30 November 2010

The Green Skeptic’s "Rational Approach to Cleantech" on Competitive Futures PodCast

I sat down yesterday with Eric Garland to explain my opinions on cleantech, green, and more. Here's what Eric had to say on Competitive Futures:

"With a philosophy straight from the European Enlightenment and with credentials from the heart of the environmental movement, Scott Edward Anderson is a rare voice amongst the crowd of green economy hypesters and cynics. In a style that strongly recalls our own approach to holistic, data-based, rational analysis of the future, Scott advises companies, governments and investors on how to think about cleantech with all the complexity and cold logic that it deserves.

"In this edition of the Competitive Futures Podcast, Scott shoots a hole in most of the "green" technologies that are supposed to save us, tells us why China is rapidly outpacing the West on cleantech investments, and why fixing 100 year old buildings is just as important as adopting brand new, shiny silver, nanotech-injected technology when it comes to the long-term future of our energy-efficient, green and clean 21st century economy."

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29 November 2010

Cancun in November? To Dive, but not to COP

View from Club Akumal, Mexico
Sure I'd love to be in Cancun this week, as the chill winds of November blow into December. But I'd go for the diving rather than the hot air of another conference of the parties on climate change.

I just don't think anything will come of more meetings on how to stop climate change.

The Economist agrees with me it would appear from the cover story in this week's issue.

"In the wake of the Copenhagen summit, there is a growing acceptance that the effort to avert serious climate change has run out of steam," the editors write before suggesting that we may be better focused on adapting to the inevitable changes that are already set in motion.

"Since the beginning of time, creatures have adapted to changes in their environment. Unfortunately, such adaptation has always meant large numbers of deaths. Evolution works that way," the Economist asserts. "But humankind is luckier than most species. It has the advantage of being able to think ahead, and to prepare for the changes to come. That's what needs to happen now."

Indeed, that is what we've been suggesting for some time here at The Green Skeptic, and we see adaptation as one of the three key focus areas, along with increases in energy efficiency and R&D into energy innovations that will help us deal with the changes that may come.

It is, as the Economist suggests, "the craziest experiment mankind has ever conducted. Maybe in the long run it will be brought under control. For the foreseeable future, though, the mercury will continue to rise, and the human race must live with the problem as best it can."

But first we need to stop focusing on solutions that will not work and meetings that only lead to more meetings. We need to shift our focus to pragmatic solutions by doing what we do best as a species: adapt and innovate.

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26 November 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 11/26/10

A short week with the holiday in the US, so a little spare on the links today:

EnerNoc says it is well-Positioned to grow Demand Response market in PJM territory: $ENOC

Jim DiPeso of Republicans for Environmental Protection, says "Don't let Congress handcuff EPA," in FrumForum.

Stephen King (no, not that one, the one at HSBC)asks "Who needs who? America and China must avoid making past mistakes again," in The Independent.

Kiran Stacey writes in Financial Times that greens are waking up to China’s coal boom: China Coal

And speaking of China, The Economist, featured an obituary of the great Liang Congjie, China's first environmentalist, who died on Oct 25: China green.

Martin Lamonica of CNET suggests that energy technology entrepreneurs need to think more like chess players and look to China and elsewhere, where the regulatory environment is simpler and governments are more welcoming: Look Overseas, Young Startup.

T-T-That's all folks, I now return you back to your leftover turkey already in progress.

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in ENOC. 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.)

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24 November 2010

Six Years of The Green Skeptic

Six years ago today I launched The Green Skeptic as a blog devoted to challenging assumptions about how we live on the earth and protect our environment.

It's been fun and I'm cooking up a lot of changes for my 7th inning ahead.

For the 5th anniversary last year, I wrote:
People often ask me why I'm skeptical and what I'm skeptical about.

Well, the answer is, I believe that skepticism is a hallmark of human nature. Without it, we are sheep.

I think we need to constantly challenge our assumptions about the way the world works or how others tell us it works. We must question even what our leaders tell us, regardless of what side of the aisle their derriere rests upon or what side of the issue they claim to represent...

