Zealot Fundamentalism

We live in the presence of a rare breed of an individual and will soon see whether this firebrand for innovation flames out or continues to produce fundamental change in our world.  I used to think of Steve Jobs this way, but Elon Musk sets the bar much higher targeting space travel, transportation, and now social media.

When I took my master’s in management the key ideas were to focus or fail.  Trying to do too many things was considered the foundational mistake most people make: focus, focus, FOCUS!

Elon is the antithesis of this and stands in stark contrast to the management styles I was taught.  He seems ruthless and undisciplined.  He may be brilliant, but his actions seem so stupid at times.

TESLA may be a casualty of all this.  The stock price seems to reflect that.  But, I have watched him for so many years rise from the ashes of a situation that it could just be another magician’s trick … distract everyone with your movements here while the real action is there.

This next year is very likely to prove him right or wrong.  My heart of hearts wants him to be right once again and release a new generation of recyclable and sustainable batteries for EVs.  I have a TESLA Model S which I love but will put my order in for one of these new ones just as soon as I can.  And, I will not sell my S … I love it too much and will just keep it around as a spare.  In fact, I decided to replace the rims so it will once again look brand new.

My management training makes me want to criticize Elon for not finding a suitable mate.  When I see his rants and wanderings I am reminded how lucky I am to have a stabilizing wise mate in my life who keeps me out of ditches … at least most of the time. 😊

What I and others find refreshing about Elon is his zeal for change.  He does not settle for small incremental change … he literally shoots for the moon.  He also keeps a smile on his face and avoids the rancorously negative tone of people like Greta Thunberg.  She is just tiring.

Most of the world wants to follow leaders like Elon.  We look for handsome charismatic and seemingly successful change heroes who taunt and drive innovation into realities we never imagined.  Every time I drive my Model S I am amazed and how well it works.  Well done!

However, with all that said, there are times when you have to slow down and regroup IMHO.  Yes, I may sound like a luddite to some, but the innovation race is not a sprint, it is a marathon.

Essenes were onto something

Wikipedia describes the Essenes as a mystic Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. The Jewish historian Josephus records that Essenes existed in large numbers but fewer in number than the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the other two major sects at the time.

The Essenes lived in various cities but congregated in communal life dedicated to voluntary poverty, daily immersion, and asceticism (their priestly class practiced celibacy). The most famous one you probably know was John the Baptist who reportedly ate locusts and wild honey.  We don’t know what else he ate.  I would doubt this is all he ate, but he was known for being different by eating these.

It is interesting to me that we seem poised to consider doing the same these days.  First of all, it is now a well-known fact that honey is an amazingly powerful food.  And bees are essential for our plants’ survival due to their role as pollinators.  Of course, insects are a key part of the diet in many parts of the world, in some cases even a delicacy. But here in the West, most cringe at the thought.

We seem to think we have risen to a higher standard of living because we can eat beef, lamb, lobster, etc.  The idea of a cricket appetizer is just not likely to appear on any American restaurant menu.

Yet, the health benefits are undeniable.  The ecological impacts are all beneficial.  And, think of the devastation locusts produce if we don’t keep their populations under control.  Plus, you simple dry them before consumption to store them and you can keep them for years without refrigeration.

No one I know eats ants or termites, but our ancestors probably did.  Genetics tells us we and primates have common ancestors if you go back far enough and primates do consider ants and termites a delightful snack.  Some animals consider ants as their primary food source.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not about to go buy cricket flower but you can and it gets great reviews:  Cricket Protein Powder

But, if we are serious about a sustainable planet, why are we so afraid of new ideas that can wean us off our predisposition to eat the way we do now?  Think of all the damage locusts do if we don’t harvest them?  Plus, you do know that termites are a significant source of methane pollution … much higher than all those belching cows.  You detect termites in the walls using a methane sniffer!

Yes, I am playing with you to some extent, but not completely.  What are we afraid of?

By the way, people who do think about this and have lots of money are betting on this: Emerging Tech Research Food Tech Review 

So, what is our problem?  You do remember the prison revolt in Maine … at the time no one believed you could eat lobsters. When there was a food shortage at the prison, they served lobster resulting in a riot.  The prisoners thought they were trying to kill them.  When I grew up nobody ate mussels. Maybe with the passage of time, appetites will evolve to more sustainable food sources.

Knives Come Out – Guest Commentary

Hi Captain Obvious,

Thanks as always for your thoughtful commentaries and challenges to the status quo and “politically correct” thinking out there.

You ask for another lens to look through so let me provide that.

Do you remember the commercial “binoculars” that you could put in a quarter atop a mountain or the Empire State Building?  I see Captain Obvious looking through one of those on the North side of the building, and maybe the Southside as well.  And what you are seeing–the grifting, the hypocrisy, the funny math–is all accurate as you look North to Cambridge, and maybe even South to Washington DC and the policy makers in the US Senate and current White House.

For me, as I look West, out my lens I see things a little different.

I don’t drink Climate Kool Aid nor do I believe that humans can or will save the planet from its final destiny predicted in the last chapter of the Bible.  My lens also includes a filter about power grid efficiency, about practicality, about lower auto expenses, and personal choice.  Having had six electric vehicles personally, I know the good, bad and ugly about these cars.  I don’t expect them to do everything and have never preached that they are the solution to climate change.  It is possible for a person to like and promote something for reasons altogether different from another person who has a completely different mindset, motive–and lens.

