"...A new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance compares the roughly $45 billion of global government subsidies for renewable energy (mostly tax breaks) to the $557 billion of subsidies for fossil fuels in 2008 alone. That 12-to-1 ratio of dirty-to-clean subsidies..."
The title of Winston's latest blog post is appropriate, but not specific enough. Luckily, this short, readable post does more than most commentaries with titles like this (read: most are more fluff than substance). With the skill of a ninja (yes, that's right, I just made that bizarre analogy), he slices apart two common arguments against the growth of the clean energy sector: (1) supportive subsidies for things like renewable energy are a perversion of the free market economy (see statistic above) and (2) this kind of transition to a green economy hurts economic competitiveness and translates into job loss.On point #2, he reminds us that peak oil implies, well, that the only direction from here is, sooner than later, downwards. The implications for the long-term trajectory of job creation and economic growth in traditional fossil fuel sectors should then also be, well, not upwards. Notice the movement of oil giants like Exxon to make big bets on alternatives like algal biofuel (yes, "big" is not so big relative to their core business now, but $600 million is not chump change). Moreover, he highlights that the choice of no action is indeed a choice, even if the options before us are both seemingly unattractive -- (1) make serious investments to dramatically change industries' and consumers' use of energy (while still delivering the "cold beer and hot shower" factor of which RMI Chief Scientist Amory Lovins reminds us)...OR...(2) face what most scientists consider fairly planet- and life-altering changes to the planet within our children's lifetimes.
- SOURCE: Andrew Winston (August 17, 2010). "Going Green for the Economy." Harvard Business Review. View website.
So what's the "so what" factor from this post? I'm not sure, but my cold beer is getting hot and my hot shower is waiting for me upstairs after today's bike ride to work.
"...After almost 15 years without a revision, the Federal Trade Commission is updating its guidelines for green claims, creating verifiable definitions for buzzwords such as 'sustainable' and 'biodegradeable'..."
Shopping for most any kind of product these days involves taking a crash course in the myriad green labels and eco bragging rights out there. Usually, most of us get a failing grade on these "tests." Marketing companies like Terrachoice have done a good job to document the growth in green marketing claims as well as the "sins" companies make in trying to differentiate their products on various environmental grounds. Others like the Shelton Group have also added helpful insights into how we bring these messages to mainstream America.Fifteen years is a long time to NOT reconsider rules around most industries but especially around the trends that are re-shaping business as quickly and profoundly as sustainability issues are (will?). Examples of the US Federal Trade Commission's crackdown have included companies "selling bamboo-derived rayon clothing as 100 percent pure bamboo and improperly marketing paper plates as biodegradable." Can you say "tip of the iceberg?"Select advice from the article regarding credibility in green messaging includes the following: (1) be honest about your company's challenges in going green but make it known that you're trying, (2) think in terms of green-plus -- green plus cheaper, green plus more effective, etc., and (3) keep it simple (stupid) -- consumers are confused so you need to boil the main message down for them.Final thought: Nothing really happens, e.g., our exciting new green products or achievement of our ambitious environmental goals, unless it is properly communicated and the message is received and understood by our intended audience. Taken a step further: Get the message wrong and you may not only miss gaining market share, but a negative reaction, e.g., from greenwashing exposed, may lead to a loss in your consumer base.
- SOURCE: Jason Daley. (August 2010). "Green Fallout: The era when green marketing meant sunny logos and big environmental claims is over. Just ask BP." Entrepreneur.com View website.
"...[The U.S. government is going to ask, not require, the 600,000 companies registered to do business with it to report on their greenhouse gas emissions]..."
If only I had a crystal ball...it would have been nice to have started a company or software product focused entirely on making it easy and cost-effective to measure the greenhouse gas footprints of organizations. After all, here's 600,000 potential clients and many hundreds of thousands more to come. (Actually, we did see some of it coming. That's why we at IronOak Innovations are creating our own web-based software tools to help companies, institutes and other organizations track, understand and respond to trends like these. Watch for more to come later this Fall...)Similar to Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index process which has dominated green business news in the last year, the government's efforts are not mandatory...yet. Clearly, they send a strong message though. As Marc Gunther notes in his article, we can only imagine the sundry ways in which these businesses will now be trying to not just measure their carbon footprint, but also lease green building space, reduce process energy use, launch other internal green initiatives, etc. After all, a client (the federal government) that buys 12 million products and services per year is one that you want to cater to.
- SOURCE: Marc Gunther (July 14, 2010). "U.S. Government to Ask 600K Suppliers for Greenhouse Gas Data." Greenbiz.com View website.
P.S. Note that the name of the U.S. General Services Administration Senior Counselor and Senior Sustainability Officer quoted in this article -- Steve Leeds. Perhaps he's the guy that everyone is really referring to somehow when they refer to LEED buildings in discussion by saying, "LEEDS." (Insert sarcasm.)
"...[the U.S. General Services Administration] occupies nearly 500,000 buildings; operates more than 600,000 vehicles; and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods, systems and services...and [it is] embracing a zero environmental footprint goal..."
These are big numbers and that final line is a big statement. Maybe I don't even need to elaborate at all for this mini-blog post. Enough said? Probably so, but we've all heard so many lofty political or governmental promises before. Isn't this just another one? Maybe, but consider that the the GSA Administrator goes on to say, "Yes, you heard it correctly. The word is 'eliminate' not 'limit.' I'm not kidding. Zero environmental footprint." She knows what we're thinking. Furthermore, she makes the analogy that this kind of lofty, almost unimaginable goal is like today's equivalent of the 1960's goal to get a man on the moon. Unthinkable then, but we did it. (I use the term "we" loosely, of course.) What's it going to take to get us there? Funny you should ask -- she goes on to give quite a few concrete examples, including investments in new technology, reinventing ideas around risk taking (probably not what government officials are best known for), and bringing better business sense to the government. I won't bore you by reciting her entire speech, but suffice it to say, it's nice to see the federal government aiming to take the lead on pulling the market in the direction it chooses with all the weight it's got.
- SOURCE: Martha Johnson. (May 28, 2010). "Johnson Addresses U.S. Green Building Council Federal Summit." U.S. General Services Administration. View website.