What Do Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and the Energy Industry in America Have in Common?

They’re all going to be at the Energy Thought Summit.  What’s that?  Well, my friend, keep reading and you’ll find out.  (Maybe watch the video too.)

Energy Thought Summit (ETS) is happening this month in Austin, Texas.  On March 24th – 25th the energy industry is taking over the Paramount Theater for a two-day event that promises to be an excellent forum to discuss and debate the state and the future of energy.   This is an event I’m excited about.

ETS Launch Party

So, what was it about ETS that really sucked me in?  It wasn’t Darth Vader, Chewbacca, the Teslas car, or the game on the ETS site that is kind of addictive.  (Although neither of these hurt, at all.  Something tells me these guys like to have a good time.)  The speaker list did it.  Yes, I’m a bit of a geek and the opening keynote is Steve Wozniak…seriously, it is Steve Wozniak.  You know, the co-founder of Apple and chief scientist at Fusion-io? He helped develop the first computer I ever used!
It doesn’t stop there, though.  Envisioned and created by Zpryme, the company that brings us Smart Grid Insights, ETS has pulled together a speaker list with individuals on the cutting edge of the energy industry.  This event is geared toward the up and comers who will be leading us into the future of energy. Panels surround topics such as:

paramount-theatre-austin-texa

  • Utility Executive
  • Smart Grid Realization
  • EV
  • Game Changers
  • M2M
  • Cybersecruity
  • Big Data/Analytics
  • Utility of the Future
  • Smart Cities/Communities
  • Disruptive Technology
  • Smart Consumer/Home
  • Grid Edge Opportunities
  • Standards, Policies, and Emerging Business Models

With a goal of generating conversation around these topics, ETS has created an atmosphere of debate and discussion both offline and online.  Tickets have been released in three batches.  The initial two ticket releases have already sold out.  According to their website on March 17, 2014, only 103 tickets remained for the entire event.  So, you can still grab a ticket to this event to take part in the dialogue.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to rely on my colleagues’ notes of the panels they attend. (So, you guys better take some excellent notes for me!  I’m just saying.)

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

 

Travel, Topsides, and NAPE Expo

This week, I’m travelling the country.  Okay, so not the country, but Texas anyway.  I’m spending a couple of days in Galveston before I head up to Houston.  Believe you me, I am grateful for the relief from the cold, snowy weather engulfing my home state right now.  Give me 50’s over 20’s any day!

I’m here for the Topsides show being held at Moody Gardens before going back up to Houston for the Winter NAPE Expo.  These are two industry shows that I really enjoy.  The exhibitors and attendees always have great information to provide, and always friendly and willing to talk.  The Offshore Technology Conference that will be held at Houston’s Reliant Center in May is awesome, but with more than 100,000 attendees, sometimes it becomes challenging to have good conversations with people.

Today, I’ll be at Topsides with Dr. Scott Shemwell, the author of our report on SEMS regulations and an Integrity Management specialist (among other things).  We did a couple of webinars on the topic a couple of months ago, and you can check out the archives on Integrity Management: A Critical Issue in the Energy Industry here and Critical Issues in the Energy Industry here.  As always, please let me know if you have any questions for either myself or Dr. Shemwell.  This is the second year Scott and I have attended Topsides to talk with people about what’s happening in the industry, and every time I talk to that guy I learn something new.  (You know how it is when you get to spend time with really smart people.)  I’m sure tomorrow will be no exception.  Again, I’m always excited to meet readers in person, so if you’ll be there, let me know!

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the NAPE Expo in Houston at the George R Brown Convention Center.  Last year this event was a huge success, and I don’t just say that because I won an iPad. (although, that in and of itself would have convinced me to mark that show down as time well spent!).  PenWell and the Oil & Gas Journal will have a booth at the event, and I’ll be out and about on the show floor meeting new people.  Stop by and say hello.

