Thursday, February 23, 2006

Good news in Iraq

From the very first moment when thinking about what would happen in Iraq, I thought about the people that would be carrying out the mission. And I knew who they were. Just regular people from around this country aiming to fulfill an important mission. Good people focused on getting the job done. There is no one else, but U.S. soldiers that have the objectivity, skills, abilities, desire, sensibility, and good sense to carry out these types of missions. Since day one, at times it has been rough and truly a war. Taking out Saddam. Finding Saddam. Battling insurgents. And, at other times, it has been about building new schools, new hospitals, and new roads. It has been about free elections. And behind it all is the passionate, hard work of good people. Real people. Real people over there helping others and focused solely on putting the bad past behind Iraq. There is a bright future ahead.

Read and view the links below.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Proving Naysayers Wrong - Case in Point 2

A new and better future lies ahead. And people are actually doing work to bring it about. Armies of protestors parade around in pessimistic doom. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, real change is occuring by people who are actually working on new and innovative technologies and solutions. Don't doubt the future; believe in it. Look for it. It's happening.

Case in point 2 from Business 2.0 magazine.

Segway creator unveils his next act
Inventor Dean Kamen wants to put entrepreneurs to work bringing water and electricity to the world's poor.
February 16, 2006: 2:06 PM EST

San Francisco (Business 2.0) - Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Those figures add up to a big problem for the world?and an equally big opportunity for entrepreneurs.

To solve the problem, he's invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine that can provide much-needed power and clean water in rural villages.
"Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water," says Kamen. "The water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day, and we don't care what goes into it. And the power generator makes a kilowatt off of anything that burns."

Light in the darkness
Kamen is not alone in his quest. He's been joined by Iqbal Quadir, the founder of Grameen Phone, the largest cell phone company in Bangladesh. Last year, Quadir took prototypes of Kamen's power machines to two villages in his home country for a six-month field trial. That trial, which ended last September, sold Quadir on the technology.

So much so in fact that Quadir's startup, Cambridge, Mass.-based Emergence Energy, is negotiating with Kamen's Deka Research and Development to license the technology. Quadir then hopes to raise $30 million in venture capital to start producing the power machines. (With the exception of the Segway, which Kamen's own company sold, Kamen has typically licensed his inventions to others.)

The electric generator is powered by an easily-obtained local fuel: cow dung. Each machine continuously outputs a kilowatt of electricity. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to light 70 energy-efficient bulbs. As Kamen puts it, "If you judiciously use a kilowatt, each villager can have a nighttime."

A satellite picture of the earth at night shows swaths of darkness across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. For the people living there, a simple light bulb would mean an extension of both their productivity and their leisure times.

Entrepreneurial power
The real invention here, though, may be the economic model that Kamen and Quadir hope to use to distribute the machines. It is fashioned after Grameen Phone's business, where village entrepreneurs (mostly women) are given micro-loans to purchase a cell phone and service. The women, in turn, charge other villagers to make calls.

"We have 200,000 rural entrepreneurs who are selling telephone services in their communities," notes Quadir. "The vision is to replicate that with electricity."

During the test in Bangladesh, Kamen's Stirling machines created three entrepreneurs in each village: one to run the machine and sell the electricity, one to collect dung from local farmers and sell it to the first entrepreneur, and a third to lease out light bulbs (and presumably, in the future, other appliances) to the villagers.

Kamen thinks the same approach can work with his water-cleaning machine, which he calls the Slingshot. While the Slingshot wasn't part of Quadir's trial in Bangladesh, Kamen thinks it can be distributed the same way. "In the 21st century, water will be delivered by an entrepreneur," he predicts.

The Slingshot works by taking in contaminated water ? even raw sewage -- and separating out the clean water by vaporizing it. It then shoots the remaining sludge back out a plastic tube. Kamen thinks it could be paired with the power machine and run off the other machine's waste heat.

Compared to building big power and water plants, Kamen's approach has the virtue of simplicity. He even created an instruction sheet to go with each Slingshot. It contains one step: Just add water, any water. Step two might be: add an entrepreneur.

"Not required are engineers, pipelines, epidemiologists, or microbiologists," says Kamen. "You don't need any -ologists. You don't need any building permits, bribery, or bureaucracies."

The price of freedom
Still, even if some of the technical challenges have been solved ("I know the technology works and I'd fall on my sword to prove it," insists Kamen), the economic challenges still loom.

Kamen's goal is to produce machines that cost $1,000 to $2,000 each. That's a far cry from the $100,000 that each hand-machined prototype cost to build.

Quadir is going to try and see if the machines can be produced economically by a factory in Bangladesh. If the numbers work out, not only does he think that distributing them in a decentralized fashion will be good business -- he also thinks it will be good public policy. Instead of putting up a 500-megawatt power plant in a developing country, he argues, it would be much better to place 500,000 one-kilowatt power plants in villages all over the place, because then you would create 500,000 entrepreneurs.

"Isn't that better for democracy?" Quadir asks. "We see a shortage of democracy in the world, and we are surprised. If you strengthen the economic hands of people, you will foster real democracy."

Lights, water, freedom. Now that's entrepreneurial.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Economic and Environment Naysayers

Behind the scenes scientists, researchers, and entreprenuers are furiously working to create the efficient technology breakthroughs of our future. Who gets all the headlines? The naysayers and the doubters. The scientists working around the clock on tomorrow's great new technologies won't be out on hilltops shouting look what were going to create. But they will create it. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and their armies of liberal activities and pocket-stuffed northeastern donors are all shouting about all the problems with this and that. Proposals don't go far enough. Solutions won't come fast enough. They can talk about doubt and fears better than anyone on the planet. They can talk. And they can talk. And they can talk. But they won't be bringing about any change. Change is happening in the laboratories. Indeed, change is happening in America's biggest board rooms, and because of some of the greediest venture capitalists. That's how real change happens. People work. And people risk. And that's what makes it happen. And when it comes to clean energy and a cleaner future-- it's coming. And its happening. You just need to look the other way to find it. Turn away from the naysaying talkers and please hope and believe in those that are making it happen.