31 March 2011

Insights into the Philly Cleantech Market, Investing, and Best Industry Blogs

Chris Williams and The Green Skeptic
Chris Williams of The Green Light Distrikt interviewed me last week about Philadelphia Cleantech scene, water, cleantech investing, and my favorite industry blogs.

He's posted the results in byte-sized morsels of audio:

Insights into the Philly Cleantech Market, Investing, and Best Industry Blogs from @Greenskeptic

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30 March 2011

Cities and the Global Water Crisis | Sustainable Cities Collective Audio

Last week for World Water Day (March 22nd, 2011), I participated in an exclusive webinar about how global cities are dealing with the challenge of managing their most essential resource.

Listen to the audio at Sustainable Cities Collective (length 01:01:06)

    or download here  

Panelists included

Dr. Paul Bowen is the Director of Strategic Business Initiatives, Water Technology and a Member of the Global Water Stewardship team for The Coca-Cola Company. In that role, he oversees water use efficiency programs for global manufacturing, including work with plants on water minimization, water reuse, and water conservation. Paul is a member of the 2010-2011 Board of Trustees for the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and previously was an Assistant Professor for the School of Civil Engineering & Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Larry Levine is a senior attorney in NRDC's Water Program, and works on a variety of issues pertaining to water quality in the Northeastern U.S., as well as at the national policy level. He focuses especially on promoting the use of “green infrastructure” as a sustainable solution to polluted urban runoff and raw sewage overflows. Larry was previously a litigation fellow at NRDC and a clinical fellow in environmental law at the Georgetown University Law Center, and is a graduate of Yale Law School and Tulane University.
Scott Edward Anderson is the founder of VerdeStrategy, a consulting and advisory firm focused on the cleantech, energy, and environment sectors, and the popular blog TheGreenSkeptic.com, as well as a frequent commentator on FOX Business Network. He has held management positions for large institutions, such as The Nature Conservancy, the world's most successful global conservation organization, and Ashoka, a social venture capital organization with operations in 72 countries worldwide, and has consulted with dozens of businesses and social entrepreneurs around the globe.
Richard McGill Murphy moderates the Sustainable Business Forum. Richard is a journalist and media consultant with 15 years of experience covering business, technology and international affairs. He writes for Fortune and BusinessWeek and serves as managing partner of Walled City Media LLC, a media strategy firm. Previously, he has worked as a top editor at Fortune Small Business and CNNMoney.com, and earlier served as editorial and program director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. He holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from Harvard and a doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford University.

Some good insights about water, water investing, water supply issues, environmental concerns, weather events, and the potential impacts of climate change.
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29 March 2011

Global Clean Energy Investment $243 billion; US Drops to 3rd

The Pew Charitable Trusts
Once the top dog in clean energy, the United States dropped to third place in terms of investment, falling further from the top spot it held in 2008, with only $34 billion in private clean energy investments.

China continues to lead, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, attracting a record $54.4 billion in clean energy investments in 2010 -- a 39 percent increase over 2009 and equal to total global investment in 2004. Germany saw private investments double to $41.2 billion and was second in the G-20, up from third last year.

"The clean energy sector is emerging as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630 percent growth in finance and investments since 2004," said Phyllis Cuttino, director, Pew Clean Energy Program. "In 2010, worldwide finance and investment grew 30 percent to a record $243 billion."

The good news is: investment in clean energy has bounced back from the recession, at least globally.  The question is, will the US be able to keep pace in the years to come?

That China leads will come as no surprise to readers of The Green Skeptic.  That the US is slipping further down the ladder is more disturbing to those of us who see the new green economy as a platform for our competitiveness in the global marketplace.

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25 March 2011

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 03/25/11

Indian Point nuclear reactor, seen from across...
Indian Point Nuclear Plant on Hudson
We've been gearing up for the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic's 3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum, which takes place at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences on Thursday, March 31st. A few tickets are still available, so don't delay: Register for Cleantech Investment Forum.

Here are this week's Green Skeptic links:

The news is not great out of Japan this morning as Reuters reports workers at the Fukushima nuclear reactor were exposed to 10,000 times more radiation than previously thought: Fukushima. 

