by Borderstan.com June 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm 0

From John Shannon, who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.

"economic"

The world economy is the country’s economy. (Courtesy)

As the world economy improves, national economies are being carried aloft by a rising tide of success in other countries.

Now that we are living in an ever-more globalized world, nations are no longer entities unto themselves. While they were once insulated from the economic successes or failures of other nations, that is profoundly no longer the case.

A recent example is the United States financial crisis of 2008 which was at first confined within the U.S., but later spread to Europe, Japan and China, with those countries experiencing varying degrees of economic malaise directly attributable to the original fall of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage segment.

Adding to the entire long chain of negative events in the U.S. were the hapless attempts by ‘some individuals and corporations’ to obfuscate the primary reasons for those failures, namely, a weak American banking sector regulatory environment and personal judgment lapses by some senior banking and other corporate executives.

This timeline of regulatory insufficiency and judgment lapses:

  1. Caused the initial crisis
  2. Allowed widespread economic damage
  3. Ensured a longer U.S. recession
  4. Delayed economic recovery

Had a financial crisis of this sort taken place within the 1950-1980 timeframe, it would have been seen as an ‘America only’ affair as the (then) economic islands of Europe and Asia had little interest in the internal workings of the American economy.

How the world has changed in the 21st century

Recently, ‘America sneezed’ — and most of Europe along with Canada ‘caught the cold’ – and whilst Asia felt unwell, it didn’t need a doctor, nor did it miss a day’s work.

Globalization is a process. Every year, countries are harmonizing their diplomatic relations, international trade and laws, walking through the remaining issues towards true interdependence between nation-states.

Along the way, we have seen dramatically lower prices for consumers within the participating nations and a strong downward pull on inflation within the globalization community. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows toward nations with lower land, factory and labour costs, while competition ensures that prices reflect those newfound cost savings.

One of the unfortunate effects of globalization from the Western perspective are the jobs that have fled the West to Asia. Over the span of (almost exactly) four decades, millions of manufacturing jobs have gone to the nations which feature lower-cost land, factory, and labour rates.

The transition of trillions of dollars of investment from the West to the Emerging and Frontier economies has spawned a rising economic tide in the Middle East, Asia and India. In fact, the rise of the BRICS nations are easily traced by the FDI inputs into their nations, as a welcome effect of, (but not the primary cause of) their success.

Since 1998 China and India have often been described as the two economic engines of Asia, and during recent recessionary times, were noted as the economic engines of the world. Even as some nations were falling away from their traditional economic rankings, the unprecedented demand for raw resources and high tech originating from the ‘rising tiger’ economies, slowed the fall of the Western economies and have even spurred their quicker recovery.

Historically, it was axiomatic that when the United States was doing well, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were doing well — as the U.S. economy had the power to float those economies no matter the ‘local’ economic conditions.

America is no longer alone with this power

Now, not only can American demand float the economies of countries or entire regions — the combined demand of the BRICS nations can float national economies and regions.

The U.S. population seems ‘torn’ at this juncture, with some in that country lamenting the loss of the unipolar world which was theirs since the end of the Cold War, whilst others welcome the strengthening and broadening-out of the world economy into a truly interdependent and open economic model.

For those Americans who believe in the open economic model (which is the name given to the free enterprise system by economists) the strengthening and broadening-out of the world economy is exactly in line with their beliefs and is seen as an adjunct to American economic and political clout.

“We told you the open economic model was the way to prosperity, and now you are ‘our firm converts’ to that, and to the democracy which necessarily accompanies successful free enterprise systems.”

For those Americans who secretly or publicly wish for a closed economic model (known as the communist, or the statist economic model, by economist’s) globalization is the root cause of all American economic woes — when in fact, America’s recent economic problems were caused by a perilously-lacking regulatory environment in but one segment of the U.S. economy and poor decision-making by a handful of individuals.

All the nations advancing towards interdependence will see rising demand in their own countries from other partner nations (as at any given time certain of them will be experiencing growth) thereby helping to balance-off the occasional lack of demand.

