Excellent Chevron Interview on BBC

| Friday February 17th, 2006 | 4 Comments

chevronlogo.jpgThe BBC’s Mike Williams interviews Chevron vice-chairman Peter Robertson on peak oil and the future of the oil industry. The vice chairman gets put on the spot in a major way by the British interviewer who mercilessly drills him on climate change, greenwashing, the inevitability of the end of oil as well as what the public “really wants”.
Robertson defends the company by standing by claims that oil is nowhere near running out and that Chevron will basically continue doing exactly what it has been doing all along – extracting oil and selling it to consumers who demand it, and nothing else. If, in fact, consumers were demanding alternative energy, Robertson says that Chevron would happily provide it.
Williams pushes his buttons pretty hard saying that the popularity of Chevron’s own “Will You Join Us” website proves that consumers are demanding alternatives and that the relatively small amount of investment that Chevron is making in renewables proves they are just pulling a PR stunt.
Robertson makes some reasonable rebukes, and comes across as a reasonably honest sounding guy, but still comes across as leading a rather boring, uninspired company that really isn’t doing much but towing the status quo. That said, the weakness in the interview is that Williams never really addresses the issue of “is it really Chevron’s responsibility anyway”. He also fails to challenge Chevron on weather they really believe that petrol emissions are messing up the planet and whether anything needs to be done.
(you can launch the interview by clicking here)

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Bringing Social Cause Marketing to China, California Style

| Thursday February 16th, 2006 | 1 Comment

swarzzeneggerchina.jpgEven by itself, each one of these three statistics is enough to bring deep fear to any socially and environmentally conscious person:
1. Of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, 16 are in China
2. The Chinese automobile market is expected to be bigger than the U.S. market by 2025. Some 74 million Chinese families can now afford to buy cars.
3. Every month, China must build enough urban infrastructures to accommodate a city the size of Houston in order to absorb the 300 million rural Chinese who will move to cities in the next 15 years.
These figures come from an article featured in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 13 highlighting Governor Schwarzenegger’s trip there. Apparently the abovementioned statistics and their implications were not lost to the governor. In addition to making speeches at disability and Special Olympics conferences, he promoted California clean technologies for China’s problems. Aside from the heavy dose of celebrity marketing, the Governor used well documented social cause marketing strategies to not only pitch California’s green products, but to make a veiled political statement on human rights as well.

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Shell – Promiting Action on Climate Change Good For Business?

| Thursday February 16th, 2006 | 1 Comment

shelllogo.jpgComing from an oil company, tough talk on climate change is sometimes hard to believe. But Shell should still be applauded for at least giving lip service to promoting the idea of tighter emissions controls. (WBCSD a few days ago) Since a ravaged climate has an obviously negative effect on almost any business, it’s clearly in Shell’s interest to do something to prevent that. They’re not going to move into renewables overnight, so why not promote efficiency and emissions reduction technology in automobiles? It makes perfect business sense for Shell – they can go on selling gasoline for the near future – and the rest of us benefit from the emissions reduction in the meantime (hopefully).

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FT – Cost of Climate Change

| Wednesday February 15th, 2006 | 2 Comments

ftlogo.gifI can’t help bu get excited when major, mainstream business publications have interesting storied related to environmental matters and in particular, climate change. The Financial Times (link via WBCSD) has a great piece on a good overview of the problems encountered in trying to justify costs in the short term that may or may not offset long term disasters.

It has taken some time for the economics of climate change to enter the mainstream. While scientific knowledge in this area has leapt ahead, economic advances have been much slower. You do not have to look far for the reasons. Most economics theory is designed to cope with issues that are relatively short term or national. Even international economics is ill-equipped to deal with trans-boundary issues.

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Happy Valentine’s Day – Make it Sustainable!

| Tuesday February 14th, 2006 | 0 Comments

valentineTH.jpgWhile you’re out at the last minute today trying to decide what to do for your sweetheart, don’t forget to make it a “sustainable” Valentine’s Day – your lover will appreciate it! Treehugger has been kind enough to pull together no less than 50 recommendations to give something today that says “I love you” while demonstrating your sophisticated understanding of ecology and sustainabilty. Check it out!

