Leden 2013

The Swiftboating of Apple

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Meteoric growth is as unpredictable as downhill ski racing. Success and failure are separated by hundredths of a second. Apple is nearly 37-years-old. It's time for maturity, and Apple appears to be acknowledging this reality, and crafting a narrative more suitable for this phase of its life. Last year it wisely began paying its first dividend -- roughly $10 a share -- inviting more value investors, though I'd argue that double that figure ($20 a share) would have a much more stabilizing effect by reducing speculation. So too is the company exiting the forecasting business, now only providing a rough high and low guide for the next quarter's sales. Apple is moving to escape from the vicious earnings trap that helps fuel volatile trading.

Fresh, new narrative frames could do even more, transforming how customers, analysts and investors view the company's products. Apple's strength has increasingly been that its business is snowballing, becoming the whole rather than the individual parts. Seeing this evolving pattern through an analogy illuminates this larger network effect. Many critics are in effect arguing that Apple can only sell so many doors (iPhones) and windows (iPads), when what it delivers to individual consumers is a highly designed path toward a fully outfitted home or business empowered with devices and apps that deliver contagious experiences.

I bought my first Mac in 1988, and I've bought nine more since, and two iPhones and three iPods. Insurance companies call that an annuity, and it adds up: last September Tim Cook announced that Apple had sold over 400 million iOS devices worldwide. Then there's the avalanche of app downloads -- 40 billion so far, with 20 billion of those downloads happening in the last 12 months.

As for the urban myth that innovation is dead at Apple, that argument confuses innovation with invention. For example, Microsoft's Surface is an impressive invention but a dud as an innovation (few people are buying it). Apple has tremendous know-how in delivering iterative innovation with small but critical new shifts in consumer sensibility and design. Consider Tim Cook's rejection of Job's stubborn refusal to sell a smaller iPad. Though the iPad mini is more evolutionary than revolutionary it may soon become the best-selling portable PC of all time, largely because it's small and light (that's evolutionary innovation). Who cares whether that's a homerun innovation or just a stunning business success?

Apple's deepest strength is its breadth -- iPhones, iPads, Macs, iOS, apps -- a range that no competitor, not even Samsung, boasts. Apple will continue to innovate with amazing new products, such as a TV or wearable computing but broad ecosystem innovation may also come from new services and capabilities that cross the whole portfolio and excite what very soon will be half a billion customers.

Equally compelling is the unmatched Apple retail juggernaut, nearly 400 stores worldwide where increasingly you don't only buy Apple's latest creations but human centric programmable devices from Nike and Jawbone.

Apple is riding a confluence of complimentary trends that stretch beyond the mobile, human-centric generation that it helped empower. Consider that old innovation cliche, the humble light bulb. Just a few weeks ago, Apple started selling Philips' amazing new environmentally efficient LED light bulbs (the Philips Hue Connected Bulb - Starter Pack) in its stores and online, programmable of course with your iPhone or iPad.

No other high-tech company has the breadth to appeal to us in so many different realms. Apple is snowballing into a massive, diverse lifestyle platform, the techno general store of the future, where you can buy everything mobile, human and programmable.

GIVE CREDIT FOR LIFE-CYCLE EMISSIONS CUTS BY AUTOMAKERS?

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Long before the first turn of the ignition key to start up a freshly-built car as it leaves the assembly line, a car has left a trail of emissions behind it. From the mining of ore that will eventually become engines and body panels, to the pumping and refining of oil that will later become plastic bumpers and dashboards to the melting of sand for glass, every step along the way to manufacture cars and trucks leaves carbon dioxide and other emissions in its wake.

While we focus mostly on what comes out of tailpipes, emissions from the full life-cycle - the cradle-to-grave life of a car - should be considered and taken into account. While governments regulate tailpipe emissions and penalize car companies that don't make the grade, shouldn't governments also give credit back to manufacturers who cut manufacturing emissions? Shouldn't government emissions regulations consider the life-cycle assessments of emissions of cars and trucks, not just the what comes out of steel pipes at the rear of cars or trucks? For manufacturers that reduce full, life-cycle emissions, shouldn't they be they be rewarded, somehow, perhaps as credits against tailpipe emissions?

Standards set by the Obama Administration aim to increase corporate fleet fuel economy to nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. An excerpt regarding the ruling from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a listing of incentives to manufacturers to meet the new ruling includes: " Credits for technologies with potential to achieve real-world greenhouse gas reductions and fuel economy improvements that are not captured by the standards test procedures." Couldn't this be interpreted to mean cutting life-cycle emissions attributed to manufacturing cars and trucks?

One way to clean up auto manufacturing is to reemploy clean, zero emission energy in the production process. Historically clean energy is not new to manufacturing. Using clean energy to make things actually began centuries ago when wind and hydro energy were used directly to operate machinery to do simple tasks such as grinding grain. In more recent times factories used large windows and skylights for sunlight to work by and for ventilation. Hydroelectric plants dedicated factories and mills were common less than a century ago. Even today hydroelectric and geothermal power is used in the energy intensive job of smelting aluminum which is being used increasingly in cars and trucks to lighten up and increase fuel economy.

In efforts to cut emissions attributed to cars and trucks, clean energy in manufacturing may be taking its first baby steps.

At Ford's River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan solar energy provides a small amount of electricity and hot water to the plant. In another interesting project at the "Rouge," hydrogen is stripped from paint fumes used to power a fuel cell generator that, in turn, helps power the nearly century old production facility.

In what is the largest solar installation at an auto factory in the U.S. Volkswagen has just commissioned a 9.5 megawatt DC, (7.6 megawatt (AC)) solar array at its new car plant in Tennessee. The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park, built within a 65 acre plot, can provide 12.5 precent of the plant's electrical needs while the plant is in production and all of the plant's power when auto production has stopped. All of the power from the plant is consumed making cars - Volkswagen Passats.

Chattanooga Solar Park, developed by Phoenix Solar, is also the largest solar facility in the state. Solar Ranch will own and operate the solar system under a 20 year contract selling the power to Volkswagen.

And soon a Honda manufacturing facility in Ohio will be partially powered by wind energy. Juhl Wind is now under contact to develop, install and operate to utility grade wind turbines at the Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America plant in Russell's Point. The $ 8 million turbine installation, to be completed this year will provide about 10 percent of the facility's power needs.

Governor for maintaining constant vigil along frontiers

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Referring to J&K, the Governor said Jammu and Kashmir is a large State and many areas in each of its three regions are still to be adequately connected. A satisfying pace of economic growth, and all round development, shall become possible only when we have been able to provide satisfactory connectivity across the length and breadth of the State.

Side by side, if J&K is to emerge as one of the leading tourist destinations in the world, which position I feel it must aspire to achieve, it would be of high importance to ensure balanced infrastructure development in all parts of the State. Fortunately, three major projects to enhance connectivity are already under implementation in our State - 4-laning of the National Highway, construction of the Mughal Road and the ongoing Railway project to connect J&K with the rest of the country. The State Government has taken a welcome decision to establish the J&K State Road Development Corporation for constructing and maintaining roads, bridges, tunnels and other projects.

