In 10 Years, We’ll Be Mining Asteroids for Minerals


According to NASA, the mineral wealth found in the asteroid belt equals out to the equivalent of just about 100 billion dollars for every person on Earth today. That’s a lot of wealth, but more importantly, that’s a lot of resources .

If you aren’t aware, getting materials from planet Earth to outer space takes an extravagant amount of fuel, and that means an extravagant amount of money. To that end, by acquiring raw materials from space itself, we could develop a host of space structures (such as colonies or space stations) and even generate rocket fuel, which will ultimately be needed if we ever hope to explore and colonize our solar system in a way that is economically viable.

As Planetary Resources CEO Chris Lewicki asserts, “Whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the materials that we build things with, or ultimately, of course, the food that we eat…all of these things are available to us on this planet, but when we head into space, we have to bring all of it with us. That of course, isn’t very scalable.”

And to that end, NASA states that, in the 21st century, space exploration will be reliant upon what we can mine in the cosmos, “The metals and minerals found on asteroids will provide the raw materials for space structures, and comets will become the watering holes and gas stations for interplanetary spacecraft.”

A host of governments and private companies are already working on asteroid mining projects. Luxembourg recently established a €220 million fund for space mining projects; the United States signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law, which recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources. Private companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have a number of technologies in production to help humanity mine the cosmos.

“People think that this is something that will be a century away, or maybe something that their grandkids might see,” Lewicki asserts, “but people already doing this. We already have two spacecrafts in orbit around asteroids, and in the first half of the 2020s, we anticipate that we will Planetary Resources will be touching on the surface of the nearest asteroid and extracting the first really demonstrable amount of asteroid resources on site.”

That’s 10 years until we’re mining our first asteroid. Of course, there are a lot of things that need to happen in order for this ten-year timeframe to be met, but we are well on our way.

The first concern is establishing clear regulations regarding asteroid mining. For example, who really owns asteroids, anyways? Can anyone just venture space with a flag and stake a claim?

Lewicki notes that, while such regulations will take some time to fully flesh out, we are already taking steps to cement laws regarding commercial operations in space: “The United States government has taken up this matter for the last couple of years, seeing how this industry was developing very rapidly. They created the first framework that identifies how we will deal with property rights, regulation, and ownership of things that are developed and obtained in space.”

This is the Commercial Space Competitiveness Launch Act, and other nations are already launching similar initiatives. The United States has led this, and now we’re seeing other countries, and other space programs, follow suit. Earlier this spring, the United Arab Emirates and their newly established space program described their intent to establish some policy related to space resources and space mining, and just last week, the deputy prime minister and the prime minister of Luxembourg announced a very large initiative that the country there is starting, and we’re collaborating with them in that activity, and they are going to form a new space policy which helps create a framework that supports the development of the industry.

Another concern with asteroid mining is getting to the asteroids. A great number of the asteroids in our solar system exist in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. That’s about 204 million miles. For comparison, the Moon is 238,000 miles away from Earth. Fortunately, we may not have to go quite that far in order to get to find viable asteroids for mining.

“Asteroids are actually the most accessible destinations once you go out of low-Earth orbit, and a lot of people aren’t aware of that. They think of asteroids as something between Mars and Jupiter, and that’s very, very far away. But that’s the great benefit of the near-Earth asteroids. There are now 14,000 that have already been discovered, and a few thousand of those actually are far easier to make the journey to-and-from.”

What do you think, would you invest in asteroid mining?


The Apple Energy Move


Last week, Apple created a new business unit called Apple Energy. Apple has been buying renewable energy to power its facilities using an instrument called an REC. (Renewable Energy Credit) Essentially, the idea with RECs is that renewable energy, bought by Apple and put into the grid in one place, is used by an Apple facility or store from the grid in another. Because the contribution of renewable energy and usage of energy match, the net is that Apple’s energy usage is logically renewable-sourced. And Apple has been buying a lot of renewable energy. So much so, that Apple is a mini-utility for clean energy. Why do that?


Well, for one, given the volume of clean energy it purchases, Apple can fairly claim itself as a sustainability leader to its customers and employees. Many of both constituencies are millenials, a group particularly focused on buying from and working for companies that act responsibly from an environmental perspective. So, there’s an argument to be made that Apple Energy is simply a smart marketing move to capture hearts of Millennial customers. That’s fantastic and frankly necessary for Apple anyway. But, it’s not the important take-away.


