How About A Sane Energy Policy Mr. Obamney?

It’s Presidential Election year.  Ergo, time to discuss our 40 year whacked out excuse for an energy policy.  Royally botched up by every President since, umm?


Make US energy supply cheap for the US consumer and industry, fast growing and profitable for the American energy sector, clean, widely available and reliable, and secure, diversified, environmentally friendly and safe for all of us.


Cheap, Clean, Reliable, Secure, Energy


An Energy Policy that leaves us more efficient than our competitors

An Energy Policy that leaves us with more and more diversified, supply than our competitors

An Energy Policy that leaves us more reliable than our competitors

An Energy Policy that makes us healthier and cleaner than our competitors

An Energy Policy that makes us able to develop adopt new technologies faster than our competitors

An Energy Policy that makes it easy for industry to sell technology, energy, and raw materials to our competitors

An Energy Policy that keeps $ home.

A Sane Energy policy


Think more drilling, less regulation on supply, lower tariffs, more investment in R&D, tighter CAFE and energy efficiency standards, simpler and larger subsidies for new technologies, less regulation on infrastructure project development.


A couple of key action items:

  • Support the development of new marginal options for fuel supply, and support options that improve balance of payments, whether EVs ethanol, solar et al
  • Make crude oil, refined products, Gas, LNG and coal easy to import and export
  • Drive energy efficiency like a wedge deep in our economy
  • Support expansion and modernization of gas, electric, and transport infrastructure
  • Support long term R&D in both oil & gas, electric power, and renewables
  • Reduce time to develop and bring online new projects of any type (yes that means pipelines, solar and wind plants, offshore drilling, fracking and transmission lines).
  • Support policies and technology that enable  linking of energy markets
  • Challenge the OPEC cartel like we do EVERY OTHER cartel and break the back of our supply contraints
  • Support the export of our energy industry engineering, services and manufacturing  sectors overseas
  • Incorporate energy access into the core of our trade policy
  • Support deregulation of power markets
  • Support long term improvement in environmental and safety standards
  • Broadly support significant per unit market subsidies for alternatives like PV, wind, biofuels, fracking as they approach competitiveness

Or we could do it the other way:

  • Leave ourselves locked into single sources of supply in a screwy regulated market that involves sending massive checks to countries who’s governments don’t like us because that’s the way we did it in the 50s?
  • Keep massive direct subsidies to darling sectors so the darling sectors can fight each other to keep their subsidies instead of cutting costs?
  • Keep a mashup of state and federal regulatory, carbon and environmental standards making it virtually impossible to change infrastructure when new technology comes around?
  • Promote deregulation in Texas, and screw the consumer in every other market?
  • Every time there’s a crisis, we can shoot the industry messenger in the head, stop work, and subsidize something.
  • Continue the Cold War policy of appeasing OPEC so they can keep us under their thumb for another 30 years
  • And drop a few billion here and there on pet pork projects

Come on guys, stop the politics, let’s get something rational going.  Oh wait, it’s an election year.  Damn.

And in the meantime how about making energy taxes (a MASSIVE chunk of your gasoline and power prices) variable, so they go DOWN when prices go up.  Then at least the government’s pocket book has an incentive to control cost, even if they’re incompetent at putting together a policy that does so.

Kill Bill Volume 2 and the Cancun COP

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume 2 is one of my favorite movies.   It penultimate scene – a final confrontation of vengeance  from the wronged Beatrice Kiddo (aka, The Bride, aka, Black Mamba, aka Uma Thurman) and the evil, yet oddly amiable and ambiguous, title character (aka, the great David Carradine) is perhaps the finest in the film.  For those of you unfamiliar, shame on you.  In a nutshell, at the outset of a fight that will certainly require a major furniture allowance, the Bride suddenly executes the most exquisite sequence of strikes on the all of Kung Fu – the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart maneuver.  Bill – to his utmost surprise – finds his greatest disciple has surpassed him (their thousand year old kung fu master played by Hong Kong action master, Gordon Liu, had not deigned to pass this knowledge to him) and bows to her grace and superiority.

Why am I, sitting here on the beaches of Cancun, reminiscing about Tarantino’s oevre?  Well, it’s because of the way the Five Point Palm actually operates, explained via foreshadow earlier one by Bill himself.  It is not instant death – far from it.  The victim feels perfectly normal – except in his fifth step after the strike, his heart explodes and he drops dead.  It creates – literally – a perfect example of the walking dead.  Which is what brings us to the Cancun COP – climate’s first full gathering after the Copenhagen Five Point Palm Exploding Heart debacle.

Cancun is Bill getting up from the couch and taking that first proud step to his inevitable demise.  Everything here looks normal, feels normal – the mass ant colony of climate has done is annual migration to another odd corner of the world and set up shop. It’s lower energy than Copenhagen, Bali, the Hague or Kyoto, but that’s to be expected – off year COPs always go through these cycles

But make no mistake, COP/MOP process in its original form is most certainly the walking dead.  The fundamental political dynamics around past and future carbon responsibility in a world transitioning to new global multipolar balance (a dizzy prospect in its own right) have not been remotely resolved.  The chasm we saw in Copenhagen is not close to being bridged and there appears no way it ever will be bridged in this particular UN process.

To quickly review the dynamics of this particular Mexican standoff, developing countries continue to insist on an extension of Kyoto emission caps on industrial countries as the fundamental policy to engage mitigation.  Simultaneously, more and more industrial countries refuse to continue down that path.  While there are many other issues – macro and micro – this alone is a pretty binary choice and neither side is ever remotely likely to move.  Since the UN process is intrinsically based on 100% consensus, well – it ain’t gonna happen folks.  This  is my ninth COP/MOP total, my fifth in a row and these tensions are not getting better, they are getting worse.

Therefore – for all intents and purposes – the CMP process dead in its current configuration and the question is how many steps we will take before we too collapse in a heap.  For the record, cinema buffs debate  whether Bill died on his fifth or sixth step off the couch.  If each COP were a step, Tarantino’s model means we have another five years to go before we final collapse. Somewhat sickeningly, that feels about right.  Unlike David Carradine – who had total awareness of his fate – my guess is that substantial parts of the COP ant colony continue to delude themselves that this process represents the only relevant forum for climate management.

The COP process has become is own raison de etre and its existence seems increasingly  isolated  from the real innovation that countries, companies and other aggregations are attempting to address small fragments of the problem.  Basically, what goes on for two weeks inside these halls of official dialogue is a shadow game with little relevance to actual decision making around carbon policy, innovation and investment in the world that 6.5 billion people inhabit.  And vice versa.  And when when institutions exist simply for the reason that they exist under their own life force, a serious rethink is in order.

If we solely focus another half decade to supporting this particular paradigm, we may indeed be accused by our grandchildren of fiddling while Rome (and many other places) burned.  The efforts that thousands of negotiators and tens of thousands of other participants undertake to address the climate challenge through the COP process are undoubtedly real and important.  They are, however, driving toward an inevitable dead end.

The UN process as a intermediary of economic and environmental value between countries no longer holders up to scrutiny.  Being honest, we must recognize that the UN and CMP texts of the last decade do represent some agreement to abrogate  sovereignty – and for countries who are finding their way in a new global political  dynamic, this is likely a bridge too far.   Given the other forces at work, that simply is not a realistic assumption to make during such a fundamental power transition such as we find ourselves

This is not to say the UN does not have a role going forward – far from it.  My very good friend Christiana Figueres is now the ringmaster of the circus and if there is a human being on the planet who can recast the intergovernmental role positively for  our species and our fellow  earthlings, she’s the one I’d put my money on.  In my next installment in the next couple days, I’ll lay out some ideas for reinvigorating this UN processes relevance, making it so real climate mitigation work and UN support can walk hand in hand, as opposed to in parallel paths around the climate policy maze.

The Carbon Industry Is the Unsung Hero in the Cleantech M&A

Voices from the cleantech venture sector whine at least once a quarter about lack of M&A activity.  In carbon that hasn’t been the case this year (though only a handful of US venture capitalists could stomach that “obscene” foreign policy risk in carbon, and so largely non traditional investors made the bucks).  Despite the carbon sector getting hammered somewhere between 50-80% from its highs, depending on what metric you use, once prices fell, smart money started buying.  So despite the massive uncertainty hanging over the sector, the last year has seen upwards of $1.5 Bil in M&A. 

Of course, the whiners will complain that it’s all policy driven and European and that’s not our market.  And I’d respond, yes, and sort of.  Of course it’s policy driven you nimwit – energy, environment and cleantech is always policy driven.  And the cleantech market is global whether you like it or not.  So what exactly makes EU policy risk more risky than handicapping the California PUC?  Silicon Valley itself is close to irrevelant in cleantech, except for the pools of venture capital collected there.  Get global people.

