Business & Technology

Green giants

When the big guys want to do the right thing

How green are those Cheerios? Well, no — you’re right — Cheerios shouldn’t be green, but I mean green green. Increasingly, restaurants and food service companies are weighing the need to green their operations and products but the results are often not what they anticipated. According to stories in this week’s issues of two food service industry magazines, QSR and Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), greening up the kitchen is an effort fraught with as many potential pitfalls as it is possible benefits. Equally as frustrating to customers as it can be for the companies attempting to clean up their acts, …

No money down!

Creative borrowing spurs commercial retrofits

On the heels of San Francisco’s announcement last week that it plans to spend $150 million greening up homes, comes a new report that studies a slew of other innovative ways to finance energy efficiency improvements for all types of buildings. It’s no big surprise that the key to ramping up the energy efficiency industry and fostering technological advances is no-money-down financing so building owners can avoid the capital costs of retrofits.  And that’s exactly what the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) is working toward. Energy efficiency “immediately saves money for end-users, improves the bottom line for companies, reduces local …

Lack of cap-it-all

Could transparency make up for a lack of a carbon cap?

If we can’t yet require companies to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants, can we shame them into doing it? The Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress have not so far succeeded in forcing big polluters to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.  But the U.S. EPA is about to force them to report their greenhouse-gas emissions. Big whoop, you say?  Well, actually, it might be.  The new Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which took effect last month, requires industrial facilities that release 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent a year to measure and report their emissions.  (For comparison, that’s …

Picking up the PACE

San Francisco commits $150 million to green homes

Monday night I was having drinks in downtown San Francisco with some seriously smart people — top-level IBM scientists and strategists involved in Big Blue’s Smarter Planet initiative.  Given the room’s collective interest in creating smart electrical grids, smart water systems, advanced electric car batteries and other green technologies, the talk naturally turned to how to create sustainable cities. Solar panel installation in San Francisco.Photo courtesy bkusler via FlickrThe technology largely exists, the IBMers agreed, but what’s really needed is a great leap forward in financial engineering to allow cities to finance all the cool stuff being developed in labs …

Who is the Girlie Man Now?

Companies that invest in states like Massachusetts and California are going to prosper

Is Arnold a carbon girlie man?United NationsAs mudslides on the west coast and an epic blizzard on the east coast competed for news coverage last week, nothing could dim the glow of an economic report that contained a remarkable conclusion: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is trying to make California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a carbon girlie man. According to the Eastern Research Group, Massachusetts is on target to cut carbon almost 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, thanks largely to significant programs that improve energy efficiency in factories, buildings, and transportation. Those programs will save money, making Massachusetts …

the evening news

CBS News previews its no-holds-barred report on antibiotics in livestock

Update: Catch part 1 and 2 of the series. Oh, boy. This one has blockbuster written all over it. Tonight, the CBS Evening News is broadcasting the first in a two-part series on the use of antibiotics in livestock (some background here). Katie Couric previewed the report this morning — and it looks like a doozy. The clip features an interview with a farmer who developed an antibiotic-resistant strep infection that was traced to his pigs. The farmer had been feeding sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to his barn-raised pigs. Once he recovered, he abandoned those industrial techniques in favor of …

Cash for caulkers at a profit!

Create jobs, reduce lung disease, and help solve the climate crisis at zero cost

As economic stimulus moves back onto the table, why not consider zero cost opportunities to create jobs, opportunities that would reduce lung diseases, and greenhouse gas emissions as a side effect? Create a federal agency with authority to issue federal infrastructure bonds, perhaps an infrastructure bank. Attach conditions that this authority can only finance projects with revenue streams that would fully pay back the cost of issuing those bonds, including principle, interest, transaction costs, and a risk premium. Example: One barrier to lowering emissions is that consumers and businesses will tolerate almost no upfront costs to save energy in buildings. …

Something old, something Newsom

San Francisco sets the PACE

Today, San Francisco Mayor Newsom signed the final piece of legislation necessary to get the city’s PACE (municipal property tax financing for energy efficiency, renewables, and water conservation) program off the ground. My colleague Rosalind Jackson recorded the moment for posterity. By summer, if all goes as scheduled, 70-80% of California will have access to a PACE program. That’s good news for property owners and the carbon cause. Signficantly, most of the state’s PACE programs will require some sort of loading order — a certain level of energy efficiency first before you can do solar PV or solar thermal. This …

we audi know better

The unheralded significance of the Audi ‘green police’ ad

Is it me or were the Super Bowl commercials this year unusually ugly, misogynistic, and, worst of all, unfunny? Some of America’s biggest corporations seemed to be trying to play to Teabag America, and the results were as bitter as the teabaggers themselves. Amidst the dreck was a commercial from Audi featuring the “green police.” Here it is: At first blush this seems like more teabagging — appealing to angry white men with the same old stereotype of environmentalists as meddling do-gooders obsessed with picayune behavioral sins. If you check in the comments under the video, that perspective is well …