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Monday, January 12, 2009

Get on the Bandwagon. Improve Business by Helping Consumers Fulfill Their Green Dreams.

Hydrogen Fuel
Biodiesel Fuel
Canada's Green Party
Batteries and Supercapacitors

Nuclear Physics 101
Nuclear Paradigm Shift
Can Auto Dealers Go Green
Wind and Other Energy Alternatives
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

The future that auto dealers face appears bleak if they choose to continue along the traditional path. Dealers need to look for new ideas in answering the big question:

"How far is the cooperation between car manufacturers and our nations growing need for energy independence going to go?"

And this begs the question: should auto dealers wait for the "Big 3" to provide the leadership to initiate change? The manufacturers are part of the problem since they have been slow to embrace change where it counts. Factors such as satisfying shareholders and keeping up with the pace to match the consumer wants and needs have been poorly implemented.

The relatively new model of the auto industry has moved toward service and zero percent financing. This trend has grown thin as viewed among those who have felt the credit crunch and wisened up about what is expected from a service contract. Is it a myth that Japanese vehicles outperform Ford, Chrysler and GM? Japanese car popularity is due to the belief that the cars outlast and surpass the traditional American and European cars. Three decades of consumer reports are testament to these "so-called" generalities. It could be argued that Japanese cars have become less reliable in more recent years. In other words the playing field has been leveling off. Investors would see this as a good thing. An idealist would be disappointed. The competition could be catching up. Let's hope.

Now with upstarts like ZENN Motor Company (ZMC) arriving on the market and if their ideas prove to be widely accepted then both Japan and the US and the whole capitalist system have to think twice before designing vehicles or anything that lasts. In traditional investment schemes "honesty" and "quality of life" have counted little as a motivating force behind profit making.

The producers of tomorrow need to ask whether they want to be a part of the revolution or continue to burden society with their half-hearted or deliberate production of low "shelf-life" products. Catherine Scrimgeour, Public Affairs Manager for ZMC said that partner EEStor is creating a "battery (supercapacitor) that outlives the vehicle."...and in addition "80% of the moving parts are no longer needed to run the vehicle." That seriously affects the traditional model of servicing.

ZMC also recognizes the need to provide car owners with a means to convert their existing vehicles. They are making retrofits a part of their business plan. With the next generation ZMC model to be introduced in 2010 (some are skeptical) the hope is that their plan to introduce the new supercapacitor model which has forecasts of 400 km per charge and can be recharged in 5 minutes and will travel at speeds over 100 km/hph, this kind of technology will revolutionize the auto industry and other industries. We're seeing the need for diverse thinking and a willingness to adapt to be the required mindset for success.

"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." - Henry Ford

Cars don't need built-in obsolescence just manufacturers think that profit requires it. It's like the Maytag serviceman ads where the serviceman has no work. So how about improving the planet? Even existing vehicles can be given more trouble free lives by retrofitting.

Even the fact that ZMC has gone public on the stock market the cynic in us has to ask whether a true long lasting product can be a wise strategy for investors.

With the right mindset there's no need to get left behind. We do have the shining example of the Toyota Prius which has had good publicity. A New York Times story covered how a Prius owner had prepared his home for a possible repeat of a blackout in 2003 and in doing so was prepared for the next blackout in 2006. He had placed a UPS (universal power supply) in his home to keep the basic electrical needs running including his furnace. The Prius was the energy source to keep the UPS charged which without a charge would have lasted only a few hours or possibly less. The recommended technology is an inverter to regulate the voltage and something like solar panels or batteries to supply a charge. In this case the Prius was the energy source whereas an equivalent in the past might have been a noisy diesel generator in the backyard.

Is retrofitting one solution to modernizing the dealership?

There is a huge following of the green movement with the help from such people as Barack Obama and Al Gore among many others. Not only will automobiles play a part in a cleaner environment by consuming alternative fuel but they will also start to be used in place of diesel generators and encourage a grid infrastructure whose influence to other industries will eventually catch on. An automobile being connected to the home power will help home owners save on their electric bill but also help the country lower its need for carbon dioxide producing electricity generation.

So yes, auto dealers have a place in restoring the economy and the ability of the consumer to have more control in contributing to the economic outlook as well as helping to save the planet.

So how about retrofitting? Turning repair shops and service centers into retrofitting centers is accepting reality. Many dealers have already started retrofits of various kinds. Careful consideration should be given before tooling a shop for all alternative fuel solutions. There are a number of different solutions out there. Biodiesel, hydrogen, fuel cell technology, compressed natural gas and perhaps less known compressed air vehicles have recently been suggested as the new saviours. Another exciting development is the supercapacitor which will no doubt be a huge part of the next generation of electric vehicles and the growing trend towards self sufficiency and the concept of shared power grids where private citizens become both consumer and energy provider.

