Although military contracting remains frighteningly profitable, other, greener options are emerging. Take Tower Tech of Manitowoc, WI. The self-described “logistical leader in wind tower production” has an interesting past – the facility in which it operates is a former submarine manufacturer which has been re-tooled to make the towers. The company’s stock is up 10x since last august, an astonishing rate of growth that proves that they’re doing something right. I wonder what the resources of Lockheed, Raytheon or Halliburton could produce if put to a different purpose?
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A wild and fascinating story of the good and bad of business in the same place is unfolding in Northern California as we speak. In the wake of the major fuel spill in San Francisco Bay, the association of local dungeness crab fishermen voluntarily agreed to postpone this years crab harvest until crabs in the waters near San Francisco had been tested and deemed safe to eat. “The consensus was that one sick consumer could ruin the entire crab season, which began Thursday.” It was a highly unusual move for an industry to make and deserves attention and applause.
Unfortunately, quite literally in the middle of the night, two crews from Oregon swept into the waters and caught more than 100,000 lbs of crabs and immediately off-loaded them in Monterey, where less sympathetic dock workers happily unloaded the potentially tainted cargo to a handful of wholesalers who had not pledged to avoid the catch. The crabs are now, apparently, finding their way into the market.
The good news is the attention that the story is getting, and I’m happy to give it some more. If you’re in the bay area, you’d be advised to avoid crabs in the coming weeks, partly because they might be unsafe, but more importantly as a matter of principal to support the courage and forward thinking of a group of business people who have forgone immediate profits for longer term gain.
The whole thing will likely play out in the courts. On the one hand this serves as a reality check that while all may seem rosy, scoundrels may still lurk. But it also serves as a great example of what’s possible when business commits to doing the right thing. Read the whole story on today’s SFGate.
A new survey conducted by The Field Poll reveals that seventy percent of Californian citizens believe that global warming is very important to them personally. This is significantly higher than 52% of Americans who reported this in a national poll earlier in 2007.
Public concern over global warming in California is high because of recent regional changes in air quality and water availability. A majority believes that the problem requires “immediate” (43%) or “some action” (32%). The report notes that, “Despite these apprehensions, greater than eight in ten (85%) agree that the state can reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and, at the same time, expand jobs and economic prosperity. In addition, 90% agree that California can be a leader in new technologies to improve efficiency and reduce global warming, with 66% agreeing strongly.”
In an attempt to move beyond “speculation” as to the reality and principal source of current climate trends (haven’t we done that already?) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their fourth summary report released last week in Spain, states that the evidence of global warming is now “unequivocal”.
This summary report (the draft pdf version of which is available here) is important as it synthesizes the three previous summaries released by the IPCC earlier this year, and will act as a guiding document in the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali next month.
Writing in Wunderblog Rick Roud, a professor at the University of Michigan, says that the process leading to this fourth assessment report eliminates speculation, as much as is humanly possible, into the science of climate change. As such, the IPCC report is considered by many, including Roud, as “safe”, with some “late-breaking” data and emerging trends not included as there has not yet been adequate time given for the scientific scrutiny and peer review required for such certainty.
In his post, Roud states that he hopes the debate can now move beyond “argument, above the suspicion of hidden agendas” and into more positive and productive discussions on action and policy.
And not a moment too soon, if you asked me.Click to continue reading »
The times have certainly given way to digital but radio waves are re-defining their value. The Tate Ambient Power Module, patented by Joseph Tate of California, converts radio-wave energy (manmade and natural) into energy that can be used by small appliances such as smoke detectors and clock radios.
The device is simple in its design and composition. The Ambient Power Module (APM) is nothing more than an electronic circuit connected to an antenna and grounded to the earth. Tate made this come to life by just loosely wrapped wire around a 3-inch plastic tube with a whip antenna. This module will deliver low voltage up to several milliwatts dependent upon the local radio noise levels and antenna specifications.
Once put together this crafty little unit can generate 36 volts/9 watts of power, equivalent to the output of several Duracell batteries. Apparently, this device in close proximity to large quantities of metal (bridges, ships, etc) winds up the output. The interesting added bonus to this creative module is that it might also be helpful in forecasting earthquakes by watching the rising and falling energy levels.
The Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) is seeking promising social entrepreneurs to enter the 2008 Competition. If you are an entrepreneur (or budding entrepreneur!) with a financially sustainable venture that addresses a social or environmental problem, you are encouraged to apply. Winning plans in the past have ranged from global health to microfinance, from cleantech to education, from fair trade to community development, from business concepts to operating companies, and have included for-profit and non-profit models.
Executive Summaries are due January 16, 2008*
Full Business Plans are due February 27-29, 2008*
For more info, click here.
This week Jamie asked me about the climate change impact of her company’s vehicle fleet and the options for reducing it. Her company has a vehicle fleet of 738 vehicles that average around 30,000 miles per year each. That adds up to 22,140,000 vehicle miles per year, or 0.00131% of US annual passenger miles (22,140,000 miles / 1,689,240,950,000 miles).
We will assume that the average fuel economy of this fleet is 30 mpg. This means that the company uses around 738,000 gallons of gasoline per year (22,140,000 miles / 30 mpg) at a cost of over $2.2 million (at $3/gallon). In a previous AskPablo I determined that a gallon of gasoline results in 19.56 lbs, or 8.87 kg of CO2 when combusted. So that vehicle fleet is responsible for roughly 6,546 mT of CO2 each year!
The net effect: 50% reduction in weight, the ability to form shapes that we not possible before, and a significant diversion of a waste stream.
