29 May 2008

Book Review: Power of the People: America's New Electricity Choices by Carol Sue Tombari


Imported oil, dirty coal, energy inefficiencies and waste, and truncated investment in alternative energy development have landed us in a quandary. Where do we turn for the power we need to run our wired and wireless economy and our increasingly mobile culture?

Carol Sue Tombari, former director of the State of Texas's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and currently on staff at the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, describes some answers in her new book, Power of the People: America's New Electricity Choices.

Tombari provides a concise and cogent overview of how we got in this mess and a primer for how we can get out of it. Essentially, Tombari argues that we need a combination of vigorous policy agendas and massive investments in what we've called on this blog "The New Green Economy."

We are "sleepwalking toward disaster," argues the author, but she tempers her cynicism with equal doses of optimism and faith -- faith that we have the know-how and ingenuity to get us out of this mess.

If only we would wake up and change where we're going and what we're doing.

"I'm not talking about an overnight energy revolution, Tombari concludes. "Really, it's more like an evolution, incorporating both twentieth- and twenty-first-century technologies as we transition to the completely different, carbon-constrained reality in the coming years."

For anyone who wants a quick study of the path we've been on, as well as the good, the bad, and the balance of those choices, and the potential for alternatives, Power of the People is required reading.

"Renewable energy and energy efficiency can be expected to develop a larger presence in the marketplace," writes Tombari, "especially as the cost of twentieth-century fuels continues to go up and the capital costs of renewables continue to go down."

But our energy "needs remain humongous and continue to grow," Tombari argues. "Energy efficiency in particular will gain significantly greater market share because of its no-regrets nature and the fact that it doesn't require the investment of materials needed by utility-scale technologies."

While "we will continue to rely heavily on central station power plants, especially in the near- and mid-term," according to Tombari, "we as individuals, as neighbors, as citizens of our towns and states, can lead our government...Our roots as a nation are in the grass. We know how to do this."

Her optimism is infectious. Power of the People is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of our nation and our planet.

28 May 2008

Global Climate Change: India GHG Inventory to Help Industries Reduce Emissions

US companies and State governments are not the only ones trying to get ahead of the curve on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Industries in developing countries like Brazil and India are also getting in the game.

WRI announced today that it is launching a new program in India to help companies from a range of industries, including cement, pharmaceuticals, and engineering, address greenhouse gas emissions.

"The India Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program will allow our companies to consistently and credibly monitor their emissions," said Mr. K P Nyati, Principal Advisor, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in a press release today.

The India GHG Inventory Program will be implemented by the Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Center (GBC) of CII.

"This new program will help India establish a national model of emissions accounting," said Manish Bapna, executive vice president of the World Resources Institute (WRI). "You can't manage what you don't measure."

WRI partnered with CII-GBC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish the program, which is modeled after EPA's Climate Leaders.

"By adopting greenhouse gas management strategies that make business sense, India's industry leaders are demonstrating that a healthy environment and a healthy economy can, in fact, go hand-in-hand," Jim Sullivan, director of the EPA's Climate Leaders program, said in a press release issued by WRI.

India ranks seventh in the world in terms of annual GHG emissions and is responsible for nearly 3.6 percent of world emissions. That doesn't sound like a heck of alot, but it is growing with the country's economic expansion.

"A GHG inventory will improve the company's understanding of its GHG emissions profile and thereby its potential GHG liability or exposure in a carbon constrained economy," noted Mr. A. K. Kaul, Ex-Chairperson, CII Delhi State Council.

Mind you, as a developing country, India has no GHG reduction obligation under the Kyoto Protocol. Corporate GHG reporting is also voluntary, but is becoming almost de rigeur as industry tries to grapple with the potential impacts of climate change on their businesses.

Smart companies are choosing to inventory their emissions and areas of possible efficiencies, which may also improve their bottom line.

India's program is similar to one recently launched in Brazil and is based on the standardized framework of the GHG Protocol.

The GHG Protocol was created by WRI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and is considered the global standard for accounting of GHG emissions by governments, businesses, and other organizations.

