PG&E Launches The Next 100 Blog

| Monday May 12th, 2008 | 0 Comments

pge_logo.jpgAs a longtime proponent of the power of blogging as a more democratic, open communications tool, I’ve always encouraged companies to get on the bandwagon. My reasoning is simple – by approaching the public with an honest voice and permitting commenting with no censorship, you ultimately get a more transparent, more useful conversation. If you haven’t read the cluetrain manifesto, check it out. Actually, I’ll just quote the entire preface right here (don’t worry, this is a great post to get your monday humming):

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies.
These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.
Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.
But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.
While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.
However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets.
Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.

That quote is from 1999, long before blogging emerged as anything significant, and it rings fantastically true today.
Enter PG&E.

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The “We” Ad Campaign for Climate Change: Get On the Couch

| Friday May 9th, 2008 | 0 Comments

We Campaign launches new adsThe Alliance for Climate Protection was founded by Al Gore in 2006 as a “single purpose organization committed to igniting public action to help solve the climate crisis”.

Last month the Alliance launched their “We” Campaign (as in “we can solve it”), a $300 million marketing effort (spent over three years) designed to push the public’s “sense of urgency” about the climate crisis toward a “tipping point” breaking through the current logjam of partisan posturing and “cultural stereotypes”. One wonders if $300 million is enough.

To that end, the We Campaign started in earnest with two television ads promoting “Unlikely Alliances”.

To wit:

  • Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton agree on one thing...Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson sitting on a couch (with a sunny beach as a backdrop) talking of their unity through the common cause of climate stewardship.
  • Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich sitting on what appears to be the same couch (this time in front of the capital building) also doing their bit to show that climate change need not (should not, must not) be viewed through polarizing political ideology.

It’s all about the couch. 

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The Latest in Climate Mapping from USAID, NASA and Partners

| Friday May 9th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Interested in viewing 3-D visualizations showing how climate change projections for the 2030s and 2050s will affect selected landscapes? Well, USAID, NASA, the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology, the University of Colorado and CATHALAC (Centro del Agua del Trópico Húmedo para América Latina y el Caribe) have just the thing for you. The development partners on May 2 announced the beta release of the Climate Mapper tool for SERVIR Viz, the Regional Visualization and Monitoring System.
Climate Mapper should “enhance vulnerability assessments as development planners consider adaptation strategies for projects,” according to the group’s press release.
Modeled data is based on monthly data averaged over the decades 2031-2040 and 2051-2060. Three models output data based on the models used in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report: the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Model; the European Centre/Hamburg Model (ECHAM); and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Coupled Model.
These three models “were chosen because they represent the highest, middle, and lowest projections for changes in Africa in the Climate Moisture Index (CMI), a measure of the relative balance of precipitation and temperature and run using the A1B SRES scenario, a scenario of economic activity and carbon emissions that most closely represents the current or business-as-usual economic and carbon emissions trajectory,” according to the group’s press release.
In addition, the software renders historical temperature and precipitation for the 1961-1990 base period taken from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit database of monthly climate observations from meteorological stations interpolated 0.5¬∞ grid covering the earth’s land surface.
Initial complementary Climate Mapper data sets are available for Africa for ¬Ω-degree x ¬Ω degree grid cells, which cover approximately an area of 50 square kilometers near the equator. Future data set releases are expected to cover the entire planet.
Both the Climate Mapper and SERVIR Viz can be downloaded here.

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Taxing Oil Companies to Fund Biofuel Investment

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday May 9th, 2008 | 3 Comments

E85.jpgThe oil companies invest paltry sums in renewable energy and biofuels, despite claims to the contrary and record high profits last year. In February the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Chevron made $18.7 billion in profits last year. According to the article 2007 was “the fourth consecutive year that the San Ramon company made record amounts of money.” Shell made $27.6 in profit, British newspaper the Guardian reported in January. ExxonMobil raked in $40.6 billion in profits,
U.S. News and World Report
reported in January.
Last month the Congress held hearings on gas prices. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming grilled oil industry executives about high gas prices and investing in renewables and biofuels.

