28 February 2007

Clean Tech: Venture Investments in Clean Tech Doubles

Eric Auchard reports in Reuters/Planet Ark that "venture capital funding for environmental technologies nearly doubled to US$1.28 billion in 2006, amid surging interest in tackling the threat of climate change, according to a report to be issued Tuesday."

The survey by market researcher Dow Jones VentureOne and consulting firm Ernst & Young found that venture capitalists in the United States, China, Europe and Israel boosted investments by 93.5 percent over the US$664.1 million spent in 2005.
More than two-thirds, or US$883.6 million, of all "clean technology" investments in 2006 were made by US investors, VentureOne data showed.

China bumped out Europe as the second largest market, with 12 deals attracting US$221.8 million, up from US$85.5 million in 2005. Europe attracted only US$157 million in 2006, but three times as many deals, reflecting smaller average deal sizes.

"Global climate change, high oil prices, accelerated growth in emerging markets, energy security and the finite nature of resources are some of the key drivers," Gil Forer, director of Ernst & Young's venture capital practice, said in a statement.

The largest clean tech investments in 2006 were US$75 million in solar panel maker NanoSolar of Palo Alto, California and US$50 million in ethanol and biodiesel producer Altra Inc. of Los Angeles, VentureOne analyst Josh Grove said in an interview.

The third largest venture financing was US$40 million invested in solar cell maker Trina Solar Ltd. ahead of its initial public offering late in 2006.

The category, called "clean technology" by its supporters, includes renewable energy and also water, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing where the technology creates less waste or toxicity.

Read full story: Clean Tech Venture

27 February 2007

Global Climate Change: Can't Beat 'Em? Buy 'Em!

Elizabeth Souder reported this morning in the Dallas Morning News that the TXU Corporation board accepted an offer on Sunday to sell the company for around $45 billion. The deal will take the power company private and kill plans to build eight coal-fired power plants, according to people familiar with the situation.

Private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, along with Goldman Sachs, bid for the Dallas power company in the largest buyout offer ever.

Sources confirmed that the TXU board had accepted and said TXU will publicly announce the deal early Monday. News of the offer began leaking out on Friday. TXU officials have declined to comment, and the buyers have remained officially mum.

The deal comes with an unusual pact between the buyers and two environmental groups to scale back the coal plant building program to three plants from the original 11, and to cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The buyers also plan to cut consumer electricity prices.

The buyers negotiated the pact with advocacy groups Environmental Defense and Natural Resources Defense Council to help clear TXU's name, after the company's plans to build 11 coal-fired power plants had outraged environmentalists, politicians, business leaders and even Southern Baptists. The coal plant plan became a symbol of global warming nationally, as Congress debates whether to place limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

"The buyers decided that they wanted to take this company in a different direction, a direction that treats global warming as a reality and an imperative in developing business plans," said David Hawkins, director of NRDC's climate center, in an interview over the weekend.

Read the complete story: TXU Buyout

26 February 2007

Global Climate Change: Oscar Goes Green

Not only did "An Inconvenient Truth," win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, but the issue of climate change and the environment was highlighted several times by Leo DiCaprio, Al Gore, award-winner Melissa Etheridge, and even host Ellen DeGeneres, who joked about recycling jokes from earlier in her career. Clearly the issue is de rigeur for Hollywood types. Let's hope that translates into greater support for solutions to the problem.

19 February 2007

Global Climate Change: Industrialize Nations Agree on CO2 Reductions

Olive Heffernan reports on news@nature.com that "legislators from the world's wealthiest industrialized nations and from major developing countries have signed a non-binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions."

The announcement was made at the close of a two-day summit in Washington DC, organized by the Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE), a climate-change forum for the G8 and the major emerging economies. The summit participants also agreed on the importance of setting maximum acceptable limits for atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

"The closing statement said," according to Heffernan, "that the goal should be to stabilize concentrations at between 450 and 550 parts per million of CO2 equivalent. At present CO2 levels are around 380 parts per million."

In a bid to influence the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012, delegates from the G8 industrialized nations and five major emerging economies approved a proposal to establish a global 'cap and trade' market to limit carbon emissions.

