Bring on the Electric Car, Now

If you are not familiar with TED you should remedy that immediately. TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. It began in 1984 as an annual conference to bring the brightest minds from these three arenas together. It has mushroomed from there. The site is filled with videos of talks and a community. Check it out.

I was browsing the talks and saw this one by Shai Agassi. Mr. Agassi led the software powerhouse SAP but resigned in 2007 to commit himself to helping the world break it’s fossil fuel habit. He speaks about how it’s definitely possible to bring an electric car to the world. Fascinating viewing.

Hybrid War Heating Up

2010 Honda Insight

Toyota won the first hybrid car battle with the Prius, having beaten out Honda’s Insight at the turn of this century. But Honda’s back for their next at bat, and strangely enough it’s called the Insight again. Quite frankly I completely forgot about the Insight, so Honda’s probably thinking that most people are like me, and don’t see any brand baggage connected with that oops. I think Toyota’s and Honda’s approach of radically changing the design of their hybrids so they are immediately recognized as a different kind of car is very smart. Other manufacturers have simply added an H or slapped a badge on the fender and back bumper. It doesn’t give them or the driver credit for having made a more responsible, forward-looking choice.

The Insight will be officially unveiled next month and will be available for purchase sometime in 2009. This is great news; the more the better. Hopefully the big three U.S. automakers will raise their game. We will be watching closely as Chevy brings their electric car Volt to the marketplace.

Companies as well as government should do more to encourage the makers and consumers. At my company they just announced preferred parking spots for employees who drive a green car to work. Very cool. What if we gave free parking anywhere to all electric vehicles? How do you think that would shake things up?

The 2008 Beijing Olympics

Lots of controversy over China hosting the games. Political, environmental and human rights are at the forefront of the discussion. As a Westerner it requires more effort to understand the Chinese culture vs. European for example. But the games are the games and the athletes have trained just as hard for this opportunity as any other. I’m actually more concerned for their safety and ability to perform at the highest levels, considering the pollution in the atmosphere vs. the political censorship.

By definition the games must move around the globe. We find ourselves here in China this time. We need to use this opportunity to call out the injustices that exist in this country, but do it on page two, allowing the athletes to take center stage, compete, and experience this rare moment in time for the entire world. The press can’t be controlled. The real stories will get out.

Is a communist state that is growing at a pace exceeding the free world a bad thing? A Threat? A potential ally? The scale is certainly impressive, but the methods used are questionable.

The Bird Cage surrounded in smog
The Bird Cage surrounded in smog

The Olympic games have a special place in my life. I remember watching them with my father as a young boy, and returning the favor with my oldest son. Now I have a chance to relive that experience again with my 4 year old. To talk about this storied ritual and how the games are the protagonist in the drama on the world stage. Wouldn’t miss it. Will you be watching?

Agricultural, Industrial, Technological… Eco-Age?

This really is an exciting time to be alive. There are some crucial moments in the offing.

  • Arguably the most significant presidential election to be held since the birth of the first baby boomer.
  • A realization that our climate is changing and we may be the cause.
  • Growing, insatiable demand for oil driving prices to record highs.

Why do I seem so excited? Well Excited may not be the word. Optimistic is closer, and here’s why.

It’s opening the eyes of so many, particularly those of us who live in America. In my opinion we have never taken energy conservation seriously in this country. In fact we have been in many ways “the wasteful society.” You can fix blame in any number of places, but no one thing, person or administration can carry the load. It’s closely connected to our culture and the almost unstoppable inertia that propels it along.

I’m optimistic because we seem to have finally awakened to the fact that we don’t need vehicles the size of houses to get our groceries, run errands, go to work and take the kids to school. I was in Paris not that long ago and saw a lot of these kinds of cars on the street.

In the U.S. you can’t even find many normal cars on the road anymore. So many people drive something that looks like this.

Shuttering four GM truck plants and grounding hundreds of commercial jets has serious implications for tens of thousands of people. But if we look for that silver lining it just might be the start of an entirely new age; The Eco-Age

When I wrote the post Speed, I am Speed on November 2, 2007, it was at the time, a collection of passing thoughts on how quickly things are moving these days. I based the post on a talk that Ray Kurzweil gave in San Francisco. I was in the audience and he pushed a frozen gear in my head into motion. Ray is an inventor, thinker, futurist and quite frankly genius. His site is here. He talks about The Singularity, which is defined in this manner.

“The Singularity” is a phrase borrowed from the astrophysics of black holes. The phrase has varied meanings; as used by Vernor Vinge and Raymond Kurzweil, it refers to the idea that accelerating technology will lead to superhuman machine intelligence that will soon exceed human intelligence, probably by the year 2030. The results on the other side of the “event horizon,” they say, are unpredictable.

Essentially he states the speed at which things are being invented, evolved and advanced is increasing at amazing rates. By 2010 he is predicting that computers will begin to disappear into our bodies. By 2030 man and computer will merge. Why is this important? Because man can then harness the computing power of silicon wafers and begin to ween us off the fossil fuel drug. He predicts that solar power will be as cheap as fossil fuels in five years, and in 20 years all our energy will come from clean sources.

Earlier this week I read an article in The New York Times, Science Times section titled, The Future is Now? Pretty Soon, at Least by John Tierney, who saw Mr. Kurzweil speak at the World Science Festival in New York. Reading that article brought me right back to being in the audience in San Francisco last year.

People all over are working hard to extract us from the downward spiral that’s drying up oil wells and scorching the earth. We need to break the wasteful mindset and instill green habits. It’s happening all around us.

Companies have really latched on to it. Everyone seems to be making and selling green products (or at least they are marketing green well). I recently checked my carbon footprint to see how I was doing. Calculate your own here to see where you stand.

Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

More and more people are becoming aware of climate change and the potential problems it is causing for life on our planet. As with most complex issues, there is usually no obvious silver bullet solution. And even though it’s not a problem that governments can solve on their own, they must do a better job of providing their citizens with more ways to understand how they can help. Nothing is more powerful than millions of people taking action in their microcosm world to positively influence the outcome in the macrocosm.

But what can we do to help?

One way to get started is to calculate your own carbon footprint. That’s the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide CO2) you are personally responsible for as you go about your normal life. Just knowing that one fact gets you thinking. There are a number of free online calculators that will provide you with your carbon footprint in only a few minutes time.

I took a look at several and found these to be the most user-friendly.

I used each site to calculate my total household emissions, and each one came up with a slightly different answer, but they were relatively close. In a matter of 3 minutes time here are the results for my household as calculated by The Nature Conservancy site.


We’re below the United States average but still well above the World average. We have taken some steps to help, as both myself and my wife now live less than 4 miles from work, and my oldest son takes public transportation to his job. But clearly we can do more to improve on this number. These sites also offer suggestions on how you can improve your score, some even link you to ways to purchase carbon offsets. Having a zero footprint would be great. A negative one even better. Go on, try it.