View Full Version : Green Tech: Passed Opportunity?

2009-Dec-29, 04:29 PM
As a byproduct of my (business) research into sources for atmospheric water generators, here are a couple of observations:

- US companies much ballyhooed in the press, even ones identifying themselves as manufacturers, are almost all, if not entirely all, OEMs based on re-branding Chinese manufactured goods. And they're not even patent-holders farming out production, just brand-sticker makers.

- A lot of maturing and interesting concepts, like solar-powered air-conditioning, seem to be all coming out of China, as well as a slew of solar panel variations. Lots of improved versions of bicycle generators are to be found, too.

These things are simple, not grandiose, yet because of that they translate into business today, not promises for tomorrow.

I realize there's quite a bit more to green tech, vastly so. But of late it seems to me that there is a great deal of talk, and little real product action, coming out of the US these days, and it is usually expressed in future terms, we would, we could.

I would love to hear of counter-examples, by the way. I am sighing in lament of appearances, not claiming moral high ground or factual certainty.

I do not wish to be overly political about this. I realize there is a pernicious fixed exchange rate at work that prevents not only the US, but many ASEAN countries as well, to economically manufacture many goods. But if I would like to leave you with a question, it is this: Are "Yankee ingenuity" and "American craftsmanship" slowly dying concepts, already museum relics, or even extinct and only found as cultural fossils?

(Having a bit of a mood today.)

2009-Dec-29, 04:47 PM
I'm in an office environment, not production or research. But I can add that companies like ours (and including ours) love to talk about going paperless and being environmentally friendly. Our company "did that" transition over the middle half of this decade.

Yet, the more green and "paperless" they go, the more paper we end up using. Part of the problem is that insurance is very closely governed by legalities. Lawsuits and errors and omissions and such mean that every day, they're requiring more and more forms and signatures and documentation. And for legal purposes, they want those forms and signatures and what-nots in hard copy.

Yet they also want to push for over-the-phone or on-line transactions. Sales and quotes and such. Which is (supposedly) a great convenience for customers, but means that the thousands of forms that need signatures have to be printed in duplicate, so we have a hard copy in case the customer never returns the originals (they don't let you re-print an application, which would solve that problem. Again, I suspect this is to remove the possibility of application altering, making the documents better suited if brought to court as evidence).

Additionally, they've moved from having each department (home owners, auto insurance, personal liability policies, etc) handle their own billing, to using one centralized billing department for everything. Cost cutting. Makes sense, but this means that they can no longer mail bills with the policies, as they each come from separate places. So they just doubled the amount of mail. Even if they same number of pages are being sent, just divided up, there's double the number of envelopes. To me, this is a clear demonstration of how the "Lets cut waste paper!" cry is all for show, but really what matters is cutting cost to the company. If they really cared about saving paper, they'd implement a system where each department issues the policies electronically to the main billing / mailing center, so that the bill and policy can still be printed and mailed together. (This would also cut down on the rampant customer confusion. I'm soo sick of calls about "I got my policy, but they didn't send a bill!! It says right on it, 'This is not a bill'!!!!" "Yes sir/madam. The bill will be sent seperately. You'll probably get it in a day or two." "Oh. . .")

[catch breath]

Sorry. It just is stupid how much extra paper they use, then claim to be on an environmentally friendly "paperless" system. Unless I'm wrong, and the 'less' on the end of 'paper' actually means 'less-paper-in-warehouses-because-we're-using-it-all-up!'.

Okay. Ranted enough. I feel better now. Point is, I concur. My experience has been that cost very much trumps environmental friendliness. And how much can we really blame them? I mean, they didn't start companies to help the world. They're in it to make money. It'd just be nice if they could take some time to find a way to do both.

Ronald Brak
2009-Dec-31, 09:28 AM
The US simply does not have the number of trained engineers or engineering students required to out innovate China or India. It is inevitable that the US will lose its lead in this area. In fact, it lost its lead in this area a long time ago and no one seemed to notice. Japan, with less than half the population of the US, has been exceeding the US in the number of patents produced for quite some time. This is not necessarily a disaster for the United States. Australia's economy continues to hum along merrily despite an extreme shortage of engineers. The United States is still producing stuff that other nations are willing to purchase and is still an attractive destination for foreign engineers and scientists.