JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 192 : 26 September 2005

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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Economy great - even with high oil prices

Some 25 years ago, or more (when you could fill up your tank for about $10) I used to ask people this question: What changes would you make to your lifestyle if gasoline prices increased to $3 a gallon? How about $4, or even $5? Everyone had an answer - I'd bike to work; I'd sell my car and get a scooter. There were a hundred answers like that. And few confessed that they really wouldn't change their driving habits at all.

When oil hit about $70 per barrel, the stock market dipped. But then stocks recovered when oil dipped to $66, apparently ignoring the previous dips when oil had reached a peak at $60. In the US gasoline is now about $3 per gallon. Prices in Europe, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, are about twice what Americans pay, or more, and still the traffic jams are worse than ever.

Years ago, I saw taxicabs in India switching their engines off when stopped at traffic lights; and then they'd start up and dash off again, presumably having saved a few drops of gas, uh petrol.

Do the Math: At 20 miles-per-gallon (yes world, the US is still perhaps the only major country that measures in miles and gallons, instead of kilometers and liters) doing an average of 12,000 miles a year, you use about 600 gallons. At $2 a gallon, that's $ 1,200. AT $3, that's another $600 a year, or $50 a month. At twice the price, how much would you really cut back? Of course, that depends on your income. That extra price means a lot more for the taxi driver in India, than for an American, or European.

Although rising gas prices continue to have some effect, the US economy keeps pushing forward, with industrial output rising and housing construction supercharged. My good friend, Bud Keyes, Senior VP at Emerson [Bud.Keyes@EmersonProcess.com] is a knowledgeable and far-sighted strategic thinker. He thinks that this scenario should be entitled "A midsummer's nights tale".

Bud sent me this email:

    As I write this, oil is at 62$ per bbl and I'm loving it! As you read this you'll note that I view the whole energy spectrum as a continuum. You may disagree. But as we deal with our new reality, I think that you'll understand why I've done that.

    This may be the greatest gift this country has been given in your lifetimes. It forces rational behavior in several areas that would otherwise languish. Alternative fuels which are not economic with oil at $30 per bbl. suddenly become attractive. Notably:

    • Biofuels
    • Tar sands oil reserves (greater than oil reserves in Saudi Arabia)
    • Coal gasification and methane to diesel, gasoline and light gas conversion
    • Use of trapped ocean-bottom methane (450 plus feet down); huge deposits in the gulf of México
    • Rocky Mountain oil shale reserves with more potential than all of the worlds current oil supply
    • Yes, we will even put up more wind powered generators
    • Solar energy technology wil grow

    Soon serious developments will emerge of ultrahigh efficiency cars, trucks, motors, drives, refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, lighting etc. Annual prizes, on par with the Nobel Prizes, will be awarded for the most creative and efficient designs.

    • Energy and water recycling will become de rigueur in industry, public buildings and even homes
    • Even less business travel will occur; full virtual presence video conferences will become standard
    • Home based businesses and telecommuting will flourish
    • Internet sales will skyrocket. They'll even start delivering your groceries again; it's more efficient.

    The efficiency of the US economy will get a 50% boost as we are forced to eliminate waste and lost motion. We'll become more productive, faster in everything we do, more efficient and more responsive to a world driven by the same demands as we are.

    Lets keep this a secret from the Saudi's, they might do something drastic to slow the inevitable. You'll know that OPEC has recognized the problem if oil production suddenly goers up and oil drops below $55 per bbl. But it will probably be too late.

    OPEC, thank you very much for expensive oil. Thank you China and all the fast-growing countries of the world for your additional oil consumption. Bring on that $70+ per bbl crude, and enjoy it! The $$ will start going into our pockets, instead of going to the oil sheikhs.

Click Economist - The great thrift shift

Click Business Week - Oil's Rise Isn't the Economy's Fall

Click SmartMoney - The Great Oil Mystery

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Accelerating Change Conference 2005

The Accelerating Change 2005 conference was held at Stanford University, giving it a kind of academic flavor, but nevertheless a significant event for me. There were some 350 attendees, all futures orientated, discussing all aspects of changes that are occurring around us - not only technology, but global, national, business, social and personal.

