Sunday, August 10, 2014

Purpose vs Profit: Which one leads to happiness?

Recent research is shining a light on which perspective on life leads to personal happiness. 

The competing perspectives are: 1) Purpose - having as your core mission the goal of serving others or a greater societal goal, 2) Profit - focusing on the financial rewards in life, and 3) Combining Purpose and Profit - having a serious purpose in life to serve others and society, but also a desire to achieve financial rewards and recognition.

Dr. Angela Duckworth reports in the New York Times about her 20-year study on happiness. They evaluated new cadets entering West Point Academy by administering a detailed personality questionnaire. The results allowed the reseachers to place each cadet in one of three categories:

1. They want to be a great Army officer.
2. They want recognition and/or money.
3. They want both to be a great officer and achieve recognition and make money. 

These were interpreted as:

1. Purpose
2. Profit
3. Combination of purpose and profit. 

Twenty years later, researchers followed up with the subjects and evaluated how satisfied the individuals had become. It turns out there's only one way to achieve true satisfaction in life. Living with purpose, and giving little consideration to profit or recognition. 


Interestingly, they also found those who focused on purpose actually achieved financial success and professional recognition. They didn't seek it, but by living with purpose, they accomplished more, lead more, and were recognized by others for their achievements.

The lesson is: Bloom where you are planted. Do the best you can where you are, and do it to serve others and society. It's the only road to satisfaction and happiness.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

C'mon - Is texting and driving really that dangerous?


A movie theater in Hong Kong used wireless ringer technology to teach its audience about mobile phone use and what distracted driving leads to.
 
Please share. Let's act before the next accident. 
 
Click on the link below for a 1 minute video.
 
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tuna wraps, customer service and "It's Not My Job"


Customers, generally, don't ask for a whole lot. They want good service. When they interact with you, they would like friendly service, and overall they expect your policies to be based on reason and logic.

Recently I had two illogical and unreasonable experiences, just 30 minutes apart.

I was traveling on the Florida Turnpike, heading from Tallahassee to an evening meeting in Lake Worth. Since I knew I wouldn't have a chance to eat dinner because of the 6 p.m. start time, I decided to eat a late lunch.

Around 2:30 p.m. I stopped at the Canoe Creek rest stop. At the Nature's Table Cafe I saw they had a tuna sandwich in the cooler. I wanted a slight change. "Can I get the tuna in a wrap?," I asked the attendant. "Sure," she said, "but it will take about 5 minutes."

"That's Ok,"I replied.

But after just a few seconds, she thought a bit and said "We can't make a wrap because the person who makes them is on break."

I looked around. I was the only customer in the middle of a quiet, weekday afternoon. "Can you make it?" I asked.

"Nope, that's not my job, she said."

I wasn't upset. Just hungry. I decided to head on down to the next rest stop and get my tuna wrap there.

At the St. Lucie rest stop I happily approached the Earl of Sandwich. On the menu sign they had saliva-inducing photos of a tuna sandwich, and right next to it, a turkey wrap. Surely they could combine the ingredients of both and make a tuna wrap, I thought.

I placed my special order. The attendant just stared back at me in silence.

Perhaps I should ask a different way, I thought. "I'd like a tuna sandwich, but no bread. Instead of the bread, I'd like the tuna in a wrap." I even made the motion like I was wrapping a wrap.

No response.

"Is there someone else I could talk with?," I asked.

He went into the back and spoke with the manager. After a lengthy conversation, the manager emerged. She asked again, "What would you like, sir?"

I repeated my request, as pleasant as possible for a hungry traveler.

"I'm sorry sir, we don't have any wrap material. We're all out."

"But what if I had ordered a turkey wrap? Could you make that?," I asked.

"Sorry, sir," she repeated. "We're all out."

I soldered on, down the Turnpike, sans tuna wrap.       

Upon exiting the Turnpike in Lake Worth, I tried one last time, at a place interestingly called Jon Smith Subs.

Not only could they make my tuna wrap, but it was the best tuna I have had in years. Or perhaps I was famished. Either way, Jon Smith Subs saved the day. And their service was great too.

Customers can accept "No" for an answer, but it sure helps if the reason why makes sense. If you can't help a customer in the specific way they request, it's important to understand their needs and try a different way. And whatever you do, please never say "It's not my job."








Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Super Bowl "L"

The Super Bowl is the single most hyped and watched TV event on the planet. The NFL has the perfect ingredients to appeal to men, women and children: Football, funny and emotional commercials, and a rock star performance at half time.

