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RE: [hreg] Hydrogen-based transportation

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  • Robert Johnston
    Try to argue a point of view too forcefully and risk a flame war. Try to be polite and tactful, and it comes across as pompous. Sometimes it is hard to know
    Message 1 of 90 , Jan 12, 2002
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      Try to argue a point of view too forcefully and risk a flame war.  Try to be polite and tactful, and it comes across as pompous.  Sometimes it is hard to know how to have dialogue online!  People say things to each other that they probably wouldn’t in person.  Though we are a club, I have not been able to attend many meetings, but did have the pleasure of meeting Charlie at early meetings I attended, including the HREG formation meetings, and share several of his goals if not all his beliefs on how best to achieve them.  I enjoy discussing these topics with him and the rest of you nonetheless.  Cameron, I hope that I can have the pleasure of meeting you someday too so that you can put a face with the words and not be offended by what I write, as you say you were this time.  And if THIS sounds pompous too, forgive me!


      We are all in the “corporate womb” if by that you mean that our livelihoods, society, culture, politics, etc. are largely affected by the relationships between us.  To say that “none of us is an island” is a clichéd expression, but the evolution of our society proves that when we act corporately we are most successful.  That is why HREG was formed in the first place—so that we could pool individual knowledge and experience so that each of us could be more successful in learning/practicing whatever it is we want out of HREG; in the process HREG as a corporate body also accomplishes things for the community that none of us would have done on our own.  I don’t see business corporations as being that different fundamentally.  Would you be opposed to craftsmen/apprentices of the guild era if that were the dominant form of business organization today?  Corporations to me are an evolution of that, where larger groups of people with more diverse skillsets can take on more challenging projects, assume larger risks, achieve greater rewards and accomplish more significant things than a guild craftsman could.  The growth of multinational corporations is not because they are evil, but because they are successful.


      You presume to know what I can and cannot see from my womb-like corporate roost.  Truth is, I think for myself (yet influenced by others), even if I am employed by a corporation.  I don’t agree with all my company’s positions, nor they with mine.  My colleagues are the same way.  All of us together shape the corporate culture and actions.  If the corporation is evil, it is because all of us collectively are evil.  I have trouble seeing things that way, frankly.  My colleagues and I may be corporate trees, to borrow your figure of speech, and what we accomplish together is the forest; I think that I have a reasonably clear picture of what my company does/does not.


      I don’t know Ralph Nader.  Some people are very good at promotion.  In the process they become associated with the ideas they are championing, even though they may not be the only or even primary force behind them.  I think Ralph Nader deserves credit for promoting auto safety, even as Rachel Carson does for chemical waste handling.  But many other people were (and are) involved, including thousands of engineers at the companies involved.  I realize my viewpoint may be different than yours, but as a scientist, I find it difficult to give so much credit to lawyers without acknowledging the contributions of businessmen and engineers.  I think the challenge of finding economical and practical solutions to technical problems is a much more difficult task than that of pointing out that problems exist.  The latter is an important task, and often sets people working in the right direction, but the work of actually solving problems and implementing solutions in everyday products is a task that thousands of people have been involved in and is not the work of a lone crusader or activist group.  These thousands of people were largely employed by corporations.


      As for hydrogen fuel cells, if someone has a workable solution that can be implemented quickly rather than in decades, I wish they’d come forward and save all of us the tax dollars Bush plans to spend.  Seriously, I don’t know if it will take decades or not.  It IS a challenging technical problem.  It is prudent to not raise unrealistic expectations early in the development of a new paradigm like this.  Already there is too much hype about fuel cells; for evidence, one only needs to look at the stock market bubble developing around such technologies (I guess there are still a few folks with money left over after the collapse of the dot bombs to “invest” in another round of speculation).  Announcing a new federal program and providing funding for the long haul is prudent; one can always hope for a breakthrough that will shorten the time, but it is hard to rush new science and technology.  (If it were so easy to develop new technology, why don’t we have reliable space-based anti-missile technology implemented yet, ~20 years after Reagan pushed and funded it?  Or fusion power?  The left is quick to criticize as impractical, costly and unlikely to be successful those technologies that don’t fit their ideology, but don’t seem to have much patience for those who criticize their own pet technologies on the same basis.  I think fuel cells will be successful—maybe with biomass based methanol rather than electrolytic hydrogen.  But it will take a long time).


