July – August 2022 Commentary

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“Governments must take swift action to lower the barriers that prevent low-carbon hydrogen from growing faster.”
– Faith Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency


Energy – Hydrogen Economy

As the auto industry strives to build more electric vehicles to meet government fuel-saving mandates, it’s clear the market isn’t ready for prime time.

Major challenges remain to be addressed, if not resolved, before EVs become more than a boost to annual sales – namely range anxiety, too few charging stations, network gaps electricity, the supply of raw materials by child labor, recycling problems, costs and Suite. The situation is made worse by a recent wave of supply chain delays for key battery materials, as well as inflation.

But there is another cleaner alternative to electric propulsion. Hydrogen is making inroads into the commercial market as major corporations focus their research efforts on promoting the clean energy alternative. More recently, German auto supplier Bosch, with North American headquarters in Farmington Hills, said it would invest up to $591 million in hydrogen technology by 2030.

In turn, Cummins, a major diesel engine manufacturer, earlier this year launched a 15-liter hydrogen engine that can run on different types of fuel. The company, which operates multiple sales and research facilities in Michigan, produces a line of diesel engines for trucks, RVs, farm equipment and school buses.

The new power plant, Cummins says, can be powered “at a lower initial price than a fuel cell or battery electric vehicle,” and converting the vehicles to hydrogen requires minimal modification. To advance the concept, Cummins and Daimler Truck in North America are modifying Freightliner Cascadia trucks with a hydrogen fuel cell engine, with sales expected to begin in 2024.

In other developments, North Carolina State University reports that its researchers have found a way to extract hydrogen gas from liquid carriers that is cheaper and more energy efficient than traditional systems. On a related front, scientists at Washington State University can now produce pure compressed hydrogen using ethanol, water and electricity, eliminating the need to transport the high pressure gas.

Closer to home, in May, Noble Gas Systems Inc., a developer and manufacturer of Novi-compliant high-pressure hydrogen gas storage tanks, raised $3.5 million in Series A funding to build its system. lightweight, high-pressure storage and delivery system that can accommodate compressed gases including hydrogen, natural gas, air, oxygen and nitrogen. It includes a tank composed of a polymer liner, a woven reinforcement and a protective outer shell.

Automakers aren’t the only ones exploring hydrogen. Airbus, the European multinational aerospace company, announced in May that its ZeroE program will develop a hydrogen-powered narrow-body aircraft that it plans to introduce in 2035. Other aircraft manufacturers are also exploring hydrogen propulsion. hydrogen.

Going forward, it’s hard to imagine that all Americans will be driving electric vehicles in the next few years, given the limitations; sales were encouraged for over a decade and still haven’t taken off. If politicians were really keen on preventing pollution, they would promote different clean alternatives like hydrogen or nuclear energy rather than following a single course of action.


Education – Shortage Fiction

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proposed $2.3 billion in retention bonuses for every teacher, caretaker, bus driver, administrator, aide and paraprofessional as part of her fiscal year 2023 budget. Whitmer is claiming the $2,000 bonus $ for each school worker, a key campaign pledge, as well as an additional $2,000 for each employee who returns to work at a school, is needed to make up for staffing shortages.

But his budget assertions do not hold water. The overall birth rate has been falling for years and plummeted during the 2008 global financial crisis. Although there are fewer children in school – many colleges are already reporting declining enrollment – ​​Whitmer says that teachers are working harder than ever and more instructors are needed.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an apolitical think tank in Midland, “there are 8.4% more public school employees in 2021-22 than in 2016-17, when allegations of school shortages teachers across the state have surfaced. There were 192,881 full-time equivalent positions in 2016-2017. This rose to 209,003 in 2021-22. Student enrollment, on the other hand, fell 5.8% during this period.

At the same time, even with additional staff, Michigan public schools continue to fail students. The state ranks 32nd in the nation in fourth-grade reading scores. Among black fourth-graders, Michigan is among the 10 worst states for reading performance. Rather than rewarding some allies over other state workers, the governor should follow through on his campaign promise to improve student outcomes.


Economics – Survival of the Smartest

As businesses and consumers adjust to high inflation caused by too much government spending and regulation, other warning lights go out. Slower economic growth, if not the likelihood of an outright recession by 2024, is forcing companies to scramble to generate profits during a period of low labor participation, supply chain delays and cybersecurity fears.

According to data from Gartner Inc., about 37 million people will leave their jobs this year, as part of the big shakeup that began in 2021. To attract and retain workers, companies have strengthened their workplace culture and offered higher salaries. Besides these headwinds, supply chain delays have been exasperated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s lockdown of key cities like Shanghai due to a zero COVID-19 policy.

To offset these challenges, businesses have embraced digital tools like never before. Consider that smart manufacturing adoption rates have jumped 50% in the past year, and more than two-thirds of equipment manufacturers have incorporated some aspect of the digital transformation known as Industry 4.0. .

Expect the digital revolution to continue as data from Statista shows the industrial robot market is expected to reach $100 billion this year, while the global smart manufacturing market will grow to $500 million in 2022 , more than triple the results of 2017. Today’s challenges, the takeaways for businesses are to focus more than ever on the bottom line, reward talent and continue to increase productivity.

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