Well, yesterday was a rainy morning in Galveston. Today, however is crystal clear, cool, and gorgeous. I am a happy camper.  Why?  I had a wonderful hotel room last night.  Normally, I wouldn’t be so excited by the mere existence of a hotel room, but I am especially grateful this time. As the plane’s doors were getting ready to close my phone rang.  It was the website I’d used to book my hotel room.  The hotel I’d booked more than a month in advance was overbooked, and they asked if this was a good time to talk about re-booking somewhere else.  Unfortunately, they frown on telephone conversations on planes.  When my plane landed, I called back and the helpful representative and I spent an hour looking for a comparable room in Houston.  That didn’t work.  I offered up Galveston as an alternative, since…I was working in Galveston this week too.  Finally, we got me set up with a place to lay my weary head.  That’s a little more drama than I care to find in my traveling, but it all ended up working out for the best.  I have a great room at a lovely historic hotel, my window faces the gulf and I can watch the waves, and I got to cut down my travel time for the next couple of days.  Now, if I can get the weather at home to cooperate and get me home on time….
‘Til next time,
Jessica

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Preparing for The Big Crew Change

The Big Crew Change has been a topic of conversation for…a while.  As the energy sector’s workforce gets closer to retirement, the discussion centers around ramping up recruiting efforts to enhance the workforce.  What about all the information and experience that is the current workforce’s legacy?  How do we pass that on to the incoming workforce?

PennEnergy suggests that site licenses from well-known industry publications may be a solution.  The Oil & Gas Journal is one such publication.  It has extensive history, horizontal content, accessible archives, and wide readership. (Bonus: I know a lot about this one because I work with their site license program.)

The Oil & Gas Journal’s first issue was released in 1902, and it has remained a leader in the industry.

Oil & Gas Journal presents news and technical articles and statistics about a specific, vitally important business to professional workers in that business.  It selects articles and facts within articles carefully in service to one standard: usefulness to the target audience.  It anticipates readers’ questions about the subjects and events it covers and pursues and reports answers, in as much operational detail as possible – Oil & Gas Journal Media Kit 2014

The weekly issues cover the depth and breadth of the oil & gas industry with content that appeals to a broad spectrum of oil & gas professionals across the globe. A Signet Ad Study done by the Oil & Gas Journal in July 2013 confirmed their readers include professionals from the following industries:

  • ProductionOGJ
  • Exploration
  • Drilling
  • Financial/Business
  • Gas Processing
  • Pipeline/Transportation
  • Refining
  • Petrochemical

For all of its extensive history, OGJ has adapted with the times.  Oil & Gas Journal is published 4-5 times monthly, and each issue is an interactive, online magazines delivered via email.  However, they haven’t abandoned the rich tradition of the print publication.  Each month there is a print magazine released, in addition to the digital edition,that is, on average, around 140 pages.  However the reader prefers to read their industry news, OGJ is ready to provide.  They even have mobile apps available.

As the current workforce gets closer to retirement, preserving and passing on that information and experience is vital, because while much about the oil & gas industry improves and changes, there is much that stays the same as well.  More than 100 years of covering the oil & gas industry’s news in technology, policy, and comprehensive statistical information, OGJ offers a legacy of rich information the incoming work force will need during this Big Crew Change.

A benefit of the site license program is that it offers their wealth of knowledge through easily accessible archives.  As of today, the magazine has digitized the content back to 1990.  Okay, so let’s do a little math (don’t worry, I used a calculator).  That’s 24 years of issues that are archived and available at the end of 2014.  That would be 1,248 issues of the Oil & Gas Journal are at the fingertips of every site license client.  All the technical information, statistics, surveys, and special reports are right there.

The special reports and features are chosen with great thought each quarter to ensure they are applicable to what is happening right now in the industry.  Some of those features include the Worldwide Refinery Survey, Worldwide Construction Projects, and US Pipeline Economics Study.  Industry experts and editors of the Oil & Gas Journal have contributed to PennEnergy Research’s webinar content.  Sr. Pipeline Editor Christ Smith spoke at a webinar with PennEnergy Research in September and Daniel Johnston who compiles the Complexity Analysis that goes with the refinery survey will be contributing to a webinar on January 28th.

Each site license client’s site license is customized to their needs, and can even include statistical tables and research from PennEnergy Research in addition to the content from the Oil & Gas Journal.  With a current client list of 42 companies including majors, super-majors, and national oil companies, the site license program has become a go-to resource for industry leaders.

Don’t just take my word for it, the Oil & Gas Journal is recognized by B-to-B Magazine as one of the Media Power 50.

