Bloom Energy Finally Comes Clean in Packed Press Briefing

| Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 14 Comments

In a standing-room-only press conference today, held at eBay headquarters in San Jose, Bloom Energy publicly launched its Bloom Energy Server, following eight years of highly secret development, and almost $400m in investments, much of it from Silicon Valley’s top shelf VC, Kleiner Perkins.

The event kicked off with introductory remarks by Governor Schwarzenegger who described the state’s booming clean energy industry as the new California gold rush, and promised to create a new jobs bill focused on the clean energy sector.

“I love this guy,” the governor declared as he embraced Bloom Energy CEO KR Sridhar before turning over the podium to him. Mr. Sridhar covered much of the same ground as his recent 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl.

The briefing continued with a panel discussion, moderated by Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, who admitted, “this is definitely the most powerful panel I’ve ever moderated.” No kidding. The panel featured a who’s who of corporate VIPs whose companies are currently testing the Bloom Energy Server at their facilities. Larry Page from Google, John Donahoe from eBay and Bill Simon from Walmart were among the executives endorsing Bloom’s new fuel cell technology.

General Colin Powell made the concluding remarks asserting that energy would be our biggest challenge in the 21st century especially for developing countries. Bloom Energy’s long-term vision is to bring clean energy to the billions of people now living off the grid.

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Ben & Jerry’s Plans to go 100% Fair Trade

| Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 7 Comments

Fair labor conditions never tasted so good.

Ben & Jerry’s announced last week that they will be 100% fair trade by 2013.  That means that all of their “global flavor portfolio” will be composed of Fair Trade Certified™ ingredients, such as cocoa, vanilla, fruits, nuts, etc.

The successful ice cream company was the first to introduce fair trade ingredients to the market back in 2005, but co-founder Jerry Greenfield decided that only some wasn’t enough.

“Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie,” said company co-founder Jerry Greenfield. Always with the dessert metaphors, Jerry?

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Are Big Box Stores Advancing or Detracting Sustainability Efforts? Yes.

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 5 Comments

five year anniversary
Since TriplePundit.com launched in 2005, Walmart and other big box stores have gone through quite a metamorphosis in the eyes of many pundits of triple-bottom-line business. In fact, 2005 was the same year that Walmart launched the first of a growing list of initiatives aimed at simultaneously reducing its environmental impact and its operating expenses.

But the decision to do things such as boost the fuel efficiency of its trucking fleet and to aggressively reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste from its stores, wasn’t all driven by efforts to lower operating expenses and portray itself as a jolly green giant. Walmart was, and still is, working off the high environmental—not to mention societal—cost of its low prices. And while it’s taking many meaningful steps forward, in terms of sustainability, how can it erase the impact of millions of metric tons that the 100 million weekly Walmart shoppers emit as they drive to and fro the massive stores?

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5 Years Later: Amtrak Survives Bush, Expands

| Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 4 Comments

five year anniversary

In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was complete. In the 50 years following 1870, rail transportation became a mainstay in the U.S., was critical to settling the West and served as a trademark of the industrial revolution. Train use peaked in 1920, when trains carried 1.2 billion passengers.

Then rail faced a series of setbacks, in order: 20% hikes in fares, Henry Ford and the advent of cars, the Great Depression, the diesel engine, trucks and trucking fleets, commercial air, nationalization of trains (including guaranteed net income despite performance), privatization of trains, and strong ridership throughout WWII followed by a massive peacetime decline. Amtrak was created in the 70s, when air travel had emerged as the most popular consumer long distance transportation choice.

Fast forward to 2005:  3p covered a variety of Amtrak angles. Some of Nick’s first posts were even concerned with what seemed like Amtrak’s impending doom under the Bush administration . That year, 3p covered the heavy budget cuts Amtrak sustained under Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s (the only Clinton holdover in the Bush administration) approval, its potential bankruptcy and its apparent savior: the business community that protested Amtrak cuts, probably fearing a comprehensive withdrawal of federal support for rail freight.

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Gainesville Sets Record Prices for Solar Power Sellers

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 0 Comments

by: Tom Rooney

Gainesville city leaders became the first in the country to set a competitive price for people who create renewable energy with their solar panels or wind farms  and who sell it back to the local utility- a commendable 32 cents per kilowatt hour.

They call it a feed-in tariff, if you must know the technical term. But it is simply the price you receive for generating your own power then selling it to the utility. Many solar leaders regard it as the key to the next step of the growth of solar in America, because it allows consumers to make money off of their investments in solar panels. Of course the growth in solar  is also key to creating energy independence and reducing carbon.

On a recent trip to China, I visited several large factories where they make solar panels. I wish everyone who wishes America to be an energy super power could have seen what I saw. These factories are world-class models of efficiency and skill. Their managers, many of whom are trained in the United States are very good and getting better.

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How Concentrated Solar Power Can Meet India’s Future Power Needs

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 24th, 2010 | 13 Comments

The Sun: Goldmine of green energy

By Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E.

