Monday, December 28, 2009
UMAR, SWINE FLU, DMFC, H2C AND THE BLUE REVOLUTION
Just another sunset tonight:
Hate to admit it, but I've become a contrarian. I guess this is mainly because I've always enjoyed being at the edge of reality, and this is just another means to remain outside the box of conventional thinking. Let me cite a few examples:
1. We have gone overboard on airport security. That's Jasper Schuringa, the hero who jumped on Nigerian airplane terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who reminds me of Richard Reid. In fact, there might be a conspiracy here. Reid (also known as Abdul Raheem or Tariq Raja, although his mother is English and father a Jamaican criminal) is that idiot who tried to detonate his shoe on American Airlines 63 in 2001. Both were connected to al Queda and changed the nature of air travel. You know why we need to take off our shoes? You will soon know why you also won't be able to use the restroom an hour before landing. Speaking of loos, I wonder if anyone has looked into the ploy that both did not blow up their respective planes in privacy over the toilet because what is the gain from just killing hundreds of people? Why not make air travel an inconvenience for hundreds of millions? This deceptive act also means they didn't need to die. As a result, much time is wasted, enormous amounts of money are spent on devices that do not work all that well and the minions of the Transportation Service Administration have become mini-emperors. For sure, you will next be embarrassed by having to walk through electronic body scanners, each costing $170,000. The weakest link is that airport without one, so, as there are around 50,000 airports, this could well mean an eventual cost of $10 billion for this item alone, plus, add, of course, those specially trained high tech experts who will need to operate and fix the machine and analyze the result. There will be numerous suits for invasion of privacy. Thousands of lawyers will gain pathways to financial success. The next air terrorist will still sneak something on board, so, soon, look for no carry ons, something airlines would love. Nude travel? Yet, the general public actually supports, and very highly so, these measures. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin today reported that these extra precautions give comfort to travelers.
2. The world has overreacted on the swine flu. Above is the virus and on the left a 3D schematic. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post six months ago and my latest blog on this subject appeared on December 8. It has been eight months since the swine flu appeared as the Mexican flu. The regular flu kills 36,000 American annually and 250,000 to 500,000 around the world. Last week was the eighth consecutive weekly decline in the swine flu. As of this month there were about 5000 swine flu deaths in the U.S. and 16,500 in the world. Thus, about 21% of all flu deaths were due to the swine variety in our country, while the global figure is 7%. Have you seen those long lines waiting to get their shots? Many of them were 65 or older, and they are already largely immune. Why don't we worry that much about global warming or peak oil, but scream for swine flu shots and clamor for stronger airport security? Apparently, we only care when our immediate life is threatened. Well, did you know that traffic deaths in the U.S. dropped to the lowest level last year (since 1961)? There were only 37,313 fatalities, slightly more than will die of the flu this year and five times more than of the swine variety. Yet, we keep driving along, so there must be something else than pure personal survival.
3. I think the national energy policy focusing on the plug-in electric car, ethanol and clean coal is flawed. We should be developing the direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC, Toshiba began selling one for portable electronics in October, but the Department of Energy has essentially forbidden work on this technology ) and do a lot more for baseload sustainable electricity options, such as hot dry rock geothermal and ocean thermal energy conversion. I also once advocated making clean hydrogen free. That got nowhere, fast. My greatest concern today is about sustainable aviation. I finally can cheer on a government agency, as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency appears to now be strongly supporting the production of jet fuel from algae. Yet, close to nothing is today being spent on a next generation aircraft powered by hydrogen. This was once the National Aerospace Plane, and was supported by DARPA, the Air Force and NASA. It is reported that a sum of $10 billion was spent, although much of this work was secret. The Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper (H2C) could well be the solution, but I don't think the developers have secured a cent of Federal or private funds yet.
4. We only seem to want to protect the ocean instead of developing the riches in harmony with the marine environment. Visit the Energy Island Group. Above is their conception of a platform powered by a 50 MW OTEC system. The Blue Revolution shows promise for utilizing the concept of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) to produce baseload electricity, fresh water, hydrogen, next generation fisheries, green chemicals, and other clean bioproducts, while, perhaps reducing the potential of hurricanes and remediating global climate warming. Lockheed Martin is moving ahead with OTEC, but nothing much appears to be happening in developing the total system.
I could add global warming and a bunch of other pursuits, but enough is enough. I ask myself all the time why it is that my government and industry seem to shun everything that I advocate. My conclusion is that organizations are too comfortable with what currently exists (and, let's face it, the private sector very strongly influences the Congress and White House), and are loathe to consider change. I thought this was why Barack Obama was elected, but, I guess, there is only so much one person can do, even with 60 Senators and a strong majority in the House. At least he will get his health plan as a legacy.
The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 27 to 10,547, a new high for year, while world markets mostly increased. The Japan Nikkei, at 10,634, is now higher than the Dow. Wow, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac jumped about 25% today. Gold zoomed $17/toz to $1107 and crude oil is getting close to $79/barrel.