Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New 3-Cylinder Ford Engine Delivers 47 mpg!

Alan Mulally is the venerable engineer and project manager of the Boeing 777 and for several years now CEO of Ford Motor Company. Why is he kissing this new engine?

Because this super-efficient, well-balanced and light weight engine can deliver 47 mpg in a Ford Focus compact car without the complexity and price penalty of hybrid technology. Many manufacturers are now turning to 3-cylinder engines for their smaller cars but also prepare editions that match the output of common V6 engines for larger vehicles.

These smaller engines would have huge benefits for the world market, and China in particular, where Volkswagen announced plans to build its 7th plant, just a few days after Ford had said it would build its 5th.

This is good news for mobility and the planet. Smart policies* and smart engineers get the job done: Mini engines with normal performance and mini consumption and air pollution. And fewer resources used to make those engines enhances long term sustainability.

Note (*): America's new emission standards require car manufacturers to achieve a fleet average of 34.1 mpg by 2016 and 54.6 mpg by 2025.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hawaii's Sudden Economic Tsunami

With the sudden death of US Senator Inouye and the retirement of US Senator Akaka, both in December of 2012, Hawaii instantly finds itself at the center of an unprecedented fiscal tsunami due to the total loss of Congressional seniority. The table below indicates that Hawaii's Congressional Seniority changed overnight from stellar to abysmal.
Although well over half of federal funds are appropriated by formula, a large share of local programs are funded by special appropriations and earmarks which would be very hard to obtain in the coming years.

Recent preliminary research by a group of students at UH placed the annual impact of Senator Inouye to Hawaii between $200 Million and $450 Million per year. The students surmised that the sudden loss of Senator Inouye would be similar to the sudden and complete loss of Hawaiian Airlines.

An expanded discussion by Malia Zimmerman "Hawaii, Like Alaska, Could See Huge Fiscal Impact From Loss of Congressional Seniority" combines multiple sources to provide additional information about the financial impact to Hawaii.

-------- January 11, 2013 Update -------- 

 Within about two years, I guestimate that Sen. Inouye's death combined with Sen. Akaka's retirement and the absence of no reps from Hawaii in an Appropriations Committee to cost:
  •     ~ 200 high paying military contract jobs (civilian)
  •     ~ 800 normal paying military contract jobs (civilian)
  •     ~ 300 high paying UH research jobs
  •     And a few dozen other millions in gravy
  •     For a total of at least $200 Million per year of taxable income and related economic activity.
After a couple of years, the East-West Center, UH's Kakaako Medical Research Center, Mauna Kea astronomy investments, many small subsidized programs and the Armed Forces may be in jeopardy for major cuts.

Green Energy and Rail Get an F

Election politics are behind us so it is a good time to post the economic report card for President Obama's first term issued by The Economist on September 1, 2012.

I am pleased to see that for the two areas of "green energy" and "rail passenger transportation" The Economist gives the President an F. These are indeed the two areas that I completely disagree with both the President, Hawaii's Governor, most of Hawaii's current political establishment, and with the environmentalists of Sierra Club.

Indeed, biased taxpayer black holes deserve this.

It is my hope that this F along with today's sad news of the death of US Senator Inouye along with the retirement of US Senator Akaka (this is a 1-2 knockout punch for Hawaii to the very bottom of US Senate seniority combined with Hawaii's rock bottom seniority in the US House) will infuse sanity and restraint into the brains of local decision makers.

Cuts are painful, but cutting wasteful projects* is productive and necessary to avoid a nosedive.

(*) The rail, transit oriented development, wind farms, limitless solar subsidies, inter-island cable, government solar farms, cookie-cutter housing on prime agricultural land, North Shore mega-developments along a single, jammed 2-lane country road, ...

Friday, December 14, 2012

The World in 2030: World Preeminence for China, Energy Independence for USA

The Verge: The US National Intelligence Council, representing the 17 intelligence agencies of the US government, says that "we are at a critical juncture in human history" in its fifth Global Trends report. The report details the challenges facing the species in the coming decades; the council says that many positive developments in health, education, and governance will propel human civilization, but that the threat of conflict could emerge as supplies of food and water become more scarce.

The Diplomatic News: The American Century is drawing to a close, and the US Defense Department will have to be more flexible in dealing with a faster-paced multipolar world, according to the Global Trends 2030 report

NY Times: A new intelligence assessment of global trends projects that China will outstrip the United States as the leading economic power before 2030, but that America will remain an indispensable world leader, bolstered in part by an era of energy independence.

London Financial Times:
  • Pax Americana ‘winding down’
  • China will be the world’s largest economy by 2030 but the US will still remain “first among equals” in the international system
  • Europe, Japan and Russia will continue to experience relative decline
  • Asia will come to dwarf the rest of the world in terms of its economic and military power
  • The wave of Islamist terrorism is likely to have ended by 2030
  • The US will be energy independent and could be a significant exporter of energy
  • Advances in manufacturing technologies could reduce the need for outsourcing
Here is what the report says about renewable energy. It makes Hawaii look like a fool by wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to produce Kilo-Watts instead of Mega-Watts (1 MW = 1,000 KW):

"With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come. Increased oil production from difficult-to-access oil deposits would result in a substantial reduction in the US net trade balance and faster economic expansion. Global spare capacity may exceed over 8 million barrels, at which point OPEC would lose price control and crude oil prices would collapse, causing a major negative impact on oil-export economies."

"The IEA’s baseline scenario shows the share of renewables rising just 4 percent during the 2007-2050 period. Hydropower accounts for the overwhelming majority of renewables in this scenario, with wind and solar energy providing 5 and 2 percent contributions in 2050 respectively. Their contributions in 2030 would be even less."The 170 page report can be downloaded here: National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2030

Friday, December 7, 2012

London, Paris, New York, Tokyo ... Honolulu?

Little Honolulu of 953,000 people, one third of which live on the other side of the island, wants to be like the 8 to 15 million people cities with rail systems.

If Honolulu truly wanted rail transit that resembles anything like the busy systems in London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, etc. then it would design a system of short lines as those shown in red, green and blue colors in the picture below. It would also have planned extensions (dashed lines) like the one passing through Salt Lake and terminating at Aloha Stadium.

Instead Honolulu plans the yellow rail line whose only purpose (which it is too obvious to see by looking at this picture) is to pave over the prime agriculture of the Ewa Plains with housing, a mega mall, a casino, and anything that will make our rulers richer.
In Honolulu, special interest monies (to the tune of over $10 million in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections) and octogenarian politicians convinced the populous to look to the 19th century for solutions to clogged freeways.