Training Whales to Tow Ships? Applicants to GE’s Ecomagination Challenge Full of Ideas, Lack Grasp of Laws of Physics

A few weeks after the big announcement in San Francisco by GE CEO Jeff Immelt that GE would be cosponsoring a “crowdsourcing” challenge for great ideas in smart grid, green building, and renewables, the website is abuzz with almost 1,000 ideas and several thousand comments.  The contest, which will award $200 M in grants for businesses and individuals, is part of GE’s push to revolutionize our grid infrastructure, create jobs, and generate revenues in its green business units.

So how is the competition shaping up?  After reading through some of the ideas, I think there’s a fair bit of room for people to enter and win grants.  I say this because some of the ideas really need a yea/nay button, as people with good intentions but poor grasps of the laws of thermodynamics and/or nature are outnumbering physicists, engineers, and architects on the site.

While broadcasting our monthly green business radio segment, we discussed a few of these.  The wackiest?  Training blue whales to tow ships around the Pacific so we don’t have to use diesel fuel.  There’s also the guy who wants to build a tunnel from Alaska to Russia so no one has to fly across anymore (Sarah Palin was right!  The commies are still coming to get us!).  There’s the guy who wants to add wind power devices to the front of cars so that batteries can be charged while driving, which of course, would add wind drag and reduce fuel efficiency.   The green business humor goes on…..

You can usually skim through the list of ideas and if someone has written their idea in without using any punctuation or rules of grammar, you can probably guess they’re ignoring the rules of nature, too.

But there are some interesting ideas, too. You can potentially tell these by the amount of time someone put into their submission.  There’s this one, about a solar recharging station for hybrid and electric cars.  There are also ideas that would require some rethinking about building design, like putting urban turbines on tall buildings.  There are some that would require rethinking highway design, construction and maintenance, such as putting solar panels along the center median, which could potentially be tied to utilizing the right of way as part of the transmission infrastructure, another idea on the site.

Do you have an idea?  Heck, toss it out there!  The competition does not appear too formidable at this point!  Whatever it is, it would be better than commissioning Sea World to train blue whales.

Scott Cooney is the Principal of, a membership site for green business advocates with monthly webinars, podcasts, how-to articles, and free consulting classes.  Join as a free member today!

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

2 responses

  1. Training whales to tow ships is another example of human hubris. First we kill them then we think to enslave them. Just who the heck do humans think they are?

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