Or the whiners would complain you can’t spend a billion dollars to see exits at a $1.5 Billion.  And I’d respond, yes, I can do math, too, if you had to spend a billion dollars maybe it wasn’t so good an idea.  Maybe you should follow my Rules in Cleantech Investing.  And then I’d add, and these carbon M&A exits are at bargain basement prices, down two thirds to 80% in some cases from their public market highs, and are by and large a hell of a lot better than the M&A exits in other sectors.  To which the whiners would reply, yes but some of those highs were in damn foreign currencies, or worse AIM listed stocks.  And we don’t understand AIM because it’s foreign therefore it must not be real, and since it has less liquidity than a company 10x that size on Nasdaq, we should hate it (not withstanding that AIM stocks liquidity is like 500 hundred bejillion times the liquidity as a private venture backed company).  To which I’d respond right, but if the check clears, and it’s measured in 7 or 8 or 9 figures, or real Tier 1 buyers buy companies listed on AIM, maybe it IS real after all.  But then I never went to Stanford, Berkeley, MBA school, or even a private university, so what would I know. 😉

Anyway, while that may explain the unsung part for carbon M&A, the reality of who bought what is pretty interesting.  A few threads to chew on:
  • Primo assets are getting sold, often first movers founded years before the carbon boom
  • At bargain basement prices
  • Some real money is getting made and a few founders can retire
  • It’s tier one acquirors doing the buying
  • It’s very global
  • It’s not very technology focused
A few of the key deals, which just don’t seem to stop coming:

The latest announcement is the NYSE tying up a JV merging its carbon trading assets with voluntary markets registry operator APX. APX is a holdover startup from California’s botched power deregulation days, which got into RECs, and later carbon now running most of the major voluntary carbon registries.  Most recent investors included Goldman Sachs.

Probably at least in partial reaction to earlier to the announcement earlier this year of the $600 mm acquisition of Climate Exchange Plc by Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE). 

In May Barclays announced the acquisition of Tricorona, one of the larger independent CDM carbon developers (and one of our pilots) for 100 mm pounds.

Ostensibly to match JP Morgan’s acquisition of EcoSecurities for $200 mm late last year.  Mission Point was one of the original backers here.
And this last quarter French energy giant EDF announced it was acquiring Chinese CDM developer Energy Systems International.  EDF was the losing bidder to JP Morgan for EcoSecurities.  A 37.5 mm ton CER consolation prize.

And in the media and data analytics end of carbon Reuters acquired long time front runner Point Carbon for a rumored nearly US$200 mm, ostensibly to match the acquisition of Point Carbon’s largest competitor, New Energy Finance by Bloomberg.  Oak Investments is the rumored big investor beneficiary.

Numerous smaller deals have been done over the last two years, as well.  SAP acquiring Clear Standards and IHS acquiring ESS in the software space, energy giant AES acquiring the bankrupt assets of early CDM leader AgCert, and JP Morgan’s 2007 acquisition of Climate Care, and in consulting, Point Carbon’s acquisition of Perspectives GmbH, Lloyd’s Register acquiring Ryerson Master & Associates, et al.

Of note, Reuters, Barclays, NYSE and ICE announced their deals in 2010 after the Copenhagen political debacle.

As I said, carbon appears to be the unsung M&A hero in cleantech markets.  Not bad for a sector virtually ignored or written off by US VCs, pummeled by the winds of global policy fortune, and barely understood by a soul in the American media.

Neal Dikeman is the Chairman and cofounder of Carbonflow, cofounder of Zenergy Power (AIM: ZEN) and a founding partner of cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners.  He is chief blogger of

A Few Conversations on the State of Cleantech

I’ve had a number of conversations in the past couple of weeks about the state of cleantech and the various sectors that make it up.

No real answers, just food for discussion.

The IPO market – a few threads that keep perking up.  A need for the IPO market in cleantech to get healthy.  A general sesne of relief that Solyndra did not get out.  Massive skepticism over Tesla’s prospects.  All hopes pinned to Silver Spring.

Carbon / Climate change – determination that the oil spill shall not go in vain, so to speak.  Jaded lack of awareness about cap and trade and carbon globally replacing the pre-Copenhagen hype, despite that the underlying policies are getting more an more rational, and more and more real work and debate is occuring.  Bifurcated Over $1 Billion in smart money acquisitions in carbon in the last 9 months (JP Morgan, Barclays, Reuters, ICE, Bloomberg), the summer solider and sunshine patriots have bailed for now.

Venture capital – growing unease that the 2 and 20 managed money model is broken, and especially broken in cleantech.  Growing disbelief at the “picking winners” strategy and the massive hundreds of millions per company from the DOE in its loan guarantee program – inflation comes to cleantech?

A strengthening sense that like CNG was crowded out of the transport discussion by PHEV and ethanol a few years ago, EV and PHEVs are crowding out a market very jaded with the always over the horizon promise of biofuels to replace corn and sugar cane ethanol.

More discussions on water use and technology than I have had in years.  But still no answers.

A sense from those who know, that the US shale gas and the BP Horizon spill have the potential to shift the whole debate.

Or maybe it’s just me projecting my feelings on everyone I talk to, or ignoring those saying stupid things!  Since I didn’t do a real poll, the world will never now.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, and the Chairman of Carbonflow.  He is the longtime chief blogger of

An Open Letter to Ban Ki Moon on Climate Change

An open letter to Ban Ki Moon in support of an extraordinary friend

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

I am sure that in your position, the volume of unsolicited outreach you receive must be truly breathtaking. I will not add to your never ending inbox, but rather will simply post this note on a friendly blog, with the hope that some of the messages within find their way to you via the osmosis of modern communication.

The climate crisis is no longer confined to the geophysical state of our planet – it has now metastasized into an even more virulent form of crisis involving our collective political and sociological ability to manage this complex issue. The UN has done tremendous work in defining the climate issue for more than 20 years and the accomplishments it has achieved are inspiring. However, there is little doubt that the Copenhagen conference broadly underperformed against the needs we face today.

Copenhagen’s underperformance is having an insidious effect on perceptions of UN effectiveness among even many supporters. It is increasingly considered conventional wisdom that the UNFCCC’s day has passed – that the climate issue must now center on a series of bilateral or regional negotiations and perhaps be centered in more focused organizations like the WTO.

I, for one, do not believe those arguments. I began my accidental career in climate finance in 1993. I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the euphoria of Kyoto, the despair of the Hague and the last second save of Bali. And, of course, Copenhagen – where the sheer enormity and heterogeneity of the issue finally truly stared one and all in the face. Yes, humanity collectively blinked and deferred.

But throughout, the UN process that has tried to manage and coordinate the world’s response has been honorable, dedicated,. You specifically should be commended for making climate the pre-eminent issue of your tenure as the Secretary General. And, it must be recognized that what the UN has been able to accomplish is strictly reflective of the mandates it has been handed by the community of nations. Those mandates have often been halting or ambiguous. However, let us also recognize it’s a two way street – the strength of those mandates is also partially reflective of and the confidence that nations have in the UN, its processes, its leaders and its managers in being a key player at the table in the climate issue.
In this light, you have a major decision to make – one that will set the tone for the crucial coming decade of the climate crisis. You have to hire somebody. As you know, Yvo de Boer announced his resignation from the UNFCCC Secretariat earlier this year. And, as might be expected, there is an emerging horse race among several candidates and I am sure all would serve the post honorably and with energy and enthusiasm.
But to be very frank, at this moment in time, we don’t need adequate, we need extraordinary. We need charisma, we need inspirational leadership. We need somebody who can think outside of the box, – but also somebody with a deep experience of the inner workings of the climate negotiating and regulatory process . And there is only one candidate, in my estimation, who remotely meets that elevated criteria – my good friend, Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica.
Yes, indeed, she is my friend – we have known each other for more than ten years as I built a business around emissions mitigation and she built a formidable reputation as a thinker, advisor, negotiator and regulator across the climate space. Even on paper, I cannot see how any other candidate can match her personal experience in all aspects of the climate conundrum – government, civil society, regulator, private sector, negotiator.
But it is off the sheet of paper where Christiana truly shines – she inspires all who meet her through her intelligence, her humanity, her strength. Most of all, she has a great senses of humor and perspective – which one could argue might be the most important job description components of all, in this hour of need.
To achieve transition to a global, low carbon trajectory, people and governments will need to go the extra mile. With all due respect to the accomplished and dedicated individuals who have run the UNFCCC since its inception, vision, inspiration and leadership rarely seemed part of their portfolio. If it’s really a war on climate, more than anything we need a general who will inspire the troops to do the extraordinary. Those of us who have been in the trenches on this issue for a decade or more are tired and dispirited – in our minds, we have moved mountains, but we step back and it looks more like molehills. I have never seen the climate community as downtrodden as in these few months since Copenhagen. And – again to be honest – you need us fired up and moving mountains.
To the contrary stands the promise of Christiana Figueres – a rallying general from a country without an army (and a country that aspires to full carbon neutrality by 2020). All you need to do is go the the Facebook group that supporters of hers created and that has grown up very quickly over the last few days and scroll through the wealth of testimonials that Christiana has inspired throughout a huge cross section of the climate and development community. Thousands of people from all walks of the climate world know in their hearts that she is the one who can make a difference at this crucial moment. And their voices are raising to be heard by you.
There is only one choice that can deliver that promise. Please make the right one and appoint Christiana Figueres as the next Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC
Marc Stuart was the founder of EcoSecurities, where he worked for 13 years prior to its integration into JP Morgan in early 2010. He is currently engaged in early stage private equity in the carbon and alternative energy space.