Two car companies are taking advantage of the product: Hyundai and Chevrolet will use iQ for most of the external and internal panels as well as glazing on their two new concept vehicles, the Volt and the QarmaQ. In the case of the Volt, the prime driving force behind the move is weight – every bit counts with an electric vehicle. In the case of the QarmaQ it was the ability to achieve a shape that would otherwise have been impossible. Either way, both companies will benefit from the added customer satisfaction that comes with purchasing a more sustainable vehicle – assuming they get them beyond the concept stage and on the road soon. Click to continue reading »
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The color-coded red and blue United States map has become a familiar image in the past few years with the “code” dividing the country along political partisan lines of “liberal” vs. “conservative”.
Oversimplified at best, a new color joins the fray and that color is, of course, green.
It’s reported that a recent study from Environment America (which is, for the purpose of full disclosure, headquartered in the green [and blue] state of Massachusetts) shows a growing “green divide” overlaying the familiar red and blue.
States along the northeastern seaboard (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania and Vermont) and west coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) are shown as developing comprehensive environmental strategies in the areas of renewable energy, utility and appliance energy efficiency, building codes for energy efficiency, and “clean car” programs, while states in the mid-west and south lag behind.
What jumps out at me, and probably to you too, is the the “green” states are also, for the most part, the blue states.
This may make a little sense. Leaving to other bloggers all the “values” and “cultural” issues that many love to hurl back and forth at each other across these dividing lines, Democratic political theory is, as I understand and oversimplify it, more friendly to using legislation as a tool for addressing social ills.
What concerns me is the ease with which such a report can be used as a means of further polarization, even if that clearly is not the intent. As valuable as this study my be, it doesn’t, in my opinion, tell the whole story.Click to continue reading »
Los Angeles is not typically known for its eco-cred, but the organizers of Opportunity Green 2007 hope to change that. They have organized a conference to bring together some of the most influential green professionals at the UCLA School of Management this Saturday, November 17.
What makes this conference unique is the opportunity to watch the 2006/2007 California Clean Tech Winners pitch to a panel of noted VC and Angel Investors. For those of us who aspire to own and manage our own green companies, this will be an exciting process to witness and learn from.
At the L.A. Auto Show this year, there were two separate award ceremonies for the Green Car of the Year 2008. Inside, at the “official” award ceremony, the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid was announced the winner. Outside, at an “unofficial” ceremony staged across the street, the Plug-In Toyota Prius Hybrid won the prize.
So which is the greenest car of the two? The Chevy Tahoe gets 20 mpg. The Plug-In Toyota Prius gets 100 mpg. Click to continue reading »
I’m no saint and I’ve never been in a position to be offered any form of sizeable bribe, but it still never fails to shock and outrage me somewhat when I read or hear about the scope and scale of fraud and corruption that takes place on a seemingly regular basis. The greed and lust for power that overwhelms whatever higher and better sensibilities those entrusted with the public or shareholders’ trust possess gives credence to that time-worn dictum ‚Äòpower corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
South Africa emerged from apartheid as something of a beacon due to the leadership and beliefs of Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, who along with many others worked so diligently to forge the foundation for an inclusive, pluralist and democratic society. Unfortunately, it appears that Pres. Mbeki and the embattled African National Congress that reigns over the country’s political system falls far short. In the run-up to national elections, word of ANC corruption, scandals, blind loyalties, misinformation and politically motivated slander emerge on a regular, almost daily basis.
Even worse, such press coverage has rankled the feathers of ANC bigwigs, raising the specter of a state-controlled media that casts a shadow across one of the key checks on abuse of power and influence and one of the pillars of any truly open, inclusive and democratic republic: a free and independent press. Newly minted billionaires with close ties to the ANC along with agents of Pres. Mbeki himself are bidding for control of Johnnic Communications, one of the country’s leading media conglomerates.
Click to continue reading »
The article on Crowd Farms has generating a stirring debate and a lot of interest so I figured I would follow up with a piece that highlights some more applications of this concept of people and motion creating power. The problem with the Crowd Farm plan is it only exists on paper and could be too costly for production, but that is how many great ideas begin in my opinion. Take solar for example, solar panels used to cost some $20 per watt to produce in the early 80’s and now Nanosolar has reduced this cost to below that of coal energy at 30 cents per watt. Some great ideas take time, money and significant effort to produce real-world applications. Finding a balance of how much to leech off a person’s movement is the most difficult problem for human-powered technology. All energy has to come from somewhere which means that if you are the one producing the power then, to some degree, you’re the one feeling the drain.
What can Brown do for you?
It’s not just what United Parcel Service can do for you, but it’s also what they can do to trim operating costs and help the environment – all at the same time.
UPS announced this week that the Petaluma branch in Northern California will lease 42 Xebra electric vehicles to deliver smaller packages in congested areas where driving the Big Brown trucks aren’t so conducive to swift navigation through heavy traffic and, the bane of all urban drivers, finding a place to park (or double park, as the case may be).
The Xebra electric vehicle is manufactured by Santa Rosa-based Zap. In business since 1994, with customers in 75 countries, Zap has made over 100,000 electric and alternative vehicles, from scooters to their planned electric SUV.
And now UPS is one of those customers.
With a ground fleet of 94,542 vehicles moving 16 million packages around the world every day, and a barrel of oil hovering in the 90’s, actively pursuing alternatives to large fossil-fueled trucks is a matter of good business sense as well as environmental concern.
UPS walks the talk with the largest private alternative fuel fleet in the industry.
After all, it doesn’t take a big brown truck to deliver your next order from Amazon to your front door.