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Peel & stick solar fulfills the need … for speed!

| Thursday May 8th, 2008 | 26 Comments

lumetaLogo.jpgOne of the major challenges facing the global energy sector is the amount of time it takes to develop new energy resources. Even if you didn’t care about the negative externalities, environmental impacts or climate change contributions of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, it takes a long time (and billions of dollars) to drill deep holes, excavate or detonate massive mines, build pipelines and railways, construct power plants and high-voltage power lines … as a famous recent American President and avowed fossil fuel aficionado likes to say, “It’s hard work.”
Which brings us to a major and under-appreciated advantage that most clean energy technologies have over traditional, “let’s burn more rocks” resources like coal and oil: speed to market. Because there are no pollution concerns and related air quality permitting requirements, renewable energy projects can be developed with lightning speed – especially medium-sized commercial projects where the power will be used on-site.

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3P SoundBite: Olivier Pinçon of Stanford University

| Thursday May 8th, 2008 | 0 Comments

3P SoundBite emerged from our desire to show that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in sustainability come from all different walks of life…they could be people you know, or they could even be you! Every Thursday, we bring you a new profile and a new perspective.

Perhaps the most passionate movers of sustainability is students. Olivier Pin√ßon (pronounced Pinson) is a transplant from Paris. He began his master’s degree thesis at Stanford in 2006 and says he’s literally surrounded by innovation in Silicon Valley. His first new English word that he learned was venture capitalist!
In this Soundbite, Olivier talks about his research in concentrated solar thermal power technology.

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Hello Kitty Harnesses the Power of the Sun

| Thursday May 8th, 2008 | 0 Comments

HelloKittySolar.jpg The tech blogosphere has been aflutter this week with the next, biggest thing to change our lives. Well, perhaps the lives of millions of pre-teens across the world. The Hello Kitty Solar Charger.
Fresh after last year’s release of the Hello Kitty space heater, this nearly 6″x 6″x 3″ contraption can recharge your iPod, Blackberry, or any other portable electronic device with a USB plug. The charger also has a DC battery for those unfortunate moments when sunlight just isn’t cutting it (a typical solar charge takes 6 hours while a DC charge takes 1). Interestingly – amidst the designer purses and jewelry – the charger is nowhere to be found on the online store at Hello Kitty’s official website, home of parent company Sanrio, Ltd. It is apparently only available at DreamKitty for $160, the unofficial one-stop shop for all things Hello Kitty. To give a point of comparison, that is almost double what many other solar chargers can be found for, and serves as fodder for many of the anti-Hello Kitty groups out there.

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Air Travel Emissions Worse Than Predicted

| Thursday May 8th, 2008 | 2 Comments

K63967-02_lg.jpgAccording to Wired, “forget everything you’ve heard about airlines and CO2 emissions. The news is much worse than anyone thought.” Recently disclosed reports are now revealing that air travel is resulting in 20% more CO2 emissions than previously predicted. How much? Try 1.5 billion tons of it’s gettin’ hot in here carbon dioxide a year, by 2025. That’s about half of what the entire European Union emits today (3.1 billion tons annually). But in an increasingly global society, can we really expect people to fly less, sacrificing the convenience and necessity of air travel?
Green air travel: a convenient myth? Boeing’s new 787, is touted as the most efficient aircraft of its kind, 20% more to be exact, thanks to its more efficient engines, composite materials, and aerodynamics. Yet the 787 is more of a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid equivalent than a Prius, trading per-seat efficiency for the convenience of non-stop travel.
787 vs. A380: the efficiency (PR) arms race. When the company announced the development of the 787, then named the 7E7, to emphasize its efficiency, Boeing chose to put its money on smaller aircraft to serve the non-stop, regional travel needs of fewer than 300 passengers. Meanwhile, Airbus’ A380 will serve hub to hub transportation, carrying as many as 800 in its monstrous double decker cabin. Of course, the jury on the true efficiency of either aircraft will remain out until both are configured and flying, perhaps with far fewer seats, trading efficiency for the convenience of extra room for passengers, and throwing claims such as Airbus’ that the A380 is “more efficient than driving a car” out the window.

