The Path to Lower Oil Demand and Gas Prices: A Green Vehicle Revolution Is a Much Better Route Than a Global Financial Crisis

| Wednesday December 31st, 2008 | 4 Comments

electric-engine1229.jpgWould a dramatic reduction in demand for oil caused by a green vehicle revolution cause the same type of reduction in oil prices that the global financial crisis has?
Overall, I don’t see why not.
In fact, I’m guessing that the eye-opening impact of the financial crisis on oil demand and prices is exactly what major oil producers are afraid of should the world experience a green vehicle revolution.
Think about all the benefits that our society would receive from an oil demand-destroying green vehicle revolution that lowers gas prices via efficient, clean technologies rather than via a global financial crisis:
* Broad economic stimulus beyond the oil sector: the combination of highly efficient clean vehicles and low gas prices will free up untold fortunes of peoples’ gasoline money to be spent on all things non-energy, providing a green injection of economic stimulus far and wide. Previously, I noted that:

Switching from a car that gets 20 mpg to one that gets 50 mpg will save the average American nearly $1,100/year in gas costs at $3/gallon (given the average distance Americans drive per year – about 12,000 miles; savings rise considerably as gas prices and miles driven go up). That savings is nearly two times the cash provided to us by our 2008 stimulus checks! Multiply that by the 112 million households in the U.S. alone, and that’s $123.2 billion/year that American households are now spending on gas that with a mandate for more efficient vehicles, they would have to spend on…everything else.

Even at currently lower gas prices, a Clean Vehicle Revolution promises to be a significant stimulative force in our economy.

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Small Businesses Running On Solar WiFi

| Wednesday December 31st, 2008 | 0 Comments

meraki.gifIt sounds iffy; running your company’s network on a WiFi connection that is entirely powered by solar energy. But a Mountainview, CA firm says it provides a 100% uptime solution. And it reports a mad dash for its products by companies in the range of 50 to 200 employees.
Mesh WiFi firm Meraki started shipping its Meraki Solar December 4th, after a year long delay because it needed to improve its battery technology.
The delay lands both the firm and customers in a slightly awkward situation. The worldwide run on solar power equipment seemed overly justified when oil prices spiked. Now that the price of oil is in the 40 dollar bracket, what should solar be priced at? Meraki has found a creative way around this stumbling block. Customers can bring their own panels! They’re selling solar Wifi solutions for apartment blocks or businesses and small communities at $749 a piece for a bring-your-own-panel model up to $1,499 for areas with shorter days or less light which require a battery.
Company cofounder Sanjit Biswas told ArsTechnica that Meraki decided to change from sealed lead-acid to lithium iron-phosphate for greater capacity.
Biswas said this dropped the battery’s weight, which in turn reduces shipping costs for the many remote areas that the Solar unit is being deployed.

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How Companies Can Kick the Petroleum Based Water Bottle Habit

| Wednesday December 31st, 2008 | 2 Comments

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When I first read about Goody G1, an additive to non eco plastics to make them both compostable and biodegradable, my first thought was, why enable petroleum based plastic manufacturers an out to continue manufacturing as they are, rather then looking into a thoroughly green option?
But then seen from another perspective, it’s like asking a smoker to stop cold turkey. Possible. but unlikely. And in the case of plastic packaging manufacturers, it would likely require a retooling of equipment to accommodate such a change. Again, possible, but in these tighter times, not likely.
Enter Goody Products. They offer three options, depending on where you are as a company, to help companies kick the petro habit.