Oil & Gas Journal assumes a leadership role within the oil and gas publishing arena through dominance in digital advancement.  It is with great confidence that the OGJ brand continually excels at extending media vehicles not only for readers, but also for advertisers to reach and target global audiences.

For this reason, OGJ received recognition in B-to-B Magazine as one of the Media Power 50 in May 2013.  OGJ is also the only publication within the oil and gas industry to gas such accreditation in 2013. – Oil & gas Journal Media Kit 2014

How does your company plan to handle the Big Crew Change?  Where do you get your industry information?

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

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Mars Rover 10 Year Anniversary

English: The MER B launch (launch of the secon...

English: The MER B launch (launch of the second Mars Exploration Rover, the Opportunity rover on July 7th 2003 at 11:18pm from Pad 17B, aboard a Delta II rocket at Cape Canaveral). More information and NASA direct video at http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail.cfm?mediaid=20237 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Can you believe that it has been 10 years since the Mars Rovers landed on the Red Planet?  Neither can I.  However, as a kid who had a dream of seeing earth from space, and watching Space Camp way too many times (Yes, I was very disappointed to discover that becoming and astronaut would require lots of *gasp* math.  There ended the dream of heading off into space one day.), I have kept an eye on NASA.   So when it popped up that they were celebrating 10 years since Mars Explorer Rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars…of course I had to check it out!

 

 

 

Last night NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA invited the public to an event for the Mars Exploration Rovers.  The California Institute of Technology’s Beckman Auditorium housed the festivities, admission was free, and entry was based on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

 

 

Mars Exploration Rover’s Spirit and Opportunity were launched by NASA in 2003, and landed weeks apart on The Red Planet in January 2004.  Their prime missions lasted only three months ending in April 2004, but they continued to perform extended missions for years.  Discoveries made by Spirit and Opportunity indicated that the Red Planet may have been favorable for supporting microbial life due to wet environments on ancient Mars.  A few days ago, Opportunity made another startling discovery, which Steve Squyres announced at the event last night.  A “mystery rock” appeared in front of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.  After reviewing pictures at that location from Opportunity’s panoramic camera showing just bare bedrock, the most recent picture shows a rock appearing.  Scientists at MER promptly named it “Pinnacle Island”

 

 

 

“It’s about the size of a jelly doughnut,” Squyres told Discovery News. “It was a total surprise, we were like ‘wait a second, that wasn’t there before, it can’t be right. Oh my god! It wasn’t there before!’ We were absolutely startled.” – Mystery Rock ‘Appears in Front of Mars Rover’, Discovery News, January 17, 2014, Ian O’Neill

 

Spirit's "postcard" view from the su...

Spirit’s “postcard” view from the summit of Husband Hill: a windswept plateau strewn with rocks, small exposures of outcrop, and sand dunes. The view is to the north, looking down upon the “Tennessee Valley”. This approximate true-color composite spans about 90 degrees and consists of eighteen frames captured by the rover’s panoramic camera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There’s lots of speculation as to how the rock came to be in the panoramic frame.  The most likely theory is that Opportunity executed a turn in place a meter or two from that rock, and, due to a failed actuator on the right front while, it caused enough disruption as it “chattered” to dislodge the rock.  However, other theories include a meteorite event that disturbed the rock.  At this point scientists can only guess.  The investigation will likely be ongoing for several days.  The dislodged rock offers a unique opportunity for study.  The overturned rock landed on its back, exposing a side of the rock that hasn’t seen Martian atmosphere for billions of years.  

 

 

 

Although Opportunity continues to transmit findings back to Earth, communications between Spirit and Earth stopped altogether in March 2010. Spirit became stuck in a sand pit and likely ran out of juice to continue transmitting.  Now it is just Opportunity and Curiosity, which landed in August 2012.

 

 

 

I love watching the Mars Curiosity landing.  The internet has made it so we can all share in some of these great moments in space exploration.   The landing video is out on YouTube, so whenever I get the hankering to see how far we’ve come, I can go there and check it out.  You don’t even have to go that far, you can just watch it below.

