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Friday, November 28, 2008


Chapter 6 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity included an anecdote regarding Mumbai, the city capturing the headlines these days.
Bombay was Eye-opening

We landed in Bombay after midnight, but the customs agent sent us to the back of the line because we had no visas. No one told us about that before the trip, but, sure, that was our fault.

At 2:30 in the morning, we were the final two in line. The temperature was in the 90’s (degrees Fahrenheit). That agent—and, sorry, but he looked like a crook—said he had to keep our passports, and we could enter the country, but we should hire someone to get them back before we checked out of the country. What choice did we have? This is scam city, and a more active form than in Cairo, yet to come.

There was a very large sign behind him warning anyone not to exchange money with these officials. So he proceeded to ask us how many rupees we wanted. Oh, great, now what? Do we ignore him and walk out, invoking his rage to purposely lose our passports, or get thrown in jail for exchanging money? We got a few rupees. No problem.

The taxi ride was uneventful. We checked into the Holiday Inn, and got a room with the noisiest air conditioner I have ever experienced. But it worked. We specifically picked this hotel because it was a Holiday Inn. Certainly, it would be sterile.

The next morning, we went down to breakfast in their coffee shop, which was swarming with flies. Yes, this was a Holiday Inn.

Pearl walked just outside the hotel area to the beach, and came running back, as a whole mob of children was chasing her to sell rocks. Not gemstone quality, but plain old rocks. What a cultural shock.

We took an arranged tour of the city. I can still remember the utter poverty. People living in cardboard boxes…mothers with deformed children begging…carts hauling dead people to special areas for vultures to pick on…this was a totally different world. Bombay was a shock to our senses.

The tour guide was especially proud of a church basement where 8-10 year old children were sewing in semi-darkness, almost swollen with pride because at least they had shelter and food. The Hanging Gardens of Bombay approximated my hanging roof garden in Honolulu. The Gateway of India was swarming with a million people. People bumped into you at this tourist attraction because of crowd surges, but as far as I could determine, there were no pickpockets. Singapore has about 2,000 people/square mile…Bombay is almost ten times that density. 20 million people? I can go on, but a couple of days later we finally found ourselves back at the airport six hours before our flight, to retrieve our passports.

You can imagine our anxiety as we waited for 5 ½ hours with our baggage, waiting to check in. Through a major miracle, the youth we hired came running back…we barely were able to check through…just got on board, and the plane left India. That was our last trip to this country. Eliminate India as a best place to live.
Mumbai has a current population approaching 14 million, with a metropolitan area of 21 million, the largest in the country. It is the financial capital of India and home of Bollywood. Almost 200 were killed by the terrorist act, claimed by the Deccan Mujahideen, whatever they represent.  Later reaction pointed to a Pakistani Islamist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, Pakistan officially condemned the action. While early reports speculated that Westerners were being targetted, my sense is that this was a traditional Muslim/Hindu squabble.  More specifically, within India, Muslims are more and more taking action for what they have determined to be discrimination. India is 80% Hindu and Pakistan is 96% Muslim. The September series of bombings killing 20 in New Delhi was attributed to the Indian Mujahideen (Muslim guerilla warrior engaged in a Jihad) and the October Assam blasts resulting in 84 deaths seemed linked to a regional liberation movement.
Bombay is now Mumbai, as Madras is Chennai and Calcutta is Kolkata. Cities are beginning to shed colonial references. Even New Delhi could someday be known as Delli.
The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 102 to 8829, but remained 34% below January 1, 2008. World markets were mixed, but mostly up. Oil is at $54.43/barrel.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


On this Thanksgiving holiday I thought I would reflect on the one most critical energy topic to be a challenge: transportation fuel. Much of the following was detailed in Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.

Renewable energy will be used to provide electricity and fuels for ground transportation and aviation. Sustainable electricity is well in hand. As the price of oil again increases, the range of alternatives will gain in prominence, starting with windpower, which is already competitive. Plug in vehicles are poised to make an impressive entry.

Liquid and gaseous biofuels are another matter. Details about this subject can be found in the book mentioned above. The current infrastructure is liquid dominated, so, for this discussion, I will delete biomethane and hydrogen from consideration. In addition, for now, hydrogen is just too expensive to produce.

The Nation and World unfortunately went in the wrong direction when ethanol from corn (plus sugars and other starches) and biodiesel from terrestrial plants were selected for focus. The Farm Lobby no doubt should be congratulated for smartly lobbying Congress and the White House for farmers are in great shape. Job done! Regrettably, grain prices jumped, causing a food crisis for developing countries. The knee-jerk reaction was, of course, all that fibrous cellulose, why not ferment those wastes into more ethanol? So, a second herd of white elephants is now being groomed. Why? Because there is a simpler alcohol called methanol that makes more economic sense. My HuffPo article of June 10 compares ethanol and methanol.

Regarding biodiesel, the notion is almost laughable, as only a very small percent of the plant itself is used. Biodiesel from algae, for example, is ten to twenty times more efficient in converting sunlight into usable fuel. Plus, these land plants grow relatively slowly and need irrigation water.

About the future of cars, one always hopes for nanotechnology making a difference, but it appears that the lithium battery might well be the ultimate. Per unit volume, fuel cells can provide more energy than any battery, perhaps by a factor five or more. This is why the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) will in time replace batteries for portable electronic applications. As an aside, this defies common sense, but one gallon of methanol has more accessible hydrogen than one gallon of liquid hydrogen. Thus the logic argues for producing methanol from biomass to power a fuel cell. Whoops, there is no DMFC for vehicles. For the record, while methanol has half the energy value of gasoline, the fuel cell is at least twice the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, so there is a wash here on fuel storage. And methanol is no more toxic than gasoline. You shouldn’t drink either one.

Aviation remains a great challenge. I wrote into the original Senate legislation, known as the Matsunaga Act, a section that did result in the hydrogen powered National Aerospace Plane Project in the 1980’s, which later became a black Department of Defense (DOD) Program. Thus, the only option over the next few decades has to be a replacement for jetfuel. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a solicitation for a commercial jetfuel from algae, and companies are coming out of the woodwork to do the job. Is this good? Yes and no. Nice that the DOD thinks $3/gallon is possible, and there is industrial interest in delivering, but the basic science and engineering has not yet been attempted. Why not?

First, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is mostly a monitor and protection agency. Second, the Department of Energy abandoned all ocean energy efforts and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory actually gave their microorganism collection to the University of Hawaii. The National Science Foundation did establish a Marine Bioproducts Engineering Center in Hawaii, but only for high value products. Energy is cheap, and that is the problem with biofuels from algae.

So what are the simple solutions to develop a progressive national biofuels program?

1. Terminate any ethanol from food support.

2. Adjust the existing language for tax incentives to say, “ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels from renewable resources.” This would make available future funds and permit academics to conduct research on biomethanol, biobutanol, etc., and stimulate industry involvement in these areas.

3. Quickly perfect a direct methanol fuel cell for vehicular applications. A direct ethanol fuel cell will be inherently inefficient.

4. Expand the mission of the Department of Energy to bridge the gap between research and commercialization and permit R&D for areas that link to energy. The economic potential of many renewable energy areas is enhanced with non-energy co-products.

5. As NOAA reports to the Department of Commerce, expand the current research policy to encourage oceanic research to commercialize marine products and closely partner with the USDOE to share common interests.

6. Accelerate the development of next generation aircraft, whether it be a hydrogen dirigible that can be engineered to travel 500 miles per hour or advancing the twenty year old National Aerospace Plane Project, or both.

The Obama energy transition team is now determining priorities for the next four years. With oil prices loitering around $50/barrel, I worry that attitudes have changed about the seriousness of our future energy problems. We, of course, know with a high degree of certainty that oil will zoom past $100/barrel again, if not next year than certainly within five years. The development of sensible next generation biofuels will take a decade, so, in a sense, we are already too late. But the timing is perfect for change, so let’s do it the right way this time.
The New York Stock Exchange is closed today, but all world markets fed on the four day run of America and went up. What about Black Friday? Well, hopefully that will only apply to shopping.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The Next Generation Solution

Ah, but on the horizon is nitrogen asphyxiation, known as killing with kindness. Nitrogen is 78% of the atmosphere we breathe. But if the content is less than 10% oxygen, death can result. Nearly 100 industrial deaths have been caused over the past couple of decades by too rich a nitrogen atmosphere.

