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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. www.dell.com/plantatree

“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 CarbonFund.org. [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 www.dell.com/energy 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.

Sports and Climate Change

by Richard T. Stuebi

I suspect I’m one of relatively few people who’s both very concerned about climate change and crazy about sports.

By my experience, most environmental advocates are not die-hard sports fanatics. And, generally speaking, most sports fans do not seem highly attuned to environmental issues.

The former saddens me a little: I’d like to be able to speak about baseball spring training and NCAA brackets to more of my green friends. However, the latter worries me a lot, because it’s inescapably true that the ardent sports follower is a huge segment of the population — one which the environmental community has not been able to penetrate very effectively.

So, I was very pleased to see this week that this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated — a periodical with huge circulation, found in doctor’s offices, barber shops, airplane seatbacks and tire change centers across the U.S. — features climate change as its cover story.

In my view, this is a very positive development for taking the issue of climate change further mainstream. When NASCAR dads and NFL junkies start really caring about climate change, real public sector action to deal with climate change can’t be far behind.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

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 AltEnergyStocks.com.

Light Bulbs Replace Coal Power Plants

By John Addison (2/23/07). California media, business and government leaders gathered at the CFL Summit in San Jose on February 22 to discuss an important subject – changing a light bulb. Yes, it was an all-day meeting about a light bulb – the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL).

A summit meeting about a light bulb? I had to attend. I thought it would be like the light bulb joke that asks “How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb?” Correct answer: Eleven. It takes four to create a space for it to happen, one to change the bulb, four to share in the experience, one to write a book about the experience, and one to negotiate the movie rights to the book.

It turns out that the right light bulb is no laughing mater. CFLs are an important part of saving billions, achieving energy independence and averting a climate crisis. If each American replaced only one conventional 60W bulb with a 13W ENERGY STAR-labeled CFL, it would prevent the burning of 30 billion pounds of coal, and save $8 billion in energy costs.

This enormous potential for change brought 200 to the meeting including a Hollywood producer, Washington officials, environmental leaders, and corporate executives from around the country.

Producer of an Inconvenient Truth, Lawrence Bender introduced the significance of 18seconds.org, named for the 18 seconds it takes to change a bulb. “This movement is about empowering the individual — to say to every person in America that with one easy step, they can become part of a movement that will literally change the world,” said Bender. An Inconvenient Truth is nominated for two Academy Awards including best documentary. Mr. Bender’s past films Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction won multiple Oscars.

Co-founder of Yahoo, David Filo, talked about the unexpected rewards for doing the right things. He knows a lot about empowering people to make a difference. When he co-founded Yahoo in 1994, 99% of us were unable to navigate and communicate using the Internet. From the early years, Yahoo has supported a wide-range of non-profit causes, bringing together those that want to help with those in need. Yahoo for Good (http://brand.yahoo.com/forgood/) provides details about programs including Earth Day, Breast Cancer, and Disaster Relief. Amy Lorio, Yahoo News GM, shared how environmental news is reaching many of Yahoo’s 500 million users.

Yahoo manages 18seconds.org and helps sponsor summits like this one. Yahoo also goes to lengths to empower employees to enjoy sustainable living and avoid gridlock traffic. (Cool Commutes) http://www.cleanfleetreport.com/vault/cool_commutes.htm

Environmental Defense offers details about a wide range of compact fluorescent lamp for different lighting and decorative requirements at their website.

One of the CFL Summit sponsors is public utility PG&E which actively promotes fuel efficiency and is investing billions in renewable energy. Not all utilities are promoting efficiency. Making daily headlines is TXU’s controversial proposal to build 11 to 19 inefficient coal power plants that threaten all of us with the planned emission of 78 million tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions. In the past month, Americans have installed enough CFLs to more than offset the power that would be produced by these plants.