 

 

 

//www.youtube.com/embed/

 

 

 

Wow, just wow.  Every time I watch that, I get goosebumps.  Just think about it.  Humans have landed stuff on another planet…another planet.  Did I mention that there are pictures from things that we landed on another planet?  I get butterflies in my stomach every time I think about it.  What’s next? 

 

This event also had the unexpected benefit of making NASA more appealing to a younger generation.  The appearance of  “the mohawk guy” highlights what NASA is really made of, brilliant young people who want to push the boundaries.  He’s landed guest spots on shows and speaking at conventions such as San Diego’s Comic Con.  The guy even got to meet the President of the United States.  

 

There’s more information online about the Mars Exploration Program here.

 

 

 

‘Til next time,

 

 

 

Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Offshore Achievement Awards Finalists Announced

I love to see great talent and successes recognized across all industries.  Each year the offshore industry in the UK showcases the very best in talent and remarkable successes with the Offshore Achievement Awards.  The OAA’s are hosted and organized by the Society of Petroleum Engineers Aberdeen Section in conjunction with sponsor TAQA and yesterday (January 13, 2014) they announced the finalists.  The categories such as safety innovations, technology breakthroughs, and company successes are recognized in addition to individual achievements such as contribution to the offshore industry and collaborative working.

“The Offshore Achievement Awards once again highlight the pioneering work performed within the offshore oil and gas and renewables industry.  This year’s judges were extremely impressed by the talent that the UK industry has to offer,” said Ian Phillips.  Phillips is the director of energy business consultancy Pale Blue Dot Energy limited and the SPE Aberdeen board member who organizes the event. – PennEnergy.com  Oil & Gas: Finals Announced for Offshore Achievement Awards.

Offshore Achievement AwardThe ceremony will take place on March 20, 2014 at the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre with more than 500 industry professionals from across the United Kingdom expected to attend the event.  The OAA’s will be hosted by Sean Lock, a team captain on the popular comedy panel show “8 Out of 10 Cats” and one of the most highly acclaimed comedians in the UK.

The winners will take home unique trophies designed by Kayleigh Cumming’s of Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.  Her design “split sphere” was chosen in a student competition at the university.  Kayleigh’s “split sphere” design features the award details in a glass disc concealed between two hemispheres.

To find further information about the awards or to book a table at the ceremony, you can visit the SPE’ Offshore Achievement Award website

The finalists for the 2014 Offshore Achievement Awards are:

Export Achievement (sponsored by Saltire Energy)
EnerMech
EV
Tendeka

Safety Innovations (sponsored by Petrofac)
AMEC
Stork Technical Services – ERBAS
Viper Subsea

Emerging Technology (sponsored by Nexen)
Aubin Group
Guardian Global Technologies
Ocean Power Technologies

The Innovator (sponsored by BG Group)
Paradigm Flow Services
Tendeka
Viper Subsea

Great Small Company (sponsored by Wood Group PSN)
Accord Energy Solutions
Coretrax Technology
Viper Subsea

Great Large Company (sponsored by Offshore Europe Partnership)
DOF Subsea
Hydrasun
Wood Group

Working Together (sponsored by Aberdeen Business School)
Alba Power/ Petrologistics
Britannia Operator
The Underwater Centre

Young Professional (sponsored by Maersk Oil)
Liam O’Neil, AMEC
Duncan Chedburn, Maersk Oil
Raymond MacKenzie, Nexen Petroleum UK

Inspiring Leader (sponsored by DOF Subsea)
Doug Duguid, EnerMech
Steve Nicol, Halliburton
Trevor Jee, Jee

Environmentalist (sponsored by AMEC)
Cape Environmental Services Offshore
Stork Technical Services
TWMA

Significant Achievement (sponsored by Aker Solutions) will be announced on the evening.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

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Pipeline Explosion Rocks Creek County, Oklahoma

Monday morning an explosion at a natural gas pipeline near Milfay, Oklahoma cut off gas services to several homes in the midst of the polar vortex sweeping the country.  Fortunately no one was hurt in the explosion of the 26-inch pipeline operated by Tulsa, OK based ONEOK, but investigators are still unsure about the cause of the blast.  A resident of nearby Depew saw the explosion.

Theresa McKinzie was tending to her horses near Depew when she saw a massive fireball.