In 1981, during final countdown for the Columbia Space Shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center, two NASA technicians entered the aft engine compartment, which was purged with nitrogen to reduce any hydrogen-oxygen build-up, and died in minutes from anoxia (lack of oxygen). Nitrogen has no distinct smell or taste. The same happened to the European Space Agency in 1995 when two more lost their lives from a nitrogen leak into the launchpad.

The body feels suffocation only when the carbon dioxide concentration in your lungs exceeds a certain threshold, as when you hold your breath. The beauty of using nitrogen, if you can call it that, is that in a nitrogen atmosphere, you exhale the carbon dioxide normally, but without the 20% oxygen on inhalation. Thus, death is painless without the feeling of suffocation. No state or nation is considering this option, although when I last visited Norway, being discussed was the use of this gas for the humane slaughter of fish. Maybe nitrogen should be used for turkeys and all livestock.

The Dow Jones Industrials have a four day winning streak, steadily increasing today to +247 (3%) at 8727. Asia also increased about 3%, but Europe remained largely unchanged. For the first time in memory, all twelve of my stocks gained today, including, of course, the ones I'm following for this daily blog. Crude oil is at $53.91/barrel and gold dropped $3/toz to $812.

We celebrate Thanksgiving because the Wampanoag tribe helped the Pilgrims plant crops in 1621 when they landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, leading to a feast of thanksgiving that fall. Plymouth now has a population of around 50,000.
Congress passed the order on November 1, 1777, but it was President Abraham Lincoln, who in 1873 announced his Thanksgiving Proclamation, making the last Thursday of November a national holiday. The turkey unfortunately (for them) became the centerpiece meal of choice because the Pilgrims could not find geese, which were consumed on festival occasions in England.

At one time half of all turkey meat was eaten between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tomorrow, 46 million (of the 250 million/year) will be served. The per capita rate is 14 pounds/year.

Did you know that most turkeys come from Minnesota? The bird kind, at least. Wisconsin sells the most cranberry and Illinois is #1 in pumpkin production.

A dry and oakey Chardonnay is the favorite wine on Thanksgiving. White Zinfandel is best for those who like a sweeter and cheaper wine. Pinot Noir is considered ideal if you prefer red.
Benjamin Franklin recommended the turkey as the national bird, but the Bald Eagle was selected over his protestations. A recent
article reports on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
The Seven Minute Solution: Lethal Injection

Every American execution since 2005 was conducted by lethal injection. The basic idea was proposed in 1888 by Julius Mount Bleyer, a New York doctor, because it was more humane and cheaper. Nothing much happened, though, until 1977, when Jay Chapman, the state medical examiner for Oklahoma, introduced the Chapman Protocol, a two-stage intravenous drip. Thirty-seven states have adopted this treatment, and so has China.

The technique has now been refined into a three-step sequence, with parallel drips, in case the first one does not work:

o sodium thiopental: induces unconsciousness;
o pancuronium bromide: stops all muscle movement, except the heart; and
o potassium chloride: causing cardiac arrest.

It usually takes 7 minutes for death to occur.

The Supreme Court has indicated that death-row inmates can challenge lethal injection as cruel and unusual, but has not themselves decided if this protocol is illegal or not. The American Medical Association believes that it is a personal decision. The debate is in two parts: first, is the death penalty too terminal, and, second, if acceptable, is there a more humane method.

The Florida Catholic Conference and Amnesty International USA reported on the Bennie Demps execution, a Muslim, who in 1971 murdered two people, was convicted to death, but was saved in 1972 when the Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional. However, in 1976, the Florida death law was upheld, soon after when Demps participated in a jail stabbing murder, and was sentenced to death for the second time. After all this time in jail, on June 7, 2000, D-Day came, technicians couldn’t find that second vein, and Demps was quoted by witnesses to have remarked, “They butchered me back there…This is not an execution, it is murder.”

In 1981, Michael Angelo Morales, a heavy drug user, was recruited by his gay cousin, Ricky Ortega, to kill Terri Winchell, 17, who was dating Ortega’s boyfriend. According to testimony, Morales strangled, hit her head 23 times with a claw hammer, raped, and then stabbed her four times. A quarter century later, in February of 2006, he ate his “last meal” of pork chops, bacon, a lettuce/tomato sandwich, milkshake and strawberry shortcake. Two hours before the second attempt at execution, it was postponed because a judge determined that there was a risk that the death might be painful, having something to do with not having a licensed professional do the job. Barbara Christian, Terri’s mother, remarked, “Here our beautiful daughter lies murdered, and there they worry about the way this monster feels and if he’ll feel any pain.” In mid-2007, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel said that he would visit California’s new death chamber later this year to issue a follow-up ruling.

Demps and Morales are still alive. Tomorrow, the Nitrogen Solution.

The Dow Jones Industrials inched up 36 to 8479. The world pretty much also rotated around no change, with Sweden being the only exception, jumping 9%. Crude oil also remained stable at $51/barrel.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Repeating headlines indicate that there is a very serious decline in fish stocks throughout our oceans, and projections show that even with the increasing world population and a shift of nutritional patterns away from red meat towards seafood, actual fish production will decline in the future. Already seafood costs more than chicken, pork and beef in supermarkets. At one time not too long ago, ocean products were a bargain. Remember those Friday fish meals (having something to do with some Christian belief) which were barely tolerated? The increasing gap between supply and demand will even further raise prices.

Aquaculture already supplies 31% (70% from China) of marine food production. But the future is in the sea around us, and mariculture, meaning aquaculture in the open ocean, is increasing, albeit slowly, because of environmental and other constraints.

Nearly a decade ago, I was co-author of The Ultimate Ocean Ranch, a concept to farm the ocean utilizing the following practices:

1. Place these ranches in the open ocean away from coastal environments.
2. Link to the cold water effluent of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plantships. These waters are very high in nutrients in the exact ratio and composition needed for sea life.
3. Conduct the basic science and engineering for the process:
a. Utilize nutrient or temperature barriers (i.e., no cages).
b. Close the growth cycle so that no feeding is necessary (see #2).
c. Acoustically harvest the seafood (not too adventuresome, but sound can attract fish).
d. Develop the robotics to protect the bioproduct.
e. And so on.

Next generation fisheries never did gain any traction, but, with the advent of OTEC, there is now promising hope for this concept.

I’ve certainly tried, for I co-chaired a National Science Foundation sponsored gathering in 1991 on Research Needs for Off-shore Mariculture Systems, and chaired the first international summit in Tokyo on the subject involving Japan, Norway and the U.S. in 2004. The following year I helped orchestrate the Bergen Declaration on Next Generation Fisheries, which was also signed by Chile. Thus, much of the international understanding and scientific storyboard to advance the field are already in place.

The clear leader for Next Generation Fisheries is the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research, headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii. Anyone out there interested in joining the mission to better feed humanity and insure for the survival of fish species nearing extinction should contact them.
The Dow Jones Industrials enjoyed its biggest 2-day run up in more than 20 years, jumping 397 today to 8443. Why did Detroit's begging fail and Citygroup, after already getting $25 billion from that $700 billion pot, being gifted with another $20 billion, quiet strategy succeed? If you don't believe that the related NFL fortunes of the Lions versus Giants/Jets have an affect on decisions, then, I guess, it must be the seriousness of this financial crisis. The European market went bananas (that's good) today, as most went up around 10% (versus only 5% for the DJI). Crude oil is now at $54.36/barrel, and OPEC President Chakib Khelil reported that is their $700 billion gift to the world, that is, maintaining humanitarian prices below $85/barrel. Of course, they did reduce production by 2 million/bbl/day, hoping for a speculative jump, and will drop another million/day to at hopefully for them raise prices to $70/bbl, still by their moral standards a charitable level. Gold is up $18/toz to $819.
This ends my hurricane tracking for the season until something interesting pops up in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


It’s Sunday, I’ll keep this short:

Stock markets, year-to-date, are down throughout the world:

Dow Jones Industrials -39%
United Kingdom -41%
S&P 500 -46%
Japan -48%
France -49%
Germany -49%
Hong Kong -54%
Shanghai -71%

Thus, the USA, relative to the world, is doing better.

Foreign exchange to the U.S. Dollar: Now / A Year Ago / % Change

British Pound 0.677 / 0.484 / 40%
Euro 0.800 / 0.674 / 19%
Japanese Yen 95.37 /108.680 / -12%

This means that your dollar goes further in Europe, but just the opposite in Japan.