WRI reports on a new study by the Corporate Register, which found that sixty-three percent of Fortune 500 companies use the GHG protocol to disclose their emissions.

The roster of member companies of the India GHG Inventory Program sports some big names in Indian businessn including Ashok Leyland, Bosch Ltd, Capricon Food Products, Century Rayon, Control Techniques India, Godrej Industries, HIRCO, Infosys Technologies, NICCO Corporation, Tata Power, Tata Iron & Steel, and Wipro.

Funding for the program is provided by the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate and the U.S. EPA, according to WRI.

A move like this from India, which recognizes that growth doesn't have to come at the cost of the environment, sends a strong message to the rest of the world. India wants to lead.


(Blogging via BlackBerry; links to come.)

27 May 2008

Global Climate Change: Tea for the Tillerson, Exxon Shareholders Try to Force Hand

More on the Rockefeller-led shareholder uprising at Exxon in today's New York Times:

The Rockefeller family built one of the great American fortunes by supplying the nation with oil. Now history has come full circle: some family members say it is time to start moving beyond the oil age.

The family members have thrown their support behind a shareholder rebellion that is ruffling feathers at Exxon Mobil, the giant oil company descended from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust.

Three of the resolutions, to be voted on at the company’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday, are considered unlikely to pass, even with Rockefeller family support.

The resolutions ask Exxon to take the threat of global warming more seriously and look for alternatives to spewing greenhouse gases into the air.

One resolution would urge the company to study the impact of global warming on poor countries, another would encourage Exxon to reduce its emissions and a third would encourage it to do more research on renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines.

A fourth resolution, which the Rockefellers are most united in supporting, is considered more likely to pass. It would strip Rex W. Tillerson of his position as chairman of Exxon’s board, forcing the company to separate that job from the chief executive’s job.

A shareholder vote in favor of that idea would be a rebuke of Mr. Tillerson, who is widely perceived as more resistant than other oil chieftains to investing in alternative energy.

The Rockefellers say they are not trying to embarrass Mr. Tillerson, also Exxon’s chief executive, but think it is time for the company to spend more of its funds helping the nation chart a new energy future.

Read the article in full (requires log-in): Rockefellers

22 May 2008

Clean Tech: Alternative Energy Execs Dream Of Oil Crunch (Reuters)

Gerard Wynn of REUTERS NEWS SERVICE writes from London that "while most companies are watching soaring oil prices with an eye on rising costs some renewable energy executives are licking their lips at the prospect of 'spectacular' growth."

Here's the article:

"Oil sped above $135 to a new record for a third straight day on Thursday. That and new forecasts of a higher floor price has some alternative energy suppliers dreaming of an era of peak oil when global crude output starts to fall.

"'Our time is very definitely coming,' said Jeremy Leggett, chairman of British solar power company Solar Century and former environmental campaigner. 'The world is going to be beating a path to our doors ... The oil crunch is coming soon. The drivers are going to be spectacular.'

"Thursday's record oil price knocked world stocks to a one-month low as concerns grew that rising raw material costs would hit companies and consumers in an economic slowdown.

"In their latest rally since May 1 oil prices have risen 20 percent. In that time the MSCI index of the world's biggest stocks is up 1.5 percent, while a ABN AMRO index of renewable energy stocks has climbed 9.5 percent.

"But support for renewables has been jittery after months of hype helped fuel valuations at a time of tight credit.

"In particular, solar power stocks dived as much as 50 percent in January as investors feared that a credit crunch would make 'big ticket' solar panels unaffordable and that over-capacity in the sector could swamp demand.

"'There's obviously been underlying concern in the renewable energy markets that valuations are inflated, (asking) are we in the middle of a green technology bubble,' said Merrill's head of carbon emissions trading Abyd Karmali.

"'Drivers in the oil market leading to higher oil prices, as well as expected more sustained carbon pricing... lead us to suggest that actually alternative energy is going to be commercially viable sooner than people anticipated.'

WIND GOOD, SOLAR BAD

"But even $135 oil is not enough to make all alternatives competitive, said the Chief Economist to the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, on Thursday -- using the example of electricity production from the sun called solar PV.