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On Water Bottles and Identity

CCA LiveE | Tuesday December 30th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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kor-bottle.jpgMattia Nuzzo
So I just got this water bottle. Pretty cool, right? It definitely took me a couple weeks (maybe months?) to find it among the Siggs and Klean Kanteens out there. While it does meet most of my requirements – portability, aesthetics, drinkability – I began to wonder what the image of myself armed with such an overdesigned water holder might present to people.
I initiated my search for the coolest water bottle I could find by doing just that: typing “coolest water bottle” into Google. I came across articles about the need to ensure that the container was BPA-free, and how the Siggs actually don’t call out the composition of the interior lining of their bottles. After a bit more research I threw caution to the wind and ordered a shiny new Sigg from Amazon. Unfortunately after receiving it I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed. It just seemed too “meh”; too pragmatic. Back it went, and after returning to my “cool” search results I happened upon the Kor One.
The website hosted by Kor has all the trappings of a brand that’s trying too hard – a blog, a flickr page, videos, etc. All this for a water bottle. I can’t help but question if the identity they seem to be so carefully crafting actually gets in the way of the piece’s primary role as a utilitarian object. The bottle’s cap contains a slot for customers to insert images or tags provided by the company, with cheesy slogans like “Better Me, Better World” (what does that even mean?). Still, it was the best overall design I’d seen so far, so I went ahead and plugged in my CC info and patiently waited the 5-7 business days.

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ClimatePULSE: The Top 3 Climate Change Headlines to Watch for in 2009

| Tuesday December 30th, 2008 | 0 Comments

calendar.jpgAs 2008 comes to a close and we take a look at the year in review, we reflect on the year that has passed and begin to think about the future. There have been many climate change-related headlines over the past year, from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative holding its first two auctions, to global representatives meeting in Poland to discuss climate change, to global warming as a major issue in the most publicized U.S. election in history, and more. As this exciting year in climate change comes to a conclusion, we look forward to the major (and minor) events that will take place in 2009. This week, ClimatePULSE will take a look at the top 3 climate change headlines to watch for in the upcoming year.

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U.S. Edges Germany as World’s Largest Wind Power Producer

| Tuesday December 30th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Wind energy development in the United States maintains its record pace, overtaking Germany as the world leader in wind energy generationIn their year-end report, the American Wind Energy Association shows another banner year for wind power in the U.S. For the third year in a row, wind energy development has grown at a record pace, generating over $18 billion in revenue.

Even though Germany has more turbines and greater capacity (22,300 megawatts), the U.S. has stronger winds (perhaps in more ways than one) and overtook Germany this summer as the world leader in actual megawatts of electricity produced from wind generation when the U.S. “blew past” 20,000 MW of installed generating capacity. By the end of the third quarter, the U.S. had more than 21,000 megawatts of electricity in place. Fourth quarter statistics show Germany’s wind development slowing and the U.S. sprinting to the finish line, no doubt spurred on by the better-late-than-never extension of the renewable energy tax credit.

This is the kind of “arms race” that will do the world good.

“With additional projects coming on line every week since (September), the wind industry is on its way to charting another record-shattering year of growth,” AWEA said in its report.

A press release from the AWEA last May reported that wind energy is well on the path of supplying 20% of electrical generation in the U.S. by 2030, supporting over a half million jobs. Subsequent wind development since then bears that out.

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Building the ‘Me Muscle’: Six Essential Exercises

CCA LiveE | Monday December 29th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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mei-muc.jpgBy Mei Lan Ho-Walker
I must confess I thought a communications class would be a piece of cake. I would read some books, practice public speaking and viola! instantly emerge as an ‘effective communicator’.
I was dead wrong. The class LiveE was a mental bootcamp that turned my world upside down. It rocked my core – in a good way. I often questioned what we were doing, from the paper airplane exercises, to writing about energy leaks, to reading a book called Difficult Conversations. I went through the motions because I was unsure of where we were going. There was a level of ambiguity that made me very uncomfortable, and I couldn’t see the big picture.
The moment of clarity came when I realized there was no predetermined end result. I essentially surrendered myself to myself and making this shift made all the difference. I embraced the ambiguity as an opportunity to define what I wanted to learn. It wasn’t about the professor, getting good grades, or coming up with the right answer, it was about me.
This class became a personal journey in developing my own sense of self to help me navigate, communicate and succeed in the situations I found myself in. I was and still am building this self-knowledge or what I call the ‘me muscle’.
I had this idea of what a good communicator was supposed to be based on expectation of others. But this experience revealed that effective communication begins from within. This ‘me muscle’ represents the driving force helping me make decisions, build confidence and gain control. Through practice and reflection, we can all develop our own sense of style.
To help keep my ‘me muscle’ in shape, I’ve compiled a list of daily exercises. It’s hard work, but remember some pain is good. It means you’re building muscle.

