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CPBJ Blog Extras

What the future may hold

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Show of hands: Who thought they'd have a hover board or flying car by now?

Yeah, I guess all of us, right? Eh, we Americans can be starry-eyed dreamers.

But it's a little different when you're staring at some part of the future just over the horizon. In some respects, the Japanese are better dreamers. Even hovercraft are not all that distant into their future.

Central Japan Railway Co. is testing magnetic levitation trains and outlining its plans for the trains to connect Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027. We're still arguing whether it's good use of public money to fix bridges. Yeah, advantage Japan.

Here's another look into the future. Except this one is where natural gas is the savior of the transportation fuel industry. Another large gas and convenience store company is expanding the number of locations that will carry liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

On Wednesday, TravelCenters of America CEO Tom O'Brien said he had a special place in his heart and mind for natural gas at the Great Lakes Truck Expo. TravelCenters and oil company Shell had earlier this year announced they will add LNG fueling and repair stations to about 100 TA and Petro stations across the country.

Considering TravelCenters' competitor Pilot Flying J is doing the same, I guess we can strike a win for competition. Advantage LNG.

I see a cloudy future for biofuels production. Whenever you look at this industry, you sort of feel like you're watching a boxing match through a bottle of diluted milk. You can see what's going on, but before you know it, you're too close and taking a stray punch to the eye.

Biofuels got a black eye this week when federal authorities announced they were making arrests of people tied to E-Biofuels, an Indiana company, for tax and securities fraud, saying the company cheated victims out of $100 million. Ouch.

It seems, in this case, taxpayers lost economic development money, customers of the biodiesel refinery didn't get what they paid for, and a fuels manufacturing industry with potential got a major black eye. Advantage no one.

Here's one that will melt your heart like it was made of milk chocolate. Or maybe not, depending on how much you know about child labor, health and economic conditions in West Africa. They're not always good.

However, Dauphin County-based chocolate and candy giant The Hershey Co. and cocoa commodities company Barry Callebaut announced a partnership to build a primary school in the Ivory Coast. It will provide education, health and nutritional services to 150 children in rural cocoa farming villages.

The companies are also building a community and farmer training center there. Advantage to the children of the Ivory Coast. But the good will of a few companies is a small thing after decades of war, disease and exploitation in West Africa.

Speaking of looking outside the Western world for corporate futures, industrial manufacturer Johnson Controls Inc. is planning for a new China headquarters in Shanghai.

No one can ignore the future. For many companies, much of that future resides outside the U.S. and requires improving the fortunes of people who have been exploited by the West for centuries. For others, it's about new thinking here at home.

The question is, will you take advantage of those opportunities?

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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