Watching video footage of vials of Covid-19 vaccines encased in dry ice and arriving at hospitals and retirement homes offers me a glimmer of hope for 2021. But having a vaccine does not mean an end to the pandemic — vaccines must be distributed to hospitals and injected into patients to do any good.
Because both the leading vaccines require subjects to receive two shots, humanity needs to figure out how to distribute two times seven billion people’s worth of vaccine to every corner of the world in a matter of months.
Thanks to advances in the art and science of logistics spurred by offshoring and online shopping, such an enormous task as distributing two of something to every human on the planet falls within the realm of the possible. …
As I mentioned in my Grid Modernization article, our electrical system was originally designed to supply instantaneous power with essentially zero storage capacity.*
A structural inability to store power represents a critical bottleneck in the process of building a low-carbon electrical system. Renewable resources like wind and solar are naturally intermittent, and no one wants their fridge to stop working when the wind dies down.
Entrepreneurs read the word “bottleneck” as “opportunity,” so a lot of smart materials scientists have been working hard to leverage the leading battery technology — lithium-ion — to rehab our Industrial Revolution-paradigm grid with 21st century storage capacity. …
Our electrical grid is a stunning example of human ingenuity and engineering. It spans hundreds of thousands of miles, is fed by thousands of production facilities, and serves hundreds of millions of customers. It is the largest machine ever built and one that empowers every computing, networking, and communications innovation of the Internet Age. (See also my article entitled You’ll Never Guess The Two Most Important Words In Tech Investing.)
As impressive as it is, the North American grid is showing its age. After all, it was built on a 19th century paradigm, its backbone was established before the 1929 stock market crash, and it still maintains equipment of the same vintage as Robby the Robot. …
Since the onset of COVID-19, suburban life has suddenly taken on a new attraction. In this age of pandemic, widely spaced houses set back on verdant, manicured lawns represent spatial inoculation from disease as much as they do bourgeois domesticity.
What if those wide lawns could also help to mitigate climate change?
A revolution is underway in the world of carbon credits. It is a revolution that has the potential to help civilization thrive and survive into the 21st century.
One of the vanguards in this revolution is the California start-up Pachama, a company I have featured in this column before (see Applying AI To Mitigate The Effects Of Climate Change). Pachama has had some exciting developments in the past few months and is receiving the attention of some very smart and well-capitalized investors.
Recall that Pachama is innovating the carbon credit markets by applying 21st century technology — LiDAR, machine vision, and machine learning algorithms — to automate the process of certifying and verifying forestry-related “voluntary” carbon offset projects. …
Former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, announced the launch of a taskforce to figure out how to jumpstart voluntary carbon offset markets.
(To understand what I mean by “Voluntary” markets and see the differences between voluntary and “Compliance” markets, please see my article entitled “ Want To Understand Carbon Credits? Read This “.)
Carney points out that, right now, the voluntary carbon offset markets are too small, having a total capitalization of only around $300 million. To put that number into context, if the voluntary carbon offset markets were a single stock, it would be a microcap.
If our civilization is to make it into the next century, these markets should be worth tens of billions of dollars today (and rapidly growing), not hundreds of millions. …
Over the past few weeks, I have written two articles ( The Future is Now, License to Print Money) highlighting the new industry of Carbon Sequestration-as-a-Service. CSaaS is helping forward-leaning firms like Shopify achieve carbon neutrality and is made possible by the intellectual property “software” of Carbon Engineering’s direct air capture (DAC) technology and the project development “hardware” of companies like 1PointFive, Pale Blue Dot, and Occidental Petroleum .
Since publishing these articles, I’ve gotten a flood of emails from readers on both sides of the political spectrum.
To the Greenies, I’m a shill for Big Oil who is rewarding carbon miners for their historical destruction of our biome with unwarranted good press. To the Head-in-the-Sand Crowd, I’m banging on about something that “may never happen” (despite the fact that it is happening right in front of our eyes) and is “technologically unproven” (despite the fact that DAC is already a commercial reality). …
Carbon Sequestration-as-a-Service (CSaaS) can make “Carbon-free Shopping” as ubiquitous as “Free Shipping” is today, but to do so, a lot of infrastructure needs to get built. The football field-sized plants that pull CO2 out of the air for sequestration or reuse air don’t appear with the wave of a hand. Someone has to fund, plan, build, and operate them.
With all due respect to Mr. Software-is-eating-the-world, Marc Andreesen, a cool app can’t cool the planet. Software may be part of the solution, but software alone just doesn’t cut it — a new physical infrastructure must be developed.
That means building hard assets. …
How wonderful it was to live at the turn of the twenty-first century! We had the luxury of considering climate change as a possible negative that might happen in the seemingly unimaginable future of “ten or 20 years from now.”
Back in the good ole’ days, we imagined that hurricanes would someday become more destructive. Wildfires would someday threaten more population centers. Droughts would someday become more severe.
These worries may have added a twinge of buzzkill while we were partying like it was 1999. On the bright side — most people figured — the disasters would not come for decades and by then, some lab coat-wearing egghead would have figured out a way to technologize us out of our pickle. …
An academic paper published last month by Australian climate scientist, Steven Sherwood and a team of global colleagues, made for sobering reading.
The paper showed that a doubling of atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations — which at our present do-nothing pace, we’ll hit sometime in the next two generations — would most likely push global average temperatures to a range of between about 2.5 degrees and 4.0 degrees Celsius.
There is nothing particularly magical about the 2.0-degree Paris Agreement threshold, but it is a level where scientific research suggests we will start to see serious damage to marine ecosystems (i.e., seafood) and agricultural capacity (i.e., …