18seconds.org provides good information and tracks success. For example, since the start of 2007, over 14 million CFLs were purchased in the U.S. During the life of these lamps, $400 million will be saved; 1.4 billion pounds of coal will not required for fueling unnecessary power plants. Over 6 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions will be prevented.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, observed Confucius. Ending global warming begins by installing one CFL. It only takes 18 seconds.

John Addison is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet. This article is copyright John Addison with permission to publish. For years, he and his wife Marci have lighted their home with CFLs. This article appears in full at the Clean Fleet Report. http://www.cleanfleetreport.com

A Call for Action

by Richard T. Stuebi

A Call for Action: that’s the title of the introductory report by the newly formed United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP).

The USCAP is a group of organizations who have come together to press the U.S. Federal government to stop arguing and start taking real action to address climate change. And, from what I read in the report, it’s very encouraging, not just “green-wash”.

USCAP states that “we know enough to act on climate change”, and recommends “national legislation in the United States to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time reasonably achieveable.” USCAP “pledge[s] to work with the President, the Congress, and all other stakeholders to enact an environmentally effective, economically sustainable, and fair climate change program consistent with our principles at the earliest practicable date” .

USCAP strongly argues for “mandatory approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the major emitting sectors”. And, the targets they propose are not toothless: current levels within 5 years of enactment, 90-100% of current levels within 10 years of enactment, 70-90% of current levels within 15 years of enactment, and — most importantly — 20-40% of current levels by 2050.

These are not the positions of parties that merely want to appear concerned about the environment. These statements are very consistent with those of leading environmental organizations — which shouldn’t be that surprising, given that several USCAP members are in fact leading activists on the climate change issue: Environmental Defense, NRDC, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and World Resources Institute.

Let’s give due credit to the corporate members of USCAP, who are making it increasingly acceptable for the private sector to get on board the bandwagon for promoting action to combat climate change:

Alcoa (NYSE: AA)
BP (NYSE: BP)
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT)
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK)
DuPont (NYSE: DD)
FPL Group (NYSE: FPL)
PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG)
PNM Resources (NYSE: PNM)

Unfortunately, these companies are far ahead of many others who should also be, but aren’t, on this list advocating for climate change action.

Hopefully, with ongoing pressure from the public, politicians, peers and investors, the list of USCAP members will grow to include all the major players in the energy and financial worlds. Maybe then we’ll finally see the stalemate in DC on climate change start to break. Until then, the companies on the roster of shame remains way too long for me to list here.

If you own shares in energy companies that aren’t on this list, you might write to urge management to get aboard the USCAP movement, and to reposition the company accordingly. Or, you might want to think about dumping the stock, as it might not fare well in a carbon-constrained future, given the company’s apparent preference for clinging to the past in a defensive posture rather than seeking to seize the future.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

Climate Stabilization Wedges

by Richard T. Stuebi

The most useful framework for considering solutions to the climate change problem was developed by Professor Robert Socolow of Princeton University.

In a pathbreaking August 2004 Science paper, Socolow (with fellow Princeton co-author Stephen Pacala) coined the concept of “stabilization wedges” to illustrate the types and magnitude of actions that would be required by society to stabilize the climate. Each “wedge” corresponds to one gigaton per year of worldwide carbon reductions by 2050; seven wedges are estimated to be required to cap CO2 concentrations to less than 500 ppm and thereby achieve climate stabilization. (Incidentally, this translates to a global emission reduction of about 1/3 relative to projected business-as-usual levels.)

It is then fairly straightforward mathematics to postulate actions that can achieve one wedge. For instance, an increase in fuel economy from 30 mpg to 60 mpg for 2 billion cars achieves one wedge. The authors then imagine several hypothetical mutually-exclusive wedges, to demonstrate that climate stabilization can be achieved just by using the palette of technologies that are already commercially available (wind, nuclear, solar, efficient lighting, land-use practices, etc.).

