PDA

View Full Version : Bad News for the solar panel industry



Richard230
17 October 2010, 1459
According to a long article in my newspaper today "contributed to" by the Washington Post, the solar panel industry in the US is having a tough time. It seems that while US startup companies in the US were attempting to find venture capital and other financing and then building their pilot manufacturing plants, the Chinese have been investing huge sums of cheap government money into their industry and building large solar panel plants at a rapid pace. This year they have driven down the price of solar panels by 40% and have grabbed market share far more quickly than anyone anticipated.

In the case of one manufacturer, Solyndra, located in Fremont, CA, they invested $1 billion dollars from investors and received another $535 million loan guarantee for the company's new robot-run, 300,000 sf solar panel factory, known as Fab 2. Unfortunately, while they were building the plant, just one factory in Shanghai, JA Solar, by the end of the year, will have the capacity to produce 1.8 gigawatts of panels each year. They have increased their employees from 4000 last year to 11,000 this year. By comparison, Solyndra expects to have a total production capacity of 300 MW by the end of 2011. This trend is driving away financiers from investing in new US factories and the article says that the future of the US solar industry is dimming.

In one case, another startup, Innovalight, located in Silicon Valley, has abandoned solar module manufacturing altogether. The company had developed what it calls a silicon ink, which increases a solar cell's efficiency when it is printed on a standard silicon wafer. After installing a 10 MW production line in late 2008, Innovalight decided that, rather than compete with the Chinese, they would license the patented ink technology to them and avoid having to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to build a factory of their own. None of this sounds like good news to me.

On a positive note (I think), the US Army is installing solar cells on their forward bases in Afghanistan to cut down on the use of fuel to power their generators. This has resulted because they are paying between $400 and $500 per barrel for fuel and guarding fuel convoys is resulting in heavy troop casualties, according to a news report last night.

cycleguy
17 October 2010, 1535
It's ironic that a Communist regime in China is beating us at our own game. The Chinese government controls, protects and invests heavily in their own industries in order for China to win the global economic war. Our government is controlled and manipulated by large corporations who are only interested in enriching themselves.
You can thank our own American corporations and their corporatist lap dogs in our government for helping China to become the manufacturing Superpower they are today.

electrician
17 October 2010, 1654
You can also thank our socialist government who hates capitalism. Let the capitalist go and there is nothing we can't overcome.

cycleguy
17 October 2010, 1751
You can also thank our socialist government who hates capitalism

Socialism?? Hardly, this is pure corporatism. The largest transfer of wealth in world history from "we the people" into the pockets of a few powerful corporate monopolies.
You can call it Crony Capitalism, monopoly Capitalism, or even Fascism. It certainly is not socialism.
If it was Socialism, we would have a single payer health care system, the banks would be owned by us, as well as our natural resources and energy production.
Instead, government has given the insurance monopolies millions of subsidized new customers, without demanding real reform, handed over $billions to the banks to continue business as usual, and failed to pass reform preventing tax write-offs for companies outsourcing American jobs, in addition to not enforcing fair trade and currency manipulation agreements.
I would conclude that our laws and policies over the last 30 years have acted almost exclusively in the best interests of big business, that's called Corporatism, not Socialism.

electrician
18 October 2010, 0755
The industrial complex in America is suffering not thriving, the banks are owned and directed by this government, the auto industry, the lone exception is Ford, is beholding to the government. The government has their bloody hands in every aspect of our lives. This government is more socialist than capitalist. This government is doing everything it can to stifle small business.

teddillard
18 October 2010, 0914
I always heartily enjoyed this forum for two reasons- because it's a group of people actually doing something about developing EV technology, and because of the complete lack of political rhetoric. I know for a fact that we represent polar extremes of the political landscape, yet we all generally show respect and tolerance. Could we continue that please, and avoid the inflammatory labeling, stereotyping and blanket generalizations, please? ...and pass the crayons. :p

billmi
18 October 2010, 1003
So I guess I won't be changing my Avatar to that portrait of Jimmy Carter after all...

Well said, Ted.

electrician
18 October 2010, 1009
No problem. I will stay off of political topics.

Gestalt
18 October 2010, 1012
the chinese are doing what they do with all our products, bigger, cheaper and cheaper. and I'm sure they have figured out what I have seen for long time, that in the long run it is a sound financial move. but they don't often seem to do it better, cheap solar is still heavy and fragile. here in the US as well as in other countries there are people making great progress in the realm of thin film solar. integrating solar in with the rest of our technologies needs something that is not bulky and fragile, and though the tech is not very efficient yet I'm sure it will catch up.

we need to stop being such slaves to cheap chinese crap, we're all pretty damn guilty of that.

teddillard
18 October 2010, 1017
So I guess I won't be changing my Avatar to that portrait of Jimmy Carter after all...

Well said, Ted.

dude. change your avatar to anything. i beg you. :D

ElMotoMike
18 October 2010, 1018
I am not saying that everyone should go out and deliberately start political conversations because quite frankly, many people lose their temper and stomp off stage like Whoopie Goldberg. However when staying respectful of one another, a political discussion is very healthy. We are all in this mess together.

