September 2009


Our mornings are becoming cooler, and the season is offering us some great sleeping weather. Already, some of our trees are dropping leaves, while still more are beginning their color transformation. Our shagbark hickory trees surprise you with the random sound of nuts falling in the background. You get to the point where you miss the sound.

The tomatoes we planted were slow to provide mature fruits, but now they are coming into their own.

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Our flock of laying hens continue to provide us, and a few lucky folks, with great eggs. We are anticipating an increase in eggs, as all have finished molting their old feathers, and the three juveniles we brought home are getting big!

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Yesterday I was lucky to find a small, one horse plow for $20. We don’t have a horse yet, but the plow was a good deal. We are looking into creating a small, not for profit teaching and history farm, that will also use significant solar panel technology. Unfortunately, we will miss out on the recent announcement from the Indiana Office of Energy Development. They just raised the maximum award amount to $100,000, with can be used by businesses, not-for-profit organizations, municipalities and schools. From the IOED website:

“Technologies included in the program are Solar Water Heating for domestic hot water or radiant heating, Solar Electricity, Wind Power, Micro-hydro electricity and Biomass electricity and heating. Alternative energy systems make use of non-fossil fuel resources to produce clean, home-grown electricity and thermal energy.

 

The program is administered by the Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED). The grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Energy and the State Energy Program, but are not part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding.

 

Each grant now has a maximum of $100,000 and will be awarded through a competitive system. Applicants are required to match the grant amount with private funding.  Applications must be received by September 25, 2009.  Grant awards will be announced October 2, 2009.”

 

Here is the site that contains application information.  This is a step in the right direction for Indiana, and we would like to see this program expanded to include Indiana residential installation, and have it linked to a parallel initiative that funds solar panel R&D and production in Indiana.

 

Wishing all of you a peaceful, mindful Autumn.

 

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Let me start by saying something in plain English.

Our Indiana delegation attending the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai event is just playing up to big corporate interests, and this effort will not amount to a hill of beans for Hoosiers, and real jobs.

The delegation includes our governor, Mitch Daniels, Purdue Vice Provost Vic Lechtenberg, Indy Partnership President & CEO Ron Gifford (here is his travel blog), IU President Michael McRobbie, and others. Wish they would tell me who the private donors were who foot the bill.

The American Chamber of Congress in Shanghai is sponsoring a conference there, Greentech: A Call To Action.

Now I am not opposed to trade with China, and understand the need for US investment abroad. But at some point you just have to call it for what it is.

Corporate America, tapping into cheap Chinese labor, and subsidized investment schemes. All at the expense of real jobs for Americans.

They will be talking with representatives at Eli Lilly’s swanky facility in the Pudong Science Park, no doubt to keep the smiles coming. I’m sure the workers in Eli Lilly’s Research Center in China are thankful for the jobs, and look forward to the incredible savings that Lilly will pass on to US consumers as a result of cheap Chinese manufacturing and R&D costs. Honestly, I don’t know if this will include clinical trials in China, but why not? China routinely performs clinical trials, especially prisoners. Talk about value!

Our governor will also be talking with Chinese representatives about how we can work together as an agricultural partner. What does this mean for you, dear Hoosier? Well it could mean good news for the large farms in Indiana. You know, the ones that are raking in government subsidies, gaming the system. Or the large, corporate owned farms. ADM, Cargill, and others come to mind. What might it also mean for Hoosiers? China desperately wants to sell us things like raw chicken. The USDA country of origin labeling (COOL) program requires things like raw chicken, fruits and vegetables show their country of origin. I don’t know about you, but COOL is very important. My family wants to know where our food comes from. And we currently ban chicken from China, for some very good reasons.  But the irony to COOL is that processed foods are not subject to this law. For example, did you know that Companies like Tyson and Perdue want to ship raw chicken to China, where it would be processed, then shipped back to us for sale in supermarkets. All without you, the consumer, knowing that you are eating chicken from China. American companies like Tyson and others want to first repeal COOL, then have their way with the American public. Wal Mart doesn’t like COOL, either.

You will probably be shocked to know how much of your food comes from China. The good folks over at Food and Water Watch have created a calculator that shows you how much of your food is imported, do give it a try. It is a real eye opener.

What does it mean for the so called green jobs in Indiana, the Green Economy? Daniels and others in the delegation met with several Chinese companies. “Daniels met with two companies who are actively exploring investment opportunities in southern Indiana. The governor toured the production facilities and met with executive management at Shanghai Top Motor Co, Ltd. (Techtop), an electric motor manufacturing company, to discuss the company’s ongoing plans to expand its operations in Indiana. In 2008, Techtop announced plans to bring a new manufacturing and distribution center to Columbus in a joint venture with LHP Technologies. Daniels also met with officials from China Dongfeng Motor Industry Import & Export Company, Ltd, a government-owned automotive company, about its joint venture with Cummins supplier Yinlun and the company’s operation in Columbus.”

Ah yes, we should all remember how important hi tech electric motors once were to the Indiana economy. A small company in Anderson, called Magnequench, was a leader in the manufacture of high-powered neodymium magnets, which are the core of virtually all hi speed computers, as well as being absolutely essential to all defense electronics. and the technology also forms the basis for today’s hi efficiency electric motors, used in virtually all hybrid vehicles.  Magnequench was at one time owned by General Motors, and used Magnequench magnets in things like airbags and mechanical sensors. When GM sold it to an investment consortium acting as a front for Chinese interests, China eventually moved the technology, and the production capabilities, to China. The story of how China did this is painfully fascinating, but rest assured, companies like Cummins, and the IEDC, are looking out for us. Right. And GM has the Volt, which is nothing more than a billion dollar marketing campaign. Completely useless. They should copy the Prius.

So now China wants to be the world leader in electric and hybrid vehicles. They have a huge advantage on America, and corporate America is ready and willing to jump on their manufacturing bandwagon. Soon, you will be shopping for a Chinese hybrid, powered in part by Chinese solar technology, all thanks to our leaders in state and federal government.

I can’t understand why the Obama administration doesn’t get serious about using stimulus dollars to fund American solar manufacturing, and massive solar system installations for residential use. I find it absolutely frightening that our government allows American based, multinational corporations to play an economic shell game that is destroying our manufacturing base.

A truly intelligent stimulus effort should focus on creating an American solar manufacturing base, and simultaneously provide rebates that would enable almost every American home to install solar systems. This single act would have provided real long term jobs for us, and taken OPEC out at the knees. The bad news is that so much of the readily available technology, such as solar panels, are made in China. They have a huge advance on anything the US can provide, both by output and cost. One reason for this is the fact that the Chinese government subsidizes the solar industry there, providing a huge jump start in manufacturing capacity and technological edge. They are also superb gamers, adept at “dumping” artificially low priced goods into export countries.  China can undercut any manufacturer of solar panels, and has taken the edge from us on battery technology. And as we watch with bated breath to see the resurrected GM pull some miracle, China once again is poised to beat us at our own game.

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. 

We’ll also need to achieve grid parity (make solar as cheap as fossil fuel derived power) for large scale installations. For example, First Solar has a 10-megawatt plant in Nevada that produces electricity without subsidies for 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour compared to 9 cents for fossil-based power.

But do we as a nation have the leadership to accomplish these goals?

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