"'We need to see a lot of reduction in the cost of PV.'

"Solar power executives said at a conference hosted by Greenpower on Wednesday that an expected glut in capacity -- to 29 gigawatts of solar module production in 2012 from 3 GW in 2007 according to consultants McKinsey -- would slash prices.

"The solar power industry uses expected year on year increases in power prices -- as a result of soaring oil and gas prices -- to try and plot when solar power without subsidies will be the same price as conventional electricity.

"McKinsey's Christer Tryggestad said such grid parity may be reached as early as 2010 or 2011 in Italy and California.

"But at current oil prices wind has already reached that point, said the IEA's Birol.

"'Many many projects which are on good sites become profitable versus gas,' he said.

"Ad van Wijk, chief executive of Netherlands-based renewable energy project developer Econcern, said wholesale power prices had trebled in the past two years -- as a result of soaring oil prices -- making his on-shore wind projects competitive with natural gas on windy sites, without subsidies.

"'It's the high oil price and especially the outlook that they will not go down,' which means he can get high wholesale prices now, said van Wijk.

"Analysts and industry officials have predicted for decades that the world's oil output may soon plateau but oil companies have downplayed the 'peak oil' theory. BP data suggest the world has proven oil reserves of 1.2 trillion barrels, enough to sustain current output for 40 years.

"Nevertheless, oil firms are using higher price assumptions to plan their businesses, in a sign the forecast floor price is moving up, oil analysts say. BP is using $60 a barrel, for example, while just a few years ago companies assumed long-run prices of $25."

20 May 2008

Clean Tech: Water, Water Everywhere; Time to Wade In?

Smarter minds than mine have been wading into water this week.

It's a part of the clean tech space that I've neglected thus far. Time to get a toe in the water and test it out.

Looking into TTEK, AMN, and CCC, thanks to @jmclarty.

Also taking a look at SWWC, AWK, and WTR.

I'm hoping the water is warm...

Wondering what ever happened to eMembrane, which had an interesting nanotech filtering technology.

And curious what's happening with Water Health International.

For another take on water and sanitation, check out Ashoka's Changemakers and Global Water Challenge competition, which just announced its winners: Tapping Local Innovation, the most innovative approaches to providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

(And you must check out India's Oscar-wiining director Shekhar Kapur, ("Elizabeth" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," who blogged on "Paani" (Water), his new film about the daily struggle for drinking water in the slums of Mumbai.)

(Disclosure: The author is an employee of Ashoka, but does not work directly for its Changemakers initiative. This post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be investment advice nor an offer, or the solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any securities.)

16 May 2008

Earth: The Sequel by Fred Krup and Miriam Horn: A Review


Entrepreneurs can save the planet, but they need a cap-and-trade system to do it.

That's the premise of Earth: The Sequel, by Fred Krup and Miriam Horn, and published in March by W.W. Norton.

The authors, the head of Environmental Defense and a journalist now working for the same, respectively, argue passionately on behalf of emissions cap-and-trade as the solution to unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans (and others) to solve the climate crisis.

They also tell the story of some of "cutting-edge" innovators in the clean energy space, people like Conrad Burke of Innovalight, the solar nanotechnology company, Isaac Berzin, the chemical engineer who co-founded algae-farm biofuel developer GreenFuel Technologies, and the colorful Bernie Karl of Chena Hot Springs, who is trying to capitalize on geothermal energy found below the Alaska bush with the help of Fortune 500 company United Technologies Corporation.

The stories are simply told, some of them compelling, some bordering on boosterism, but the focus on entrepreneurs is welcome. There's nary a whiff of skepticism in these pages, however, which read like a virtual catalog of potential clean tech investments.

I realize the authors don't want to back one technology solution over another -- and the new green economy requires not just one silver bullet but a full chamber -- but a little more critical analysis of the full panoply would have been nice (see Pernick and Wilder's The Clean Revolution for more in-depth analysis of the sector).

Private investment is fine, the authors reason, whether entreprenuer or venture capitalist; however, it can't scale without a cap on carbon emissions. In their view, a cap is the only thing that will make alternative energy more affordable to generate. Without it, we will neither reduce emissions enough nor grow the burgeoning clean tech industry.