The Governor observed that seized of the unemployment problem, the State Government has initiated a number of programmes under which unemployed youth are being provided opportunities for upgrading their skills and seeking gainful employment. As the problem of unemployment cannot be resolved by creating more and more government jobs the State Government has, with strong support from the Government of India, taken several steps to enable young entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses.

Besides opportunities for skill development, the State Government is providing varied incentives to the entrepreneurs for successfully establishing viable projects, he added.On power scenario, the Governor said "the extreme shortage of power, an adverse consequence of the prolonged period of militancy during which no new projects could be taken up, continues to severely constrain the growth and development of the State. The State Government is trying to catch up with the lost time by fast tracking the completion of the ongoing Central sector projects and focusing on the establishment of new hydro electric projects under the State sector.

He said that for generating 6000 mw of power, the State Power Department plans to take up several projects during the 12th Five Year Plan. As these projects would have a significant gestation period, it would be enormously profitable if systematic attention is also paid towards the establishment and uninterrupted functioning of mini and micro hydel projects, alongside the maximum possible exploitation of wind and solar energy potentials. In this context, it is heartening to observe that a number of projects have already been initiated to tap non-conventional energy resources".

The Governor said "nearly 70% of our population secures its livelihood from the agriculture sector. It is, therefore, extremely important to ensure that all required steps are timely implemented to achieve progressively increasing productivity and, alongside, diversification is brought about by changing the traditional cropping patterns to introduce income generating crops. Several useful initiatives have already been launched to enhance agricultural productivity and to focus on the promotion of poultry and dairy farming. These various new moves shall need to be most vigorously followed up so that the State can move in the direction of attaining at least near self-sufficiency in its food requirements which are presently imported at very significant cost".

Cirrus Logic’s results beat expectations

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Cirrus Logic Inc. surprised wary investors Thursday by reporting strong-than-expected financial results for its fiscal third quarter based on explosive growth in sales of chips for smart phones and other mobile devices.

Cirrus, reported a net profit of $67.9 million, or 99 cents a share, on strong revenue of $310 million for the quarter ended Dec. 29. Revenue was up by 153 percent from the same quarter last year.

Those results were released after investors sent Cirrus' stock plunging downward by $3.24 a share, or 10.8 percent, to close at $26.71. Investors apparently were concerned by the disappointing results posted Wednesday by Apple Inc., Cirrus' largest customer. The stock recovered by about 1 percent in after-hours trading.

But the company gave more muted guidance for the current quarter - saying it expects to see revenue between $200 million and $220 million, a sharper-than-expected drop because it some sales were made a quarter earlier than it expected.

The fiscal third quarter "was a great quarter for Cirrus Logic as demand for multiple new products in portable audio drove revenue above our expectations," said CEO Jason Rhode in a statement. Rhode said the company "gained traction" in the quarter from portable audio chips and chips that control LED lights.

"Our outlook for the year remains on track and we are positioned well for further growth in (fiscal year) 2014" which starts in April, Rhode said. "We continue to see significant opportunities to grow our business with both and existing customers."

Apple accounted for 91 percent of the Austin company's revenue in the latest quarter, but Rhode told analysts that the company is making strides to diversify its customer base.

The company has agreed to supply another smart phone maker with some of its standard audio chips, and Rhode said that relationship might grow into a custom development agreement in the future.

Rhode said the company also is making progress in selling more of its chips that control LED lighting systems.

Technology analyst Patrick Moorhead with Moor Insights & Strategy said investors are well aware of Cirrus' close ties to Apple.

"They are tied hip-to-hip," Moorhead said. "That is great when Apple is on the upswing, but the are on a perceived downswing right now."

Apple remains an amazingly strong company, Moorhead said, but its growth has slowed as it has run into more and stronger pressure from competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co., the world's largest cell phone maker.

"Cirrus doesn't need to disconnect from Apple. They just need to ride this out," Moorhead said.

Cirrus avoids talking about the details of its Apple relationship. Analysts say the Austin company has supplied chips for Apple smart phones and tablets for the past three years. But last year, analysts add, it began supplying new chips to Apple that enable improved voice quality in smart phones by muting background noise when the user is talking on the phone.

Despite investor concerns, Rhode said his company continues to have major growth prospects in front of it.

"We are seeing a lot of opportunity with voice interaction in mobile devices, but eventually we think those (products) will permeate automobiles and homes and you name it," Rhode said.

The company's continuing challenge, the CEO said, is hiring enough talented product engineers to keep up with demand from promising new customers. It wants to hire about 20-30 new people a quarter, most of them engineers.

LED headlights

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Audi is also far ahead of the competition in the area of LED headlights. This high-end technology was introduced in the R8 in 2008, and today it is being implemented all the way to the A3 model series. With a color temperature of around 5,500 Kelvin, the LED light resembles daylight, and this reduces eye fatigue. The light-emitting diodes are maintenance-free, designed to last the life of the vehicle, and are highly efficient. The low-beam light, for example, only consumes around 40 watts, which is five percent less than xenon plus units.

In the new A3, nine high-performance LED chips in two free-form reflectors generate the low-beam light, while the high beam uses ten high-performance LEDs to emit light through an aluminum trim aperture. The static turning and all-weather lights are housed in a separate module; while the daytime running lights, parking and flasher lights are formed by a light guide that wraps around the upper and inner headlights as a narrow contour. The "wing" gives structure to the interior of the headlights.

LED headlights from Audi have not only proved themselves on the streets, but also in car racing. They made their debut in the R 15 TDI Le Mans sport protoype in 2010. In 2011, full-LED headlights were installed for the first time in the next generation race car, the R18 TDI. With their combined lighting power of over 200 watts, the LEDs generate a light pattern with a range of over one kilometer. Their equivalent luminous intensity of over 1,000 lux is five to seven times greater than headlights in production cars.

For many years now, LED technology has also been utilized in taillights - as standard or optional equipment. Unlike incandescent light sources, the light-emitting diodes reach full luminous intensity at lightning speed and without delay - when the driver brakes quickly, for example, the quick reacting brake lights give the driver of the vehicle behind additional valuable fractions of a second in reaction time.

Various adaptive light versions are available for the headlight systems. An electronic control module controls the swiveling xenon plus modules, or the LEDs, so that they always deliver the best possible lighting for city, highway and freeway driving. The driver can configure its mode of operation in the Audi drive select vehicle dynamics system.

One special component of adaptive light is smoothed dynamic headlight leveling. A video camera is used to detect vehicles ahead and oncoming vehicles; then the control module adapts the car's lighting to the distance to the other vehicles - via a soft transition that always maximizes the amount of illumination.

The all-weather light illuminates the area in front of the car significantly better than with fog lights. Depending on the specific system installed, this function might be implemented by activating the static turning lights in addition to other lights, which improves lateral illumination considerably. In addition, the xenon units (with xenon plus headlights) may be swiveled downward, and the LEDs (on LED headlights) that are responsible for the low-beam light might be switched off or dimmed. The interplay of these actions substantially reduces "self-glare" to the driver.

In the A6, A7 Sportback and A8 model series, an additional function is activated as soon as the optional night vision assistant detects a pedestrian. The system flashes three light pulses to the pedestrian with the high-beam light according to the specific situation. This clearly highlights the person and surroundings and warns the pedestrian. The system detects any oncoming traffic to avoid any potentially hazardous glare.

