Whether or not you support the federal government lending the beleaguered U.S. auto industry $13.4 dollars in emergency funding (with more to come in February), most probably agree that whatever they do with that money, it can’t be business as usual for the Big Three
A new alliance was announced yesterday between 14 battery makers and the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to promote the development and manufacture of advanced lithium ion battery technology. Called the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, the hope of the alliance is that U.S. car companies will use the batteries in next-generation hybrid and plug-in electric cars.
Lithium-ion battery development is now dominated by foreign countries in Europe and Asia. Even GM, gasping for breath as it is, has announced it may use foreign-produced batteries for its Chevy Volt, it’s much publicized plug-in hybrid theoretically due out in 2010 (GM announced this week that it will be delaying construction of a manufacturing plant for the car, claiming it will have no impact on the car’s expected release).
It would appear that such an alliance to promote both U.S. battery development and green cars couldn’t have come at a more opportune time – unless it had come many years ago.
Greetings from the tropical hinterlands! I’m updating you on all the best green business this week from Honolulu, where I’m visiting my family for the holidays. I’m a bit late with my wrap up, but I, personally, feel that my proximity to the international date line is totally reasonable justification. I might actually be early. I’ll leave you puzzling over that one while we get right to it! Golden Arches Turn Green McDonalds talks up their new green franchises, efficiency standards, and employee education programs. Does it make you want to eat there? Give me a grass fed quarter pounder and we’ll talk, Ronald.
Dell Says Green Packaging will Save 8 MillionIn these dark climate times it’s nice to know that the rally cry of the sustainably business mavericks and mavens still holds water: going green can save you money!
Rock, Paper, Scissors: Wind Trumps All Wind comes out on top in a recent study of environmentally friendliness of different renewable energy technologies. The technologies and fuel sources were ranked against 11 different criteria but big weightings were given to just two – greenhouse emissions over the full life cycle of their production and the levels of local air pollution. Here at 3P we were busy talking about all those executives at big oil companies work on renewables. Data centers were also a hot topic. We worried about them running out of energy And fantasized about them heating our swimming pools And since my mom is so sweet to read Triple Pundit, and she lives in such a nice place, here is her favorite post of the week. Aloha, Jen
Every large global corporation currently has a choice. They can try to survive by moving around pennies, or they can use this economy as a wake-up call. One response is a strategy that moves investment away from low-value commodities towards a strategic role in solving problems. The Oil and Gas Industry, and how they respond to climate change, is an excellent case. From a societal and environmental perspective, we need ‘Big Resources’ to step up – moving from being largely the problem, to being a big part of the solution. The company that is the first to see business opportunity, rather than focusing on climate as a risk and a marketing problem – will reap the rewards.
Al Gore told us The Inconvenient Truth about global warming. But many of us asked, “What can I do about it?” The documentary film FUEL, winner of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, provides more than doom and gloom; it provides sustainable business solutions. This film has the potential to do more to promote clean technology and renewable energy than all of the venture capital money in Silicon Valley combined.
A new model for calculating global goal reserves created by Dave Rutledge, chair of Caltech’s engineering and applied science division, shows that previous estimates may overstate, by hundreds of billions of tons, the amount of economically recoverable coal left in the ground.
Rutledge estimates that the total amount humans will extract, including all past mining, is only 662 billion tons. Far less that the previous best guess from the World Energy Council of 850 billion tons still available for mining
Basing his new model on historical examples of fossil fuel exhaustion, Rutledge notes the consistency with which governments fail to accurately estimate their own fossil fuel reserves. “The record of geological estimates made by governments for their fossil fuel estimates is really horrible. And the estimates tend to be quite high. They over-predict future coal production.”
As examples Rutledge noted the precipitous decline in British coal reserves after its 1913 peak, and the U.S. peak oil production of 1970, “controversially predicted” by M. King Hubbert in 1956 (and who was one of the first to warn of the unsustainability of fossil fuels starting in the ’40′s).
I’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately about how the Obama administration’s energy policies will affect the renewable energy sector. After all, the President-elect has been very vocal about insisting on the need to develop new, cleaner forms of energy, stating in very clear terms that the future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to the challenge of energy. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that such an agenda will only lend further support to the long-term potential of many renewable energy stocks. Even the mainstream media is jumping all over renewable energy stories, telling folks the same stuff we’ve been screaming from the rooftops for years.