Blogroll Review: P-Power, B-Buy, C-Can


Pee power. Scientists may have found a way to extract hydrogen from urea, one of the main major components in ordinary pee. That compounds is way for the body to get rid of toxic ammonia that comes out at the end of various metabolic processes.

In many rural areas, urea would be the ideal source of nitrogen for fertilizing plants but it may also be a source of power one day.

Hank Greek at EcoGeek says:

Gerardine Botte at Ohio University has figured out an easy and efficient way to break the bonds in urea to produce hydrogen. The process consumes roughly one quarter of the energy needed to electrolyze water. And, yes, the world has a fairly plentiful (and renewable) supply of urea. Maybe not enough to power all our cars, but it’s a start.

And all this time, I was only interested in the nitrogen. :)


Best Buy! This next story is about the role of national retailers in transforming the economy to greenness. Joel Makower gives us Best Buy as an example. He sums it up really nice as to the role of these big companies:

While cutting-edge innovation will likely come from countless start-ups, it will be up to the mass merchandisers to accelerate market uptake beyond the green devotees and early adopters.


Canadians can! The country up north is one of my favorite countries. I’ve also wondering what the government was doing to encourage corporate sustainability. Our friend Tyler Hamilton at Cleanbreak has a summary.

In other news, Robert Rapier reminds us that thermodynamics wins.

Celcias reports that the 100th coal plant has been defeated. I’m sure Lester Brown would be proud!

Finally, is the big battle between Google and Microsoft? Earth2Tech suggests otherwise.

BlogRoll Review: Space Beams, Leaded Batteries, and Sins

This seems like something out of a James Bond movie. There is a startup, Solaren, which is trying to build panels in space that converts sunlight into a radio frequency beam aimed at a receiving station near Fresno. The station then converts the radio waves into electricity.

Megan Treacy at EcoGeek says:

“If everything goes according to plan, this will be the first real-world application of space solar power, with power delivery starting in 2016. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this works out. The technology has been experimented with for a while and has a lot of potential and, let’s face it, running your home on “space power” would be really cool.”

If anyone is worried that the beam is gonna fry birds or planes that fly into its path, apparently the company has done analysis to show that radiation is not intense enough to cause harm.

Still, the thought of fried chicken falling out of the sky is kind of cool. :)

In other news…

While not the most attractive of technologies, lead acid batteries are certainly robust…and they may still have a promising future. On CleanBreak, Tyler discussed Axion’s lead battery technology that lasts three times longer than conventional ones.

* It looks like the folks at Google think lead is the way to go, too. AltEnergy Stocks agrees.

* I don’t remember how many ways you can sin, but Joel Makower talked about the Seven Sins of Greenwashing.

* Maria talked about Cap-and-Trade on TV.

* Simon says efficiency is still promising.

* Is natural gas a better standard than oil? Rob Day ponders.

Carbon Trading, The Game

At our company Christmas party this year we played Carbon Trading, The Game. Bascially, I devised a simple cap and trade game in a power sector, and then we played out four rounds to see what happened. The results were an interesting summary of how small rules can have big impacts in the outcome. And perhaps a good Christmas lesson to everyone involved in carbon market design. The good news, the market in our game came in well under its caps even in the early round.

Basic rules were as follows:

Players start with a certain amount of cash, and then each round bid for different types of power plants, fuel, and carbon credits each round (there were shortages of each), then run their plants (assuming they were able to acquire power plants, adequate fuel, and adequate carbon credits to operate). In our simple cap and trade model, the cap was based initially off of a coal plant’s emission factor, and declined on a per plant basis each year. Power was priced at a flat $100/MWH (makes the math simple). The winner was the one with the most cash after converting carbon to cash at the market clearing price in the last round.

The idea was that the declining cap and fuel shortage would lead to players bidding high for low emissions hydro and wind farms to get under their cap, and lead to reductions.

A few interesting outcomes. Wind and hydro plants did command premium prices, but not all the way to pricing carbon in (probably since no one was sure what then final carbon price would be – proving uncertainty wins again). And since we did not let power prices float, nor require a must run component, fuel prices went on a wild swing but eventually fell as at least two players opted for a strategy to essentially mothball plants and instead just bank the carbon credits, and buy a few more. As a result, carbon prices also stayed low in the early rounds, since fewer operating plants were hitting their caps – however, the players who has stockpiled carbon then bid up the price of the final credit of the final round to $70 instead of the $10-$20 in previous rounds (it only stopped there because they ran out of money).

The final result, that high price of carbon in round 4 meant the winning strategy ended up being buy cheap coal plants throughout the game, run them only when fuel and carbon were very cheap, and make your money off the carbon.

I am planning on revising the rules for better play, then releasing an actual carbon trading game in the near future.

Besides operating, Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, CEO of Carbonflow, Inc., and Chariman of

The Next Big Thing in Cleantech Venturing

As always, the venture community is looking for its next big thing. The cleantech world is no exception. Despite the dearth of exits, so much capital has flowed into the cleantech sector that investors need new places to put it. So despite my promise to certain friends not to blog certain funding rumors in each category, the top 4 contenders are:

  1. Green building materials – I’m not sure it would be my thing, but investors across the board seem to think this area is ripe for a hit.
  2. Carbon IT – With some sort of cap and trade a near certainty, the interest is picking up in one of the few areas in carbon that looks like a “venture bet”. I should know, I have one of these companies myself.
  3. Food related technologies – High food prices and rising fertilizer costs, what can I say?
  4. N-generation solar technologies – Everyone not in the first wave is looking to get in to the 4th wave. Not sure venture investors will fare better in the 3rd or 4th wave than they did in the second, but they are going to try.

I had a chance to visit one of the Gaia Hotels, which bills itself as a new eco-hotel chain, this weekend. The experience put those four contending areas in a bit of a new light, as the creator of the Gaia ecotel concept toured me around and shed some light on the decisions that went into them from the demand side. (Note: “ecotel”, “bit of a new light”, “shed some light”, “demand side”, all good cleantechisms).

After launching a LEED Gold Certified facility in Napa Valley a little under two years ago, Gaia opened a new one in Northern California, focused on outdoor recreational travelers, which they expect to achieve at least LEED Silver. I had lunch with Wen Chang, the creator behind Gaia, this Saturday. When it came to green building materials, I was frankly amazed how much impact the LEED program had on the design and materials selection, and how big a selling point LEED was to this concept. Everything from using photovoltaic panels and Solatube daylighting, to low flow shower heads, low water usage and local landscape selection, and chemical free gardening and stormwater management, all the way to the carpet made from recycled materials, CFLs in the night stand, and sustainable forest products. Talk about demand stimulus, after an extensive tour, I was ready to buy a green building materials company myself. Especially since the ecotel was booked solid!

And of course front and center in the lobby, there were Renewable Energy Credits (though not carbon credits) purchased from our friends at Renewable Choice Energy, to offset the power usage, and a monitoring system to show power and water usage, and solar production.

Moving on to the food technology, the Gaia Anderson restaurant is not yet open, but is intended to be an organic and locally grown food (I assume that Napa will count as “local” for the wine, but I did not ask!).

No eco friendly building in this day and age would be complete without a solar panel on the roof. Gaia Napa’s solar system is apparently providing 10% of the electricity needs on site, while at the Gaia Anderson, the panels have not yet arrived. But perhaps the most telling for would-be solar barons, Wen Chang did not know or care whose technology powered the solar panels. Only that they arrived and worked.

All in all, quite an eye opening one day “deep dive” into the demand side of the four top contenders for cleantech’s next big thing. (Pardon the expression deep dive, I’ve always found that term amusing, especially since cleantech VCs use it all the time now to describe the 6 conferences they went to and 12 business plans they read to become an expert in, say, solar, so I couldn’t resist.)

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding CEO of Carbonflow, founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, Chairman of, and a blogger for CNET’s Greentech blog.

Is Ethanol’s Carbon Footprint Bad? It Depends.

In the cleantech and carbon worlds, the carbon footprint of ethanol, whether from corn or sugar feedstocks and fermentation processes, or enzymatic or thermochemical cellulosic sources, is always good fodder (or perhaps, “fuel”) for debate.