"To save the planet from calamity," write Krup and Horn, "innovation and deployment of known technologies must occur now at a pace as intense and a scope as vast as the settlement of the western frontier."

Scientists have determined we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent by midcentury to "stabilize the global climate." According to the authors, "we must produce at least 14 trillion watts of carbon-free energy by 2050 -- about as much power as we now get from the entire fossil energy business" to reach that goal.

The advantage of a cap is that it puts a true limit on total emissions; the problem is it can lead to higher prices for consumers and windfalls for certain companies.

Companies need the stability and predictability of a cap. As Dupont CEO Chad Holliday, whose company is part of a coalition calling for a national cap, says in a quote from the book, "You need some certainty on the incentives side and on the market side, because we are talking about multiyear investments, billions of dollars that will take a long time to pay off."

A national cap would provide that certainty. We just need to make sure it covers all the carbon economy and that the permits are sold not given away free, as in the current European Union scheme. There is even talk of a cap-and-dividend style program that would make equal payments to all Americans (along the lines of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend).

"We have before us an extraordinary opportunity," Krup and Horn conclude. "to harness the power of the United States of America's huge and dynamic markets to ensure a safe future...Enacting a cap on carbon will gather U.S. ingenuity and resourcefulness to serve a higher purpose: protecting this planet for generations to come. We have the talent and a brief window of time to create the world of possibilities. All we need is the resolve."

Higher purpose or base greed, I don't care; let's just get moving on the new green economy.

In the end, as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg offers in his advance praise blurb, "Earth: The Sequel makes it crystal clear that we can build a low-carbon economy while unleashing American entrepreneurs to save the planet, putting optimism back into the environmental story."

Clean Tech: First Solar Announces Executive Team

The other day, First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR) announced new appointments to its executive management team. (Still bummed that they didn't call me, but nevertheless.)

Ken Schultz, John Carrington, and Jim Miller have been named executive vice presidents.

Here's a bit from the First Solar press release:

Mr. Schultz has led First Solar's marketing and business development efforts for more than 5 years and will now move First Solar forward in the newly created position of Executive Vice President, Advanced Development. In his new role, Mr. Shultz will drive innovation and commercialization of new products.

Mr. Carrington has joined First Solar in the role of Executive Vice President, Global Marketing & Business Development, the position most recently held by Mr. Schultz. Mr. Carrington will direct First Solar's global sales and marketing function, including targeted expansions in Europe and the launch of First Solar's entry in the United States.

He brings extensive global marketing experience from his leadership positions with General Electric spanning more than 15 years. Mr. Carrington most recently served as general manager and chief marketing officer of General Electric Plastics (recently sold and re-named SABIC Innovative Plastics). While at GE, he also served as General Manager of automotive marketing in Tokyo, Japan; Pacific Marketing Director in Tokyo; and Commercial Director for GE's Noryl resin business in Selkirk, New York.

Mr. Miller has joined First Solar in the role of Executive Vice President, Product & Global Supply Chain Management. He oversees product management and supply chain activities including material sourcing, product management, and logistics for product delivery and take-back as part of First Solar's end of life module collection and recycling program. Mr. Miller has in-depth supply chain and product management experience, most recently at Cisco Systems as Vice President of Product Operations and as Vice President, Global Supply Chain Management. Prior to Cisco, Mr. Miller was with Amazon.com as Vice President of Global Supply Chain. He has also had management positions at Intel, Teledesic and IBM.

First Solar manufactures solar modules with an advanced thin film semiconductor process that significantly lowers solar electricity costs. By enabling clean renewable electricity at affordable prices, First Solar provides an economic alternative to peak conventional electricity and the related fossil fuel dependence, greenhouse gas emissions and peak time grid constraints.

For more information about First Solar, see firstsolar.com.

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in FSLR. This post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be investment advice nor an offer, or the solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any securities.)

15 May 2008

Global Climate Change: Hans Rosling on CO2 Emissions and Human Development Trends

Dr. Hans Rosling rocked the house at TED in 2006 with his sportcaster-like presentation of data on human development trends (see embedded video below).