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Destination Clubs – Sustainability for the Ultra-Wealthy?

| Tuesday February 14th, 2006 | 2 Comments

dest_club.jpgFor the ultra-wealthy, owning a number of vacation homes scattered around the globe is a standard perk (say what you will about it). But, given that many of these homes sit vacant for much of the year (or more) their impact on environmental sustainability, not to mention the buyer’s pocketbook, is decidedly unsatisfying.
Enter the “destination club” concept. Much like the “car-sharing” services available to urban mortals, destination clubs offer all the perks of ownership at a fraction of the price because the homes are shared with other, very wealthy clients. It’s a little like a time-share, but more expensive and more exlusive. It’s also just common sense. Granted, it’s still an indulgance that average folks will never enjoy, and which is typically not ecologically sound, but any improvement in efficiency is a good thing in my book. The Helium Report has more.

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Carnival of the Green Goes Groovy

| Monday February 13th, 2006 | 0 Comments

cotg.gifGroovy Green is this week’s host for the Carnival of the Green. It’s been especially well designed this time with nice little thumbnails of pages. Among the highlights – Starbucks Challenge updates, the potential of switchgrass, and an evangelical christian look at climate change.

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Global Citizenship Challenge Deadline Nears

| Monday February 13th, 2006 | 0 Comments

gccthunderbird.gifThunderbird’s annual Global Citizenship Challenge for MBA students is kicking off this month with a February 15th deadline for team submissions. What is it?

The Global Citizenship Challenge is the largest global case competition in the world focusing on corporate citizenship, sustainability and international development. The competition brings together over 100 teams from more than 15 countries. The Global Citizenship Challenge advances our obligation as MBA students to harness the power of industry to create world prosperity through ethically, socially and environmentally sound business practices. The Challenge serves as an idea incubator for fostering constructive change in our global community via values-centered management leadership.

If you’re interested in participating, get your team together and register here.

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Power Companies Battling Heat Island Effect in Japan

| Friday February 10th, 2006 | 0 Comments

heat island.jpgHere’s an interesting piece of innovation: Tokyo Electric Power Company managed to turn a piece of waste into a valuable and useful commodity. Fly ash from their coal burning power plants is being recycled into a type of pavement that is able to retain a cooler temperature than conventional asphalt. The result is that using the pavement will also reduce the “heat island effect” in cities – the tendency for cities to have a higher ambient temperature than the weather would ordinarily dictate – resulting, potentially, in much lower utility costs. Japan for Sustainability has more.

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Sweden’s Oil Free Mission – For Real?

| Thursday February 9th, 2006 | 2 Comments

sweden.jpgThere has been much writen in various journalistic outlets about Sweden’s plan to be “oil free” by 2020, a mere 14 years. [BBC][The Age][MSNBC] And they don’t plan on building any nuclear plants either. Remarkably, according to the press, this plan springs forth from a consortium of leaders from industry, governemnt and civil society alike.
To put things into perspective, have a look at the lively discussion over on Treehugger. The reactions to this claim range from praise to cynical disbelief to ambivelence, with a number of apparant Swedes mentioning that the Swedish domestic press has had little to say about this supposedly grand scheme. Regardless of just how realistic any plan is, it’s remarkable that it’s gotten as much press as it has, and the fact that it makes news at all proves the desire that many, many people have to ween the world off oil altogether.
It goes without saying that Sweden has a longstanding reputation for leadership on environmental matters. Keep your eye on the news to see if this plan actually takes off.