And one more thing! Roman numerals.

Wha?

As a result of all the Super Bowls over the years, 300 million Americans, and perhaps billions around the world, have learned their Roman numerals.

Remember Super Bowl XXX? It was almost banned. How about IV? Now that was a real bloodbath; it required extra fluids. Then we had XXXIX, the intellectual game (had to think about that one – it's 39).

Except for the value of a good liberal arts education and being a society of learned people, knowing Roman numerals doesn't have much value today. But thanks to the National Football League, our collective IQ is just a tad-bit higher. I guess it might be a counterweight to the brain damage playing in the NFL has caused its players.

In 2015 we'll be celebrating the 50th Super Bowl. Sadly, the NFL is dropping its use of Roman numerals for one year because of the confusion it would create. Apparently they think our minds cannot stretch to learn one more Roman numeral.

Super Bowl L.

Yes, it's weird. But who among us has thought about the Roman numeral L since elementary school? What a great learning opportunity we're missing. (My memory has faded, but I think I got that question wrong on the SAT.)

There is good news. The NFL has promised to again use Roman numerals for Super Bowl LI. I guess we won't lose this educational moment after all. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

Climate change - What does the electric utility industry think, and what should we do?

Here's an update on the front lines of feeling-based climate change regulation. In early June Transmission & Distribution World conducted a poll on their website, asking just two questions:
  1. Do you believe the climate is changing due to human activity?
  2. Will your utility change its business strategy?
Before getting into the poll results, let's consider the facts as we know them. Contrary to claims that storms are getting more severe and frequent, according to actual weather data this is not the case. It feels like this is happening, but that's mostly because of television. The Weather Channel, CNN and other 24/7 news outlets thrive on tragedy, fear and controversy. These attributes of TV news attract eyeballs – people watching – to their programming and websites. They hype nearly everything to attract more eyeballs.

When seven hurricanes hit Florida in 2004-05, the news media connected the seven dots and predicted fire and brimstone for the ages. We were doomed. Ten years later, low and behold, the number of hurricanes has not increased and has even decreased in subsequent years. There is some evidence showing intensity (wind speed) has increased modestly. However, recently I heard about a cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere where the winds were 150 miles per hour. The story included this factoid "We haven't seen such intense winds speed since 1950."

Wow, 1950. Wait… 1950?

What was the atmospheric carbon intensity in 1950? It was about 315 ppm, well below the 350 threshold identified today as the tipping point when all hell will break loose (current level is 400 ppm). So why focus on the intense storm in 1950?

I'll tell you why: it creates fear. The problem of emphasizing the 1950 example is there's not a strong scientific correlation between weather and atmospheric carbon. Furthermore, there's no record of increased number of tornadoes or strength as carbon has increased.

Kivalina, Alaska, with 400 indigenous Inuit inhabitants. They live in single-story cabins, and have always been protected from the ferocious autumn and winter storms by a thick layer of ice. But, as reported by the BBC, during the last two decades there has been a retreat of Arctic ice, leaving the village vulnerable to coastal erosion. The U.S government has attempted to help. A defensive wall was built along the beach in 2008. However, it could not prevent an emergency evacuation in 2011 following an major storm. Now, engineers predict the 7.5 mile-long barrier island will be uninhabitable by 2025.

There is one environmental change that is noticeable: sea level rise. The amount is small, but measured. A few millimeters. Nevertheless, we can imagine if the planet is warming a bit and the polar caps are gradually melting, that sea level rise is a natural outcome. That's not a good thing. It's a red flag, and we should act. But I think we have time for reasonable, meaningful action.

Now for the poll results. First T&D World asked “Do you believe the climate is changing due to human activity?”
  • 21% said it's not changing and the media is creating unnecessary alarm.
  • 52% said the climate is slowly changing, but it's ALWAYS changing, and we have plenty of time to adapt.
  • 20% said the climate is changing radically due to human activity and we're already past the tipping point.
  • 8% said there's not enough data to draw a conclusion.

And second, “Will your utility change its business strategy?”
  • 8% said no, except for coastal utilities.
  • 78% said we need to update aging energy delivery systems and increase resiliency to all threats, storms included.
  • 8% said radical redesign is needed due to increased storm ferocity.
  • 6% said customers are not yet at the point where they will accept significant rate increases to harden the grid.

The survey results say people in our industry believe something is happening to the climate and we must act deliberately to slowly decarbonize our energy production and delivery systems. But there’s a big caveat – we have time.