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Brown Continues Getting Greener: Telematics Helps UPS Squeeze Out Higher Efficiencies and Increased Safety

| Wednesday May 7th, 2008 | 2 Comments

Hybrid electric truck on the UPS fleetThink back to when you actually saw a UPS truck sitting at a crowded intersection waiting to turn left. Depending on where you live, it may have been awhile. Because in some test markets Brown doesn’t go left. (and I’m not talking about the upcoming election.)

While most UPS trucks are probably still turning left at intersections, such a maneuver is not beyond examination. With skyrocketing fuel prices and a barrel of oil now hovering around $122 a barrel as I write this (and many analysts looking for $150 a barrel oil), simply waiting in traffic to make a left turn becomes an inefficiency that can’t be afforded.

But how do you effectively monitor a fleet of over 65,000 delivery trucks to determine routes, vehicle movement, operation, and condition to maximize efficiency and safety while minimizing fuel consumption?

UPS is a leader in developing a proprietary sensoring and data collection system based on Telematics to track everything from tire pressure, idle times, speed, engine RPM – even the number of times the truck is put into reverse and if the driver is buckling-up. The data creates a picture of the truck and driver’s day. The data is stored on board and uploaded at the end of the day to one of UPS’s data centers via a 900MHz radio link.

Then the data mining begins. And therein lies the true benefit of the UPS Telematics system.

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Offshore Wind: How Europe Plans to Meet Clean Energy Goals

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday May 7th, 2008 | 4 Comments

The E.U. is serious about getting clean energy on the grid. The European Parliament has set a 25% target for renewable energy by 2020. About half of that target is projected to come from wind energy. A new report, “Pure Power – Wind Energy Scenarios up to 2030,” put out by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), shows that this is a feasible scenario, given current trends in the field. As of 2007, five E.U. countries (Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Germany) have more than 5% of their electricity demand supplied by wind energy. If the 2020 goal is met, wind energy could equal 38% of the EU-15’s Kyoto Protocol obligation, avoid 133 mega-tons of C02, and save billions in fuel costs. Future wind production is dependent, however, on continued government/private capital investments in the offshore wind energy market.

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Ardour Capital’s Nasdeo Talks Alt Energy Investments

| Wednesday May 7th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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Shares of alternative energy companies continue to be hard hit given worsening financial and economic conditions but there is strength and support underlying investments in the sector. So says Walter Nasdeo, managing director at Ardour Capital Investments, a pioneer when it comes to alternative energy equity research and investment banking.
Fair, balanced and independent equity research, coupled with timely, accurate and comprehensive financial disclosure, is prerequisite to establishing healthy, sound equity markets and a level playing field in which investors large and small can participate. In addition to its proprietary research, Ardour is playing a vital role in this regard, having established a line of alternative energy indexes in partnership with S-Network Energy Technologies.
Triple Pundit interviewed Ardour Capital managing director Walter Nasdeo to gain some insight into the company’s business, as well as the recent performance and future prospects for alternative energy companies.

