Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Renewable energy: Policy matters!

Learn from failure.

Japan had been leading solar cell market both in production and implementation till 2004. Sharp had been No.1 producer for a long time. But in 2007, it gave up No.1 position to Q Cells, a German company.

Everyone would know that Germany is heavily invested in renewables. They introduced feed-in-tariff which boosted German solar power market. And it's not only Germany - a lot other countries are pursuing renewable energy as policy goal.

A lot of countries, except for one country that once boasted World's No.1 solar cell technology and market - Japan.

There is no sign that Japan will start investing seriously in renewable energy as policy, at least as earnestly as other countries. Consequently, it is losing its ground on such a promising field and its leadership role in the market. How sad.

This shows that technology won't spur on its own; policy direction and support (including incentives and regulatory changes) really matters for this kind of paradigm shift.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ultimate minimal / Chashitsu- Japanese tea house

Revisit calculus: keep dividing 1 by ever decreasing number, and the result becomes larger and larger and larger.....toward infinity. 1/0.0000001, 1/0.00000000000001, 1/0.000000000000000000000000000001......

Zero has infinite power.

Yes, zero is null itself, but by being null, it can have infinite power. This is like zen.

Japanese traditional Chashitsu (tea house, tea room) is designed to be very very small as if it wanted to be infinite by being physically null.

Discover some concepts and philosophy that are embedded in 20 square feet or so confined room where most minimal and sophisticated ceremony happens.

It reminds us that we don't need huge or extravagant things to be rich in mind. We can release our mind to the world of infinity by allowing ourselves close to zero, physically and conceptually.

Monday, September 8, 2008

How many miles of road do you owe?

California budget deadlock still continues. As of September 8, there is no sign of 2008-2009 budget moving forward.

I come from a small country with little resources, so I am always impressed by what California has. It is very rich in almost everything: human resources, industry/innovative technology, agriculture, land, mineral resources (including oil) and so on. I feel like water is the only missing piece from the picture. So it is hard for me to believe that California has to suffer from such a serious budget problem.

But I am not here to criticize the politics... I will leave the discussion to the experts. I am simply curious to know why.

Well, as a politics-amateur, one of the things I notice as an outsider is that there is massive investments on infrastructure because everything is large here. People depend on cars for transportation which depend on massive highway system that is FREE. By the same token, extensive scale of urban sprawl requires massive investments to establish and maintain water system, electrical grid, sewage, roads, parking, commercial complex and so forth..... which could be redundant if the community was twice denser.

This is unproven theory and I am just wondering: if what is true to California is true to US as a whole, which also suffers from budget deficit despite its richness in various resources....
Does the life of an American need more infrastructure investment (cost) compared to other countries? Here is some figures:

This is the statistics of the land devoted to road and parking. Each country has different area and population, but it is noticeable when you look at "area per capita" and "area per motor vehicle". The figures in North America and other countries are significantly different.
A British only has to maintain 72 meters2 for road/parking whereas an American has to do 573 meter2.
A Japanese car only has to maintain 184 meters2 for road/parking whereas an American vehicle has to do 745 meter2. (Plus, highway is not FREE in Japan! )

Establishing and maintaining infrastructure takes money. More infrastructure means more spending from tax revenues. If spending is too much, fiscal budget will be in red. Obviously not all the taxes are spent on public infrastructure, but this seems to be an interesting topic to investigate, especially in relation to smart growth.