See You in Copenhagen: Better Place’s Shai Agassi on Role of Cleantech

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 6 Comments

If the Copenhagen climate conference has managed to do anything (even before it begins), it has managed to divide. It has facilitated the formation of two neatly antithetical groups of people: those who think nothing will result, and those who are hopeful as to what could happen.

“See You in Copenhagen” is a campaign of short films and ads produced by Found Object Films, in cooperation with the UN Foundation and TckTckTck, to raise public awareness leading up to COP15. It would fit firmly in the latter camp, featuring a certain cautious optimism. We may be sliding down a slippery slope, and Copenhagen may be just a time for political power plays, meaningless gesturing, and the biggest green networking event ever to take place. But it could also be a turning point.

In this video, Better Place innovator, Shai Agassi, talks about cleantech’s role in building the new clean economy, and those implications at COP15.

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New Journal Aims to Move from Problems to Solutions

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Solutions issues[1]There are many scientific journals and publications that exist to raise awareness about environmental issues, where scientists can present research and propose recommendations on ways to mitigate the problems we face related to our environment. Though discussion and debate is important, many believe it is time to move from debate to demonstrated action.

While, as a nation we, await some resolution by way of energy legislation, there are undoubtedly myriad other solutions that have to be implemented. Translating good science into appropriate policy is critical and many ideas and solutions begin by the research coming out of the scientific community, as well as technological revolutions from the business community. There is no silver bullet.

The launch of a new journal titled Solutions aims to help us move from a debate culture to one of collaboration, by creating a global forum for dialogue with people, governments, business and civil society. The goal is to identify integrative socio-economic and environmental solutions that inspire action towards a better, more sustainable future for everyone. Not only is the objective at Solutions different, but the process is too. Instead of a typical peer review process, which can be more destructive than constructive, Solutions reviewers are empowered to use their depth of expertise in a more productive manner, by helping the authors perfect their story. In some cases, if the original author accepts, the reviewers may become co-authors on the piece.

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West Coast Village Capital is Looking for a Few Good Social Ventures

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

light bulb ideaWest Coast Village Capital (WCVC) is a social venture program that brings together entrepreneurs to learn from and support each other’s social enterprises. Over the course of 12 weeks, beginning in January 2010, up to 30 social entrepreneurs will work together in groups of five to share their knowledge, strengthen their models, and build their businesses. If you would like to be one of them, read on.

Inspired by the village bank model used in microfinance, WCVC represents an innovative investment model built on the hypothesis that entrepreneurs, working intimately together and providing peer support to one another, will be able to efficiently and wisely allocate investment to their companies. This means WCVC will put the investment decisions in the hands of entrepreneurs themselves.

First Light Ventures, a sister enterprise to Grey Ghost Ventures, will provide the investment funds by making $25,000 and $75,000 investments in the 5-10 companies identified as most ready for seed capital. “We wanted to test the hypothesis that entrepreneurs can make investment decisions as well, if not better, than investors,” said Ross Baird from First Light Ventures.

WCVC is looking for social entrepreneurs with bright ideas and sustainable business models. If you have a business idea to help improve the world, they want to hear about it.

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B Corps Win Healthy Tax Break in Landmark Law

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

a_bcorp_logo_posB Lab, the force behind a new business sector designation—called the B Corporation—which recognizes companies that meet a set of social, environmental and institutional benchmarks for sustainability, is facing a Herculean effort. The work won’t be in convincing people that business can be a positive force for social change—there are already 240 companies in 28 states (representing more than 50 industries) that have become B Corps, and I’m sure that number will continue to grow. The bigger task will be in lobbying for legislation, on a state-by-state basis, to recognize and provide incentives to B Corporations.

And that effort got an important boost today: The Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to pass a bill that creates a new sustainable business tax credit for certified sustainable businesses located in the City of Philadelphia. For tax years 2012 through 2017, 25 eligible businesses shall receive a tax credit of $4,000 to be used against the gross receipts portion of the business privilege tax.  Companies can be classified as certified sustainable businesses once they are certified as B Corporations.

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The Importance of Being Earnest About Biomass

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 7 Comments
Finnish Bioenergy Power Plant

Finnish Bioenergy Power Plant

Metso Corporation is pretty confident in its green cred. The Finnish company calls itself “a global supplier of sustainable technology and services” and in a press visit today the company’s VP of strategic development, Michael Hoven, and communications manager, Sanna Rahikainen, when asked if they considered Metso a green company, said it was. They said they don’t greenwash and are proud of what they were doing for the environment.

Unfortunately  the devil is in the details, and Metso has a way to go before this blogger would feel comfortable calling it a truly sustainable business.

The key to Metso’s self-proclaimed environmental credentials is its production of biomass boilers to replace those powered by coal and other fossil fuels. It’s true that biomass has the potential to be an energy source that is superior to fossil fuels from an environmental standpoint. There are at least three keys in my mind to ensuring that biomass is a real sustainable solution:

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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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