Liquid crystal displays, military camouflage objects, industrial trucks, coal extraction devices, thin film magnetic heads, conductive resin compositions, semiconductor devices, cryptographic schemes, ultrasonic probes, medicine capsules, karaoke devices, automatic vending machines, multilingual information devices for vehicles.
These are randomly selected titles of Japanese and German patent applications that I have been translating recently. They cover many fields, but there is one field in which there does not seem to be any need for my expert services, namely the field of renewable energy. Candidate Obama made a lot of promises about green energy during his campaign and it worked like magic. I saw a lot of young people standing in line for hours in front of a local church here to vote on election day in 2008. Most of them voted for Obama, as did my son who was voting for the first time in his life.
But the only thing that president Obama actually did about green energy was fire Van Jones from his position of “green energy czar” (what a stupid name, why can’t they call them “advisors” instead of “czars”?), the only person in Obama’s White House who was in in fact trying to do something about green energy.
I can only think of one somewhat large translation project in the last few years that dealt with renewable energy. About two years ago I was translating a short book, about twenty thousand words, about wind power plants and solar power generating plants in various prefectures in Japan, including Fukuoka prefecture. I remember that the conclusion of one chapter from that book was the major problem with wind and solar energy is that unlike energy from fossil fuels, wind and solar energy fluctuates greatly over time. You cannot predict with accuracy when winds will be blowing and sun will be shining in Fukuoka. (Nuclear energy, on the other hand, is perfectly predictable).
One would think that inventors would love to keep trying to find new solutions to this problem. But as I said, this is one field in which nobody seems to need my expert translation services, presumably because there are no patents to be translated in this field.
I see on German and French TV that they are actually trying to do something about renewable energy in Europe. They are generating much more energy from wind on per capita basis in Germany, for instance, than here in the US. They are shutting down nuclear plants and they keep talking on German talk shows about switching from nuclear energy to renewable sources. They call it “aussteigen” in German (as in “aus der Kernergie aussteigen”), which to me always meant getting off a train. Well, it does not look like we are getting off the train of dead and deadly energy any time soon here in this country.
I live in Virginia, which is a Southern state where the summer lasts more or less from the end of April until mid September. Winters are mild to nonexistent here, at least compared to winters I remember from my childhood in Central Europe, but I spend hundreds of dollars every month to cool my house during Virginia’s long, humid summers. How much would it cost to offer solar panels on the roof as an option to buyers of new houses in the so called Sunbelt here in Southern United States to capture this enormous amount of energy? Why is something like that not an option that would be available for every new house?
It would make perfect sense. I am pretty sure that this kind of an additional investment of the house owner would pay for itself within a few years. But of course, the power companies would lose a lot of revenues if it were an option. They own coal and nuclear reactors, so they can set the rates for the power that they supply to homes like mine and I have to pay them.
They don’t own the wind and the sun, at least not yet, which may be one reason why nobody asked me recently to translate a patent about solar panels or wind or ocean energy.
At least for now, it seems that getting off the deadly train is not an option.