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Energy: Implementation

If you ask just about anyone who makes a living predicting the future of societies and economies in the developed world, they will tell you we are a technology driven society.  New ideas, products, and systems will change our lives and get us out of any jam.

Yet our economy is still hopelessly tied to the market for oil, despite its increasing dysfunction and, more importantly, the existence of proven technologies that can give us energy independence, sustainability, and conservation.

New ideas themselves are not the answer.  Implementing them is the real skill of technology, and on that score the developed world is failing horribly.  Why and how is worth discussing, especially in light of the faith we put in this thing called “technology”.  It is, in the end, about our values.

Barataria has been focused on three technologies that would change the market for  energy in fundamental ways.  They were chosen carefully from narrow criteria.  Each dealt primarily with motor fuels, at least as described.  They have all been proven in the field and are not merely laboratory curiosities.   Each was developed or has a significant research base here in the US.  They are all simply awaiting implementation on a large scale.

Why are technologies like this not being implemented?  Certainly, a lack of money cannot be the problem.  With a billion dollars is thrown at Instagram, six billion at Groupon, and tens of billions at Facebook, there is no shortage of cash for technologies that can transform markets.  Major investment houses lose billions for no apparent reason every day.  So why can’t proven technologies waiting to make someone a tremendous amount of money get the same attention?

The people making the decisions about where to invest have little to no contact with these technologies – or, for that matter, reality.  They only know what is in front of them.  The money we have is not in the hands of people who know how to turn a wrench or are willing to get dirty and make things happen.

There is little functional difference between our capital markets and a Soviet Five Year Plan.

Implementation is a critical step in technology.  The lust for internet based applications comes largely from their ease of implementation, not their true value to the world.  Slap the code together, push it out on the ‘net, and start spinning the hype.  They don’t even have to work all that well, as the insatiable market tolerates a lot of janky little problems in something “new”.

Connections Theory is about how the existence of several new technologies creates even more through combination.  Once all the pieces are there it is a matter of someone, anyone really, taking the pieces and putting them together to make something new.  There was a time when there appeared to be no limit to what could be made in our world as each new tech became just another “trigger” for the next wave.

Where this process has failed is in implementation, the craft that has to meet the new learning before the benefits can be realized.  As Jim Clifton stated in “The Coming Jobs War“, “Innovation is not scarce. Entrepreneurship is scarce.”

The developing world does not have these same problems.  New factories are growing up around new technologies all the time as the people are put to work making things happen.  Yet many of the developing nations are not as entrepreneurial as the developed world, often favoring governments that we might call “socialist”.  They have simply done a better job of putting new resources in the hands of people who will get things done.

The failure of capital markets generally is not only at the heart of this Depression, it is what drives the K-Waves or business cycles.  The critical failure of “Supply Side” theory, or the idea that cheap investment income drives an economy, comes when that investment is in the hands of people who cannot make intelligent decisions about where to invest that money. That describes where we are now in the business cycle.  Technology remains a craft, and if the individual craftsman does not have access to what is needed for implementaton advancement is stunted.

The problem is not Big Government or Big Business – the problem is Big.

There are at least three proven technologies that can transform this failed economy into the next one that will provide jobs for Americans.  There are even more advanced solar, wind, and other technologies in various states of readiness, waiting for investment as well.  The tremendous wash of US Dollars that has gone overseas for oil can be spent here at home, providing income and capital for people with the skills to make even more new things work.

The only thing stopping us right now is our values.  Are we really a technology driven society, or are we simply playing with toys that we can slap together quickly?

There are many links in this piece reaching back through the major themes of Barataria since the very beginning.  For more information, please follow them.  Thanks!

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22 thoughts on “Energy: Implementation

  1. A lot to think about here, but I think you are on to something. Focusing on private money is one thing but there is a role for government here as shown by the developing world’s success. Some of it is that they are implementing older techs that we implemented long ago so there is very much nothing new. But I agree that things like silicon chip manufacture have all gone to places where they could implement rapidly and that was not the US.
    Regulation and other government policy has a lot to do with it too. As does the “dollar standard” you’ve talked about before. But yes, there is so much more we could do if we just put our minds to it. It’s not just the private capital markets although I do agree they have clearly failed.

    • Perhaps I focused on the private capital markets too much, but that is what we have come to rely on for innovation. They lie at the heart of our system, so when the system is broken we have to ask what they are doing. If the answer is that they can’t be fixed, then we should do what we can to regulate them out of existence. If they can be fixed, well, by all means let’s do it.
      There is a lot more to this, yes, but I had to get the conversation going. And I needed some very clear examples before I went into it too far.

  2. “There is little functional difference between our capital markets and a Soviet Five Year Plan.”
    Gold! :)
    “The problem is not Big Government or Big Business – the problem is Big.”
    Double Gold! :) :)

  3. The focus on internet techs is baffling but there may be a lot more to it than you say here. These things do come in waves – the last one about 12 years ago. It is true that a lot of small businesses are having trouble getting the capital they need to get going and I worry that many of the jobs being “created” now are in under-capitalized businesses that will fail in a few years. But there are so many dimensions to all of this and I can’t say exactly what or where the real problem is. There are so many things that lead up to it but in the end implementation is the hard part.
    You are on to something here but I don’t think it’s the whole picture yet.