"Hybrid" technology, a term used by Obama in his recent address when selecting his Energy team, has also become synonymous with the accepted direction for Japanese makers and now Chevrolet and other "big 3" and european designs. For example the Toyota Prius that rescued the home owner in a blackout did not come ready-made there was a small retrofit the owner made to enable the vehicle to supply his home with power. With climate change the challenges ahead like the recent power failure in Toronto's west end had people stranded without heat for 25 hours while crews had to dry out a flooded transformer. With temperatures below -20 Celsius incidents like these could become more and more frequent and automobiles can be retrofitted to provide power in these kinds of emergencies.

Diesel vehicles need small adjustments to make them run on vegetable oil. I've heard quotes from $0 to $2000. It depends on the kind and quality of the replacement fuel. It's called Biodiesel and Germany takes it very seriously. Eliminating the carbon footprint is the goal of marrying Biodiesel to diesel engines. No conversion is necessary if the fuel is created properly. Now the State mandates in the US are more interested in a B20 Diesel Mix which is 20% Biodiesel and 80% Petroleum Diesel which requires no retrofit. In the spirit of the inventor of the diesel it is worth noting that the first diesel back in 1900 was meant to run on non-polluting peanut oil. There are dozens of homegrown and new companies finding solutions to creating alternative fuel. With ethanol and other forms of biodiesel the versatile diesel engine has provided us with a means by which to standardize. The range is significant in the adaptable nature of diesel engines. I think we're going to find vehicles being offered that can choose from one of several alternative fuel and diesel mixtures at the same time. The vast size of the US and Canada with it's long roads and highways is, and has always been part of the need to pioneer new technologies. Hybrid vehicles and multi-fueled vehicles may be part of the solution. Consumers will buy more cars if they know they can travel anywhere and keep the car going.

Last but not least it does not hurt to be up on the latest gadgets. GPS systems and iPOD and audio and communication accesories are a big deal for consumers. The hands free cell phone is becoming a requirement by law. So these upgrades should all be doable and understood by service departments.

Now what about the sales staff? They need to become more than just sales people. They can be cut in to getting the potential retrofit client. It would only be fair. This means more specializing for sales staff.

The greening and the social networking are two paradigms of the 21st century. Social networking often referred to as web 2.0 has been kind of low on the dealers totem pole of priorities. That will be my next subject in an upcoming article.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Harold Pinter

In 1958 Harold Pinter wrote the following:

"There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false."

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

This and much more are discussed in this interview with Charlie Rose.

Harold Pinters life recently came to my attention from the annoucements of his death. I had no knowledge of his illness or even if he was still alive. This interview is a good intro to discovering this amazing person.

Wind and Other Energy Alternatives

Hydrogen Fuel
Biodiesel Fuel
Canada's Green Party
Batteries and Supercapacitors

Nuclear Physics 101
Nuclear Paradigm Shift
Can Auto Dealers Go Green
Wind and Other Energy Alternatives

What are the chances of Iran choosing alternative energy over Nuclear.
Many believe that Iran's energy policy regarding Nuclear energy is a disguise to create Nuclear weapons. They do have a progressive approach to energy already. They already use 75% natural gas for creating electricity.
Facts from Wikipedia:
US is 9,826,630 km2 (3,794,066 sq mi) with 306 million people. 104 Nuclear Power Plants produce 20% of electricity.

Iran’s land area is 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi)
with 71 Million People with a rapid urban growth rate and 7million in Tehran the largest city.

Electricity consumption: 33,000 megawatts. Of that amount, about 75% was based on natural gas, 18% on oil, and 7% on hydroelectric power. In 2004, Iran opened its first wind-powered and geothermal plants, and the first solar thermal plant is to come online in 2009.

Netherlands 41,526 km2 includes Holland (16,033 sq mi) with a population of 16 Million can get a lot out of wind energy but the truth is that the Netherlands get 90% of their electricity from thermal power plants using oil and coal as fuel.

Dutch Wind farm:
The construction of the Egmond aan Zee Offshore Wind Farm is an exemplary project in many ways. The construction work was executed safely and was completed on time and within budget. The wind farm comprises 36 turbines with a 108 megawatt design capacity, and the volume of electricity generated by these turbines corresponds to the average annual consumption of more than 100,000 Dutch households. The project involved an investment of more than EUR 200 million

Although the Dutch were known for windmills they have only recently made some significant breakthroughs.


