Politics Renewable Energy

Thank You Steven Chu

I like it when I understand things. The universe feels like a little safer place, even if I realize feeling secure is only a state of mind. And when I watched Steven Chu talk on the Daily Show the other night, I felt safer. Not like a warm security blanket kind of safe. More like a “Hey, if stuff hits the fan, we’ll probably be able to figure it out” kind of safe.

How many times have you looked at a government official and said “Hey, they seem pretty bright!”? How about “What a great sense of humor and perspective for the situation we’re in.”? How many times have you honestly said in the past 8, 16, 20 or 28 years have you really looked at a government official and said “Hey, I bet he has science and the earth’s best interest ahead of a corporation that is whispering in his ear.”? Not too many at all.

I’m not saying that there have been scores of corrupt politicians in the past Presidents’ cabinets, because there haven’t; the people advising the President are often capable and well tempered in their decision making. I’m also not saying Steven Chu will be completely successful in the political arena, as it’s a very different world from what he’s used to. It’s just so damn refreshing to see such an accomplished scientist in a position to influence legislation, all the while weighing facts and data instead of political usefulness and opinion. Give me more politicians like him and I’ll start to feel that the government has turned a corner.

So thank you, Steven Chu. You’ve restored my hope that we can get some more renewable energy initiatives moving instead of just talked about in this country. You’ve restored my hope that renewables might be able to help pull our country out of a recession. And from what I know about you and your plans, you’ve only just begun.

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Also the requisite thank you to Comedy Central and Jon Stewart for interviewing him. Without you, I’d only get biased news from biased news sources 🙂

Economics Engineering Life Politics Renewable Energy

Welcome President Obama! Now let’s get crackin’ on renewable energy.

I wrote last week about Barack Obama further laying out his plans for renewable energy. He states in that video that he plans to invest $15 Billion or more in renewable energy each year. My question is, what can we start doing now? In order for him and the renewable energy community to hit the ground running on Jan 20th, we need to start planning some actions for the new administrations (with or without funding).

  1. Education — Without a new crop of able young engineers, we won’t get far. So how do you get involved in helping to make this a reality? Follow my volunteer idea and go to middle- and high-schools and share what it’s like to be an engineer with young people. Even better, I recently found out that I was right in thinking I was not original…there are many programs in place to allow engineers to easily reach out to their communities. The one I am currently considering is the New Faces of Engineering Road Show, hosted by the Cleveland Engineering Society. They travel to schools and promote engineering and science to young students, basically the exact thing I wanted to do.
  2. Conserve — The best way that individuals can help on a daily basis is to conserve, in general. Use less utilities (turn off your lights, turn down your heat), recycle your recyclables, carpool to work
  3. Stay involved — This year has shown young people actually can make a difference in elections and in general. This is due to the extreme influence of social media and how it connects people online and throughout the world. Now use that power to go out and influence individuals and corporations that a green economy will benefit all Americans (and the world).
  4. Consider alternative and renewable energiesBlack silicon or not, photovoltaic (PV) cells are still expensive. However, there are simpler methods, such as corn stoves, which have lower environmental impact and are definitely renewable year after year.
  5. Keep them honest — No matter how good their stump speeches are nor how honest they may seem, absolute power corrupts absolutely. While the checks and balances were put in place by our forefathers to keep our branches of government watching one another, the true power in oversight will come from civilian oversight. This has been further enabled by the internet in recent years and we must insist that our newly elected government officials do not take advantage of their positions for personal or nepotistic gain.
  6. Join the fight — Sure, there will be more political battles, notably with oil barons not wanting to relinquish their grasp on easy profits; but the real battle is with innovation and design challenges. Use online resources to go out and educate yourself on analog electronics. The biggest challenges will be won by the groups with the most resources. If we want a future filled with solar and wind generated power, go out and learn how to make that a reality by studying the basics.
  7. Start something — Been studying this stuff for so long that you think you have a great idea on improving an existing system (the power grid, anyone?) or developing a disruptive renewable energy technology? Go for it. In order for the green revolution to begin, America (and the rest of the world) needs entrepreneurs to step up to the plate and take risks in order to develop these emerging technologies. Do you prefer the less technical side of engineering? Pair up with the entrepreneurs. Technically minded people are just as important to take the time to introduce the new technology to the rest of the world.

Good luck President Obama. You have a huge challenge ahead of you, a huge wreckage behind you and a huge nation standing and waiting for you to wave the green flag. Let’s all try and toe the line as soon as we can.

Analog Electronics Economics Politics Renewable Energy

Barack Obama Further Lays Out Renewable Energy Plan

I take a personal interest in Barack Obama‘s new plan to increase investment in renewable energy technologies, as I think and hope my long-term plan of working on renewable energies will come to fruition.

