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Steve Wisdom

6/2/2005
A Splendid Example of the Alacrity of the Invisible Hand, by Steve Wisdom

In the new FIA magazine, the Adventurer gives a (mostly pro-forma) interview, but adds a new (?) rationale as to why he predicts the commodity bull market will last for decades (perhaps an homage to Chair's critique?). His gist of his claim is it takes a really long time for supply/demand to adjust to price changes. He uses the example of opening new lead mines, think of all the NIMBY problems & etc.

On the other side of the coin, here's an example of the marketplace quietly, invisibly reducing demand for a costly commodity, fuel: Volvo has a new propulsion system called IPS out for large'ish boats that's essentially a stern-drive with the lower unit "turned around" so the prop end is forward. It's mounted like an inboard, but runs much more fuel-efficiently than a normal inboard, because the prop is in front, "biting on clean water" rather than on aerated water already disturbed by the lower-unit. So it grabs better and transfers power more effectively.

But anyone with a boat is thinking: "Whoa, what about prop-dings! With the prop in front of the lower-unit, it's undefended. Holy cow!" And this is true. But.. with gasoline expensive, it's worth enduring more smashed props each season in return for burning much less fuel. The economics "work" with expensive gas. (Add also, perhaps, the capital expense of extra motor(s) for limp-home use, given the more vulnerable prop).

Prize Package - Tiara Sovran 4000

Built explicitly for Volvo Penta's revolutionary new IPS proplusion system (.. )

My curiosity was intense because this boat had been built entirely around Volvo Penta's radically new Inboard Performance System (IPS) - a diesel propulsion package whose drives mount beneath the boat, rather than on its transom, and whose four Duoprop propellers face forward rather than aft. The concept is revolutionary. I was about to witness the application.

Volvo's IPS pulls a boat rather than pushing it. It attacks the water head-on, at the most efficient angle possible. Turning the wheel rotates the drives (16 degrees each way), eliminating the need for rudders and providing exceptional maneuverability. IPS drives deliver more speed, more miles per gallon and cleaner, quieter operation than conventional diesel inboards. (.. )