About Citigroup, Saudi Arabian Prince Talal dumped some money into the bank on Thursday, and that helped for a few hours, then, the stock dropped another 17%. It has lost almost 90% this year. Today—Sunday-- the White House reiterated that no talks were ongoing to rescue the bank. It is 3AM, late Sunday night...who can you trust? Someone is not communicating, for the Fed Reserve and Treasury Department overnight announced they will infuse Citigroup with $20 billion from (TARP funds—that $700 billion package) to guarantee loans.

No storms in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Anika did make landfall in northwest Australia early today and dumped a lot of rain.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Dawn of the Blue Revolution

Much of the following is excerpted from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. This is Part II of my series on ocean resources, which was initiated with my previous posting on “The Coming of OTEC," announcing the development of a 10 MW OTEC facility by Lockheed Martin for Honolulu.

Many of you have heard of the Green Revolution, which improved farming practices for grains. The Blue Revolution, while similar in concept, is much more than just a marine copy, for there is promising potential for producing a wide range of sustainable products--renewable energy, green materials, exciting habitats, marine biomass plantations, next generation fisheries--while actually improving the ocean environment, through, perhaps, remediating global climate warming and preventing the formation of hurricanes.

Twenty latitude degrees above and below the equator is an ocean region currently considered to be a wet desert, for nothing much grows near the surface. This is because of a lack of nutrients. However, at 1000 meter depths is deep ocean water at 4 degrees Celsius with nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations, for example, respectively, at 100 times and 20 times greater than what is generally found at the surface. This is because life in the photic zone eventually settles at the ocean depths and decomposes in the exact ratio as is required for life at the surface. The deeper ocean is cold because of natural convection from the Arctic and Antarctica. Interestingly enough, marine biomass, certainly in the cellular form, is said to be from two to five times more efficient (in converting sunlight to mass) than any land crop (trees, grasses). Part of the reason is that land plants need to draw nutrients through a root sytem, while marine life can utilize the entire surface area contacting the ocean.

Natural upwelling brings some of this rich fluid to the surface in only one tenth of one percent of the ocean, where nearly half the seafood is harvested. If a means can be found to bring some of this deep ocean water to the surface, ocean ranches and farms can be supported, which would not need to be fed (the growth cycle would be closed), fertilized or irrigated. Another advantage is that the open ocean is generally considered to be free. The timing is ideal because all fisheries are now reported to be declining, at a time when demand is increasing because of population growth and changing nutritional trends. This resource also offers hope for the production of liquid biofuels and hydrogen. Part 3 of this series will delve into Next Generation Fisheries.

It so turns out that the temperature differential between 1000 meter and surface waters can be utilized to bring huge quantities of water to the surface in a manner which sounds suspiciously like a perpetual motion machine. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC—see previous posting) has been developed to the stage where net positive electricity can be produced. Hawaii happens to be the site where most of this development has occurred, and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is home to more than 30 companies and research organizations supported by deep ocean water. Japan already has a dozen such facilities.

It is the total package of products, though, including seafood, biopharmaceuticals, green materials, biofuels, etc., that appears to have niche applications of commercial interest. In the very long term, there is reason to believe that each grazing OTEC plantship could form a city or, even, country.

In my 2003 Bruun Memorial Lecture to UNESCO in Paris, I proposed that the United Nations take a leading role in galvanizing Project Blue Revolution. There are important Law of the Sea and international political issues to be considered. There are today only 192 countries forming the UN. Someday, perhaps, a thousand OTEC-powered Blue Revolution platforms, each a nation in itself, could well be plying our oceans, providing clean and sustainable resources for Humanity in harmony with the ocean environment.
Well, the Dow Jones Industrials soared 494 (+6.54%) to 8046, featuring a jump of more than 500 points in the closing hour. Yes, last night I finally placed my order for Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Boeing and Ultra Basic Materials. It is said that the announcement of Timothy Geithner (current New York Federal Bank president, and vice chairman of the Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee) as Obama's Treasury Secretary catalyzed this rally. Asia was up but Europe was down on Friday. Oil remained under $50 at $49.93/bbl. Gold leaped $56/toz to $801, just another sign that we are in for a long recession, so I would be worried about how low the DJI will yet go.
Tropical Storm Anika is weakening and still projected to make an Australian landfall late Saturday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


[The following is largely excerpted from Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.]

The notion of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) was sparked by Jules Verne with his 1870 “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” but technically was proposed in 1881 by Jacques d’Arsonval, a French engineer, and his student, Georges Claude (famous for inventing the neon tube, but was sentenced to life in jail after World War II for collaborating with Germany), who in 1930 and again in 1935 failed in attempts to prove the concept off Cuba. J. Hilbert Anderson, founder of Sea Solar Power, advanced the technology, but never attained net positive. Finally, off Keahole Point on the Big Island of Oahu, Jim Wenzel in 1979 led a Lockheed team on a borrowed Federal government barge arranged by U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga to produce 18 kilowatts of power, the first time any group had produced more energy than went into the process.

I just happened to be working for Senator Matsunaga in D.C., so worked with Rick Woldin, a Congressional Fellow with the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, to draft the first OTEC bill, which almost immediately passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. I like to give the credit to Rick, but, maybe it could have been me, for we predicted in the bill that 10,000 MW of OTEC power would be in operation by 1999.

In 1981, a Japanese consortium led by Tokyo Electric Power Company (I have an annual dinner with the leaders of this group) succeeded in feeding to the Nauru grid 120 kw of closed cycle OTEC power. Toshiba produced two 10 minute clips, Part I which can be viewed through OTEC News. You can also click on Part 2. Unfortunately, a hurricane wiped out the facility.

Well, I returned to Hawaii in 1982 and, with Paul Yuen, helped invent the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), suggested by Senator Matsunaga and named by then Governor George Ariyoshi, who with future governor Ben Cayetano, chairman of the Hawaii Senate Ways and Means Committee, provided the funds. I’m pulling this out of the air, but my recollection is that PICHTR was able to convince the U.S. Department of Energy (largely influenced by Senator Dan Inouye and Congressman Dan Akaka) and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through the efforts of Mitsuro Donowaki, Shinichi Nishimiya, Fujio Matsuda and George Ariyoshi) to provide up to $25 million for a team (Lloyd Trimble, Luis Vega, Andy Trenka, Steve Masutani, Gerard Nihous and associates) succeeded in 1992 with a 255 kw (gross) open cycle OTEC facility at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii on the Big Island, also providing freshwater.

India, aided by Saga University of Japan, made a 1 MW attempt in 2006, but had cold water pipe problems. Otherwise, most of the notoriety with the technology has been associated with announcements of projects on Diego Garcia (Department of Defense), various Pacific Islands (Department of Interior and Japan) and the Caribbean (Solar Sea Power), which has never attained fruition.

Now, however, Hawaii has again gained the spotlight with an announcement that Lockheed Martin, with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), is designing and will build a 10 MW OTEC facility, most probably to feed electricity and freshwater to Honolulu. Doug Carlson has an OTEC blog providing details.

One final anecdote is that PICHTR, exactly 20 years ago, worked with ITRI to produce an $80 million multiple product OTEC study for Taiwan, led by Paul Yuen and my engineering team (same group as mentioned above). In our small way, then, we like to think we stimulated some interest in what could someday be the most important renewable energy resource for Hawaii and World. Maybe The Blue Revolution (see Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth) has finally started.
The Dow Jones Industrials reached 8187 at midday today, but since then has mostly tumbled, now down 445 for the day to 7552. Whew, it was a good thind I didn’t purchase any stocks when the DJI fell below 8000 yesterday. Save for Norway, which stayed barely plus, the whole world fell, with the Japan Nikkei down 7% to 7703. It was just over 16,000 in December of 2007. In many ways, the DJI and JN track each other well. Crude oil crashed through the $50 floor, dropping $5.25 to $48.85/barrel. Gold at this writing is up $10/toz to $746.
Wow, an early tropical cyclone named Anika, currently only at 46 MPH in the Indian Ocean is headed for an Australian landfall in two days. This is the first storm in the southern hemisphere. Nothing in the Atlantic or Pacific.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


There is a crucial brinksmanship game going on, with General Motors (GM), Ford (F) and Chrysler (C) threatening bankruptcy if they don’t receive a $25 billion bridge loan and the people, jaded with bailouts, feeling that these companies deserve their fate. Caught in the middle are Congress and the White House, with Democrats leaning towards Detroit and Republicans not.