Professor Invents The Best New Lightbulb

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Part of the reason the figure is so high is that traditional incandescent bulbs (Edison's filament bulb) eat up a lot of power to produce light: 90 percent of the energy is wasted as heat.

So far the main alternatives to the common bulb have been compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, and light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which can produce the same amount of light as traditional bulbs while using way less energy.

Soon, a third lighting option will be thrown into the mix. It's called the FIPEL, which is short for field-induced polymer electroluminescent technology.

"This is the first new lightbulb in about thirty years," says Dr. David Carroll, a professor of physics at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, who developed the new light source. To understand how this technology functions, you can think of how a microwave works, Carroll explains.

Take a potato, for example. When you place your potato in the microwave and press start, the device hits the potato with microwaves that induce what's known as a displacement current, meaning it makes the water molecules in the potato flip back and forth. This heats the potato up. What Carroll and his team have done is develop a special type of plastic that, when hit with an electric current, induces a displacement current in the same way. But in this case, it doesn't give off heat, it gives off light.

The new light source is made of several layers of very thin plastic. Each sheet is about 100,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair. The plastic is inserted between an aluminum electrode and a transparent conducting electrode. When a current is passed through the device, it stimulates the plastic to light up.

Luckily for Carroll, FIPEL has entered the lighting technology ring at a time of unprecedented opportunity. The phaseout of traditional incandescent bulbs began to take effect at the start of the new year under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

CFLs use about 75 percent less electricity than Edison's filament bulb to produce the same amount of light. LEDs use even less. This means to make the same light as a 100-watt incandescent, a compact fluorescent uses 23 watts and an LED uses 20.

The FIPEL is slightly more efficient than a CFL bulb and on par with an LED, but comes with a few advantages over these other types of lights. CFLs and other fluorescent lightbulbs contain a very small amount of mercury, which can be toxic if not disposed of properly. FIPELs do not use any caustic chemicals in manufacturing and can easily be recycled because they're made of plastic.

Some LEDs give off a blueish tint, which many people don't like to look at. FIPEL, on the hand, can be made to have any tint, including the yellowish hue of the sun that our eyes have come to prefer, having evolved on Earth.

"From a pure physics point of view, the best efficiency that you could ever accomplish with this lamp is still going to be slightly lower than the best efficiency you could ever accomplish with an LED," says Carroll. Right now, LEDs do not perform at their theoretical best. But as both technologies mature, you can expect the LED to come out on top in terms of overall efficiency.

The FIPEL technology is currently under an exclusive world-wide license by CeeLite Technologies. David Sutton, management consultant for CeeLite, said the first units for commercial use will be available by the end of 2013. The new bulb will cost less than LEDs and slightly more than CFLs.

Mercury bulbs pose a growing threat

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Canada's mercury-waste facilities are either patchwork or non-existent as millions of light bulbs containing the highly toxic chemical are set to flood the marketplace.

That's a key finding of a report commissioned by Environment Canada in the run-up to a major change in the way Canadians light their homes.

Beginning next January, a new regulation will effectively ban the sale of standard incandescent bulbs in favour of energy-efficient versions, most of which contain mercury.

So-called compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, will also enter the waste stream as they break or burn out, many destined for landfills where their harmful mercury can get into the water.

Environment Canada says the mercury contained in a typical thermometer can contaminate five Olympic-size swimming pools to toxic levels.

Ironically, the ban on incandescents is partly designed to reduce mercury in the environment because old-style light bulbs are inefficient, and require more electricity from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels that can emit mercury into the air.

Environmentalists applaud the ban for eliminating far more fossil-fuel mercury than the new bulbs add - but say Environment Canada must also require the recycling or safe storage of broken CFLs.

"Currently municipalities do not store mercury - most of it ends up in landfill," says a report commissioned from Summerhill Impact, an environmental firm in Toronto.

The Aug. 31 study also found no national or industry-wide standards for the handling of mercury waste.

There was "significant variability between regulations across the provinces, and ... nearly all (mercury-handling) facilities ... rely on these regulations as their main environmental management guidelines, rather than industry standards."

The study, which surveyed some 28 of the 123 places that store or manage mercury waste, also found Canada lacks any facility to extract pure mercury from waste, relying instead on mercury distillers in the United States.

The authors warn that with growing restrictions on trans-border movements of mercury, such as a U.S. ban on pure mercury exports effective Jan. 1 this year, Canada may need to resolve pending storage issues.

"The sector is notably lacking distillation facilities that make mercury reuse possible," says the report, which cost the department $47,000.

"This suggests that Canada may need to lay the groundwork for investigating best practices for longer-term storage options for elemental mercury as export bans in other jurisdictions such as the U.S. could negatively impact their demand for mercury waste from Canadian sources." A heavily censored copy of the 127-page report was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The ban on incandescent light bulbs was announced with fanfare by then-environment minister John Baird in 2007, as the new Conservative government was under pressure to take action on climate change.

The ban was to have come into effect starting Jan. 1, 2012, but was pushed back two years to "allay" the concerns of Canadian consumers.

As of Jan. 1 next year, 75-and 100-watt incandescent bulbs will be effectively eliminated from store shelves, with 40-and 60-watt versions to follow Dec. 31. Canadian retailers have already begun to switch their stocks to CFLs from incandescents to get ready.

Providing a global platform to contemporary art

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India's largest exposition of contemporary art, 'Kochi-Muziris Biennale' is now midway through its 3-month period. A unique event of private and government enterprise, it brings some of India's biggest names in contemporary art in a novel and innovative manner, together with a host of international artists.

It was in May 2010 that two Mumbai-based contemporary artists of Kerala origin, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, were approached by the then culture minister of Kerala, M A Baby, to seriously consider starting an international art project in the state.

Taking a cue from the Venice Biennale, the artists proposed a similar exposition to connect Kochi and the maritime era of the ancient Muzaris port. The proposal was accepted and after considerable effort on the part of the artist duo, the 'Kochi-Muziris Biennale' was launched on December 12, 2012.

The biennale is widely considered as the country's largest (area-wise) contemporary art event and seeks to fill the gap of an international platform for contemporary art in India. Spread across various venues including the Aspinwall House, the Parade Grounds, the Fort Kochi Beach, the Jew Town Godowns, Cochin Club and many more locations in the unique Fort Kochi area.

Curated by co-founders and artists Krishnamachari and Komu, the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale offers a chance of seeing works of around 90 artists, half of whom are Indian and many from Kerala. Most of the better-known Indian contemporary artists are creating works on location.

Subodh Gupta has chosen to use a 60-ft wooden boat filled with old local cooking vessels, furniture and other odds and ends; Vivan Sundaram has created a 40-foot installation on the Muzaris theme, using pottery shards and Atul Dodiya presents an installation of photographs.

But even more than this, we can say that Kochi has been transformed in more ways than one, as dramatic graffiti has changed mouldy walls and houses into backdrops for unique works of art. Using the dark mouldy areas as black, artists have created strange sea creatures running along the walls. In fact, so unique are these efforts that I would not be at all surprised to hear that car drivers are having trouble keeping their eyes on the roads.

As a run-up to the event, in April, the Durbar Hall in Kochi had hosted German modern artist Eberhard Havekost's exhibition Sightseeing Trip, held in collaboration with the Dresden State Art Collections. The Biennale is on for 3 months and for art lovers it should be an event not to be missed, both for its content and the spirit of enterprise that it demonstrates.