My theory is that it’s about service + product combos. Think about what Apple started in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone. Apple added massive value on both sides of the communication network and created a revolution… without needing to own the delivery network. Apple launched the iPhone on the consumer side of the network and the AppStore (and other services) on the Apple side of the network. AT&T sat in between.

With Apple Energy, Apple may be creating a renewable energy service on one side of the Enernet and matching that to new devices on the consumer side of the network. Devices like smart home tech, batteries and energy appliances that pair with Apple’s renewable energy and differentiate themselves as dynamic energy devices, powered by clean tech.

Depending on how that’s done that could be a transformative moment for energy. Imagine new devices from Apple in their HomeKit suite… Apple’s versions of Nest, Sonos, Sense, Powerwall, and Chargepoint, all with the option to be powered by renewable energy. How? Apple sells you a sexy product with the “guaranteed carbon free” energy as an add-on through it’s renewable energy service. This would be similar to how Tesla bundles in its SuperCharging network for its S and X models. Speaking of which…


It’s no secret that Apple is working on a car. If you believe that’s true, then Apple Energy is a logical move. It’s a place to house R&D into battery tech and EV charging products, and procurement of renewable energy for the fleet of energy devices necessary to support iAutos on the Enernet. It could also be a place, for now, to house some development around its automotive product.

Assuming Apple does launch a car, it’ll need charging stations, for home and community, and a lot of them. If the approach is anything like Apple’s charging philosophy for its phones, Apple will design a custom connector with innovative features that folks never imagined from a “cord”… like a guarantee that the electrons passing through it are green. Apple Energy could house all that.

If it’s not evident by now, I’m impressed by Apple and the Apple Energy move. If I’m right, it’s a massively strategic move for Apple, one that demonstrates leadership and vision. Assuming Apple is successful, the move may also portend a coming, Apple-led shift in products and how businesses and consumers think about energy.

3 Awesome Things Just Happened to Space Endeavors

Everyone is interested in the unknown and now, Space is getting closer, more promising and more attainable.

  1. President Obama signed the Asteroid Resource Law

This legislation allows for private ownership of Asteroid and space resources. Why would we want to own them? Over the past 15 years, large populations of asteroids that are very close to Earth have been discovered. Okay, so what? Well, they are resource-rich in fuels like hydrogen and oxygen, construction madownload (3)terials like nickel, iron and cobalt and platinum group metals like platinum, palladium and osmium. These asteroids are worth trillions of dollars and now private companies can mine, own and sell materials taken off of them – plus they are a lot closer than the moon. This is the new gold rush!

  1. Bezos & Musk’s Race for Reusable Spaceships

Building reusable rockets is the key to low-cost space travel. The day before Thanksgiving, Jeff Bezos’ company – Blue Origin launched their New Shepard rocket into space and landed it vertically back on Earth, with the ability to refuel and launch again. However, SpaceX has already demonstrated this, reaching near orbital velocities. New Shepard only made it to sub-orbitals with a maximum velocity of Mach 3. Even though this race to space is a bit of a frenzy, there is a growing commitment of private capital by billionaires to open the space frontier.

  1. We Found Water on Mars

NASA recently announced that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars. They identified hydrated minerals with patterns unique to flowing water with an imaging spectrometer. I am hoping that in our next mission to Mars in 2020, we will discover that life exists there now.

Elon Musk’s primary stated purpose in creating SpaceX is to help colonize Mars, to “make humanity a multi-planetary species.” More specifically, two years ago hdownload (2)e announced more concrete objectives to provide a roundtrip price of $500,000 per person to Mars within the next 15 years.

The rate of this progress is accelerating. With growing access to large sums of private risk capital, and powerful exponential technologies, there is little that we can’t try. This is the age of incredible progress, where ideas once considered science fiction are now becoming science fact. What can you see happening in the next 5, 10 or 20 years?

Climate Aid…or Not?

One of the big words this week in Paris is “climate aid.” There is a big push from climate focused NGOs to convince rich countries to spend quite a fortune to help poor countries adjust to global warming. This catch-all term includes money given for global warming education, solar panels, adaptation and anything else that can be linked to global warming.


There have already been results, too. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has taken a look at 70% of the total global development aid. They found that about one quarter of that money goes towards climate-related aid.