      Frankly, I think the efforts to “drive” SUV’s and pickups off the road are misguided.  For some people these are the best vehicle choices.  If you want the rest of the people to choose different vehicles, then don’t blame the automakers for delivering what people want to buy, but focus instead on consumers and changing their attitudes towards vehicles.  For example, in the Houston area, if we must have lower speed limits for ozone abatement, as TNRCC/EPA seem to think we should, then why on earth do these regulatory bodies punish everybody the same way?!  Why not set emissions goals for individual vehicles, and allow those beating target levels to drive 70 mph?  Or those that include more riders (carpooling) to drive faster?  Our regulatory folks seem to only understand legislation of uniformity and enforcement thereof, not use of free market forces.  Don’t you think that if SUV’s, pickups, and muscle cars with single occupants were the ones driving 55 mph while the hybrids and low emission Honda Civics were whizzing past them at 70 mph, that the definition of “high performance vehicle” would change, and that there would be a shift in purchasing habits?  The car makers would respond to this.  Trying to drive consumers by strong-arming the automakers seems to me to be a backwards way of achieving desired environmental goals.


      The government can help ensure effective markets by encouraging true pricing.  If ozone abatement is worth $x, then that should be reflected in costs some way.  I sense that Charlie and I are in agreement that removing subsidies (and I might add, penalties) that unfairly increase the relative cost of one technology vs. another is generally a good idea.  Everything is so interconnected, however, this is not easy.  (I still need to read that book on Eco-capitalism, but the concept sounds reasonable to me).


      Anyway, enough rambling from my corporate roost.  Time to tuck in my feathers and get some sleep.


      Robert Johnston



      -----Original Message-----
      From: Cameron Payne [mailto:campayne@...]
      Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2002 6:03 PM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [hreg] Hydrogen-based transportation



      I, too, was offended by Robert Johnston's pompous comments to Charlie Mauch on 1/10/02. Johnson seems to be so deep in the corporate womb that he can't see the forest for the trees. Of course there individuals who work for corporations who care about safety, but he missed Mauch's point. He is obviously ignorant as to what Nader has accomplished for citizens re auto safety.


      I probably know as much about hydrogen and politics as anyone in hreg, and  it is clear to me that Freedom CAR is just slight-of-hand to get the government from pushing the auto industry to more fuel efficient cars, especially via CAFE. As you alluded to, on 1/9/02, DOE Sec Abraham said "Our vision (of Freedom CAR) spans several decades as together the Department of Energy and the automobile industry look to develop cost effective hydrogen fuel cells".


      Yesterday's Wall Street Journal (the most pro-business newspaper in the U.S.) says, with regard to Freedom CAR, "Mr. Bush's rearranging of federal priorities at least has the virtue of short-circuiting another round of corporate average fuel-economy (CAFE) standards".


      On 1/10/02 the Wall St Journal said:

      "The Freedom Car program has a more immediate target than producing practical fuel-cell transportation: opinion on Capitol Hill. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have prompted louder calls for an energy policy that weans the nation off Mideast oil. Because cars and trucks account for such an outsized portion of U.S. petroleum consumption, the auto industry worries the attacks may strengthen environmentalists' calls to toughen the nation's Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, rules.

      Significant increases in the CAFE standards would make it harder for GM, Ford and Chrysler to keep cranking out highly profitable, but fuel-thirsty, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks. They and their supporters in Congress hope the Freedom Car program will deflect calls for tougher CAFE standards, a fight likely to intensify in coming weeks as the Senate debates a broad energy bill. It's much the same motivation that led Detroit to embrace the PNGV program nearly a decade ago, a time when the Clinton administration was pushing for a big CAFE increase."

      That's pretty clear! It's not about fuel cells, it's about making it easier for "GM, Ford and Chrysler to keep cranking out highly profitable, but fuel-thirsty, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks".










      -----Original Message-----
      From: ChasMauch@... [mailto:ChasMauch@...]
      Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 8:35 PM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [hreg] Hydrogen-based transportation


      I consider it to be an obvious fact that huge corporations have essentially bought our politicians and our entire government, and this is nothing new. The so-called "robber barons" used to buy entire state legislatures and the entire political system to this day is rotten from top to bottom due to the influence of corporate money.

      Can anyone deny that our media are controlled by about ten huge conglomerates which dominate TV, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, radio, and are working on the Internet? The latest issue of the Nation magazine was entirely devoted to this situation and explains it in great detail. And since all are dependent on corporate advertising and are huge corporations themselves, there is not doubt about where their sympathies lie.

