Archive for the ‘carbon neutral’ Category

Präsentation der Studie „Auswirkung von Elektrofahrzeugen auf die Stromwirtschaft“

photo: Think

Norwegian electric car maker Think has started shipping its City urban runabout to an Austria utility as part of a government project to test the impact of EVs on the power grid.

The €4.7 million ($6.3 million) Vlotte initiative is placing 100 electric vehicles with companies, municipal governments and individuals in Austria’s Bregenz region. The project is being managed by utility Vorarlberger Kraftwerke and will evaluate how well the cars perform in an area where most people drive an average 50 kilometers (31 miles) a day. The Think City has a range of about 180 kilometers (112 miles).

Solar arrays will be used to charge the plastic-bodied cars to ensure they remain carbon neutral, according to the utility. In 2010, Vlotte will offer electric cars for lease if there is sufficent demand from local residents.

Think CEO Richard Canny said Think is expected to supply most of the cars for the project.

It’s the latest deal for Think, which continues to seed the City across Europe despite financial problems that have stalled its Norwegian assembly plant. Earlier this month, Think signed an agreement to supply 500 cars to a Dutch auto leasing company and announced plans to open a factory in the United States in 2010.

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virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-feather-1.jpgIt is an article of faith these days that any company worth its public relations budget must proclaim loudly and frequently its good green intentions. So it was rather refreshing to hear one of Richard Branson’s top lieutenants – Will Whitehorn, chief of Virgin Galactic – cast his company’s enviro-friendly initiatives as strictly business.

“We’re not doing this to be environmentally kosher,” declares Whitehorn, referring to Virgin’s efforts to develop greenhouse-gas free biofuels for its jets and forthcoming spaceship, “we’re doing this to ensure our company’s survival.”

The occasion for Whitehorn’s remarks was one of those “green salons” that have become popular in San Francisco of late. You know, gather a group of so-called thought-leaders – executives, environmentalists, venture capitalists, journalists – in a chi-chi restaurant and let the ideas and sauvignon blanc flow. Easy enough to skewer, particularly when the well-compensated are dining on ahi tuna skewers, but you never know where the conversation will go, and in this case it strayed interestingly off-topic. The subject du jour was a white paper on corporate greenwashing from Bite Communications, the public relations firm that organized the recent lunch. Among those on hand were Whitehorn and execs from Chinese solar panel maker Suntech (STP), fuel-cell maker Bloom Energy, utility PG&E (PCG), and VantagePoint Venture Partners, investor in electric car startup Tesla Motors and solar power plant builder BrightSource Energy.

Whitehorn held center court, tracing Virgin’s trip down the green path a decade ago when the company forecast a dramatic rise in oil prices and tried to gauge the impact on its airline and new railway business. As a result, he says, Virgin spent big bucks on energy-efficient locomotives to hedge against future fuel cost spikes.

“This is not really a question of being green,” says Whitehorn, who expresses annoyance that Branson’s pledge last year to invest $3 billion in biofuels research and development was portrayed in the media as a charitable deed. “We’re doing this to make money and we’re creating a more sustainable economy in the process.”

“We’ve got to get away from this idea of doing these things as good works,” he adds. “We’re doing what we’re doing to create a profitable business for the future.”

It’s a meme increasingly being advanced by some environmentalists, most notably by the black sheep of the movement, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, whose 2004 essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” riled the green elite. The Berkeley duo’s new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, calls for reframing global warming from a doom-and-gloom scenario to an opportunity for unbridled economic prosperity by investing in green technologies. Their central argument: only when people and societies achieve a certain level of material wellbeing do they have the luxury of supporting environmental preservation. In other words, greed is green.

Whitehorn also took aim at companies that proclaim themselves carbon neutral, scorning the notion that corporate greenhouse gas emissions can be offset by merely buying carbon credits. “We’re not going to be carbon neutral – it’s impossible,” he says of Virgin. “You need to get out and do something other than buy someone else’s carbon problem.”

Still, Kristina Skierka, director of Bite’s clean-tech practice, wanted to know just how green Virgin Galactic can be, given its business model of ferrying the rich into outer space for a couple of hundred grand a pop. “If we use biofuels we will get the emissions down to near zero,” Whitehorn claims. “This is about a new type of launch system; the carbon impacts will be negligible.