And depending on which process and which study you personally ascribe to, the answer on how carbon clean ethanol looks depends. In most debates centering on corn fermentation, for example, the studies cite a range from say, 20 to 30% less carbon intensive than gasoline, to 20 or 30% more. This begs one very big question in my mind, what’s the difference? How does the same ethanol in my car have a possible carbon footprint range that wide?

The true answer lies in the ground we walk on. When I started to read a few of the studies and articles about them, an interesting fact emerges, the difference depends in large part on which land gets counted. Most of ethanol’s carbon footprint falls into one of several categories, in roughly ascending order (depending on the source and process), the fuel used to make it, the fuel used to grow the feedstock, the carbon content of the fuel itself, and the lost carbon not sequestered in the vegetation that would have been on the land used to grow the feedstock.

The last one, land use change, is the bugaboo. For example, if you assume that all the land used to produce the ethanol feedstock is already in production, you tend to find a carbon footprint at the low end of the range, since there is little net reduction in the carbon sink, and ethanol looks pretty good. If you assume that all the land used to produce the ethanol feedstock came from forests that had been chopped down, or marginal land that produces very low yields, you tend to find a carbon footprint at the high end of the range, and ethanol looks bad. Thought about another way, ethanol made from corn or sugar that displaces human or animal food production is likely to be relatively greenhouse gas friendly comparedd to ethanol made from corn or sugar that comes from new land put into production just for ethanol. The same logic applies to cellulosic ethanol sources, though not quite to the same degree. Interesting conundrum.

As usual, the devil’s in the details, and people tend to use the case that best addresses their agenda. Personally, I’m buying all my ethanol from land that is already in production, so my carbon footprint must be good. The rest of you can buy the OTHER ethanol with all the bad carbon footprint.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, Chairman of, and a blogger for CNET’s Greentech blog.

Super Tuesday was Super for US Carbon Cap and Trade

One things for sure, post Super Tuesday with Governor Mike Huckabee far behind, Mitt Romney out, and McCain the all but crowned Republican nominee, the US is getting a cap and trade system for carbon. The question is which one. I thought I’d track a little of the candidates’ various positions.

The major differences that are left between the parties are on how to do it. In general the Republicans favor US based systems, the Democrats favor a Kyoto based approach, sort of. The Democrats favor 100% allowance, the Republicans favor a slower adjustment scheme (The Kyoto mechanisms today are actually closer the Republican stance).

Don’t forget, the real reason the US has not ratified Kyoto is less about whether to use the market based mechanisms (we were the ones who actually advocated putting carbon trading in), and more about the fact that under Kyoto, our major economic competitors in China and India have no commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, and under Kyoto effectively receive foreign aid from developed nations to build out their powerplants and infrastructure. And this concern has gotten worse, as China has now passed the US as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but has consistently refused to consider its own emissions reductions. So in reality, even if the Democrats win, we may still get a US focused cap and trade system if that is all that can get through the Senate.

But while any candidate election would likely make a US cap and trade a foregone conclusion, unlike McCain who has actually put forward US cap and trade legislation with a Kyoto “linkage”, Hillary and Barack both talk a new treaty and about a G-8 plus major emitters “extra Kyoto” approach that includes China. This sound surprisingly like the approach George W Bush took at the G-8 summit proposing to work within a group of the 15 largest emitters. Not surprisingly, it failed when the Bush Administration refused to sign up to commitments without China and India on the hook, and China still is not interested in signing commitments. Unlike McCain, I’m not sure Barack Obama and Hillary have figured out the details here. But we shall see.

First, the last naysayer.

Mitt Romney

In 2004 Mitt Romney told the Boston Globe he was not sure global warming is happening.

In 2007 on the global warming issue he continued to be anti Kyoto, at least. “As governor, I found that thoughtful environmentalism need not be anti-growth and anti-jobs. But Kyoto-style sweeping mandates, imposed unilaterally in the United States, would kill jobs, depress growth and shift manufacturing to the dirtiest developing nations.” Source

And the Republicans.

Mike Huckabee

Bottom line, likely no Kyoto and but maybe a cap and trade.

Huckabee has come out in support of “economy-wide” cap and trade, in a Bloomberg article on Huckabee’s support for the McCain sponsored bill.

Huckabee adopted the National Governors Association policy:

“not sign or ratify any agreement that mandates new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the US, unless such an agreement mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for developing countries within the same compliance period;”

Kyoto was a mistake, but “Earth in the Balance” is not. You do not have to hug a tree to appreciate one. It would have been a mistake to sign the Kyoto Treaty since it would have given foreign nations the power to impose standards on us. But Al Gore was not entirely wrong when he spoke of earth “in the balance.” Balance is exactly what we need more of in this discussion. All of us need to have a healthy respect for our resources, a responsible level of use of those resources, and a comprehensive plan for either preserving or renewing those resources. Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 70 Jan 4, 2007 Source

John McCain

A keen proponent of market based environmental solutions, and anti tax to boot. He is heavily in favor of cap and trade, and as coathor of the McCain-Lieberman Senate bill backing a US cap and trade is the only candidate who has actually been doing anything about it. But he has not necessarily supported ratifying Kyoto without Chinese participation like Hillary Clinton (her husband was the one who signed it originally) used to advocate.

Among other things McCain-Lieberman calls for cap and trade, with the amount of allowances to be determined in the future, up to 15% of allowances permitted from other systems (like Kyoto’s CDM mechanism), and an enforcement penalty of 300% of the per ton market price for companies over their cap. A good summary has been done by the Pew Center, as well as a comparison with other climate change legislation.

In 2003 he did a good LA Times Op Ed piece defending cap and trade as a solution to global warming.

In a further interview he reaffirmed his belief that market based environmental solutions will work.

“Is your party where it needs to be on global warming yet?

Sen. McCain: It varies in my party, so I can’t say “my party.” But where I think our party needs to be is to be more involved in market-based economically beneficial green technologies which will then reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.In other words, Lieberman’s and my cap-and-trade proposal is market based. General Electric, the world’s largest corporation believes they’re going to make profits off of green technologies. I was just out at the port of Los Angeles with Schwarzenegger and BP is going to sequester carbon and take some offshoot materials and convert them into some kind of fuel, as I understand it. That’s going to be beneficial to BP to do that; in other words, it’s economically profitable to do these things.

Ponnuru: One of the stumbling blocks people sometimes have is that they look at these proposals to deal with the problem and they seem, not the ones you’re talking about but some of these other ones, incredibly draconian, like Kyoto, and then you look at the pay-off and it’ll solve 0.7 percent of the problem. Is the problem so enormous that these kinds of measures can’t really get you very far?

Sen. McCain: [They can] if they’re market-based. If business and industry sees a way to make money and get returns to their stock holders, then they’re going to move in that direction. And I really believe that again, this cap and trading thing, which is still being sorted out a bit in Europe, is a good market-based approach to it. And again, carbon sequestration is fine, all of these things are fine, but if you want an immediate impact on reduction of greenhouse gases then start building nuclear power plants. And I’m not saying that’s the only answer but I think it’s a significant part of the answer.”

McCain has adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership issue stance:

“The Republican Main Street Partnership supports the goal of immediate, near-term reductions in greenhouse gases, and would move toward this goal by providing strong incentives that have minimal adverse impact on the economy, and to continue to apply our best scientific minds to developing a better understanding of the long-term nature of climate change and the means to cope with it.

Two objectives should be accomplished:

create an “early action crediting system” to provide assurances to companies that actions taken now to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases will be recognized and credited in the eventual system of emissions reductions standards that will be developed; and

commit the necessary resources to national and international scientific efforts to better understand the cause and effect of global climate change.

With regard to global warming, the Republican Main Street Partnership recognizes that a longer debate over the proper U.S. role in implementing the Kyoto Protocol should and will occur. In so doing, we hope to bolster our scientific understanding of the problem and perhaps, in turn, provide immediate incentives for communities and corporations to act in their own and the nation’s best interests in reducing emissions. We are strongly committed to acting on the emerging consensus for progress and constructive change, and maintaining America’s ability to lead the world in the critical area of environmental protection. Source: Republican Main Street Partnership Issue Paper: Environment 98-RMSP2 on Sep 9, 1998″

Ron Paul

A strong environmentalist and free market libertarian, who opposes the Iraq war, Kyoto, and energy company subsidies for all the same reasons, for one, the constitution does not permit it, two, it is the job of the private sector, not government. Despite being the only non cap and trade Republican left in the mix, I always find it hard to disagree with Ron Paul. He and I are kindred spirits when it comes to small government.

Ron Paul on the environment:

“The federal government has proven itself untrustworthy with environmental policy by facilitating polluters, subsidizing logging in the National Forests, and instituting one-size-fits-all approaches that too often discriminate against those they are intended to help.

The key to sound environmental policy is respect for private property rights. The strict enforcement of property rights corrects environmental wrongs while increasing the cost of polluting.