The agreement proposes international caps for greenhouse-gas emissions, with both industrialized and developing countries accepting limits on emissions: under the Kyoto agreement, only developed nations are forced to do this. Countries that have signed up to Kyoto can reduce their emissions figures by participating in markets such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.

The new agreement will be presented for consideration to the next G8 summit, where member nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — will once again discuss the issue of how to tackle climate change.

Read the full article: CO2 + G8

14 February 2007

Global Climate Change: Dinosaurs Identified in Houston

Steve Hargreaves of CNNMoney.com writes about a group of environmentally-minded investors with more than $200 billion in assets that "turned up the heat Tuesday on some of the country's biggest corporations - by publicly accusing them of not doing enough to address global warming."

ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Wells Fargo, and insurer ACE Limited were among the 10 companies singled out by the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a coalition of unions, public pensions, and faith-based institutional investors.

The Investor Network contends that, by not being more more proactive about global warming, these companies could hurt their bottom lines in the long run and miss out on prime business opportunities given investor demand for cleaner technologies.

The accusations came as ConocoPhillips and others are meeting in Houston as part of CERA Week, sponsored by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Dan Yergin's energy think-tank, which opened Tuesday with a keynote by Rex W. Tillerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil.

According to a CERA spokesman, Mr. Tillerson focused on the strengths, realities, and solutions facing the energy industry today, saying, "The challenges we face are great—but the opportunities are even greater."

Read the full article at CNNMoney.com

View the CERA Week Agenda, where you can also find feeds and videos of the speakers.

More on the Investor Network on Climate Risk

12 February 2007

Global Climate Change: A New Global Treaty in the Works & Oil Chiefs Discuss Energy Issues

According to Reuters/Planet Ark, diplomatic efforts have begun to accelerate toward a framework for a new global climate change treaty. A European official close to the negotiations claims that the "tone of the debate has changed in the United States and Australia -- key nations which rejected the Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions -- and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it a top target of her G8 presidency this year."

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday, "We need to work for agreement by the G8 plus five on the elements of a post-Kyoto framework including a global stabilisation goal and a cap and trade system, a framework that includes not just the US but also India and China."

Meanwhile, in Houston, oil industry heads are meeting to discuss global energy challenges, including ways to find more effective soultions to produce oil and gas, as well as alternatives to fossil fuels.

According to the Associated Press, we can "expect to see industry leaders, including the chiefs of ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell PLC's U.S. division, speaking across America in an unprecedented campaign to educate consumers on energy-related issues and discuss topics such as ethanol and renewable fuels. It's also an opportunity for the companies to polish their images."

"There's never been as much effort going into technological innovation across the whole energy industry as we're seeing today," Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consultancy, and author of "The Prize," the Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the oil industry, told AP.

10 February 2007

Global Climate Change: Branson's $25M greenhouse gas prize

According to Reuters, Virgin Airline's Richard Branson announced Friday a $25 million prize for "the first person to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in the battle to beat global warming."

"Flanked by climate campaigners former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and British ex-diplomat Crispin Tickell, Branson said he hoped the prize would spur innovative and creative thought to save mankind from self-destruction.

"'Man created the problem and therefore man should solve the problem,' he told a news conference to reveal the Virgin Earth Challenge."

"Unless we can devise a way of removing CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the earth's atmosphere we will lose half of all species on earth, all the coral reefs, 100 million people will be displaced, farmlands will become deserts and rain forests wastelands."

According to the report, "Branson rejected suggestions that he, as an airline owner, was being hypocritical in announcing the prize."

Colleagues of mine wondered if the prize would apply to forest conservation and restoration. But one expert pointed out that, if Branson "is taking about actual removal of gas from the atmosphere as against reduced emissions, the only way we could do it would be by accelerating our forest restoration activities. Assuming he is only talking about a US billion rather than a British billion, this would still unfortunately require some 56 million ha of restored forest using the NZ average sequestration rate of 18tonsCO2/ha/yr as a global average (probably optimistic)."