He says space tourism is just the launching pad, as it were, for a host of space-based ventures. “If you look at space as an industrial place to conduct human activities, it has huge advantages.”

Virgin’s next frontier is the deep blue sea. According to Whitehorn, the company recently created a skunk works to develop a “radical” new submarine technology for a startup to be called, what else, Virgin Oceanic.

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2008lvcc4.jpgThe Consumer Electronics Show now underway is a tech Bacchanal that this year is drawing some 140,000 people to Las Vegas. In years past, CES organizers might have touted the outsized consumption that accompanies the instant creation of a mid-size city. These days that would be ecologically incorrect, of course, and CES stresses that the 20,310 tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide conference-goers will generate will be completely neutralized through the purchase of carbon offsets from the non-profit Carbonfund.org.

“CarbonFund will invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and reforestation projects to offset the emissions created by every inch of CES space, ” reads an e-mail from a CES public relations firm that landed in Green Wombat’s in-box on Monday, “all show freight, the shuttle buses and 600,000 hotel rooms will be offset via investments, (In fact, CES will be the largest carbon neutral trade show EVER!)”

The cost of the CES carbon tax: $108,000. No, there’s not a zero or three missing from that number. For the price of a Tesla Roadster and change, CES is cleansing the collective environmental sins of 140,000 people. Without wading into the controversial arena of carbon offsets or questioning the good intentions of CES’ organizers, that number begs an obvious question: If neutralizing a looming global catastrophe comes so cheap, wouldn’t have Bill and Melinda Gates just have written a check by now?

Unfortunately, when it comes to greenhouse gases, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. The very real CO2 emissions from those 140,000 people now gridlocking the Strip — think of all those idling taxis alone — will enter the atmosphere in real time. Worse, much of the electricity for CES is being generated by a 42-year-old coal-fired power plant north of Las Vegas that was identified in a recent report on utility emissions as the nation’s worst carbon polluter.

Those emissions will in no way be immediately offset by the purchased carbon credits. The money will fund environmentally worthwhile projects but it may be years — or decades in the case of reforestation – before they actually begin having an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. According to Carbonfund.org’s Web site, CES’ money will be invested in such things as buying renewable energy certificates from wind farms and planting trees in Nicaragua and Hungary.

CarbonFund is also letting conference-goers offset the considerable CO2 emitted by jets ferrying more than a hundred thousand people into Las Vegas. That’s also a bargain: The bill for the six Fortune reporters who flew into town for CES from New York and San Francisco comes to a grand total of $23.81. At that price, you almost feel guilty about paying so little to not to feel guilty about your contribution to global warming.

CES also has taken such environmentally friendly steps as using biodegradable food utensils and recycled paper and laying down recycled carpet in an exhibit hall. But there’s no getting around the fact that the confab is held in what is perhaps the United States’ most unsustainable city, whose unchecked sprawl across the Mojave Desert makes it an ecological time bomb as temperatures rise and water tables fall.

Relocating the event to New York, Boston, San Francisco or another walkable, mass-transit, eco-oriented city would send a message that CES is serious about going green. Of course, it’ll snow on the Strip in July before that happens. But for CES 2009, why not ditch the carbon offsets and use the money to buy a fleet of bicycles instead of clogging the streets with carbon-spewing taxis. It won’t neutralize CES’ greenhouse gas emissions but it would actually reduce them where it counts.

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Dell_earth_1Dell today said it will become the first computer maker to neutralize its greenhouse gas emissions. CEO Michael Dell announced a series of measures to shrink the company’s carbon footprint and offset  its greenhouse gas emissions in 2008. Upping the ante, he challenged rivals like  Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) to follow Dell’s (DELL) lead. Proclaiming a corporate commitment to carbon neutrality is all the rage these days and Dell joins tech giants like Google (GOOG), which has pledged to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by 2008. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley giants like Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Sun Microsystems (JAVA) have made public their carbon footprints.

