Entries by Richard T. Stuebi

Book Review: Private Empire

After having extensively tackled the topic of al-Qaida with The Bin Ladens and Ghost Wars, Steve Coll has turned his attention to ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM).  At first blush, this might seem like a dramatic thematic departure for Coll as a journalist and author.  However, Coll’s newest work, Private Empire:  ExxonMobil and American Power, makes clear that […]

Corn Flakiness

The historic drought this summer across most of the United States has severely damaged this year’s corn crop.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn production is expected to be down more than 10% from last year. Not surprisingly, corn prices have surged.  What may be surprising is how much they’ve surged:  up to record levels exceeding $8.00/bushel, […]

Clear Signs of Innovation in Glass

Glass has been made for thousands of years, and innovators have always been tinkering to improve the basic product.  Over the years, these improvements have mainly been in terms of color, strength, weight, quality.  The cleantech imperative of the past few decades is now pushing glass innovations on two more dimensions, energy efficiency and power […]

Scavenging For “Free” Energy Isn’t Necessarily Cheap

5 watt-seconds.  That’s the miniscule amount of energy released mid-stride upon the ground when the average person is walking.  At least, so it was reported in a business plan I recently read from a college student group to pursue a new technology concept to harvest the otherwise-wasted energy created by foot traffic in dense pedestrian areas such as airports. […]

Bettering Batteries

I recently got an email entitled “Trojan Tips”.  Hmmmm, wonder what that could be about?  Alas, upon scrolling down from the subject line, I found the message provided advice from the battery manufacturer Trojan about proper battery management practices. The more you get into cleantech, the more you realize how central a role is played by […]

Hot Enough For You?

So far, the summer of 2012 has been a scorcher for most of the U.S., following hot on the heels of a much warmer than usual winter.  Last week, as reported by the Washington Post, the National Climatic Data Center released its State of the Climate report for June, in which NCDC noted that not only were the last […]

Depoliticizing CleanTech

It really wasn’t that long ago that the environment was an issue with about equal bipartisan support in the United States. Americans under the age of 30 might not even realize that the Republican party used to actually have very solid environmental credentials.  Theodore Roosevelt launched the National Park System, Richard Nixon spearheaded the creation of the […]

An Illuminating Article

As most of you readers know, the lighting industry is undergoing a revolution, stemming from the phase-out of inefficient incandescent bulbs as directed by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. A recent article in Distributed Energy by David Engle entitled “Quest for Light” provides a succinct overview of the domino effect on technological […]

Generating Innovation

The energy sector is pretty well-known for being resistant to change, risk-averse, conservative.  One segment of the energy technology landscape that especially favors “tried-and-true” over “new-and-better” involves on-site generators, typically for standby or emergency purposes. Scanning the most recent issue of Powerline — the periodical published by the on-site generator industry’s trade group, the Electrical Generating Systems Association — it looks pretty […]

Eaton Gobbling Share In Smart Grid

Cleveland-based Eaton Corporation (NYSE: ETN) is rapidly becoming one of the major players in the smart-grid arena. The big recent news, announced on May 21, was that Eaton is acquiring Cooper Industries (NYSE: CBE), one of the leading suppliers of electrical equipment.  While the largest acquisition, it’s only one of several in the last five years […]

CleanWeb: The Intersection of IT and CleanTech

For many observers, the bloom is off cleantech venture investing.  The challenges are numerous and increasingly well-known:  capital requirements are too large, the non-market (i.e., regulatory/political) forces are too influential, the incumbents are too strong, the sales cycles among risk-averse customers are too long, the technological issues are too profound.  As reported in this posting, […]

Going With The Flow

In recent months, I’ve come across more work being done in flow batteries than I’ve seen in the prior decade. I’ve been known in the past to say that fuel cells are kinda like fueled batteries.  Well, flow batteries really are fueled-batteries.  A traditional chemical battery is one sealed system that charges and discharges chemical […]

Danger: Silly Season Ahead

Here’s a musical experiment for you:  play a song such as “Penny Lane” from The Beatles (or, if you prefer classic rock, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin will do nicely) on your sound system…but with the balance set all the way to one side or the other.  There will be enough recognizable content for you to still recognize the song, but […]

The Geopolitics of Energy

“The Geopolitics of Energy”:  that was the title of a talk given at the Opportunity Crudes conference in Houston last week by Guy Caruso of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  It’s an endlessly fascinating and urgent topic, as very few sectors of the economy shape the world in which we live as much […]

Venturing Into The Future

Last week, I attended a breakfast hosted by the Michigan Venture Capital Association, at which the President of the National Venture Capital Association, Mark Heesen, made some comments and fielded Q&A about the state of the U.S. venture capital sector. Mark presented a mixed picture.  On the one hand, the VC industry is clearly contracting:  […]

Living In A Material World

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that cleantech, in large part, is actually materials tech.  “Nanotechnology” has some vogue as a term, but fundamentally nanotech is materials technology, and materials technology is broader than nanotech (altering materials at a molecular or atomic scale). Materials are at the core of most of the required innovations to help solve […]

Dark Days for the Solar Industry

With the Solyndra debacle and other bankruptcies (e.g., Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt), and a 65% decline in the MAC Global Solar Energy Index (SUNIDX), 2011 was a bad year for the solar industry.  Now into 2012, the hits just keep on coming. Last week, the long-time solar energy poster-child First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) announced it was closing its […]

Pike’s Peek at CleanTech

At the foot of the Flatirons along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, Boulder is one beautiful town.  With the University of Colorado and the region’s unparalleled outdoor activities, Boulder attracts many intellectual environmentalists.  Of course, like everyone else, this set of people needs to make a buck to pay the bills – there […]

When the Sun Goes Bad

In late January, a significant solar storm unleashed enormous amounts of energy into space.  Here on Earth, warnings were issued that the bursts of solar radiation could significantly affect a lot of the things that we 21st Century humans take for granted, such as telecommunications, air travel, and power grid stability.  Alas, in the event, […]

GE Whiz: Vic Abate

On March 1, the Clean Energy Trust of Chicago convened the Clean Energy Challenge, a business plan competition for clean energy ventures from the Midwest.  The lunch speaker was Vic Abate, Vice President of Renewables from General Electric (NYSE:  GE), who provided his perspectives on the growth of the wind energy business at GE. Abate noted that […]