In a free market, no one is allowed to pollute his neighbor’s land, air, or water. If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter, and government should protect that right. After paying damages, the polluter’s production and sale costs rise, making it unprofitable to continue doing business the same way. Currently, preemptive regulations and pay-to-pollute schemes favor those wealthy enough to perform the regulatory tap dance, while those who own the polluted land rarely receive a quick or just resolution to their problems.

In Congress, I have followed a constitutional approach to environmental action:

  • I consistently vote against using tax dollars to subsidize logging in National Forests.
  • I am a co-sponsor of legislation designed to encourage the development of alternative and sustainable energy. H.R. 550 extends the investment tax credit to solar energy property and qualified fuel cell property, and H.R. 1772 provides tax credits for the installation of wind energy property.
  • Taxpayers for Common Sense named me a “Treasury Guardian” for my work against environmentally-harmful government spending and corporate welfare.
  • I am a member of the Congressional Green Scissors Coalition, a bipartisan caucus devoted to ending taxpayer subsidies of projects that harm the environment for the benefit of special interests.

Individuals, businesses, localities, and states must be free to negotiate environmental standards. Those who depend on the land for their health and livelihood have the greatest incentive to be responsible stewards.”

From an interview with Grist:

“What, if anything, do you think the government should do about global warming?
They should enforce the principles of private property so that we don’t emit poisons and contribute to it. And, if other countries are doing it, we should do our best to try to talk them out of doing what might be harmful. We can’t use our army to go to China and dictate to China about the pollution that they may be contributing. You can only use persuasion.

You have voiced strong opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. Can you see supporting a different kind of international treaty to address global warming?

It would all depend. I think negotiation and talk and persuasion are worthwhile, but treaties that have law enforcement agencies that force certain countries to do things, I don’t think that would work.

You believe that ultimately private interests will solve global warming?
I think they’re more capable of it than politicians.

What’s your position on a carbon tax?
I don’t like that. That’s sort of legalizing pollution. If it’s wrong, you can buy these permits, so to speak. It’s wrong to do it, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

Then the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has previously stated she would ratify Kyoto (though has discussed “fixing” it first), and has come out in favor of aggressive cap and trade systems. It is a little hard to understand how she will reconcile her stated desire for environmental protection as a key part of trade policy, and a Kyoto protocol that places no emissions reduction commitments on major US trading partners like China and India. The short answer may be she has backed off Kyoto, focused on cap and trade and a new treaty for Kyoto.

The Hillary Clinton global warming agenda from her website:

“Hillary’s plan to promote energy independence, address global warming, and transform our economy includes:

A new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits alongside investments to move us on the path towards energy independence;

A requirement that all publicly traded companies report financial risks due to climate change in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission”

Her previous statements were very strongly pro Kyoto. “As Senator, I will work for New York to get its fair share of federal mass transit funds and to increase the amount of money that goes to transit funds. And, I will vote to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to bring all nations together to address global warming and build a better future for us all. Source:, “Environment” Sep 9, 2000″

But recently she has started hedging a bit, talking about the flaws of Kyoto. “I will start by reigniting our international involvement. We cannot sit here, in the United Sates and expect to deal with global warming if we do not cooperate with other countries. Getting back into process, you know when President Bush took us out of Kyoto, I regretted that but he had an opportunity to start his own process, he didn’t want to do Kyoto, do something else. Reach out to India and China they have to be part of this. One of the flaws of the Kyoto process was I don’t think people anticipated, even in the early 90s how quickly China and India would grow. China is now growing at 12 percent a year. They are the second highest user of energy but they are now the highest emitter of green house gases in the world. India is not far behind. We have got to get a new international process.” “Energy and Environment: Speech on the Green Building Fund,” Hillary Clinton’s official candidate website, July 24, 2007

And further here.

“The President’s failed unilateral energy policy is a part of our failed unilateral foreign policy. It’s deprived us of the credibility and the leverage we need to solve the climate crisis. I’ll change that by leading the process to develop a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012. One of the worst messages the President sent was when he took office and rejected completely Kyoto. He could have said we don’t like Kyoto but we’re immediately starting a new process. But that didn’t happen. Well, come January 2009, I’m sending a different message. I want to act quickly to help develop a new treaty. I will engage in high level meetings with leaders around the world every three months, if that’s what it takes to hammer out a new agreement. My goal will be to secure a deal by 2010. We can’t wait for two more years. I will establish an E8 that’s modeled on the G8 which is where the big industrial economies come together. We need the world’s major carbon-emitting nations to come together to tackle these challenges.”

Barack Obama

As aggressive a global warming activist as you will find in the election, he is actually more Republican on his global warming position that he looks. He like Hillary, favors cap and trade, technology investment, and a 100 percent auction for allowances. But with his extra-Kyoto Global Energy Forum and a noncommital “re-engage” Kyoto strategy, like Hillary he does not appear to have worked out the details.

The Obama statements:

“Restore U.S. Leadership on Climate Change

Create New Forum of Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters: Obama will create a Global Energy Forum — that includes all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa –the largest energy consuming nations from both the developed and developing world. The forum would focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues.

Re-Engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change: The UNFCCC process is the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem and an Obama administration will work constructively within it. “

“Reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050

Cap and Trade: Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama’s cap-and-trade system will require all pollution credits to be auctioned. A 100% auction ensures that all polluters pay for every ton of emissions they release, rather than giving these emission rights away to coal and oil companies. Some of the revenue generated by auctioning allowances will be used to support the development of clean energy, to invest in energy efficiency improvements, and to address transition costs, including helping American workers affected by this economic transition.

Confront Deforestation and Promote Carbon Sequestration: Obama will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 24-27 Feb 2, 2008″ Source

“Q: What do you think the toughest choice you have left to make is? What haven’t you made up your mind on yet? And why haven’t you?
A: The issue of climate change. I’ve put forward one of the most aggressive proposals out there, but the science seems to be coming in indicating it’s accelerating even more quickly with every passing day. And by the time I take office, I think we’re going to have to have a serious conversation about how drastic steps we need to take to address it.
Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 4, 2007″ Source

“As president, I will place a cap on carbon emissions and require companies who can’t meet the cap to buy credits from those who can, which will generate billions of dollars to invest in renewable sources of energy and create new jobs and even a new industry in the process. I’ll put in place a low carbon fuel standard that will take 50 million cars worth of pollution off the road. I’ll raise the fuel efficiency standards for our cars and trucks because we know we have the technology to do it and it’s the time to do it.”
Source: Take Back America 2007 Conference Jun 19, 2007

“I proposed a cap-and-trade system, because you can be very specific in terms of how to reduce the greenhouse gases by a particular level. What you have to do is you have to combine it with a 100% auction. Every little bit of pollution sent up into the atmosphere, that polluter is getting charged for it. Not only does that ensure that they don’t game the system, but you’re also generating billions of dollars that can be invested in solar & wind & biodiesel. On a carbon tax, the cost will be passed on to consumers. Under a cap-and-trade, plants are going to have to retrofit their equipment. That’s going to cost money, and they will pass it onto consumers. We have an obligation to use some of the money that we generate to shield low-income and fixed-income individuals from higher electricity prices. We’re also going to have to ask the American people to change how they use energy. Everybody is going to have to change their light bulbs and insulate their homes. It’s a sacrifice that we can meet.”
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

So here comes the cap and trade. But the how is still up in the air. In the interests of full disclosure, this is an area I fully believe in, and I am not only involved with at least one business that would likely benefit from a US cap and trade, though also a few businesses that would likely suffer from a cap and trade.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, and a blogger for CNET’s Cleantech blog.

Climate Legislation: Who Gains? Who Loses?

Most Americans now agree that something needs to be done to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully most Americans now appreciate that this is not a small, but even more so, not a simple problem. I am a big believer that the playing field for our low carbon future should start level, and the market should be structured to allow our major power and energy companies a chance to lead the way, instead of simply dishing out punishment for our combined historical choices. Carrots and sticks work well together, but sticks alone are not going to solve our global carbon problem. I think it is also important to ensure that our carbon legislation does not result in a higher cost to consumers in middle America, just because the MidWest happens to have been historically coal fired, than the cost to those of us living on the coasts. Jim Rogers of Duke Energy puts this much more eloquently than I do.

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), one of the largest power companies in the US, has been a long supporter of energy efficiency, and known for being forward looking when it comes to a low carbon future, smart metering, and advanced energy technologies, despite having a generation fleet that is 70% coal fired. Cleantech Blog is delighted to welcome Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, to give us his thoughts on the devil in the details from their perspective. It is heartening to see a major power company take on the carbon issue full force, and like Duke has done, push energy efficiency in a big way.

– Neal Dikeman,

By Jim Rogers
Chairman, President and CEO of Duke Energy

As we debate our differences on how to address the challenge of global climate change, surely we can agree on the end-goal – a secure, sustainable and affordable supply of energy now, and for future generations.

Most Americans also agree that we must act now – and begin building a bridge to an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy.