Today we are faced with a proposed EPA rule to eliminate coal, and expand renewable energy and energy efficiency. Sadly, the debate over climate science – while not dead – is moot for the time being. Those in charge at EPA have determined the time for action is now, and we must respond. Our job – as public power utilities representing our customers – is to determine the impacts of the proposal and – here's the hard part – develop an alternative plan to reach reasonable goals, without creating economic havoc among our customers and across society.

It's an awesome responsibility we must take seriously and with determination. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

No more coal! (Let's burn it in Europe!)

Coal use in the U.S. has declined significantly in the last 24 years. Nationwide, we used to burn coal for 55% of our electric generation megawatts; now it's down to 39%. Mostly, as coal plants have shut down at the end of their useful lives, they've been replaced by natural gas combined-cycle units. There have been no new coal plants built in the last five years. 


So what's the coal industry to do? Sell their product to Europe!

But wait... haven't many countries in Europe adopted climate change rules to cut carbon emissions. Why yes, they have. They're just ignoring them now. In fact, 19 of 28 European Union (EU) countries have been subject to formal complaints about carbon emission rules. 

As the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz said, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

The Wall Street Journal reported in early May that U.S. exports of coal are on track for a record-setting third year, to more than 100 million tons. Exports to the EU alone in the past 10 years have more than tripled, from 13.6 million tons in 2003 to 47.2 million tons in 2013. 


Even green Germany, which decided to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, has turned to coal. Europe was happy to favor the environment when the economy was good (pre-recession), but the result of investing in renewable energy is higher electricity prices and reduced grid reliability. That, they could not accept. 

Related sidebar... I was watching Real Time with Bill Mahr this weekend, and Bill said in passing something like, "Germany generates 74% of their electricity from renewable energy - wind and solar." I was a bit shocked, and wondered if it was true. How does one check that factoid? Fortunately, Ian Bremmer, Author and President of Eurasia Group, was there as a guest to clarify. "That's just for one particular day, Bill." 

One day. And Bill Mahr was prepared to let stand, uncontested, the statement that Germany generates 74% of its electricity with renewable energy every day. That's the last time I depend on comedians for my news.

Here's what it all means. It's complicated. De-carbonizing the economy is not an easy task, and will take many years. We're not building any more coal plants, so over the next 30 years, and perhaps sooner, we'll be generating electricity in the U.S. from something other than coal. Emissions of carbon will drop by 40-50%. No regulations needed, just the natural order of business. 

On second thought, perhaps it's not complicated. 


Please stop saying "No problem"

Let's just get to the point. Strike the phrase "No problem" from your vocabulary. 

"No problem" is typically used instead of "You're welcome." For example, let's say we're at the grocery store looking for cupcakes. After an employee helps us, we typically say "Thank you." The employee's answer is not "No problem." It is "You're welcome."

Same is true at work. "Thanks, Sally, for providing that information today," says Ginger. 

"You're welcome, Ginger," says Sally. 

So what's wrong with "No problem"? On the scale of responses, on the left we see "This is a problem." In the middle there is "No problem," and "You're Welcome" sits on the right. "No problem" indicates that helping you is just no big deal. It's like saying "Whatever," or "I don't care." 

Rather than saying an indifferent "No problem," saying "You're welcome" suggests it was a pleasure to assist you. If you care about the people around you, and want your relationships to improve, quit saying "No problem."

If you really want to go overboard, you could even say "It's a pleasure." But that may be a bit much for most people. Stick to the basics...

You're welcome.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Will do!

I like that phrase.

I work in an association with hundreds of active members and a vibrant, responsible staff. We have about 50 projects going on at any one time. To keep all these balls in the air, we matrix manage. On some projects, I'm the leader, and on others I complete tasks for other leaders. 

When delegating responsibility, there's no better response I like to hear than "Will do!"

"Will do" shows you are a responsible, can-do person that is an important part of the team. You are the kind of person others want to be around.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Seriously, your spit can be used to make electricity.

Graphic by Luci GutiĆ©rrez, Wall Street Journal
I promise I am not making this up. In the near future your saliva may be used to power a medical device implanted in your mouth.

The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Akst reports in the April 19th edition that scientists at Penn State and King Abdullah University have been able to power a very small fuel cell using human saliva as the fuel. It would be smaller than a dime, and probably even smaller when put into use as an implant in your mouth, like maybe glued onto your tooth. 

