31 August 2010

Lomborg: A Saul/Paul Conversion?

Photo of Bjørn Lomborg.Image via WikipediaHas Bjørn Lomborg had a Saul/Paul conversion on the road to Global Warming's Damascus? Or is Lomborg once again playing the media for attention on the eve of releasing a new book? 

The Guardian reported this morning that the world's most high-profile climate change sceptic (er, skeptic) is now declaring that global warming is "undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today" and "a challenge humanity must confront," in his new book to be published next month.

Read The Guardian story here.

What timing for an about-face: Lomborg has long been a media darling, vilified by the extreme greens and trotted out by climate deniers whenever he has a new book to push.

His views on the climate were debunked by Howard Friel in some detail in his recent book The Lomborg Deception, where he alledgedly picked apart nearly all of the assertions made in Lomborg's book Cool It!, a follow-up to The Skeptical Environmentalist.

To be fair, Lomborg never really denied that greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuels were having an impact on the climate.  He simply didn't think it was going to be the runaway disaster it was being made out to be. 

He also argued that focusing on eradicating HIV AIDs and malaria from the planet as the most economical investments we could make to solve the planet's pressing issues.
"The point I've always been making is it's not the end of the world," he told the Guardian. "That's why we should be measuring up to what everybody else says, which is we should be spending our money well."

He outlines his views in this TED Talk from February 2005: TED Lomborg.  Lomborg asks the audience, Given $50 billion to spend, which would you solve first, AIDS or global warming?
In Lomborg's view, more immediate concerns of health and poverty needed to be addressed.  He's now calling for over $100 billion to be spent annually to address climate change.

But the damage was done, as the author's books fanned the flames of the debate and lent credibility (however fact-unchecked) to climate-change deniers from across the spectrum.

Now even Rajendra Pachauri, the beleagured head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, himself being pressured to step down after a recent independent review of the panel's work, has flip-flopped.

Pachauri once compared Lomborg to Hitler, but now, according to the Guardian, blurbs the book by his former nemesis.

Lomborg's arguments tick people off, in part because his tone is cavalier and dismissive and his fact-checking isn't always done with the rigor of his assertions.

It remains to be seen whether this latest salvo, whether a conversion or a diversion, will move the needle (or lower the thermostat) on the planet's path to a warmer future.

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27 August 2010

Green Skeptic Friday Linkfest - 08/27/10

First, some good news from our oceans for a change:

Oceanospirillales are into dining on oil, according to researchers in a new article in Science

Up to 40 New Plant and Animal Species Discovered in Indonesian Waters: Indonesian Bounty
and MIT researchers have developed a swimming, oil skimming robot that may be deployed in the Gulf: Seaswarm

But forests are still be hammered by our disposable culture:

China's 45 billion disposable chopsticks require 100 acres of forest every 24 hours (100 acres every day -- that's insane!): Chop Fooey
Back on this side of the globe, Philadelphia won the bid for an Energy Innovation Hub at the Philly Navy Yard, which will be led by Penn State: Energy Hub (My Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic was a supporting partner.)

And speaking of Philly, we're looking for a few good cleantech companies to present at IMPACT 2010 in Philly (in early November): Cleantech Applications
In what may prove to tarnish another US city's rep as a green leader, Boulder prepares to wash its hands of SmartGridCity, from Greentech Media: Not Such a SmartCity After All?

Meanwhile, Harvard B-School professor Rebecca Henderson has some advice on How to Speed Up Energy Innovation: Henderson on Innovation

And finally, StockTwits made Time's list of 50 Best Websites for 2010: Some Kind of Awesome.

Have a great weekend!

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26 August 2010

Philadelphia: Birthplace of Energy Independence?

Philadelphia Navy Yard, from Robert N. Dennis ...Image via Wikipedia
Philadelphia Navy Yard, Robert N. Dennis collection
Can Philadelphia become the birthplace of another kind of American independence: energy independence?

Two developments this week add to the Greater Philadelphia region's bid to become a regional powerhouse, if you will, of energy efficiency, clean technology research and commercialization, and entrepreneurship.

The location of these new developments is the old Philadelphia Navy Yard, the "city within the city" that is rapidly becoming an economic center with the headquarters of URBN, TastyKake, and the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard.

On Tuesday, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP-SEPA), announced the launch of its Energy Commercialization Institute (ECI), which it describes as "the region's first partnership for accelerating alternative and clean energy technology development and commercialization, through translational research and sponsored research funding."

The ECI is a partnership between Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and BFTP-SEPA, which created the ECI with $1.2 million from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A host of other area universities will also participate.

"The Energy Commercialization Institute is a catalyst for regional energy-based economic growth," said RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, President & CEO of Ben Franklin.