Besides, whoever the idiot was that said you should never discuss religion and politics should be shot. Look at where we are now.

billmi
18 October 2010, 1036
dude. change your avatar to anything. i beg you. :D

Well it was going to be a zombie Jimmy Carter, in keeping with the season.

teddillard
18 October 2010, 1056
Well it was going to be a zombie Jimmy Carter, in keeping with the season.

not much of a stretch there. OOOOOHHHHH baddaBING

cycleguy
18 October 2010, 1223
a political discussion is very healthy. We are all in this mess together.

I agree 100%, as this relates directly to the success of our beloved electric motorcycles and their contribution to the future of this country. I applaud the current administration for recognizing how important the green energy industry is to our country's future, both environmentally and economically. We still lead the world in advanced technologies and government investment in this field is critical to our future success. However, what good is investing in new technology when it doesn't benefit the people that are investing in it.
The reason to invest is to ultimately manufacture these products here in the US, and provide thousands of new higher paying jobs buy selling these products to the rest of the world. What's happening instead is that the thousands of jobs created by these new technologies are not being created here.
US citizens are not benefiting from their investments. Our technology is being used to employ and enrich China's citizens and economy. Decades of outsourcing has dramatically reduced the number of good paying jobs which has weakened the purchasing power of the American economy. China is winning because they protect their investments by making sure their companies stay at home to employ their own people, and protect them from foreign competition. This is why China's massive stimulus has been so successful and ours has not.

electrician
18 October 2010, 1254
Right now China is whooping our behinds in the electric car, motorcycle, and battery production. And true, cycleguy it is because their government is funneling money into those industries and we better start seeding our EV start ups too. And because of China's cheap labor costs our US based companies are buying from them. But, one ray of hope for the future, as China gains a middle class they will demand more pay. Once their pay goes up then we will be in a more competitive market position and jobs will come back. I just don't know if it will be too late.

cycleguy
18 October 2010, 1343
Right now China is whooping our behinds in the electric car, motorcycle, and battery production. And true, cycleguy it is because their government is funneling money into those industries and we better start seeding our EV start ups too. And because of China's cheap labor costs our US based companies are buying from them. But, one ray of hope for the future, as China gains a middle class they will demand more pay. Once their pay goes up then we will be in a more competitive market position and jobs will come back. I just don't know if it will be too late.

I agree electrician, what always raises my eyebrows is the term "emerging markets" used all too often by American CEO's these days. To me that's code for a new cheap labor opportunity. I certainly don't think Levi's means that they are looking for new customers in places like Vietnam, rather they're looking to exploit their labor pool in order to stay competitive in the US market. The search for these new emerging markets is ongoing, and we're doomed if we sit back and wait for the world's middle class to get to the point that we'll be competitive again. The more likely scenario will be that our middle class and country collapses to the point that we will be the cheap labor being exploited.
In a global economy, the countries that don't protect their workers and industries are forcing their own citizens to enter the global economy as well by relocating to other countries. I don't think this is an acceptable solution, but is inevitable if we don't start protecting ourselves. Unfortunately, our large corporations like it just the way it is and changing the game to serve our interests instead will require a super human effort.

Richard230
18 October 2010, 1449
I have to admit that when I read that article I was very concerned that it appeared that we are licensing our ideas and technology to the Chinese and then buying back the products that they made using that technology. It doesn't sound like all that great idea, but I can understand why it is being done. These high-tech companies have to make money somehow to stay in business (and pay back their investors) and hopefully come up with more usable ideas to advance our technology and products. I understand it, but I feel very uncomfortable about our future if this continues for very many years.

One other thing I don't care for, I have yet to buy a Chinese-made product that seemed to last as long as an American-made product - when things were being made in the US. As an example, my RCA XL-100 television has been going every day since I bought it in 1976. Granted, it takes a while to warm up, has no remote, has rotary tuning and controls that sometimes have to be worked a little to obtain a clear picture and does not show as much of the picture as I would like - given the number of shows that are geared to a more wide-screen format. But it keeps on showing a clear and bright picture after all these years. Then there is my vacuum. I have a Eureka vacuum that is almost as old at my TV and it still works great - although the replacement bags are getting a little hard to find. In the meantime, I have owned about 6 other Eureka vacuums made off shore, all of which only lasted a couple of years before they died. But they did look good and seemed to vacuum well - as long as they lasted. Chinese products may be cheap, but you do get what you pay for and in the long run you probably pay more than if you could have bought American and payed a higher price for good quality. Unfortunately, with most products you don't have that choice anymore.

However, I did read this weekend that the latest cars being made by Ford and GM have surpassed the Japanese brands for quality and that is a good trend - even if it did take a real kick in the financial ass for these manufacturers to see the light.

cycleguy
18 October 2010, 1517
These high-tech companies have to make money somehow to stay in business (and pay back their investors) and hopefully come up with more usable ideas to advance our technology and products.