Organized by John Smart and his Acceleration Studies Foundation, the conference themes were Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Intelligence Amplification (IA). At AC2005, change leaders discussed these twin trends in a stimulating, multidisciplinary environment.

Already we see signs that we're living in a future that not long ago would have looked like science fiction. Much as we get used to high-speed travel, so we've become accustomed to the rapid pace of technological change. But this change isn't just fast, it is continually accelerating.

Ray Kurzweil was there as keynote speaker. His new book: "The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology" published on Sept. 26, 2005 - but AC2005 attendees got free autographed copies of the tome (some 650 pages). It's already # 25 on the Amazon.com top-sellers list.

There was a lot of Singularity discussion - "a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed". Vernor Vinge (well-known mathematician & computer scientist who lives in San Diego) was there, discussing the possibilities of a "soft singularity" - changes that will take place over a few weeks or months (not years) - and the "hard singularity" - a sudden event, taking place over just a few hours.

There were a LOT of other significant topics, and several new books which I'm now devouring, which I'll discuss in JimPintop.com eNews over the next several weeks. Stay tuned.

Click Review Accelerating Change 2005 website - sign up for newsletter

Click Hey, Maybe the Singularity Really Is Near

Click Kurzweil's book, The Singularity is Near

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Antique Governance plagues cash-fat ISA

My recent article "ISA at the crossroads" was published in the August issue of Automation World and received good feedback. There was lots of discussion on my "6-point plan" to build on ISA's unique position in industrial automation and make it a strong, global organization.

Based on many discussions with many volunteers who have been involved with ISA governance over the years, my new article, just published in Automation.com (September 2005), provides more details and background on ISA governance and barriers to growth. It also presents a revised, tweaked version of my "6-point plan".

I'm happy to note that Dick Morley will be visiting ISA HQ in RTP, North Carolina in early October (next week), to meet with the ISA staff. Dick will then meet with several members of the ISA executive committee during the ISA Expo in Chicago, a couple of weeks later.

Click Antique Governance Plagues Cash-fat ISA

Click Dick Morley involvement with ISA

Click Automation World - ISA at the crossroads

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JimPinto.com website overview

Hey, have you visited the JimPinto.com website? Recently? For those of you who have not visited, here's a brief overview of features and links which may interest you.

There are several "buttons" at the top - here are the popular ones:

  • Company Commentary - major automation companies, corporate cultures
  • Business & Marketing - strategic insights, marketing tips
  • Hot links to Hot topics - technology, markets, people, products
  • Recommended Reading - good books that I think you'll like
  • Index of all Jim Pinto Writings - Chronological list, quick-index
  • Industrial Networks - fieldbus writings and poems
  • Pinto Predictions & Possibilities - Future tech trends
  • Index of all published JimPinto.com eNews (Pick up missed eNews)
There's more. As you scroll down the home page, you'll find links to the Weblogs, and recent articles, books and other stuff I've been involved with recently. Plus quick-links to the latest eNews.

There are some 300 different web pages on the JimPinto.com website, and specific topics are sometimes hard to find. Scroll down on the homepage to find a Google link which will search JimPinto.com - just the website locally, using the local search-button.

At the bottom, there's an Amazon.com button. Click to visit Amazon.com. Hey, I get a small percentage of anything you buy - sweet!

I'll appreciate your comments and feedback. There's a primary button at the top for that.

Click Go visit JimPinto

Click JimPinto.com eNews Index - all past issues

Click Chronological Index of all Jim Pint writings

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"Pinto's Points" selling well - how do YOU like it?

My new book, Pinto's Points is doing very well, headed (I hope) to becoming an ISA best-seller. Thank you all who have bought a copy and are now reading it.

"Pinto's Points" is available on the ISA website, Amazon.com and other bookstores. Websites such as Automation.com and The Readout Instrumentation Signpost in Ireland will soon be carrying it too. You can order your own autographed copy NOW (web link below).

When you've had a chance to read at least some of it, I'll appreciate your comments and feedback. Or, please do a review on Amazon.com (link below), or Barnes & Noble, when you're ready.