While in the US, concern about older nuclear facilities is leading to increased scrutiny as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has pledged to move New York's Indian Point to the top of its list of 27 nuclear plants being reviewed for risk from earthquakes: Indian Point and the New York Times reported that Nuclear Power Loses Support in New Poll

Ideas on Energy asks "Why are the world's most energy rich countries in the Middle East investing so heavily in renewable energy?" 

Meanwhile, in California, a landmark climate bill is being stalled by...a bunch of environmentalists?  China Dialogue editor Linden Ellis has the story: Greens Getting in the Way.

Shawn Lesser of Sustainable World Capital and Terry Cooke, a 2010 Public Policy Scholar on U.S.-China Clean Energy at the Woodrow Wilson Center, list the  "Top Ten U.S. and China Collaborations in Cleantech."

Katie Fehrenbacher at Earth2Tech reports that power gear company Schneider Electric has made one of the larger acquisitions in the industrial and commercial energy management sector, buying energy procurement and management company Summit Energy for $268 million.

Elizabeth Kolbert, writing in National Geographic, says the carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the oceans and slowly acidifying them. Kolbert asks, "One hundred years from now, will oysters, mussels, and coral reefs survive?"

While Nature Conservancy president and CEO Mark Tercek suggests that Keeping More Fish in the Ocean is Good for People & Nature.

Have a great weekend everybody.

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24 March 2011

3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum

The Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum has become the premier showcase for clean- and greentech companies and investors in the region.

A collaboration between the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic (of which I am co-founder) and Blank Rome's energy law practice, the Forum brings together investors and entrepreneurs from around the region.

Now in its third year, the Forum takes place at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences and there's something deliciously ironic about networking with the region's cleantech leaders among the dinosaurs and fossils housed at the Academy.

This year's program includes Keynote Speaker Mark Fulton, Managing Director and Global Head of Climate Change Investment Research and Strategy for Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors; a Cleantech Investment Panel, featuring Gary Golding of Edison Ventures, Kevin Brophy of Meidlinger Partners, Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital; a dialogue with representatives from the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (moderated by yours truly); and a cleantech company showcase featuring some of the region's hottest companies.

Register today for the 3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum.

Here's a video from last year's Forum, attended by over 390 people, and we're expecting a capacity crowd again this year -- so get your tickets before it's too late.

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22 March 2011

World Water Day: Urban Challenges and Opportunities

Half of the world's people now live in cities, according to the United Nations, and within two decades, nearly 60 percent of the population -- 5 billion people -- will be urban dwellers.

Developing countries feel the growth most directly, but even cities like Philadelphia are showing signs of population growth.

While cities are considered by many to be the most environmentally benign habitat for human beings, urban population growth brings challenges. Among those challenges are increasing stresses on water availability, access, and sanitation.

Cities are hard to sustain without reliable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Yet even in the industrial world, urban water and waste service infrastructure is not up to the challenge.

Scarcity of usable water around the world is leading to further challenges and economic constraints, according to William Brennan of Summit Global Management, a San Diego-based investment firm that specializes in water.

"The continued industrialization of emerging markets, growing global agricultural demand, and rising energy inputs are unstoppable trends that are all converging at a historic rate, making the water demand curve further accelerate," Brennan wrote to me recently.

Yet, with such challenges also come opportunities, especially where recycling and reuse and treatment of water and wastes are concerned.

In the US, start-up companies like Liberty Hydrologic Systems, BlackGold Biofuels, Cardinal Resources, and ET Water are coming up with innovative solutions to deal with treatment, filtration, and waste; while large utilities such as AquaAmerica and American Water tackle the infrastructure for drinking water and wastewater services.

Internationally, organizations such as charity:water and the Global Water Challenge are addressing clean, safe drinking water, and sanitation issues in developing nations. (Here is a comprehensive list of water related organizations: H20.)

"Good urban water management is complex and requires not only water and wastewater infrastructure, but also pollution control and flood prevention," as the organizers of World Water Day point out. "It requires coordination across many sectors and between different local authorities and changes in governance that lead to more sustainable and equitable use of the urban water resources."