Skip to 9:38 to hear about his plans for renewable energy

I don’t seek to point out any political messages other than to focus on his determination to make renewables a viable part of the American economy, much like Thomas Friedman points out in Hot, Flat & Crowded. A green revolution or economy will help to return America as an arbiter of international issues by once again showing our leadership and innovation abilities (not to mention our economic strength). While I will point out that John McCain has also shown some initiatives for renewable energy (not to mention he does not believe that drilling for oil is the only solution), I feel that his focus on nuclear as the only true long term solution in his administration would not put enough money into the hands of people that will drive the “green revolution”. Given the possibility of recession in this country (or is it already here?), I believe that direct government investment in renewables will help to jump start the economy by driving job growth. And it won’t just come from the presidential administration either; people in the house and senate all need to push these new green energy agendas to really allow for new legislation. Great examples of this are Alice Kryzan, running for the 26th congressional district in New York and Dan Maffei who is running for the  25th district, also in New York.

Probably the point that I would like to point out most in this video is his call upon the American people to reduce their consumption AND take personal responsibility in their lives (i.e. childhood education). Sure, we could use our innovative techniques to create energy at the cost of the environment ad nauseum. But why not instead work on power saving techniques? Why not inflate your car tires to increase gas mileage, instead of pushing for faster ramp ups of offshore drilling? Why not tell people to turn off their lights, recycle their garbage, stop watering their lawns and driving gas-guzzling cars? Because it’s tough telling people that stuff. It’s not going to work at first, but it will over time, and that’s why I thought this was a good video.

I always welcome comments on renewable energy, but given the touchiness of politics, please be extra gentle when commenting. What do you think of the renewable energy plan? Is it a pipe dream? Do you think there are pieces that both candidates are missing?


I had a dream (about Obama)

So I had a dream last night about Barack Obama.

No, not that kind of dream sicko.

The dream was that there was a debate between Obama, Clinton and some new lady who entered the race. During the debate Obama gave some rousing speech and then actually began to cry at the end of his speech. My first thought was “Oh crap, now we people will make fun of him for that”, but that really wasn’t the focus of the dream. Then at the end of the debate, the third candidate lady decided to withdraw from the race, at which point Obama immediately announced that he would have her as his running mate. And I remember thinking “wow, that’s a killer team”. But this STILL wasn’t the focus of the dream. Next, I was in a different part of town and I spilled some of my drink on my shirt. So then I went down to my basement and started scrubbing my shirt trying to get the drink off of it. I woke up still scrubbing when my dog started pacing around my room, wanting to be let out to go to the bathroom.

The point of the dream and this post: I had a dream about politics/politicians/something that wasn’t me scrubbing a shirt for 3 hours straight (although that did happen)

Why would I have a dream about politics? Why would I write a blog post about it? Why would I involve myself with something I have been trying so hard to ignore since it started (much much too early)? Why are you now here reading this?

Because I now care. That’s all there is to it. Check out my other blog posts, you’ll see. I hardly ever post to my blog. I definitely don’t post anything having to do with anything other than myself. So maybe this is me turning a corner or maybe it’s just not wanting to deal with thinking about this stuff anymore, I dunno. Maybe I just no longer just want Hillary or McCain to be in the white house (although I’ve never really wanted McCain in there). I think what I really want is to be able to listen to NPR in the morning on my way to work and not be like “Goddamn it, Bush” or “What the hell are you thinking, you stupid #$@#%#$@! politician?!”. Prime example: This morning I was listening to a story on NPR about Bush trying to move a deadly cattle disease (foot and mouth) research center from its secluded island location to right next to a bunch of cattle on the mainland in NY. All I could think about as I heard this report was “Oh, who is he helping out now? Which of the good ol’ boys needs a building contract or a military contract or a favor or wants to kill his neighbors cattle?” WHEN THE HELL DID THIS BECOME ALRIGHT? OK, calming back down now. Ooooohhhhooommm (Zen chant).

So that’s what I want. I want to turn on the radio in the morning and not be disappointed with what I hear. I want some other country to talk positively about the US. I want the good ol’ boys and girls of the country to stop getting handouts from the government. I’d like those same people to pay some goddamn taxes.

And sure, in the process I’d love to have better education, health care, foreign policy, equality, social programs, accountability for politicians, environmental conscientiousness, a thriving economy and so on and so forth. But really, I’d settle for a decent story on the radio in the mornings (the reporting is good, they just have to give crappy news). And to go along with the Obama campaign message, I HOPE this can happen if Obama gets elected.

So I did something I’ve never done before and from what I’ve read more people are doing than ever before. I gave money to a political campaign. It wasn’t much but I plan on giving again for the general election. I also plan to do something I haven’t done in the 7 years I’ve been able to do so. I will vote. If that isn’t a measure of how this election season has gotten my apathetic butt motivated, I don’t know what is.

Well, maybe this blog post.