This microbial fuel cell would use bacteria - again, from your mouth - and break it down into organic material. This releases enough usable electrons to create current from an anode to a cathode. There's not much of a current, a mere 1/1,000,000th of a watt, but it is enough for ultra low-power devices to operate.

I know at this time you are probably salivating over the opportunities to make electricity from your mouth. So what can we use this new energy technology for? Seriously, the first application is likely to be medical monitoring. For example, a low-power electoencephalograph on a chip could warn of an approaching epileptic seizure. Another option is to determine female ovulation, for which we know of several chemical changes that can be detected 5 days prior. 

What do you think will be the next application? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Grass Isn't Greener

The greenest pasture is not somewhere else. It’s the place where you plant yourself and create a great environment for growth. - The following is from Jon Gordon (www.jongordon.com)

We often think that the grass will be greener somewhere else.


We believe we'll be happier and more successful anywhere but where we are.

And so we pursue happiness and chase success thinking one day we will magically find them. But rarely will we find happiness and success by seeking them.

I've learned if you want success you can't chase it. Instead you must decide to make a difference where you are... and success will find you.

I've learned if you want to find happiness don't seek it. Instead decide to work with passion and purpose... and happiness will find you.

Too many people want instant success and gratification right now. Too many athletes want to be traded because they think they'll be more successful on another team. Too many employees complain that their co-workers aren’t working hard enough and this affects their own performance. Too many sales people compare themselves to others and become frustrated and disengaged. Too many people worry about what everyone else is doing instead of focusing on what they are doing. Too many people run from challenges instead of developing stronger roots.

If you are like me, you’ve been one of these people. Most of us have at one time or another. It’s human nature after all.

That’s why I want to encourage you not to worry about things you can’t control. Don’t run away from where you are in the hope of finding greener pastures.

Instead plant yourself like a Seed each day and invest your time and energy growing yourself and others. When you plant yourself where you are with a passionate desire to make a difference you’ll grow into the influencer you were born to be.

The greenest pasture is not somewhere else. It’s the place where you plant yourself and create a great environment for growth. When you do this, you'll produce an abundant harvest filled with real success and true happiness. 

From Jon Gordon (www.jongordon.com)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Marketing global warming to convince more people it's actually happening

I guess I shouldn't be shocked that environmental groups are using well-researched messages to convince the public climate change is happening and something must be done about it immediately. As someone who works in the energy field, you could say it's just the pot calling the kettle black. We frequently test messages on a variety of topics and carefully choose our words to get our message out. And I see it across the board in other industries. You will be amazed about this one. 

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger wrote in The New York Times about the environmental groups' strategy. 

The big problem these days is whenever there is a weather disaster, many immediately turn to the cause as "climate change from carbon pollution." The problem, they have found, is that when it's cold and snowy in winter - wait, that's not climate change - that's just winter! Or when we don't get a lot of hurricanes, or they're not too severe, then you can't blame a not-too-violent storm on climate change. Even Superstorm Sandy, which resulted in tremendous financial loss and was a human tragedy as well, was just a tropical storm hitting one of the most heavily populated areas on the planet. That's just bad luck you can't blame on climate change. 

So here are the marketing lessons from the environmental experts on how to market climate change:
  1. Claims that current disasters are connected to climate change motivate liberals to support action, but alienate conservative in equal measure. Not a good strategy if you want to move people to your side. 
  2. What works, say environmental pollsters - Focusing on popular solutions. Note, I didn't say real solutions. Popular ones only. Solar, wind and energy efficiency reduce emissions while "strengthening the economy." But environmentalists ignore the fact these options are not the least cost, nor are they uniformly paid for by all citizens. What I mean by that is in a utility's energy efficiency program, if you get a rebate and I don't, is not fair to me. You get the benefit. Yes, it's available to me, but I only get a $250 rebate if I invest $1,500 in a new refrigerator, money I may not have available. So limited renewable solutions that ignore other, less sexy low carbon options, also polarize people on either side. 
  3. A conclusion from the journal Nature Climate Change, sponsored by - guess who - Environmental Defense Fund - says "Communication should focus on how mitigation efforts can promote a better society" instead of "the reality of climate change and averting its risks." That's because the reality of climate change doesn't fit the narrative that we're going to hell in a handbasket. Or better said, that we have time to address the potential impacts of climate change in a way that the economy can absorb without creating severe economic disruption. 