The Institute will implement "common intellectual property protocols among the participating institutions and by provide capital at the earliest stage of technology commercialization," according to Rosenthal.

The other development tackles another energy and economic opportunity: efficiency.  A research consortium led by Penn State University announced yesterday that it won a competitive grant from the Department of Energy worth $129 million to develop an "energy innovation hub" at the Navy Yard.

The hub will fund research into energy efficiency for buildings and train workers in both retrofitting and new construction.

"Our goal is to create the building equivalents of super low emissions vehicles (SULEVs) in buildings – call them SULEBs!" said Dr. Henry Foley, Penn State's vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, who is leading the effort.

"With this kind of support we can realize the vision of Philadelphia becoming America’s greenest city and we can put Pennsylvanians in the lead of this technological revolution," Foley said in an email.

The Navy Yard, with a land footprint of 1,200 acres, has some unique qualities suitable for such a research facility, including its own unregulated power grid, allowing for testing technologies in a way that won't impact the larger, city-wide power grid.

The campus also has over seven miles of waterfront, more than 100 companies with a workforce of 8,000, 5.5 million square feet of buildings, and more than $500 million of private investment, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Critics question the assertion that the energy hub will create 100,000 jobs and note that other top-down efforts have failed to deliver results.

But Foley dismisses such criticism, saying in an email that "this effort will be driven by science and engineering for innovation. This HUB is highly focused in one incredibly important area. The outcome will be technology-based economic development."

As for comparing this to other top-down efforts, Foley said, "it sounds to me like a comparison of apples to bowling balls – they’re both spherical."

The combination of this hub, the energy commercialization institute, and existing business incubator-style efforts at the Navy Yard, which houses such promising companies as OxiCool that is developing a cutting-edge air conditioning technology, makes the case for a growing support infrastructure for the region.

What's needed next is more opportunities for ground-up entrepreneurial efforts, attracting some later stage companies that will provide jobs, and an investment ecosystem to support the best emerging technologies in the region.

Philadelphia still has a long way to go, but it is slowly building momentum to ramp up to full power. If these efforts succeed, Philadelphia may become the birthplace of another American revolution, that of energy independence.

(Disclosure: The author is co-founder of the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic, which provided a letter of support for the Energy Innovation Hub application and is a partner in that effort, along with other efforts supported by BFTP-SEPA.)
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24 August 2010

Bill Gates On the Energy War Path

William H. (Bill) Gates III, Chairman, Microso...Image via Wikipedia

When Jason ­Pontin, Technology Review's editor in chief, sat down with Bill Gates earlier this summer, one of their topics was energy.

Readers of The Green Skeptic will find much to admire in Mr. Gates' take on energy and, as I did, much that is familiar, including the need for massive investment in R&D, the economic value of entrepreneurs, the efficiency of a carbon tax over cap-and-trade, and the importance of deploying all energy "miracles" (we call 'em buckshot) to help get us to energy transition.

You can read the energy section of the interview here: Technology Review: Q&A: Bill Gates

The full interview can be found here: TR Gates
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20 August 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 08/20/10

Jonny's Not Rotten (Photo by Amado Garcia)
Dog Days edition of the Green Skeptic LinkFest.
So, I'll start with Sunday's cover story in PARADE magazine on the "Vick dogs" - the dogs that football player Michael Vick abused and Vick-timized in his Virginia compound. Some were forced to fight and some were traumatized for life. But most of them survived to be rehabilitated and have been given a second chance: Can You Teach a Bad Dog New Tricks?

Efficiency is finally getting it's due as investors are picking energy efficiency 'low-hanging fruit.'

Single malt or blended, sir? Yale360 reports on a New Whisky Waste Biofuel Developed by Scottish Scientists: Scotch Drink & Drive.

Sharon Begley in Newsweek writes about how we're "Green and Clueless."?

Energy China Forum (ECF) reports on how the U.S. and China Are Vying for Clean Energy Leadership.

Fisker's Karma plug-in hybrid is still a mystery, but it promises much: Fisker Do?

Eric Wesoff of GreentechMedia published a Greentech IPO Report: Past, Present and Top Ten IPO Candidates.

Fabian Pattberg listed his Top Five Sustainability/CSR Communication Examples.
And finally, A123 spin-off company 24M gets charged up by $10M from North Bridge + CRV for grid-scale batteries: 24M.

(Disclosure: I hold a long position in $AONE 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. I also hold a long position in an adopted pitbull named Calvin and I do advocate that you do the same.)

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18 August 2010

U.S. Consumers, Executives Skeptical about Corporate Sustainability Commitment

U.S. Consumers, Executives Skeptical about Corporate Sustainability Commitment from Environmental Leader:

A new sustainability survey reveals that only 16 percent of U.S. consumers and 29 percent of Fortune 1000 executives believe that a majority of businesses are committed to sustainability. The Gibbs & Soell survey also finds that 54 percent of executives and 48 percent of consumers believe only "some" businesses are committed to “going green.”

The study, "2010 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability" (PDF) surveyed both U.S. consumers and Fortune 1000 executives on their views of corporate efforts to improve the health of the environment through sustainable practices, products, or services.

Read the article here and download the full report.
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16 August 2010

New Energy Symposium 2010

This year's New Energy Symposium took place last week at the New York Academy of Sciences' lush office and conference space at the World Trade Center in New York.

Co-hosted by the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering's (CNSE) Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center (E2TAC), along with New Energy New York, a consortium of New York State-based energy technology organizations, the two day event featured panelists from industry and government, as well as investors and academic institutions, along with over two dozen presenting companies.

More than one jeremiad was tossed out by the speakers. Most agreed that the time is now to seed the opportunity and not cede it to other countries (China and India were among those cited).

As Dr. Pradeep Haldar, director of E2TAC and head of the Nanoengineering Constellation at University of Albany's CNSE, reminded the attendees, "We are falling behind the rest of the world by $240-260 million in terms of investment in cleantech."

Several presenting companies hope to get a piece of that investment pie and hope that it grows. Highlights among the companies include: Algal Scientific Corporation, Ener-G-Rotors, and Energy Materials Corporation, which were the three "most promising companies" chosen by the extensive panel of investors, including David Wells from Kleiner Perkins, Alex Kinnier of Khosla Ventures, and Annachiara Danielli of Golden Seeds.

Other companies of interest included Paper Battery Company, InnoSepra, and three NYC ACRE tenants, Wind Products, Sollega, and Rentricity.

My three take-aways from the two-day conference:

1.) Time-of-use pricing is essential to make the Smart Grid work and to manage pricing and habits;
2.) Storage to balance the load and demand is essential -- and large increases in intermittent generation (from distributed sources and Battery Electric Vehicles) will increase this need; and
3.) Energy efficiency is still the low hanging fruit and has still not been picked.

The bottom line? While progress has been made towards the new energy future, we've still got a long way to go.

There was a healthy discussion about the role of Europe and India in the future of energy, but the elephant in the room was clearly China.

As Congressman Steve Israel put it in his keynote address, "China is our Sputnik. We need to see China's taking leadership of the clean energy arena as a wake-up call."

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13 August 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 08/13/10

(photo Erika Nortemann/TNC)

It's a special Friday the 13th edition of The Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest!

Some spooky news this week:

A quartet of earnings reports came out this week in cleantech: SunPower, Cree, and A123, LDK: Earnings
While there was some good news for Solazyme, which netted $52M for its algae fuel biz: Green with Algae

Not so scary is my old pal Sanjayan from TNC who is profiled in Outside Magazine. The guy is "Mr. Nature" on cable TV these days and looks pretty hot in a tee shirt (look out Anderson Cooper): Sanjayan
TechCrunch covered Philly-Based Incubator DreamIt Ventures as 14 Startups were graduated from the Summer 2010 program: DreamIt

Meanwhile, Philly VCs are keeping a close eye on Massachusetts. Technically Philly explains why: Philly VCs

Rapidly becoming one of my favorite greentech reporters Katie Fehrenbacher reported on the joint efforts of  Google and Vinod Khosla to save California's greentech market.
Razor sharp insights from Lucy Marcus on why companies need active, engaged, independent, and interested board members: Non-Exec Boards
My pal Andy Swan pointed me to this article that explains why cash is the ultimate vote. Do you have a list of people that will BUY what you are selling? 10 Buyers
And in case you missed it, here's a link to my appearance on FOX Business with Varney & Co this week, talking about $BP oil spill: Wheres the Oil in the Gulf?

Have a great weekend everybody!

(Disclosure: I hold long positions in $CREE and $AONE. 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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12 August 2010

FiTs and Starts: Are Feed-in Tariffs Fit to Be Tried?

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, ...Image via Wikipedia
NREL, Golden, CO
With the death of Cap-and-Trade legislation in the Senate, Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) are starting to become more and more attractive to renewable energy boosters.

But are FiTs all they are cracked up to be?

NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, recently released a A Policymaker's Guide to Feed-in Tariff Policy Design that largely sings the praises of various FiT schemes.

According to a Deutsche Bank study quoted in the NREL guide, 75 percent of global solar PV and 45 percent of wind development are directly related to FiT schemes. In the European Union alone, over the past ten years, FiTs have led to the deployment of 15,000 MW of solar PV and 55,000 MW of wind power.