...So, I'll remain a skeptic and try to stop the bleating where I can.

I am neither a climate skeptic nor a climate denier, but I do believe the rhetoric on both sides is spoiling our chances to achieve true prosperity through innovation.

We need to stop all the bleating and blathering and get on with a new agenda for our economy, a new green economy that balances technological progress and environmental impact.

As my pal Andy Swan says, we need "a 'green' that embraces the technological efficiencies that can make our world more productive and cleaner while concurrently lowering the barriers to entry for persons and businesses requiring energy to succeed."

Succeed. Innovation. Prosperity.

Sensing a theme here?

Ultimately, my skepticism about the way "we live on the earth and protect our environment" all gets back to making our world a better place -- a better place for all of us to thrive and grow and, to use one of Andy's favorite words, win.

Thanks for reading; I hope to continue to provide value for the next seven years.

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22 November 2010

Gore Now Says Corn Ethanol "Was Not a Good Policy"

Al Gore - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting ...
Traded Corn for Votes?
Despite being a proponent of corn ethanol policy in the past, former vice-president Al Gore now says corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy."

His comments, made at a green energy business conference in Athens, came as tax breaks for ethanol are up for renewal at the end of this year.

According to the International Energy Industry, ethanol subsidies reached US$7.7 billion last year and biofuels as a whole garnered more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.

"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake," said Gore. "The energy conversion ratios are at best very small." But, he went on to say that it is difficult to change such programs once strong lobbies keep it going.

He blamed his own support on his presidential ambitions.

"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee," Gore offered. "And I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."

In other words, Gore wanted support from the corn lobbies for his failed presidential candidacy.

The unintended consequences of ramping up US corn ethanol production became apparent in 2008 when food prices skyrocketed, in part because of the conversion of food crops to biofuel production.

This year, according to Goldman Sachs analysts, the ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of US corn or about 15 percent of the corn crop worldwide.

We've been saying for some time that corn ethanol was the Abilene Paradox of alternative energy, in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to their better judgment.

With all the folks who jumped on the bandwagon standing to benefit from the widespread production -- from farmers and producers in the US Midwest to presidential candidates -- it appears self-interest may have been the real driver of the ethanol-powered bus to the west Texas town.

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19 November 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 11/19/10

map Raja Ampat islands, IndonesiaImage via WikipediaHere are my links for this week:

First up, the goverment's favorite mule GM Celebrates IPO with $40 Million Investment in Clean Energy. Hmm, did the Obama administration influence that at all?
One of my favorite places on the planet, Raja Ampat, Indonesia, got a boost this week, as the country declared a vast sanctuary for sharks, turtles and manta rays -- and the people who depend upon the fishery.

Closer to home, and good news for my friends in Philly:

Nine firms get a total of $2.3M from Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

Philly receives grant for electric vehicle chargers.

And, phinally, the Philadelphia Eagles plan to "phly" by making their stadium energy self-sufficient.

Deeper down (below the surface, actually), Tom Konrad of Renewable Energy World says that, if you play your cards right, investing in geothermal stocks could be good. (But expect volatility.) His Top 3 Geothermal E&P Companies includes Green Skeptic favorite Ormat Technologies ($ORA).

Do we need software to hold "Greenwashers" accountable? Hunter Richards thinks so, and explains why.

Two of our favorite VCs John Doerr and Frank Wilson face off on the internet bubble: The Internet Bubble Is Real. That’s Where The Agreement Ends from peHUB.

Cleantech Group reports that while the $1.6 billion in cleantech venture investment in 3Q10 was down 25 percent from last quarter, it brings the investment through the first three quarters of 2010 to $5.8 billion -- a number that already exceeds the total cleantech venture investment in all of 2009.  It's all in how you look at it.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone.

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in ORA. 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.)
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18 November 2010

GOP Bob Inglis Goes 'On-the-Record' About Climate Change

Whatever you think about Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina), you've got to hand it to him for going out "on-the-record" on climate change and calling out his peeps for missing the commercial opportunity.