I see electric vehicles as yet another powertrain choice for consumers, including commercial entities. We saw Oldsmobile and Chevy introduce diesel powertrains in the mid-70s when the only place to buy diesel fuel was at a truck stop.  Some people, including members of my family, bought these vehicles and were proud to drive the latest technology, despite the inconvenience.  We had a Red, White and Blue 1976 Chevy Patriotic Truck to prove it–and it ran on that Diesel. The Arab oil embargo brought America to its knees and people wanted to do something. And that is their choice.

Fast forward to EVs.  Buying a toy, being a geek, getting a first-of-a-kind vehicle, showing off–there is nothing wrong with any of this.  Sure, the Kool Aid makers are passing around the glasses, and some are drinking and driving, but the reality is that cars are being manufactured, people are buying or leasing them with federal incentives, and life goes on. It is good for the economy–albeit somewhat disputed.   But so was the train and automobile.  These vehicles get people from point A to point B, albeit at a slower average rate of speed, but that is simply an adjustment people make, like getting diesel at a truck stop. And it doesn’t really matter WHY they are driving them.

There is no question that electricity made at scale has less emissions than, say a million 12-year old cars with degraded catalytic converter exhaust systems. And many of those plants are out of EPA areas of non-attainment, where the cars are still in that zone.  For example, our two big coal plants are in Bartow and Monroe County–both out of that EPA naughty zone. So adding zero-emission vehicles in congested cities with poor air quality is a net positive because the coal or gas powering those cars are relatively clean and out of the range of that lens Captain Obvious is looking through.  It is a net positive.

But what about that overnight charging that consumers and most certainly the Amazons of the world will engage in.  How much help to our electric grid is utilizing that seldom used energy in lowering prices for everyone–fractionally.  Not even the Kool Aid drinkers talk about this.  But I can see that grid from the West side of the building, and I like what these vehicles do for it.

What so many of my traditional GOP supporters react to is the loud, Kool Aid drinking messages, and it turns them off.  They go negative against EVs looking for the evil at every turn in effort to push back this supposed wave of public policy washing up on the shore.  I know the pushback all to well, and I am often mistaken for a left-leaning person–though I am anything but.  I love technology.  I love efficiency.  I love personal choice.

Captain Obvious has a great platform to speak from because he drives an EV.  He is all to aware of the car’s weaknesses.  He also knows utilities and all-things-grid.  And he knows boats too.  And when the tide is pushing the boats in a direction that is contrary to where he is going, he is like a lighthouse showing people the deeper channel with his beacon aglow.  And I respect that.  But there is another lens, and I wanted to make sure everyone walked all the way around the building so they can take a look from my evangelical, regulatory perspective.

Commissioner Tim Echols 
Vice-Chair, GA PSC
Founder, Clean Energy Roadshow
Host, Energy Matters Radio


The Knives Come Out

I have been pointing to several impending realizations about EVs for all too many years, and wondered when it would emerge and hit mainstream.  I saw it with cogeneration and then gas cooling and was the first voice of reason but was followed pretty quickly by a band of industry practitioners.  In every case, despite the economic fallout, these professionals aligned with me, and we brought reason to the situation.

Perhaps that is why I continue to write these blogs. Nobody has ever written me a response to argue with me, offering another lens to look through.  So, I have wondered when the mood was going to mature about EVs.  So with the plethora of hype articles indicating everyone was going to drive an EV shifting to an emerging recognition that it simply isn’t true, I expected the tone to be that EVs are just not for everyone.

I thought the tone would be collegiate since this is a complex subject.  Well, just like just about everything else these days, it has devolved into accusations that everyone is corrupt.  Today’s Wall Street Journal describes them as grifters, a term I simply have never heard or used.  Here is what it means:  A grifter is a person who swindles you by means of deception or fraud. synonyms: chiseler, defrauder, gouger, scammer, swindler.

This article from the Wall Street Journal offers that criticism and offers proof.

Critical thinking is hard work and requires a person to be willing to drop preconceived notions, long held traditions and beliefs.  Let’s face it, we are tired of the complexity of modern life already, and don’t want to work that hard to learn new things.  Plus, we are now so suspicious of anyone trying to convince us of anything, that we tend to turn off the inputs and drown out our confusions with our addictive modern methods of coping.

But, we also tend to forget that grifting is expensive, and we really can’t afford it.  The price tags for these seemingly noble ideas are expensive, and worse yet they don’t yield the results we thought we were going to get.

So, does calling Biden a grifter get this into focus?  Does calling Putin a thug change the world to a better place?  After all, you would think President Obama would know the impact his comment would have on negotiations between our two countries.

As I consider our collective plight managing precious resources with ever growing needs I am reminded that we all face the same plight as the child on the beach throwing starfish back into the water.  His father comes over and reminds her to look at the beach littered with starfish and says: “It won’t make any difference.”  The child remarks: “It made a difference to this one!” and throws another starfish back into the sea.

My voice alone only makes a difference to a few here and there.  Join me by raising your voices as well.  Together we can fix these things.