Interestingly, nearly every major environmental organization rejects nuclear energy, and many even oppose the move from coal to natural gas, which produces almost half the carbon emissions. Together with the rhetoric about catastrophes around every corner seen internationally on The Weather Channel, the result is that many believe climate change is being exaggerated. They then conclude no action should be taken. After all, ask Nordhaus and  Shellenberger, if climate change is a planetary emergency, why take nuclear and natural gas off the table?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why is excellence rare?

When you look at the service we experience around us, do you have the feeling people are striving for excellence? I see it occasionally, but sadly, not often enough.


My strongest impression, though, was experiencing something you see too little of these days on land: “Excellence.” You’re riding in a pressurized steel tube undersea. If anyone turns one knob the wrong way on the reactor or leaves a vent open, it can be death for everyone. This produces a unique culture among these mostly 20-something submariners. As one officer put it: “You become addicted to integrity.” There is zero tolerance for hiding any mistake. The sense of ownership and mutual accountability is palpable. And that is why, said Adm. Joseph Tofalo, the Navy’s director of undersea warfare, who was also on the trip, “There is no multiple-choice exam for running the sub’s nuclear reactor.” If you want to be certified to run any major system on this ship, he added, “everything is an oral and written exam to demonstrate competency.”


Excellence, integrity and accountability. All vital characteristics of a submariner. If only those were characteristics of everyone we encountered. Is excellence on land more rare because we accept mistakes and inefficiency as par for the course? Which should come first, the attitude of excellence or the acceptance of inefficiency? Let's set high expectations for excellence, first in ourselves, and then in others.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wind turbines are getting cheaper, taller, and now... Floating!

Wind power is growing, and the generation opportunities exist even in places where there's not a lot of wind. The New Your Times reports a start-up called Altaeros Energies is preparing to introduce its first commercial pilot of an airborne wind turbine in Alaska. Known as the BAT — or Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the enormous, white helium-filled doughnut surrounding a rotor will float about 1,000 feet in the air and feed enough electricity to power more than a dozen homes through one of the cables tethering it to the ground.

Take a look at the picture. This is a floating, helium-filled wind turbine! Since the wind is always stronger the higher up you go, wind power is becoming possible even in places like the southeast where traditional wind power (fixed towers) is not feasible. 

Are there potential problems? Let's think. Low flying airplanes, for one. How about the ability to withstand storms, or even hurricanes? And then there's safety. Will this thing remain tethered or float away? How about target practice? Do you think a hunter or two might be interested in seeing if they can get a bullet to reach the floating windmill?


We shouldn't poo-poo this start-up. We should celebrate the innovation and look forward to watching its first application. Just make sure you fly above 1,000 feet. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Want people to like you at work? Try this...

Being liked at work, reports the Wall Street Journal, is a key for achieving success. If people like you, there are many advantages. You're more apt to be hired in the first place, and once hired, you'll get plum assignments. You're more likely to get help from coworkers, and be forgiven more quickly when you make mistakes.

So you want to be more likable? Here's how: 1) Be curious about others. Make eye contact (or if that's too difficult, look at their nose - unless they have a funny nose - then look at their eyebrows - unless they have a unibrow...) Ask questions about their opinions and their favorite activities. Don't dwell on yourself; rather, focus on THEM. 2) Listen. Actually listen to what people are saying and follow up with questions ABOUT THEM. Don't just listen to them and immediately talk about yourself and your wonderful life. Focus on THEM. 3) Smile. What more needs to be said. Just smile more and people will enjoy being around you. 4) Be authentic. Try to be natural. Except don't be natural if being natural for you is being nasty. In that case, fake it and act nice. Being nice is more important. Shoot for an Academy Award in niceness. 5) Find common ground with others. If you share an activity, politics, family activities, then talk about those common topics.

Good luck. And remember… Smile!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wireless electricity is supposedly coming to consumers, says CNN.

Imagine a house with no electrical outlets. You bring in a new blender, flick the switch, and presto!, electricity flows and the you have instant daiquiris! At least what CNN is reporting in a recent online report

The idea is infrastructure could be created in a house to create a giant electromagnetic field, strong enough to power light bulbs and appliances. A new startup has been created to bring us this wireless "resonance" technology, WiTricity.

There's no question that placing an energy consuming device in a magnetic field induces an electric current. If it's strong enough, power will flow. The folks at WiTricity claim its perfectly safe, stating the electricity is the same as we are experiencing in our WiFi routers, only a lot stronger.