As the third-largest coal consumer in the United States, and one of the largest greenhouse-gas emitters, Duke Energy has a responsibility to be part of the solution. That means looking at not only how climate change affects our business today, but also the implications for the future.

We support federal legislation to address global climate change by putting a cap-and-trade system in place. The U.S. Senate is in the process of vetting a cap-and-trade bill introduced by Senators Lieberman and Warner in October. This bill is well-intended, contains some good points and appears to have bipartisan support.

But on closer examination, questions arise. Who really stands to gain, and who stands to lose? What are the real costs to average Americans?

You would expect the bridge to a low-carbon economy to have a cost, just as you might pay a toll to cross any bridge. But should some of us have to pay twice? With the Lieberman/Warner approach, that’s exactly what would happen.

Lieberman/Warner proposes to auction a large number of emissions allowances to the highest bidder. In effect, an auction becomes a carbon tax, levied on consumers in the 25 states that depend on coal for electric power – primarily the Midwest, the Great Plains and the Southeast.

Electric power customers in those regions would have to pay for the auctioned allowances up front, and then pay again later to upgrade power plants, or build new ones, as carbon-control technologies become available.

A better approach is to allocate allowances at no cost to generators who emit greenhouse gases – and reduce the number of allowances over time, while new carbon-control technologies are being developed and put in place.

Some say that an auction is the only way to take action to reduce emissions, but history tells us otherwise. Allowances were not auctioned under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments; nearly 97 percent of them were allocated at no cost. Since then, new technologies to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions have been developed and implemented. Those environmental controls have reduced emissions by more than 40 percent since 1990, and they continue to decrease, without dramatic rate hikes. In fact, the nation’s average electric rates have declined.

In contrast, some estimates put the Lieberman/Warner bill’s cost to the average family at more than $1,000 per year, while emissions traders would stand to profit greatly from a volatile market for carbon allowances. According to Bloomberg, the Lieberman/Warner bill would create a potential $300 billion annual carbon-trading market by 2020.

So the question comes down to this – are we interested in protecting consumers or enriching emissions traders?

Customers who live in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the Southeast did not choose to get a large portion of their electricity from coal – it was a matter of economics, geography and geology. They should not be punished for decisions made decades ago, in good faith, using the best and lowest-cost technology of the time, with regulatory approval – and long before anyone knew about the impact of carbon emissions on climate change.

And before we dismiss coal as a viable energy source for the future, consider this: The U.S. is sitting on more than 250 years of coal reserves, more than any other nation in the world. This rich natural resource has untapped potential for ensuring our country’s energy security. The challenge is primarily technological – to find smarter and cleaner ways to use it, such as carbon capture and storage. Until those technologies are available, we must continue to use our existing coal resources and protect the interests of consumers who rely on coal.

The goal for carbon legislation should not be to punish utilities for building coal plants to keep the lights on in the past. It should be to create the incentives to put new clean technologies in place for the future – not just clean coal, but also nuclear and renewable energy, natural gas and the “fifth fuel” – energy efficiency.

Under the Lieberman/Warner approach, electric power customers in half of our states will carry a disproportionate share of the burden. We need to pass climate legislation that is fair to all consumers and protects the economic interests of all states and regions. Our climate is at stake, and so is our economy. By allocating most allowances, following the precedent set by the successful Clean Air Act, we believe both can be protected.

Jim Rogers is the CEO of Duke Energy, writing as a guest columnist on Cleantech Blog.

A VC Going Carbon Neutral?

I have mentioned my friend Justin Label, one of the partners at Bessemer Ventures, before. Among other things he writes the Venture Again Blog. Bessemer is a highly respected old line Silicon Valley venture capital firm. They have been an active investor in cleantech for a while, and are backers of Miasole as well as SV Solar. I found myself on a plane recently with one his colleagues, Ted Lin. But more than their investments, Ted was describing to me a new carbon friendly initiative that Bessemer itself is undertaking internally.

Their logic is simple, if they are investing in cleantech because they believe in being part of the global warming solution, not only making money, then they should practice what they preach. While still early days, they are targeting both their power and travel usage, and expect they will likely implement an internal reduction plan as well as purchasing offsets.

I asked Ted where this came from, and he said this initiative has come down from the top of the firm. It makes sense, and it is good to see the activity happening. My hat is off to them.

Ted also pointed out that Bessemer is also going to be buying offsets for their smaller portfolio companies (those under 50 people). “The goal is that when these companies grow into bigger companies and leave the nest, they will continue the tradition. We want them (our portfolio companies) to lead the next generation environmentally responsible enterprises.”

One of the things he did ask, did I know any good offset providers, because as with any venture capitalist, they are looking for the “best of breed”. So if you are interested in helping Bessemer email Ted at

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, and a blogger for CNET’s Green tech blog.

Is Microsoft Vista Global Warming Friendly?

Is Microsoft Vista global warming friendly? Could Vista be the best selling cleantech product in the world? I was thinking about this question the other day, and started emailing the Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) press relations folks looking for an answer.

The Microsoft answer – yes it is. They have a recent release entitled “Windows Vista Power Management Features Can Help UK Companies Reduce Their Carbon Footprint” on some independent research they had done by PC Pro Labs in the UK.

Here’s their quote:

“Windows Vista is Microsoft’s most energy efficient operating system to date with its power management system, functionality, reliability and default settings focused on helping to reduce overall PC energy consumption. The key areas where the Sleep mode in Windows Vista has been improved compared to the equivalent Standby mode in Windows XP include:

• Enter Sleep mode after being inactive for 60 minutes
• In Windows Vista, it is much easier for users to change the power management settings themselves
• The Sleep mode is more reliable than Windows XP’s Standby mode, both in terms of entering the mode and safely resuming back into Windows
• Windows Vista is much quicker at resuming from Sleep, now taking two to three seconds compared to five seconds for Windows XP”

They also published a whitepaper entitled “Windows Vista Energy Conservation“. Reading through it all, Vista does seem to be an energy efficiency masterpiece.

But I wonder – the description of these tests seemed to quite fairly compare the XP and Vista operating systems running through a series of different scenarios – but it’s not a survey of real world conditions.

So I’m probably convinced that if you run the same computer post-Vista the exact same way you ran it on XP, that you’d use less power. Vista itself may actually BE the best selling cleantech product in the world. But in the real world, we don’t work that way. Each year we add a whole lot of new features and programs that suck down power, and buy more powerful PCs to run them on with every upgrade. And part of the promise of Vista is to enable even more such goodies – possibly offsetting the energy savings.

So are Windows users who have upgraded to Vista running the same programs in the same way, and the same (or more energy efficient PCs) and therefore using less power? Or are they actually using more or different features, or on a more powerful energy hog PC, and despite Microsoft’s energy efficiency efforts, using more power on a daily basis anyway after the upgrade? That might not be something Microsoft could control – but I’m sure curious as to the answer from a carbon standpoint.

As a matter of full disclosure, I run XP at the office, Vista at home, own a small amount of Microsoft stock (and am a very big fan) and have a very bad habit of leaving my computer and monitor on – but I’m working on that.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Author for Inside Greentech, and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, and a blogger for CNET’s Green tech blog.

Blogroll Review: Vegan Power, Lasers, & 18 Seconds

Going Green? Go Vegan.

Who says grocery shopping can save greenhouse gas emissions? Perhaps those who just buy vegan.

That’s right. Choosing the right products at your supermarket can impact your carbon footprint. Jessica Marmor at the Wall Street Journal provides an in-depth analysis of different strategies at home, on the road and in the grocery store.

Mark Gongloff, staff writer at WSJ, says that “the most-difficult at-the-grocery store tactic is to go vegan, which could save 3,000 pounds of CO2 a year, or about 8% of the average American’s annual production of 40,000 pounds of CO2. The easy way? Eat whatever you want, but only as long as it’s locally made (thus cutting down on transportation). Such a tactic might keep 60 to 242 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere a year.”

Beam Me In

Lasers have come a long way since Charles Townes’ discovery. They are used for everything from supermarket checkout scanners to removing fat in liposuction, but a Silicon Valley startup PowerBeam has found another use: energy transmission.

Matt Marshall at Venture Beat says that “Using a laser to beam light, the energy of which would be used to power your laptop or other device without having to plug it in.”

Although the idea has been around for a while, beaming lasers raises concerns of safety, which the company claims to have addressed. Matt adds that “if the laser power itself were to come from solar panels, the entire energy transmission system would be solar. With venture capitalists so passionate about the clean energy area, Powerbeam may just find some backing.”

18 Seconds

18 seconds may be enough time to eat an entire hotdog, but according to Yahoo, that’s also enough time to reduce 450 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Many of us already know that by simply changing a bulb from the conventional incandescent lamp to the newer compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL), we can reduce electricity use and emissions by two-thirds or more. But on this week’s Switched, Phillip Crandall also showed us other earth friendly tips.

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley.