I don't blame the corporations for what they are doing. They have no moral obligation to any worker or any country. Their only obligation is to their shareholders and investors and need to do whatever is legal to maximize their income.
The problem I have is with our government, that has allowed these corporations to manipulate and bribe them to make policy that benefits them at the expense of the American citizen.
I'm starting to think that tariffs are the only solution to this problem. Yes prices will go up, we will no longer be the throw away society we are now, but will be better off in the long run with good, higher paying, secure jobs.
A 20% tariff on those Chinese solar panels would give the CA company a fighting chance at competing in our market.
Tariffs would also eliminate the outsourced labor advantage and attract these companies back home where they belong, and also attract foreign companies here in order to avoid the tariff.
There are many downsides to tariffs, but the alternative looks far worse.

electrician
18 October 2010, 1719
That would be a good idea. Tariffs would equal the playing field. Granted it will raise the prices for consumers, but I think the benefits would be worth it.

Richard230
18 October 2010, 1759
Of course tariffs are illegal in the fair trade Global economy, unless it can be shown that a country is illegally supporting a particular industry. I understand that just such an evaluation is being considered by our government right now. In order to impose a tariff, I believe that you have to prove your case in front of a World trade court - which does happen occasionally.

electrician
18 October 2010, 1818
The WTC has no teeth. By the time it goes through all of their legal mumbo jumbo, we will be out of the woods. We have done this in the past and it worked. The 2002 United States steel tariff imposed a 30% tariff on a variety of imported steel products for a period of three years. This helped our steel industry get back on their feet or at least gave them a fighting chance. No repercussions were implemented against the USA.

BaldBruce
18 October 2010, 2055
Of course tariffs are illegal in the fair trade Global economy, unless it can be shown that a country is illegally supporting a particular industry. I understand that just such an evaluation is being considered by our government right now. In order to impose a tariff, I believe that you have to prove your case in front of a World trade court - which does happen occasionally.

Tell that to Brazil. They have a 25% tariff on all products made in China. Every company that wants to sell products there has to seriously give consideration to building a plant in South America to make the sales profitable rather than importing Far East products. I am not a big fan of Brazil, but in this area they might be on to something......

Mexico also has tariffs, just not as high. Their low wage rates are attracting more corporate plants back to North America though.

Then there is the Japanese inspection method. They come down to the dock and inspect your cabbage. Then they need to get another inspector's opinion. Inspect again the next day. After about a week, they claim your cabbage fails inspection and will not be allowed in the country. They have been extremely successful in keeping US beef out for years this way.

No simple answers to these complicated questions IMO. I have very little faith that our elected officials will have the cojones to make those tough descisions. They are to busy trying to get re-elected.

teddillard
19 October 2010, 0435
OK, fine. Y'all want to talk politics, so be it. How about we stop blaming everyone else and look at how we conduct our own business? Personally.

Would you work a job for 10 hours a day for $2/hr breathing some toxic crap? How about even cleaning toilets in this country and trimming lawns for below minimum wage? Didn't think so. Hell, neither will most American teenagers for just a summer. Now, would you pay more, in some cases only a few dollars more, for a product made here? Before you answer, take a good look at how many Costco products are made in China... When you buy products from China you're supporting the China labor and manufacturing practices. Which are truly an abomination. China pouring money into development? Give me a break... unless you can cite a source. China is developing industry that we don't because they have no labor standards to speak of.

Do you shop online, or from Walmart instead of supporting a local dealer or reseller? It's all part of the equation.

And another thing. How about some facts, links, backup of all these claims? Then we all might learn something. 'Course, the rant might not feel quite as good if you actually have to back stuff up...

I'm sick of it. I'm sick of people talking about how everyone else - whether you're talking Bush or Obama or whoever else - is to blame, and how the politicians will or will not "fix" it. If you can truly claim that you're not partly to blame, and don't enjoy many of the fruits of this entitled lifestyle most of us enjoy in this country, then speak up. But chances are, if you're reading this, you're reading it on a machine assembled in China, for less than anyone in the US would assemble it.

I enjoy EVs, but more importantly, I truly believe that the future of our economy depends on developing and building renewable energy sources, and, although I have little or no resources, I'm trying to contribute to that and be a part of it. To me, everything else is just whining and noise.

They are indeed complicated questions. They're the result of a chain of events and decisions you can track back throughout the entire history of our country, not to the last, or previous administration, or the administration before that. The biggest obstacle to working towards a solution is ineffectual complaining, inaction, and acceptance of how things are.

To paraphrase my buddy Bryce Larrabee, stop whining, get out of the way, and go make something.

electrician
19 October 2010, 0719
Guilty as charged! I shop at Costco, Walmart and anywhere else that I can get the most bang for my buck.
We certainly are not going to solve any economic and/or world problems on this forum, I don't think the politicians monitor this forum. lol, except my brother who is running for Concord city council. Anyway, this was a good exchange of info and opinions. No hard feelings I hope :)

teddillard
19 October 2010, 0750
When I started my studio I picked up a client who had a great idea. The company was literally two guys in a garage. After ten years and a lot of changes, they sold the company to Molex. In those ten years, they grew to over 100 employees. They gave them work, they gave me work, they brought money from all over the world into MA, as well as into my local community.

