As I write this, the Olympics are at the halfway mark, the U.S. stock market has edged up just over 10,000, oil prices have dropped to $46 a barrel and the standoff in Iraq is coming to a head. It feels like the whole world is teetering at the edge, and we all have hope in our hearts and have our fingers crossed. If we can just make it through the next few days ... months ... without a terrorist-related catastrophe, we can handle anything else.
Unfortunately, regardless of how the immediate situation plays out, the oil shortage will not go away. Although the reality is somewhere between T. Boone Pickens' recent prognostication -- that worldwide oil production capacity will peak around 2008 -- and the optimists' projections of 40 years of unhampered growth, we all know we are dealing with a finite quantity. The growth curve in developing countries alone -- China and India, in particular -- will ensure that we meet our day of reckoning on oil sooner than we have anticipated.
We in composites are directly affected by high oil prices in more ways than most industries. Polymer resin is made from oil, and manufacturing both resins and fiber is energy intensive, pushing up the electric/gas bill. For the last decade, serious consideration has been given to developing alternative energy sources. Fortunately, many of the emerging solutions to the global oil problem will bring abundant benefit to the composites industry. Many use composite materials in a major way. Wind turbines, for example, are already commercially available. Others, such as hydrogen fuel, tidal turbines and wave-actuated power generators require further development to make them truly mainstream. Major companies are pouring R&D dollars into these projects, and high-priced oil/gas should accelerate the pace of development. In addition, governments are looking for ways to help alternative energy sources become commercially viable, faster.
With that in mind, we will publish in December our COMPOSITES IN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: A Design and Application Guide. This publication will be sent to appropriate individuals in the composites industry and to around 8,000 decisionmakers who design, evaluate and purchase power systems, including key global government personnel.
We in the industry know that good design, new and improved manufacturing technology and better materials have made composite products dependable and less expensive. In many applications, composites are not only the best material but also the most cost-effective. The Guide will explain the technical benefits of composite materials to individuals who may not know much about composites and also may be skeptical, based on the little they do know. This is an opportunity to do some pioneering for composite materials. We are writing the Guide now. If you would like to contribute technical or market information to this effort, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Guide's project editor, Sara Black (email@example.com). Industry suppliers interested in sponsoring the Guide should contact our global sales manager, Dirk Weed (firstname.lastname@example.org). For direct phone contact, dial (303) 467-1776).
Speaking of writing, we just had our annual Editorial Meeting, and the 2005 editorial calender will be published at our Web site in mid-September (www.compositesworld.com). Your contributions are sought here, as well. We're also looking for a senior writer (contact our managing editor, Mike Musselman, email@example.com). Composites design and manufacturing experience is required. (We've decided it's a lot easier to teach a composites professional how to write to our style than to teach a professional writer about composites.) Give us a call if you're interested.
As this goes to press, I'm on my way to Shanghai for the China Composites Show - and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.