Chevy Volt: Where’s My Test Drive?

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 9 Comments
A lucky test driver

A rare non-celebrity test driver

I would like to announce a major scandal surrounding the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt “extended range” electric vehicle: there is only one available for test drives.

Last night, this reporter showed up early for a minor press junket on the sidelines of the LA Auto Show in hopes of getting a spot on the test-drive list, only to find out there were no spots available.

This, despite the fact that the Volt was sitting undriven in a parking lot across the street the entire time. Apparently, the vehicle was saving itself for a pair of B-list eco-friendly celebrities who were running late.

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The Importance of Being Earnest at COP 15

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 5 Comments

COP15_LOGO_A_SIf it’s all about the money, and it usually is, then the future financial landscape for cleantech development hinges on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change conference as essentially as the meeting’s long-term impacts on environmental policy.

There will be impacts whether or not binding and comprehensive agreements on emission reductions are cobbled in Copenhagen, and that’s especially true for green investors.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the United Kingdom research and consulting firm, future investments in clean technology are heavily dependent on the outcome of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Private sector money interests are waiting to see what targets world leaders will commit to, along with what mitigation actions developing countries will take.

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San Diego Convention Center: Committed to Green Events

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

convention_centerThe trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste it generates. If you have ever attended or exhibited at a trade show, you have seen the amount of waste and energy consumed first hand…it is everywhere. Very little about the trade show industry seems efficient. Though companies need to make their products and services known in the green arena, participating in trade shows that don’t include eco-friendly practices seems counter intuitive. Trade shows represent what is good for business but what is bad for the planet. The waste produced from a typical show includes excessive paper handouts that aren’t recycled, countless plastic bottles thrown in the trash, unsustainable promotional items, garbage from packing materials and unregulated energy usage, not to mention the carbon emissions associated with travel to and from the show.

Many trade show organizers simply don’t have enough eco-friendly options when it comes to venues. Hopefully, convention centers and other trade show venues will take a cue from San Diego and realize that a commitment to sustainable practices is good for the planet and very good for business. Their sustainable efforts include waste minimization, energy efficiency, water conservation, food composting, environmental purchasing, donating reusable goods and all-around environmental leadership.

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L.A. Auto Show Award for Greenest Car: 2010 Ford Fusion

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

10FusionHybridThe 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid was awarded the “Most Environmentally Progressive Car of the Year” by “blogazine” Earth, Wind & Power (EWP) at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. This award is in addition to its other recent accolades, including Car and Driver’s “10Best” cars for 2010 and the Motor Trend 2010 Car of the Year Award. The car also got the highest customer satisfaction rating of any Ford vehicle, ever.

So…what is so awesome about the Fusion? Fuel economy. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city. Ford reports that this is “70 percent better than comparable non-hybrid models and 8 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”

The Fusion also has a unique “eco-gauge” digital dashboard designed to teach drivers how to increase energy efficiency by following cues that leverage the car’s features.  For example, through strategic braking and steady acceleration, drivers can increase the amount of electricity used from regenerative braking. When drivers maximize their eco-performance, a digital tree on the readout grows leaves.

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What Is an Emerging Market Anyways?

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

emerging_markets

By David Abraham

“Don’t use a cookie cutter approach when evaluating emerging economies,” warned Dr. Jahangir Boroumand, professor at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.  His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Paolo Prochno, also of Smith, during the kick-off event for the newly formed Emerging Markets Club at the school.

The task of defining an emerging market is tricky, if not outright impossible.  Just consider the following examples.  A few years ago, “emerging” countries were those that had taken on overwhelming levels of debt (think the Latin American crisis of the 1980s).  But today, that framework would include Greece, Italy, the US, and Iceland.  In years past, North-South capital flows dominated development discussions.  However, that trend is quickly changing as nations like Brazil and China trade directly with one another – even using their own currencies for transactions!  Formerly, industrialized countries entered developing markets for cheap labor and/or natural resources.  But even this characterization is becoming outdated.  Many companies now operate in emerging nations to gain knowledge.  This was particularly true in Brazil when American automakers tried to lean how to build small cars efficiently and profitably.  Finally, multi-nationals are now based in places well beyond North America and Western Europe employing thousands of people throughout the world – think Samsung and Tata.