Solar energy is an enormous resource that is readily available in all countries throughout the world, and all the space above the earth. Long ago, scientists calculated that an hour’s worth of sunlight bathing the planet held far more energy than humans worldwide could consume in a year. I firmly believe that India should accelerate the use of all forms of renewable energy (photovoltaic, thermal solar, solar lamps, solar pumps, wind power, biomass, biogas, and hydro), and more proactively promote energy efficiency. However, in this article, I will only focus on the use of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology to meet India’s future energy needs.

Concentrated solar power plants have been used in California since the 1980s. More recently, Pacific Gas & Electric has signed contracts to buy 500 megawatts of solar thermal power from two solar companies. First, NextEra Energy Resources will sell 250 megawatts of CSP generated power from the Genesis Solar Energy Project to be located in Riverside, Calif. Second, Abengoa’s Mojave Solar project will supply the remaining 250 megawatts from a plant located in San Bernardino County, Calif. Subject to California Public Utility Commission approval of the power purchase agreements, construction of these solar energy generating plants is expected to start in 2010 with operations planned to begin in 2013. Both these solar thermal power projects will contribute to meeting California’s aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for moving away from fossil fuels to solar and other renewable energy sources that avoid pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Quiznos Introduces Better, “Greener” Packaging

| Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 4 Comments

Remember when McDonald’s switched from styrofoam containers to the paper(ish) wraps they have today? That was a big deal back in 1990. Since then there has been limited but steady improvement in fast food packaging, driven mostly by local legislation and consumer pressure. To make matters more complicated, the question of “paper vs plastic” or even whether to bring your own container isn’t entirely cut and dry in terms of environmental impact. That’s one of many reasons I put the word “green” in quotes or avoid it altogether.

Nonetheless, effort is effort, and Quiznos sandwich chain has made what looks like decent progress on many of their different types of packaging. Being a critical optimist, I’m happy to see the new effort, but want to raise a few questions as well.

Eat Toasty, Be Green: Here are the bulletpoints from their press release, including some extra parenthetical notes by me. The new types of packaging will include:

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Happy 5th Anniversary, Triple Pundit

| Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 4 Comments

Around this date in 2005, I launched this site as an effort to put a new dialogue online. Barely realizing it until now, Triple Pundit is now an astonishing FIVE years old. (Don’t you love my cheesy banner?)

At the time, the idea of business people talking to environmentalists and social activists was still seen as wishful thinking. The idea that someone might be able to think, simultaneously, about the social, environmental, and financial implications of one’s business just wasn’t mainstream. In 2005, having just started an MBA degree at the newfangled Presidio Graduate School, I was riveted by the potential of this new dialogue and troubled at its lack of widespread acknowledgment.

So I took the conversation to a place I knew best — the Internet. Triple Pundit originally started as a personal project to describe and track my experiences moving through a “sustainable” MBA program, but it quickly became a group project, and over the years turned into a real enterprise in its own right, thanks to the outstanding work of our many contributors and the enthusiasm and input of our readers.

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Will Private Toll Roads Help Get Us Where We Want to Go?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 4 Comments

five year anniversary
Back in 2005, 3p’s inaugural year, we looked at the role private toll roads can play in reducing traffic congestion—one of our nation’s largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions—as well as fix struggling state budgets. Fast forward five years, and it seems like we’re still asking ourselves that same question: are private toll roads the answer to get us to a sustainable, more-efficient domestic infrastructure? You can answer that question, in part, simply by driving on any highway (privately-funded or otherwise) and reading any city newspaper. State budgets and traffic both remain equally-blinding headaches.

With that said, much has happened in the past five years that impacts the nation’s approach to road-building and general infrastructure concerns. The I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and raising all sorts of questions about road safety and spending. The Great Recession hit, making already-stretched state budgets practically snap.

And, many road improvement projects got underway—but not just the old-school, tax-based road construction. States across the country are either developing public-private partnerships or contracting private firms in order to finance roads. At the same time, developers are using new means of paying for those roads, such as high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes that change based on congestion and on the number of passengers in each vehicle.

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Algae Based Fuel Is Not A Silver Bullet

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 7 Comments

Algae as fuel is the latest biofuel rage. On January 14 the Department of Energy (DOE) announced an investment of $44 million in algae-based fuels. Last summer, ExxonMobil Corp. announced a partnership with scientist Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics to develop algae based fuels.

However, there is a problem with algae-based biofuel.On January 19 the Environmental Science & Technology published a report by University of Virginia in Charlottesville which researched energy costs and environmental impacts of producing algae for fuel. Researchers then compared the results to corn, canola and switchgrass. The report found that algae farms need to use less fertilizer and freshwater.

Study co-author Andres Clarens said algae farming is still in its infancy. “Corn and canola we’ve been growing for a long time. We’ve gotten pretty good at it.” He added, “Nutrients are going to be the limiting factor. We’re humans. We need to eat dinner, and you can’t expect to have algae that provides a bunch of energy without feeding it nutrients.”

