Great Speculations

Posted on March 22, 2011 by


Spring is in the air, there’s talk about markets looking up…it’s just the perfect time to get optimistic about the future of your investments. With a strong heart and some steel in your belly for risk-taking, check out these three new technologies for energy independence.

Todd Ganos at Forbes writes about ways to go green and avoid energy dependance on oil markets.

Super batteries from the labs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other universities that on the outside looks like a regular old battery.  On the inside, they use microscopic carbon filaments to avoid junky exhaust. In the age of the electric car, where battery charging is a major issue, these super batteries recharge in less time than it takes to fill your gas tank.

Super-conduction.  Roughly 70 percent of electrical power generated at a plant is lost in transmission lines.  Super-conduction occurs when the conductor of electricity, whether big or small, has no resistance. Currently, super-conduction occurs in certain materials that are super-cooled, but, the temperature at which super-conduction occurs gets higher and higher each year.  When super-conduction becomes practical at “normal” temperatures, we stand to capture that 70 percent of lost electrical power.  Put another way, we would have roughly three times the amount of electrical energy we have now for the same cost.  Alternatively, we could look to eliminate – yes, eliminate –plants deemed to weigh on the environment.

The third technology is the combination of the first two:  that is, the rapid storage and rapid transmission of electrical energy.  It has been estimated that a single bolt of lightning has enough electrical energy to power the city of Los Angeles for a day.  The problem has always been our inability to capture and store that energy, Back To The Future notwithstanding.  It was the ultimate drink from the fire hose.

The combination of these two technologies has a way of funneling that stream.  Now consider the number of lightning strikes that occur in the Midwest in an average summer.  There are probably enough to power the entire United States for a year.

Yet, here we sit without an energy policy, with 90 percent of American well-heads capped, wringing our hands over whether or not the dominoes will fall in the Middle East.  I’m not certain if this is a buy signal or sell signal for Exxon Mobil at this point, but venture capitalists should have their checkbooks handy.