Global warming talk, however, is cheap and Dell now needs to make good on its green words. The company reports its emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project and data on its carbon footprint will be available Monday on the project’s site, a Dell spokesperson told Green Wombat. Dell said it has already been taking action to reduce its electricity use, from automatically shutting down machinery at night to installing energy efficient lighting. Earlier this year it required its suppliers to determine their greenhouse gas emissions as a first step in taking carbon out of its supply chain – a strategy embraced by companies like Wal-Mart (WMT). It also issued a mandate that some suppliers switch to biodiesel to power part of their transportation fleets.

Dell said it will invest in renewable energy like wind power and offset its remaining C02 emissions by putting cash into projects that reduce the risk of global warming. "Dell is working with stakeholders to shape its offset strategy, which will help ensure that offsets are invested in projects that can be monitored and verified," the company said in a statement. "Projects will be evaluated for their long-term viability and assurance that the carbon savings are real."

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On the heels of its $11 million push for plug-in hybrids, Google today said it will aim to generate 50 megawatts of renewable energy for its data centers by 2012 as part of its goal to carbon neutralize its operations by the new year. "Towards this end, we will set an internal cost of carbon voluntarily by using a ‘shadow price,’ the theoretical cost of carbon that we expect under a regulatory market," Google (GOOG) stated, a day after it put its 1.6 megawatt solar array – the
largest commerical solar installation in the U.S. – into operation at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. "This will allow us to make operational decisions as if there were already a price on carbon. That in turn enables us to include the true cost of power as one of the key criteria in site selection for our data centers – a cost not yet being recognized by the market, but one that will soon become real through carbon legislation. This is an important tool to reduce the financial risk that our energy investments face, and when evaluating power options, it will also put renewable energy on a level playing field."

Google will tap solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other renewable energy sources depending on the location of the facility, Google energy strategist Bill Weihl told Green Wombat through a spokesperson. The green electricity may generated on-site or elsewhere.

The search giant will purchase carbon offsets to cover emissions it does not directly eliminate. "As a start, weve calculated our own carbon footprint by taking into account the emissions from purchased electricity, employee commuting, business travel, construction, and the manufacturing of our servers," Google said. "And weve partnered with the Environmental Resources Trust to have our footprint independently verified." The company also said it will press for public policies to establish energy efficiency standards, renewable energy requirements, public funding for clean energy R&D and the setting of a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

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Continental_2 photo:continental
"Welcome aboard Continental flight 1536 to New York’s Kennedy airport. Beer and wine are available in coach for $5 and carbon offsets can be purchased for $10. Correct change is appreciated."

That scenario will hit the skies later this summer when Continental Airlines (CAL) customers will be given the option to pay a small fee when they book their flight online to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from their flight.  Continental follows Delta (DAL), which last month launched the first U.S. airline carbon offset program, charging $5.50 for a domestic flight and $11 for an international trip.

Continental has hookup up with Sustainable Travel International, a Boulder, Colorado, non-profit, to use the carbon offset fees to finance forest preservation and renewable energy projects. "All projects have to verifiability reduce greenhouse gas emissions according to international Kyoto protocol … or they must be Green-e certified," Sustainable Travel’s site states. "Emission reductions represent a physical reduction or avoidance of emissions over what would have otherwise occurred."   

Sustainable Travel president Brian Mullis told Green Wombat that the cost of the offset fee Continental customers will pay is still being calculated. "The greenhouse gas emission calculations associated with Continental Airlines’ client’s flights will be based on the company’s fuel-efficient aircraft," he says. "Taking this approach will translate into savings on the cost of the offsets since Continental fleet generates less greenhouse gas emissions than its competitor’s fleets."

For the sake of comparison, carbon credit company TerraPass charges about $10 to offset a round trip San Francisco-New York trip.

Continental execs stress the program isn’t just another green marketing gimmick and that the airline has reduced its own greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent over the past decade by changing its operations and using electric-powered ground equipment. The airline also has placed in order for 25 of Boeing’s  (BA) new energy efficient 787 Dreamliner jet. Whether United (UAUA) will roll out a Green Carpet Club and whether American (AMR) and other U.S. airlines follows Continental’s lead remains to be seen. But with the European Union proposing to impose greenhouse gas emissions limits on airlines flying to the Continent, they will have to find one way or another to deal with air travel’s contribution to global warming.

