October 2008

Automation by the Numbers


The automation, control, and instrumentation technologies that operate on oil rigs and offshore platforms around the world are formidable. As debate escalates, opponents of offshore energy exploration will try to convince people it will damage the environment. However, facts simply do not support their assertions. Energy exploration uses state-of-the-art science and tools to identify and extract oil and natural gas from beneath the seabed. The 3,000 offshore platforms in the paths of hurricanes Katrina and Rita survived, and no significant spills resulted. A U.S. Minerals Management Service report found "the environmental record of the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) program has been outstanding. There has not been a significant platform spill in the last 35 years."


Brazil is one of the world's most rapidly growing auto markets. Car sales soared 30.4% on year to 1.7 million vehicles in the first seven months of the year, and they will probably end up 24% on year to 3.06 million vehicles for all of 2008, according to the Brazilian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association.


Tesla Motors sells a high performance, electric roadster that costs $109,000 but operates for a couple of cents a mile. Tesla's engineers have wired together 6,831 small, cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells to deliver the power that accounts for the car's impressive acceleration and the energy storage that enables a driving range of more than 200 miles. Lithium-ion cells store far more energy than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in other gas-electric hybrids. However, they can be tricky to work with, and in rare cases, manufacturing defects cause them to catch fire without warning. A liquid cooling system in the Roadster's battery pack removes heat so rapidly that the combustion of one bad cell cannot set off the rest.


Of all the international stock indexes InTech magazine tracks, only Venezuela's Caracas General is up so far this year. Its year to date (YTD) percentage change is +5.3. Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil revenues, which account for roughly 90% of export earnings, more than 50% of the federal budget revenues, and around 30% of GDP. China's DJ CBN China 600 index is -52.7% YTD, the Euro zone is -23.2%, the DJ World Index is -15.5%, Canada is -5.3% YTD, and the U.S. DJIA is -12.1% YTD.

Nicholas Sheble (nsheble@isa.org) writes and edits Automation Update.