But before I end, here is a bit of news about Vincent Van Gogh among my all-time favourite painters.

In an earlier column, I had written about experts expressing alarm on detecting that Van Gogh's Sunflowers, had begun to turn brown. A sample of 14 works from the period between 1887 and 1890 were tested to find out what was affecting the oil paint colour, known as chrome yellow.

The reason for this has now been exposed. It has to do with the energy-saving lighting that most museums have adopted over the past few years, as the bright-yellow pigment becomes unstable under LED lights and over a period turns 'a shade of brownish green'.

Among the other 19th century artists whose works have also been affected are Van Gogh's fellow expressionists, Gauguin and Cezanne. It has also been said that, "Paintings that have moderate darkening will find this accelerates in the coming years".

Newer galleries might suffer the most as they were probably been built on energy-saving designs, but it is important that museums and galleries worldwide take heed and make special arrangements for the precious artworks that lie in their care.

U.S. 98 getting major facelift

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Highway 98 will be getting a makeover beginning this year, as an 18-month project is under way to resurface Highway 98, add a bike lane, and install lighting along the entire length of Highway 98 in Santa Rosa County.

The initiative to install lights along Highway 98 started last spring after a series of pedestrian fatalities on the highway.

District 5 County Commissioner Lane Lynchard said he asked the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to do a lighting study in the area between the Navarre Walmart and College Parkway.

FDOT did the study in conjunction with a review of all of Highway 98 in Santa Rosa County. The results of the study were that FDOT agreed to install street lights on the entire length of Highway 98 in Santa Rosa County.

"It's a huge project, and hopefully installation will proceed by the end of the first quarter of 2013," said Lynchard.

Lynchard added that last fall a study was performed by the Gulf Breeze Zoo in which they tested the installation of various lights. After evaluation, LED lights were chosen to light the highway.

The FDOT will be paying for the installation of the lights. Maintenance of the lights will be handled jointly between Santa Rosa County and the FDOT.

Lynchard said the county pays for the upkeep of the lights, and the FDOT reimburses the county for the "lion's share" of ongoing expenses. Highway 98 will be resurfaced from county line to county line.

United Peninsula Association president Don Richards said the first phase of resurfacing will begin at the Gulf Breeze Zoo and extend east of the county line. The second phase will begin at the Gulf Breeze Zoo and extend to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. While resurfacing, safer pedestrian and bike features will be put in place.

"When I took office, a little over four years ago, one of the things I kept hearing from residents is how they wanted sidewalks and bike paths along Highway 98," said Lynchard.

Lynchard said a separate path along Highway 98 from the National Seashore to Navarre Beach would cost upwards of $10 million, which Lynchard said was not an option. In 2010, Lynchard became aware of the resurfacing project that FDOT wanted to conduct on Highway 98.

Lynchard set up a meeting with FDOT's engineers to see if there was any way the county could incorporate pedestrian and bicycle safety features in the project.

In January 2011, Lynchard pitched the idea to install an eight-foot shoulder, instead of the regular three to four-foot shoulder, that would double the "margin for error." Lynchard also pitched the idea to install striped bike lanes and raised audible dividers between the drive lanes and the shoulder.

These "bike lanes" will be installed on both sides of the highway. FDOT agreed to the project if the county funded it. Since the county will be "piggy backing" on the FDOT, the cost will be incremental compared to carrying out the project by itself.

The IMPACT fees, which are being used to fund the $1.1 million project, had to be amended to be used for pedestrian features.

"I'm really excited about the project," said Lynchard. "I think that it's going to offer a a margin of safety that we haven't seen in the past.

"The combination of the two projects is really going to transform Highway 98 into a completely different corridor." Lynchard said he expects the project to be complete in about two years.

Not possible for wind turbines

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SMITHVILLE A West Lincoln alderman who doesn't want wind turbines in the township told a packed community meeting that he won't support a proposal for boosting the setback distance of turbines from homes.

"It's illegal," John Glazier told a planning committee meeting attended by about 500 community members on Monday that ran close to seven hours. "I cannot expose residents of West Lincoln to a potential lawsuit" that could result in a "huge potential cost."

Glazier, who represents Ward 3, said he wouldn't support a motion by fellow alderman Alex Micallef for a two-kilometre setback, because Ontario's Green Energy Act has a 550-metre rule. However, Glazier did say he is hopeful Ontario's next premier might reform the setback distance in the Act. The township will continue pushing for changes.

Brian Treble, director of planning and building for the township, said the proposed two km setback was discussed in a staff report released last February.

Micallef, who withdrew the motion at the meeting, said he'd do more research to make his proposal more concrete. He said afterward that he "pulled it off the table so people wouldn't think it was over."

Opponents and supporters lined up to express their views about two proposed wind turbine developments at the meeting, held at South Lincoln High School in Smithville.

IPC Energy has submitted applications for five turbines and Niagara Region Wind Corporation hopes to get approval for 77 turbines, 44 of which would be in West Lincoln.

Ward 1 Alderman Sue-Ellen Merritt told the crowd she inquired about a potential referendum asking residents if they are willing to defend their municipality in support of the 2 km setback if it was taken to a lawsuit, which could result in a significant tax increase. But Merritt said township staff directed her to a section of the municipal act that prevents it.

Shellie Correia, who chairs the communications committee of the West Lincoln Glanbook Wind Action Group, said after the meeting she felt "there really was no resolution."

The group has been lobbying against the $550-million NRWC project that has sites for the 44 wind turbines in West Lincoln, plus 31 in Haldimand and five in Wainfleet, for nearly two years.

Correia, who read a letter from her son's behavioural pediatrician at Monday's meeting, is concerned about how the vibration and repetitive sound of wind turbines will affect her son, who has sensory issues.

She said she hopes more members of the public get in touch with council to express their feelings about the proposed developments.

Cathy Vitucci, a local farmer who signed up with NRWC to explore having a wind turbine on her farm, said she'd like to see council unified on the topic.

"Whether they're on my side or not I don't care. They need to stand their ground."

NRWC spokesperson Randi Rahamim said her company viewed the meeting as "West Lincoln's debate," but representatives were there to listen and support landowners who participate in their project.

NRWC will hold six public meetings in the six affected rural communities (Haldimand County, Lincoln, Wainfleet, West Lincoln, Grimsby and Pelham) during the first week of February, where they will present information and answer questions, Rahamim said.

Manufacturing-comeback claims debunked

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If only American manufacturing was displaying the growth and resilience of the prominent Pollyannas hyping its prospects lately. The nation's industry might actually be entering renaissance mode and its economy might actually be replacing the past decade's disastrous bubble with genuine, production and earnings-led prosperity.

After all, President Obama, the Boston Consulting Group gurus, Atlantic Monthly authors and flocks of others keep trotting out anecdotes to show a historic comeback brewing in domestic industry, thanks to soaring production costs in China and other economic rivals, coupled with falling costs for labor and energy in America. Yet reams of wide-ranging new data repeatedly point to major, even mounting manufacturing woes - including flatlining growth and new record trade deficits practically by the month.