At last July’s annual conference of the American Solar Energy Society held in Denver, the plenary discussions were framed around designing relevant climate stabilization wedges for the U.S.: what it would take for the U.S. to achieve its necessary contribution to climate stabilization — a more severe challenge, requiring about a 60-80% emission reduction by mid-century. These plenary discussions, and the resultant calculations, have been aggregated into a new report that presents wedges of emission reduction strategies that the U.S. could undertake.

The results suggest that the U.S. can achieve the required emission reductions through a mix of energy efficiency and renewable energy options alone — without requiring a mass-shift to nuclear. In other words, a robust move to the rich mix of available renewable resources in the U.S. — wind, geothermal, solar and biomass — along with a dedicated focus to capturing the vast efficiency improvement opportunities that can be found in our relatively wasteful energy system can alone produce an aggressive emission reduction to get us to climate stabilization.

Technology advancements can only make it more economic, but the point is: we absolutely can achieve climate stabilization, if we have the will to employ the technologies we already have at hand.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

Cool Commutes

Innovative solutions for energy independence and ending the climate crisis are manifest in Silicon Valley: breakthrough energy storage, biotech conversion of waste to fuel, electric vehicles, fuel cells, materials science, converting sunlight to energy and more.

200 members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) convened to advance a different type of innovation – programs that make employees more effective anytime and anywhere. Organizations are increasing productivity whether employees are at a primary work location, secondary, home, customer site or other remote location. Work Anywhere and Cool Commute programs get increased job results with fewer wasted hours from people trapped in gridlocked traffic.

“Cool Commutes” was the title of the January 31 meeting. “Cool Commutes” is a friendly competition between Bay Area employers to determine which can encourage the greatest number of employees to commute without driving solo. Several attending corporations and government employers shared their success in helping thousands reach work using ride sharing, public transit, bicycling and walking. One CEO in Redwood Shores even canoed to work. Employer programs are both reducing the fuel wasted in commuting and eliminating unnecessary commutes.

Cool commuting is improving the profits of a number of Silicon Valley companies. The new workforce is mobile, at times working at their office, other times at home, other times at a customer site. Effective mobile working often requires wireless services, Internet services, VOIP, VPN, security, laptops, mobile devices with better energy storage and so on. Companies benefiting from secure mobile commuting include the meeting host Hewlett-Packard (HP), plus IBM, Oracle (ORCL), Hyperion (HYSL), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Cisco (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), Symantec (SYMC) and hundreds of others.

In addition to revenue improvements, many of these corporations and government employers are seeing cost savings. Healthcare costs lower when employees get more exercise walking and bicycling. Productivity goes up when the stress of rush hour commutes goes down. Mobile workforce strategies coupled with commute programs has allowed many to reduce facility costs. Reduced parking saves up to $2,400 per space. Shared facilities have a much higher payoff.

Cool Commute and flexible work location programs helped several participating high-tech firms with employee recruiting, retention and productivity. The programs did more than benefit employers; all of us benefit from reduced burning of fuel that results in more energy independence and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Ann Zis detailed a number of areas of success at Applied Materials (AMAT). Their program, “Applied Anywhere,” addresses their global business environment and provides agility to be closer to the customer as well as supporting the needs of many employees who perform some or their entire job outside the traditional office place. Through the program Applied Anywhere supports eligible employees that at different times may need to work from one of several corporate offices, at home, at an airport, or at a customer site.

“Applied Anywhere” is far more comprehensive than traditional telework programs. The program has made global teams more effective, reduced commute hours, increased productivity, saved gas miles and jet miles. Ann Zis advised workshop attendees to start by interviewing senior executives and to make a program align with corporate and executive goals and objectives. Conduct design workshops to facilitate the creation of program policies, places, technologies and details. Periodically, validate the program goals with focus groups.

All workshop attendees agreed that flexible work location programs fail when the approach is “one size fits all.” In some countries, the management culture requires most employees to be together most of the time. Yet, even in those countries sales and customer engineers are often mobile and at various locations so drop-in centers and satellite office could be a better alternative to solely a “work from home” approach. The nature of the job dictates where people need to be. All attendees also agreed about the importance of technology enablers to support flexible work location programs.