My blog of November 12 indicated that bankruptcy was not a smart strategy. Whether Chapter 7 or 11, automobiles sell a product that needs to be nurtured by that company for years to come. People felt reasonably comfortable flying a bankrupt United, for Mileage Plus was still in effect and the period of risk was short. Few would buy a car from a bankrupt manufacturer, especially when other companies are offering bargains and assured maintenance. If GM goes under, Ford and Chrysler will then, actually, gain in sales. Also, the United Auto Workers has already sacrificed rights and benefits in the recently signed contract, which will lead to labor cost/car on par in a couple of years with Toyota cars built in the U.S. Re-negotiation because of bankruptcy would not yield much more.

What do the polls say? Early on, three-fourths of Americans were opposed to government aid. Recent surveys indicate that concern is growing and there are new polls indicating that, perhaps, more support the bailout. However, the most prominent pro-help result came from a GM-subsidized Peter Hart Research Associates effort.

A complicating factor is that Congress has already passed a $25 billion loan to GM/F/C to develop next generation vehicles. Company representatives insist, however, that they fully need this sum, plus another $25 billion, more specifically to cover their daily losses. There are supporters in Congress who favor just carving out $25 billion from the already in effect $700 billion Wall Street rescue package for this latter application. But the Republican Administration and their congressional supporters argue that was not the legal intent, and, more importantly, all of the $700 billion will be required for financial institutions. Linked with all this are the Big Three lending arms that probably do qualify.

We were supposed to learn tomorrow, when the Senate was scheduled to vote on this matter, but Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed decision-making, so now, the sense is that this mess will be taken up next year when Democrats are more fully in control. Why are Democrats in favor of assistance? First, yes, they lean in the socialistic direction, but, more so, unions helped place them into office, and the matter of jobs comes into play. Financial Week has reported that unions spent $385 million to get Obama and other Democrats elected.
The Dow Jones Industrials today crashed 427 to 7998 (-5%), with much of the drop occurring in the final hour. Well, as promised, I guess I must now re-invest in the same stocks I bought earlier this month. GM fell 10% and Ford 25%. The world markets also all lost value, save for Hong Kong and Norway, which barely stayed positive. Germany declined 7.56 %. Crude oil slightly fell to $53.18/barrel, with the Dated Brent Spot at $48.67. Gold was -$3/toz at $735.

There are two tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean, but not currently of much threat to population sites.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I updated my WALL-E and EVE posting of three days ago into WALL-E, EVE and Barack for The Huffington Post, which was published yesterday.
So far this year, according to THE ECONOMIST, as of the day after the presidential elections, the stock market in Switzerland (SMI) has dropped 28.9%, Japan (Nikkei 225) was down 30.1% and the USA (Dow Jones Industrials) has declined 31.1%. These are the three BEST performing exchanges. The World average DROP was 40%, with France (CAC) -42.4%, Norway (OSEAX) -53.5%, India (BSE) -58.6, Venezuela (IBC) -59.5% and Turkey (ISE) -60.9%. BUT THE TWO WORST? CHINA (SSEB) -74.7% and RUSSIA (RTS) -63.8%. And, yes, they blame the USA for all their troubles. Hmm…maybe we’ve found a way to vex and hex our purported challengers.

Airline stocks have held up well, and so have energy companies. General Motors (GM, from 23 to 3) is only a shell of what it was at the first of the year, but Ford (in the 2 to 2.5 range), with violent swings, is largely unchanged. Best as I can tell, you can't today purchase Chrysler shares, for they are now mostly owned by Cerberus, an American equity firm.  Daimler today has zero ownership of the company. The next step would appear be GM gaining control from Cerberus of Chrysler. In 2005, GM and Ford talked about combining forces. Either one grand American auto firm or a three-company joint spinoff to produce next generation environmentally virtuous vehicles sounds reasonable, and the best option might well be both.

How are renewable energy companies doing? Terribly. provides details. Go to and click on “Finance.” Their REW 40 Index shows that the range this year has been from 542 to 1284, with a latest price of 606. Thus, the year to date change is minus 51.4%. Companies such as Hoku Scientific, Siemens AG, China Wind Systems, General Electric and Ballard Power Systems are among the 40 companies. Gushan Environmental Energy Limited, a People’s Republic of China firm headquartered in Hong Kong, jumped 20% today. They are into biodiesel. I wouldn't get too excited about terrestrial biodiesel, though.

Oil stayed pretty much unchanged at $54.66/barrel, but the Dated Brent Spot crashed the $50/bbl barrier, and is now down to $49.20. Gold inched up a dollar to $737/toz.

No major ocean storms on the horizon.

Monday, November 17, 2008


The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
How are the Condemned Executed?

Early on, suffocation was the means, but the more humane dropping of the body from a sufficient height to dislocate the neck or sever the spinal cord was then instituted. There was a time when stones, swords and axes were used. Then firing squads and hanging became the termination actions of choice. There were also the Scottish Maiden and the Halifax Gibbet, instruments that crushed the neck by blunt force to take off the head.

In France, there was sentiment for ending life with minimal pain, so a committee was set up, with professor of anatomy, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, credited with developing the concept of a falling triangular blade with a beveled edge. The device in 1792 became known as the guillotine in France and fallbeil (falling axe) in Germany, was universally used in Europe, and finally retired in 1977. Gas chambers were also used, but that is another story of the holocaust.

In the U.S., the gas chamber was also utilized, but the electric chair (EC) had a dreadful history and showed some bitter rivalry between Thomas Edison, an advocate of DC electricity, and George Westinghouse, who was responsible for AC currents, the eventual winner. In 1887, Edison held a public demonstration, setting up a 1,000 volt Westinghouse AC generator to execute a dozen animals on an electrified plate. The term “electrocution” was invented that day. It was gruesome, but the point was made that AC electricity was dangerous. Edison’s smear campaign did not work, but it did get the Westinghouse chair adopted for executions. In 1889, Westinghouse’s chair became law, but he refused to sell any AC generators for this purpose, and, even funded the appeals for the first so sentenced prisoners. Edison, through subterfuge, then provided the AC generators. The media referred to the process as being “Westinghoused.”

William Kemmler was the first to be executed in New York in 1890, and it wasn’t pretty. The first 17-second jolt did not kill him, so the voltage was increased, and on the second attempt, blood vessels ruptured and the body caught fire. It took eight minutes. He died. Westinghouse commented that they should have used an axe. Notable victims were Sacco and Vanzetti, Bruno Hauptman, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Ted Bundy. Nebraska is today the only state to solely use the electric chair, but the May 8, 2007 execution was stayed while the courts looked closer at the EC as cruel and unusual punishment.
The Dow Jones Industrials sank almost 250, then turned positive for an hour or so, finally free falling during the last hour almost 200 to 8274, or minus 224 for the day. The final few minutes are getting more and more exciting...dangerously so. The world markets, save for Norway, Hong Kong and Japan, all declined a couple of percent. Crude oil declined $2/barrel to $55. Gold fell $5/toz to $738.
Well, hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere is coming to an end, so I will stop reporting anything unless something happens in the Indian Ocean. It should be interesting if there are any south Atlantic hurricanes this coming year.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


How Does the Public Feel about the Death Penalty

Over the past two decades, the percent of Americans who thought that death should be the penalty for murder has vacillated between 49% and 61%. Life imprisonment has ranged between 29 and 47%. However, to the question, “favor or oppose death penalty for those convicted of murder,” the favor opinion from 1936 to 2004 had a low of 45% in 1965, rose to 80% in the 90’s and seems to be around 70% today. Opposition ranged between 13% and 43%, settling at 25% of recent. Thus, most Americans FAVOR the death penalty.

A curious shift has occurred to the question, “is the death penalty a deterrent to the commitment of murder,” sitting at 61% for yes in 1985, and dropping to 35% in 2004. The no response rose from 31% to 62%. So the average citizen does not think that the death penalty deters crime. They are wrong but don’t know it.

Thus, on June 15, 2007, the Death Penalty Information Center reported that 58% of Americans now want a national moratorium on executions. Executions rose in the 1990s, but has tailed off since then. The reason? John Grisham books, movies and TV shows. While 39% of the general population believe they should be disqualified from capital juries (because of their views on the subject), the figure for African Americans is 68%.

Around the world:

o 55% of Brazilians support the death penalty, a 14 year high.
o 29% of Finns;
o 42 % of French favor reinstating the death penalty;
o 81% of Japanese; and
o 28% of New Zealanders want to reinstate the death penalty.

In general, support for the death penalty is dropping globally.
There are a couple of minor storms in the Indian Ocean and two in the West Pacific, but no hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones are expected.
Well, will the bear market soon go into hibernation? With the Dow Jones Industrials at 8497, we're still not quite down to 8000. Is even 7000 now in sight? Even though Thursday saw the third highest jump (552), the DJI sank 5% for the week. This coming week, a whole host of companies will announce revenue declines, for people are not buying, making Christmas looking gloomy. Investors like stability, so Republicans speaking against a Detroit bailout and the international economists meeting this weekend not announcing anything substantive only omens more volatility. The DJI Futures are looking red, so a continuing downtrend looms Monday morning, at least. Boeing finally overcame strike threats, so not all is bad. Plus, worldwide futures are green.

Friday, November 14, 2008


What are WALL-E and EVE doing on the right? Well, stay tuned.
The troubled assets relief program (TARP) is morphing into things unexpected. Detroit, the auto industry, wants some of the $700 billion, and today, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Atlanta, representing cities, made a case to share in this largesse, arguing that public welfare makes the most sense, and mayors were at the ground level to immediately put people to work. Next, of course, the Terminator, gaining the full support of all states to manage the funds, as California, in particular, is in terrible shape, only a step or two away from bankruptcy.
Wall Street has become the big, bad villain these days. They need some positive public relations, so what about something so far-fetched as the U.S. Senate convening in 2009 with 60 senators, meaning no filibuster. With a visionary as POTUS (President of the United States), real change can come. So let's fantasize a bit.
In an inspired move supported by all, including the general populace, President Obama and our new Congress agree on the Economic Vitalization Edification (EVE) Act of 2009, endowing $2500 to each person living in the country (yes, maybe also illegal immigrants, but not tourists), with a stipulation that, if they purchase anything, it must be made in America (advocated in HuffPo article, Buy American, Again), and, create a Green Wall Street instrument, for now, called Wall-E, no, not from Chevy Chase's WALLEY WORLD, but that underdog robot from the movie, WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class), with the E, of course, standing for a clean environment.
This Wall-E will represent a segment of the stock market only for environmentally enhansive companies. The Big 3, for example, would need to spin off corporate entities focused on renewable energy powered vehicles. Yes, this sounds awfully close to that lovable Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, WALL-E, and the love of his life, Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, EVE, so get Steve Jobs and Disney somehow involved in the marketing of the concept.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, published last year, predicted that oil would drop to $50/barrel, and the Brent Spot Price this week made it down to $51/bbl. On cue, T. Boone Pickens has apparently, for now, abandoned his wind farm efforts, supposedly because credit is tight, but, let's face it, $50 oil significantly raises the risk factor, the deadly virus for renewable energy projects.
So, the next economic rescue package should focus on saving these Green programs because we all know that when the world financial crisis is overcome, oil prices will zoom pass $100/bbl, perhaps even up to $200 in five years. If these sustainable energy projects die now, it will take years for many of them to recover. The corporate giants will need to develop start-up firms to take on this challenge, for we know how constraining a stodgy corporate board can be. We can use something like WALL-E and EVE to save the Nation and World.
The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 350 points, then, at midday, like yesterday, began a climb, this time up 450. The DJI then crashed 438 at the bell to 8497, down 346 for the day. World markets virtually all rose a bit. The price of oil is now at $57/barrel, a fall of $1.20, with the Dated Brent Spot back down to $51/bbl. Gold is up to $750/toz.
All quiet in the ocean.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Capital Punishment and the World

One of the bullets above implied that the U.S. is the only country that executes. This reference was to international tribunals, which have tended not to carry out the death penalty on even the most heinous of crimes. Japanese war criminals? They were judged by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East or Khabarovsk War Crime Trials, and 1000 were sentenced to death. Nuremberg was a military tribunal. Military trials can be terminal. Adolph Eichmann? He was tried in an Israeli court and hanged.

While there were only 18 nations prohibiting the death penalty in 1977, today, 89 countries have totally abolished this practice, 10 use it only under very special circumstances, and 30 others have not used it during the past decade. In comparison, 38 U.S. states do not allow death. China carried out from 1,010 to 8,000 executions in 2006, depending on the source, as compared to 53 in the USA. Ten years ago, 40 countries had executions, compared to 26 in 2006. Thus, while the trend is towards more clemency, the U.S. is not the only country that terminates the life of a wanton convict.
The Dow Jones Industrials fell below 8000 today, but beginning midday, started a climb of 911, or plus 553 for the day, and ended up at 8835, or +6.67%. Exxon and Chevron alone accounted for 20% of this increase. This was the third best day, ever. It was a kind of herd mentality, hoping that the G20 meeting on the economy this weekend does something useful. If that's true, it's no wonder that we are in trouble. The world was mixed, with Hong Kong down 5.5% and Japan up 4%. Crude oil also rose, $1.31/barrel to $59.55. This sudden jump must mean that investors think the recession might not be as bad as feared. I had planned to leap in as the 8000 level was breached, but could not because it takes at least 4 days for E-Trade to confirm any electronically transferred sum from my bank into my account with them. Missed the moment again. Hopefully the market will sink another 1000 through next week. Gold gained $21/toz to $734.
No ocean storms worth mentioning.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Earlier this week, the Huffington Post published an article I wrote entitled, BUY AMERICAN, AGAIN. You can read this posting plus comments by clicking on the title.

I've been thinking about how best for Detroit to recover and thought that maybe bankruptcy might be a useful strategy, for the management could then re-negotiate wages. Currently, Toyota pays $1400 less to workers in Kentucky than General Motors is shelling out in Detroit. First, that is not a whopping difference, but, further, it turns out that the deal the Big 3 made with the United Auto Workers means that by 2011, labor costs will be about the same. However, Japan pays $1000/car less on labor. More so still, consider, then, the future of Chinese cars.

So, what, then, about the American auto industry, which supposedly is responsible for 10% of jobs in the country? General Motors reported that they could go bankrupt next year on cash flow alone, having lost $73 billion since 2004. The reaction to this crisis is for all the auto companies to cut production, cut management positions, cut everything they can. I guess they are trying to show D.C. that they are serious about their problems. As much as they are responsible for their predicament, the national economy is at that critical tipping point, and the crash of such an important industry could well trigger a depression.

It is with these thoughts that I wrote "Buy American, Again." Rather than, as in the $700 billion Wall Street rescue, why not try something different? Let each person help make a difference. What about giving the money to the people, as will occur anyway with the second stimulus package. The President can make a strong plea to buy something American...not only cars, but anything made in the country. Many will purchase passenger vehicles, for there are now almost as many of them as citizens (250 million versus 300 million). Perhaps 15 million vehicles will be purchased next year, or as much as $400 billion in sales. The subsequent feedback was not particularly supportive.  Responders were more concerned about being forced to buy American.  They wanted the more personally selfish freedom of choice, rather than making a decision  for the common good.  Somehow, as antithetical as Buy American is even to my own beliefs, I think there is something here that deserves to be pursued.
Well, the Dow Jones Industrial crumbled further, down 410 to 8284, not paying any attention to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's consumer bailout press conference. World markets also uniformly fell.
Crude oil dropped $3.52/barrel to $55.81 and the Dated Brent Spot price is $51.20, very close to my predicted $50/barrel, when, unfortunately, many renewable energy projects will be cancelled. Worse, the urgency President-Elect Obama showed about energy will now be delayed for his focus on the economy and a national medical plan. T. Boone Pickens mentioned on CNBC today that oil prices have essentially bottomed. However, he, now of wind power fame, said a couple of months ago that oil would not drop below $100/barrel. He also announced delaying his ambitious wind farm effort. He blamed the credit market.
Tropical Depression Paloma is dissipating north or Cuba.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
The Death Penalty Works

In 2005, there were 16,692 cases of murder in the U.S. There were 60 executions.