It really is quite a fascinating presentation; watch him describe trends in life length and family size like it's the Kentucky Derby. Wow.

Hans Rosling's TED Talk is really more like, what can I call it, a "datashow":



Rosling has also taken a look at CO2 emissions trends and finds that some humans emit much more than others.



For example, while "the total CO2 emissions from China are almost as big as those from United States, the emission from a single American is more than 6 times those from a person in China."

In the end, Rosling concludes, what "China needs is an environmental friendly way of producing electricity that is cheaper than coal." Don't we all?

You can find more GapCasts and information about Dr. Rosling's data at: gapminder.org

14 May 2008

Clean Tech: Gary Kremen's Latest Hot Match, Solar

Mother Jones is not a magazine I usually read, but I was compelled by a recent Twitter post to check out their special report on energy. There's a lot to read there, including one piece that clearly indicates we've reached the tipping point with clean tech.

Forget Gore and Kleiner Perkins. When someone like Gary Kremen (think Match.com and Sex.com) gets in the game, you know that folks are smelling green.

Here's how the piece, written by Jon Mooallem, opens:

"Gary Kremen sat in his San Francisco office on a winter afternoon, shouting on his cell phone and taking frequent, inexplicable swigs from a bottle of lemon juice. Kremen is 44 and stout, with a raspy voice and an inability to sit still. He founded Match.com in 1993 and ran the porn-marketing site Sex.com before selling it off for a reported $14 million in 2006. Lately, he has been sinking a chunk of his wealth and most of his energy into a new, slightly more altruistic startup called Clean Power Finance.

"The new company, says Kremen, 'is all about bringing solar to mass market'—making the case for going solar to average Americans, rather than just selling its virtues to what he calls 'green liberals,' 'national-security types,' and 'utility haters.' He wants to make installing solar panels on your roof as mundane as buying a car or any other big-ticket item. 'If we're really going to get solar working, it can't be a green sell. It's got to be an economic sell,' he says. 'I'm all about 'green is cool.' But that's not big enough.'"

Read the rest of the piece here: Mr. Match.com Pimps Solar

Kremen and solar may not be a match made in heaven, but it's a smart idea. Clean Power Finance "is dedicated to the mass market adoption of renewable energy," according to its web site. They "partner with renewable energy providers and lenders to make residential and commercial systems easy and affordable."

Making clean tech easy and affordable: clearly an indication that we may be on the verge of the "new green economy."

12 May 2008

Conservation: What's Ahead for Nature Conservancy with New CEO Mark Tercek?

The announcement last Friday that The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has hired Goldman Sachs' Mark Tercek as CEO came as a surprise.

Many familiar with TNC expected longtime employee and acting CEO and current COO Stephanie Meeks to get tapped for the job. Others felt it was time to look outside of the organizations ranks and bring in a global player.

But Mark Tercek, currently a managing director at Goldman Sachs and head of the Goldman Sachs Center for Environmental Markets as well as the firm’s Environmental Strategy Group, was a candidate from left field. That could be a good thing. (I speculated earlier in the year that another Goldman alum, Henry Paulson, might be considering the post, but alas, he has his hands full at present.)

Mr. Tercek, according to TNC, "combines global business experience, experience working effectively in different cultures and recognized leadership on climate change and other environmental issues."

"Building on our 57 years of conservation results, The Nature Conservancy is working with partners to expand our global reach to achieve our challenging 2015 Goal of effectively conserving 10 percent of all natural habitats on Earth," said John P. Morgridge, chairman of the Conservancy’s board of directors.

"At this important time for conservation and for our organization, Mark's knowledge of global cultures and governments, his passion for conservation and his experience as a decisive consensus builder in an intensely results-oriented organization positions him to lead the Conservancy to accelerate our work around the globe.”

"To ensure a smooth transition of leadership," according to a TNC press release. "Ms. Meeks, who has served as the Conservancy's acting president and CEO since October and as its chief operating officer since January 2007, has agreed to continue in those capacities through the beginning of Mr. Tercek's tenure."