This week, Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull pledged to divert $1 billion of Australian development aid to climate aid. In October, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President pledged a one third increase in the bank’s direct climate related financing. This will bring the bank’s annual total to an estimated $29 billion by 2020. A month earlier, the Chinese President, Xi Jinping pledged to match President Obama’s pledge of $3 billion in aid to the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund. The United Kingdom is using $8.0 billion of it’s overseas aid budget for climate-related aid over the next five years. France is promising $5.6 billion annually by 2020, which is an increase from $3.4 billion today.

The goal is for all of their pledges to add up to $100 billion a year. This was decided at the Copenhagen climate summit six years ago. Even though Rachel Kyte, the World Bank vice president told the Guardian newspaper that this figure “was picked out of the air at Copenhagen.” However, this arbitrary goal has become fundamental to all. The only problem is that the climate aid money isn’t new. It is being drawn from existing aid and development funds. Public health, education and economic development are being sacrificed.

During an online survey by the United Nations, eight million people ranked what matters most to them. “Action taken on climate change” came in last place. The question that we have to ask is if this is aid or self indulgence. Green energy sources would be good to keep on a light or charge a cell phone, but they are useless for tackling the main challenge’s that the world’s poor face.

I believe that investing directly in agricultural research and better farming technologies would help the world’s poor much, much better than solar panels would. What do you think?

Is A Water War Coming?


Over 70% of the planet’s surface is covered by water. There are also other forms of water such as ice and gas. The volume of water on the Earth has remained almost constant for more than a billion years at 344 million cubic miles. We could say that water is everywhere…so why do we constantly hear about impending shortages? To start off, 97.5% of the water on the Earth is in the ocean, which means that it is salty and not fit for our consumption. An interesting way to visualize this is if all the planet’s water filled a one-gallon container, we would only be able to consume less than a teaspoon of it.

The Earth is always recycling the water we use. However, we’re stressing the system by not allowing it enough time to replace the growing amounts that we demand. Can we make new water? Our galaxy is actually creating new water molecules all the time, but it is happening far from our planet and it is not possible to transport it here, yet. There certainly isn’t a clear solution and the demand for water is predicted to exceed supply by 40% by 2030.

On top of plants, animals and humans consuming all of the freshwater, climate change is further limiting our supply. The demand is primarily driven by agriculture, accounting for 90% of freshwater use every single year. The same forces that are driving demand for food – a global population boom and increasing preferences for animal protein are placing unsustainable pressure on water supplies.

Climate change and food-driven water demand are creating a disastrous problem that could shock global stability. We have already been seeing sever water shortages on a regular basis. According to the Nature Conservancy, 1 in 4 large cities are “water stressed.” In 2008, Barcelona came within days of running out of water and was forced to import a tanker of drinking water. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in water stressed conditions.

Now, water wars are on the horizon. Last September, the US National Intelligence Strategy released highlights in elevated potential for water scarcity to generate instability. In 2012, a US intelligence community report on Global Water Security warned that “During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems—shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important US policy objectives.”

Pakistan already has an ongoing dispute with India over access to water – radicals have called for “water jihad.” New Delhi is also fearful that a new Chinese dam project in Tibet will be used to restrict water supplies to Northern India. In March, Ethiopia neared conflict over the construction of a dam that could have limited Egyptian and Sudanese access to water. There is a similar disagreement over a Tajikistani dam that could restrict water access tin Uzbekistan. These are just a few of the tensions over water….so when will the global water happen?

Climate Change and Poverty Go Hand in Hand

“Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate.”

– The World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim


The changing of the world’s climate has been an important topic for the past decade. We have seen some horrific natural disasters and watched destroyed countries and cities try to recover from the results. The fact is that climate change is already preventing people from poverty.

The World Bank Group released a new report that claims there could be more than 100 million additional people in poverty by 2030. That is, unless we can rapidly develop climate-smart and emission-reduction developments. The report, “Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty” will be presented at the international climate conference later this year.

Ultimately, the report discovers that poor people are already at high risk from climate-related shocks. Like what? Think about results of crop failures from reduced rainfall, spikes in food prices after these extreme weather events and increased incidences of diseases after heat waves and floods. These tough shocks wipe out hard-won gains and lead to irreversible losses that are driving people back into poverty, especially in Africa and South Asia.

The World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim has said, “This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions.”

The report shows information proving that the poorest people are more exposed to climate-related shocks like floods, droughts and heat waves than the average population. They lose much more of their wealth when they are hit.

Of the 52 countries that could be surveyed, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where poor people are more exposed to drought than the average.