Click Buy an autographed copy of "Pinto's Points"

Click "Pinto's Points" - Read the complete Table of Contents

Click Buy "Pinto's Points" directly from ISA Online

Click Buy "Pinto's Points" from Amazon.com

Click Buy a "Pinto book bundle" (Points & Unplugged) from Automation.com

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Jim Hetzer [Rezteh@aol.com] think that the Katrina disaster highlights serious US problems that are being sidetracked:
    "We need to wake up and figure out how we are going to remain viable in the global marketplace. The New Orleans Katrina disaster is a bell-weather event. It shows the class distinctions and the potential volatility and possibility of a real class war in the USA. We need to train people for jobs, and we need to create and maintain jobs and job skills here.

    "Iraq is a multi-hundred billion dollar sinkhole that only now is showing the misguided priority consequences. We can't respond with National Guard in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi because we are in Iraq trying to impose democracy on a society that doesn't want it. Iraq will be a secular religious state, and we will have wasted our resources and our past integrity for invading without a just cause.

    "Fiddling in Iraq while New Orleans sinks below third world conditions should be a warning. If we had put the money we have dumped into Iraq into strengthening the US infrastructure and on education, we would be a lot further along in regaining our economic viability."

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Ron Bengtson [Ron@AmericanEnergyIndependence.com] agreed that we should be looking for technologically creative solutions to reduce the price of energy:

    "I like Ron Liebis' thinking (eFeedback, 2 Sept. 2005) about 'distributed' domestic fuel production and comparing that to what happened when the computer was made available to the general population.

    "Multi-fuel engines, until now, have been either spark ignition or compression ignition, but not both. Dr. Andre Pouring of Sonex Research, who has excellent credentials, has designed an engine with a piston design that can use gasoline, methanol, ethanol or diesel and biodiesel in the same engine (though maybe not at the same time) - a major advantage which could yield significant fuel cost reductions.

    "Another possibility is the growing interest in Dimethyl ether (DME) as a new, clean-burning alternative to liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied natural gas, diesel and gasoline. It can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass, and can be synthesized from any carbon material, including waste plastic and biomass. It is easily liquefied, stored, transported with existing infrastructure, and it is kind to the environment (CO2 being the only negative by-product). Maybe we should be looking at a universal fuel that can be made from multiple sources, rather than multiple fuels.

    "I've put up a new web page on the American Energy Independence website, featuring these new developments. I'd like to hear the opinion of your readers with technical expertise."

Click Sonex Piston description on American Energy Independence website

Click Read about Dimethyl Ether

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Shreesha Chandra [Shreesha.Chandra@sg.yokogawa.com] gives us an Asian view of ISA possibilities:

    "Your article 'ISA at Crossroads' is timely and revealing. From my own perspective, the following are some issues which need to be addressed, especially for Asian markets.

    • Most of the activities of ISA (Road shows, Seminars etc) are centered around North America. As rightly pointed out in the article, things are happening more at countries like India and China and these markets are technology sensitive and receptive to new things.
    • A more visible ISA in these regions would attract members far in excess of expectations and help ISA grow further.
    • Most of the Web-Cast timings are so un-suited to Asian countries that, professionals, even if interested, will not be able to take part. The costs are also prohibitive and not in tune with expectations in these regions. A circulation of records to members thru ISA chapters in these countries would definitely help to build interest in the Automation industry.

    "Since the ISA pot of cash is substantial, it should go back to the original charter of formation which, I believe, is to build knowledge communities and generate a wider Automation fraternity. More and more efforts are needed towards this goal to retain talent in this industry, and not to lose out to the ever attractive IT sector.

    "Yes, it's true that the attraction of Automation Tech exhibitions is on the wane. More and More companies find excuses to spend less on these efforts because over the years the concept of marketing automation products has changed drastically. Previously, new products were introduced less frequently and needed direct visibility (through such exhibitions) for attracting prospective customers.

    "However, with the recent Technological boom and the high frequency of new product introductions, the market has become more competitive and e-Marketing is the order of the day. If the initial prospects look good enough, only then will suppliers need to spend time and energy to demo the product to customers. The customer profile has also changed, with knowledge available easily on the Internet. Suppliers must be very smart and agile to sell products strengths before other new and innovative products become available."

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