She described it as shooting about 10-15 hundred feet in the air before collapsing.

“Then a few seconds following, there was a very large boom, shook everything, rattled the car everything else,” McKinzie said. – Pipeline Explosion Causes Large Fire Near Milfay, January 6, 2014 5:47PM, NewsOn6 Richard Clark and Ashlei King

ONEOK quickly turned off the gas flow, and the fire was out within the hour. But pipeline officials were forced to wait for the pipeline to cool before completing the investigation and beginning repairs to the gas pipeline.  Although no structures were damaged by the flames, natural gas service to several homes was cut off.  Temporary service is being arranged for those families.

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Train Derailment in North Dakota Sends a Fireball Skyrocketing

Monday, a mile-long train carrying crude oil derailed near Casselton, ND, sending a fireball skyrocketing and plumes of black smoke filling the air.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in the explosion, but concern over toxic fumes from the smoke has prompted authorities to call for an evacuation of the town.

As darkness fell, the fire was still so intense that investigators couldn’t get close enough to count the number of cars ablaze, but an estimate put that number at 10.  With temperatures below zero, the heat radiating from the blaze could be felt at least half a mile away.

Hannah Linnard, 13, said she was in the bedroom of her friend’s house about half a mile from the derailment, wrapping late Christmas presents.

“I looked out the window and all of a sudden the train car tipped over and the whole thing was engulfed in flames and it just exploded.  The oil car tipped over onto the grain car,” she said.  Hannah said she could feel the warmth even inside the house. – Huffington Post, Train Derailment Causes Fiery Destruction In Casselton, ND, Dave Koplack, 12/30/13, 9:54PM EST

The North Dakota Department of Health warned that exposure to the burning oil could cause a variety of symptoms including: shortness of breath, coughing and itching and watery eyes.  People suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema in the vicinity were urged to minimize outdoor activity.

Ed McConnell said early Tuesday that most residents heeded the recommendation to evacuate their homes to avoid the strong winds predicted to shift blowing potentially hazardous smoke toward the town overnight. With forecasts predicting one of the coldest nights of the year, residents were urged to relocate to a shelter at Discovery Middle School in Fargo, about 25 miles away, rather than sleep in their cars.

The rail tracks run straight through the middle of Casselton, a town of 2,400 people about 25 miles west of Fargo.  McConnell estimated that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailment had happened within city limits. ABC News, Mayor: ND Town Dodged a Bullet in Crude Explosion, Dave Kolpack, 12/31/2013 (AP)

According to Oil & Gas Journal statistics, North Dakota produced 242,486,000 barrels of oil in 2012, and a good portion of the production is transported by rail. United States Crude Oil Production By State – Annual, PennEnergy Research.  The number of crude oil carloads has seen a dramatic increase since 2009 as activity in the Bakken continues.

 

What do the Explorer, Photobombs, and The Atlantic Have to Do With a Work Trip to Houston?

This week, I was in Houston for work.  On the way home, I decided that I didn’t want to read my books, because…reasons.  The point is I picked up the December issue of The Atlantic.  Typically, I don’t read many magazines.  However, lately I’d heard/read this title quite a bit.  Late night flight, short attention span, sounds like time for a magazine to me!  Settled into my aisle seat, I open the cover and start reading.  Before page 24, I’m hooked.  On page 24, I’m searching for the subscription card.  Why?  “Photobomb: A New Data-Recording Device for First Responders” by Eleanor Smith.

The Atlantic does this “By Design” thing, this issue featured a rubberized ball, but this not just any rubberized ball.  This is designed with SWAT and military units in mind.  These teams have used fiber-optic cameras, robotics, and other such tools to figure out what’s happening in dicey situations.  Now, this technology is expensive, technically complex, and requires quite a bit of training, which puts it out of the running for a lot of cops, firefighters, and search-and-rescue teams.