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Raser Wastes No Time, Taps Massive Geothermal Field in Utah

| Monday December 29th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Less than six months after discovering a massive geothermal field 180 miles southwest of Salt Lake City near Minersville, Utah, Raser Technologies expects to begin delivering clean, renewable electricity to residents of Anaheim, California under the terms of a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Anaheim city government.
A dramatic demonstration of just how quickly and effectively such “new” geothermal energy, heat and power resources can be brought on line, Raser wasted no time in tapping into what may turn out to be |one of the more important geothermal energy developments of the last quarter century,” according to University of Utah professor of geothermal exploration Greg Nash.
Discovery of the field – where superheated water circulates through a porous limestone deposit more than a mile thick several thousand feet below the surface – has prompted management to drastically revise its capacity estimate and development plans for the project. Originally slated for 10-megawatts, they now anticipate being able to develop a 230-megawatt plant on the site, and that may only be scratching the surface, according to an AP report run today in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s Northwest Arkansas edition.

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Sustainable Banking: It is a Wonderful Life

| Monday December 29th, 2008 | 1 Comment

Sitting at home watching It’s a Wonderful Life, I didn’t really feel so wonderful. Mostly, it just reminded me of the banks bailout and the problems with our banking system that brought down the economy this fall. A banker who knows your name? Who cares about you and your family and your wellbeing? Our expectations have slipped so far that we only have hopes that our banks will not go under Depression style. Forget personal attention. Our relationships are with a hungry Automatic Tellers that eat our deposits, we shrug our shoulders at mysterious maintenance fees, and we consider compromised social security numbers and identity theft to be an unfortunate part of doing business in today’s economy. Happily, there are banks our there like New Resource Bank that are trying to do things differently.
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Corporate Cultures: Peeling the Social Onion.

CCA LiveE | Monday December 29th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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london-city.jpgby Vinitha Watson
Through the Live Exchange course, I gleaned a deep understanding of the human experience through communication. At the onset of the class, we didn’t dive straight into a business focus, but we first focused on ourselves as individuals, employees, friends, partners, and citizens.
As we studied our own psyche, I became fascinated by how modern day corporations address the needs of their consumers much like we as individuals relate to each other. This idea really sunk in when I arrived home after a long day at school, to find an unexpected package on my doorstep. To my surprise it was a box of chocolates from a local chocolatier who I usually turn to for gifts during the holidays. This unexpected gift not only created a thoughtful gesture, but was a strong reminder of the quality of their chocolate. What’s common between individual interactions and how a company’s persona interacts with their customer boils down to trust, frequent interactions, and a perception that the product communicates the consumer’s identity to the outside world. Corporations are now able to peel back the social onion through developing meaning and reality through a consistent “voice”.

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Governmental Climate Change Mitigation Efforts Are Less Costly When They Target Temperatures Rather Than CO2 Emissions Reductions

| Monday December 29th, 2008 | 0 Comments

carbontr.jpgClimate change mitigation packages should be aimed at reducing temperatures rather than lowering carbon emissions. This makes global government investment in protecting the environment a lot less expensive, say European scientists.
The researchers, in the Netherlands and Germany, have found scientific grounds for the commonly held opinion that high initial costs of eco-friendly solutions are rewarded in the long term by savings from lower energy usage.
Rather than focus on a CO2 emissions cap which is the common approach to climate solutions, the researchers modeled changes based on a cap for future temperature rises.
Working with a temperature cap makes sense in many ways, especially financially, says Michiel Schaeffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study. This is because the cost estimates associated with limiting a pre-determined level of carbon emissions often rise rapidly, even exponentially, as the scale of emission reductions to be reached increases.

