San Diego to Copenhagen: It’s a Small World After All

3p Contributor | Saturday December 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments


By Lee Barken, IT practice leader at Haskell & White, LLP

future_nowIt’s a balmy 67 degrees in San Diego and I’m back home at my local coffee shop, sipping Chai Tea Latte.  A short 24 hours ago, I was in the snow and bitter cold of Copenhagen, Denmark, attending the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15) climate summit.

For two brief weeks, people from around the world had been gathered to discuss how carbon emissions are affecting our environment.  Despite a failure to sign a major agreement, the victory of the conference has been its ability to focus world attention on climate change issues.  COP-15 has captured the public’s interest, raised awareness and energized ordinary citizens into action.

Acknowledging the gravity of climate change is a difficult task to consider as I sip a tasty beverage in the comfort of my shorts and t-shirt.  Perhaps the single largest challenge for reducing carbon emissions is to convey a sense of urgency to those who are the least affected.  Has our own comfortable condition lulled us into a sense of complacency?

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ClimateWorks Video: China Cuts Energy Use Via Efficiency

| Friday December 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

ClimateWorks is a non-profit network of policy and technical experts working with governments to reduce carbon emissions without compromising economic vitality. The group’s focus is on the big sectors and regions where most emissions originate.

Naturally, a big target is China. Matt Lewis of ClimateWorks was recently in China producing a series of videos showing some of the impact of their work. It’s an interesting look at some surprisingly positive developments in major sectors in China – where both the Chinese government and industry have managed to dramatically improve the efficiency of energy use as well as reducing carbon output.

I asked Matt how seriously we can take what Chinese industry and government tell us when it comes to climate change. His response follows the video, which is well worth 5 minutes of your time:

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For Wisconsin’s Doyle, It’s All About Green Jobs

3p Contributor | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 6 Comments

road-to-copenhagen

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is re-posted with permission.

By Amanda Little, Grist’s former Muckraker columnist

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (center) at the Climate Leaders Summit in Copenhagen. Photo Source: The Climate Group via Flickr

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (center) at the Climate Leaders Summit in Copenhagen. Photo Source: The Climate Group via Flickr

When you think of renewable energy, the image that comes to mind is often a solar array in California, a windmill in Texas, or a cornfield in Iowa. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) wants you to think of Wisconsin first, which explains why he’s one of several governors attending the Copenhagen climate talks. I sat down with him for a brief interview. An edited transcript follows:

Q. Where are the opportunities for job development in the larger effort to achieve climate solutions?

A. Well, for us in a state like Wisconsin where we don’t have oil, and we don’t have natural gas and we don’t have coal, it means every dollar we spend to create energy that comes from one of those fuel sources is a dollar that leaves the state of Wisconsin. So [we win] if we can produce energy from our agricultural fields, our forests, from our ingenuity, from our wind and sun, and if we can build the research capacity around all of that.

We have more people working manufacturing (percentage wise) than any state in the country. It’s great capacity. And as we focus that on the production of components for wind turbines, for solar panels, or other very high tech energy … that’s all jobs for us. So to me, we have set out as a goal that we really look to have about 10 percent of Wisconsin’s economy, if we do this right, 25 years from now, can be based on energy production and that’s a huge number of jobs…

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PG&E, Customers Clash Over Smart Meters

| Friday December 18th, 2009 | 12 Comments

smart_meters

Ed: This story has been amended since it was first published to include comments from PG&E

A class action lawsuit in Bakersfield, California claims newly installed smart meters inflate customers electricity and gas use, resulting in steep hikes in utility bills. The plaintiffs, a group of about 200 residents, are suing Pacific Gas & Electric, their utility company, and Wellington Energy, the company that installed the meters.

In some cases, customers reported very high discrepancies in their bills. The New York Times reports that one PG&E customer testified “that the new meter logged the consumption of his two-bedroom townhouse at 791 kilowatt-hours in July, up from 236 a year earlier.” (bold added).

The lawsuit, and ensuing controversy, has left PG&E scrambling to defend the meters, which have been hailed as the first step in a nationwide “smart grid.” The company calls the lawsuit “without merit.”

Paul Moreno, a spokesman for PG&E added that “we’ve done deep dives into more than 400 bill complaints and in every case we’ve never found an issue of meter performance causing a higher bill.” He complained that while individual customers are bad-mouthing the company in the media, PG&E is not allowed to discuss its accounts — to refute their claims — without their permission.

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GlowFungi: Glowing Advertisements Using Natural Fungi

| Friday December 18th, 2009 | 4 Comments

startup-friday.jpg

When you hear the term “green marketing,” it typically conjures up images of recycling symbols, meaningful imagery, and stories of passionate company founders. But Curb, a London based “natural media company” takes it to another, more literal level: It creates marketing using natural elements, including sea salt, snow tagging and compost art (sans manure, thankfully!).