The Explorer by Bounce Imaging, www.bounceimaging.com

The Explorer by Bounce Imaging, http://www.bounceimaging.com

Boston start-up company, Bounce Imaging, has developed this thing called the Explorer in the hopes of a solution to the problem.  Their device is roughly the size of a baseball, and contains six cameras, a microphone, and interchangeable sensors inside.  Where current solutions to discover the precise nature of a situation are not-so-easy to use, the Explorer is intuitive and requires minimal training.  To use it, the user pushes a button and tosses the device toward the target area.  As it bounces, rolls, and spins, the cameras take a picture every half a second.  It uses near-infrared lights, invisible to the human eye, as a flash.  All these images are relayed back to a mobile device synchronized to the Explorer and stitches them together into a cohesive panoramic view.  It doesn’t stop there, it also takes the temperature of the room, transmits a live audio feed, and additional information from up to two sensors.  The additional sensors include options like carbon monoxide, explosive gases, and radiation.  Now, unlike the robotics or fiber-optic cameras currently used in similar situations, the Explorer isn’t something that you can manipulate remotely.  However, you get the feedback for up to 15 minutes.

The creators designed this to be an inexpensive, dispensable solution.  Testing for this crafty little ball is scheduled to commence with a Boston SWAT team, a police unit in Revere, MA, a prison response team in Maine, and the MIT campus police.  Okay, so the MIT campus police threw me for a minute, (Sing with me!  One of this things is not like the others…)but think about it, students with those kind of skills?  There are some friends I wouldn’t leave alone in a hardware store for fear of what they would concoct…Francisco Aguilar and David Young, designers and founders of Bounce Imaging, would know all about the students at MIT.  Aguilar and Young both have MBA’s from MIT Sloan School of Management, or they may have just gotten MBA’s at MIT Sloan School of Management and have connections there…Personally, I prefer my first hypothesis.

The team at Bounce Imaging was nominated for the Popular Science Invention Award in May.  Their article shed some light on the conception of this little thing.

After an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, search-and-rescue teams descended upon Port-au-Prince to look for survivors. Francisco Aguilar, a graduate student in public policy at the time, was shocked to read stories about crews relying on complex, expensive imaging systems. “Only a few teams had them, and you had to be really well trained to use them,” Aguilar says. He soon launched a start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to develop a simple way to explore hard-to-reach places: a throwable, expendable, baseball-size probe. – Gregory Mone, Popular Science, 2013 Invention Awards: Smart Ball, May 10, 2013

Details also did a piece on their throwable reconnaissance device.

So, how does this relate to the energy sector?  The Explorer can be adapted for complex tasks like industrial inspection.  The impact this can have on refineries, gas processing plants, pipelines, etc. is going to be worth keeping an eye on.  Can you imagine the possibilities?  Well, I can.  I slipped off to sleep in my aisle seat on the airplane and dreamed about bouncing balls taking pictures and recording helpful information like…Hmm…Well, like so many dreams those ideas got left behind when I woke up.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

Inspiring Tomorrow’s Engineers

One of the things I love about the readers of Energy Girl 101 (yes, that would be you) is that you send me links to things I might be interested in reading about.  So far, you’ve been right!  Keep it up!  Recently, I got an email suggesting I check out a new toy company, GoldieBlox.  Now whether I was sent this because of my irrepressible love of LEGOs and building things or because I think the world needs more women in STEM fields, I don’t know. However, both are true.

So what is GoldieBlox?  Let me start off by saying that I’m not associated with GoldieBlox in any way.  After reading their story and checking out their site, I am a fan of the idea.

This is a company designing construction toys for girls.  Now you may be thinking that there are plenty of building toys out there.  You’ve got LEGOs, Gears, Lincoln Logs, Magformers, K’NEX… What makes these special?  Other construction toys take the same toys designed with boys in mind and turn them pink.  As the creator of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling says, “Girls do like pink.  I think there’s a lot more to us than that.”  She’s right, you know.  You are allowed to like pink and want to build stuff.  

 

During her research into the things that would make a construction toy appeal to girls, she discovered that “Boys like to build.  Girls like to read.”  What Debbie has done is create a line of construction toys and paired it with a book series.  As the story moves along, kids get to build what’s in the book, right along with Goldie.  In Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine, Goldie builds a machine to help her dog chase his tail. She builds a belt drive.  After reading that on their website, I had a moment of “oh right, that’s what a belt drive is”.  Showing little girls this and telling them what it’s called is kind of awesome in and of itself.

