Robots aren’t as far in the future as many people think, especially ones that can be put to work in the skilled trades and “hard industries.” And we’re going to need them because of the existing and expanding shortage of skilled (human) labor in those industries, and given the fact of rising demand for all the things produced by “hard industries” whether basic materials, from metals to grains, or advanced products, from cars to computers.

The year 2022 ended without an energy crisis. And that’s a good thing.  But now, for 2023, the gap is widening between ambitions and possibilities for one key reason: The world isn’t mining or planning to mine enough materials to build the quantities of “green” machines imagined.

Eventually the world will equilibrate around what’s possible, i.e., an “all of the above” energy strategy, rather than what’s imagined—a “transition” away from hydrocarbons—because, well, that’s what’s possible.

It’s the time of the year for the lollapalooza of retrospectives. On the energy front, the electric vehicle (EV) was at the top of the year’s obsessions. As a foil for framing an exploration of the state-of-the-EV, we’ve chosen a recent column by Dan Neil, the Wall Street Journal’s automobile reporter, and graded the answers he’s offered to that column’s title question, “Should You Buy An EV Now?”

In Part 2 we highlight some specific technologies and sectors where radical, promising new products and services are already emerging, i.e., we predict a future “that’s already happening” per that great aphorism from the late great management consultant Peter Drucker.

Politicians aren’t innovators or inventors. Economic growth—wealth creation—is dominated by technology progress and then what policymakers either impede or encourage. Of course politics matter, but what we know about emerging technologies can change the framing, and the stakes. In Part 1 we revist the big-picture macro trends that point to a promising future.

Could America Produce a LOT More Oil & Gas?

When he recently said America “should pump more oil and gas,” JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon joined a rising chorus of similar calls, including from Elon Musk. And Dimon added that doing so “should be treated almost as a matter of war at this point, nothing short of that.” The context is obvious. But the big question is not whether America should but whether it could radically increase production.

Marc Dassler (Photo: Energy Robotics)

Elon Musk made news (again) announcing plans to build robots. Entrepreneurs like Marc Dassler are in the market now, selling robot services with his company, Energy Robotics, providing critical supervisory software – ways to manage fleets of other people’s mobile robots – thus enabling deployment of a growing array of already available wheeled and walking robots, not just future Tesla-bots. Given worries about a shrinking labor force and inflation, this is good news.

Really? Some Perspective on a New, Silly, Invective-de-Jour

You don’t need to hold an opinion about, or even know anything about the science around climate “change” in order to understand the nature and consequences of energy technology choices, but now comes a new label, “climate solutions denialism” targeting anyone pointing out the economic, geopolitical, environmental, and societal consequences of energy policy choices.

Colonel Terry Virts (USAF Ret.) Photo: Debby Wong/Shutterstock

Credit to Buzz Lightyear of course (for the quote) we’re joined in this episode by Terry Virts, a real-life former astronaut, former fighter pilot and retired USAF Colonel, to talk about rocket ships, the energy they need to get to the moon and beyond to Mars, the role of nuclear energy in space and on earth, and the state of play in outer space with Russia and China.

With the (partisan) Inflation Reduction Act mainly focused on nearly $400 billion of spending on green energy, it’s worth keeping in mind some underlying realities about this important domain. Spoiler alert: there still won’t be an “energy transition.”

Chips—semiconductors—are a critical part of our modern economy (read all about that in Mark’s book). So, where they’re manufactured matters. It’s good that Congress finally noticed.  But there’s far more to the story, and more to be done, much of it differently, to reignite American “soft” power in the “hard” industries of manufacturing.

For historical perspective see “How America Can Create Jobs,” by Andy Grove, in Bloomberg, July 1, 2010.

This week Mark Mills expands on his Wall Street Journal review of the book Restarting the Future: How to Fix the Intangible Economy by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake.

 

With the Ukraine war dragging on, joining this episode is Stephen Bryen, an expert on Ukraine, war fighting, security, and technology. We explore the state of play, how that war might end, and some technology lessons including warfighters using Elon Musk’s Starlink, and about Russia’s weaponized energy exports.

Musk’s Tech Put to Deadly Weapon Effect in Ukraine, Stephen Bryen, Asia Times, July 1, 2022

Part two of our episode with Ken Fisher continues our wide-ranging conversation as we dive down the various rabbit-holes of realities about technologies, markets and even politics. 

Ken Fisher’s Real Clear Markets columns here.

(Photo courtesy Ken Fisher)

For the next two episodes we’re joined by Ken Fisher, the storied, successful, insightful analyst, New York Times best-selling author, and founder, executive chairman and co-chief investment officer of the $197 billion Fisher Investments fund. We think you’ll enjoy this wide-ranging conversation about the psychology of markets, stocks, public policy, technology and much more.

Now that Europe has a six-month plan to embargo Russian oil, a kind of Realpolitik of energy is coming into play making clear the limits of the energy transition and who holds the winning hand in the serious geopolitical game underway.

The European Parliament endorsed a complete ban on conventional cars by 2035. EV-owner and storied automobile dealer, and vice-chair of the National Association of Automobile Dealers, Geoffrey Pohanka joins to talk about cars and EVs in the real world.

Storied and successful investor John Mauldin joins to talk about the realities and opportunities during our time of chaos, about the philosophy of markets, and about the opportunities in America’s oilfields, too.

Mauldin Economics and his recent newsletter referred to in this edition: Rock and a Hard Place (May 27, 2022.)

The Ukraine war has triggered the world’s third energy shock, with potential to get far worse yet. And it’s x-rayed energy policies, making it clear just how hard it will be to delink from both hydrocarbons and Russian dependencies. There is a solution: call it Shale 3.0.

Carbon tax proposals have resurfaced as a “border carbon adjustment” tariff. The idea is to force society to cut back on hydrocarbons and, this time, it’s claimed the tax will stimulate innovation and reshore industries. But it won’t achieve any of the stated goals and, worse, it’s inflationary.