On June 11, 2007, Robert Tanner of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.317 Further, each execution saves from three to 18 lives. Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, who opposes the death penalty, was one of the authors of one of those studies. He said that each execution saved five innocent lives.

Since 2001, there have been a dozen such papers, and they ALL say the death penalty deters crime, as for example:

o 2003 Emory University conclusion that each execution deters an average of 18 murders and

o 2006 University of Houston study that the Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years.

The acceptance of this notion—that executions deter crime—has significant ramifications, as in 1975, Isaac Ehrlich’s analysis that each execution saved eight lives influenced the Supreme Court to end the death penalty moratorium, even though a National Academy of Sciences panel decided that Ehrlich’s conclusions were flawed.

Predictably, critics responded:

o there were profound mistakes in the methodology so the results are untrustworthy;

o we don’t have enough data to say anything; and

o this is an open question.

The latter two opinions, actually, came from a very scholarly 2006 paper by John Donahue and Justin Wolfers, published in the Stanford Law Review.

Well, does the death penalty work or not? It works, crime is deterred, according to some scholars.
The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 177 to 8694, or 2%, with General Motors ($2.92/share) now at a 65 year low. How significant is this? Well, 1943 was during World War II and the DJI were not much over 100. Except for Sweden and Norway, the rest of the world markets fell from 2 to 4 percent. Crude oil slipped 58 cents to $58.68/barrel. Gold fell $13 to $732/toz.
Paloma is a tropical depression at 30 MPH, and will move from the north coast of Cuba to the Bahamas, but will continue to weaken.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The following is excerpted from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
The Death Penalty Does Not Work

With the exception of assassins, most people who kill are not in a rational frame of mind. These murders generally occur on impulse.

The reality is that:

o While executions in the U.S. from 1976-1996 increased from 0 to 60, the homicide rate per 100,000 remained constant at just under 10.

o About 80% of criminologists believe that executions do not have a deterrent effect.

o Two-thirds of U.S. police chiefs do not believe that the death penalty reduces murders.

o A 1998 United Nations study concluded that executions do not deter.

What does work is a combination of reduction in drug use, a better economy with more jobs, simplification of court rules and longer prison sentences. In fact, in 1996, those states with the death penalty had an average murder rate of 7.1 per 100,000, and those which did not had a rate of 3.6. In Canada, the homicide rate dropped 27% after the death penalty was abolished.

In September 2000, a New York Times survey showed that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty was 48 to 110 percent higher than in states without the death penalty. This was reported in a press release by Amnesty International USA, where “action for human rights” and hope for humanity” are their themes. It went on further to state that the threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or in a grip of fear or rage, or is mentally retarded.
Are you convinced, then, that there should be no death penalty? Well, that is one of the ambiguities of the judicial system. Tomorrow, a case is made for the death penalty.
The Dow Jones Industrials jumped up 200, then had a low of minus 187, finally settling -73 to 8870, which is 33% lower than on January 1 of this year. The DJI has ranged from 7883 to 13780 this year. World markets all went up today, more so in Asia than Europe. Crude oil rose $1.28/barrel to $62.32 and gold went up $9/toz to $746.
Hurricane Paloma attained Category 4 speeds, then hit Cuba as a Category 3, surprisingly killing no one (apparently, as of this writing), but causing vast property damage. Now a tropical depression, Paloma is expected to weaken further and go in any direction she wants.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


In the Year 2100, Hawaii will be an energy paradise:

o We will be energy self-sufficient with our winds, sun and ocean providing 100% of our electricity.
o Our ground transport will be include plug-in electrical vehicles, direct methanol (from biomass) fuel cell cars and biodiesel from marine algae.
o The Blue Revolution will be in full blossom, with renewable marine energy, green biomaterials, sustainable fisheries, marine biomass plantations and exciting new habitats on grazing platforms.
o Aviation will be powered by jet fuel from algae and the latest hydrogen jetliner.

However, the pathway to independence will be rocky and difficult, for the air travel solution is at least 50 years away. If oil prices can be maintained under $100/barrel, we will slowly, and arduously, get there. If crude jumps to $200/barrel in two to five years, Hawaii’s economy will calamitously suffer worse than virtually anywhere else. There are serious people already planning for what could well become pure survival.

An almost expected bad case scenario is that we will muddle along to replace oil/coal with renewables for electricity. It will be expensive, but some combination of ethanol, biodiesel and methanol will ultimately partner with plug-in transport for terrestrial applications. That was the easy part.

Our economy is almost totally dependent on tourism. Already, the recession has reduced travel 20%. This condition will probably worsen a bit, but the national and world economy will recover, and China/India will then truly expand oil consumption. If petroleum reaches $200/barrel, as predicted by Goldman-Sachs, in combination with Peak Oil, jet fuel will become so expensive that only the very rich will be able to afford a trip to Hawaii. Aviation fuel from coal or oil shale will not be possible if global climate warming is real. Are we doomed in this 50th State? Can a replacement be found for jet fuel?

Let us look at the positives:

Hawaii-born and reared Barack Obama will become the next President of the United States. U.S. Senator Daniel will become Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, while retaining his chairmanship of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Propitiously, an innovative next generation renewable hydrogen aircraft patent was filed last week, and the inventor would like to use Hawaii as his developmental base.

Thus, while the next decade or two will still be painful, there might be hope, for what better than a dire emergency to galvanize action? If, because Hawaii will have unprecedented power in D.C., we are selected to lead an Apollo-like effort, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus and Mitsubishi, to develop the next generation hydrogen aircraft, that will add a billion dollars to our economy and hopefully produce a commercial plane capable of flying on hydrogen in ten years. This is ridiculously optimistic, but not impossible. Sometime before the year is over, I hope to present a full report on this program.
Hurricane Paloma, at 140 MPH, is possibly the strongest Atlantic storm ever in November. Lenny in 1999 was of similar strength. Paloma is expected to weaken a bit, making landfall on Cuba early Sunday, and continue to lose strength after returning to the ocean, turning slightly west, then dissipating. Tropical Storm Maysak is at 50 MPH, and meandering in the South China Sea. While still heading for China, it is expected to turn south and weaken.

Friday, November 7, 2008


The following is excerpted from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
On the Morality and Efficacy of Death Sentences

The ACLU has eight objections to the death penalty:

o unfair,
o irreversible;
o barbarous,
o unjustified retribution,
o costs more than incarceration,
o not a deterrent to capital crimes,
o less popular than the alternatives, and
o inhuman and anachronistic.

Others say, the death penalty:

o violates America’s founding principles;
o is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes;
o creates more victims;
o is arbitrary and capricious;
o is racist, classist and financially contingent;
o deprives us of our own human dignity;
o denies our ability to change;
o is cruel and denigrating;
o is unanimously excluded in international jurisdictions; and
o as no one is beyond redemption, it detracts from the transformative power of God.

Much of the above is moralistic, but let us look at some of them.

Life in Prison is Cheaper than a Penalty of Death

While at first glance it seems that it should be cheaper to swiftly inject a lethal dose than to keep a lifer in air conditioned comfort, there are sound arguments that the added cost of capital trials is greater than a simple one maintaining the prisoner in jail. Duke University estimated that death penalty trials take 3-5 times longer than typical murders, plus, they are invariably followed by appeals. It costs North Carolina $2.16 million more per execution trial than one for a life sentence. At $100/day, this would keep a prisoner for nearly 60 years.

Thus, the matter of deterrence, perhaps, becomes more important. That, and the diminishing need for trials, if economics were of consequence. (This the first of several parts to come analyzing whether the death penalty works or not, plus trends on adjudicated termination.)
The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 253 to 8949. Nearly 200 points came in the final 45 minutes...after the first press conference of Barack Obama, where he, essentially, said nothing, with his economic advisors behind him. Both GM and Ford reported on their third quarters, and the news was disconcerting, especially for GM, which indicated that without governmental assistance, it will go bankrupt next year (if you read between the lines). The national unemployment rate went up from 6.1% to 6.5%, with 1.2 million jobs lost this year. So why did the stock market increase? All the above was already anticipated the past couple of days. Much of the world went up, with two notable exceptions being Japan's Nikkei dropping 3.6% and Sweden's OSSX All Share down 6%. Something seems to be happening in those Scandinavian countries.Crude stayed largely unchanged at $61/barrel, with the Dated Brent Spot at $57/bbl. Gold rose $8/toz to $737.
Paloma is now a hurricane with sustained 105 MPH winds, and will make a Cuban landfall on Sunday. Tropical Storm Maysak, now at 45 MPH, is moving towards China and should yet strengthen, but it remains unclear where it will really go, although a wild guess is that Maysak will loop around and head towards Viet Nam.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


About the American Civil Liberties Union

In 1920 the American Civil Liberties Union was founded by Crystal Eastman, a lawyer who helped write the Equal Rights Amendment (women suffrage), and Roger Nash Baldwin, who served as the executive director until 1950. It is reported to have more than half a million members.