GoldieBlox’s wildly popular YouTube video shows girls taking their tea sets, pink feathered boas, and other toys from “the pink aisle” and turning them into a giant Rube Goldberg machine.  What I love best about this video is that it takes the Beastie Boys Girls which is…well, you know the song.  It isn’t exactly about empowering girls.  GoldieBlox flips it on its head and these lyrics are all about “girl power.”

 

 

English: Shelves with pink girls toys, Canada 2011

English: Shelves with pink girls toys, Canada 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Why do we need something like this?  Let’s face the facts.  Women are underrepresented in the fields of engineering, technology, science, and math.  This isn’t new information.

 

At the Offshore Technology Conference in May 2013, the CEO of Petrobras, Maria das Gracas Silva Foster, commented on the number of women in the energy industry during her WISE Women’s talk.  Even finding statistics on the number of women in the energy sector is a challenge. There are some numbers I dug up from 2007 released by World Petroleum Council.   At that time only 12% of Exxon executives were female.  That number was up from 9% in 2000.  According to CNN Money, Exxon Mobil has more than 99,000 employees. The number of technical recruits in the industry that are women was 20%.  The number is growing, but many of the number are in positions such as human resources, communications, law, and finance.  The industry falls in line with numbers from the Association for Women in Science.

 

According to the Association for Women in Science, women only represent 24% of the STEM workforce.  The reasons for women dropping out of the STEM workforce is telling.

 

 

Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling’s story is a perfect example of why this issue needs to be addressed.  This Stanford educated engineer had no idea what engineering was until high school.  Her math teacher suggested it as a college major for her.  When she gave it a shot, she was bothered by how few women were in her program.  Now obsessed with the notion of “disrupting the pink aisle”, she designed a toy to introduce girls to engineering at a young age.

 

Building games for girls to inspire future engineers

At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building.  We’re here to help level the playing field in every sense of the phrase.  By tapping into girls’ strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spacial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering, and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation.  Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys’ toys”.  By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, we aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generations of female engineers. We believe there are a million girls out there who are engineers.  They just might not know it yet.  We think GoldieBlox can show them the way. – GoldieBlox website

 

Is it a good toy?  I don’t know.  I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet.  Is it a good concept?  Abso-freaking-lutely.

 

This is what I know.  When my niece was younger, finding toys that didn’t pander to the philosophy that the only things girls want to make are fashion accessories was a huge challenge.  Heading down “the pink aisle” in the stores drove me nuts.  Yes, I’ve got it, all little girls are princesses…I turned to the toy section with chemistry sets and science oriented toys. I came up with kits to make slime and catch bugs. Let me tell you, friends, my niece is not a slime kind of girl. LEGOs? Well, at the time, all of them were definitely designed with boys in mind.  Firemen, policemen, cars, cities, spaceships…is it okay for girls to like this stuff?  Sure!  However, my niece was definitely into pink and anything that was considered “for girls”, and the responses ranged from “eeeww” to “that’s for boys”.  She wanted toys made for girls, and I wanted to show her that she was so much more than just a pretty pink princess. Because it isn’t enough to tell little girls they can change the world. We need to show them too.

 

 

 

 

‘Til Next Time,

 

Jessica

 

 

 

What’s Going On with America’s Gasoline?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal for changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on Friday, November 15, 2013.  The proposal attempts to find the precarious balance between encouraging growth in the biofuels sector and blending more ethanol than some engines can handle safely.

The Renewable Fuel Standard passed in 2007, and, in recent years, the production of biofuels has rapidly increased.  However, gasoline demand did not meet expectations after RFS passed.  The EPA said in a statement, “We are now at the ‘E10 blend wall,’ the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol.  If gasoline demand continues to decline, as currently forecast, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require great use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85.”  EPA 2014 RFS Proposal: Industries and Environmentalists React, Conway Irwin, Breaking Energy, November 18, 2013

This proposal decreases the targets for advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel than what is laid out in the Clean Air Act.

Screen shot 2013-11-15 at 4.42.27 PM

Source: EPA

This proposal is viewed as a victory, albeit a conditional one, by refiners.  They say it doesn’t go far enough.  However, it is perceived as a step back in efforts to achieve US energy security and emissions goals by biofuels and environmental groups.

