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Publisher's Blog

Gerry Woolf

Kristallnacht for lead-acid?


I’m fondly remembering the days when BCI’s convention was there for my amusement, or so it seemed— the ‘early bird’ attendee prize draw for $100 handed out by the amazing Ann Noll.

She did virtually all the organisation back stage, but now Smith Bucklin send seven helpers. The jog-a-thon (which I never attended) has slipped into history.  Dick Amistadi’s 5-year forecast on SLI (no change there then)… must have been a mild winter… The paper hand-outs (there’s now an App for that). And the far-flung locations for what was a conference based around a golf tournament. It was a ‘hoot’ and a peaceful world for lead… or so you thought… Battery Council International seemed almost an anachronistic event in an industry spoiled for choice in terms of events and trade shows.

Now it’s looking a little bit more serious. For the lead industry, it’s beginning to look like Kristallnacht—November 9, 1938, where, in Germany, almost 200 synagogues were destroyed, over 8,000 Jewish shops were looted, and tens of thousands of Jews were removed to concentration camps. Now some of you will say I’ve gone too far here. To them I say wake up and smell the coffee.

The point I’m making is that the writing was on the wall for Germany’s Jews for several years before Kristallnacht and the smart ones left, probably without their assets, but they got to keep their lives.

There’s a parallel here with the lead industry, the legislative and technology threats are existential now— and they’ve been there for a while— they’ve also been ignored.

Lithium is advancing on price and function, so much so it could replace lead. Legal bans will tip things over the edge, to— let’s be frank— destruction of the industry. And BCI’s speakers, like Ray Kubis were showing where that process is happening.

This year, we saw how America’s lead community are going to fight back— through social media, Facebook and the like (or should I say “likes”?) Making videos that rally the troops in your plants and telling the great unwashed that lead batteries are doing sterling service, (essential energy everyday?) backing up the internet and powering forklifts— is probably a wasted effort.

The great unwashed have no clue about how their smartphone works or what chemistry powers it. To the many, it’s almost magic— they’re nothing like the 11-year-old science prodigy who ‘wowed’ BCI attendees and whose grounding in chemistry could wipe the floor with some of your greatest and best trained.

To stop what Ray Kubis virtually called “the insanity of trying to outlaw lead”, you almost need “regime change”— certainly in Europe, where the misinformed are making catastrophic decisions that might echo around the globe.

You just have to hit and take out the few so-called decision makers with the best lobbying a $60 billion dollar industry can afford and can muster.

I fear the industry is running, like so many Bison, into REACH, the end of life vehicle directive and California’s own special measures. Don’t let Ray’s forecast come true. The world needs this industry more than some of you need the work and the jobs it creates.

Savannah 2015— the verdict

Well, BCI sure has gone digital— the only analogue service was Ann Noll and her ‘ring out your dead’ bell. I remember Michael Mayer of ELBC fame in a similar role but that’s another story.

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The editor’s take

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