The components of Glowfungi

The components of Glowfungi

But its latest innovation, upon viewing, may appear totally artificial: Glowing signs, looking like they were made from black light paint or glow stick material.

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GE: Bringing Good Things (Like Smarter Appliances and New Jobs) to Life

| Friday December 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

gewasherdryer_2For those of you that have always dreamed of living like the Jetsons, you’ll soon get your chance. General Electric (GE) announced on December 14, 2009 that it will begin manufacturing high-end energy efficient front-load washers and dryers at its Appliance Park facility in Louisville, Kentucky, beginning in 2012. Referred to as “smart” appliances, they have the ability to talk to other appliances and communicate with the electricity grid. Production of the laundry units is the second new product platform to be introduced in Louisville this year. The first was the GE Hybrid Water Heater, which is GE’s first commercially available smart-grid enabled product. Slated for production in mid-2011, the hybrid water heaters will save consumers approximately $320 annually.

These products take energy efficiency one step further at a time when many Americans are facing increasing electricity costs, while still experiencing the hardships of the recession. Given the fact that about half of a typical home’s electricity consumption goes to power appliances, lighting, and water heating, smarter appliances will save families money and shrink their personal carbon footprint. For most utilities, electricity demand peaks between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., when people come home from work, cook dinner, wash clothes, run the dishwasher and flick on their big screen televisions.

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Bling Nation: Eliminating Paper in Transactions

Bill Roth | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

green blingA favorite aspect of my consulting practice is when I receive an invitation to sit in a room with entrepreneurs starting businesses that they believe will produce an iPhone app, or even that they’ll become the next Google. I had just such an opportunity at the Venture Summit, Silicon Valley hosted by Always On. What I saw was “bling” and more!

Bling Nation is a start up company with a remarkable smart technology that could replace credit and debit cards with cell phones. The solution eliminates paper in the purchase process by providing cell-phone-toting consumers with a digital receipt, sent to their phones. How many times a day do we buy something and get handed a piece of paper that we immediately toss into the trash? For that reason alone I like this sustainable technology solution.

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Engaging Employees in Sustainability

3p Contributor | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 5 Comments

engageBy Kelly Flores, Kanal Consulting

It’s quite possible that if you don’t have a sustainability program in your company, you probably do and just don’t know about it yet.  In the process of conducting a recent study with 25 leading companies to identify best practices in sustainability, we discovered many formal, established sustainability programs originated from “grassroots” employee efforts unknown to senior executives.

Today, employees want to work for organizations that reflect their values, and respect their concerns about environmental and social responsibility (ESR).  The days of “The Organization Man” are long gone.  If companies want to retain the best and brightest employees, they must consider how to better align their values and interests with their employees.  And ESR is not just for tree-huggers anymore.  As humanity faces the global impact of climate change and the growing loss of our natural resources, individuals are looking to their own lives to see how they can make a difference, at home and at work.

Participation

So what should companies do? Leading organizations are harnessing their employees’ energy by first identifying who and where they are in the organization. Setting up brown-bag lunches, carrying out internal surveys, or organizing town-hall type meetings can help to gauge interest and coordinate early participation. Employees in common groups and departments can be identified and official “green teams” established to begin to consider issues together. Supporting managers and executive sponsors can also be identified at this time and formally assigned to create guidance and foster communication among groups.

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Got Manure? You’ve Got Renewable Energy

3p Contributor | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 8 Comments

dairy-powerBy Ryan Young, Blu Skye Sustainability Consulting

There is no need to wait millions of years for deceased organisms to compress into fossil fuels to burn.  Forget about how the wind doesn’t always blow hard enough to move wind turbines, or that the sun doesn’t shine on solar panels at night.  A typical U.S. dairy cow is a renewable energy machine, producing 150 pounds of “fuel” in the form of manure…every single day.  There are no intermittency issues as there can be with wind and solar; as one dairy farmer said to me: “cows crap 24 hours a day.”

The U.S. dairy industry produces a staggering amount of manure every day, to the tune of 167 million gallons of manure from some 9.3 million cows.  That is enough manure to fill 250 Olympic size swimming pools every day of the year, generated by a population of cows that is more than three times the number of people in Chicago.  (This is definitely something to impress your friends with the next time you they ask you to pass the milk for their coffee.)

If not properly managed, this large amount of manure can present a big environmental problem.  For example, when stored manure decomposes in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic decomposition) it releases methane, a nasty greenhouse gas with more than 21 times the potency of carbon dioxide.  Due to the large volume of manure generated and the potency of methane, dairy manure is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire U.S. dairy industry supply chain (21%).  This dwarfs some of the usual suspects such as processing/manufacturing (7%), transportation/distribution (3%) and retail refrigeration (3%).

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Opinion: Slavery, Carbon, Economics and the Ties that Bind Us

3p Contributor | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 10 Comments

road-to-copenhagen

slaveryBy Lee Barken, IT practice leader at Haskell & White, LLP

With the gathering of more than 130 world leaders in Copenhagen this week, the issue of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is taking center stage.  GHG has become the burden that no one country can unilaterally cure, but every person on the planet has a vested interest in addressing.

Cap and trade, along with other policy measures, have stirred a great deal of controversy–as they should.  Decisions to significantly alter the fabric of commerce and daily life should not be taken lightly.  Rigorous debate is essential and should be welcomed.

However, even the most ardent climate skeptic acknowledges that finite resources such as oil and other fossil fuels won’t last forever.  As such, the debate seems to be evolving into a question of when and not if.  In other words, is this a problem that needs to be tackled in the next five years?  Or, do we have 100 years to figure it out?

Bold Action

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COP15 & Schwarzenegger: “We Are The Climanators”

3p Contributor | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

road-to-copenhagen

arnold-solarBy Eban Goodstein, Director of The Bard Center for Environmental Policy

Copenhagen, at an extraordinary confluence in human history. Amidst grey skies, wet snow, bureaucratic chaos, street protests, and warm Danish hospitality, delegates and observers share an understanding. The outcome of these meetings will profoundly impact every human being who will ever walk the face of the planet from now until the end of time. Each of us knows we have only a few years to initiate sharp pollution cuts, before the window for climate stabilization shuts on our future, forever.

The heavy cloud of failure hangs over COP15. The tired conference poster sessions, booth displays and trade shows carry little interest.

The certain outcome of these meetings will be—another meeting. No matter how strong the final agreement that emerges Friday, COP15 will not be enough. Indeed, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s main pledge yesterday, as he pushed for continued sub-national, California-style action, was, “I’ll be back.”

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An Open Letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Jeff Siegel | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

 

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently told reporters that we should caution against blaming biofuels for higher food prices, stating that the food versus fuel debate is based on the assumption that where we are today remains static relative to production.

Vilsack went on to say he’s convinced that within 10 years, with just seed technology, we can produce a 100 bushel increase in yields.

Now, the food versus fuel debate is a tough one — there’s just too much special interest involved, on both sides of the debate, to get much in the way of objective data. So it’s hard to take a position on this one.

However, we still need some clarification on a few other issues before we start cheering 100 bushel increases in yields.

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Deloitte to Offer Training on Sustainability Measurement and Reporting

| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 4 Comments

metricsDeloitteDeloitte, the firm originally known for its accounting and audit services, has begun to integrate sustainability into its core business functions, including strategy, consulting and tax services. It also recently launched the Center for Sustainability Performance (CSP) to provide on-site client training, research and development, with a focus on corporate sustainability measurement and reporting.

The CSP just announced a new training, Sustainability Measurement and Reporting: Tools, Methods, and Metrics, a two-day workshop on January 14, 2010 in Waltham, MA, led by Mark W. McElroy, director of research at Deloitte’s CSP.

Deloitte has coined the term Sustainability Management” (SM) as a new and credible management function that is here to stay. And as we know, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

The goal of the workshop is to help make sense of the range of tools, methods, and metrics currently available for measuring and reporting sustainability, as well as new solutions just over the horizon.

REGISTER BY JAN. 7th for a discounted price of $1,195.

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The Austra-Mexican Lightbulb Solution to Global Warming

| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

cflmexicoaustraliaAn Australian company is giving away 30 million compact fluorescent light bulbs to Mexican households in hopes of reaping big rewards in the international carbon credit markets.

Cool nrg, an environmental consulting firm with an anti-poverty focus, is using a framework set up by the 1997 Kyoto Protocols, called the Clean Development Mechanism, to generate carbon credits from the Mexican light bulb handout. The credits can then be sold on carbon trading markets for a profit.

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Big Business’ Climate Conundrum: Lead, Follow, Or Obstruct

3p Contributor | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is re-posted with permission.

By Jonathan Hiskes, Grist Staff Writer

Is that government out front, or big business? Photo Credit: iStockphoto (with permission from Grist)

Photo Credit: iStockphoto (with permission from Grist)

COPENHAGEN—The most popular American CEO here these two weeks, at least among other business leaders, has been Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers. Which doesn’t make much sense, as Duke generates most of its electricity from coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Consider Rogers’ own confession: “Of all the companies in the U.S., we [Duke Energy] have the third-largest carbon footprint,” he said at a press briefing last Thursday. “Of all the companies in the world, we’re number 12. If we were one of the 192 countries of the United Nations, we’d rank 41st.”

That’s a gutsy admission to make at a climate-change conference. Such directness, plus Rogers’ North Carolina charm, helps explain the warm receptions he’s received at well-attended business gathering over the last few days. He’s been speaking about his unlikely role as an advocate for a national cap-and-trade bill and his optimism that more American businesses will come around on the issue.

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