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Book Review: The (True) Price of a Bargain

Frank Marquardt | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Price of a BargainOn the way to visit a friend Thanksgiving weekend my car broke down, and I found myself at a Pep Boys in Rohnert Park, CA, wandering a vast parking lot. Big Box superstores stretched from one end to another: A Home Depot and Wal-Mart. In between, like an isthmus, was Pep Boys, Dollar Tree, and a discount beauty supply store. Islands at the parking lot’s entry housed fast food restaurants: an Arby’s (offering a $1 value menu), Burger King (offering a $1 double cheeseburger), and Chili’s, where I sat waiting the outcome of a battery test, eating smoked chicken tacos that would upset my stomach for an afternoon.

There not far from wine country, right off the 101, I had found myself stranded in the heart of the bargain, one of many that dot the American landscape: a coincidence of global circumstances linked by cheap hydrocarbons, global logistics networks, and the exploitation of global price differentials among wage-earners and for materials that feeds a consumer economy running up massive debts, both financial and environmental.

At least, that’s how I understood the situation after reading Gordon Laird’s impressively reported new book, The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globilization.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Real Estate Manager

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

wind farmThis is the third article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first, second, third, and fourth parts can be viewed here.

Wind turbines are frequently sited on parcels where the wind rights are leased from the landowner. A long-term contract must be created that covers many aspects of the project, such as compensation, placement of turbines, access roads, and the location of electric collection and transmission systems. Financial institutions and title companies also have an interest in the wind energy development agreement as it impacts mortgaged property. Communicating and organizing such matters typically falls under the role of the real estate manager.

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U.S. Solar Panel Capacity to Grow by 50 Percent Annually: Report

| Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

phoenix-first-solar-panels-photo2536Installed solar panel capacity in the United States will grow by 48-50 percent or more each year for the next three years, according to a new report from GTM Research, the research arm of Greentech Media.

By 2012, PV capacity in the U.S. could surpass Germany, the current global leader.

The predict growth, extrapolated from research into the 16 largest state markets, represents not only a major expansion of clean solar energy, but over $6.1 billion in investments per year and the creation of 50,000 jobs, according to the report.

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Poor Nations’ Emissions Driven by Exports to Rich Nations

| Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

CHINA_-_TOY_FACTORY“It’s not fair.”

That, in two words and a contraction, is the developing world’s argument for why it shouldn’t have to make the same reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as rich developed countries. So what if China is now the world’s biggest emitter of GHGs? It’s the developed countries that emitted most of the world’s pollution, historically speaking, churning out plumes of greenhouse gases over centuries of industrialization.

Well now China, India and other developing countries have more ammo for their argument. A new paper from Nature Geosciences shows that much of the developing world’s emissions comes from making stuff for the developed world and its carbon-fat consumers.

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Ford Teams Up with Detroit University to Retrain Engineers for Electric Cars

| Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

ford-ev-engineer-photo-1Alas, Detroit. With the collapse of the American automotive industry, there’s just too much bad news associated with the Motor City these days.

Some good news, then: the Ford Motor Company, the only Big Three automaker to avoid bankruptcy, recently announced a partnership with the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) School of Engineering to retrain traditional automotive engineers in the development of electric cars.

UDM’s new “Advanced Electric Vehicle Program,” a graduate-level curriculum focused on electric and hybrid vehicle engineering, will have 125 Ford engineers as its first group of students.

“The era of electric vehicles is here and it’s critical that we meet this technology challenge by retraining our engineers with a broad range of new skills and competencies,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development, in an announcement about the program.

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Minnesota Startup Uses Moss — Yes, Moss — to Keep Pools Clean

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

CWS Clump-of-Moss_220Moss. We’ve all seen it growing in bogs, on tree trunks, and in-between cracks in the sidewalk.

But, did you ever think that this common plant could potentially revolutionize an entire industry?

Enter David Knighton, MD, co-founder and CEO of the Minnesota-based startup, Creative Water Solutions. Knighton, a physician, inventor and entrepreneur–who also happens to be an amateur pilot–was flying a plane to northern Minnesota when he noticed the lakes becoming clearer and cleaner as he traveled northward. Earlier, he had read an article about how moss was used to treat wounds in World War I. It all got him to thinking:

Could the sphagnum moss that’s native throughout northern Minnesota be responsible for keeping the lakes so crystal clear? And, if so, could it do the same for pools and spas?

Eight years and $4 million later, Knighton believes the answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes.”

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China’s Carbon Intensity Management Proposal: The Numbers

Bill Roth | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

green chinaChina and the U.S. have now announced commitments to manage emissions prior to the Copenhagen Summit. This is hugely significant since these two countries contribute approximately 55% of the entire world’s CO2 emissions.

But each country’s respective path for addressing CO2 emissions are significantly divergent. President Obama publicly committed to a reduction of CO2 emissions of approximately 17% by 2020. That is approximately 1 million metric tons annually in CO2 emissions, which is more than the entire annual CO2 emissions of Germany.