De-facto: Interdependence between nations means facilitation of effort, FDI, and countless other forms of assistance towards whatever is the weakest link of the chain that day.

This contrasts with the decades of ruthless competition which played itself out (even between allies) for decades and ruled every diplomatic and business decision. De-facto, that became a ‘sink all the other boats — before we get sunk’ game, played in the global economy.

Wherever interdependent nations are working to improve upon an open economic model, they are in effect, working to create a rising tide for all of the participants within that interdependency, because it is simply and profoundly, in their best interests to do so.

Interdependency creates the incoming tide that will float our boats.

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by Borderstan.com June 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm 0

"Climate"

World Energy Map. (Courtesy of tqe.quaker.org)

From John Shannon, who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.

Governments have decided collectively that the world needs to limit the average global temperature increase to no more than 2°C and international negotiations are engaged to that end. Yet any resulting agreement will not emerge before 2015 and new legal obligations will not begin before 2020.

Meanwhile, despite many countries taking new action, the world is drifting further and further from the track it needs to follow.

The energy sector is the single largest source of climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions and limiting these is an essential focus of action. The World Energy Outlook has published detailed analysis of the energy contribution to climate change for many years.

But, amid major international economic preoccupations, there are worrying signs that the issue of climate change has slipped down the policy agenda. This Special Report seeks to bring it right back on top by showing that this dilemma can be tackled at no net economic cost. Access it at WEO Special Report 2013: ES – Redrawing the Energy Climate Map.

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by Borderstan.com February 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm 1 Comment

"range"

Electric Vehicle charging stations. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From John Shannon who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.

Charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) are popping up all over the place these days, not just in Washington, DC — and that’s a good thing! Ford Motor‘s Mike Tinskey has said the total number of charging stations in the United States has risen sharply in the past few years to more than 11,500 installed units.

How to find them has been a problem in the past. But that is changing as sophisticated smartphone apps are now providing better information and easier access to EV charging points. Manufacturers of charging stations are forming vast complementary and interconnected charging networks across the country that are available via the new smartphone apps. Which is handy, and a good way to increase range and perhaps your EV’s overall performance, not to mention lowering anxiety.

One such network is ChargePoint, now the world’s largest EV charging network.

“Through ChargePoint, DBT USA can now provide station owners and EV drivers features including the ability to help with trip planning, manage the cost of charging, and find and operate public stations.” – Green Car Congress

More and better charging stations, entire charging networks made easily accessible via smartphone, combined with recent, significant price drops for EV’s — what’s not to like?

Car manufacturers are getting into the game directly and Nissan‘s new network will initially start with 40 of their so-called eVgo Freedom Stations to be installed throughout the greater Washington, DC area — thereby becoming the first network of public fast chargers in the region. Owners of cars like the Nissan LEAF will enjoy the eVgo experience as these fast chargers can give an 80% charge in 30-minutes. Time for a latte? Of course, there’s no range anxiety here.

Ford’s MyFord Mobile teams up with PlugShare to give real-time information on nearby charging stations for Ford hybrid-electric and EV vehicles as you drive through the countryside or city.

“It is a little known fact that the majority of charging stations are currently free to use. By giving drivers a clear view of the reality of charging, PlugShare and Ford are showing more and more drivers that now is a great time to start driving on electricity,” Forrest North, CEO of Xatori, which makes PlugShare, said in a statement. “With our real-time, crowd-sourcing features that include photos, reviews and check-ins, PlugShare has quickly become one of the largest and most popular charging station locators in North America.” –  PCMag.com

The MyFord system will conveniently and automatically locate the nearest charger to your favourite pizza joint, Starbucks, the mall, or wherever it is that you are going. I love it when technology plays this nice!

MyFord Mobile is available in the App Store and Google Play. Car information is also accessible on the Web via myfordmobile.com.

Related articles

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by Borderstan.com January 29, 2013 at 4:00 pm 0

From Allison Acosta. Email her at allison[AT]borderstan.com.