Here's a clip of his remarks via ThinkProgress:

And here are some of the best bits:
Kim Beazley who's Australia's ambassador to the United States tells me that when he runs into a climate skeptic, he says to them, "Make sure to say that very publicly, because I want our grandchildren to read what you said and what I said."
Tom Friedman gave me this great analogy yesterday -- Your child is sick. 98 doctors say treat him this way. Two say no, this other way is the way to go. I'll go with the two. You're taking a big risk with those kids. Because 98 of the doctors say, "Do this thing," two say, "Do the other."...
And I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues -- especially conservatives here -- whether you think it's all a bunch of hooey, what we've talked about in this committee, the Chinese don't. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that'll lead the 21st century.
So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.
And as a result, if we wake up in several years and we say, "gee, this didn't work very well for us. The two doctors didn't turn out to be so right. 98 might have been the ones to listen to." Then what we'll find is we're way behind those Chinese folks.
Because you know, if you got a certain number of geniuses in the population -- if you're one in a million in China, there's 1300 of you. And you know what? They plan on leading the future.
So whether you -- if you're a free enterprise conservative here -- just think: it's a bunch of hooey, this science is a bunch of hooey. But if you miss the commercial opportunity, you've really missed something.
We have a lot of people who make a lot of money on talk radio and talk TV saying a lot of things. They slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and they're experts on climate change. And those folks substitute their judgment for people who have PhDs and work tirelessly to discover the data.

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15 November 2010

Cleantech is Alive & Well in Philly

This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph,...
Photo by Ed Yakovich
If last week's events are any indication, cleantech is alive and well and living in Philadelphia.

The 2nd annual US-Israel Cleantech Conference, hosted by the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce, last Tuesday featured 11 companies from Israel, along with panels representing local companies and venture capital, and provided robust international dialog, as well as a showcase for innovation.

IMPACT 2010, formerly the MAC Alliance Conference, hosted its second cleantech track (full disclosure: I was part of the selection committee) during which 15 companies pitched their wares.  The quality of the presentations was indicative of the maturing of the sector in the region, as was the variety of presenting companies.

Everything from organic fertilizer to wireless electric vehicle charging, and from wastewater geothermal heat and cooling to a large scale water filtration system was represented, all from the Mid-Atlantic region.

I'll be posting more about the two conferences this week, as some of the panels and speakers were particularly informative.
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12 November 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 11/12/10

My "Jee" key is not functionin  on my laptop keyboard, so I'm  oin  to win  it here and see how many words I can write without the letter  .  Here are my links for this week:

The Green Skeptic?
First of all, I'm takin  an informal poll: A friend of a friend created this logo for The Green Skeptic. What do you think? Use or Lose?

(It's really hard to have to cut and paste every time you need to use a letter!)

Crowdsourced funding taking shape: Chinese VC Backs Green Energy Social Media Platform.

Don't believe in global warming? Bracken Hendricks says, That's not very conservative.

Leslie Blodgett took Notes From Recent Geothermal Meetings

GE Announces Largest Single Electric Vehicle Commitment, Commits to Convert Half of Global Fleet By 2015.

Finally, Eric Wesoff, writin in Greentech Media, offers reason #1 Why the Election is Bad for Cleantech.

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11 November 2010

Green Energy Reporter's Top 10 Players in Green Energy for October

John Woolard, Brightsource
Always interesting to see who makes the monthly "Top 10 Players in Green Energy" list from our friends at Green Energy Reporter.  Here is their Top 10 for October.

Google hanging at #2 for the second month in a row.

Brightsource Energy's John Woolard in the number one spot.

And BP is a sleeper in the #4 spot -- but GER explains that steadily increasing investments in alternative energy helps BP go from corporate villain to list worthy.

It just shows to go ya...

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09 November 2010

End of Carbon Credit Market? The Green Skeptic on FOX Business

I spoke this morning with Stuart Varney on FOX Business about the end of the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Obama administration's newly announced program to encourage energy efficiency upgrades.