China, however, has only committed to a reduction in “carbon intensity” which means it will reduce emissions as a percentage of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GNP).

The following is a “back of the table cloth” calculation on what this means: The World Bank estimates that China’s GNP in 2009 increased by 9% and they are on track for a similar increase in 2010. So China’s carbon intensity management would have to achieve approximately an ANNUAL 9% carbon intensity reduction in CO2 emissions to maintain the status quo if its annual economy grows at 9%. What this means is that even if China were to immediately achieve a 17% reduction in CO2 emissions matching President Obama’s 2020 goal it would only take a few years at China’s recent GNP growth to overwhelm this reduction result and return China to annually increasing its CO2 emissions.

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Labor and Agricultural Sustainability: Sister Issues

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 4 Comments

farm-guyThis is the sixth post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.

By Carolina Fojo

A “City Girl” in Sustainable Ag…?

Driving through Illinois with my friend, I excitedly point out the window and ask, “What’s that?” A combine, he responds. A few minutes later: “Oooh, look—is that another combine?” No, that’s a tractor. He laughs and tells me I’m a city girl. I stare wide-eyed out the window as if I’ve never seen a field of corn in my life, and I feel like a kid learning her colors for the first time.

As the East Coast Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company, I am currently working hard to combat problems of social justice and promote sustainability in the food system, with a special emphasis on agriculture.

Uh, excuse me—you might politely interject—but… why exactly are you working in agriculture when you only recently laid your eyes on your first combine?

…A fair question, to be sure. The answer, however, is quite simple: I’m in food and ag because of labor issues and worker rights.

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Diving In: The Corporate Water Footprinting Conference

David Lewbin
| Tuesday December 1st, 2009 | 9 Comments

water-footprintThe second Corporate Water Footprinting Conference splashes down in San Francisco this December 2-3 and I’ll be there to report on how companies such as Patagonia, Pepsi, BC Hydro, Raisio, and Intel are addressing water risks and opportunities in their operations and to their brands. The other two primary H2O stakeholder groups; government agencies and NGO’s, will also be active participants.  I am eager to see how transparency, innovative technologies, and creative partnerships are contributing to triple bottom line solutions including environmental stewardship, economic value, social responsibility, and cultural vitality.

As you may have noticed, water is becoming an increasingly important concern within both the private and the public sector. Type “water crisis” in your favorite search engine (Google turned up 35,700,000 entries) and you’ll see why.  Briefly, here’s the water picture:

Globally, less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use. Human population is forecast to increase from 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion by 2050. This population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water in all sectors. Depending on the country, roughly 70% of total water consumption is agricultural, 20% industrial, 10% domestic, and 4% evaporation from storage. According to a 2008 UNICEF/WHO report, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies (approximately one in eight people) and 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease. Global climate change symptoms like reduced snow pack, increased glacial melt, and extreme weather patterns are forecast to throw additional fuel on the proverbial fire that is the water crisis.

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The Credit Con: Credit Card Companies Get Creative in Circumventing New Legislation

Steve Puma | Tuesday December 1st, 2009 | 4 Comments

C4CCsqr.jpgPrior to the crash of the housing bubble and the collapse of financial markets, many different types of companies we involved in creating new and interesting ways to separate Americans (“consumers”) from their hard-earned money, especially those companies involved in consumer finance. From cell phone carriers to banks, high interest rates and hidden fees were the name of the game, leaving customers too confused to sort it all out, with many simply giving up and paying whatever they were charged.

The worst offenders, credit card companies and banks, have recently found themselves on the wrong end of legislation, the CARD Act of 2009, is intended to put a stop to some of the worst practices, such as excessive interest rate increases and unfair fee traps. True to form, this has not stopped the credit card companies from attempting to extract as much money from their customers as possible. According to Consumers for Competitive Choice, “…rather than react responsibly, the credit card industry has flouted the will of Congress and the Administration by moving quickly to raise rates, increase fees, and reduce available credit before the law takes effect next year.” In a completely new tactic, the credit card companies have decided to shift their focus to credit card transaction fees, an area that Congress has not yet addressed, and something that Consumers for Competitive Choice representatives feel we should all be very concerned about.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Consumers for Competitive Choice, (C4CC) is a national alliance of consumer advocacy groups and private citizens who are committed to promoting maximum choice for consumers in communications, energy, health care and financial services. The organization has spun off a new project, called the Credit Card Con, to bring attention to the issue of credit card interchange fees. Last week, the company held a teleconference to bring attention to the recently released report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) on the matter.

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