The latest reality check? A new study I authored for the U.S. Business and Industry Council (where this writer is a research fellow) revealing that advanced domestic manufacturing keeps failing a crucial competitive test - holding onto markets in its own enormous American backyard.

Imports continue to gain at the expense of U.S. based companies and employees in sectors such as semiconductors, high-tech medical equipment, construction machinery and machine tools. Their unprecedented inroads not only make clear that the nation's technological and industrial crown jewels are becoming just as vulnerable to foreign competition as their long vanished labor-intensive counterparts such as clothing and toys. Imports' mounting U.S. market presence also helps explain why the current recovery has been so painfully slow.

That level topped the previous record - set just the year before - by 1.33 percent, and is more than 50 percent higher than the figure for 1997, when the critical underlying data series debuted. Worse, advance indicators signal that imports supplied even more of these combined $2 trillion markets in 2012.

The import tide is an unmistakable economic difference-maker. Had imports in the 106 sectors simply remained flat between 2010 and 2011, their total output would have been nearly $90 billion higher (on a pre-inflation basis), and the entire growth-starved U.S. economy's expansion would have been 16 percent greater.

The findings also reinforce the case for big U.S. manufacturing- and especially trade-policy change. Although Mr. Obama focuses exclusively on boosting exports when talking about quickening the recovery through trade, the new import-penetration data show a bigger payoff from controlling imports. From 2010 to 2011, the advanced manufacturers examined lost more sales in their own home market (thanks to $89.2 billion in greater imports) than they gained in foreign markets (through export increases of $56.8 billion).

In other words, as common sense indicated long ago, the economy's best bet for trade-related gains is enabling domestic producers to regain the home markets they should know best and that lack any trade barriers, not trying to sell more to foreign customers unenthusiastic about buying American even in good economic times.

Thanks to these cockeyed policy priorities, U.S. industries that had lost half or more of their home market as of 2011 included construction equipment; electricity measuring and test equipment (vital for producing information-technology hardware); turbines and turbine-generator sets; metal-cutting machine tools; and mining machinery and equipment. And not far behind are them are semiconductors, auto engines and industrial controls. They're exactly the industries America has long relied on heavily for technological progress, rising productivity and high-wage jobs.

Companies losing market share are never described on Wall Street as winners, and whole industries suffering such setbacks don't deserve this label, either. USBIC's import-penetration study reminds us that domestic manufacturing is anything but out of the woods, and that wishful thinking won't revive it.

Strategies to Bring Reliable Electricity

15. ledna 2013 v 3:52 solar photovoltaic system
Some, such as D.Light, are focusing on solar lanterns. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has an entire programme, 'Light a Billion Lives', which develops high-quality lanterns for rental at affordable prices, together with a network of thousands of solar charging stations. Others, such as the Karnataka-based NGO,SKDRDP, work with local self-help groups to provide them with a range of clean energy solutions, from solar to biogas, via a carefully constructed micro credit loan system.

A growing number of entrepreneurs are developing local 'minigrids'. Among them is Husk Power Systems, which uses crop waste, principally rice husks, to generate electricity via a process of biomass gasification. Based in Bihar, India's 'darkest' (that is, least electrified) state, Husk was founded by a local engineer and entrepreneur, Gyanesh Pandey, and now supplies power via village-scale grids to around 35,000 households. "If you can do it in Bihar, you can do it anywhere", he smiles.

For people marooned far from the mains, technologies such as these are nothing short of life changing. Rampur Sahebganj is a typical Bihari village: a wide swathe of homes, markets and temples in the gently sloping countryside some way north of Patna, the state capital. Until recently, there was no electricity to speak of - despite it being officially connected to the grid. At night on the fringe of the village, the Milky Way still shines out clear against the blackness, the brightest stars fiercely white, undimmed by the slightest hint of skyglow. To an outsider on a brief visit, the lack of power makes it look charming and romantic. For villagers like Hemanti Devi, bringing up her three daughters alone, it looks like hard work.

Last year, she was connected to Husk's newly installed grid, and she's clearly still excited by the difference it's made - as are her daughters. Instead of peering at their homework under the smoky flicker of a kerosene lamp, they can read without strain by electric light. They don't have to go to the market to charge their mobiles, and can gossip with their brothers, away working on building sites in Varanasi. "I can see properly to do the cooking now", says Hemanti, "and my eyes don't water from the kerosene smoke."

Best of all, she's saving money. Husk - which operates on essentially commercial terms - charges her INR150 a month - compared with the INR250 or so which she was spending on kerosene. It's a similar story in the market, where cafe owner Manoj Kumar can stay open several hours later thanks to the light, boosting his earnings by around a quarter.

One advantage of biomass gasification over standalone solar panels is that it generates more juice: enough to drive basic machine tools, for example. So the minigrids it powers come closer than most to 'conventional' power. The Government's coming round to the minigrid argument, with the 'Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme' exploring a solar-biomass gasification hybrid for Bihar along the lines of Husk's approach, and possibly with its involvement. Another advantage of having a 'day' and 'night' source of power is that it's available for much of any given 24-hour period, while adding to the general resilience of the supply.

Husk is now working on basic solar microgrids, powering groups of around 40 households from a 300-350W solar supply. That should give each home enough power for LED lighting, a mobile charge point and even a low-wattage TV, in return for a monthly fee of around INR75-100, which is the same or even less than the average household pays out for kerosene.

Massive consolidation in solar

14. ledna 2013 v 3:30 solar power systems
Amid rapidly falling prices, mounting losses and massive operational costs, the upstream solar photovoltaic (PV) supply chain is undergoing major consolidation, with the number of companies participating in the market expected to plunge by 70 % this year.

Worldwide, the total number of companies participating directly in the manufacturing of PV solar panels, from polysilicon manufacturing through module assembly, is set to fall to approximately 150 in 2013, down from about 500 in 2012, according to HIS.

"It would be a major understatement to say that consolidation is occurring in the PV supply chain this year," said Mike Sheppard, senior photovoltaics analyst with IHS. "Most upstream PV supply operations will simply cease to exist, rather than being acquired by other companies. Most of these suppliers actually have already stopped production-and will never restart."

Companies at the highest risk of going out of business in 2013 include integrated suppliers that manufacture PV polysilicon, ingots, wafers and cells to offer complete solutions. Second- and third-tier suppliers of crystalline silicon (c-Si) polysilicon, ingots, wafers, and cells also will struggle to stay afloat. Finally, smaller thin-film cell providers likewise will face low sales and limited market sizes, putting them on the endangered list.

Many integrated players will fold up shop in 2013 as the large expense of building integrated facilities-and then seeing them underutilized for the better part of a year-will prove to be financially unsustainable. Many of these players are based in China.

Government subsidies could be an option to keep integrated suppliers operating. However, while IHS believes that some supplier may be propped up by the Chinese government in 2013, the majority will dissolve.

With price declines still occurring across the board in 2013, low-cost players will get the lion's share of the global market. Upstream second- and third-tier suppliers of polysilicon, ingots, wafers and cells will struggle to survive the year in markets that do not have local-content requirements. Many of these companies will not be able to float operations for a very long period of time.

For second-tier module manufacturers, the key to surviving in 2013 will be establishing and maintaining strong relationships with downstream players in the emerging markets. Second-tier manufacturers must move faster than those in the top tier in order to grab mindshare early.