I saw Bill Maher's Religulous and enjoyed it. I find Bill Maher clever and witty as well as very funny at times. He has the ability, like many comedians, to relate to our common experiences. A more meaningful part of the film, to me, was when he said he actually went through a period where he questioned gods existence after breaking up with his girlfriend. He said that he was even looking into Numerology as a way of explaining things in his quest for answers.

I'd say the film is worth seeing. He makes some good points and helps us see how much of the world, part of which has authority over many people, are capable of living with large contradictions and will find ways of justifying their beliefs in order to match their belief system. Maher says that many of them are intelligent but when it comes to religion they make exceptions where rational thought and critical thinking are less important.

But isn't it true that we always break with rational thinking when we accept our family members no matter how crazy or nasty they may behave.

But then sometimes you just have to say that there is comfort derived from stories in the bible no matter how much you take literally. Here's a tear-jerker.

On Suicide

To suicidal people: Life is always testing us. Choosing life is passing the test.

Here's a quote from Einstein that helps explain how to beat depression and suicidal behaviour.

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

I like the Einstein quote. Reminds me of one of the messages in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know?". The idea that patterns of behaviour are programmed into our brains and to stop or change them is a literal reprogramming. Any change is not fast. Most of the time our outlook is the product of years. Fast or slow, change requires constant self monitoring.

Dick Cavett (Cavett's New York Times Blog) has first hand experience with depression and Cavett discussing it here He makes an interesting comment about his inability to think about himself.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Why Hydrogen Fuel is not yet a good solution.

Hydrogen Fuel
Biodiesel Fuel
Canada's Green Party
Batteries and Supercapacitors

Nuclear Physics 101
Nuclear Paradigm Shift
Can Auto Dealers Go Green
Wind and Other Energy Alternatives

The Great Hydrogen Fuel Myth
February 2008

This article explains why Hydrogen costs more to create than gasoline and other problems.

This article suggests a breakthrough technique of extracting Hydrogen from water that is much more efficient using Nuclear Energy from abundant Uranium.

Some dicussion about Nuclear Power to create Hydrogen Fuel

Another article discusses improved fuel cell performance due to properties of platinum micro-cubes.

Using an inexpensive polymer Carbon Nitride to make Hydrogen Fuel

Gaza & West Bank Important Background

I did some minor edits to clarify the authors intent.

Palestine and Israel: A History
The Palestinian Israeli Conflict

© Joel Wittnebel

Feb 4, 2008

The Palestinian Israeli conflict is one which has been occurring for years [decades], and must be understood by our world today.

The terms, Gaza Strip and the West Bank may seem familiar to some people and this article can bring about better understanding of these topics.

The violence and attacks which occur today in these areas are a result of a historical claim for land. Looking at the history behind this topic will allow a better understanding of what is occurring today.

Near the end of the 1800s a political movement, which came to be known as Zionism, attempted to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which included all of present day Israel. The Israelis feel they have rights to this land because it is their, "biblical promised land". But, at this time the British Empire had a mandate over Palestine, and in 1916 during World War I they convinced Arab leaders to aid them in the war and in return they would support the establishment of an independent state in this region.

Through this and the years following Israel did not see the formation of a Jewish state.But, after World War II the United Nations recommended dividing Palestine into two states. From this deal the minority Jewish people received the majority of the land. Following this deal on May 14, 1948 United States president Harry Truman through pressures from the Zionist movement allowed the formation of the state of Israel.

This ignited serious conflict in the area as armies from: Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Saudi-Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt attacked the new formed state but were defeated by Israel.

In the same year the Palestinians were driven out of the newly formed Israel and into refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and other areas.

Israel again gained more land in 1967 in the Six Days War where they took strategic lands such as: the Gaza strip, a section of land located along the coast of the Mediteranean Sea, and the West Bank, a landlocked territory on the west bank of the Jordan River. In response to this in 1973 Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur in an attempt to regain lost land but failed.

After 27 years of occupation the Israelis withdrew from the Gaza strip in 1994. Withdrawal from the West Bank came with more difficulty. The Wye River Memorandum was passed in October 1998 outlining the Israeli withdrawal. But, this was suspended in 1999 due to problems with its implcations. Also, the Camp David summit attempt to plan a withdrawal but also failed.

This violent history over land has led to the issues seen today. Which include continued attacks from Palestinians living in the military occupied West Bank causing the construction of a large security fence around the area.

In recent years the frustration as mounted as Palestinians find themselves with less and less pristine land to live, and as violence continues an end seems far off.

The continuing violence occuring between Palestinians and Israelis makes it a problem in need of urgent attention. As the solutions never seem to work, steps toward an end seem difficult but understanding can be seen as the first step toward a solution.