If your browser doens't support this video format, here is a link: Green Skeptic on FOX Business

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08 November 2010

US and India to Cooperate on Clean Energy

Image by aquaview via Flickr
Reuters reported this morning that the United States and India will cooperate on clean energy projects, including shale gas development.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama told a press conference today that the two countries will partner on a research and development center for cleantech, energy, and other green solutions in India.

" We have announced specific initiatives in the areas of clean energy, health and agriculture," Prime Minister Singh said in his remarks. "These include a joint clean energy research and development center, the establishment of a global disease detection center in India, and an agreement for cooperation in weather and crop forecasting."

The partners will provide annual funding of $5 million each for five years, which they hope will generate matching investments from the private sector.

"We agreed to deepen our cooperation in pursuit of clean energy technologies, including the creation of a new clean energy research center here in India, and continuing our joint research into solar, biofuels, shale gas and building efficiency," Mr. Obama said at the press conference reported by Reuters.

More information is available on this Fact Sheet on US India Partnership (PDF).
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05 November 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 11/05/10

Here are links for this week.  I'm speaking at the AlwaysOn Venture Summit Mid-Atlantic today.
The impact of Election 2010 on cleantech was offered by Clint Wilder from Clean Edge, Shari Shapiro in Cleantechies, while the Republicans for Environmental Protection congratulated the victorious GOP candidates it endorsed and urged problem-solving in the new Congressional makeup.

One of our favorite American Enterprise Institute bloggers, Kenneth P. Green, finally found common ground with Amory Lovins on the subject of eliminating all energy subsidies and creating a level, competitive playing field.

Meanwhile, in China, carbon industry experts say China’s carbon market presents massive growth opportunities in Energy China Forum.

Finally, the New York Times reported on the market for demand response getting crowded and primed for deals.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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01 November 2010

Wharton Energy Conference Tries to Bridge the Future

Judging by the commentary at last Friday's Wharton Energy Conference, the bridge to the future is a double-truss of traditional and alternatives.
The conference, held at the stodgy, old-fashioned Union League of Philadelphia, featured a stellar group of experts in three tracks, including representatives from traditional energy sources (fossil fuels, nuclear), alternatives, and the regulatory and financial players to help navigate.

And it was no more evident than in the sentiments expressed by the speakers over lunch.

"Traditional sources of energy are going to be with us a long time," said Mark Mills, founding partner of Digital Power Capital. "The world doesn't really react to $80 barrel oil. $80 a barrel is the new floor. $150 a barrel is not question of 'if' but 'when'."

Mills was participating in a mock scenario over lunch demonstrating how an energy storage company needs navigates between those who hold the purse strings and those who have the regulatory clout to help or hinder its business.

"As an investor, I want rules and guidelines, especially around interconnection and safety, to anticipate where it is going," said Mills. "It's not important to have the "right" rules, but just have the rules not change."

After lunch, investors shared their insights about the state of financing in cleantech and energy businesses.

"Renewables have taken a beating lately," offered Michael DeRosa, a managing partner with Element Partners, a leading investor in high growth companies in the energy and clean technology markets. "But let's remember that renewables is a broad category."

"Solar seems to be the most expensive, but it has the best potential for distributed generation and actually has the lowest subsidies," suggested DeRosa. "Geothermal is a very economic source of base load generation. We should be looking at more geothermal in the US."

DeRosa shared his concerns about picking one technology over another to receive subsidies.

"Does it make sense to subsidize electric vehicles or a particular type of solar product that may have risks," asked DeRosa. "Risk in light of a lithium shortage, for example or other rare earth material, versus a subsidy for natural gas vehicles and an industry where we know we can access all the reserves?"

The subject of reserves was also taken up by those on the traditional energy side of the equation.

Representatives from Shell, ExxonMobil, and Brazil's quasi-state oil exploration company Petrobras analyzed their quest for tapping into reserves and the need for all sources of energy for the future.

"We're still going to be using a lot of fossil fuels for the foreseeable future," said Robert Lance Cook of Shell. "We see natural gas as not just a bridge fuel, but as a destination. It has a 2-to-1 advantage over coal in terms of CO2."

The future of energy is paved by old technology, new technology -- and creative folks trying to develop the right policies and financing vehicles to make innovation possible.

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