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photo: celeste1992

These days you can’t put on a conference without the obligatory nod toward carbon neutrality –  "conference-goers’ business-class travel, town cars, bar bills and gratuitous swag will be offset by the planting of a forest in Botswana." So when the email with the subject line  "2007 JavaOne Conference Gets Greener With Significant Efforts To Conserve, Recycle and Reuse" popped up on the BlackBerry, Green Wombat’s eyes glazed over just like they did back in ’99 when a chirpy PR person would call with news of the the latest $10 million round for the latest pets.com clone. But when the wombat got off deadline, a closer look at Sun Microsystems (SUNW) efforts to green up its annual JavaOne software confab now underway in San Francisco proved a bit of an eye-opener. Sun isn’t trying to carbon-neutralize the geek fest. It’s simply taking common-sense measures to reduce the environmental impact of such events. But the numbers are striking and serve as reminder that changing little things can have a big impact. For instance, Sun says that instead of inundating attendees with the usual paper blizzard, it did all its promotion of the event online. Not a radical
move these days but one Javaone_backpacks_2
that the company claims will save 4.6 tons of paper (sparing 111 trees), lower greenhouse
gas emissions by an equivalent of 13 tons, cut solid waste by 5.1 tons and reduce
wastewater by nearly 79,000 gallons. Now take online all the brochures, factsheets and other paper handed out by exhibitors and those numbers would skyrocket.  Sun also touts its "Bike to JavaOne" initiative and its swag bag containing an "organic T-Shirt, note pad made from recycled paper and printed with soy ink."  Better yet, why not dispense with the goodie bag – and backpacks – all together next year. Unless you’re an uber-geek, most of them will end up in a landfill before the 2008 JavaOne rolls around. (backpack photo: kasiat)

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Yahoo_carbon_neutralLargely overlooked in the predictable media hullabaloo over Yahoo’s (YHOO) not-so-hot quarterly earnings Tuesday was the announcement that the Internet giant will neutralize its greenhouse gas emissions by New Year’s Eve. Yeah, tell me something new, you might well say, now that just about every company save ExxonMobil is joining the carbon-neutral brigade. But there are a few things about Yahoo’s approach worth noting – and emulating. For one thing, the company is not greenwashing away eco-guilt by just writing a check to offset CO2 produced by its server farms and sprawling headquarters. "We know carbon neutrality isnt without controversy," wrote Yahoo co-founder David Filo on his blog yesterday. "And its honestly deserved if companies and individuals dont first make an effort to find direct ways to reduce their impact. Well continue to be vigilant about cutting ours, looking for creative ways to power our facilities, encourage even more employees to seek alternative commutes, and generally inspire Yahoos around the world to think differently about their energy use."  First, Yahoo is hiring an outside auditor to calculate its "carbon footprint" to gauge its contribution to global warming. Commuting is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Silicon Valley and Yahoo already offers programs designed to get employees out of their cars – from Wi-Fi-equipped biodiesel shuttle buses to bike lockers and public transit subsidies. The Sunnyvale company also has implemented various energy efficiency and recycling initiatives. But to go completely carbon neutral, Yahoo will finance renewable energy projects, and it’s being upfront about how it will do that: The company will invest only in programs that produce direct and measurable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; those results will be verified by an outside auditor; and the company will only support projects that result in additional C02 reductions that would not have otherwise happened.

Which brings Green Wombat to another issue in the carbon neutral debate: transparency. Yahoo’s decision to lay out its thinking, criteria and plan of action will help give credibility to corporate carbon campaigns and put questionable carbon credit middlemen and their clients on notice. The company is also enhancing is green cred by using Web 2.0 to involve Yahoo users and crowdsource them for ideas it can adopt to fight global warming. Yesterday, Filo went on Yahoo Answers and threw out to the masses the question, "How should Yahoo go carbon neutral?" As I write this, 204 people have posted replies. And in contrast to the smart-ass postings that often appear on Yahoo Answers, many gave Filo thoughtful and potentially useful proposals.

Rival Google (GOOG) also has committed itself to take the green path by installing a massive solar array on its headquarters buildings, subsidizing employee purchases of fuel-efficient cars, etc. So who knows – maybe it won’t be too far down the road when analysts on a quarterly earnings call ask about a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, and Wall Street whacks its share price when the numbers go up, not down.

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