Deadlines Work

A few weeks ago I wrote an editorial in the Electric Light & Power Executive Digest e-newsletter about the Waxman-Markey bill, or the American Clean Energy and Security Act. It had just made it through the House and had been sent to the Senate. (You may read the editorial at http://uaelp.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?ARTICLE_ID=365566&p=34.)

My editorials generate responses sometimes, but this one prompted several that question if a clean energy bill and cap-and-trade program are necessary. Some readers think global warming is not occurring, does not threaten the environment or both. Some think the U.S. should not enact climate change legislation until other greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting countries—mostly China and India—do the same. Others think regulations that would increase consumers’ energy costs should not be enacted, given the recession. Regardless of the debate, Congress will pass and the president will sign some form of climate change bill, if not this year then sometime in 2010.

Consumers will pay to reduce carbon dioxide, and it won’t be cheap. The technology, much of which has yet to be invented, will cost billions of dollars. Taxpayers will pay for R&D and financial incentives up front, and consumers—in most cases the same taxpayers—will pay for the cost of carbon via their utility bills. (You can read more about carbon and cap-and-trade costs in this issue.)

Our government will enact some sort of climate change legislation despite other countries’ actions. China and India might never enact Western world-approved regulations. China is, however, using advanced clean energy technologies in new power plant construction. In addition, China and India likely will not enact regulations without the United States and other Western countries’ doing the same.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is committed to developing technologies that curb GHG emissions. Chu—a scientist—is convinced that global warming is a threat. I heard him speak this summer at the Edison Electric Institute’s Annual Convention/Expo. He focused almost entirely on climate change and its threats to humans. Chu, backed by President Obama’s administration, is working to pass climate change legislation.

At this point, Chu and the administration have much American support. No one wants to harm the planet, so people are going green. Few outside the industry, however, understand how much a climate bill will cost. When the debate over the cost to curb GHGs gets louder, many of these people will lose interest in being green. You can be sure that opponents of GHG legislation will use cost to play on consumers’ fears.

I’m not convinced global warming is as severe as many think it is, but I’m not a scientist. I have some of the same questions and doubts as Electric Light & Power readers. Nevertheless, I’m convinced the nation will move toward climate change regulation. We’ll do our best to keep you informed.

Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

 


 

Letter to the editor

Teresa,

I may be able to shed some light on the nuclear fuel waste issue. Dr. Chu gave this interview (http://technologyreview.com/business/22651/page1/) and mentioned the fission-fusion reactor for burning up nuclear waste. The physicists at the University of Texas have recently patented a small plant design to perform the fission-fusion reaction. Here are some references:

http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/a-new-look-at-nuclear-waste/ and http://utexas.edu/news/2009/01/27/nuclear_hybrid/

When I went to the presentation at UT on this plant design, the physicists said that seven of these small plants could replace the 40 larger plants being planned by the DOE to do the same thing. They weren’t sure if the DOE would be receptive to replacing their plans for 40 plants with their design using only seven plants. Recently Obama cancelled both Yucca Mountain and the DOE’s 40 plant designs.

Although I do not know for sure, I think Dr. Chu may be looking at the UT design. That is what I hope is happening.

I attended another seminar at UT by the French describing their nuclear plans. One of those plans is to do reprocessing and reburning of nuclear waste until there is no high-level waste at all within one to two decades, thus doing away with the high-level storage. I think this is Dr. Chu’s goal, also. Without the nuclear waste problem, the public would be more accepting of nuclear power.

If you learn more about what I am suggesting, please let us know.

Sincerely,
Dr. Eugene Preston

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Deadlines Work

by Robert Evans Wilson Jr.

As I sit writing this column against the deadline, I’m reminded of my days as a young advertising copywriter when I occasionally needed a deadline as motivation to finish a boring project. The deadline did more than motivate me to finish—it was what finally stimulated enough creative thinking to move me forward. It motivated me to think outside of the box.

Boy, has that phrase become overused. People tell us so often that we need to think outside of the box that it has fallen into the realm of clichàƒ©. Nevertheless, it is still true. Sometimes, however, we need to be put into a box before we can think outside of it. A deadline is just such a box.

I used to think that the more freedom I had, the more creative I could be. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Ingenuity needs to be motivated by something, and if the desire to achieve isn’t there, then an uncomfortable boundary might work.

Have you ever watched a man or woman with one leg run a marathon or compete in downhill snow skiing? I have, and every time I was impressed because I have both of my legs, and I can’t do either. I used to wonder why they are able to do so much more than I can despite my being born with the greater advantage. Now I see that they were challenged by a boundary, and I wasn’t. Some of them might even argue that they were born with the greater advantage. Being unable to walk made them uncomfortable, and conquering their disability became a powerful motivation. They had to get out of that box.

Think of creativity as a prisoner trying to break out of jail. When your resources and opportunities are limited, you must become innovative. A good illustration is the World War II movie “The Great Escape.” It is an amazing tale of ingenuity. Men with little to work with escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp. In addition to digging three tunnels without shovels, they made hand-drawn traveling documents and identification papers that looked authentic enough to pass for ones made on a printing press. Now that was a box to get out of!

I have enjoyed working for myself most of my adult life. People frequently tell me they wish they could be self-employed like I am. They say things like, “If I could just get one client, then I could quit my job.” My response is always, “Until you quit your job, you are never going to find that first client. There is nothing like a mortgage payment at the end of the month to motivate you to get out and look for clients.”

Everyone works under deadlines. They force us to prioritize our responsibilities; they limit procrastination; and they help us achieve our work-related goals. But we often lack them in our private lives. We are not given deadlines to accomplish our most important personal goals, and without those boundaries, procrastination can creep in and destroy our best intentions. The trick is to impose a deadline on yourself, but it has to have some teeth to work.

Here’s how: Write down your goal. Then set a reasonable date by which you can achieve it. Next, go to your bank or attorney and set up an escrow account. Now add the teeth—deposit an amount of money that will hurt to lose: $1,000, $10,000, $100,000. You decide. Set it up so that if you haven’t achieved your goal by the deadline, the funds go to a favorite charity. Or make it even more motivating: Let the funds go to your worst enemy.

Not ready to try that? Then try the buddy system. Pair up with a friend and take responsibility to follow up on each other. You can get together once a week and check on each other’s progress. If goals aren’t being met, then nag each other into the uncomfort zone.

Author

Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and people who want to think like innovators. For more information, visit http://jumpstart yourmeeting.com.