Very simply, the ACLU provides assistance when civil liberties are at risk, including religious freedom. It tends to attack Republicans more, but, of course, because of their beliefs. It has defended the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi organizations, the North American Man/Boy Love Association and Lt. Colonel Oliver North. The ACLU lost the Scopes Trial and was fined $100; filed an amicus curiae (legal opinion) brief in the Brown v. Board of Education trial, which led to the ban on racial segregation; and was the first major national organization to call for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.

This organization receives nearly $100 million each year in donations, almost 90% from the general public. It actually rejected $1.5 million from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in 2004 because there was a stipulation prohibiting the underwriting of terrorism, which the ACLU viewed as a threat to civil liberties, a remarkable point of view. Let me repeat, the ACLU refused money because it believes terrorism should not be prohibited. Well, that might be skewing the sensibility, but the point is that the ACLU leans too much in the direction of freedom and liberty, even for terrorists and sexual deviants.

In the State of Hawaii, and much of the nation, the labor unions were essential to bring equality to the masses. They still have an important role to play, but are they being smart about their current mission? Times have changed. The ACLU, I fear, is suffering the same obsolescence when it comes to crime. For example, they are continuously on the back of Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who is later suggested as a simple solution to minimize crime), always happens to be on the side of the criminal, and exact considerable cost to government, which means taxpayers money. I would like to plead for the ACLU to mature into a more responsible organization, and, now and then, consider the innocent public as your primary constituency.

Convicted criminals have certain restrictions in society. They have legally nullified their contract with society and are, therefore, at risk. Here, ACLU steps in, for the convict is still human. If some understanding can be reached that government has the right to treat the offender in a manner that maintains reasonable health, at minimal expense to the community, this will provide the ACLU with more resources to scrutinize the Patriot Act and sundry other more important issues.
The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 443 to 8696, or 929 (nearly 10%) in two days. Only 696 to go before I might jump in, and maybe not. Norway remained essentially unchanged, but the whole world fell: Hong Kong, Japan, France and Germany around 7%, slightly worse than the 5% DJI slip. The world automobile industry is in jeopardy, for even Toyota just announced a net income decline of two-thirds, with Ford and GM are scheduled to report tomorrow. I thought the bottom might be months away, but just before close on Friday, November 7, could well be opportune. The NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange West Texas Intermediate) Crude Future dropped $4.53/barrel to $60.77, with the Dated Brent (North Sea) Spot now at $57.20/bbl.
Tropical Storm Paloma is now at 63 MPH and is heading north, soon turning northeast, and should strengthen to over 100 MPH just before striking Cuba this weekend. It is possible that a tropical storm could form just west of the Philippines and head towards China.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Well, the post-election hangover resulted in the Dow Jones Industrials crashing 486 to 9139. Who said we are over this economic slump. In fact, I predicted that 8000 would be the bottom, and we have 1139 points to go. So, awaiting that period, I thought I would be prepared this time with my E-Trade account, but learned that I had to go through a few more hoops before activating it with more money. The last time with Ameritrade I lost a few days and missed that moment. Let's see how long it takes this time, although I don't think the nadir will be reached for weeks, if not months. The Pacific-Asian markets all rose (Japan Nikkei up 4.5%) today, while, save for a couple of Scandanavian countries, the European stock exchanges mostly dropped (German TECDAX down 4.5%). Crude sunk more than $5/barrel to $65.30, as it looks like OPEC will only reduce production by 400,000 barrels/day. Gold slipped $22/toz to $738.
In case you didn't know, Hawaii is this week celebrating Arbor Day. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed this occasion on April 10, 1907. While April is the traditional month, Hawaii picked November 3, and will be holding ceremonies this year from November 6 to 8. Traditionally, children plant trees and sing songs.
HECO began their custom of giving away seedlings in 1993, which this year can be obtained on Saturday at a variety of locations. Interesting that in the early days I did pick up a couple of, I think, eucalyptus seedlings, and planted them on my roof. I can't imagine how they procreate so young, but I haven't been able to completely eradicate what, at that early stage, looks and grows like weeds. Maybe I picked up some superweeds by mistake.
This brings up my latest Huffington Post article on THE VENUS SYNDROME REVISITED. A couple of years ago, scientists from the Max Plank Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, reported Trees implicated in greenhouse gas conundrum. In short, they said that 30% of the methane produced in the world came from trees, and it is of course true that one molecule of methane is at least 20 times worse for global warming than one of carbon dioxide. We knew that dead trees under certain conditions decayed to produce some methane, but live trees naturally emitting this gas was most shocking and controversial. The Institute immediately released a press release saying that trees, on balance, are good. However, the science on "growing trees and resultant methane contributing to the Greenhouse Effect" has not yet been fully answered.
That would indeed be the ultimate irony if trees turn out to be a terrible contributor to climate warming and Teddy Roosevelt is thus blamed for initiating Arbor Day. Hmm...I wonder if 1907 is when global warming began to be accelerated. Nah, can't be.
Tropical Depression Polo in the Pacific is dissipating, but Tropical Depression Seventeen, now at 30 MPH, just formed near Guatemala, will move northwest, then northeast, probably in the meanwhile growing into a hurricane in two to three days, threatening Cuba.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I thought this was a holiday, but, the Federal government is at work and Wall Street is alive and well, with a surging Dow Jones Industrials, which jumped 305 to 9625, the highest close in more than a month. Crude oil leaped $6 to just under $70/barrel on production cuts by Saudi Arabia. Gold is up $37/toz to $764.

First of all, on October 15
I predicted that Obama will become our next president. Well, I will say it again: BARACK OBAMA WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE USA. Certainly more people will vote today than, perhaps, ever before. That’s good for America and our democratic way of life. For the first time I know, the people –you and I—are feeling that we are now part of the process.

I’m watching CNN and jumping around the relevant channels, actually tracking how the elections are coming along. I started at 7AM, and plan to do this all day and night. This has never ever happened before. This is like the longest home “tailgate” party I’ve ever had, with all the imbibibles.

Here is the current state of the world and my latest predictions:

1. The stocks I bought can be quantified, so here are the cold facts (remember, they were all sort of purchased at the beginning of this month):
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Purchased....Today... % Increase

a. Microsoft....................$23.64.....$23.50
b. General Electric..........$19.85.....$20.77
c. Lockheed Martin.........$84.95.....$85.91
d. Boeing.......................$51.90.....$53.62
e. Ultra Basic Materials....$21.15.....$23.50


Good start.

2. The price of oil will storm past $100/barrel in 2009. Will it hit $200 in three to five years? If the world economy quickly recovers, yes. However, there is a self-checking mechanism at play here, for as oil jumps, the economy will be negatively affected, and demand should drop. Thus, it is possible that the only way oil can reach $200/bbl is for some significant political event to occur. Under any circumstance, Hawaii will remain in terrible shape because if the recession continues, the tourist rate will continue to drop, and tourism is the dominant revenue source for the state. If general recovery occurs at the international level, the price of oil will skyrocket again, jet fuel will become very expensive and only the rich will afford a trip to Hawaii. Easing of visa requirements will enhance South Korean travel, and if the same can occur for China, that would minimize the hardship. This terrible state of affairs will continue for a decade and longer. The quicker some alternative can be developed for jet fuel, the greater will be the hope for the state by 2020. Will the sustainable hydrogen dirigible be this answer?