We are not living in an “entrepreneurial-friendly” climate. The economy is in the proverbial toilet. Health care costs continue to increase. However, on January 20 President-elect Barack Obama will take office, and if he fulfills his campaign promises for businesses and health care, aspiring entrepreneurs will have a chance to fulfill their dreams. What are those campaign promises? Let’s start with statements Obama made this week during a press conference. “The pursuit of a new energy economy requires a sustained, all-hands-on-deck effort because the foundation of our energy independence is right here, in America – in the power of wind and solar; in new crops and new technologies; in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs, and the dedication and skill of our workforce.”
Datacenters that are faced with the challenge of cooling their servers have a brilliant opportunity to jump on the green bandwagon and distribute energy. A European IBM outlet, an Israeli Intel facility and a Scottish Microsoft center are all using the heat their datacenters produce to warm up buildings and other facilities. IBM is even commercializing its method. The Zurich Research Laboratory is a grand name for the defunct military underground bunker in which IBM housed one of its European datacenters. The company is putting the datacenter’s heat waste to good use; it is cooling its servers with water which is subsequently used to heat a local swimming pool. A report on IEEE Spectrum indicates that instead of using air-conditioning or fans, the IBM datacenter simply has devised a water pump system through micro channels within the computers themselves. The water then absorbs the heat from the datacenter and sold to the neighbors. “A 10-megawatt datacenter could produce enough energy to heat 700 homes,” according to the article in IEEE Spectrum. Nifty or what? The reason that IBM opted for heating up the pool rather than its own facility was that there wasn’t an office to heat up because the bunker is based in an inconvenient location and underground. “Through reclaiming the heat, approximately 130 tons of carbon emissions can be saved. This corresponds to the CO2 discharge of mid-size cars driving 500,000 miles,” according to IBM spokesman. “It’s a nice solution. It’s obviously a terrific example of the private sector and the public sector working toward each other’s mutual benefit.”
by Carla Voorhees As a member of the brand new Design MBA program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco I’ve gotten a crash-course in how to work across miles, time-zones and emotions. While the school and most of my classmates are located in San Francisco and the rest of the bay area, I live just outside of Washington, DC and fly in to attend classes. As a result, 98% of our group work on projects is conducted virtually. Working virtually is almost never easy, but it can be managed. More importantly it’s becoming a necessary tool in the businessperson’s arsenal. There are significant trends in business today towards cross-functional and multi-disciplinary teams, many of which are not physically located in the same office, city, state or even country. It is this trend that makes finding a way to work virtually that works for you so critical. Here are some tricks for making it work for you: 1. Choose the right project and the right team. Projects that are easily broken up into discrete blocks with little overlap are particularly good for this type of environment. Team members that are good at working independently can be great assets. 2. Schedule meetings far in advance. Once the scope of the project has been defined and the team assembled, block out once or twice weekly “sync-up” meetings for all members of the group, taking into account time zones and other factors. 3. Work asynchronously as much as possible. Independent workers and discrete portions of projects make this task much easier. If everyone owns a section of the project, focus can increase, stress decrease and meetings can be shorter. 4. Keep the lines of communication open. Post your work regularly for feedback where the group can see it, and make sure that you also give feedback to other members. Make sure that everyone is heard, and that you are present on every conference call. Really listen, pay attention and think about what everyone is saying and how you can incorporate it into your section of the project. 5. Set clear expectations. In addition to owning a section of the project, having clear expectations for each group member, and the group as a whole, I’ve found to be incredibly helpful. Knowing exactly what I’m expected to do helps me know when I need to ask for help or additional feedback. 6. Try not to overreact. It can be very easy to misinterpret an email message or other form of virtual communication without the benefit of body language and physical presence. Try to remain calm, and reread the message. Try not to take it personally, and ask for further clarification if need be. This would be a great time to start a videoconference if you need it. 7. The right tools make it easier. There are a multitude of tools available on the internet. Here is a quick survey of the arsenal that my team uses. The right tools have made working virtually something that I may have dreaded to something I actually look forward to.
As Vilsack said in an interview earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture affects every American. The Secretary of Agriculture oversees several departments including the Forest Service, the Food Service and Inspection Service, and the Food Stamp Program. Primary responsibilities include the direction of farm subsidies, food exports, soil and water preservation, national forest preservation, food aid, organic standards, animal disease, and pest control. After considerable lobbying and speculation, at a press conference earlier today, the president-elect announced his selection. If confirmed by the Senate, Vilsack will take the reigns during a “period of intense volatility in the agriculture industry,” observed Clayton Yeutter, former Secretary of Agriculture under George H.W. Bush. Commodities and agriculture analysts are calling for expediency in addressing farm subsidies and crop prices. Details of subsidy allocation in the farm bill remain unanswered while corn, wheat, and soybean prices fall. Vilsack will also be tasked with balancing the growth of biofuel with food needs and the environmental impact of increased production-a debate at the center of any comprehensive renewable energy initiative.