That's what I'm talking about. That's who's going to help "fix" things, not WTF, not the politicians, not any pie in the sky crap. That's why I'm such a fan of Brammo, and this entire industry. They're making jobs, not because of anyone else, and often in spite of those who should be helping...

Hard feelings? No, but until you stand behind what you say, and realize that rhetoric and looking to others for "fixing" this is nothing but noise, then you're part of the problem... as we all are to one degree or another.

chdfarl
19 October 2010, 0801
OK, fine. Y'all want to talk politics, so be it. How about we stop blaming everyone else and look at how we conduct our own business? Personally.

Would you work a job for 10 hours a day for $2/hr breathing some toxic crap? How about even cleaning toilets in this country and trimming lawns for below minimum wage? Didn't think so. Hell, neither will most American teenagers for just a summer. Now, would you pay more, in some cases only a few dollars more, for a product made here? Before you answer, take a good look at how many Costco products are made in China... When you buy products from China you're supporting the China labor and manufacturing practices. Which are truly an abomination. China pouring money into development? Give me a break... unless you can cite a source. China is developing industry that we don't because they have no labor standards to speak of.

Do you shop online, or from Walmart instead of supporting a local dealer or reseller? It's all part of the equation.

And another thing. How about some facts, links, backup of all these claims? Then we all might learn something. 'Course, the rant might not feel quite as good if you actually have to back stuff up...

I'm sick of it. I'm sick of people talking about how everyone else - whether you're talking Bush or Obama or whoever else - is to blame, and how the politicians will or will not "fix" it. If you can truly claim that you're not partly to blame, and don't enjoy many of the fruits of this entitled lifestyle most of us enjoy in this country, then speak up. But chances are, if you're reading this, you're reading it on a machine assembled in China, for less than anyone in the US would assemble it.

I enjoy EVs, but more importantly, I truly believe that the future of our economy depends on developing and building renewable energy sources, and, although I have little or no resources, I'm trying to contribute to that and be a part of it. To me, everything else is just whining and noise.

They are indeed complicated questions. They're the result of a chain of events and decisions you can track back throughout the entire history of our country, not to the last, or previous administration, or the administration before that. The biggest obstacle to working towards a solution is ineffectual complaining, inaction, and acceptance of how things are.

To paraphrase my buddy Bryce Larrabee, stop whining, get out of the way, and go make something.

Its great to hear some other nut ranting on that subject. Thats the truth period ( GO DILLARD )!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

electrician
19 October 2010, 0802
I do stand behind what I say. Tariffs would be a good way of leveling the playing field and give all of these small entrepreneurial eco companies a chance to get going. I salute Brammo. They are doing the right things and seem to be going in the right direction to be successful. However, once China, Mexico, Brazil, Japan or some other country with cheap labor and big government backing starts producing the same E-bike for a cheaper cost, then Brammo can kiss it goodbye. They can never compete with a country like China, whose government subsidizes their industry and has cheap labor to gain an advantage. Tariffs would help, until the small companies get off the ground and establish themselves with a loyal following.

chdfarl
19 October 2010, 0804
I do stand behind what I say. Tariffs would be a good way of leveling the playing field and give all of these small entrepreneurial eco companies a chance to get going. I salute Brammo. They are doing the right things and seem to be going in the right direction to be successful. However, once China, Mexico, Brazil, Japan or some other country with cheap labor and big government backing starts producing the same E-bike for a cheaper cost, then Brammo can kiss it goodbye. They can never compete with a country like China, whose government subsidizes their industry and has cheap labor to gain an advantage. Tariffs would help, until the small companies get off the ground and establish themselves with a loyal following.

As long as Harley never buys Brammo to sack them like Buell.

Richard230
19 October 2010, 0815
Everyone seems to have a valid point - including Ted. I still get a little nervous about tariffs, though. They did nothing to help the US get out of the Great Depression and you may recall that last year the US was proposing to impose a large tariff on European motorcycles in response to their threat to impose tariffs on our imported beef. Tariffs are more tit for tat now, rather than making some sort of sense as was done when Harley got the US government to impose tariffs on Japanese motorcycles of over 700ccs during 1985. That tariff actually did help Harley get back on its feet and is why my 1986 Honda VFR was 700cc, instead of the 750 that it was intended to be. You could buy the 750 but it cost another $700 due to the tariff. The 700FII was (and still is) a very nice bike - except for its 16" front wheel and useless rear shock.

teddillard
19 October 2010, 0830
Guilty as charged! I shop at Costco, Walmart and anywhere else that I can get the most bang for my buck.

Sorry, but I see this as not standing behind what you're saying. If you understand that there's more to it than "bang for your buck", and sometimes "bang" is somewhat intangible (longer product life, customer support, better quality at the outset- all things that cost money and contribute to the sticker price) then I don't see how you can shop there and take the position that tariffs will fix, well, anything.