    • I won’t say I can get this all nailed down in 800 words, but I wanted to at least get at the heart of it. By all means, add to the argument!
      Your observation that many of these small businesses are under-capitalized is very important. We should try to keep an eye on that. Capital is still very hard to get for small entrepreneurs trying to do something unusual.

  4. This is well said. There is a lot more to it, or less to it, or both.
    IMO the basic obstacle is simple: In our country, power is in the hands of status-quo industrial/financial interests who have no appetite for change. Add this: We are constantly told that the obstacles to innovation and growth are too much government…too much regulation. We must get regulators off our backs and/or make them move with the “speed of commerce.” But, as you note, many countries with a more active public sector are doing better. This is because without effective government we cannot establish and implement meaningful public policies. China can. We can’t. Q.E.D. We need more regulation, more “socialism” if you will.

    • Thanks. We’re on the same page. It just can’t be all about “technology” because we have the tech to transform our world – but we don’t implement it. And yes, it’s very true that some “socialist” nations are kicking our butt.
      If you think about what a genuine high-tech society looks like, the ability to get resources of all kinds in the hands of entrepreneurs is what will mark the pace of their growth. There is definitely a role for the private sector in this, as there is a role for competition.
      We are so far from that conversation it hurts to even think about it.

  5. “…The only thing stopping us right now is our values.”

    I think that pretty-much says it: “VALUES!:-|

    • Thanks. In the end, these things called “politics” and “economics” are really all about values – what we value and what values we carry inside ourselves. If one or both of them are broken (as I think they are now!) we have to look to the root of the problem. It’s not a lack of new ideas that’s holding us back, that’s for sure.

  6. It is fair to focus on capital markets because that is who we should first look to in order to solve our problems. There is potential for a lot of money to be made off these and many other alternative energy systems out there. If they are not getting to market in a timely manner than there is something wrong.
    However there is also regulation and many other things to consider where the government could be a big help in at least getting out of the way at times and encouraging in others. These things you are talking about seem to to right back to the question of why we do not have the manufacturing we used to and we all agree there are many reasons why we do not. Perhaps the biggest casualty in the loss of manufacturing base is not the jobs but the ability to solve our problems as a nation.
    A lot to think about here.

    • You ask many of the right questions. There is a role for government here because any major changes to the system need to be at least coordinated. In the case of the technologies described there are a lot of permitting and related functions that must be done with our eyes wide open and a real drive to do it right the first time – not just go willy-nilly into it as we did with ethanol, for example.
      However, there is also potential for a lot of money to be made in the process. Motor vehicle fuels will continue to be expensive no matter what is done, so there is room for new processes that are not as cheap as simply pulling oil out of the ground and refining it. And there is a major national security interest outlined.
      The decline of our manufacturing base is very much the real problem at the heart of this, although it is also a symptom of the bigger problem of what we value as a people. It does all tie together.
      BUT – if there is any truth to the statements that we will live in a world that is increasingly driven by new technologies, we are falling down badly in areas that are difficult to implement. That is a serious problem because implementation is at the heart of technology. All I have done here is highlight a critical need that can indeed be matched by technologies with great potential. And yet they are not moving forward very quickly at all (with the possible exception of turbine electric hybrids).
      There is a lot to think about here.

  7. There is a feel to all this similar, perhaps, to life in England in the 1950s. Relative economic and political decline, and the challenges of adjusting to it….. I am struck by the recent focus on the damn “stadium” in Minnesota, surely the worst possible investment of a billion dollars, not to mention the worst possible focus of public attention. An objective observer of this might see a community driven by idiocy…..and go somewhere else.

    • The good news about the UK is they got through it and seem to be relatively happy today. Not quite the Empire, but hey … that should never have been all theirs in the first place, IMHO.
      But yes, we always seem to find money when we need it. Here we are in a national emergency and … where’s the dough? Oh, yes, Facebook gets theirs, as do the Vikings. What? It doesn’t make any sense.
      I still believe in the free market, but it is falling down pretty badly here. I do think this is exactly what the Kondratieff “Winter” is all about. Sooner or later, it has to get better – or else we just fail and consume a lot less energy for that reason.

  8. To have more impact, you need to write a 3rd book and then do the talk show circuit. You have to either have Rush Limbaugh agree with you or Barbra Streisand.

    • I’m shootin’ fer Oprah! :-)
      I detect a bit of cynicism here, which is justified. It’s easy to pontificate, but it never looks all that great – especially on this topic. But the meat of this one came to me when reading “The Coming Jobs War” – we need to get stuff done. And there’s a lot of good stuff out there that can be done! Why isn’t it happening?
      If Babs or the Maha-Rushie helps advance that, well, I’m down with them. :-)

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