Business & Technology

Investors and companies should pay attention to the service industry that’s emerging to meet these massive new demands for information.

You can only manage what you measure

A decade ago, health-conscious consumers forced manufacturers to list nutritional information on food packages. We’ll soon be able to make buying decisions based on carbon content too - - taming our waistlines and “waste lines” at the same time.

A new direction on research at the USDA?

Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a speech on the role of research at the USDA at the launch of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the research arm of that agency formerly referred to as the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). Vilsack had this to say in his kick-off speech: The opportunity to truly transform a field of science happens at best once a generation. Right now, I am convinced, is USDA’s opportunity to work with the Congress, the other science agencies, and with our partners in industry, academia, and the nonprofit …

Clean tech reality check

Paging Dr. Chu, venture capitalist

Silicon Valley is by nature an optimistic place. After all, inventing the carbon-free future and making boatloads of money along the way is fun. And even though California is slouching toward apocalyptic collapse these days, there’s always another innovation wave to ride. In Chu We Trust? It may take big bucks from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to fun some of the renewable energy projects that California entrepreneurs have on the drawing boards.Photo Illustration / Tonya RicksSo it’s always interesting to get a more-or-less unvarnished assessment of the state of green tech, as happened last week when a group of …


Richard Wiswall on the business of organic farming

With the economic downturn and increase in the desire for a relationship with our food, farming has become a popular lifestyle among young people opting out of the corporate world. And while these people are new to life on the land, others have made a life of it for generations. But either way, growing food is rife with politics and economic stresses. Look at the dairy farms in Vermont filing for bankruptcy, the family businesses going under in the midwest, and the monopoly of small farms by corporate agriculture! It sort of looks dismal out there. And while sure, it …

Open for Business

Cleantech Open has $100,000 for a green startup idea

Corrections below The Cleantech Open has helped more than 100 startup companies find their footing since it launched in California three years ago.  Now the business competition is expanding in some interesting ways. Earlier this year it added regional events in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains. This fall it also launched a global “ideas competition,” open to anyone with a rough clean-tech concept, with or without a business plan. The winner gets marketing support, legal advising, and other help turning an idea into a business, all valued at $100,000. One big quirk: the ideas part of the competition is …

Over a barrel

Exploring the extreme frontiers of oil drilling

The “Cajun Express” oil rig, tapping the black gold deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico.The oil field known as “Jack” is located 175 miles off the coast of Louisiana, below 7,200 feet of water and another 30,000 feet of seabed, occupying a geological layer formed in the Cenozoic Era more than 60 million years ago. This layer — the “lower tertiary” — lies deeper under water than any other Gulf of Mexico oil discovery, which is one reason why many in the industry initially dismissed it as too remote to exploit. But in 2006, Chevron defied the odds when its …

Free Market Parking From Canada

My cries have been answered. In Canada, at least, there is such a thing as a free market think tank with a free market perspective on parking policy. The Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy recently published a concise little position paper, “How Free Is Your Parking?” by Stuart Donovan. It makes three points, briefly: 1. Parking regulations suppress economic activity: Parking regulations suppress economic activity in a number of ways. Most importantly parking regulations tie up large areas of urban land and reduce the space available for other, potentially more-productive, uses… The Toronto Parking Authority estimates the costs for constructing parking in the …


SolarCity makes electric cars an even smarter investment

A Tesla Roadster gets a boost from a SolarCity charging station in SalinasPhoto courtesy SolarCityYou can’t get more California greenin’ than this. Peter Rive can charge up his Tesla Roadster electric sports car in his San Francisco garage with carbon-free electricity supplied by a solar array on his roof. Then, if he’s in the mood for a road trip, he can drive to Los Angeles, stopping at a solar-powered charging station along the way to top off the battery. The free charging stations on the “solar highway” — aka the 101 — were recently installed by SolarCity, the Silicon Valley …


At Governator’s climate party, EPA chief aims to calm small business worries

LOS ANGELES — EPA administrator Lisa Jackson unveiled a modest proposal on Wednesday: If a company wants to build a new power plant or refinery, or fix up a smoky old belcher, it will have to use the best available technology to control greenhouse gases. That’s it. Oh, and the Dunkin Donuts of the country will be spared. Depending on who you ask, the proposed regulation is either a bone-headed move that will land her agency back in court, or a shrewd maneuver to quash industry scare tactics and quell rising panic on Main Street about the potential costs of …

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