Here's another take. You buy the cheapest Chinese crap, guess where it ends up faster. The landfill. I can't control who buys what where, but I can control where I buy stuff and how long I make it last. See my post on "The Electric Gardener" on my blog. Half of what I'm talking about is getting stuff that's headed for the landfill and refitting it to keep it useful and out of our trash.

chdfarl
19 October 2010, 0845
Everyone seems to have a valid point - including Ted. I still get a little nervous about tariffs, though. They did nothing to help the US get out of the Great Depression and you may recall that last year the US was proposing to impose a large tariff on European motorcycles in response to their threat to impose tariffs on our imported beef. Tariffs are more tit for tat now, rather than making some sort of sense as was done when Harley got the US government to impose tariffs on Japanese motorcycles of over 700ccs during 1985. That tariff actually did help Harley get back on its feet and is why my 1986 Honda VFR was 700cc, instead of the 750 that it was intended to be. You could buy the 750 but it cost another $700 due to the tariff. The 700FII was (and still is) a very nice bike - except for its 16" front wheel and useless rear shock.

The only thing i see wrong with that is that Harley never built a bike to compete with the vfr. They stuck to the same **** they built for years. Thats why i like the new electric bike companies they build a quality American product and are open to selling to various demographics. Not only the 'heritage" market. But they all need to look at Current high performance mass market motorcycles like Honda an use components that are great quality but affordable. Not many people even understand why Ohlins and Brembo are so great. But they cant use any crap off of the shelf. For instance the Roehr bike is a Hyosung 250 are you joking. Not only is it Korean its crap. If your gonna sell a 28,000 bike build it yourself and build it in this country. We should by American and American companies should build here and well. This country doesnt even sell a domestic dirt bike. How many Americans learn to ride on dirt bikes and spend tons of weekend hours out in the dirt. Its time Americans buy in house and the companies step up. And what if there were domestic purchase discounts with tariffs.

electrician
19 October 2010, 0858
Tariffs will not fix everything. But, they may help. I am not an economist, so I really don't know all of the repercussions of tariffs. It just seems to me that it will help, at least in the short term. It is still up to the American manufacturer to improve their product and gain a following.

As far as bang for my buck goes. In these tough economic times I have to shop wisely. Walmart and Costco are cost effective for me. If there are tariffs then the prices will be equalized and I can choose to buy from our usa brethren.

One last thought, sometimes the cheapest isn't the best, I agree. At times I have to bite the bullet and purchase a product that costs more but is of better quality. But for the most part on common everyday items: generic is the same as brand named.

cycleguy
19 October 2010, 0859
In those ten years, they grew to over 100 employees. They gave them work, they gave me work, they brought money from all over the world into MA, as well as into my local community.

Yes, this was the foundation that built our economy back in the days when thousands of local banks invested in their communities. That was before all these banks got bought up by the large banking monopolies who created a way of making money without lending it to anyone. Our financial system is no longer interested or equipped to serve the interests of the local communities and their small businesses. 65% of our country's wealth is now in the hands of only six banks.
Every major industry in this country is now controlled by a handful of large corporations that are strangling the spirit of competition, entrepreneurship and capitalism that was once the foundation of our economy.

teddillard
19 October 2010, 0912
Well, I'd suggest you do a little research into tariffs, and what they really amount to. In my opinion, and a lot of other people's tariffs do nothing but allow the domestic market to continue to produce inferior products or products that don't respond to the market. You may weigh a Ford over a Toyota because the price is the same, but that's not because Ford can come to market with a competitive product at that price point. It's because Toyota has to pay a tariff on a product people want, and they can produce cheaper than Ford. Oh, but wait. YOU pay the tariff, when you buy the car.

This is what so baffles me about these arguments. Who do you think pays for all this? WE do. You think Ford or Toyota or your elected whatevers do? You pay for the ability to buy a product at an inflated price that otherwise out-competes a domestic company who isn't smart enough or creative enough to compete.

And if you want to bring this back to this forum, I only have to point at the Leaf vs. the Volt- the latter turns out to not even be the electric car it was hyped as. It's a hybrid. GM. FAIL. And don't be blaming anybody but the decision makers at GM. The CEO who chose the Hummer over the Volt back in the '90s at least has the nuts to stand up today and say it was short-sighted mistake.

teddillard
19 October 2010, 0914
large banking monopolies I heart my local Credit Union.

cycleguy
19 October 2010, 0932
Ted,
Good points, but you have to look at all the angles. Every major industrialized country in the world has tariffs, or import duties. The EU, China, India, Japan, Brazil etc. and their economies have withstood this recession far better than ours.
You also have to consider that even though American companies will be somewhat protected by the tariffs, they still need to compete in the global market to offer a quality product, which gives them an incentive to continually improve their products. They will also have to compete against other domestic companies on quality and price, as well as foreign companies that relocate to the US to avoid the tariff.
A good example is Germany, they have tariffs (Import Duties), one of the highest labor costs and standards of living and robust social programs, yet they are the 2nd largest exporter in the world, only to China which surpassed them just this year and their unemployment rate never fell below 5.8% during the height of the recession.