Flexible business models, with consistent outsourcing, will be needed to succeed. Because contract manufacturers require certain levels of business to remain profitable, securing stable relationships with these companies is also critical for second-tier module manufacturers.

Second-tier module makers also must be flexible enough to capitalize on the volatility in high-growth markets, which consist mostly of small and midsized engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies. These companies initially have less allegiance to established top-tier manufacturers. But as their experience in this area grows, price becomes a primary factor, favoring low-cost producers. This is already true in markets like India, and is becoming a factor in Latin American countries such as Chile.

Thin-film module manufacturers will have to adopt similar survival strategies as the second-tier c-Si module suppliers. This will be particularly true if pricing for thin-film modules doesn't remain competitive with c-Si during the year. If thin-film pricing does not decline at the same rate as c-Si, the technology will be relegated to select niche markets that generate scant demand.

Top Corporate Sustainability Trends

11. ledna 2013 v 3:31 street light
In years past, companies would provide recycling receptacles and install compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and consider themselves "green." But with pressing forces of climate change, strained resources and transparency, corporate sustainability has evolved and become embedded deeper in business decisions. It now defines company culture and corporate reputation.

A number of significant sustainability developments occurred in 2012, contributing to our need for increased collective action around climate change. The Dodd-Frank Act mandated companies to disclose information related to their supply chain. The US drought grew and became more extreme, impacting agriculture and commodity prices. Conversations after Hurricane Sandy showed the need for increased adaptation and resiliency necessary for the future.

In the midst of these pressing issues, I see the following five trends emerging in the world of corporate sustainability in 2013:

1. The intersection of technology and sustainability. Across industries, technology is being utilized to find operation management efficiencies or drive sustainability into purchasing practices. These advancements allow companies to look at real-time data on a host of issues, such as carbon and water use, and make immediate recommendations that will conserve resources. At Darden, we are exploring how to leverage technology to view the performance of each of our restaurants in real time. Our goal is to identify and gather key insights from the top performing restaurants to employ across our operations.

2. Growing interest in supply chain and product sourcing from consumers. When and where a consumer buys a product - be it a purse or a meal at Red Lobster - they want more information. Where was this product sourced? Who made the product and what were their working conditions? Were there any environmental impacts in the production cycle? Issues related to supply chain and product sourcing will be a topic for the private sector to address, and ideally, will help to increase proactive transparency and engagement.

3. Leveraging employees to implement sustainability. Corporate sustainability is less about the size of the staff and more about how people across the company are embedding sustainability throughout their work. A trend has begun to make sustainability a part of performance evaluations in an attempt to drive sustainability throughout an organization. Companies like Intel and Shell link sustainability as a part of their review process. How a company integrates performance management and sustainability will help drive large-scale change. By working with key groups, such as human resources, sustainability becomes integrated into a company's culture.

4. Increased focus on our natural resources. As our growing global population consumes more food and energy, businesses are competing for fresh water. Seventy percent of water is used for agriculture and 47 percent of the world's population could be living under severe water stress by 2050. This means that from an ecosystems perspective, we are all interconnected. Water is critical to the broader economy because products, services and jobs all depend on this natural resource.

5. A broader definition of "sustainability." Creating a sustainable business not only benefits the planet, but it also impacts people - from employees and consumers to partners and local communities where we do business. Through innovative partnerships and involvement from a multitude of stakeholders, an opportunity emerges to collaborate and spark real change. By evolving the way we view sustainability and breaking away from a narrowed focus on just the environment, we will move closer to a broader definition around the core of corporate responsibility.

Solar Frontier Ups Efficiency Mark for CIS Solar

10. ledna 2013 v 3:27 solar power systems
We keep a tally of recent record-setting solar cell and module achievements. Some of the following milestones represent "hero experiments," but nevertheless -- the numbers keep rising.

But progress on the technical front doesn't always translate to progress on the business side -- Abound Solar, now bankrupt, appeared on this list at one point. MiaSole is a CIGS performance overachiever, but that was difficult to monetize. The future of high-performance CPV vendor Amonix is also precarious.

In the meantime, solar cell manufacturers continue to raise the bar.

The most recent breakthrough was made by Solar Frontier, in joint research with NEDO, hitting 19.7 percent efficiency for CIS thin-film cells measuring approximately 0.5 square centimeters. Solar Frontier is number two in thin-film solar and number one in the CIGS/CIS race, with 400 megawatts shipped in 2011. The firm just racked up a 17.8 percent aperture-area efficiency on a 30-centimeter-square CIS-based PV lab module last year. The result was claimed to come on a "fully integrated submodule" performed with processes "very similar to what is in place" in Solar Frontier's factories at commercial production scale, according to a release from the firm. The Japanese firm's Kunitomi factory recently built a champion module at 14.5 percent aperture efficiency, equivalent to a 13.3 percent module efficiency.

Here are some other recent announcements of record-setting results:

TSMC Solar just announced that it manufactured 14.2-percent-efficient CIGS modules using its R&D and pilot production line in Taiwan. Current production modules from TSMC are at 13 percent efficiency.

Stion recently announced a 13.4 percent module efficiency for its CIGS-based commercial modules produced at its Hattiesburg, Mississippi factory.

The firm's 145-watt module has the highest efficiency verified by NREL for a monolithically integrated CIGS module manufactured on a commercial production line, according to a release by the firm. Stion began commercial shipments from its Hattiesburg factory in the first quarter of this year. Other investors in Stion include Taiwan Semiconductor / VentureTech Alliance, Lightspeed Venture Partners, General Catalyst Partners, Braemar Energy Ventures, and AVACO.

MiaSole placed third in CIGS panel production in 2011, behind Solar Frontier (at 400 megawatts) and Solibro (at 66 megawatts), according to GTM Research. The firm also recently announced a 17.3-percent-efficient champion device, while the "manufacturing process for 14 percent efficiency is now in production." The firm recently made a rare presentation in Palo Alto, California to the Silicon Valley IEEE PV Chapter. Unfortunately, the firm has also had massive layoffs as it looks for a buyer or investor.

The CEO of MiaSole, John Carrington, notes that the firm has "been producing glass/glass at 14 percent" and would expect to be at 15 percent by the first quarter of 2013.

Heliatek set a record for organic solar cells. It's a champion cell on a small area, but it has achieved 10.7 percent efficiency. The efficiency value for the 10.7 percent champion cell would be about 9.0 percent when deposited on a flexible substrate. The question remains: can organic solar cell technology be successfully commercialized in an unforgiving solar market dominated by crystalline silicon and First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR)? Back in late 2009, Heliatek raised $27 million to build its first factory from venture capital investors Wellington Partners, RWE Innogy Ventures, and BASF Venture Capital, as well as industrial giant Bosch.

SoloPower now boasts an NREL-measured aperture area efficiency of 13.4 percent. Module efficiency is significantly less than that. The value proposition for flexible modules from SoloPower and others is that there is less hardware required to install and the installation process is easier. This thesis has yet to be proven in volume and at scale, however. SoloPower builds flexible solar panels in a roll-to-roll electroplating process.

