Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2011 Predictions Revisited

About 2/3 Accurate

The Tarot | The Tower
 ~ A year ago I took a stab at predictions for 2011. Seems like I've run out of time waiting for most of them to come to pass, so it's time for a report card, using a scale of 1 (utterly wrong) to 10 (perfectly prescient):

  1. Federal energy policy will go nowhere. This wasn't a tough call. Party-first partisanship, no compromise and outright distortions (e.g. Solyndra) ruled. Grade: 10
  2. More scientists defend science against demagoguery. A release of hacked climate emails right before COP-17 wasn't a full reprise of the phony scandal of two years ago. Journalists did a better job this time, as did the Union of Concerned Scientists and the courts in Virginia. Scientific organizations, however, didn't do as much as they could or should have. Policy is still made based on political contributions rather than sound science. Grade: 4
  3. Politicians of both parties will embrace natural gas as the solution to our energy problems. Another no-brainer, although the source, fracking, remains controversial. Development of shale gas hasn't accelerated as quickly as I had thought, but the political framing of the supposed wonders of fracking continues apace. Concerns about groundwater and aquifer contamination are routinely pooh-poohed. The EPA says it plans to increase fracking oversight but how much remains unclear. The price of gas has gone up slightly, at least for consumers. Grade: 6
  4. Environmental concerns will be sacrificed on the altar of supposed economic necessity. Regulations and environmental concerns have been under sustained and vehement attack, especially in the oil and gas area. Policies favoring the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and offshore drilling have all advanced by making the environment secondary to their supposed job benefits. Obama over-rode the EPA and the advice of scientists on ozone regulations. Lisa Jackson has hung in, to my great surprise, but energy and climate advisor Carol Browner resigned instead. Grade: 9
  5. Small-scale, decentralized and distributed energy generation technologies will continue to gain traction. They have in many places, and are poised to grow more as manufacturers offer equipment, but did not really break out in 2011. Grade: 4
  6. Energy efficiency activity will decline. It has, largely, but there has been some progress too. The stimulus funding for efficiency has peaked, and Congressional Republicans thwarted or rolled back efficiency initiatives. Grade: 6
  7. Consumers will continue to care little about green. They like the idea of green, but the passion isn't there to materially change spending habits or company behaviors where price still rules. BP abandoned solar energy and everyone shrugged.Grade: 7.
  8. Demand for natural resources will create imbalances. Overall, commodity prices for metals headed up early in the year, but finished lower as the overall economic doldrums continued to exert a demand drag. Rare earth elements followed this pattern as well. Prices are down despite increasing restrictions on Chinese supply, due in large part to more manufacturing that requires them moving to China. Grade: 2.
  9. Venture investment will continue to shrink. It did overall. The concentration of investments increased, and became disproportionate in later-stage and follow-on deals. Seed stage and early stage continues to struggle for funding unless they are in a small group of preferred sectors (software, wireless) characterized by low capital equipment needs. Grade: 8.
  10. Unemployment will remain high. Signs of improvement as the year drew to a close, but even the official figure remains higher than usual this late in a recovery from recession. The hidden unemployed are also very numerous. The nature of work is changing, and conventional unemployment measures do not fully capture how much available labor is under-utilized. Grade: 9.
  11. Entrepreneurial activity in Africa grows. I think it has, but cannot find any evidence of any large movement. Grade: 2.
  12. China will continue its economic ascendancy. Thus far, China has done well, and its economy continues to grow strongly, although change is on the near-term horizon. More manufacturing has been chasing access to resources in return for giving up its IP. No riots against the Chinese anywhere that I heard, but Chinese economic strength has certainly stoked nationalistic and xenophobic tendencies, if not racist ones. Grade: 8.
  13. Government transparency diminishes. The Occupy Movement has brought much needed attention to the behind-the-scenes reality of US governance and the capture of politicians by corporations. The enactment of laws that increase government's ability to monitor and eavesdrop, while decreasing the outside scrutiny (e.g. by the courts) further erode the ability of the public to know what its government is doing. Grade: 10.
  14. Oil will rise to over $120/BBL, and gasoline to over $4/gallon. Gas broke $4/gallon several times, but oil only got over $110/BBL. There was a brief dip in prices in September, but prices finished slightly higher at the end of the year than when it started. Prices moved slowly all year for the most part, leading to public amnesia over our long energy crisis, and a continued erosion of support for renewable energy. Grade: 6.
  15. Waste-to-energy and bioenergy will grow. I saw a lot more startups and inventions in this area as part of my consulting practice, and the subject was much more visible at conferences. I expect a lot more activity in the coming year. Grade: 9.
  16. The smart grid continues to make little progress. Another easy prediction. Without strong federal support, nearly impossible in today's political environment, the smart grid will not be built. Grade: 10.
Obviously my newness at predictions shows. Rather a mixed bag of outcomes, but a perhaps respectable average score of 6 7/8. Room for improvement, so I'll make some new predictions for the coming year tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment