In April, the U.S. secretaries of commerce and energy took a trip to China, bringing with them representatives from more than 20 U.S. companies that are considered leaders in green technology and business. Some of those companies were giants — GE, Honeywell, Qualcomm and Lockheed Martin.
With them was Tim Tangredi, CEO of Dais Analytic Corp., a clean air and water company of about 30 employees in Odessa.
The trip was designed to help Chinese businesses link with U.S. companies that can help fight the effects of climate change.
Tangredi, 59, moved his company from New York to Pasco County in 1998, lured by $1.2 million in tax breaks and assistance.
To clean water, Dais uses a proprietary plastic membrane to separate water molecules from pollutants and toxins, which Tangredi said renders the water nearly 1,000 times cleaner than the World Health Organization requires for drinking. The company also uses nanotechnology to remove moisture and heat from air, taking the pressure off cooling systems and saving energy.
In 2009, the company announced a $200 million deal to deliver air filtration systems and a wastewater treatment plant in China, which the company predicted could bring up to 1,000 jobs to Pasco by this year. That hasn't happened, Tangredi said, as plans were slowed by the recession.
A good chunk of the company's business remains in China, a factor in Dais' inclusion in the April trip with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
Tangredi was recently on another business trip to China, where he answered questions by phone about his company's activities there and how people's acceptance of climate change is progressing in the United States.
Why is so much of your business in China? I understand you take about 20 trips there a year.
Last year it was 27. Risk profile is what it boils down to. The risk profile in China for water and energy — the things that we are doing — is much lower because the need is so much higher. And everything is … super-sized. It's eye-opening. But it's starting to catch on in the U.S. We're starting to work with some large companies in the U.S. But the risk profile still is high and it's a different mindset.
How much of your business do you do in China?
Last year was about a quarter of it. This year it will be the majority of it. And I see the out years where it will start to pick up in North America simply because things are changing.
How does Dais play into those changes?
There's something called the water energy nexus. And it's really simple: If you want more energy you need water; and if you want more water you need more energy. But here's the thing: Nobody is making any more water. There's a finite amount. The technology we've developed … you're able to take from a steel plant for instance … highly acidic water that people have been handing off to the municipality, to their waste water treatment centers and they (are) being fined because it's got so much acid in it. We're able to clean that water so they can reuse it as opposed to every day sucking in another 50,000 or 500,000 or 5 million gallons.
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How does China compare to the United States when it comes to embracing clean energy and the reality of climate change?
Look, I'm not a scientist and I'm not somebody who is an ardent environmentalist. All I know is that something is changing, and if you have the ability to do something about it, I think the smart business says you do that. Again, I go back to the risk profile, and I'll say that China's recognition of the fact that ''wait a minute, we don't have the resources we need to take care of this 1.4 billion-person population that's expected to hit 2 billion people by the year 2030.'' So they are embracing renewables in a lot larger way. As a matter of fact, worldwide, China is the No. 1 place for renewable technologies.
Using your technology, how much would one's water usage go down?
If you go to a typical steel plant and they're using somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million gallons a day — they're pulling fresh water — we can clean and deliver back roughly 1.7 million gallons, so the draw drops tremendously. But the bigger thing is you're not putting polluted water into waste water treatment facilities.
Last winter in the U.S. Capitol, a senator brought a snowball into the chamber to prove that climate change is a hoax. As CEO of a company that is fighting the effects of climate change, what do you think when you see shenanigans like that?
I am not a person who can tell you technically what's happening. But when you see a piece of ice the size of the United States disappear from the North Pole into the water and you see a shelf moving right now roughly 6 or 7 feet a day and you see some crazy storms and you see the actual temperature rising across the world up two degrees … my point is something is occurring. Is it a cycle? Is it something because we are putting more CO2 in the air? Again, you can hedge the bet or do something about it.
How much of your business do you do in Florida?
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 percent. We're doing a lot of demonstrations and pilots now. I expect to do a fair amount of work in Florida because of some of the same issues.
Tell us about your recent trip to China with the commerce and energy secretaries.
They brought who they thought were the 24 highest profile companies in the U.S. to bring in front of leaders of China and business leaders in China and say, "look, you guys have a problem. You've said that you wanted us to bring our best. There they are." The two presidents are getting together in September and we're trying to put certain things in place to become part of that event. So we each had an opportunity to tell — well, for instance the president of China; we had an opportunity to say what it is we did and he was very receptive to it. Every one of the Chinese officials we met, bar none; they were gracious, they were open much more so than when we first started this six years ago. So they know they have a problem.
It seems that the Chinese know they have a problem more than the United State knows it has a problem.
I think that — and again, this is an apolitical statement — I think that the companies or the organizations and the governments whether it's state or federal, even local … I hear them now talking more and more about this. There's more talk about it. Washington? Okay, you can vilify the EPA for a lot of things — I guess. People do. But let's face facts: If it wasn't for the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, quite frankly, the U.S. may look a lot like China. So people are trying to do the right things. But there's a cost associated with it. And whenever that happens you and I both know what occurs. But there's a lot more talk about it in the states than there was before. And in China there is talk and there's action.
Chris Tisch can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @christisch1