2015-volt-1024x381 1180

In 1985 when Doc and Marty McFly powered up the Mr Fusion Home Energy Reactor in Back To The Future they travelled forward 30 years in time using household waste and nuclear fusion.

Little could they have imagined the reality – that by 2016 the world would be seriously contemplating the end of oil and the emergence of brand new energy technologies.

Castro Xi 1180

Back in January I wrote here that the Chinese are stealing a march on the US, and everybody else, in building trade relations with Cuba.

“In the coming years Cuba is set to become one the fastest growing economies, and it’s a mere 90 miles form the US coast.  It’s madness that the US is not moving to secure this economic miracle for itself, with both hands.”

I predicted that tourism and trade would grown even faster than the so called experts predict.

And lo it has come to pass!  If these numbers are not a wake up call to dozy Uncle Sam I’d be astonished.

Money Lane 1180

Breaking news over the weekend in the Sunday papers – the UK’s going to let ordinary citizens in fracking areas reap a share of the proceeds.

It happens in the US, where there’s been a massive energy and economic revival thanks to shale.  Why shouldn’t it happen here? Families could be in line for tens of thousands of pounds.

There’s potentially hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas, and hundreds of billions of barrels of oil, sitting right under the UK.  The country desperately needs an energy bonanza and to stand on her own two feet economically. Mark my word, a country without energy security will eventually be another’s slave.

Cuba 1180

So it’s been a year since Cuba and the US restored diplomatic ties.  The US is trying hard to re-engage and Cuba is listening. But until the embargo is properly lifted, the diplomatic winter is not going to turn into a nice Cuban summer.

The country is coming in from the cold and the US flag flies again outside its embassy.  There’s still no US ambassador yet though.  Obama hasn’t appointed one, and in the meantime the post is filled by an interim Chargé d’Affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

Since ties were restored in July last year, Obama has lifted a number of trade and travel restrictions using the President’s executive authority.

Right now, tourism is technically still illegal under the terms of the US embargo.  The rollback of restrictions allows 12 exemptions to the ban, all under the banner of ‘purposeful travel’.  So medical travel, religious travel, or cultural tourism are all allowed.

Back in 1987 BP, one of the great global oil majors, found oil at the base of the Surrey Hills just outside the M25.  The nodding donkeys at the Brockham X1 oil well have been quietly pumping Portland oil for the UK economy for 14 years now.

But did they miss something?  I think so.

Brockham X1 is a deep well. Nearly 7,000 feet. BP drilled straight through the the Kimmeridge limestones that were the secret to this year’s spectacular success at Horse Hill, only five miles away near Gatwick Airport.

Horse Hill was fondly nicknamed the “Gatwick gusher.”  That’s pretty accurate because it really did gush.

Nearly 1,700 barrels of Britain’s finest black gold gushed to surface at Horse Hill. Open up the choke to full bore and it’s anyone’s guess what it would have gushed. The biggest oil hit for a single well in British onshore history.

At 41 API, it’s an even better brew than North Sea Brent at 38 API. That means (for the non oil folk amongst us) better quality and better price.

And it wasn’t just BP who may have missed the potential of this extraordinary deposit.  That other global major Esso actually drilled not one but two wells at Horse Hill in the 1960’s and didn’t realise the potential of the Kimmeridge limestones either. They never even tested the limestones!

Cock up?  Or conspiracy?  There is indeed an argument for both.

Volkswagen 1180

So, Volkswagen is building a Tesla style gigafactory to mass produce lithium batteries. And they’re investing €11bn, 3 times as much as the Tesla Panasonic behemoth in Nevada.

This massive story, sourced authoritatively from Handelsblatt, Germany’s version of the FT, might be the news that draws a line under one of the sorriest tales of modern times.

The VW emissions scandal wasn’t simply about duping its car customers.  Although you’d be mightily peeved if you’d spent all that money on a clean motor, only to discover it was a dirty polluting banger after all.

The real scandal was the gross manipulation of the entire European car market by corrupt EU bureaucrats and lobbyists.

This is how the scam worked, and thank you to the brilliant Dan Hannan MEP for explaining how these EU lobbying scams work.

There are 25,000 lobbyists in Brussels.  (yes you read that correctly – 25 thousand!)

One such group representing the European auto industry spotted a chance to get one over on their US and Asian rivals.  Under the pretence of reducing CO2 emissions by 15% – they skilfully lobbied Brussels to adopt standards favouring the diesel engine.

Diesel had almost died out – having lived up to its reputation as dirty and polluting.

But then in 1998 one Neil Kinnock, the (unelected) EU Transport Commissioner, proudly trumpeted a new set of emissions standards favouring diesel.

It didn’t take long for the entire European car fleet to be transformed from mainly petrol to mainly diesel.

Did anybody mention that diesel produces four times as much deadly nitrous oxide as petrol?  Nah – inconvenient truth.

Or that diesel produces 22 times as many tiny particulates that penetrate people’s hearts, lungs and brains?

So in order to line the pockets of the Euro carmakers, the unelected EU bureaucrats, and the parasitic lobbyists, in cahoots, polluted our cities and consigned men, women, and children, old and young alike, to terrible health risks.  In the US alone the MIT has estimated 60 premature deaths.  The figure will be significantly higher in Europe when all is said and done.

In a way VW’s behaviour is understandable (don’t get me wrong I’m not condoning it!)  But it acted in a way that sought commercial advantage and worked under the rules prescribed by Brussels.  The real scandal in my view is the corrosive and corrupting influence of Brussels in this whole saga.

VW has such a long way to go to rebuild trust.  The company now faces massive lawsuits around the world.

But a concerted effort into EVs, and a serious effort to develop and deploy battery technology into their vehicles is the right answer.

CEO Matthias Mueller reckons it’ll take VW two years to recover its ‘shine’.  Lithium battery technology will help them do it.

I reckon it’ll take a bit longer than that.  But if VW is serious in its intent, if it explains what it’s doing and why, and if it can prove that it’s turned over a new leaf, the company has a fighting chance.

VW last week still reported figures that would be the envy of most automakers. The German carmaker made a profit before tax of €3.2bn (£2.4bn) in the three months to March, down from nearly €4bn a year earlier. Revenues were down 3.4% to a mere €51bn.

With VW’s colossal financial horsepower and serious “kick arse” bold moves into lithium battery Gigafactories, and its desire to win the EV car race, it will be a serious global force to reckon with.

There’s nothing like a crisis to focus corporate minds.

Sitting on Germany’s door step is Europe’s biggest lithium deposit at the old mining town of Cinovec in the Czech Republic. There’s reportedly 5.7 million tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (that’s technical jargon) already drilled up on the German boarder, with another 3-5 million more tonnes of the stuff to still be drilled up.

That’s $10’s of billions of the magic white Lithium stuff sitting at VW’s feet. Wouldn’t that be an interesting tie up? VW is going to need a hell of a lot of it to fill an €11bn battery factory.

But all in all, VW has been the reluctant victim of the undemocratic, unaccountable and corrupting practices of these unelected EU bureaucrats.  Time for VW to shine!

Electric Car

It’s been a long time coming but electric vehicles – EVs – will soon reach a tipping point and start to overtake petrol cars.   But for that to happen a great leap forward is needed in range and battery technology.

The race is on.

In January this year we heard a slew of announcements about forthcoming EVs.  Every car maker is jumping onto the EV bandwagon.  GM announced the Chevrolet Bolt, rolling off the production line in 2017.  Nissan has announced the Gen II Leaf which we’ll see in 2018.  And Ford are working on the Model E which I expect in 2019.

And that’s not to mention the ludicrously brilliant Tesla range already in production.

But the problem remains – range.  200 miles (the current de facto standard) is simply not good enough.  Those in the business refer to ‘range anxiety’, that dreaded feeling you get when you don’t know whether you’ll make it to the next charging station before you run out of juice.

Loon 1180

I always enjoy reading Matt Ridley in the Times.

Lord Ridley, as he is correctly known, is a clear headed-thinker on science, the economy and the environment.  He’s well known as a promoter of shale gas and fracking.  In fact he was one of the first people to draw attention to the importance of shale gas, saying in 2011 “shale gas will undoubtedly prove to be a significant new force in the world energy scene, with far-reaching consequences.”

Today in the paper he’s talking about broadband and the countryside.  The government has just decided to halt the rollout of superfast broadband to the last 5% of the population.  Big deal?  His Lordship certainly thinks so.

Boris Island 1180

Apart from the fact that Gatwick Airport is floating on a mega pool of oil (at Horse Hill 1.2 miles away) bold and visionary thinking is urgently required by the UK Government on airport expansion.

Before it’s too late.

Armstrong 1180

I’m extremely proud that Lenigas Cuba has been announced as one of Britain’s top 100 companies in Mishcon De Reya’s Leap 100 award for high growth companies.

It’s called The Leap after President John F Kennedy announced in 1961 that an American would walk on the moon within a decade.  That audacious ambition was realised in the Summer of 1969 when Neil Armstrong announced “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The award was set up to shine a light on those companies that can demonstrate bold and audacious vision and the ability to make it happen.

Of course it’s a great honour.  In particular it gives recognition the dedicated and hard working team in Cuba, and in London, who have made Lenigas Cuba the dynamic and fast-growing business that it is today.

We’re the first specialist investment company in the world to focus on Cuba. And so far we have invested in five Cuba-based companies.

Lenigas Cuba is interested in tourism, accommodation, infrastructure, transport, commercial and residential property, technology, communications, manufacturing, retail, services, leisure, agricultural and natural resources.  We’ve already done a lot of deals in Cuba and are looking at many more. And there’s no doubt in my mind that as one of the last frontier markets, Cuba’s potential is extraordinary.

But the reason I think The Leap is so important is that it brings together like-minded companies, founders, and CEOs – the very best of British technology, leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Companies totally committed to growth and dynamism.

Leap is a fantastic network and Leap companies are companies to watch.  I shall enjoy getting to know them all during 2016.

 

 

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