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In the Smart Grid We Trust

Nick Hodge | Monday December 29th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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In order to increase its renewable target to 33% by 2020, California needs an additional $6.5 billion worth of transmission projects. That’s according to the California Independent System Operator, which plays babysitter to the state’s electrical grid.
Current law requires 20% of the state’s power to be produced renewably by 2010, a goal that can be achieved without major infrastructure upgrades. But anything beyond that would require new transmission capacity, and new investment.
Similar scenarios are being played out around the country and the world, where intentions are good but technology is lagging. A 100% renewable energy mandate, for example, is nothing but laughable if the proper supporting cast isn’t in place.
And so we’re realizing, slowly but surely, that a shiny new solar plant in the middle of a desert is worthless unless it’s hooked up to a little thing we call the grid. As it happens, we’re discovering the grid is also in need of some drastic improvements.

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The Sustainability Movement Needs More Than Gorilla Marketing

CCA LiveE | Sunday December 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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by Kathryn Hautanen
As a person new to the sustainability conversation, it is somewhat difficult for me to understand the dialogue. Terms like green, sustainable, organic and greenwashing are being tossed around as if everyone is in agreement as to what these terms mean.
Last year I was at the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco especially to see Michelle Kaufmann’s mkLotus™ house. As I was leaving, a guy in a gorilla suit engaged me in a conversation and he was very animated by PG&E’s “greenwashing.” He was clearly upset and all I could think was – what is “greenwashing” and is it good or bad? The only thing that was coming to mind was Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing of a fence – not exactly evil. He was frustrated that I wasn’t hearing him and getting outraged at PG&E, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t understand him.

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Communication: The Business-end of Design Innovation

CCA LiveE | Sunday December 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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communi-splotto.gifby Erik Ehrke
It pretty much goes without saying that “communication is important in business.” Right? And if we are talking about an innovative, design-based business, good communication is regarded as an imperative. We implicitly understand that communication is essential for collaboration. But while this is a plain fact on its surface, its deeper implications within the design process might not be so apparent. I hope to contribute some thoughts about the role of communication in business – specifically businesses that rely on collaborative design to create competitive, sustainable alternatives to the status quo.
As a student in California College of the Arts’ new Design Strategy MBA program, I have been studying the interactions of Design, Business and Communication with increasing appreciation for how intimately these three disciplines can ally with one another. Almost any business could benefit from applied design innovation. Innovation is the single most effective means of creating product or service differentiation. But there are differing degrees of innovation – at its far reaches, innovative thinking can disrupt established markets, define entirely new market segments and create extraordinary market-power. Think iPod. It is precisely this type disruptive innovation – but focused on the triple bottom line (TBL) – that will be necessary across a wide variety of industries if we wish to grow a sustainable “green economy.” The desire for change may ultimately be driven by deep values and existing needs, but it will be effected through designed solutions that competitively meet these criteria within our existing market economy. Here, design can function as a critical tool in this process. Similar to the combined roles of mutation and selection in evolutionary theory, design innovation acts as a type of “change factor” that can replace prior solutions by virtue of unquestionable competitive advantage.

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A Company’s Most Sustainable Advantage

CCA LiveE | Saturday December 27th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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siebel-sauce.jpgBy Adam Dole
Many of today’s top companies are so fixated on what their competition is doing, that they often forget to focus on their single most important competitive advantage; their strengths! In the current economic climate, companies need to stop focusing on the competition and start getting back to what they do better than anyone else. Using their strengths to create a competitive advantage might sound obvious, but focusing on the internal measures of excellence that come naturally is surprisingly too often the first thing that gets overlooked or brushed aside.
Natural strengths tend to hang around and show up whether you like it or not. As a result, spending any time trying to suppress them, or believing that your weaknesses will ever out-perform your strengths will rarely provide the same value or return on investment that spending that same time playing to your strengths will. So why fight it? Knowing how to play to your strengths might just be the one way out of this economic crisis.

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