      Our "health care system" is controlled by a few big HMOs, pharmaceuticals, and insurance companies. Our absurd levels of military spending are simply a way of transferring public money to private sources and subsidizing the technology sector. Even the Wall Street Journal admits we hand out over $150 billion annually in corporate welfare of all kinds. Our food supply, even our schools and prisons -- all are being "privatized" as fast as possible, and of course they have always hated the minimum wage, worker organization, and social security and would eliminate them tomorrow if they could.

      Most of these corporations are moving their operations overseas. They have no loyalty to the citizens of this nation but will move to those that have the cheapest labor, the least environmental and safety regulation, and the lowest tax system. Our economy today has nothing to do with "free enterprise" as originally proposed by Jefferson and the others where small farmers dealt with small merchants. Today we have a system of corporate capitalism in which the only "invisible hand" at work is that of the super rich manipulating the government to their own advantage.

      I especially resent your statement that "I know it feels good for a Green to dump on big corporations....but I encourage you to consider both sides of the coin before criticizing (the Big 3) next time." I don't do it because it feels good, and I assure you that I have considered both sides of the situation it in great detail over a long period of time before arriving at the conclusions previously expressed.

      I am absolutely convinced that the system concentrates money and power in fewer and fewer hands, to the point that now about 1/2 of one percent of the people have nearly half of the total wealth of the country and are constantly striving for more, and the Big 3 are just one example of this. It is clear that you and perhaps most of the other members of this list are satisfied with this system, so I guess I should not have brought it up. You see Nader as a troublemaker who just gets in the way of progress or worse, prevents it from happening or at least slows it down. I find such a viewpoint amazing, but neither of us is likely to change the other's mind, and I guess a difference of opinion is what makes a horse race.

      In closing I will refer you to another troublemaker whose birthday is fast approaching. Jan 15 is MLK day, which will give us an excellent chance to observe how the corporate media works. There will be speeches and parades and endless reprints of his beautiful and inspiring "I Have a Dream" speech, which is familiar to us all, and we are comfortable with it. But he delivered another famous speech at Riverside Church in New York which I have never seen printed or broadcast in the mainstream media. In fact I had often heard of it but had never read it myself until a friend told me that I could find it at this Internet address (sorry I don't know how to make a hyperlink):


      It is incredibly powerful -- in fact it brought tears to my eyes. And tragically it is as timely today as it was over 30 years ago. In this time of difficult choices and national soul-searching, King's real message speaks to us forcefully and deserves to be heard. If we were truly to honor him, we should pass this on to all Americans, but it will not happen. They will present the sanitized King who does not offend the system. I sent it to the Chronicle and challenged them to print it, but am not holding my breath. I'm sure most of the media will not. So much for his real message. It's long and presents some hard facts, but I do hope you will take the time to read it, if you have never done so. It is just as true today as it was 30 years go -- just substitute "Afghanistan" for Vietnam and you have the same old story, after all these years. I'm sure you will find it inspiring, and terribly sad. Or then again, maybe you won't. Depends of the point of view, I guess.


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      I have accepted to be at the Woodlands event on April 8. John Gardner Michael Ewert wrote: Looking ahead to Earth Day, I’d like to
      Message 90 of 90 , Jan 20, 2006
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        I have accepted to be at the Woodlands event on April 8.
        John Gardner

        Michael Ewert <mewert@...> wrote:
        Looking ahead to Earth Day, I’d like to get an idea how many of you will be willing to help staff an HREG booth at one event or other.  I’m sure we will have many opportunities and I don’t want to accept more than we can handle.  Please let me know if you would like to staff the specific request below or if you would like to sign up tentatively to staff another Earth Day event.  Most will be on Saturdays in April.  Please e-mail me at mewert@....  Thank you.
        -----Original Message-----
        From: Eric Duran [mailto:eduran@...]
        Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2006 11:35 AM
        To: mewert@...
        Subject: Bellaire Earth Day
        Mr. Ewert,
        I'm writing to ask the Houston Renewable Energy Group to participate in Bellaire's Earth Day Festival on April 22nd, 2006. We'd like you to have an informative booth at the Nature Discovery Center site, from 10am to 2pm. We're asking the exhibitors this year to make the booths as interactive as possible, but information would be okay, as well. We look forward to having your organization join us.
        Thank you,
        Eric Duran
        Staff Naturalist
        Nature Discovery Center

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