In a WiTricity home, your smartphone will recharge in your pocket, lightbulbs will automatically come to life without being plugged in, and your TV will work without a mess of cords. Your electric car (we'll all have those soon as well) will charge in your garage without being plugged in. I know it sounds like a joke, but I am not making this up.

The company's first application is in the medical field, recharging a heart pump implanted into a patient's chest. This makes perfect sense, considering the options of operating to replace a device next to the heart, or leading a power cord from the body to the wall socket. (Ok, now I am trying to be funny.)

The challenge, CNN reports, is the limited distance the power can travel. It also seems to me that living around a constant electromagnetic field - the old EMF issue - will raise more questions and concerns about health. However for now, limited applications that get electricity to places where it's hard to attach a plug - like inside a body - is promising.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rep. Joe Garcia leads phenomenal Capitol tour for public power utility executives

Rep. Joe Garcia leads a tour of utility executives from
Florida's public power utilities 
I learned something last week while touring the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Joe Garcia. I learned you can still be a good, humble person while taking responsibility for representing 700,000 people.

Congressman Garcia, who's district includes the public power communities of Homestead and Key West, led a group of municipal electric utility executives from around Florida on a tour of the U.S. Capitol. His knowledge of U.S. history is deep, as he explained to us the importance of events while actually standing in the places where history took place. Also, Rep. Garcia's enthusiasm for representing his entire South Florida district was evident throughout the evening. I say this even though he was not afraid to challenge his utility visitors and ask them to evolve towards using cleaner energy fuels and away from coal. Rep. Garcia is a straight talker, eager to stand up for what he believes in.

In the Old House of Representatives, Rep. Garcia shows 
how the acoustics work. There were no microphones,
yet representatives could still hear each other,
even while whispering. In this photo, Rep. Garcia is 
whispering  at our group from across the room while 
standing in the exact location where John Quincy Adams 
sat at his desk from 1833-1843. 
Highlights of the tour include the opportunity to 1) Walk around on the Senate floor; 2) Tour the floor of the House of Representatives, and 3) Get a resounding, presidential standing ovation from 200 people also touring the House floor. They did that just to give us the feeling of what it's like. Pretty cool. Check out the photos.

This is the main door to the U.S. 
House of Representatives. The 
black dot in the middle is where 
the President of the United
States stands when the 
Sergeant-at-Arms calls out  
before the State of the Union 
address "Mr. Speaker, the 
President of the United States!"

This is the carpet outside the House of Representatives
chamber. Ok, it's just carpet, but really nice carpet.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tesla’s focus on new batteries could change the auto and electric utility industry

Tesla Motors is not just a car company. Because the equipment and charging (fueling) infrastructure doesn’t fully exist to make electric cars ubiquitous, Tesla is taking the reigns to make better batteries.
Tesla is working hard to impose a new car-driving business model on the planet. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just an observation. And it’s something that will impact the electric utility industry as well. At first blush, electric utilities might imagine all that new electric car load and how to supply it. After all, one-third of the nation’s energy is used in transportation (another third is electricity).
But Tesla is thinking bigger. They’re building a new battery factory, called a “gigafactory.” They want to build their own dedicated batteries that hold a big charge and last a long time. Since existing electric cars can only go about 100 miles without plugging in for a few hours, better batteries will help that industry expand.
New battery technology is pushing plug-in hybrid cars like the Chevy Volt and the Plug-in Prius to expand their markets significantly.
Elon Muck, Tesla’s CEO, has other plans. Not only does he want to build cars, batteries and quick car-charging stations, he also wants to sell batteries to customers and utilities to manage peak demand. Furthermore, Musk wants customers with solar power to charge batteries during the day and use the power at night.
We can only imagine the options that would open in the energy world with better batteries. Watch Elon Musk at Tesla. They’re pushing the envelope in cars, batteries, renewable energy and demand response.

The Coming American Economic Boom

In a new book titled “Unleashing the Second American Century,” Joel Kurtzman says there are 4 key forces propelling the U.S. economy forward: 1) Depth of creativity, as we can see from our tech sector, 2) Huge energy reserves and the new oil and natural gas that have recently been tapped, 3) Massive amount of money ($5 trillion) in businesses’ bank accounts waiting to be invested, and 4) Manufacturing depth.
Regarding the energy sector, Kurtzman claims we’ll be energy independent by 2020, which would be a great thing. Energy independence would change the geopolitical landscape, as the U.S. would no longer rely significantly on the Middle East for oil. While the Middle East would still remain a large global producer of oil, the U.S. would simply be able to avoid being a pawn in their regional wars and in-fighting.