One analysis of 20 developing countries showed that collecting and redistributing energy taxes would benefit poor people despite higher energy prices, with the bottom 20 percent of the population experiencing a net $13 gain for each $100 of additional tax. Well-designed emissions-reductions programs that strengthen the productivity of agriculture and protect ecosystems could benefit 20-50 million low-income households by 2030 through payments for ecosystem services.

This report was perfectly timed to gather enough attention on how the climate affects the poor before negotiators father in Paris for the international climate talks. I hope that the find to end poverty and slow down climate change can be achieved if they are addressed together. The number of people in poverty is only going to increase and their living situations are going to become worse and worse. Let’s put actions into our development work now.

How To Connect More Users

Even though mobile phones are almost global, only about 12 percent of people in emerging economies have data connection. What is even more surprising is that 4.3 billion people still do not have access to the Internet.

These unconnected people are living in countries that have underdeveloped economies with digital infrastructure that is lacking as well. However, there is huge growth potential if there could only be connectivity. I believe that with the right ICT and strong policies that are in support of innovation and fair competition, these countries can connect their people to the rest of the word and narrow the digital divide.

download (2)Most importantly, a broadband infrastructure with wider coverage and faster speeds must be developed. These countries need to see that broadband is the critical foundation of national infrastructure that will only increase economic growth and raise the standard of living.

One way that the infrastructure could be built is by Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Malaysia has already done this – regulators created a framework that ensured competition with equal access. The result? The cost of digital entry for citizens was decreased, fostering innovation and competition among service providers – very successful, in my opinion.

While these networks are being launched, telecom operators need to keep costs low. They could do this by sharing optical fiber and infrastructure with power and utility companies. When you take a look at the deployment cost, burying the fiber optic cables and conduits underground is usually 40 percent, but can be up to 70 percent of the total cost. These high costs make the Internet access more expensive to its end users.

There should also be new mechanisms for allocating radio spectrum that can increase supply while also reducing the cost. This is actually a very important issue because most of these countries will have to increase their available spectrum (the basis for high-speed mobile broadband) from 50 to 100 percent over the next five years.


Something else that would help are the development of more applications to aid their lifestyle. Apps are what drive the demand for connectivity and create new business models. M-KOPA for example, allows Kenyan households with no electricity to purchase their very own solar power system and make daily micro-payments. If the government can create a level playing field that lets entrepreneurs to devise new solutions without having to worry about monopolistic competitors or too much regulation, there could be great benefits to local users.

It will take governments, operators, technology providers and application developers, but we can connect everyone in the world and we will.

Gas Discovery in Egypt – A Major Disruptor

natural gas field

The Italian energy giant, Eni says that is the “largest ever” natural gas field, located in the Mediterranean inside Egypt’s territorial waters. In an area of about 100 square kilometers, there could be as much as 850 billion cubic meters of lean gas. This means that there could be 5.5 billion barrels of oil located there. It could potentially be one of the world’s largest natural gas finds and meet Egypt’s own natural gas demands for decades to come.

Eni is the biggest foreign energy firm in Africa. In June, it signed an energy exploration deal with Egypt to allow them to explore the areas of Sinai, the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean and the Nile Delta.

This is a huge game changer for Egypt whose natural gas production had fallen 16 percent from two years ago and exports have decreased almost 70 percent since 2009. However, their domestic energy consumption has only been rising – over 50 percent for the past decade.

It seems that this supergiant gas discovery in Egypt is a huge wake up to Israel. By delaying the final approval of the gas outline and not moving forward with exploration, they are missing out on opportunities.

Noble Energy and Delek Group has been negotiating long term contracts for years to sell gas to customers in years, but they have always been help up by regulatory uncertainly from Israel. Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu have been trying to get approval of an agreement that was reached with Noble and Delek to help speed up the development of most of Israel’s offshore reserves.

Israel isn’t the only country that is uneasy over the discovery. Back in March, Russia’s Gazprom and Egypt’s Egyptian Natural Gas holding Company signed a 5-year LNG supply deal, the first of which was already received. The deal will continue to be fulfilled, but an extension – not likely.

Russia has little care for if Germany or China meets their demand needs, just as long as they are met. Recently, Russia has been eyeing North Africa – Egypt with its growing oil and gas consumption and domestic production decreasing. However, now Russia’s long-term market has vanished with this discovery.

Let’s remember, gas exports from Egypt will not explode any time soon. The year 2020 is the optimistic target. No matter when, it will be an amusing change to the oil and gas field.