The Daily News of Newburyport

9. ledna 2013 v 4:27
The U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition filed against the Nuclear Regulatory Agency by three anti-nuclear groups, ruling the agency was within the law in denying them a hearing to challenge NextEra Energy Seabrook's nuclear power plant's application to extend its operating license 20 years, from 2030 to 2050.

In August , Maryland-based Beyond Nuclear, Exeter's Seacoast Anti-Pollution League and the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club brought suit in the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. They appealed the NRC's reversal of an earlier ruling by the commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board that would have allowed the groups to challenge Seabrook Station's re-licensing application based on the future potential of offshore, deep-water wind generation in the Gulf of Maine, which they consider an energy alternative to the nuclear energy Seabrook Station provides.

"The decision by a Boston federal court to deny an appeal by three environmental groups challenging the 20-year license extension for the Seabrook nuclear plant comes on the heels of a $200 million grant by the Department of Energy for offshore wind power development," said C-10 executive director Sandra Gavutis. "With federal and private funding, Maine plans to build enough offshore wind capacity to equal four Seabrooks. Is the nuclear industry going to be the voice for the next generation when it comes to sustainable energy choices?"

The three petitioners claimed in their appeal that the NRC caused them "procedural injury," by reversing the ASLB decision. They claimed that by its reversal the NRC misapplied National Environmental Policy Act case law related to the license extension application procedure. Further, the petitioners argued the NRC acted arbitrarily, capriciously, through an abuse of its discretion and otherwise not in accordance of related laws.

However, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied their appeal for review, saying after examining the laws involved and evidence, the groups' arguments were not "persuasive."

The three anti-nuclear energy advocacy groups had requested intervenor status, filing a contention claiming that Seabrook Station should not be granted the extension because there could be enough wind energy available in the future that would alleviate the need for the nuclear energy Seabrook Station generates.

But the court found wind energy off the coast of Maine could not at this time be considered a reasonable alternative to replace Seabrook Station's significant contribution to the energy it provides to New England's electric grid, for the technology to reliably produce, and cost-effectively store, offshore wind power at this time is not feasible.

NextEra Energy Seabrook provides 8.2 percent, or 1245 megawatts, of electricity to the regional network. As a required part of the company's license extension application filed with the NRC in May, 2010, alternative energy sources had to be analyzed and reported on by Seabrook Station. Those alternatives included what the company considered "viable" alternative energy sources: natural gas- and oil-fired generation, along with another nuclear power plant and power purchase.

Seabrook Station's parent company, NextEra, is the leading generator of wind power in North America, and wind power was discussed in its application. However, Seabrook Station's application concluded wind power was not a reasonable alternative to replace the baseload of nuclear energy it provides during the period involved.

The court sided with the NRC and dismissed the petitioners' argument because "in most cases a "reasonable" energy alternative is one that is currently commercially viable, or will become so in the relatively near future."

The concept of alternatives must be technically and economically practical and feasible either currently or in the near future, according to the court ruling, and evidence of that was not sufficient to impress the court to grant the petitioners a review.

Discard used bulbs and light tubes with care

8. ledna 2013 v 4:26
THE writing is on the wall for the conventional incandescent bulb that many of us grew up with: by 2014, the sale of such bulbs here (and in most of the developed world) will cease. In its place, consumers are asked to switch to the more energy-efficient fluorescent or compact fluorescent lights, and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Thankfully, Malaysians do not need the ban on incandescents to make them switch, as most are already willing to spend a bit more on alternatives in order to enjoy some savings in their electricity bills. The most common choice would be the compact fluorescent light (CFL) on account of its affordability and easy availability. For example, an 18W CFL light costs only RM9, as opposed to the far more costly LED, even if the latter promises more savings.

According to the Government, the widespread adoption of CFLs and LEDs will help the nation reduce its carbon intensity by 40% in 2020 (compared to 2005 levels), and can save consumers about RM336mil a year.

The downside of CFLs is that each bulb contains a small amount of mercury, typically around 4mg, that remain sealed within the glass tubing. Mercury, added in vapour form, is an essential part of the CFL technology, which is now being touted along with LEDs, as part of the solution to curbing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation.

A few milligrams here and there may not be a lot - just for comparison, old mercury-based thermometers can contain up to 500mg of mercury, which is more than what is found in 100 CFLs - but the problem with mercury is that it is a persistent, bioaccumulative toxin. The primary human exposure is from eating seafood contaminated with methyl mercury. However, exposures to elemental mercury vapour and mercury compounds through inhalation and skin contact may also occur. When the cumulative amount is huge, such as through the widespread use of fluorescent lamps, then there might be a real possibility of mercury contaminating landfills.

In many households, the release of mercury vapour from CFLs are likely to be accidental, such as when putting out faulty bulbs together with the rest of the household waste. CFL tubing, being made of glass, can be easily broken through improper handling.

"Even if a household does not break it, the possibility that it will be crushed inside the waste compactor truck is high, and mercury could find its way onto our streets when it flows out of the truck together with leachate, which is quite a common problem already," said David Zon, executive director of Hi-Tech Waste Management, the waste contractor for home furnishing store, Ikea.

Given the increasing prevalence of CFLs, there is a need to prevent accidental or unintentional release of mercury into the environment. In some developed countries, like the United States, there are systematic efforts to salvage usable parts and materials from used CFL bulbs. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the recycling of CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs allows the reuse of the glass, metals and other materials that make up the bulbs. It says virtually all components of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled.

For that to happen anywhere, there needs to be a proper disposal and collection system, whether mandated or otherwise. Malaysian regulations do not state that households need to properly dispose their CFLs. It is the same for Singapore, which allows households to throw away used bulbs along with their household waste.

In parts of the US that do not have collection facilities, some bulb manufacturers and other organisations have resorted to selling pre-labelled recycling kits that allow end-users to mail used bulbs to recycling centres, with the cost of each kit including shipping charges to the recycling centre.

However, Ikea in Malaysia is voluntarily doing its part to help reduce the problem of mercury emissions. It has placed a bulb collection box at its Mutiara Damansara store in Petaling Jaya, Selangor since 2010. No purchase is necessary for people to use the facility.

‘Start year on Halloween mode’

7. ledna 2013 v 10:05 street light
It is known that we develop shaking akin to Parkinson's disease when we hold on to money. We start to shake uncontrollably from the need to spend.

In fact, a guy by the name of C. Northkote Parkinson wrote in his book "The Law and the Profits" that "individual expenditure not only rises to meet income but tends to surpass it, and probably always will."

The question is, how do you hide money from yourself so that you don't get to spend it?

Solution: Have your desired savings amount automatically debited from your bank account periodically and funneled to an investment account like a time deposit, treasury bill, commercial paper or pooled fund.

Seeing your bank account with less money will help to kill your spending urges. Behavioral economists have found that people have an easier time living on 90 percent of their income than saving 10 percent of it.

The reason is that there is no perceived loss with spending 90 percent of income. In other words, you trick yourself into believing that even if your true take-home pay is P20,000, your take-home is only 90 percent of it, or P18,000. But you get to spend 100 percent of P18,000!

Moreover, since the tactic is on automatic mode, it becomes sustainable. From time to time though, you will have to adjust upwards (so you can afford more in the future) the amount that is automatically debited as I doubt if banks will debit a percentage of the amount in your bank account.

