February 25th, 2008
It is generally accepted that America could immediately reduce energy consumption by at least 20% if intelligent conservation efforts were implemented at all levels. As a country, we established energy use habits decades ago when all forms of energy were relatively cheap. Lights on in high rise building at night, corridors in hotels and office buildings that are almost painfully bright, lights on in empty rooms and offices, and escalators that move even when no one is on them.
This all came back to me yesterday. I am in Brazil to deliver a speech to the top executives of a company whose annual management meeting theme is â€œLeading the Futureâ€. When I checked into the upscale, business hotel here in Joinville, in the Santa Catarina state, I went through a sequence that reminded me once again how energy wasteful the U.S. is. The elevator would not operate unless I inserted my room key card into a slot. As an American I thought this was a good security feature. Then, when I got off at my floor the hallway was completely dark. With mild trepidation I stepped out and the lights went on due to a motion sensor. I proceeded to head down a dark corridor and, every 20 feet or so the lights went on as the sensors …
February 20th, 2008
Regular readers of this column know that I have long predicted that oil would reach and then exceed the $100 price barrier. In fact, when this barrier was first breached the first few days of January, readers congratulated me on the veracity of my prediction. Yesterday was the first time that a barrel of oil actually closed over $100. This drove the stock market down, made economic prognosticators nervous and created headlines across the country.
Six months ago I predicted that the trading range for a barrel of oil will be $80 â€” 125 for the foreseeable future. The current global marketplace is such that it is hard to imagine the price dipping below $80 but there are a lot of scenarios that could ultimately drive it above $125. The actual trigger for the recent price increase is an explosion in a Texas refinery that processes 70,000 barrels a day, which is less that one half of one percent of the daily U.S. consumption of 20 million barrels a day. That is how tight the oil market is. There is little or no excess refining capacity in the world.
Demand is and will consistently outstrip supply in the oil market. Any perceived fall off in U.S. consumption due to an economic slow down will be more than offset by the increased demand from China and India and other developing countries. This will be a constant for the foreseeable future. When one …
February 13th, 2008
I have written several columns about cell phones in the past. Each one was due to milestones of growth. The speed of growth in the use of cell phones continues to be astounding. It was announced last week by the International Telecommunication Union that the number of total global cell phone subscribers will exceed the number of non-subscribers for the first time in 2008.
When you stop and think about it, this is nothing less than amazing. This means that more than half of all human beings alive today have cell phones. That includes all children, all the elderly, all the people living in poverty around the world, all the people living in underdeveloped countries and all those living in remote areas of the world where there is no cell phone use. Of course there are a number of people in the U.S. and elsewhere that have more than one cell phone, but that is a very small percentage of total users.
In 2006, when doing research on my forthcoming book and for speeches I deliver, the latest projections at that time suggested that this 50% threshold would not be crossed until 2010 at the earliest. This time compression of projected growth of electronic connectedness has become a familiar experience to me. In addition to cell phone subscriber projections there has been an almost constant upward estimation of Internet users and terabytes of content coursing through the Internet. Research conducted …
February 4th, 2008
China was struck by a historically unprecedented snow storm last week. Just the sheer amount of snow completely paralyzed all types of transportation, ground and air. Power lines were snapped, cutting power to tens of millions of people. Power was cut so that a significant portion of Chinaâ€™s railroad system was powerless to move people and supplies. What made this even worse was the timing, which coincided with the major holiday of the year, the Chinese New Year. More than 200 million people travel on this holiday. When a large percentage of these people finally reached the train stations they found them without power and without trains.
There were many images that made me think of Katrina. Pictures of vast amounts of people jammed together in large numbers, shivering in the cold with no place to go made me think of vast amounts of people clinging to high ground or crowded into shelters.. Thousands of people, mostly military actually using snow shovels to clear major highways as there is no large snow removal equipment made me think of small boats with outboard motors rescuing people and animals from flood waters. Leaders of the country, fearful of rioting and unrest actually found their way to train stations to try to calm the teeming millions with megaphones.
I do not have enough information to determine whether the government reacted with appropriate speed and compassion. They probably did. That is where the comparison between this snow storm and Katrina in not appropriate. The incompetence of …