3. How bad is the American economy? Not good, but better than most of the world. The following from data available today:

Country........% year to date drop of global stock markets

USA (S&P)...34
(Russia........70--sketchy data)

4. Investments in renewable energy will depend on the cost of petroleum and the reality of global warming. If the price of oil returns to $100/bbl and higher, significant expansion will occur. If oil drops closer to $50/bbl, then most of the mega projects will be cancelled. In any case, because Congress re-validated the tax breaks just before adjourning, wind power will boom, the electrical delivery systems will be upgraded and plug-in electric cars will gain in prominence. In the longer term, as ethanol will decline, biofuels will prove to be non-competitive and hydrogen will remain too expensive, biomethanol (methanol from the gasification and catalysis of biomass) will begin to take over (in a decade), largely dependent on the development of a direct methanol fuel cell for vehicular applications. Aviation will remain in jeopardy for decades due to the continuing increase in jet fuel prices. Airlines will consolidate, as will American automobile companies.
5. If, against all odds, global warming is proven to be fallacious, then coal and oil shale will become bonanzas, for we are the Saudi Arabia of these fossil fuels. Windpower should continue to expand, but other solar and biofuel options will only serve a transitional role to offset high oil prices.
Tropical Storm:Polo is continuing to move west-northwest, but will soon begin to move mostly west. Still with 40 MPH winds, it will dissipate in four days and later pass south of the Big Island as a remnant.

Monday, November 3, 2008



The world prison population in 2003 was 8.75 million, which is a little more than a tenth of one percent of the world population. The number of inmates in the United States now exceeds 2 million. This is particularly interesting, for with 5 percent the world population, the U.S. has almost one quarter the number of citizens in prison, which is curiously close to the disproportionate rate at which we use energy. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world at 686 per 100,000. Worse, 7 million of us—one in every 32 Americans—were either in jail or on parole at the end of 2005.

In 2005, America added about 1,000 new inmates each week, increasing the prison population to 2.2 million (726 prisoners per 100,000 people), or almost 1% of this society. However, 62% are not yet convicted, as they are awaiting trail. Actually, the situation is worse, for 4.8 million adults were on probation or parole in 2003, and 40% of them will again be jailed someday. Men are ten times more likely to be in prison. Expectedly, but still shocking, 11.9% of black males in the 25-29 age group are in jail, with, in comparison, 3.9% Hispanic and 1.7% white.

While China has 1.43 million (119 per 100,000) incarcerated, they have four times more people than the U.S. The U.K. has the highest rate in the European Union, at 139/100,000. In south central Asia (including India), the figure is 54/100,000, or less than a tenth that of the U.S. However, prison populations are growing worldwide. Is there a better way?

In terms of jails (per 1000 population):

o #1 Maldives 2.2
o #2 Czech Republic 2.1
o #3 Papua NG 1.7
o #4 Hong Kong 1.5
o #9 Dominica 0.014
o #22 United States 0.005
o #50 Thailand 0.002
o #62 Kazakhstan 0.0001

Nearly 10% of all prisoners are there for life. In 2005, that were 127,677 inmates, an increase of 83% since 1992. Let's see, now, if we could somehow eliminate this burden...whoops, I'm getting ahead of myself.

In 2001 (most recent U.S. Department Justice analysis--governmental crime statistics tend to be notoriously tardy), the average cost of an inmate was $62, which should be about $75/prisoner in 2007. This sum means a tax to each citizen of about $125/year, or in the range of $500 for each family of four. Your taxes, of course, pay for prisoners suffering in this largely air-conditioned comfort. When you add the total correctional expenditures, each family contributes about $1200/year. Most actually welcome this tolerable safety tax. But there must be a better way.

Any poll will show that the general population applauds more policemen and placing more criminals in jails. Here I go again, but I disagree. There is a better way…immoral, yes…depraved, maybe, but as Al Jolson might have said, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” The ideas are not mine. Some came through sardonic or facetious columnists, such as Rick Hamada of Midweek: remove eyes of car thieves so they cannot steal another car, commit a rape and provide the victim’s family five minutes in a room with baseball bats, cut hands off burglars, etc. Okay, he was not serious, but there are extremes, and I will advocate a particularly ghastly one, later.
The Dow Jones Industrials did not do much today, awaiting the presidential election tomorrow, slipping 5 to 9320. The rest of the world, too, is waiting, although the Japan Nikkei went up nearly 5%. Crude was stuck at $64/barrel.
Well, what's a few dollars. I went ahead with my recommendations and purchased:
Microsoft $24.64
General Electric $19.85
Lockheed Martin $84.95
Boeing $51.90
UYM $21.15
I can't be so gauche as to say how many shares, but you can be assured that they were all at least in double digits. I bought Microsoft and GE because I said they looked good in an earlier posting, and GE makes wind energy conversion devices (GE actually "invented" the first modern wind power system--see page 64 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, for the company of Charles Brush, the inventor, merged with Thomas Edison's company, which went on to form GE) Lockheed Martin interested me because they will make or break the development of ocean thermal energy conversion, and my vast investment will no doubt spur them to success. Boeing seemed worthy, first, because they just got over their terrible strike, but more importantly, because they have communicated with me in the past on hydrogen jetliners. For my next feat of magic, I plan to assist a group accelerate a next generation aviation system, which will run on hydrogen. LMT, in the form of Willis Hawkins and Dan Brewer, was, in 1979, particularly instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of aviation in Senator Spark Matsunaga's Hydrogen R&D Act. Finally, Ultra Basic Materials, because a friend told me to invest in derivatives. I hope I understood what he meant, and I trust UYM is something like that. Anyway, I will use November 1 as the start date for each stock and I will keep you informed over time on how these investments are growing. You got to think positively!
Tropical Storm Polo formed off Mexico, and now at 40 MPH, seems headed straight west northwest towards Hawaii. Over the next day or two, it will strengthen to 50 MPH, but dissipate before getting close to Hawaii. Being a small storm, it could well become a remnant even earlier.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I had a wonderful book signing at the Ward Center Borders.  This was a couple of months ago, but I'm experimenting with inserting photos in my blog.  On the right with me are Fujio Matsuda and John Wiltshire.  Thanks Fudge and John for showing up, and I understand we are having dinner on Monday.


The following excerpt is from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.

Status of Drug Control

The enforcement is relatively simple: prevent growth, seize product, exterminate (make that, legally, arrest and convict) suppliers, educate the youth, treat users the first time and revert to more odious punishment subsequently. The White House in 2006 reported that violent crime, homicides and property crime dropped from 2003 to 2004, except for drug abuse violations, which increased. The FBI reported in 2007 that murder and robberies were up for the second year in row, as mentioned in the previous section, so illegal drug use must be increasing.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, though, reported in mid 2007 that the world drug situation has been stabilized and brought under control. U.S. Drug Czar, John Walters, agreed. Sure, but the United Nations indicated in September of 2006 that the Afghan opium crop jumped 59% that year, for opium is 35% of the local economy, and American Ambassador William Wood said in July of 2007 that the Karzai government destroyed nearly 50,000 acres (about 10% of the cultivated acreage) of poppies this year, yet the opium crop set another record. The key is understanding what is being said. Simply, “under control” means not wildly out of control.

We do have a problem. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 80% of the increase in the federal prison population from 1985 to 1995 was due to drug convictions. Is there a better way to control this problem other than sending them to jail? Yes, something called "Three Strikes and You're Dead"...but that is still to come.
Gold is now at $724/toz, experiencing the largest one month drop in 28 years. With recession looming, why isn't the value increasing? Well, the conventional wisdom is that the American dollar has strengthened, as it took $1.60 to the Euro on July 15, and is now at $1.27. However, in that same period, the Japanese Yen exchange rate increased from $0.00935 to $0.01025, so I'm a bit confused. Oh, by the way, commodities had their LARGEST one month decline in 56 years, so something startling is happening.
Well, my blog earlier this week said stock values should now be attractive purchases, so, if you have any flexibility, Microsoft, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson, as mere examples, looked good. So, I tried to access my internet accounts with E-Trade and Ameritrade, and found out that just trying to place money from my bank into those companies took several days. Five days later, when the market has somewhat rebounded, I'm now able to make a move. I plan to buy MSFT, GE and UYM before Monday. What happened to JNJ and what is UYM? A colleague who should know said, don't get into individual stocks, consider derivatives representing an investment area, so I picked this particular entity, Ultra Basic Metals, because it is a basic material composite and was as high at 110 in June, and is now at 25 (it was down to 20, so already has recovered some). The recession should keep demand mediocre, but I'm thinking the long term when the world economy eventually will improve. JNJ kept its value relatively well over this period, so there was little upside. I should warn you, if anyone is tempted to follow suit, for I still have bunkrupt Enron and United Air stock certificates. Let's see how well I do this time around.
No major storms in view.