The benefits of FiTs are obvious to the renewable energy (RE) industry, as NREL states, FiTs drive "market growth by providing developers long-term purchase agreements for the sale of electricity generated from RE sources. These purchase agreements, which aim to be both effective and cost-efficient, typically offer aspecified price for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced and are structured with contracts ranging from 10-25 years."

Furthermore, "payment level can be differentiated by technology type, project size, resource quality, and project location."

And therein lies the rub. FiTs do not a free market make: 1.) Fixing the price doesn't mean the best price for consumers or taxpayers and 2.) the government picks the technology, site or size of the project.

While you can't argue with success, we are already seeing that such success can lead to excess.

According to a renewable energy player familiar with a variety of country-based FiT policies, such schemes have led to an excess of solar development (viz. the German example) or prices that don't take into account future efficiencies and cost-savings, which can result in windfall profits for developers and manufacturers.

More of our focus needs to be on making renewables more efficient and cost-effective so they don't have to rely on government props and subsidies. The example of Spain should be a warning, where retroactive cuts to their FiT scheme due to the bad economy may endanger that country's solar industry and renewable production altogether.

Fixing prices and picking technologies shouldn't be the job of governments. I'm not saying that FiT schemes can't be properly designed to allow as free a market as possible, I just don't want to see us all go to Abilene yet again chasing the latest "Get FiT" fad.
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10 August 2010

Where's the Oil in the Gulf? The Green Skeptic on FOX Business

I was on FOX Business with Varney & Co this morning talking about the BP Oil Spill.  While it is not the greatest environmental disaster in history, there are still many people whose lives and livelihoods are affected by this spill and we won't know the full extent of the damage for months, if not years to come.

Here is a link if your browser is not compatible with the video above: Where is the Oil in the Gulf?

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06 August 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 08/06/10

One of the EV1 all-electric cars that escaped ...
An EV1 all-electric car by GM that escaped in 2005.
Digging in this week post-vacation.

After five months of intense work with some great clients, my consultancy, VerdeStrategy, finally has a couple of open slots for new projects and clients. Contact me here if your company can use some help with strategic communications, business planning or developing your investor presentations.

Now, after that shameless self-promotion message, on to the links.

A lot of Electric Vehicle love  this week:

First, how'd you like to travel from Alaska to Argentina in an Electric Sports Car? Greentech Media has a story about two entrepreneurs who did just that: Sports Car

Anna Clark from GreenBiz explains that consumer choice will be the ultimate driver when it comes to EVs in Selling Electric Cars Requires Plugged-In Drivers

CleanTechies blog notes that Fast Vehicle Charging Goes by Many Names (Just don't call it Al...)

And here's a video link to my appearance on FOX Business Network this week on $GM and the Chevy Volt: Green Skeptic on FOX

All that EV goodness aside, our StockTwits pal Gregor MacDonald reminds us that we're still Eating Gasoline in America

Is solar now cheaper than new nuclear? A new US study says it's true in North Carolina: Solar

Up next: Two Energy Efficiency Stories from Beantown (or thereabouts):

Always smart @cleantechvc on Energy Efficiency: Where angels will shine.

And congratulations are in order for Green Skeptic-favorite EnerNoc (ENOC) on a profitable quarter and almost 5GW under management: $ENOC

Have a great weekend everyone!

(Disclosure: I hold long positions 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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05 August 2010

Can a Disruptive PV Technology Topple First Solar? (from GreentechSolar)

Eric Wesoff at Greentech Media raises some interesting questions for $FSLR investors and ponders whether there's a "new black swan improbable pyro-nano-quantum-thingamajig technology" waiting to displace thin-film PV:

As we watch First Solar lower their industry-leading costs from $0.81 per watt in Q1 to $0.76 per watt in Q2, we get a clearer picture of their cost trajectory. First Solar's roadmap sees their costs dropping another 20 percent to 30 percent by 2014. They also envision their efficiencies climbing to 14 percent from today's 11.1 percent. Is this the best that the solar industry can do?

The leading (and bankable) Chinese crystalline silicon manufacturers will continue to price their product exactly where it needs to be to win commercial and utility business.  And folks like SunPower, with their high efficiencies and high costs, will attempt to keep up. Other public companies without the benefit of very high efficiency, very low costs, or big balance sheets are going to be on the losing end of Shyam's Solar Shakeout.

So, why aren't there solar panels everywhere?

Read the full article here: Disruptive

(Disclosure: I hold long positions 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.)
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03 August 2010

Not Electrified by Volt: Green Skeptic on Fox Business

I appeared on FOX Business with Stuart Varney and Company this morning, talking about GM and the Chevy Volt.  Here is the video:

And here is a link, in case your browser doesn't support the format: Green Skeptic on Fox Business

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