It also requires innovative solutions and new ways of thinking about how we use, reuse, conserve, and treat our water.

One day each year hardly seems adequate to raising the awareness of water issues around the world, but it's a start.  As our cities expand and stresses to water supplies increase, it will become clear as...well...water that we need to pay more attention to this most precious resource.

NOTE: Join me and Dr. Paul Bowen of Coca-Cola, Larry Levine of NRDC, and Richard Murphy of Fortune for a webinar today at 1PM ET as we discuss water challenges and opportunities: Cities and the Global Water Crisis.

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18 March 2011

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 03/18/11

Fukushima daiichi nuclear power station from NHKImage by Masaru Kamikura via FlickrWe all watched with grave concern and deep admiration this week as workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan struggled to keep a crisis from turning into a catastrophe in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. 

As I write this, the severity level has been raise from a 4 to a 5 and water cannons are firing jets of water onto overheating reactors.

Michael W. Golay, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, examines the missteps that led to the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi in Yale360.

While the debate about the Fukushima disaster's impact on the future of nuclear energy heated up, The Next Big Future listed Deaths per TWh for all energy sources, including some surprises.

Meanwhile, on the subject of alternative energy, Clean Edge Research released its 10th Annual Clean Energy Trends Report. 

And Rob Day, aka @cleantechvc, posted his thoughts and an excellent slide show on Cleantech Venture Capital in 2015.

Jim Tankersly has a great piece in the National Journal on the unpriced risks facing the US economy: Flooded.

And, finally, probably the coolest husband and wife bloggers on the planet, Joanne and Fred Wilson, both had compelling posts this week.  First read the Gotham Gal's post on Britta Riley, Environmental Entrepreneur  and Fred's post on why we should support and then take action at

Have a great weekend everybody. And continue to pray for the workers at Fukushima and people of Japan.

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17 March 2011

Is that a Banana in Your Pocket or Are You Radioactive?

"Banana Equivalent Dose" was a concept new to me when it came to my attention via that font of much wisdom and arcana, Paul Kedrosky, who got it from William Gibson's Twitter stream (@GreatDismal).

According to its Wikipedia entry,  "banana equivalent dose (or BED) is a concept to place in scale the dangers of radiation by comparing exposures to the radiation generated by a common banana."

Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium-40, or 40K they contain. Bananas are radioactive enough to regularly cause false alarms on radiation sensors used to detect possible illegal smuggling of nuclear material at US ports.[3]
A medium sized banana contains about 450 mg of Potassium.[4] 0.0117%, or about 53 μg of this being 40K. 53 μg of 40K produces 14 radioactive decays per second (dps), or 0.00037 μCi of radiation. If the banana is eaten, the dose equivalent is about 0.01 mrem.[1] 0.01 mrem is equivalent to 0.1 μSv.[5]
A radiation dose equivalent of 100 μSv (10 mrem, or 1,000 BED) increases an average adult human's risk of death by about one micromort – the same risk as eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter, or of smoking 1.4 cigarettes[6]

Here is a link to the full entry: Banana Equivalent Dose.

In the coverage of the Japan's Fukushima nuclear plants SI multiples have been used, including the millisievert  and microsievert.  There was some confusion about this yesterday in the news as a spike was observed.

A millisievert (mSv) is a thousandth of a sievert and a microsievert is a millionth of sievert.  A chest x-ray has 0.1 mSv.  (Peter Wehrwein,editor of the Harvard Health Letter, has a good discussion of the topic at the Harvard Health Blog.)

Yesterday's spike at the Fukushima Dai-chi plant was 400 mSv per hour.  Sounds like a bunch of bananas.
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15 March 2011

Daughter Interviews Her Nuclear Engineer Father About Fukushima Daiichi Disaster in Japan

BWR Mark I Containment Cutaway

Evelyn Mervine is a self-described "geologist, writer, traveler, and aspiring polyglot."  She is currently a 5th-year PhD student in the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program and is also the daughter of a nuclear engineer.