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Keen and Consciousness

| Wednesday May 7th, 2008 | 2 Comments

I’m as jaded as the next guy when it comes to companies touting their green chops but, on closer inspection, having little to back it up. But amidst the greenwashing/hyping of recent years, I’ve also been downright moved.
If you think about, outdoor retailers are, or should be, leaders in the green/sustainable business community. Environmental quality is, after all, a key piece of their value proposition, as in, “Those hiking boots you just bought are not recommended for Superfund sites.” Or melting glaciers, for that matter.
Sure, Patagonia comes to mind as a pioneer. But I’m also thinking of Keen, the outdoor shoe company whose “Hybrid Life/STAND” campaign Keen%20stand.gif is both a powerful statement about the connection between creativity, athleticism and activism and an awards program for people who are living it.
Then there’s Eastern Mountain Sports. I know next to nothing about EMS’s CSR record but I have to admit I was impressed when I recently bought a pair of quarter-length running socks. On the back of the package were two words, “Future Consciousness.” Wow! One pair of socks and then, like that, transcendence. Like Keen’s Hybrid Life concept, Future Consciousness, according to EMS, is all about owing up to our shared fate and the deep connections between consumer and consumed, people and planet, socks and species.

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Sungevity Hits The Home Solar Sweet Spot

| Wednesday May 7th, 2008 | 7 Comments

9c2e1.jpgWith the rising cost of power, and the greater awareness of the human impact on the environment, home solar power has long since moved beyond deep green people and would be militia and out into the broader society. But who to go with? And how to to do it, at what cost? For many, this is likely a very new concept, fraught with lots of unknowns and insecurities. Berkeley based Sungevity has one of the most well thought out websites I’ve long seen for selling solar to the masses. Other solar providers, take note.
Whereas other companies either seem to take a kitchen sink approach, presuming you’re already interested, tossing a heap of links and text your way, or looking impressive but not so accessible to the newbie and strongly making the case on a personal level, Sungevity gives a human face to the process. Literally. A friendly woman greets you on the site – no, not those creepy animated talking heads mouthing pre recorded human voices – a real person talks to you with empathy, enthusiasm, and interest, literally pointing out the various sections of the site, and why they’re relevant.
Wisely, they don’t lead with the environmental benefits of solar, but rather, education on how it works, how much you’d need, and what to do if you move. It continues with how solar is a shield against rising energy costs, and the many rebates available to make it affordable. Appeal to people’s basic needs first, then go for the higher purpose. Well done. They ease past the cost question by suggesting financing via your mortgage or their financial institutions. As they put it,

This makes solar electricity like utility electricity, except our costs don’t go up with increasing energy costs.

Bingo.

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Pangea Day: A Global Film Event on May 10

Shannon Arvizu | Tuesday May 6th, 2008 | 0 Comments

logoPangea.gif“Movies alone can’t change the world. But the people who watch them can.”
This Saturday, May 10, we have the opportunity to witness the vision created by social entrepreneur, Jehane Noujaim, to “harness the power of film to enhance empathy, compassion, and peace.” The program consists of four hours of winning short films, live music, and speakers from six parts of the globe simultaneously.
“It will be a chance for people around the globe to see the world through someone else’s eyes. We’re calling it the world’s first global campfire: A day when we share stories made by the world for the world,” says the Pangeaday.org website.
Viewers can watch the event via the Internet, Current TV satellite channel, or by attending/hosting a local screening. See Pangeaday.org for more details.

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ClimatePULSE – ISO 14064 for Clean Technologies and Carbon Markets

| Tuesday May 6th, 2008 | 5 Comments

CC_logo_small.jpgThere is a growing recognition that investments in and adoption of clean technologies benefits both the environment. Clean technology industries also increase jobs, sales and exports of new products. This is the “double dividend” – improving the economy and the environment – innovating “win-win” solutions.
One of the challenges is the use of an “approved or standardized” approach to quantifying the carbon credits created by new technologies. There are many approaches being used, ranging from in-house engineering calculations to full life cycle analyses (LCA) and computer models. There are a few cases where new technologies can use existing GHG standards; unfortunately the numbers of these cases are too few in relation to the exponential growth of new technologies. The most commonly used standards are developed within a rigid and bureaucratic process – akin to “legal precedent in a court of law”. Standards should not only help to uphold the quality and credibility of technologies and carbon credits, standards should be designed to accommodate innovation and thereby increase the development and widespread adoption of new emission reduction technologies.

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