like will be consigned to back-up energy providers.  It is entirely feasible that by 2030, a large proportion of American homes and businesses could generate their own energy needs and store the energy needed for nights and storms in aluminum-ion batteries in the basement, or the closet. 

The impact of the transition away from fossil fuels will be even greater on a global level.  Brazil has made huge investments in a giant offshore drilling project. If Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations lose their primary meal ticket, the Middle East mayhem will only increase. There may be some transition to producing solar power in these areas but that will require additional infrastructure to transfer the excess power to less sunny nations and the revenue will be substantially less than what is currently received for oil.  

While workers in the fossil fuel and utility related industries will be facing a rough transition to new employment, most households and businesses in the U.S. will enjoy huge dividends from investments in green technology.  Take out a loan for solar and wind equipment and storage batteries, do a little rewiring and reduce the utility bill to nearly nothing!  Consider the recent impact of the drop in oil prices and multiply by.....10?  With the multiplier effect on a national level, the impact could be 20 times as great as the drop in oil prices.  Where will that money go?  The prospects are mind boggling.  

While all these changes may not be as swift as the internet integration, they will happen.  If your livelihood is related to fossil fuel energy, be prepared to abandon ship.  Otherwise, save your pennies to invest in the new energy equipment - just don't buy too early. Prices will come down.  

And hold on everyone - it's going to be a bumpy ride!  

Reservation Paranoia

Comments 2

Guest - Rev. Todd Young on Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:50

About that solar power plant in Morocco . . . Should those of us who live in the U.S. worry that Morocco is sucking up all of the sun's energy, leaving none for us? Maybe we should go bomb it to protect our solar interests. :/

About that solar power plant in Morocco . . . Should those of us who live in the U.S. worry that Morocco is sucking up all of the sun's energy, leaving none for us? Maybe we should go bomb it to protect our solar interests. :/
Debra McNeill on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 11:37

The Noor 1 Solar Power Plant went on line last week! You can read about it here - The photos are very impressive as will be the impact on the region.

The Noor 1 Solar Power Plant went on line last week! You can read about it here - The photos are very impressive as will be the impact on the region.
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Monday, 16 September 2019