Evelyn writes the Georneys blog, where she has been interviewing her dad, Mark Mervine, over the past few days as the troubles at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan developed.

If you want a sober, informed discussion about the problems facing the Japanese nuclear facilities, check out Evelyn's recorded interviews:

Evelyn Mervine's Interviews with her dad, Commander Mark L. Mervine, US Navy, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan
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14 March 2011

Will Japan Disaster Set Back US Nuclear Program? Green Skeptic on FOX Business

This morning I talked with Stuart Varney of Fox Business about the future of nuclear power in America and the environmental impact of the crisis in Japan.

Here is the video:

and a link to the program: Green Skeptic on FOX Business.

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11 March 2011

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 03/11/11

I awoke this morning, as many did, to the news of a devastating earthquake in Japan and the ensuing tsunami.

Once again we are reminded of the power of Nature and the fragility of human existence. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected in Japan and elsewhere.

The New York Times and BBC appeared to have the best coverage (thanks to Heidi N. Moore for the links):

Huge Quake and Tsunami Hit Japan

Tsunami hits Japan after massive quake

Video of the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Here are links for this week:

Brad Johnson, of The Wonk Room, reports on Rep. Ed Markey's Sardonic comments during this week's climate hearings in Washington: Markey Asks if GOP Will Repeal Gravity

Meanwhile, Nick Blake, writing in OnEarth magazine asks, "Are We Hard-wired for Extinction?"

My colleague from The Energy Collective advisory board Marc Gunther ponders Can Clean Energy Drive U.S. Economic Recovery?

Our friend Molly Davis of Rainmaker Communications has her film producing premiere at SXSW and got some props in the New York Times: "Something Ventured, A Love Story About Capitalism."  Here's a link to the film's web site: Something Ventured.

Craig Newmark has launched a new venture to connect people to non-profit organizations:  Craigslist Founder Starts Craigconnects To Make World A Better Place.

David Brooks has sparked a lively debate about the failures of contemporary society, which he sees as rooted "a single failure: reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature," The New Humanism.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

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10 March 2011

John Rowe on Energy Policy: Above All, Do No Harm

Exelon CEO John Rowe addressed the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, yesterday outlining an economic approach to energy policy for the 112th Congress.

Rowe has always been forward-thinking on the issue of a price for carbon and action on climate change -- and his company remains committed to its goal of reducing, offsetting or displacing its entire carbon footprint by 2020.

Here is a video of his speech:

And here are links to his speech text and presentation.

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

07 March 2011

An Economist Offers "Some Hard Truths About Energy"

Peter Treadway, a principal at the consulting and investment management firm Historical Analytics LLC and Chief Economist at CT RISKS, has a guest post on Barry Ritholz's The Big Picture blog.

Treadway lists "Some Hard Truths About Energy" (some of which will be familiar to Green Skeptic readers).

It's worth reading the whole piece (go here), but here are the points in list form:

1. Energy independence, a.k.a., energy autarky, is an impossible and undesirable dream.

2. A major objective of US (and all importing nations) foreign policy should be to secure reliable energy supplies.

3. The free market—not the government – should be making the choice among various energy sources.

4. Domestic conventional sources of energy offer great promise.

5. So called-green energy alternatives are not necessarily easier on the environment.

6. Don't worry about peak oil.

7. Increasing energy efficiency results in the use of more energy.

Readers of The Green Skeptic will know that I agree with points 1-4, but 6-7 are a bit problematic -- and 5, well, he's only partly right.

Read his supporting arguments in the full post: Some Hard Truths About Energy.  And then tell me what you think.

Treadway also writes The Dismal Optimist blog.

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04 March 2011

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 03/04/11

Hugo Peabody (aka Bobby Rydell)
Some important client work and my son's appearance as Hugo Peabody in his high school's production of "Bye Bye Birdie" kept me in Philadelphia this week (ya gotta have priorities), so you didn't see me at TED or ARPA-E or the MIT Energy Conference. Here are some links to stuff I've been tracking this week:

First up, this blog made bschool.com's list of 50 Best Blogs for Green Business Students

Next, few DOE and ARPA-E related items:

Elizabeth McGowan at SolveClimate asks Can Obama's Bold Stroke on Cleantech Innovation Survive Budget Cuts?