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The Problem With Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments

Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) allows businesses without ties to green energy buy credits at a discount and reduce their state income tax bills. There is a problem with the BETC. As Treehugger.com put it, Walmart “raked in $11 million by taking advantage of it—without ever touching a solar panel or a wind turbine.” State records show Walmart paid $22.6 million in cash in 2009 for the right to claim $33.6 million worth of energy tax credits. The money Walmart paid went to seven projects, including two wind farms and a solar power manufacturing plant. Walmart profited $11 million from it.

The Weyerhaeuser Paper Mill received $3.3 million in Oregon energy credits in 2008 for revamping a biomass plant that burned wood waste for heat and steam, and capturing the heat to dry paper. The company then sold energy tax credits to Walmart for $2.3 million in cash. Walmart is able to deduct the full $3.3 million from its Oregon income tax over five years. Last year, International Paper bought the mill and shut down production. Walmart is benefiting from energy tax credits even though the mill is no longer in operation.

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Today’s Social Leaders Could Learn a Thing or Two From Abraham Lincoln

3p Contributor | Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments

By Bruce Piasecki

It’s not easy to be a model of superior leadership.  Witness the recent demise of mighty firms such as General Motors. Add to that the parade of valuation scandals involving Enron’s Jeff Skilling and Worldcom’s Bernard Ebbers over the last fifteen years, the financial wizardry of a Bernie Madoff, and we must raise a new century fundamental question: How can we develop leaders that we can trust?  The clock on bad management is drawing near midnight.

We need in this new century a set of social and corporate leaders to address the global challenges of making business sustainable and profitable in a carbon and capital constrained world.

Abraham Lincoln’s skill as a leader offers important lessons for today’s business and social leaders.

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How Taking Care of Yourself is Good For the Bottom Line

3p Contributor | Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Jeff Klein

Boy, this is a big issue. I’ve always known it to be so, but since I started writing this piece a couple weeks ago it’s significance has become even more apparent.

People frequently ask me how I do all that I do and how I look and act so young. I suppose I have a pretty full life – working essentially all the time, while (solo) parenting, working out regularly, and always finding time to play. And, I acknowledge, I carry my nearly 52 years well. I actually think I am in the best physical condition of my life, with strength and endurance comparable to, if not better than, that of my teens. And I seem to be healthy in other domains – including emotional, mental, spiritual, and social – too. (Have to be careful not to presume too much!)

I think the answer to the question (how I do what I do and look and act so young) is simply “I take care of myself.” While that may be a simple answer, I realize that, for many people, doing so is not so simple. While laziness or busyness may explain it, as I think about this more and more and observe others, I think the root of the difficulty for many people is that they were never really encouraged to take care of themselves or taught how to do so. Many of the explicit and implicit messages in our culture say “Follow the rules.” “You don’t really have any power or authority.” “Someone else will take care of making important decisions.” “Something wrong, the professional will take care of it for you (you pay, of course).” “To get the golden ring you have to sacrifice almost everything except the pursuit of the golden ring” (and the golden ring is a single, specific goal, usually material or status related).

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USDA Tightens Organic Grazing Regulations

Tori Okner | Monday February 22nd, 2010 | 4 Comments

The recent announcement about USDA’s final regulation on access to pasture for organic livestock is a clear victory for the organic movement. The present language of the National Organic Program (NOP)  merely stipulates that grazing livestock must have access to pasture. As the organic market share has grown, the differing interpretations of this language have created fissures in the community. With the expansion of industrial organic products, critics have questioned what organic signifies when some providers rely primarily on feedlots. As explained by the USDA, “the final rule provides certainty to consumers that organic livestock production is a pasture-based system in which animals are actively grazing pasture during the grazing season.“

The process to amend the current NOP language began nearly five years ago with a recommendation from the National Organic Standards Board that suggested, “ruminants obtain a minimum 30 percent dry matter intake for at least 120 days.” Published first in 2008, the proposal elicited an astonishing 26,000 comments. The voices of family farmers and animals rights, environmental, and nutrition activists mixed with local government officials, consumer groups, trade organizations, and industry representatives. “USDA closes organic loophole,” cheered nutrition expert Marion Nestle.

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Government Aid to Flow into Great Lakes, Helping Fight Asian Carp

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday February 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Sunday a five-year, $2.2 billion initiative to start healing the Great Lakes. The effort has three main goals: improve the lakes’ wildlife habitat, improve water quality and fight the invasion of non-native species such as Asian carp, which threaten not only the lakes’ ecosystem but also their fishery industry.

“We are not simply trying to maintain the status quo, that is not acceptable. Our goal is to have these bodies of water improved and protected,” said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland at a press event announcing the plan. Strickland and other members of the Council of Great Lakes Governors are welcoming the financial aid and the support of the Obama administration in restoring the Great Lakes. During his campaign, Obama said he would form a task force to address the environmental needs of the Great Lakes region, and pledged to spend $5 billion over a decade in the effort.

The plan includes a “zero tolerance” policy on invasive species such as Asian carp and sets a goal of reducing the introduction of invasive species into the lakes by 40 percent by the year 2014. Of course, the most immediate and biggest fight against invasive species is blocking Asian carp, which have been moving north up the Mississippi, toward the lakes, for a number of years.

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