"I have long admired The Nature Conservancy and have an enormous amount of respect for its global mission," said Mr. Tercek. "As climate change, habitat loss and other global trends continue to threaten our planet's biodiversity, the world needs the Conservancy's effective, practical solutions now more than ever."

"Mr. Tercek is currently collaborating with Resources for the Future, the World Resources Institute and the Woods Hole Research Center on projects concerning climate change.

"He serves on the Council on Foreign Relations' independent task force on climate change and the Wildlife Conservation Society's Chilean Advisory Council. He is a member of the Steering Group on the Prince of Wales' Princes' Rainforest Project.

"In addition, Mr. Tercek has worked with Nature Conservancy board member Dr. Gretchen Daily, professor of biology at Stanford University, and Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva on advancing finance and policy mechanisms for valuing forest ecosystems for the vital roles they play in supporting human well-being, thereby creating alternatives to rainforest destruction."

"Mark is opening innovative possibilities for aligning economic forces with conservation," Dr. Daily said. "His vision is central to taking conservation to scale, incorporating the values of nature into real decisions and engaging leaders globally."

With his background at Goldman and focus on market-based solutions, this could be a new era for TNC as it wrestles with threats to its mission from climate change and the undervaluing of the benefits provided to people by natural capital.

It will be interesting to watch how new blood influences the organization, specifically in terms of how it plays in the carbon market-generation space, where it could have a huge role.

Some of the more immediate impacts of climate change are already being felt at Conservancy sites around the globe. Will the new CEO marshal the resources necessary to assess and address climate-based threats to its portfolio of places and risk to its land-rich asset base?

An interesting move. We'll keep an eye on how this plays out over the coming months.

(Disclosure: The author was an employee of The Nature Conservancy until August of 2007.)

08 May 2008

NatGeo's Greendex Indicates Americans Less Green Than Consumers in India, China, Brazil

Americans are less green than consumers in India, China, and Brazil, according to a new study by National Geographic and the international polling firm GlobeScan, measuring and monitoring consumer progress toward environmentally sustainable consumption in 14 countries around the world.

Check it out here: Greendex

According to NatGeo, it's a "quantitative consumer study of 14,000 consumers in a total of 14 countries asked about such behavior as energy use and conservation, transportation choices, food sources, the relative use of green products versus traditional products, attitudes towards the environment and sustainability, and knowledge of environmental issues. A group of international experts helped us determine the behaviors that were most critical to investigate."

The National Geographic/GlobeScan "Consumer Greendex," a scientifically derived sustainable consumption index of actual consumer behavior and material lifestyles across 14 countries, will be tracked over time and will be comparable across the selection of countries representing both the developed and developing world.

"To provide context for the Greendex results," NatGeo says, "we developed a 'Market Basket,' an index of actual consumption in four areas important to environmentally sustainable behavior—energy, transportation, travel, and consumer goods. A Market Basket for each country was assembled using a set of independently collected macroeconomic indicators, gathered by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which mirror, in part, the consumer behavior measured by the Greendex survey.

"The purpose of the Market Basket is to provide an external estimate of the results of changes in consumer behavior over time. The Greendex, for example, measures things consumers are doing to save energy in a country; the Market Basket measures whether total energy consumption in the country is actually going up or down. The Market Basket will also establish a framework for comparing the relative environmental impact of each country's size and rate of growth, over time."

Poke around on the site and check out the Greendex survey results, calculate your personal Greendex score, measure your knowledge of some basic issues against what your fellow citizens know, at home and around the world, and learn how to take steps to change your behavior so you ARE making a difference.

Visit the Greendex

07 May 2008

Social Entrepreneurs: New Ventures' Call for SME Business Plans

This from Ella Delio of NextBillion.net - Development Through Enterprise:

Do you run a small-to-medium size enterprise operating in India, Indonesia, China, Brazil or Mexico? Does your company have an innovative business model that delivers strong environmental and social benefits? Are you seeking debt or equity capital in order to grow your business?

If so, apply for the New Ventures program in these countries. The New Ventures program of the World Resources Institute supports the growth of businesses that deliver social and environmental benefits by providing business advisory services and access to capital. Enterprises that have been supported by New Ventures have raised US$120M in capital. Moreover, 98% of New Ventures enterprises are still in operation.