electrician
19 October 2010, 1030
Ted, I agree that the American companies instead of hiding behind a tariff or import duties will have to produce a better product or it will all be for naught. All I was saying that short term, two to three years, a tariff or import duty would at least give the small American entrepreneurial companies a chance to get started that's all. It is not a permanent solution by any means. Just a shot in the arm.

teddillard
19 October 2010, 1301
Well, from where I sit, after seeing shots in the arm and three year fixes for the past 40 years or so, I would hope for something a little more, uh, systemic. That's it for me, my nurse says no more politics.

seanece
19 October 2010, 1320
More politics Ted, more!!!!!! This is great stuff here and I cannot imagine a Maker/Engineer/Reclaimer would think differently. Lemme get my popcorn......

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-eatdrink033.gif

teddillard
19 October 2010, 1523
oh that's just fine. you get popcorn. i get more "blood pressure" medication from nurse ratchett.

Richard230
19 October 2010, 1530
This subject deserves a couple of books to even scratch the surface. The basic question would be do you want the government running the economy or not? Tough question. My simplistic view would be that the government should insure a fair and level economic playing field. One where companies don't cheat or manipulate the economy and then let the best company/product win. Unfortunately, our government has not been all that great when it comes to creating and maintaining a stable economy, where everyone is treated fairly. I could give you a few examples of how they have screwed up, but I suspect that everyone here already knows what I would say.

larryrose11
19 October 2010, 1756
Lemme get my popcorn......

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-eatdrink033.gif

Popcorn? No effing way.
Im gonna get another home brew.
It doesn't get more domestic than a beer brewer 20 feet from where the keg is.
Yes, I said keg (5 gal)
My fridg holds 3 kegs, so I always have 3 flavors on tap.
I think is time for some Double Red Bitter.
Mmmmmm

cycleguy
19 October 2010, 1909
Well said Richard.
I think this conversation has demonstrated how reasonably minded people from both sides can have a respectful dialog and find common ground once the political rhetoric and demagoguery is left at the door.

teddillard
20 October 2010, 0341
The basic question would be do you want the government running the economy or not?

Economies, "the" economy, is the sum total of the commerce activity - behavior - of a population, whether you're looking at the economy of the world, a nation, a region or a local society. Governments can no more "run" the economy than a weatherman can run the weather. Also, I'd argue, and a lot of Economists along with me, that we know more about the weather than how our economy works, again, local to global. This whole thing that someone can "fix" or "run" the economy is simply not understanding what it is we're talking about, and something that gets used as a football, in spite of what the realities are. It's used that way because nobody studies economy, and they believe that some administration can do something that controls our economy. If I told you I could run the weather, and you believed me, I'd have a whole lot of power over you, now wouldn't I?

Sure, big decisions (wars, for example) can have big effects in the behavior of a population, but still...

There's a whole school of economists that believe that economic initiatives by governments have a lot less to do with altering the economy - again, the behavior of a populace - than the impression of the populace about the initiative. There are also a lot of economists that believe that what you do in the short term- 4 years, say - has little or no effect on the long-term prospects of a nation. There are also a whole lot of economists, most, from my reading, that believe that just about the last group of people you want tampering with the economy are politicians.

Simply, what people think the government does to the economy has a lot more impact on the actual economy than what the government actually does.

What really matters is what people in the "economy" - you - do. My point all along.

What I find so disturbing about conversations like this is that, fine, it's all rational and reasonable, but if for a second you think you've accomplished anything by posting (due respect - but I'm reflecting your own comments about your understanding of tariffs) loosely thought out opinions on some forum, you're kidding yourself. Until you stop for a second, turn the car away from the Walmart parking lot and go to your local merchant to spend slightly more to help keep your dollars in your home town, or state, then you're part of the collapse of your local economy. You can't blame the WTF, any political party, or whatever makes you happy to blame. Those few dollars more that you spend will, because they're still in your local economy, come back to you in many forms, perhaps even as income. THAT is the essential point you have to understand.

Some time, if the nurse lets me, I'll tell you about O'Connor Hardware in Billerica MA, simply the most awesome hardware store I've ever seen. They have more, and better selection than Lowes or Home Depot. The people there know their ****. The townspeople of Billerica would not allow a Home Depot to be built in their town out of respect for what they've done with that store. I honestly don't even know what the pricing is, I don't care, I buy whatever I can there. And every dollar I spend goes to this guy named O'Connor, who lives about 5 miles away, who pays a couple of dozen people who also live about 5 miles away.

So don't tell me it's not possible in these times. It is, you have to compete, and surpass. And that is what built this country, and what is going to save our precious asses, not some government or temporary tariff.

(Funny you should bring up homebrew. I used to brew too, because it was the only way I could enjoy good beer. Then this other homebrewer dug up his ancestors recipe and hey- started a company. Sam Adams. Best beer in the country, down the street from me. :D An entire local economy is now built around that one guy in his basement.)

By the way, cycleguy, not to pick nits, but both sides? Since when was it two sides? Again, that feels like just talking back the trash that the political parties want us to believe. This issue has as many sides as people that it affects, and when we stop looking at it as "us against them", then we're starting to work towards a solution. As far as tariffs, of course, everybody has them and they're an essential component of the world economy, I'm not naive- but they're not a fix for anything - they're a placebo to make people think something has been done.

chef
31 October 2010, 0244
You can also thank our socialist government who hates capitalism.Wait... wha? You're conflating alot of conspiracy theories. Please take a break from Limbaugh/Beck and try to read up on authoritative economic sources.

Capitalism and socialism both have their strengths & weaknesses. China has been able to focus & mobilize their resources in a way not seen in the US since the original NASA moon project. That was a social project which was very beneficial to private industry. Each has their time & place and each can be subverted. The tea purists would have one believe that any social program is evil and the end of the world. We live in a society and live by a social contract. It has long been understood that pooling resources together is beneficial. Throughout history, countries which were well organized have always dominated those that were disorganized.

And yet, China does not have pure socialism but a hybrid public/private arrangement (see Special Development Zones). The US is also a hybrid capitalist economy, more private than public. Cycleguy has it right, the large multi-national corporations have corrupted the system to an extreme. There's way too much corporate lobbying influence in our government IMHO.

Richard230
31 October 2010, 1551
Bad news continues for the Solar Power industry. According to an article in the business section of my newspaper, written by Todd Woody of the NY Times, the industry is running into financing problems for future projects. The solar power industry heavily depends upon two government loan programs to secure these big solar projects. The most crucial is a loan guarantee program, which expires next September, that allows the industry to borrow money on favorable terms to finance up to 80% of construction costs. The other program is the option to take a 30% tax credit in the form of a cash payment once the project is built. This credit expires at the end of 2016, but the option to take it in cash expires this year, making it far less valuable for a startup company. The article says that it is unclear if these incentives will be continued by Congress, as both the Republicans and the Democrats are focused on cutting the federal budget.

In California, the state is requiring utility companies to obtain 1/3rd of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Right now that may not be possible unless many more solar projects are developed and the article says that is not likely, unless these incentives are continued or expanded. Then there is the problem of building new power transmission lines to take the power from the desert to urban areas. Many environmentalists oppose these transmission lines and are may sue to stop this construction.

Producing electric power from natural gas plants costs about 10 cents a kWh. After including all government subsidies, solar power plants are expected to produce power for 13 to 17 cents per kWh, which the industry says is close enough to be competitive. Even firms that have secured government permits to construct their plants are not sure if they can find the funding to construct their projects.

Happy Halloween everyone.

cycleguy
31 October 2010, 2025
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/08/business/la-fi-green-manufacturing-20100509

This is a perfect example of how our monopoly banking system has destroyed our country. This is an all too common example of how our own American Banks prefer to invest in China rather than in the US.
Wall Street basically told A123 Systems that it wasn't going to finance their new manufacturing plant if it was located in the US, and they should build it in China.
So the American taxpayer bailed out these bastards so they can take our money to create jobs for Chinese citizens. I don't understand why people are not marching in the streets over this.

akohekohe
01 November 2010, 0239
Hmm, just got back from a trip to Macau. A great place to have an electric motorcycle considering its compact size, but I didn't see any. Anyway, there is certainly a quickly emerging middle class in China ... as soon as they build those casinos they fill up ... and I've never seen so many Gucci, etc. stores per square inch anywhere. While cheap labor may have gotten the Chinese a foothold in the world economy they know that is not a viable long-term strategy. You can argue about tariffs, etc. all you want but in the long-run the Chinese are going to do very well because they are very innovative and entrepreneurial and have figured out the importance of giving the customer what they want. While there are some questions about the quality of some products made in China, this is fast disappearing and the hi-tech companies would not be going there if the Chinese could not make products to spec. I think that it will happen sooner rather than later that we will start seeing Chinese companies setting up shop in the USA, just as Japanese companies have been doing for quite some time. At the end of the day, in the future world economy those countries that are going to maintain a higher standard of living than the rest of the world are going to do so by having a more highly educated and skilled workforce. Along with everything else, the Chinese are investing heavily in their educational system including their Universities. In the USA I fear the fastest growing sector of the economy is the incarceration industry, while education is losing ground. This does not bode well for future generations in the USA.

The largest obstacle facing Chinese economic growth is the unacceptably high rate of corruption but I think they are heading in the right direction and are looking to adopting the reforms that took Hong-Kong from being one of the most corrupt economies in the world to one of the least (Hong-Kong is ranked 13th on the world corruption index whereas the USA is 22nd, the PRC is 78, Russia is 154, Iraq is 175, Afghanistan is 176, out of 178 (Somalia is at the bottom in case you were wondering)). Once China pulls ahead of the USA on this index, game-over, and that may be sooner than you think given the inevitable increase in corruption that will result from the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission. :eek:

Is it good that China can produce cheaper solar cells than the USA? Well, this is the wrong question - is it good that much less expensive solar cells will soon be available on the world market? Yes. And that answer is still yes even if they are coming from China and not the USA (BTW, my Sanyo panels were made in Japan and are performing very well and are more than paying for themselves).