Gambling on Global Warming

Gambling on global warming? It sounds like a really bad made-for-the-internet soap opera. But apparently at one online betting site, you actually can. So move over carbon trading and Sir Nicholas Stern – Vegas is weighing in on the true likelihood of damages from climate change.

I figured that rated a column on a lazy Friday the 13th afternoon. And while not for the not for faint of heart – here are the bets and the odds listed on their website:

“Will any of the following occur?
Hollywood will be under water before 2015 +10000
A major motion picture studio will be under water +5000
A celebrity sea-side will be under water bef 2015 +500
“Water World” becoming a reality +30000

Which will cause more damage in California?
Global warming +5000
Earthquakes -9999″

You can look it up at under their sportsbook “other”. According to one news story on the subject, they have received over 3,000 bets.

My preference, let’s just invest in cleantech and next generation energy technologies and actually try to solve the problem, but if you happen to prefer to spend your money in casinos, be my guest.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Author for Inside Greentech, and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

Fuel Tech – Driving Profits by Cleaning up Coal

Fuel Tech (Nasdaq: FTEK) is one of the fast growing public greentech / cleantech companies focused on cleaning up dirty coal.

I have known John Norris, the CEO of Fuel Tech, and his family for years, and have had the pleasure of following his career for some time. He’s one of the many former nuclear engineers that grew up in the electric utility industry. He has held utility executive positions including CEO of Duke Engineering & Services, SVP and CEO of Duke Energy Global Asset Development, and Senior Vice President, Operations and Technical Services, at American Electric Power (AEP).

He took the reins at Fuel Tech early last (the stock promptly started climbing), and when I ran into him at a recent conference, filled me in on the goings on at this cleantech company that I not previously followed. I had a chance to chat with John for the record on Cleantech Blog about Fuel Tech in specific, and his thoughts on emissions technologies, carbon and greenhouse gases, and cleaning up electric utilities. I hope you enjoy.

You are relatively new to Fuel Tech, what compelled you to join the company?

I started with Fuel Tech as an Executive Consultant in April of 2005 to try to open doors with utility execs. When the Board approached me late that year about becoming the CEO, I thought about what I had seen over that last 8 months and really liked the prospects for growth. I have had the opportunity in the past to build high growth, highly profitable enterprises including one the most fun periods in my life in leading Duke Engineering & Services. This reminded me a lot of that experience, although I think Fuel Tech has even better prospects than DE&S had when I first got there.

What are the key drivers an investor should understand for the recent and continuing growth of the business?

There are several. On the Air Pollution Control (capital projects) side, investors should watch for market penetration of Ultra systems in the China/Pacific Rim market as well as a broader acceptance our all our NOx reduction technologies in the US market. They will be able to track this by watching for our announcements regarding contract wins. On the Fuel Chem (specialty chemical) side, the key driver is market acceptance by utility coal units. Again they can track this through our announcements.

And in short – what did cause the recent revenue growth?

I tend to credit the good looks of the CEO, but others do not necessarily support that conclusion. [Note to readers: John’s picture is on their website, so you can judge his conclusions for yourself!] — I think the real reason is that we have better defined our products and services and have recognized a much broader market for those services. We have a more focused R&D effort to bring solutions to client problems quickly. And it doesn’t hurt that customers are looking more earnestly for ways to reduce pollution and increase efficiency. All of these have come together for us in sort of a “perfect storm”. Still, we have to deliver results for our customers and for our investors.

Do you view Fuel Tech as part of the emerging cleantech investment theme?

Very much so, but also maybe with an important difference. Too often the greentech sector has, in my opinion, over-promised and under-delivered for clients and for investors. We aim to be a different breed in those regards.

If I understand correctly, Fuel Tech has long been a leader in post combustion pollutant reduction systems, and pre-combustion technologies are a newer business for you. Is this correct? What does the future hold? Where is the industry going?

Fuel Tech has long been a leader in post-combustion NOx control as you mention. Our Fuel Chem product line is really a combustion/post-combustion technology that helps reduce slag problems, dramatically reduce SO3 emissions (both in the boiler and across an SCR), and improve plant efficiency thus reducing CO2 emissions in the process. These latter two items have only recently (in the last few years) become important to customers. I think in the future clients will much more strongly focus on all these and other environmental and operational issues, both domestically and internationally.

Can you give us some color on the overall direction and key issues in the regulatory environment for these pollutants?

For all air pollutants the direction is towards dramatic reduction. You can sense that the whole world is looking to clean up the environment and they are not so much focused on CO2 but rather all the more serious pollutants (SOx, NOx and Hg especially).

You reported all time high international sales for 2006. How much of the business do you expect to be from overseas in the next 2 to 3 years? What has happened on that front? Has the growth been because it is a newer area of focus for the company, or because the overseas markets are growing? And how does China play into the company plan?

Our dramatic international revenue growth in 2006 really came from our projects in China. I expect China and the Pacific Rim to become a much larger part of our business going forward. China consumes more coal today than we do in the US and within a decade they will be using about 3 times the coal we use. The Chinese have now recognized the pollution issues of smog and acid-rain (from NOx and SOx emissions) and are working hard to do something about that. The upcoming Olympic games has heightened the sense of urgency to clean up the air and water. We have worked hard for a number of years to establish our credibility there and to demonstrate our technologies. In 2005 we won two major contracts to demonstrate our NOxOut SNCR and eventually our NOXOUT Cascade technologies and then earlier this year we won two major contracts to install our NOxOUT ULTRA urea to ammonia system on new plants who have the catalyst NOx control technology installed (SCR). Those wins position us well to really make this a major and growing part of our business going forward.

What about C02? In a Kyoto world, is Fuel Tech looking at C02 reduction, sequestration, or capture technologies? If so, what can you share about that?

Our Fuel Chem targeted injections can typically reduce CO2 emissions by 1 to 1.5% for coal utility plants, while dramatically reducing slag and SO3 operational issues and emissions. That may not sound like much but it very hard to make any significant CO2 reductions in plants and our reductions can be achieved while actually REDUCING plant costs. A 1.5% CO2 reduction for a 500 MW plant would be a reduction of about 8 tons/hr or about 65,000 tons per year of CO2 emissions. That is not insignificant and there is much interest in this in China and India especially where we can sell the emission reduction credits on the European Kyoto market (if done thru our Italian subsidiary).

A large portion of your business has been focused on cleaning up NOx or other pollutants at coal fired power plants. With low-carbon power likely to be a larger and larger portion of the global generation mix, what does this mean for the coal-fired pollution control sector?

While I strongly support the push for more renewable energy sources and a renewed push for nuclear power (I am a nuclear engineer as you know), the reality is that for our lifetimes and beyond fossil fuels will supply most of our energy needs. I think our company has a long and exciting future in making those energy sources cleaner and more efficient and thus making this planet a better place.

You announced not to long ago a series of company firsts, among others:

– Installation of a NOx Out Cascade System on a Coal fired boiler

– Commercial SNCR/RRI project

– SNCR lignite fired application

What does this actually mean for company?

We are looking with great haste and much effort for ways we can provide a much broader array of solutions for clients in pollution control, efficiency gains, and operations and maintenance cost reductions. We have a dedicated R&D team of our best and brightest folks focused on this effort and their work has paid off. One technology that you did not mention is our Targeted Corrosion Inhibition Program was introduced in 2006 and which is aimed at helping municipal solid waste plants dramatically reduce the corrosion rates in their boilers. Our patent in this area was but one of 7 patents applied for or granted here in the US and another 12 internationally. We are on the leading edge of technologies in these areas and we intend to stay on that leading edge.

Revenues are obviously up, and you’ve said you expect revenues to increase 20-27% in 2007, with growth from both technology segments. What about 2008, 2009 and beyond, what markets and which products do you expect to deliver the longer term growth?

We do intend to grow but have provided no guidance beyond 2007.

In 2006 compared to 2005, the gross margins were down in the NOx Reduction business, but up in the Fuel Treatment business. Net income for the 4th quarter was down year over year, even though 2006 vs 2005 was up significantly. Can you talk a little about this, as well as tell us what the long term margin objectives are for the company?

First, our revenue for 2006 was up 42% over 2005 and our pre-tax income in 2006 was up 64% vs 2005. (These results were above our guidance.) The net income (after tax) blip you mentioned is that in 2005 we recorded $4.3 million in non-cash tax benefits related to the anticipated utilization of new operating loss and tax credit carryforwards. So we believe our performance in 2006 was considerably better than 2005 and has positioned us to do even better in 2007.

You keep a healthy amount of cash and no debt on your balance sheet. What is your view on the company’s capital structure?

I love our capital structure—lots of cash, no debt, unsecured borrowing ability and a business model that is delivering rapid growth in revenues, profits and cash.

And I know you’ve had to discuss this a lot lately, but the stock price has doubled in the last year, and P/E and valuation metrics are looking rich. What is your view on how the capital markets should look at the stock and valuation?