If you plan to buy big-ticket items in 2013 like humongous TVs, the latest cell phone or tablet, an industrial washing machine, a complete home theater system and others, think rich and use cash.

Condition yourself to think that buying in cash shows how much you can afford such mega-purchases. And as much as possible, leave your checks and credit cards at home.

If you can truly afford the purchase on cash, there should be no problem. If you can't, you will feel tears rolling down your cheeks as you count each P1,000 bill you pay the cashier.

You immediately feel the loss of wealth, even if you are replacing it with a consumer durable. So, delay the purchase until you can afford to pay for it in cash.

Buying on credit may be a solution, but it is a passing one at best. Credit anesthetizes us temporarily while spending.

Just wait until you get next month's bill. And if you bought on installment, you will find yourself yearning to break away from the shackles of debt as the repayment period drags on.

If you are deferring payment on your credit card balances, accelerate the payments so that you zero them out sooner than later. If your credit card is charging 3.5-percent per-month interest on your outstanding balance, that is equivalent to 42 percent a year. Imagine the savings that you can have once your balances are fully paid. This is free cash for you!

So trick yourself into believing that each accelerated payment you make toward your credit card balance is like a "raffle ticket."

The more raffle tickets you "drop in," the more chances of winning early. Remember that your winning cash is already guaranteed. What you will be working on is the chance of winning early.

Accelerating payments with a fixed income is a challenge that will require a lot of sacrifices. But hey, just like with lotto, you can't win if you don't buy a ticket.

Film focuses less on fracking, more on classic struggle

6. ledna 2013 v 8:46
Small-town America, a mythical place that is seldom-seen nowadays - in movies or real life - is the star of the likable and altogether entertaining "Promised Land."

The best thing about the film is the weatherworn look of the hard-working folk who are pitted against the present economic malaise and an invading corporation that wants to buy up their town.

Before you immediately write off the corporation as a fiendish villain, the townspeople will come forward to let you know that, for good or bad, they need the money. This is America in 2013 - a land more economically desperate than it wants to admit and, in the end, perhaps quite willing to sell off moral values for free handouts.

Co-written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, "Promised Land" would seem, sight unseen, to be one of those muck-racking environmentalist sermons in the vein of "Erin Brockovich." It surprises, though, by attempting a more balanced debate.

Damon plays the hireling of Global, a $9 billion company that moves in on rural towns and buys drilling rights. His perennial youthful appearance and seeming work in favor of his approach to the role. Steve, Damon's character, actually believes he is bringing a blessing to the townspeople.

Some of them have been on their land for more than 150 years and through several generations. Now, they face losing their heritage. They tend not to really care about the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process used to extract natural gas from the earth, which may harm the area's water supply.

Concern about the movie's intentions has been registered by the natural gas industry. It points out that the film was partially financed by investors from the United Arab Emirates, a country that would stand to profit from the reduced mining of America's natural gas supply.

"Promised Land," though, is no more about fracking than "The Master" is about Scientology or "Lawrence of Arabia" is about the desert. It is a plot device to explore small-town American hypocrisy.

To underscore how superfluous the "issue" is, the script once centered on wind turbines rather than hydraulic fracturing.

Issues aside, Damon effectively suggests an ambitious young man who believes in his mission. He is backed by his savvy superior, played with a "Fargo" kind of humor by Frances McDormand. She's lively and seemingly sure of herself and her purpose.

Things begin to go wrong for Damon when the townspeople question the company and its money. They are led by a charismatic green-type protestor, played by John Krasinski,and a wise old school teacher, played by the ever-reliable Hal Holbrook.

Krasinski's character seems to have a closer tie to rural folk, and not only woos the townspeople but also tries to win the sassy local schoolteacher, played by Rosemarie DeWitt.

The two guys compete for the girl and the minds of the townspeople as some degree of mild suspense builds in this Gus Van Sant film.

The situation smacks of dozens of classic films in which outsiders come in to take advantage of the locals. We think of Elia Kazan's "Wild River." This film is not in their league, but it nonetheless has something meaningful to debate - which is rare in many current films.

Learning the lessons of extended warranties

5. ledna 2013 v 9:01 solar power systems
You buy an expensive new product. You also buy an extended warranty, hoping to cover the cost of repairs and maybe get a new product if yours cannot be repaired.

However, your satisfaction depends on how the warranty provider handles your complaint. I often hear from readers who find their protection plans don't come through as expected.

Min Sook Lee wrote to me last year about a Bosch dryer that didn't work. She had bought the appliance at Sears in August 2012, along with a warranty that cost $260 for three years.

"I have really been getting the runaround," she said. "The dryer broke down in late September and our first call to Sears was on Oct. 1."

Unfortunately, the part she needed wasn't available in Canada until January. With two kids under five years old, she was getting desperate drying clothes on racks once the cold weather hit.

Sears' vice-president Vincent Power responds quickly to distress calls about household appliances, especially when an extended warranty is involved. His involvement led to an immediate result.

"An executive investigated and within a few hours, he declared that we were treated unfairly. We'd be credited for the old dryer and we'd be able to purchase a new dryer, with delivery assured within days," she said.

"This is an immense relief for me and my partner. We've been knee-deep in laundry. What made everything worse was Sears' disinterest and sometimes outright hostility in its response to the situation."

With an extended warranty, you can wait for parts indefinitely and not get a replacement unless the contract says so. Lee's earlier complaints simply resulted in a one-month extension of her contract.

Jules Back doesn't believe in buying extended warranties, but his wife had bought one for a Future Shop TV before they met. Their TV was turning itself on and off intermittently while they were watching it.

"We had three major repairs performed on the TV, but the problem persists," he said. "We're supposed to get a replacement if a fourth repair is required."

Shannon Kidd, senior manager of communications at Best Buy Canada (which owns Future Shop), also responds to distress calls. A few days later, Back and his wife were able to get a new 46-inch Samsung Smart TV.

"Thanks for restoring my faith in Future Shop," Back told Kidd, referring to the excellent service he'd received at the Stockyards location in Toronto.

Future Shop's no-lemon guarantee requires having three repairs for the same problem. Be prepared to show authorized service repair invoices and any other evidence. (Back had shot a video of his faulty TV.)

Tom Burnett complained about the Ford roadside assistance plan that came with his 2010 Ford Edge. He had to pay $175 for a tow truck when his car broke down last October on the 401 in Ajax.

It was a scary experience, he said, as the engine's power output diminished. He had to cross four lanes to get to the right-hand side of the highway.

After calling Ford's roadside assistance plan at 10 p.m., he was promised that a tow truck would arrive shortly. At midnight, he was still waiting.

"I was desperately cold. At 72 years of age, I don't need to catch pneumonia waiting for a Ford-approved tow truck. I hired a CAA-approved truck that stopped and offered to assist me," he said.

Burnett was assured he'd get his $175 back. But when he wrote to me, neither he nor his Ford dealer could get a response from Ford Canada's customer service in Miami. (His dealer had offered to cover the cost.)

Erin Voth, a Ford spokeswoman, responds to distress calls from my readers. Burnett got a call from head office, apologizing for the poor service of its roadside assistance contractor.

When he received a cheque on Dec. 19, he donated it to a local food bank. The dispute wasn't about the money, he said, but about the principle of providing prompt, courteous customer service.