This is only tangentially about motorcycles, and only in the sense that it points to how the world of the future will work. But it’s an important insight into our future. This NYTimes editorial by Thomas Friedman (author of “The World is Flat” and “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”) is about a new kind of car company called Better Place, based in Palo Alto, CA.

The revolution that Better Place is betting on isn’t in what they’re doing — electric cars — but in how they’re doing it. The company is taking the business model Apple Computer used to revolutionize the music business and applying it to green transportation.

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets — the first pilots were opened in Israel this week — plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.

Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T. That way Better Place, or any car company that partners with it, benefits from each mile you drive. G.M. sells cars. Better Place is selling mobility miles.

So what’s the motorcycle connection? Maybe it’s KTM and their Zero Emissions Bike or their patented hybrid, two-wheel-drive technology. It doesn’t appear to be the existing behemoths of the industry, including Honda, Harley-Davidson, or BMW.

But Friedman’s point is that, wherever it comes from, it will come. And probably sooner rather than later. As motorcyclists we should be prepared for what entirely new business models could mean to our pass-time, and to the political environment in which we exist. Greater access to quiet, green transportation will make our loud, smoking bikes even more of an outlier, and subject to even greater regulation.

We need to get our act together now, and figure out how to create a united effort to protect the rights we still have, while we still have them.

It takes approximately 150 million years for organic matter to become oil that we pump out of the ground. We all know the ramifications of this – finite oil supplies, ever-growing demand for a limited resource, economic upheaval as supplies dwindle in our energy-hungry world. We also know the basics of renewable energy – government subsidized ethanol production, rising corn (and food) prices, a lifetime, government-guaranteed annuity for ArcherDanielsMidland, etc. And the attendant problems of switching our vast base of petroleum-based engines to alcohol.

But what if we could reduce that 150-million-year cycle to three days? What if we could create, in that three days, a grade of crude oil that is as high, or higher, than any currently available bio-oil? An oil that is really oil, not an alcohol substitute for oil.

a startup company called brief video on how the algal biodiesel process works. Here’s a C-Net video on the broad applications of this algae-based oil.

Although algae-based oils have been discussed for decades, this is first time that a scalable, industrial-grade process for producing them has been developed. The implications for this, if it ultimately proves viable, are enormous. Paired with high-performance, clean diesel technology — such as that developed by Audi and Peugeot for their endurance racing teams — could significantly change the automotive landscape.

What about CO2 emissions? According to Solazyme:

The algal biodiesel fueling the car is made through Solazyme’s proprietary process for manufacturing high-value, functionally-tailored oils from algae. This process, which uses standard industrial fermentation equipment, yields a biofuel that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is biodegradable, nontoxic and safe.

That almost sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is. But it’s clear (at least to me) that the current approach to ethanol is not even a short-term solution. Trading food for driving is a dumb approach. It takes at least six months to grow a crop of corn for ethanol, then you have to break it down into its constituent parts to make the fuel, which basically wastes all the corn parts. With single-cell algae you don’t have to wait six months, and you don’t have to break it down nearly as much.

This isn’t a panacea. The algae has to be fed sugar to grow, and the sugar comes from corn syrup, sugar cane, wood chips, etc. So it’s still going to require some sort of organic matter. But it doesn’t have to be a primary food stock. This looks like something worth watching.