Personally I think this is a great buying opportunity (and I just recently did so in my personal accounts). If you believe that we can and will execute our business plan and grow this company rapidly and profitably then today’s stock price is not over-valued at all. If you don’t believe that we can and will execute and achieve the results, then the stock price is already too high. It all depends on what you believe about the Fuel Tech team.

And if I was an investor interested in the company, what should I be looking for over the next 6 to 12 months?

You should be watching for contract announcements to see if we are winning in the market-place. The first quarter will be the hardest for us from a results point of view but the orders need to come over the next 6 months if we are going to deliver this year’s revenue and profit results. We are working hard to make that happen, but until the contracts are in hand it is just talk.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

Global Warming Solutions – Dell Style

Dell (Nasdaq:DELL), not known as a cleantech company, but long known for being a supply chain expert and direct marketing leader in PCs and electronic devices, is turning its attention to global warming – or at least working to provide consumers some greener product options and more consumer information.

Earlier this year, Dell announced its Plant a Tree For Me program.

“LAS VEGAS, Jan. 9, 2007 — Michael Dell today announced a global carbon-neutral initiative that plants trees for customers to offset the carbon impact of electricity required to power their systems. The first of its kind program, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show here, underscores Dell’s commitment to continued broad environmental stewardship.”

I had a chance to speak to one of their public relations specialists and get a little color.

The program is rolling out in stages (global roll-out is next). It launched in January to provide customers the option to buy offsets of kwh required to power computer systems. Dell is passing through all the payments a customer makes to its partners – Conservation Fund and [Note: There are an increasing number of for profit and non profit entities like these two that will buy carbon offsets made in a variety of ways to sell to companies like Dell to “green up” products.] They are not yet attempting to calculate the emissions required to make a Dell product, just use.

I asked about assumptions in program. Basically they are offsetting 3 years of average power usage. “The donation amounts for ‘Plant a Tree for Me’ are based on expected average CO2 emissions from the production of electricity needed to power the systems over three years – for example, a notebook emits .42 tons and a desktop 1.26 tons. The cost of the carbon offset is $4.75 per ton. It costs approximately $6.31 per tree planted. On average a new tree will sequester 1.33 tons of CO2 over 70 years through the program.

The specific energy values are based on EPA estimates provided by the EPA and Lawrence Berkely Labs. Conversion of energy consumption values to CO2 equivalents is done per WRI/WBCSD standard protocol (world resources institute/world business council for sustainable development). The cost for the carbon offset is set by our partners at $4.75 per ton.”

I asked why sinks? Why not energy efficiency credits or some other way of reducing carbon? Planting trees to create a carbon sink sometimes gets dinged for not being “permanent” enough of a reduction, e.g. if the forest burns down, all that carbon goes straight back into the air. But they tend to be the cheapest credits available. They didn’t have especially insightful answers, but low cost and ease of availability probably play into it.

The reason for doing this?

Apparently Dell feels its customers are interested in greener products. However, while Dell says it is “encouraged by the response”, they would not quote me any numbers of the level of uptake achieved or the targets they were hoping for.

In another area of note, Dell is rolling out an Energy Smart Program. through a wide range of product areas.

“Dell made significant progress during 2006 against its goal to deliver customers the most energy-efficient products in the industry. Since announcing the strategy and customer energy resource calculators at in September 2006, we have rolled Energy Smart settings across the latest models of our OptiPlexTM desktop line to enable up to 70 percent system power savings for the OptiPlex 7451. We also recently introduced two PowerEdge products with Energy Smart settings with energy savings of up to 25% accompanied by performance enhancements that afford up to 3X increase in performance per watt over previous generations.

The desktop figures are based on an average unit cost of energy of $0.10/KWh and assume an Annual Usage Profiles of 1 hour max performance, 7 hours office productivity, 1 hour idle and 15 hours sleep state for 264 days a year; 24 hours sleep state for 101 days. The server values assume a 24/7 duty cycle.”

At the same time, Dell is making available on their website a series of online calculators for energy efficiency, along with making the “energy consumption spec” for a wide range of products.

While the devil is always in the details on the assumptions used, I find it refreshing that Dell is putting this level of effort into providing consumer information on the green and energy impacts of its products – kind of like a restaurant providing us information. I am also refreshed to see Dell say that they are passing all the cost through, and are not taking a margin. While I am very excited about the potential to profitably market carbon credits to consumers, Dell’s move tells me they view greening their products as a requirement to be in the business and a benchmark for product quality that they intend to meet, not just an extra option to add more margin to existing products.

I will be even more intrigued if Dell starts to publish or commit to customer uptake numbers on its carbon credit roll-out (like it would if I were an analyst asking for targets and uptake on units sold of a new product line).

And I will be elated if Dell starts to use its strenght in supply chain management to force the carbon credit suppliers into more transparency and standarization (a chronic problem in the market today).

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

Cleantech: The Problem and Solution

Two interesting cleantech reports came out in the last couple of days. One talking about the problem, the other the solution.

On the problem side, as reported in USA Today, a team of researchers working at Texas A&M found that increased pollution in Asia, primarily from the rise of industrialism in China over the last 10 years, is affecting weather patterns over the Pacific and even into the US West Coast.

I guess the last 10 years of environmentalists harping over the growth in “dirty Chinese coal plants” had some real merit.

On the solution side, the 2007 Clean Energy Trends report authored by Clean Edge, came out this week.

The highlights from my review of their document:

$2.4 Billion in clean energy (as distinct from cleantech) venture capital investment in 2006, up 2.4x from 2005.

They project $220 Billion in market for Clean Energy by 2016.

Their 5 Trends to Watch:

  • Carbon Finally Has a Price…and a Market – They note the major advances including California’s GHG law push. We agree. But like wind and solar, we pioneered it, but Europe is leading it today.
  • Biorefineries Begin to Close the Loop – They are big on the advances of cellulosic ethanol. We remain cautious here.
  • Advanced Battery Makers Take Charge – They note the coming rise of lithium ion in the automotive sector. We agree.
  • Wal-Mart Becomes a Clean Energy Market Maker – They note major moves by Wal-Mart to go green. Long a shareholder of Wal-Mart myself, I definitely agree. We have been saying for a while that when it comes to cleantech, startups talk the talk, the big boys walk the walk.
  • Utilities Get Enlightened – They note that utilities are getting on the climate change band wagon. We would add that corporate venture is back, in a new and possibly smarter form.

You can download their report from the Clean Edge website. We have written on each of these topics before. Onwards and upwards in cleantech.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog and a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks.

RECs and Carbon Credits are a GOOD Thing

RECs and carbon credits are a GOOD thing, so stop bashing them.

As an example a few months ago Inside Greentech had an article attacking renewable energy credits, singling out one such purchase by Wells Fargo, and comparing them to the indulgences sold by the Catholic Church to save your soul in the middle ages.

“In the 16th-century church, those who were long on cash but short on righteous living could balance the equation by buying “indulgences”, representing a sort of absolution for sinful behavior.

Indulgences may have disappeared about the time of Martin Luther, but they seem to be alive and thriving in a more contemporary religion – the Church of the Green.”

I find this rather exasperating.

All renewable energy, carbon and energy efficiency credits are, is a simple derivative.

Devolving the “power” produced by one company into its components a) the electrons, b) the “green strip”, c) the “low carbon strip” (though often for conservatism only one of b or c can often be claimed), and selling these components to different users.

There is nothing more wrong or complex here than is done with collateralized mortgages and exchange traded funds everyday on Wall Street. The only caveat is ensuring you don’t sell the same thing twice, but that’s what certifications and audits are for.

By defining the property rights for the green portion of the power as separate and detachable (just like oil and gas mineral rights and water rights are detachable from land ownership) from the electron stream, we enable the market to act more efficiently, give the consumer choice, and change the world for the better.

It’s not a matter of asking why a company should be permitted to make or sell a credit. The real question should be, why can’t I? If I’m the producer, it’s my power, I can split it up anyway I want as long as my customer agrees. Once it is in the grid, the electrons don’t care. And as a buyer, if my current provider won’t sell me green power because they don’t produce enough (and in a regulated world I don’t have a choice about who to buy from), I can buy my electrons from my regulated provider, and buy the green power portion from a third party who does makes the product I want, but whose electricity customer doesn’t care or won’t pay as much as I will.

This is especially true for someone like Wells Fargo, who operates across state and national borders. In their infinite wisdom, the energy regulators don’t let Wells Fargo aggregate its retail power purchases from one single provider or buy power from Xcel Energy’s Colorado wind farms for its California offices. Without green credits, Wells Fargo could not put their money where their mouth is and go green. Do we really want to punish good behavior?

So why are RECs and carbon credits important? It’s all about giving the consumer (whether that’s residential or commercial) a choice. Nobody screams when Fidelity or Vanguard creates a new ETF, why would we complain when someone does the same thing with green power? Whether you are liberal or conservative you should be able to understand that.

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to