He added that the Pew Centre for Climate Change "estimate(s) the costs for forest sequestration in the US at something like $7.50-$22.50 per ton of CO2 requested. This means that the cost of restoration would be 300 times what Branson is offering, even if the lower range proved to be the global average. It could easily be a 1000 times what he offering."

Someone else suggested Branson simply ground Virgin flights indefinitely. But Branson suggested that "British Airways would simply take its place." Branson has said that he is investing heavily in cleaner airplane engines and fuels.

05 February 2007

Economy: Turning the Ship of the New Green Economy

In February and March of 2007, the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and The Clark Group are convening thought leaders from a variety of disciplines to explore the on-going environmental transformation of the U.S. Economy.The Turning the Ship dialogue will commence on February 5, 2007 with a 5-week on-line discussion hosted by www.greenbiz.com exploring the latest developments in the field of corporate environmental sustainability.

As Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz writes:

The drumbeat of headlines has become steady and strong. Each week, it seems, the rhythm of news stories about the greening of business picks up tempo.

Just since new year’s, for example, we’ve reported in GreenBiz.com that: Swiss Re will give rebates to employees for purchases that helped reduce their carbon footprint; GE and AES will jointly develop greenhouse gas reduction projects; Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, will label the products it sells according to their carbon footprint; HP will surpass recycling a billion pounds of used electronics; Morgan Stanley’s vice chair will head a new group focusing on market-based economic solutions to global environmental and climate issues; Wal-mart’s new 360 Sustainability plan will make environmental concerns central to its business decisions. And ten big companies joined forces with a activist groups to demand that Congress enact comprehensive global warming legislation.

And 2007 is barely a month old.

Meanwhile, over the past several months, Business Week, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, and Business 2.0 have all run cover stories on the greening of business.

What, in Al Gore’s name, is going on here? Could the mainstreaming of green business finally be upon us?

Maybe. But we’ve only just begun — and we’ve got a long, long way to go.

Join the dialogue: Turning the Ship

03 February 2007

Global Climate Change: What a Week for Global Warming

I was in San Francisco last week, which turned out to be quite a week for the subject of global climate change. It started with the Economist and its cover story on "The Greening of America" and concluded with the Bush Administration's acknowledgment of human-induced global warming and endorsement of the IPCC report and its findings.

Only some of my meetings last week were about the science of climate change, including mitigation and adaptation strategies, but they started with California Senator Diane Feinstein addressing our group in a recorded announcement welcoming us to California. "We now have an opportunity to tackle this issue, and make sure we don't leave it to our children and grandchildren to have to fix."

Meanwhile, Senator Barbara Boxer was holding hearings in Washington on Climate Change, bringing out a number of 2008 presidential hopefuls, including Dame Hillary, Barack "Got a light?" Obama, and our choice in '08, John McCain. Boxer's fellow Californian Rep Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was holding investigative hearings on whether White House officials tampered with climate reports by government agencies.

At Boxer's Senate hearing, her predecessor as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma, expressed his own view of climate science. And later on CNN, Inhofe reiterated his opinion that he is not convinced by "scientific evidence" that human activity is causing global warming. "We all know the Weather Channel would like to have people afraid all the time," Inhofe reportedly said at the hearing. To which Boxer is to have quipped, "I'll put you down as skeptical."

I was in Berkeley Thursday, the morning of BP's announcement of $50M for a new alternative energy research facility at the University of California campus. (Kudos to my old pal from my days in Alaska, Bob Malone, for handing over the investment.) This is exciting news: perhaps we Americans will finally grab the reins of the potential financial gains of alternative energy. It will take more than a research facility to seize the lead in the new world economy, but it's a good start.

And Al Gore was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, not for his politics (please, Al, don't run for President!) but for the work he has been doing to raise awareness about global climate change. Whatever you think of his politics, there is no other person who has so doggedly put this issue in front of people all over the world. Is Gore the first to be nominated for both an Oscar and a Nobel?

Quite a week indeed. Are we at a tipping point? Quite possibly. Perhaps now we can eschew doubt and unleash the great American penchant for innovation and ingenuity to tackle this issue once and for all.