In this age of sustainability, environmental-focused initiatives themselves also need to be sustainable, not only as a potentially scalable business model to feed ongoing efforts, but as a source of compelling content that can spark — and maintain — awareness in the important issues our environment faces. That awareness is critical for cultivating a motivated population that can drive those initiatives forward, spurring viral activity and momentum to ensure widespread penetration — and adoption. Leo Murray, the creative genius behind Wake Up, Freak Out, has achieved that essential part of the equation by developing an engaging film about climate change designed to educate viewers about the significance of this problem and promote action. Although the film is over 11 minutes long, Leo used his animation prowess to draw the viewer in with an entertaining storyline that visually depicts the issue and how it affects all of us throughout the world.
Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo I had an opportunity to delve deeper into Leo’s vision for the film and plans for the future in a one-on-one chat, and while he isn’t in it for a payout, the monetization possibilities and product extension opportunities prove that green business is good business.
With the recent announcement of Obama’s green team things are looking encouraging for massive change happening in terms of how our government interacts with and takes action on the pressing environmental issues. You might be wondering, how can I too make a difference? Or more immediately, how can I save money in these turbulent economic times? The answer is all around you: Your computer you’re reading this on, the light above you, and out in the kitchen, the refrigerator, your oven, and a host of other things. Each using electricity, many whether you have them switched on or not. But how can you tell how much? How can you tell how much difference switching one thing out for another has? What keeping your lights off when you’re not in the room does? Typically, it’s been mostly a hindsight sort of thing, looking at your energy bill. And even then, you have no way of telling what’s happening on an individual appliance basis. Until now. Click to continue reading »
When it comes to making the transition to a “green,” low carbon economy, government stimulus plans are doubly beneficial, but public sector investment and spending alone will not be enough to spur decisive action and a long-term commitment. Nor will President-elect Obama’s plan to spend $15 billion a year over 10 years alone be sufficient to generate 5 million jobs, according to an economist, a regulatory expert and a business leader, the three of whom came together and held a press conference today to advocate establishing a carbon price and an emissions cap-and-dividend, in contrast to a straight cap-and-trade, system. The missing ingredient when it comes to government “green” economic stimulus is a method and system that establishes a price on carbon emissions, they assert. “Government stimulus alone isn’t enough, especially over the long-term…They’re going to need to energize investors and capital markets and that means sending strong, clear and consistent price signals to industry and market participants,” James K. Boyce, University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor and director of the energy and environment program at the Political Economy Research Institute, stated. The combination of government stimulus and sending clear price signals to industry, markets and investors is needed to draw in capital and resources from the private sector, and they are absolutely necessary to build and maintain sufficient mass and momentum for any such endeavor. In their preferred, politically pragmatic scenario, this would be through a cap-and-dividend system or slight variant thereof, maintain Boyce, Michael A. Livermore, executive director of New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity and Peter Barnes, entrepreneur and founder of “socially responsible” phone company Working Assets.
Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart, recently announced the launch of Neu Direction, a line of Fair-Trade Certified wines from Argentina. Fair Trade Certification™ is administered by TransFair USA and “guarantees consumers that strict economic, social, and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product.” This is one of the first certifications given to a wine cooperative, and the Neu Direction line will sell for about $10 in more than 450 Sam’s Club locations throughout the US. This isn’t the first example of Walmart featuring Fair Trade Certified™ products, but after the corporation came under substantial scrutiny for lobbying against carbon offset standards, this new launch seems in part like a strategic move to improve its image in time for a modestly-forecasted holiday spending season. (Photo Source: walmartstores.com)
Public concern over the appointment of the next Secretary of Agriculture highlights the dismal state of the American food industry. Last month, we introduced you to Farm Forward, the non-profit advocacy group that aims to transform the way our nation eats and farms. Conversations with CEO Dr. Steven Gross, and Director Ben Goldsmith revealed a robust model for inter-sector success and corporate evolution. Farm Forward brings food retailers, nonprofit animal advocacy organizations, scholars, small farmers, and community leaders into conversation with one another. They leverage this expertise and employ the several strategies to fight factory farm practices, including: -Lobbying for auditing practices to improve animal welfare -Pro-bono consultingfor family farms working towards humane and sustainable production -Promoting conscientious consumption and discussion of the social issues that underlie agribusiness through publications, social media marketing, and community campaigns -Advancing scholarship and undergraduate teaching that promotes critical reflection on the farming industry
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