Explosion in Tianjin – Will China Learn?

On August 12th 2015, a series of explosions occurred at a container storage station. The blast consisted of two separate explosions that went off within 30 seconds of each other at a facility in the Port of Tianjin. Fires continued to burn throughout the weekend, causing a series of secondary explosions. The latest count of confirmed deaths is 114 people with as many as 80 people missing, mainly consisting of firefighters. There were 5,600 inhabitants that lived within 1km of the plant – the explosive blast and burns injured over 700 of them.

The cause? Government sources have identified three chemicals that were stored at the site that may have contributed to the explosion: ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate, and calcium carbide. In particular, ammonium nitrate can explode when heated over 400 degrees Fahrenheit – it was used in the Oklahoma City terrorist bombings.

Over 700 tons of the highly toxic sodium cyanide was stored at the site. That is 70 times the legal limit. The chemical has been detected in the sewers. The local authorities have ordered the evacuation of residents living within 3 km of the explosion site. That means that over 6,000 people are now displaced in various temporary shelters.


Many point that this is just another example of the dangers of Chinese industry. Lax safety procedures and oversight are blamed for the deaths of the victims, sending toxic fumes into the air, creating another threat to deal with.

President Xi Jinping told authorities to learn from the “extremely profound” lessons of the accident. The only problem is that it has all been said and done before, yet the accidents keep occurring. For example, in 2014, 68,061 people died on the job in China. However, the numbers of deaths do seem to be reclining. Work accidents in industrial, mining and commercial sectors has gone down 12.9% since the previous year. Though, the number of Chinese residents that fall victim, especially to toxic contamination continues the same.

It is known that producers cut regulation corners and countless examples of constructing plants and beginning production before a project has been approved. In April, there was an paraxylene explosion at a factory in Zhangzhou – the second to occur in the past two years. In 2013, over 100 workers died when there was a fire at a poultry plant in Dehui. Many died because of narrow exits and locked doors.

Regulations set by the State Administration of Work Safety say that facilities over 550 quare meters that contain and handle dangerous chemicals must be at least one kilometer from public buildings and facilities. That did not happen in Tianjin and the locals are asking why, why hasn’t the Chinese government done more to protect them?

Hopefully the Tianjin blast will be the last example and a turnaround point for China.

Enough Oil to Make a Country Completely Self-Reliant

The price for oil has fallen at a somewhat rapid pace over the past seven months, causing the Energy sector to take quite a hit in revenue. That said, there is no denying the multitude of benefits to both consumers and many businesses. Consumers are able to save more money. Businesses are experiencing lower energy costs and realizing an increase in their profits, thus paving the way for governments to benefit from more taxes being paid. This also could open the floor up to M&A opportunities for some companies.

There is no denying that the underlying cause in the declining prices is partly due to the struggling economic growth, which in turn reduces the demand. But the other obvious factor is self-production and that’s what has benefited the US.  For nearly four years, oil prices around the world have held at about $110 a barrel. Both Brent and US crude oil have fallen below $50 a barrel which is a first since May 2009. The supply from America is up roughly four million barrels a day, since 2009. This increased supply, coupled with banned crude exports and plummeted American imports, has contributed to an overwhelming glut on world markets.

The interesting side of it is that many exporting countries have decided against curbing their production, as a means to keep prices high. Many would argue, however, that this might not be such a wise move. The increased American supply is no doubt largely attributed to innovative techniques for fracking and drilling. Shale production methods that are flexible undoubtedly make it easily responsive to price changes. All this coming together would indicate continuous gains in productivity, with no definitive end in sight.

Crude Oil - Barrel price. Reuters

Crude Oil – Barrel price. Reuters

Though major exporters have remained steadfast on their refusal to cut supplies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) monthly report says continued US production and falling prices could finally force their hand. “On the face of it, the oil price appears to be stabilizing. What a precarious balance it is, however,” the report said. “Behind the facade of stability, the rebalancing triggered by the price collapse has yet to run its course, and it might be overly optimistic to expect it to proceed smoothly.”

The real question remains to be can the US become self-sufficient in the midst of the oil debate? Though a simple question, the answer isn’t quite as easy. Yes, the US is testing their oil storage capacities to the limit. Yes, there is a clear line of connection between the falling prices and the boost in the economy. But the reality is that the trend of increased daily barrel production would have to continue for the next decade for the US to become energy self-sufficient. Though a very ideal situation, it might be fair to say that the optimism far outweighs the reality.