Brenda Cooper

FiRE (Future in Review) Day 2: Leadership, the Economy, Thorium, and Dolphins

So the day here in San Diego felt like sitting in the chair being hit by bullets of information.  The format is that there are multiple back to back 1/2 hour segments with industry and thought leaders from around the world.  I’m not even going to try to capture the day in total.  But here’s four bits of it:

Leadership matters.  Obama is leading.  Leadership also matters in industries.  This isn’t exactly new news, but I think the takeaway was that with world problems as severe and varied as they are, principled and transparent leadership may be required, hands down, to succeed.  Even that may not be enough, but without it, we are in trouble.  It was also noted that a downturn is a good time to create a new shaping vision, whether for country, company, or market.

There were a few sessions  essentially about economics.  The overall theme felt like fragile progress.  The best news was that we seem to be doing the right stuff, and a lot of people who are smarter about economics than me support the general Keynesian approach (government spending) as a short term move.  A mistake to avoid:  expecting it all to be spent on the right stuff.  What we need is for most of it to be spent on the right stuff.  Stimulus is like inventory; expect some shrinkage.  That doesn’t mean accept shrinkage like we got in the Iraq war.  It means don’t beat the feds about the head and shoulders if 2% gets spent on the equivalent of a bridge to nowhere.  And the worst worry?  What if California goes bankrupt – which it may, in reality, already be.

Nuclear power has been off the table as a viable major part of our energy strategy for a while. There has been research about using thorium instead or uranium.  This is good for three reasons.  It’s more plentiful, the half-life is not so long (our children’s children need to care for our nuclear waste, but that’s about it.  Better than uranium by far).  We also heard that thorium won’t make weapons.  Sounds good to me,  if it works. Solving the storage and the nuclear winter problem at once is handy.  The analogy we heard today was that retrofitting plants would be about as tough as changing over from leaded to unleaded gasoline.  We’ll see, but worth watching.  I’m willing to be open.

The last thing I want to leave you with is the title of a film.  The Cove.  We saw it, and talked to the man who made it.  It’s a powerful film, worth seeing when it comes to your area.

More tomorrow if I’m still standing at the end of the day.