"Energy"

The DC SEU offers help and technical assistance. (Luis Gomez Photos)

SEU Offers Help Center

New regulations are rolling out that will affect all buildings in DC over 50,000 gross square feet (gsf) in size. Effective January 18, with deadlines phased in through 2014, owners of large DC buildings must measure and report their energy and water use to the District Department of Environment (DDOE) using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s no-cost ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager tool.

These new regulations were established as part of the Green Building Act of 2006 (GBA) and the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 (CAEA).

In order to help building owners and property managers comply with the new requirements, the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU) is offering a Benchmarking Help Center that will provide technical assistance on reporting and connect building owners to the SEU’s energy efficiency programs. The Help Center can be reached at (202) 525-7036 or at mbenchmarking[AT]dcseu.com. Details of upcoming trainings, to be held on Wednesdays in February and March, can be found on the DDOE website.

“The Benchmarking Help Center complements the wide range of sustainable energy services the DC SEU currently offers to District building owners,” said DC SEU Managing Director Ted Trabue. “This is a great resource to help these building owners understand their requirements under the new regulation, and more importantly, harness the information they will be gathering to help them save money and energy.”

The reporting deadline for all buildings over 100,000 gsf is April 1, 2013. Buildings larger than 50,000 gsf are due to report by April 1, 2014. Thereafter, all commercial and multifamily buildings over 50,000 gsf will be required to report benchmarking data to the District on April 1 of every year.

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by Borderstan.com January 28, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From John Shannon who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.

"enviroment"

The migration to large cities around the world continues. (Luis Gomez Photos)

A massive shift in demographics has taken place in the past few decades as millions of people leave rural lands and move to ever-expanding cities. This phenomenon is not limited to any one continent, it’s happening everywhere.

Today, more than half the world’s population live in cities and close to 80 percent of global economic and environmental output is tied to cities — as opposed to rural or undeveloped areas. The migration of people towards cities looks set to continue for some time.

And not alone in this is New York City, where the Big Apple’s three-term Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently commented about the NYC experience.

“Recent college graduates are flocking to Brooklyn not merely because of employment opportunities, but because it is where some of the most exciting things in the world are happening — in music, art, design, food, shops, technology and green industry. Economists may not say it this way but the truth of the matter is: being cool counts. When people can find inspiration in a community that also offers great parks, safe streets and extensive mass transit, they vote with their feet.”

“New York has an impact on the rest of the world” — according to Bloomberg. “The environmental stuff, whether or not it reverses climate change, influences you and your kids today–the air you breathe, the water you drink, the economy you have, the opportunities you have. Today. That’s how you sell the environment. Don’t try to sell it for 40 years from now. Think ‘my air, my water.’ And cities are where it’s all going to happen,” according to Bloomberg.

Acting in their own self-interest, a growing list of cities are joining together to find and share new environmental and economic solutions via the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), which “is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change.”

Acting both locally and collaboratively, C40 Cities are having a meaningful global impact in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks. Through a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, C40 brings together a unique set of assets and creates a shared sense of purpose. C40 offers cities an effective forum where they can collaborate, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change (C40).

As cities now comprise more than half of the world’s total population, which is slightly more than 7-billion as of January 2013, it makes sense for responsible and visionary leaders to find solutions to common problems and to find better ways to enhance the enjoyment of citizens. From Vancouver, Canada, to Washington, DC, to Copenhagen, Denmark, mayors and other civic leaders are at work improving the present model for more than three billion city-dwellers worldwide.

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by Borderstan.com January 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm 1 Comment

From John Shannon who writes about green energy,sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com. Content from Katie Fehrenbacher/GigaOM — and thanks due to Ernie Sander, Executive Editor, GigaOM

"John Shannon"

John Shannon writes a biweekly column for Borderstan.com.

One of the signs that a new kind of business is maturing — is when investors are banging on the door demanding to invest in that product or service.