BaldBruce
01 November 2010, 1126
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/08/business/la-fi-green-manufacturing-20100509

This is a perfect example of how our monopoly banking system has destroyed our country. This is an all too common example of how our own American Banks prefer to invest in China rather than in the US.
Wall Street basically told A123 Systems that it wasn't going to finance their new manufacturing plant if it was located in the US, and they should build it in China.
So the American taxpayer bailed out these bastards so they can take our money to create jobs for Chinese citizens. I don't understand why people are not marching in the streets over this.

No, This is a perfect example of bad journalism. Here is a snippet from A123 directly.....

September 13, 2010
A123 Systems Opens the Largest Lithium Ion Automotive Battery Manufacturing Plant in North America

<STYLE type=text/css> p, pre{color: #000;}</STYLE>New Facility in Livonia, Mich. Significantly Expands A123's Production Capabilities to Meet Increasing Global Demand; Company Expects to Create Thousands of Jobs in Michigan

jdh2550
01 November 2010, 1144
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/08/business/la-fi-green-manufacturing-20100509

Wall Street basically told A123 Systems that it wasn't going to finance their new manufacturing plant if it was located in the US, and they should build it in China.

Err, except that there are 3 or 4 battery factories being built or already online in Michigan. A123's is about 25 miles from where I sit now - in Livonia, MI. There are a couple more over on the west coast (west coast of MI that is). One of the reasons the A123 founder is happy is because they had a pretty darn good IPO (one of the few this year).

I guess I fall somewhat into Ted's camp. Really, the only answer is to get out and do something. You have to try and figure out a way to make some positive change - not all the positive changes you'd ever hope for. Just some.

A lot of people don't like the fact that we get parts off the shelf and that a lot of the shelves reside in China. Quite simply our alternative was either that or not to undertake anything at all. Really - I'm not being grandiose here. Me and my business partner have funded the majority of this company so far (and it wouldn't exist if we hadn't) - and we couldn't possibly have even contemplated doing this without access to low cost worldwide components (or if you prefer labor). I'm not rich. I wasn't rich when I started either. I'm a whole lot more "not-rich" right about now. You might think I'm doing this just to get rich. I'm not (but I shan't mind it one bit if I do get rich). However, I'm not even going to bother to try and persuade you of my motives here. Socialist, Capitalist or Whateverist. I'm an entrepreneur. I'm a motorcyclist. I'm an EV enthusiast. I'm a pragmatist (sometimes) and a dreamer (a lot of the time). I'm also impatient and would rather do stuff.

On the China vs. US debate. We do final assemble in the US. We ensure quality in the US. We do engineering in the US. We "invent" in the US. We add value in the US. We bank and pay taxes in the US (well we would pay taxes if we weren't making such a marvelous loss at this point in time). Unfortunately, at this time, it's not economically feasible for us to bend metal into frames in the US. Maybe in the future it will be possible. Maybe in the future it will make sense to do so. I kind of doubt it. And that leads me to the next point:

Go hug a teacher - because our future resides with them. Education is key. Because if we can't (or won't or don't want to) compete with turning raw materials into components then we need to ensure that we can keep the higher paying, higher valued jobs. And to do that we need the best educated workforce possible. I always kind of liked the bumper sticker that says something like "How Come the Pentagon Never Needs to Hold a Bake Sale?"

Hmmm - not a very cogent argument. More of a stream of consciousness I'm afraid.

Bottom line is that as Ted (and others) point out it behooves us all to change it from the bottom up by actually running our own personal economies differently. You need to be the change you want to see (who said that? probably a well educated person).

----

Oh, and as far as solar panels go: I sure hope they keep improving. No matter who builds 'em. We all need 'em.

Richard230
04 November 2010, 1532
More bad news about Solyndra was reported in last night's local TV news. Additional information is provided in the business section of my newspaper, written by George Avalos of the Bay Area News Group. Solyndra said yesterday that it had scuttled its factory expansion in Fremont, CA and will halt the company's plans to hire 1000 new workers. An analyst with GTM Research says that it is alarming that Solyndra is cutting back when other solar panel companies are expanding. In its announcement, Solyndra said it will close an existing factory in the East Bay, leaving the company with its new nearby factory. In addition to not hiring 1000 new employees, they will also lay off another 155 to 175 current employees. The TV news report implied that they might go bankrupt and stick the taxpayer with the $535 million debt, which is guaranteed by the government.

On the other hand, Solyndra's sales are growing. In 2009, sales totaled $70 million and they are expected to double to $140 million this year. Sales are expected to grow strongly in 2011, yet the company has never turned a profit.