Ann Zis recommended a phased implementation, starting with a group near headquarters that is likely to succeed. It often takes four to six months for people, both managers and employees, to adjust to a new style of work location flexibility. Over time, categories of employees emerged including those that could work from home, mobile, drop-in, while for some, it is still appropriate for them to retain a dedicated seat in an Applied building. The policies, practices, technology and locations were created to support each category.

Currently, over 2500 Applied Materials employees now participate in Applied Anywhere, including over 1400 located outside the U.S.

Flexible work locations reduce unnecessary travel. When travel is necessary, organizations are innovative in making commutes better from employees, employers and the community.

36% of Yahoo headquarters employees get to work without driving solo, reported Danielle Bricker with Yahoo! This is double the 18% mode-shift that the corporation committed to the City of Sunnyvale when building permits were first issued. Yahoo’s cool commute program is comprehensive, popular and getting results.

As one of two dedicated Commute Coordinators at Yahoo, Daniel practices what she preaches. For three years, she has commuted 90-miles daily without owning a car. She commutes by train, using her bicycle to handle the “last mile” at both ends. Intermodal commuting is used by many.

Yahoo provides employees with free VTA Eco-Passes for bus and light-rail. Many of the Yahoo commuters are able to get extra work done using laptops and other mobile devices while commuting on public transit.

Yahoo’s results are impressive considering that Silicon Valley workers are widely dispersed in search of affordable housing. Technologists work long and irregular hours, which makes ridesharing more challenging. Many Silicon Valley locations provide a long and uncomfortable walk in the dark to public transit.

Yahoo addresses these problems in a number of ways. One is that it provides a guaranteed ride home. Yahoo will pay for a late worker’s taxi or rental car. Many at the workshop agreed that a guaranteed ride home is critical to a commute programs success. All agreed that employees rarely use the guarantee, making the cost minimal.

Yahoo has a fleet of shuttles to get people to and from transit, between Yahoo locations, to airports and sometimes providing an emergency ride. Some of the shuttles run on B20 biodiesel.

It is not easy to get employees to change their commuting behavior. Yahoo used surveys, education, an intranet website to help people find others for ridesharing, and YahooGroups to encourage collaboration, and monthly reward competition for those who avoid driving solo.

Yahoo encourages the use of the zero-emission vehicle owned by one billion people on this planet – the bicycle. Yahoo provides bicycler riders with secure storage of their bikes. Free lockers and showers are available. To help people quickly navigate Yahoo’s campus of buildings, loaner bikes are also available.

Many meeting participants recognized the value of the humble bicycle. SVLG CEO, Carl Guardino, commutes to work emission-free three times weekly, riding his bike 30 miles roundtrip. Lockheed Martin will make it easy for employees to zip across its campus with 200 yellow bicycles available for anyone.

Many presenters and attendees praised the non-profit organization “511.org.” 511 is an example of friendly systems that allow people to easily travel without getting in their car. 511 allows you to put in your departure and destination locations, then see or hear the best way to travel with public transit, train, even carpooling and bicycling. It even includes current traffic conditions. I have used this wonderful system with everything from an Internet browser (511.org) to my cell phone (dial 511). 511 is widely used in Northern California.

511.org offers consulting to employers. Employee surveys, employee home locations, flexible work locations and plans are all considered. Plans and recommendations often include public transportation, carpools, vanpools, bicycles, guaranteed ride homes. Employers like Genentech (DNA) and Stanford University have custom 511 implementations as part of their employee intranets.

Nationwide there are many organizations that offer some of the services provided by 511. Using your favorite search engine type “rideshare” plus your zip code.

Cool Commutes is just one of a dozen exciting initiatives included in SVLG’s “Clean and Green” Energy Action Plan. You can join Cool Commutes at SVLG.

