by Eurobubba

Bootstrap B2B meeting 5/24

The Bootstrap Business-to-Business subgroup meets next Monday:

WHEN: April 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm
WHERE: Business Success Center in the Chase Bank Building, 7600 Burnet Road (corner of Burnet Rd & Northcross Blvd, one block south of Anderson Lane) — same building, new office!

Our speaker will be Jan Triplett of the Business Success Center, speaking on:

Getting Through Alive and Well

"If you know what to look for and how to reinforce what you've got, you can make your business grow more stable and successful. Learn what's  on the radar screen of one of Austin's chief small business strategists and activists, Jan Triplett. She will talk about the five major business killers she sees out there now and coming. Some, she says, you have control over, some you don't. She'll also tell you the three top priorities she recommends to protect your business and move ahead. (She should know having lived through and grown businesses in six previous recessions.) You can also ask her questions about what the government (city, state, national) is doing. If she doesn't have the answer, she'll get it for you.

"Jan Triplett, Ph.D. is the CEO of the Business Success Center (BSC). She has provided management and marketing strategy and advice to product and service businesses for 27 years. She has published numerous articles on small business, is the author of A Networker’s Guide to Success and the co-author of Thinking Big, Staying Small. She was a moderator for KUT radio and is a frequent media commentator on small business issues. The SBA presented a 5-Star business development award to the BSC and named Triplett as Texas’ Small Business Advocate. She writes a blog at ownersview.com and you can follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook @JanTriplett."

See you Monday!

by Eurobubba

Bootstrap B2B meeting 4/19

The Bootstrap Business-to-Business subgroup meets Monday:

WHEN: April 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm
WHERE: Business Success Center in the Chase Bank Building, 7600 Burnet Road (corner of Burnet Rd & Northcross Blvd, one block south of Anderson Lane), Suite 130.

Our speaker will be James Baker of Revenue Rising, speaking on:

The Business Communications Spectrum: The Journey
from Your Guts...to Client Advocacy.

"Everyone's company is unique in both form and function. The main thing is
the mastery of Leadership's integrity around its commitment to the
CLIENTS'/CUSTOMERS' experience. That encompasses EVERY area of your
business...from financial to production to sales...leaving nothing
untouched. Come prepared to participate fully in a guided discussion around
that topic."

Please RSVP to mlg@bdanube.com

See you Monday!

by Eurobubba

CEOs’ club takes a broader view of energy policy

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been getting all the (bad) press, but there's at least one national business organization that's taking a broader view of efforts to combat climate change. CEOs' club The Business Roundtable released a report last week titled Unfinished Business: The Missing Elements of a Sustainable Energy and Climate Policy, urging Congress and the Obama administration to protect energy security and economic growth while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and modernizing the electric grid.

While the report doesn't exactly toe the enviro line — it promotes expansion of nuclear power and R&D investments in "clean coal" technology — green-minded readers can only applaud its call for enhanced energy efficiency and modernization of the electric power grid to better accommodate renewable energy. Encouragingly, Roundtable President John Castellani explicitly acknowledged that a sustainable transition to a low-carbon economy must be a national priority.

by Eurobubba

Topolánek channels Limbaugh

P. O'Neill at the indispensable Fistful of Euros reports on Czech Prime Minister Mírek Topolánek's speech to the European Parliament today. Topolánek had disturbingly harsh words for the Obama administration's response to the global economic crisis, saying that Obama's stimulus package and banking bailout "will undermine the stability of the global financial market" and calling the administration's economic policies "the way to hell."

The Czech Republic currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, but the country's domestic political situation is shaky. Topolánek's government lost a vote of confidence in parliament just yesterday. Topolánek will stay on for the time being as head of a caretaker government and may yet be tapped to form a new government by President Václav Klaus. However, Klaus has long been a notorious Euroskeptic, and the rift that has grown between the two men due to Topolánek's support for the EU's Lisbon Treaty could easily lead to a different choice. As Obama prepares to attend the G20 summit in London and meet European leaders in Prague in April, it is an understatement to say that the Czech EU presidency is in disarray.

by Eurobubba

Wind/solar/biofuel microgrid brings electric power to isolated border community

The Texas Observer is reporting on a collaboration between state agencies and Austin area battery developer Xtreme Power Inc. to bring electric power to the previously unserved colonia of La Presa near Laredo.

The power plant, if it can be called that, consists of a trailer parked on the corner of someone’s property, loaded with super-efficient batteries and a generator that runs on biodiesel or ethanol. Inside the trailer, a computer monitors the power as it flows to each home, sending the data in real-time to Xtreme’s headquarters in Kyle. Perched on top of the trailer is a panel of photovoltaic cells that capture solar energy. A 30-foot-tall wind turbine whirs nearby. Biofuel, wind, and solar work like three legs of a stool, providing a continuous supply of energy, about 2 kilowatts to each home. Each setup costs between $50,000 and $100,000.

The bad news for residents: electric power, free so far, could soon cost over twice as much as grid power in Laredo. And water and sewer service are still years away.

by admin

Energy: the big picture

A recent mailing list post by Roger Baker got me started synthesizing my thinking about where we stand in relation to the twin energy crises of peak oil and global warming.

I've been thinking for a long time now that a long, flat oil peak is really our best hope for a relatively smooth transition to a renewable energy future, as it gives us more time to do the research, development, engineering, and infrastructure rollout we'll need than a sharp peak followed by a steep decline. So if production has been flat for over two years and the industrialized world is slipping into recession, that's actually good news from a big-picture perspective. (If I wanted to be more rigorous here I'd also look up the most recent Chinese GDP figures, but hey, this is just a blog.)

To me the big picture is about two cost trend lines that are closer to intersecting than people seem to realize. The first is the marginal cost of producing a unit of energy by extracting, refining, and burning fossil fuels, which has been low but is rising rapidly due to peak oil and growing demand from China. The second is the marginal cost of producing energy by investing in renewables, which has been high but is falling with advancing technology and economies of scale. The important point is that once the latter drops below the former, peak oil (and peak gas and even peak coal) no longer matters. The economy will seek energy inputs from the cheapest available source, which will no longer be fossil fuels.

Thus energy cost can only be a long-term brake on economic growth if you believe renewable energy is subject to the same "peak" logic as fossil fuels, and I don't see any prospect of that in the foreseeable future. One does hear that a few European countries are beginning to exhaust their wind power potential because the best onshore wind farm sites have already been developed. I personally don't believe it, but I haven't looked into it closely enough for any confidence either way. Even if it's true, the US is nowhere near that point. And, Dyson spheres and Ringworlds aside, we won't even need a framework for thinking about a "solar plateau" for a very long time (and no "peak" even then since solar energy won't actually decline for hundreds of millions of years).

When you break it down by energy source (oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, etc.) and type of energy use (basically electric power generation, heating, and transportation), you get different trend lines and different intersection points. The renewable trend lines are likely to be kinky as various bottlenecks come into play. Storage seems to be the big one right now, and transitions from research to development to production engineering to infrastructure investment for various technologies will all play a part. But the overall trends are basically the same, and we're not that far from the intersection points in a growing number of areas -- that is, renewables are already becoming price-competitive with fossil fuels in many cases, electric power from wind being the most prominent example.

The thing is, responding to price signals is exactly what the market is best at. The higher the price of oil, the greater the incentives to conserve and develop alternatives, and there's plenty of potential for both. There may be other crises looming that are simply beyond the capacity of human ingenuity to deal with, but I just don't see that being the case for energy.

The other huge energy-related concern is global warming. For some odd reason the climate crisis and peak oil conversations don't seem to overlap much, but if you believe as I do that climate change is a bigger threat than economic dislocations from high energy costs, then rising fossil fuel prices, like anything else that discourages CO2 emissions, are a good thing. My guess is that we will end up burning the rest of the (conventional) oil, and we'll have to deal with that additional CO2 in the atmosphere one way or another -- but the fact that the total supply of oil is limited means the problem is at least not open-ended. What the climate consequences will be I don't know, but (fingers crossed that no runaway positive-feedback loops are triggered) they're at least finite.

What I'm much more worried about is coal, since global coal reserves are generally thought to be much greater than oil reserves. I'm extremely skeptical about "clean coal" and carbon sequestration, so in my opinion the great challenge facing the human race is bringing down the cost of renewables for all our various energy uses fast enough to keep coal from becoming the default source. I sincerely hope the article I linked to above is right, though it generally presents "peak coal" as one more thing to worry about, not celebrate.

(After I wrote the above, Roger pointed me to a 2005 paper known as the Hirsch Report that addresses the costs and lead time requirements of potential peak oil mitigation responses. We've been in denial on energy supply issues ever since Reagan tore Carter's solar panels off the White House, and we've lost a whole generation when we could have been working on new energy tech. It's going to be a much rougher ride than it needed to be, but I remain cautiously optimistic that we'll ultimately get through it. Maybe I'll have more to say here after I've finished reading the Hirsch paper.)

by admin

What I’m up to…

I'm in the process of demoting the Blue Danube translating business to become one in a range of export support services. What I want to be doing is facilitating export of American clean/renewable energy technologies to European markets. Depending on how things evolve, I may also be looking at import opportunities later. For the moment I'm still very much in a process of learning and building contacts, but I intend to have a solid starting business structure in place by mid-May. I'll be visiting Germany and the Czech Republic in May, June and July; my goal is to be representing at least three American companies during that trip and for the trip to at least pay for itself.

More to come....