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“Wave Hub” Underway Off Coast of UK

| Wednesday February 8th, 2006 | 1 Comment

wave_power.jpgIt’s hard to say if wave energy will ever live up to its potential – the energy in the ocean is practically limitless, while harnessing it is very cumbersome to say the least. Nonetheless, three companies have been lined up to build the world’s first full scale wave energy facility, known as the “wave hub”, 10 miles off the coast of Cornwall, England. (See press release here).
The three firms take three different technological approaches to the task of harnessing the ocean’s energy, and together will narrow down a design and plan for the actual project which hopes to achieve funding in the near future.

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Oil Industry Still Begging for Subsidies

| Tuesday February 7th, 2006 | 4 Comments

gusher33.jpgThe Bush budget cuts about $50 Million in funding for drilling R&D this year (see CNN). Not so surprisingly, the oil industry is raising a stink about it despite the fact that, even the White House agrees, “Industry has the incentives and resources to do such R&D on its own”.
To me, this is proof of the ironies that the oil industry lives by. Despite purporting to promote free market economics at every turn, and despite (in the case of Exxon) openly mocking alternative energy because of its temporary reliance on government subsidies, the oil industry is crying for subsidies themselves – despite being richer than they’ve ever been.
Forgive the editorial rant, but I’m optimistic that some actual funding of alternative energy will happen as a result of recent changes in White House policy. I’m not sure exactly how much that will amount to, but anything’s a start.

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The Impact of Shareholder Activism

| Tuesday February 7th, 2006 | 2 Comments

shares.jpgThe idea behind “shareholder activism” is that the sharehodlers of a company excercise their influence to effect policy changes at the corporate level that reflect environmenatal, social or any other issue. It’s really a very neat way of going about it because, as owners of the company, shareholders have every right to have their voice heard, and arguably have a more effective voice than those outside the company.

This is an interesting article in E magazine that outlines some of the basics. In particular the article talks about Green Century funds who have persuaded companies such as Whole Foods and Apple Computer to take more proactive steps toward environmental transparency and better recycling policies. And why not? In the long term sense that sort of policy is bound to benefit the shareholders and general public alike by providing for a better environment – if not also producing better returns financially.

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Ban the Lightbulb? It Could Save Billions.

| Monday February 6th, 2006 | 6 Comments

bulb.jpgEveryone knows that compact florescent bulbs and LEDs are far more efficient than the standard lightbulb. This interesting BBC piece suggests that incandescent bulbs are so inefficient that if they were introduced today “it is highly unlikely they would be allowed onto the market.” It goes so far as to (only partly in jest) suggest that the old style bulbs be banned. With lighting using up 5-10% of the world’s energy, and plenty of subsidies available, it’s not such a crazy idea!

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Climate Futures: A Buyer’s Guide

| Monday February 6th, 2006 | 8 Comments

climate.jpgNo…the title is not about “green tags” or stock picks. It’s about figuring out how the majority of US citizens who simply “don’t buy it”…”it” being the risk posed by climate change to personal health, to all of earth’s living systems, and to our children’s future…will sit up and pay attention to the management of climate risk.
For this to happen, we conservationists, environmentalists, green designers…let them call us whatever they like… need to escape our own denial about the Seriously Bad News all around us. The reality is that only a minority of the US population would, under present circumstance, allow their attitudes and behaviors to be influenced by the climate models, formal risk analysis, or pictures of melting glaciers. The reasons are several and powerful. Consider: A substantial percent of US citizens are illiterate. A great many of us think that the historic photos of humans walking on the moon were Hollywood-staged (a strong clue about the power of superstition and ignorance of technology). Perhaps a quarter of us believe that dinosaurs crowded into a literal Noah’s Ark. Many more of us think that a free market somehow magically synchronizes with nature’s demands (MBAs are taught this in Harvard Business School. If you paid a half million for your degree you might be defensive about someone saying everything you learned is wrong). Privately funded Think Tanks attack grade school curricula that encourage recycling and anything else “green”. And capping it off, broadcast media skip the reporting of facts and plausible alternatives in favor of single-minded political opinion. It’s good for the ratings. And, of course, those who would be most influenced by “science” apparently hold little political power at the Federal level.

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