The American Petroleum Institute’s president and chief executive, Jack Gerard expresses concern for American consumers and the reality of cellulosic biofuels, while lauding the EPA’s acknowledgement of the blend wall.

“EPA has acknowledged that the blend wall is a dangerous reality and that breaching it would serious impacts on America’s fuel supply and would be harmful for American consumers.

“While the agency took a step in the right direction, more must be done to ensure Americans have the choice of ethanol-free gasoline for boats and small engines, and to bring their mandates closer to reality on cellulosic biofuels, which do not exist in commercial quantities.

“Congress must protect consumers by repealing this outdated and unworkable program once and for all.” EPA 2014 RFS Proposal: Industries and Environmentalists React, Conway Irwin, Breaking Energy, November 18, 2013

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association’s North American Representative, Leticia Phillips expresses her disappointment that the RFS proposal minimizes the sugarcane ethanol Brazil is prepared to export to the US, and views the decreases as a step back.

“Slashing the 2014 target for advanced biofuels would be a huge step backwards from the Obama administration’s goal of decreasing greenhouse gases and improving energy security.”

“We are surprised and disappointed that EPA’s proposal minimizes the 650-800 million gallons of sugarcane ethanol Brazil is poised to supply to the United States in 2014.” EPA 2014 RFS Proposal: Industries and Environmentalists React, Conway Irwin, Breaking Energy, November 18, 2013

Other groups weigh in on the issue as well.

Novozymes President, Americas Adam Monroe

“The Renewable Fuel Standard was signed into law to break OPEC’s effects on the nation: high oil and gasoline prices, American dollars going offshore and environmental consequences our grandchildren will endure.”

“We cannot put oil’s interests before the nation’s needs. Blending more renewable fuel means more savings for consumers at the pump.”  EPA 2014 RFS Proposal: Industries and Environmentalists React, Conway Irwin, Breaking Energy, November 18, 2013

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM):

“EPA’s recognition of the blendwall and the potential adverse effects on consumers is a welcome step, however greater reductions in the biofuel mandate are necessary if consumers are to avoid all the detrimental impacts of the statute.”

“EPA’s actions can only be short-term in nature and point to the need for Congress to work quickly in addressing the severely flawed and totally outdated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA 2014 RFS Proposal: Industries and Environmentalists React, Conway Irwin, Breaking Energy, November 18, 2013

The creators of the Solar Schools project, the Natural Resources Defense Council recognizes the depth and complications inherent in the issue. “There is no denying that the bulk of today’s conventional corn ethanol carries grave risks to the climate, wildlife, waterways, and food security,” said NRDC’s Franz Matzner in a recent blog post . “It is equally true that as a nation we need low carbon, sustainable biofuels to combat climate change and break our addiction to oil.” 

“…developing sustainable, next generation biofuels is complicated.  It’s technically and economically challenging and it’s not going to happen without ongoing course corrections to ensure the explicit goal of the Renewable Fuel Standard is met—namely to move the country away from polluting fuels like gasoline and today’s corn ethanol and toward sustainable, low-carbon alternatives.” Putting Renewable Fuels Back on Track, Franz Matzner

This isn’t an issue of black and white, do or do not.  When the RFS passed in 2007 it set goals for biofuel usage. (36 billion gallons of biofuel, including 22 billion gallons of non-corn biofuel) Putting Renewable Fuels Back on Track, Franz Matzner.  The provisions for the EPA to make ongoing adjustments were Congress’s recognition of the obstacles that would need to be overcome to reach these goals.  No matter which side you come down on, the EPA appears to be following those directives.

Ultimately, to achieve the goals of the RFS, the key will be expanding next generation fuels that can use a diversity of feedstocks guided by a smart set of policies that protect our biodiversity, food and feed supplies, and climate.  To hit the mark, the biofuels program must not require more consumption of a given feedstock than the environment can comfortably support.  Putting Renewable Fuels Back on Track, Franz Matzner

As in most complex issues, there is no easy fix or solution.  That precarious balance has to be maintained, adjustments will have to be made, and a realistic view of the current situation is crucial.  Does this provide that balance?  Is this a step backward?  Does it go far enough?

‘Til next time,

Jessica