10 Companies to Watch For Out of ARPA-E

CNET's Martin LaMonica suggests ARPA-E a litmus test for energy R&D agenda and then asks Then what?

The best quote I've read from TED 2011: "I"m just going to show you a kidney we printed earlier." (Yes, a human kidney. Printed.) Explore this TED recap from The Guardian: TED 2011 roundup: bionic body parts, self-driving cars and Jamie Oliver

Now on to China:

Energy China Forum suggests China, U.S. should form strategic alliance in clean energy development

and Ann Goodman, co-founder and executive director of the Women's Network for a Sustainable Future, writes about How business women are helping push a green agenda in China.  

Closer to home:

The US Fish & Wildlife Service announced the Eastern Cougar Is Declared Extinct, With an Asterisk

A new study tries to explain why Conservatives are much more likely to deny "global warming" than "climate change". 

The Wall Street Journal announced its second annual ranking of The Top 10 Clean-Tech Companies.

And, finally, GoodCompany Ventures announced it is now accepting applications for 2011 Class of Good Companies: Be a GoodCompany.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

(Disclosure: I am on the advisory board of GoodCompany Ventures, a social enterprise accelerator in Philadelphia.)
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02 March 2011

Muhammad Yunus Ousted as Head of Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, 2006Image via Wikipedia

The Financial Times reported this morning that Nobel Laureate and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus has been removed as head of the bank.   

FT cites a letter from the central bank that claims Mr. Yunus had been acting as managing director without its consent. 

"Whatever the legalities of the issue," reports Amy Kazmin in the FT, "many Bangladeshis believe Mr Yunus is falling victim to a political vendetta by the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Bangladesh’s slain independence leader."

The Associated Press also reported on the ouster, noting that "efforts to remove Yunus from Grameen intensified in recent weeks, with the central bank claiming that the 70-year-old Yunus violated the country's retirement laws by staying on as the bank's head well past the mandatory retirement age of 60."

Muhammad Yunus, founded Grameen Bank 30 years ago and pioneered microcredit loans to the poor, an idea for which he later received the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement on the Grameen Bank website, Jannat-E-Quanine, general manager of the bank, said, "This is a legal issue. The Hon'ble Finance Minister has himself stated yesterday that it is a legal issue. Grameen Bank is taking legal advice. It is also examining all the legal aspects of this issue. Grameen Bank has been duly complying with all applicable laws. It has also complied with the law in respect of appointment of the Managing Director. According to the Bank's Legal Advisors, the founder of Grameen Bank, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, is accordingly continuing in his office."

For more on the story see Financial Times, Associated Press, and Grameen Bank.

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01 March 2011

The Green Skeptic & Howard Lindzon Talk Cleantech Stocks on StockTwits.TV

Howard Lindzon and I talked First Solar and other alternative energy stocks on StockTwits.tv. (Note, this was recorded last Friday after $FSLR's earnings, but before this week's move, but it was broadcast tonight.)

Dig that Patagonia hoodie, Howard! But you look like I'm putting you to sleep...

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in several stocks mentioned herein, including FSLR, ENOX, TTEK,JCI, EXC, ORA, and AON). 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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The New Sustainable Economy and You

Maybe people really are hungry for a change. Not the hopey-changey stuff of political change, but the real, tangible change represented by rebooting our economy.

My post yesterday reviewing Hugh MacLeod's Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination and Umair Haque's The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business got more hits than Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter.

And that got me thinking about a talk I gave last year at Temple's Fox School of Business and Wharton's Social Impact club.

The talk was about three things:

1.) The state of our current economy and the opportunity to build a better economic system.
2.) What such change can mean for you (the audience was b-school students).
3.) What social entrepreneurship and social enterprise mean and why it can make a difference.

Ultimately, my talk was about value creation, the kind of value creation Hugh and Umair are talking about.

Here is the slide show from that talk:

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