The latest trend in the energy marketplace is solar power investment whereby investors are offered a rate of return for a specified number of years (in this case, 4.5% over 9 years) and that investment is used to fund solar installations.

Get ready to start hearing a lot more about this as solar panels have fallen in price over the past 26 months so dramatically that solar financing programs are springing up everywhere. Solar panel prices are still falling due to massive orders and production. Investment returns for solar power investors look set to rise.

Here is one such example:

Solar Mosaic Turns “The Kickstarter of Solar” into a way to Make Money

By Katie Fehrenbacher

Who wants to make money off of solar roofs? Startup Solar Mosaic is making that possible starting Monday morning, when California and New York residents can put money into solar projects and, the company says, earn a 4.5 percent annual return. Kind of like a mutual fund.

Updated: At 9AM (PST) on Monday, the Kickstarter of solar, Solar Mosaic, will officially open its site to residents of California and New York, as well as accredited investors, looking to make money by investing in solar panel roof projects. For months (at least since last summer), Solar Mosaic has been enabling a small amount of investors to experiment with investing in, and earning money from, the returns from solar roofs, but this is the company’s big public launch.

The company was founded back in October 2010, and I wrote one of the first profiles of Solar Mosaic in October 2011. It took the startup a little over two years to test out its beta Kickstarter-style platform and become registered to share securities with the public. Last year, it got a vote of confidence from the crowd funding bill. The company is backed by Spring Ventures.

For potential investors, solar roofs can provide a low-risk return — anywhere between 4 and 12 percent on an investment — kind of like investing in a mutual fund. Building owners lease solar panel systems and enter into a contract for a fixed, low electricity rate, commonly over about two decades. Solar Mosaic organizes the crowd-funding to get the solar rooftop installed, and works with a solar lease provider like Sungevity. Once the project gets crowd-funded, the rooftop solar panel installation process starts.

Solar loans are backed by a revenue-producing asset (electricity) and the building owners pay for the solar electricity monthly in the same way they have been paying their monthly utility bill. The buildings owners aren’t all that likely to default on their electricity payments, and the costs, timelines and returns for solar panels are pretty transparent as the technology has become increasingly commoditized. Another company that has created a site for crowd-funded solar is SunFunder.

Solar Mosaic says its first investments will offer a 4.5 percent annual return, including servicing fees, with a nine-year term. The company says it is offering “a better expected yield than most investment products available to the general public.”

by Borderstan.com December 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,095 0

"Environmental "

Top 10 Environmental News-makers of 2012. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From John Shannon who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.

Good day, Borderstan readers, and please let me take this opportunity to wish you a safe, prosperous and happy New Year!

Well Borderstanis, it has been a spectacular year for progress on the green energy front and for the awareness of citizens around the world on the need to care for and conserve our shared planet.

With those sentiments in mind, I offer you my:

Top 10 Environmental Newsmakers for 2012

  1. President Barack Obama makes a huge commitment to renewable energy, dramatically changing energy policy – which will make the U.S. energy self-sufficient and the world’s largest oil producer and exporter by 2017.
  2. China approves legislation to spend more than $438 billion dollars over the next 3 years on conservation, utility-scale wind and solar power plants, mitigation of pollution by airborne particulates (soot) plus, a highly-successful NOx-reduction program. See: overview and here and here also.
  3. China has decided to install 40 Gigawatts of solar power by 2015 (eight times more than it’s initial 2015 target, set back in 2010).
  4. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has set firm policies and targets for renewable energy use in a nation which has been termed, “the world’s first major renewable energy economy“. Renewable electricity will supply 80% of German needs by 2050, for just one example.
  5. India passed legislation to allow building owners to lease their rooftop space to utility companies to install solar panels, for the purposes of selling power to the Indian electrical grid. For general info on the Indian grid, click here.
  6. India is building a solar power plant (not half-completed at this point) but is already the largest working solar power plant in the world at 214 megawatts, on its way to a Phase l total of 500 megawatts – ramping up to 1000 megawatts once Phase ll is completed.
  7. Saudi Arabia plans to spend $109 billion dollars on solar and nuclear power by 2016 — thereby allowing much more of its oil to be exported to the West.
  8. Under Dubai’s ‘Green Economy for Sustainable Development’ plan, that city will complete construction of a 1000 megawatt solar power plant by 2030. (The plant is already producing electricity and as more panels are installed, each bloc of panels are connected to the grid). This is in addition to other green energy power projects the United Arab Emirates are building.
  9. The African Development Bank Group approved $800 million earlier this year to increase solar and wind power production in Morocco. The eventual goal is to help Morocco raise it’s installed renewable energy capacity to 42% by 2020, setting the stage for electricity exports to Europe.
  10. Denmark will have all of it’s energy needs met by renewable sources by 2050 and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent (compared to 1990 levels) before 2020. They have already met their 2020 solar power goals and are on-track to surpass others. Fully half of Denmark’s energy will come from wind turbines installed offshore.

And that isn’t even the half of it! There are so many ‘good-news’ green energy and sustainable development stories out there, that it is a full-time job to stay abreast of them.

On a personal note, it has been my pleasure to inform you about developments in the green energy sector over the past months. I warmly welcome comments and suggestions for future topics that you might like to see covered here at Borderstan.

Happy New Year to you!

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by Borderstan.com December 3, 2012 at 10:00 am 1 Comment

"Energy"

Letter from The White House. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From John Shannon who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama sent me a letter outlining the Administration‘s energy goals. In it, he laid out his ambitious plans to decrease dependence on foreign oil imports, increase oil and gas exploration and extraction, lower the fuel prices paid by consumers and set historic fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. cars and trucks. Below is a short excerpt of the letter which you can read in full at johnbrianshannon.com

 March 21, 2012

Dear John:

Thank you for writing.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I share the vision of millions of Americans who want to take control of our Nation’s energy future.  My Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is about developing every source of American energy–a strategy aimed at saving families and businesses money at the pump by reducing our reliance on foreign oil, expanding oil and gas production, and positioning the United States as the global leader in clean energy.

The hard truth is there are no overnight solutions to our energy challenges.  The only way to deal with this problem is through a sustained, serious, all-of-the-above approach.  Under my Administration, American oil production is at its highest level in 8 years, and we are now less reliant on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.  We have more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined, and we have opened up millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration where appropriate and where it can be done safely.  My Administration has also approved dozens of new pipelines to move oil around, including from Canada, which will help create jobs and encourage more energy production.  Thanks to our Nation’s booming oil production, more efficient vehicles, and a world-class refining sector that last year was a net exporter for the first time in 60 years, we cut net imports by 10 percent–or a million barrels a day–in the last year alone.

Only eight months later, on November 12th, the International Energy Agency reported that the United States had suddenly moved from a country historically dependent on foreign oil, to a net exporter. But that is just the beginning. According to the IEA the United States will become the world’s largest oil producer by 2017 — surpassing even Saudi Arabia. Reuters said the IEA annual long-term report surprised top IEA analysts:

Energy developments in the United States are profound and their effect will be felt well beyond North America – and the energy sector”

“The recent rebound in US oil and gas production, driven by upstream technologies that are unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources, is spurring economic activity – with less expensive gas and electricity prices giving industry a competitive edge.”

“The United States, which currently imports around 20 percent of its total energy needs, becomes all but self-sufficient in net terms – a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy importing countries.”

“The Chief Economist for the IEA said the US would far surpass Russia as the world’s largest gas producer by 2015 and become the world’s largest oil producer by 2017.”

Former President George W. Bush was completely right when he declared, “America, is addicted to oil.” Sadly, that has not changed. But instead of staying with the status-quo (perilously dependent on foreign oil) the Obama Administration decided early-on to keep billions of dollars of oil & gas investment, jobs, profits and other related economic activity here for the benefit of North Americans. And that, my friends — is historic change for the better.

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