Popular notions that electric cars will suddenly replace conventional gasoline-powered cars don’t acknowledge the possibility that there could be eco-friendly advances in conventional car technology. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that “internal combustion engines are improving their ability to cut CO2 emissions at a lower cost than expected, and, as a result, carmakers should be able to meet 2020 emissions targets mainly through improvements to conventional technologies.”
A key word there is should. It would take a concerted effort by automakers in several technical areas. Continue reading “Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars”
Gleaned from recent press reports and other sources:
These are boom times for U.S. makers of unmanned military aircraft (drones).
Sample Lab Ltd. opened a “marketing cafe” in Tokyo that lets trend-setting women see and test new products.
With the recession crimping legal budgets, some big companies are insisting on flat-fee payments instead of law firms’ long-standing practice of the “billable hour.”
City “water cops” are handing out citations to people caught wasting water resources in drought-stricken areas.
Lumber mills that produce woods for hardwood floors and maple cabinets have been devastated by the U.S. recession’s double whammy: the housing bust and unavailable credit.
Some hospitals find that owning up to medical errors reduces litigation and helps them learn from their mistakes.
Despite a 25-year effort to improve U.S. education, the latest high-school SAT exam scores are disappointing. Asian-American students are thriving but the SAT gap for blacks and Hispanics widens.
More than half of Somalia’s population needs humanitarian aid, the U.N. says.
Software makers are scrambling to develop cell phone safety applications that prevent texting while driving.
Inexpensive mini-reactors may be an alternative to building giant nuclear powerplants, though there are technical, financial and regulatory hurdles.
The Washington Post Outlook section (4 January 2009) is full of articles under the label “future shocks.” A sampling:
The world won’t be aging gracefully. “For the world’s wealthy nations, the 2020s are set to be a decade of hyperaging and population decline. Many countries will experience fiscal crisis, economic stagnation and ugly political battles over entitlements and immigration. Meanwhile, poor countries will be buffeted by their own demographic storms. Some will be overwhelmed by massive age waves that they can’t afford, while others will be whipsawed by new explosions of youth whose aspirations they cannot satisfy. The risk of social and political upheaval and military aggression will grow throughout the developing world — even as the developed world’s capacity to deal with these threats weakens. The rich countries have been aging for decades, due to falling birthrates and rising life spans. But in the 2020s, this aging will get an extra kick as large postwar baby boom generations move into retirement.” — Neil Howe and Richard Jackson are researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and co-authors of “The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century.”
Coming to the battlefield: Stone-cold robot killers. “Armed robots will all be snipers. Stone-cold killers, every one of them. They will aim with inhuman precision and fire without human hesitation. They will not need bonuses to enlist or housing for their families or expensive training ranges or retirement payments.” — John Pike is the director of the military information Web site GlobalSecurity.org.
The next big things:
— William E. Halal, president of TechCast LLC
Global warming could lead to warfare over scarce resources (e.g., arable land and fresh water); mass migrations; and territorial disputes over newly available energy resources (e.g. Arctic oil). — James R. Lee runs American University’s Inventory of Conflict and Environment project. He’s at work on a book on climate change and conflict.
Many large U.S. companies have their products manufactured in China — no surprise there. But “the huge surge of goods arriving on our shores from China and elsewhere in Asia could easily overwhelm the infrastructure that receives and distributes them,” writes veteran consultant George Stalk.
Stalk — in his book “Five Future Strategies You Need Right Now” (Harvard, 2008) — calls this phenomenon the “China riptide” and makes this prediction:
The West Coast ports of the U.S. will reach their combined container unloading & loading capacity as early as 2010.
One researcher calls the ports “the choke valve” of global commerce.
Continue reading “Weak link in the supply chain: West Coast ports”
Utah became the first U.S. state to put its government workforce on a four-day work week, and some other states may follow. The “Working 4 Utah” initiative — a response to soaring energy costs and tight budgets — will begin in August.
Government service hours will be extended to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and offices will be closed Fridays (except for essential public services).
Utah expects to cut electrical and utility costs (13.5 hours on Fridays) and will monitor the energy savings. For employees, it may mean they can get household chores done on Fridays, according to Workforce Management (14 July 2008). But day care and public transportation services will need to accommodate the extended hours (10-hour work days) Monday through Thursday.
State officials in Minnesota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arkansas are examining the feasibility of a four-day schedule, Workforce Management reported. Also, Colorado is mulling it over. Various county governments and towns are, too.