The application deadlines for each country are:
  • India: May 15th
  • Indonesia: May 16th
  • Mexico: June 30th
  • China: TBD
  • Brazil: TBD
For more information and access to the application form, please visit the specific country websites. For an English language version of the Indonesia application form, please contact slall@wri.org.

Global Climate Change: Myanmar Satellite Images

Thanks to Paul Kedrosky @ Infectious Greed for these NASA satellite images that illustrate the impact of the Myanmar Cyclone. I hear death toll range of 22,000-66,000. And no early warning for many of these people.

In this day and age of technological advances, one would think major destruction of human life could be avoided through communication.

I know no single event can be tied to global warming, but we probably need to get used to these events happening more frequently with climate change.

As Paul said, "Jaw-dropping."

05 May 2008

Wallstrip on Oil and Gas Prices: They've Got Us Over a Barrel

Our minivan now cost over $70 to fill. We don't even drive it that much, but it still hurts.

Here's a Wallstrip "Julie in the Street" episode on oil and gas prices in New York. I'm with Julie, don't know whether to laugh or cry:



The saddest (but truest) comment is the Brit who says he'd pay whatever it takes for a gallon of petrol and just have to do without something else. OPEC take note!

03 May 2008

Salzburg Global Seminar: My 3 Take-Aways from Green Revolution in Africa Dialog

Readers of this blog will note that my "Three Take-Aways" exercise is becoming more formalized. Here are my three from this week's Salzburg Global Seminar "Towards a 'Green Revolution' in Africa?"

1.) A Green Revolution in Africa must be people-centered, including farmer households, consumers, and local communities.

2.) A range of solutions must be considered and deployed, including a judicious use of inputs (inorganic fertilizer, improved seed), as well as a longer-term view that promotes organic inputs to improve soil health and structure and increase production. We also can't rely on monocultures of a few major staples, but must employ the full diversity of locally and culturally appropriate food crops.

3.) Investments are needed to create the infrastructure to improve market access, including significant road development and incentives for entrepreneurial business generation. Without roads, in particular, market access will continue to be limited and success out of reach.

And, finally, words of encouragement from Kofi Annan concerning entrepreneurs in Africa (especially women): "Don't underestimate the entrepreneurial spirit of our African women. Our women entrepreneurs can succeed against any multinational."

My bottom line: An entrepreneurial Green Revolution in Africa is possible indeed.

(En route to Munich from Salzburg. Composed on BlackBerry. Links to follow.)

02 May 2008

Salzburg Global Seminar: Africa on Agenda of Africans and Others

Day 3 of the Salzburg Global Seminar on "Towards a 'Green Revolution' in Africa."

Productivity, markets and trade, equity, sustainability, farmers and households have all been on the agenda.

The global food crisis did not hijack the agenda, as some had feared, but was clearly on our minds here.

We recognized; however, that while the immediate need to address the crisis is important, we should not lose sight of the longer time horizon required by making real change in African agriculture.

Infrastructure, conflicts, and genetically modified organisms were also on the minds of many here; however, as quickly as these issues were brought up, they were also tabled.

Appropriate? Not necessarily; but most of us recognized we didn't have the time to adequately address these issues.

There must be a focus on these issues and the potential impacts of climate change, by some body. Perhaps sub-groups on peace and stability, infrastructural investments, cliamte impacts, and GMOs?

One subject that came up consistently was strengthening the capacity of farmers and their organizations, as well as ensuring the concerns of farmers and pastoralists (ranchers) are included in agenda-setting.

Another consistent subject was gender equity; both empowering women, but also getting men more completely engaged in agriculture.

One could argue these are not concerns raised at the time of the earlier Green Revolution -- at least not when it was conceived or launched.

Thinking these issues through up front will ensure this Green Revolution/Revolution Vert en Afrique will be very different and, hopefully, even more beneficial to people on the continent as a result.

Ultimately, what it all comes down to is quite simple: we need a people-focused Green Revolution in Africa.

(Composed on BlackBerry; links to come in future.)