John Addison is the author of Revenue Rocket and the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet. He has conducted workshops for several of the firms mentioned in this article. He publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

Let There Be Dark, Or At Least Fewer Watts

by Richard Stuebi

Last week, as virtually everyone with an interest in energy and the environment knows, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gathered in Paris to release the first report of their Fourth Assessment. (see article) The report presents the accumulated evidence of physical change that has already occurred in the climate, and what is expected to or might occur by the end of the 21st Century.

If someone were to read this report and continue thinking that climate change is a hoax, then that person is either unable to read or unable to think.

To show their support for the climate scientists that had assembled there, Parisian officials decided to make their statement about the need for solutions to climate change by shutting off the lights to the Eiffel Tower for five minutes. (see article)

You might say, “five minutes, big deal.” Certainly, in and of itself, the act of turning out the lights is solely a symbolic act. But, it had one effect on me: I began thinking about all the ways in which we celebrate lighting things needlessly — and how much energy is wasted in doing so. Does the Eiffel Tower (or any other big building, for that matter) really need to be lit up, so brightly, for so much of the time?

If we’re going to light things for purely ornamental reasons, we should at least do it efficiently. I’m glad to hear that the Eiffel Tower uses much more efficient lights than it used to. But my speculation is that a lot of public lighting continues to be based on energy-intensive incandescent lightbulbs. We need to stop it.

In that vein, a bill has been introduced in the California Assembly to ban the sale of incandescents in the state, through the wonderfully-named “How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act”. (see article) Once again, California leads the nation.

Let’s begin a public conversation about our public lighting practices: what deserves to be lit, how much of the time, with what kind of bulbs.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy.

Climate Tectonics

by Richard Stuebi

The climate changes only slightly faster than the continents shift. Climate policy changes only slightly faster than the climate is altered by greenhouse gas emissions. So, when one begins to see a few elements of U.S. climate policy moving, in a relatively short period of time, it’s hard not to take note and consider the implications.

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush (kinda-sorta) acknowledged climate change as an important policy aim, referring to it as a “serious challenge”. While there was no mention of a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade mechanism that would seriously address this serious challenge, at least Bush proposed an important mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that had been anethema for decades — to tighten the fuel economy standards of new vehicles. (Not to mention an increased push for renewable fuels to displace petroleum fuels.)

The new Congress is sticking its neck out further, not waiting long to take up legislation that more directly and forcefully combats climate change. (see article) At the most important annual gathering of world leaders, the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, the Republican Senator John McCain — a likely candidate for the Presidency in 2008 — expressed his conviction that the U.S. will soon tackle climate change in a meaningful way. (see article) No doubt, it will take a while for a true policy change on climate change to emerge in the U.S., but the strong ramp-up in attention and activity is unambiguous.

It has become virtually impossible to think that climate change will not be addressed by more than merely political platitudes within any relevant forecasting horizon.

The corporate world can thus no longer afford to assume a continued stalemate that denies true action on climate change from being taken in the U.S. More foresightful companies — even major energy companies such as BP (NYSE: BP), FPL (NYSE: FPL), Duke (NYSE: DUK), and PG&E (NYSE: PCG) — have banded together to form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which is committed to reversing the trend of increasing carbon emissions in the U.S. (see article)

Even the most lingering latecomers of the U.S. corporate community are finally beginning to see the writing on the wall: that climate change is a real concern, and that actions will be taken in the near-future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, unnoticed (by me at least) was some reportage from late 2006 that ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) has finally stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think-tank that is widely viewed to be spreading misinformation about climate change, so as to muddy the waters and delay anything meaningful being done to address it.

The pent-up forces pushing for action on climate change are starting to become unstuck. Major breakthroughs haven’t happened, yet, but shifting is occurring and the warning tremors are increasingly clear. I used to think that it would take until the next President after Bush for us to see a real U.S. policy dealing with climate change — but recent indicators suggest that we might not have to wait that long, after all.

Richard Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy.