30 January 2010

IPCC's Pachauri Must Resign

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - DECEMBER 07:  (L-R)  Lar...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Times of London reports this morning that the head of the UN's International Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, was told that the IPCC assertion that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to take actions to correct it.

Dr. Pachauri, who played a lead role at the recent Copenhagen climate summit where he called for drastic cuts in carbon emissions, corrected the error last week after coming under media scrutiny.

Apparently, Dr. Pachauri told The Times as recently as January 22 that he had only known about the error for a few days.

The Times reports "He said: 'I became aware of this when it was reported in the media about ten days ago. Before that, it was really not made known. Nobody brought it to my attention. There were statements, but we never looked at this 2035 number.'"

When pressed in that original interview, he insisted that he hadn't heard about the mistake prior to Copenhagen.

"However," the Times reports, "a prominent science journalist said that he had asked Dr Pachauri about the 2035 error last November. Pallava Bagla, who writes for Science journal, said he had asked Dr Pachauri about the error. He said that Dr Pachauri had replied: 'I don’t have anything to add on glaciers.'"

Dr. Pachauri, who now claims that he was preoccupied with a number of events surrounding the summit and that he inadvertently failed to mention the error, has been accused of potential conflicts of interest surrounding carbon emissions reductions and from "using the error to win grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds," according to the Times.

Late last year, there was additional controversy generated around data used in the IPCC report and elsewhere when emails were discovered between climate scientists that raised questions about potential manipulation of data and climate modeling projections.

This latest controversy further erodes Dr. Pachauri's credibility at a time when public opinion about global warming continues to slip.

It is time for Dr. Pacahuri to resign as head of IPCC and for a full investigation and review of the IPCC reports.

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28 January 2010

Pass or Fail? Obama's State of the Union and Clean Energy Future

Did President Obama pass or fail on energy in last night's State of the Union address?  I wasn't watching, but I've read the transcript.  Here are some of the choice bits:

"We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products."

Totally agree. We are already losing the clean energy race and need to do a lot to catch up.

"We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America."

Okay. A little protectionism, a little nod to a giving something back to Americans for investing in efficiency.

"I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing, even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future, because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."

I'm not sure passing the current Senate effort is the right thing to do. I think cap-and-trade is dead on arrival now and we need to shift the focus on innovation and investment. The important phrase in the above remark is

"...the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy."

Can we get there? I'm not convinced we have the political will or that Obama can carry the day. His approval rating sucks and new polls are pointing to a continuing decrease in belief among Americans in climate change. But I do agree that we can't afford to wait any longer, as the President put it last night

"China's not waiting to revamp its economy; Germany's not waiting; India's not waiting. These nations, they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs."

The President also said he does not "accept second place for the United States of America." Second place? In many respects we are already in third and the leaders are pulling away.

And we're not going to get there without massive investment in innovation, as Bill Gates said in his blog last week, we need "a distributed system of R&D with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key. There just isn't enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go."

I disagree with Gates that it is either efficiency or innovation; this is a false dichotomy. We need to fire on all cylinders. Just as with the President's nods to nuclear, offshore drilling, and "clean coal" last night, which were not just bones to GOP dogs, we need to deploy all solutions --and now.

I'm just not sure whether President Obama, rhetorical skills aside, has the political capital to wrangle the support he needs to make the necessary bold steps.

As for the speech, I give him a B-.

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26 January 2010

TerraCycle Upcycling Your Sharpie

Sharpie, Paper Mate and EXPO have formed a partnership with TerraCycle to repurpose used pens, markers and other writing instruments.

Terracycle is a New Jersey-based "upcycling" company that finds new ways to repurpose otherwise throwaway items like juice pouches, chip bags and the like.  According to the company, the partnership "will create the world's first program to collect and reuse pens, markers and other writing instruments while also helping raise funds for schools, charities, and non-profits nationwide."

Collection centers called "Writing Instrument Brigades" will be set up at participating locales, primarily in large corporations and schools where writing instruments are used most. For every writing instrument collected at a Writing Instrument Brigade collection center, two cents will be paid to a school, community group, charity or non-profit organization of the participant's choice. 

"Keeping one pen or marker out of a landfill may seem like a small contribution, but multiply that by the estimated $5 billion writing instruments sold in the U.S. each year and it is a big opportunity to reduce waste to landfills," said Ben Gadbois, President of Markers, Highlighters, Art and Office Essentials for Newell Rubbermaid Office Products, maker of Sharpie, EXPO and Paper Mate products.

The collected writing instruments will be dissembled and/or reprocessed to make new products.

TerraCycle is also working with other consumer goods manufacturers including 3M, Mars and OfficeMax, to collect and recycle their products.

Founded in 2001 by then 19 year old Princeton University freshman named Tom Szaky, TerraCycle started from Tom's dream to find way a new, more responsible way of doing business that would be good for the planet, good for people, and good for the bottom line.

22 January 2010

Review: Ray Anderson's "Confessions of a Radical Industrialist"

"Will we bankrupt the future, or assure it?" Ray Anderson asks in his new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. "Or should we find ways to create wealth sustainably through the efficient use of resources, renewable energy, and closed-loop manufacturing processes that use recycled waste as raw materials?"

Anderson has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement for some time. But for 20 years he was your typical plunderer, to paraphrase the author.

He "founded Interface in 1973 to equip the emerging, technology-driven 'office of the future' with a new kind of carpet, a floor covering that could change along with its owners needs," as he writes. He built the business into a global leader in the commercial carpet industry.

In 1994, however, a colleague from the company's research division passed on a memo from a sales associate that said some customers wanted to know, "What is Interface doing for the environment?" Another associate gave him a copy of Paul Hawken's groundbreaking book, The Ecology of Commerce.

That started Ray Anderson on his journey of discovery -- both personal and corporate -- that led to the company deciding to be a global leader in sustainability and never make a carpet from virgin raw materials again.

It's a story he has told before, on stage and in his 1995 book, Mid-Course Correction, and a third of this new book covers ground from that earlier memoir. But in retelling his personal journey Anderson connects his readers to his true purpose: to demonstrate that sustainability is a worthy and profitable journey and that the journey is the destination.

Along the way, Anderson makes clear the business case for sustainability -- and for accomplishing it "with good old capitalist self-interest firmly in mind."

Anderson never loses sight of the fact that "financial success is the key to achieving sustainability," as he writes in this new book. "A bankrupt company is clearly not sustainable. But sustainability is also a big key to achieving financial success. We have proved that earning a bigger and better, more legitimate profit is possible."

It's an important lesson and one supported by his book's subtitle, "Profits, People, Purpose--Doing Business by Respecting the Earth." I like that he leads with Profits and People; too often, environmentalists try to lead with the planet first and lose sight of the people and their self-interest.

That's why Ray Anderson's story is a good one and Confessions of a Radical Industrialist is an important book. (It's not a perfect book, I must say, and suffers a bit from overstating some points and pontification in spots. Yet the overall message is important enough to forgive these flaws.)

"Efficiency equals profits, profits equal jobs, and good jobs mean a strong economy," Anderson writes. To Ray Anderson, sustainability offers a new business model and a new future characterized by new thinking, new products, and new profits.

(Note: As of this writing, I have just learned that Ray Anderson has been diagnosed with cancer and is heading for further tests at the MD Anderson Center in Houston. My prayers go out to Ray and his family.)

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21 January 2010

IPCC Sucker Punches Itself, Again

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - DECEMBER 08:  Rajendra K...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
This is getting ridiculous. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is becoming its own worst enemy, providing more fodder for climate skeptics.

The UN's top climate authority issued an apology yesterday for what it now says was a flawed "prediction" regarding the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035.

New Scientist magazine broke the story last week about the quote attributed to Indian scientist Syed Hasnain, who claimed that he was misquoted in a media interview that was later used in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment report.

New Scientist reported the comment in 1999 as part of what it says was an email interview with India's leading glaciologist. There were no other sources for the claim, other than a 2005 WWF report (PDF, see Correction on page 2) cited the New Scientist article, but it still found its way into the IPCC report.

"I have not made any prediction on date as I am not an astrologer but I did say they were shrinking fast," Hasnain has said, according to an article in TimesOnline. "I have never written 2035 in any of my research papers or reports."

At the time of the original interview, Professor Hasnain worked for Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and was chairman of the International Commission on Snow and Ice's working group on Himalayan glacialology. He now works for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi, which is headed by Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN climate change panel.

This is the latest in a series of attacks on the "consensus" around the theory of global climate change and may further erode public sentiment on the issue. The IPCC chairman has recently come under fire for allegations of conflict of interest and the credibility of some of the computer modeling used in the report was called into question when emails between climate scientists were hacked late last year.

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19 January 2010

CREE LED Market Leader, Continues to Impress

I've been long LED lighting manufacturer $CREE for a long time, as readers of this blog know. Today, Cree continued to impress me with its quarterly earnings release, beating estimates and generating record revenue.

They announced record revenue of $199.5 million for its second quarter of fiscal 2010, ended December 27, 2009, which is a "35 percent increase compared to revenue of $147.6 million reported for the second fiscal quarter last year and an 18 percent increase compared to the first quarter of fiscal 2010," according to a company press release.

“We continued to execute very well in Q2, as we delivered record revenue and net income,” stated Chuck Swoboda, Cree chairman and CEO. “LED lighting adoption continues to gain momentum and our near term focus is on factory execution and capacity expansion. Our strong balance sheet further enhances our leadership position and supports our mission of leading the LED lighting revolution.”

Here are other highlights from the press release:

Q2 2010 Financial Metrics:

* Cash and investments increased $65.6 million from Q1 of fiscal 2010 to $954.1 million.

* Cash flow from operations was $21.5 million. Free cash flow (cash flow from operations less capital expenditures) was ($19.9) million as we spent $41.4 million on capital expenditures.

* Accounts receivable (net) increased $20.3 million from Q1 of fiscal 2010 to $113.4 million, resulting in days sales outstanding of 51, an increase of 1 day from Q1 of fiscal 2010.

* Inventory (net) increased $7.3 million from Q1 of fiscal 2010 to $93.3 million and represents 80 days of inventory, a decrease of 1 day from Q1 of fiscal 2010.

Recent Business Highlights:

* Awarded $39 million in tax credits as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support our investment to build energy efficient LED lighting

* Announced that Cree LED lamps have been selected for an initial deployment in approximately 650 Walmart stores

* Set a new standard for indoor LED lighting with the XLamp® MX-6 LED, the industry’s first lighting-class PLCC LED

* Demonstrated an A-lamp LED light bulb with the highest lumen output and efficacy reported in the industry

* Achieved industry-best reported R&D results of 186 lumens per watt from a white high-power LED

* Purchased a facility for manufacturing expansion in Huizhou, China

Business Outlook:

For its third quarter of fiscal 2010 ending March 28, 2010, Cree targets revenue in a range of $215 million to $225 million with GAAP net income of $37 million to $40 million, or $0.35 to $0.37 per diluted share. Non-GAAP net income is targeted to increase quarter-over-quarter to $44 million to $47 million, or $0.41 to $0.44 per diluted share, based on an estimated 107.5 million diluted weighted average shares. Targeted non-GAAP earnings exclude expenses related to the amortization of acquired intangibles of $0.02 per diluted share, and stock-based compensation expense of $0.04 per diluted share.

Here's a link to the full press release: CREE Earnings Q2 2010

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in CREE. 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 January 2010

Cleantech Events 2010

I asked a number of Cleantech experts to share their top "must-attend" conferences for 2010. Here's the list in order of number of recommendations:

1.) Cleantech Forum XXVI

2.) Cleantech Investor Summit 2010

3.) Going Green East

4.) RETECH 2010

5.) Earth2Tech's GreenNet 2010

Other events that didn't make the top 5, but are worth mentioning:

MIT Energy Conference

GridWeek 2010

Fortune: Brainstorm Green

Alternative Energy Innovations (Dow Jones)

TechConnectWorld: Clean Technology Expo

1st Int'l Conf on Materials for Energy

Clean Tech World Africa

ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

What conferences are YOU interested in this year?

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Green Skeptic on Job Creation: FoxBusiness

I was on FoxBusiness yesterday, talking with Stuart Varney about the green jobs number that has come out from the Obama administration.

There were three points I wanted to make on the subject:

1.) What qualifies as a green job? What counts? We need a clear definition to determine whether the accounting is accurate and the impact is greatest.
2.) Only $5B of the $90B stimulus commitment to clean energy has moved thus far. How can we more efficiently move that capital to put it to work?
3.) Lack of manufacturing base for clean energy in the US calls into question the number and quality of the jobs that will be created here in the US. Will they be just service-oriented? Will that have significant impact on the larger economy?

You can judge for yourself whether I succeeded. Let me know what you think.

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13 January 2010

World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers: Embracing Disruption

The World Economic Forum made its selection of Technology Pioneers for 2010 last month.  The Energy and Environment group is an impressive list:

BioFuelBox builds, owns and operates modular bio-refineries that recycle brown grease and trap grease and waste water sludge for companies and cities, converting it into premium clean burning fuel for local use. It eliminates the waste streams on site and shares part of the fuel profits with its customers.
Steve Perricone, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer

Bloom Energy
Bloom Energy aims to change the way the world generates and consumes energy by converting a wide range of renewable and traditional fuels into electricity through a highly efficient electrochemical reaction, rather than combustion.
K.R. Sridhar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Boston-Power is pioneering the use of lithium-ion and other materials capable of powering end applications ranging from portable consumer electronic devices to electric vehicles.
Christina Lampe-Onnerud, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Care Electric Energia
CARE has designed a turbine system that generates energy from the natural flow of a river, without any alternation of its natural state. It provides fish passage facilities and does not dam the normal flow of materials in the river, conserving the fauna, vegetation and ecosystem.
Johann Hoffmann, Founder

Epuramat’s technology promises to revolutionize waste water treatment. Its Extreme Separator achieves an efficiency of up to 99% in terms of solid/liquid separation of organic and inorganic particles in wastewater and liquids – and it does it in only one treatment step.
David Din, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer

eSolar aims to become the first solar electricity company to reach parity with the cost of fossil fuel. It hopes to achieve that goal with technology that concentrates the sunlight of mirrors of one square metre to produce steam at centralized towers.
Bill Gross, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Lehigh Technologies
Lehigh Technologies manufactures very small, micron scale, engineered rubber powders from material derived from scrap tires using a proprietary, cryogenic, grinding technology. These powders are novel materials that are currently used in the manufacture of new tires and other rubber goods.
Alan Barton, Chief Executive Officer

Metabolix aims to create a new class of materials that can serve as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics. It has developed bio-based and biodegradable plastics using both engineered microbes and engineered bio-energy crops that grow bio-plastic directly inside leaves and stems.
Richard P. Eno, President and Chief Executive Officer

Serious Materials
The construction industry is responsible for 52% of C02 emissions worldwide, which is more than automobiles, transportation and industry combined. Serious Materials is tackling the problem with high tech building materials that include super insulating products.
Kevin Surace, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL)
VNL has developed a solar-powered GSM system specifically for remote and rural areas where people have less than US$ 2 a month to spend on their phone bills. Its base stations, which cost one-quarter of traditional equipment, only require as much energy as a 50-watt light bulb.
Rajiv Mehrotra, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

The Technology Pioneers program is the World Economic Forum's way of identifying and integrating companies – normally in a start-up phase or in their first rounds of financing – from around the world that are involved in the design and development of new technologies. The innovations of these companies reflect society’s attempts to harness, adapt and use technology to change and improve the way business and society operate.

Each year, hundreds of innovative companies from around the world are nominated, and approximately 30 are recognized as Technology Pioneers in three categories:

1. Biotechnology and Health
2. Energy and Environmental Technologies
3. Information Technologies and New Media.

For more information on the Technology Pioneers, visit the web site or download the brochure.

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07 January 2010

The Green Skeptic's Portfolio for 2010

I've made some adjustments to my Green Skeptic Stock Portfolio for this year.

All of these stocks are in the cleantech, energy, or environmental sector. (Note: I may hold other positions outside this sector and have an IRA that may have other positions as well, but this portfolio is strategically focused for specific investments in this sector.)

A couple of other things you should know about this list, in addition to the disclaimer below:

I rarely short any stocks.  Although I am tempted sometimes, I'm neither smart enough of a trader nor can I pay close enough attention to the market to do it well. So, the bulk of my portfolio is Long, but I'm also watching or tracking other stocks for either an entry, re-entry, or just because I'm curious about what's happening in a particular sector -- or they are a direct competitor of another stock I hold.

My interest in the companies whose stock I buy and hold is based upon a belief in the company, their product, their potential in the market, and whether I think they are or will be a market leader. (Don't let me fool you, I don't think I'm smart enough to predict whether they will be best in class either! But "ya gotta have one vice," as my Grandmother used to say.)

Anyway, here is my list of long positions and my watch list for 2010:



You will note that I am using the StockTwits convention for identifying ticker symbols, which includes a dollar sign. If you don't know about StockTwits, read my post here: StockTwits: Break Away from the Usual Market Noise or head on over to StockTwits.com and sign up for some of the best dialog and community on the web.

(Disclosure: I hold long positions in some of the stocks listed above. 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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05 January 2010

Whole Foods Flak: Give Mackey a Break

Whole Foods CEO John MackeyImage via Wikipedia
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is in hot water with environmentalists, liberal media pundits, and the climate crisis police for expressing his doubt about the scientific consensus around the causes of climate change.

The hulabaloo stems from the following passage from The New Yorker profile by Nick Paumgarten:

"One of the books on the list was 'Heaven and Earth: Global Warming—the Missing Science,' a skeptical take on climate change. Mackey told me that he agrees with the book's assertion that, as he put it, 'no scientific consensus exists' regarding the causes of climate change; he added, with a candor you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow 'hysteria about global warming' to cause us 'to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.' One would imagine that, on this score, many of his customers, to say nothing of most climate scientists, might disagree. He also said, 'Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.'"

But he already answered critics, telling Paumgarten,

"I have my own views, and they're not necessarily the same as Whole Foods'...People want me to suppress who I am. I guess that's why so many politicians and C.E.O.s get to be sort of boring, because they end up suppressing any individuality to conform to some phony, inauthentic way of being. I'd rather be myself."

Now, I don't shop at Whole Paycheck, frankly because it's always seemed overpriced and under quality. I prefer Trader Joe's or our local food co-op. And Mackey has some pretty wacky views -- his embracing of the "Course in Miracles" is example enough -- and has done some bonehead things (remember the Wild Oats scandal).

But the fact that Mackey can't express his doubts about the "consensus" on climate change without people calling for his head is just ludicrous. Give the guy a break. Don't patronize his store if you don't agree with him, but stop the witch hunt, please. You're acting as bad as your enemy.

Read the whole CEO profile in The New Yorker

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03 January 2010