Archive for November 2009
If you were one of the passengers on KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s first passenger flight powered by bio-kerosene last week, then you were also one of the first to get a whiff of this new sustainable fuel, if indeed it is whiff-able.
The Netherlands airline also announced the formation of a joint venture to develop sustainable biofuels on a large scale. Called SkyEnergy, the consortium includes KLM, North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates. In addition, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium about the ecological aspects of the venture.
Peter Hartman, KLM’s president and CEO, said the test flight proved that “this is technically feasible. Government, industry and society at large must now join forces to ensure that we quickly gain access to a continuous supply of biofuel.”
In honor of Thanksgiving, a short food-related post to consume.
BTTR Ventures (pronounced Better and as in Back To The Roots) has a thing about mushrooms, while Peet’s Coffee & Tea of course has a very big thing about coffee (and tea). This unlikely duo has joined forces in a clever and delicious waste-to-food recycling venture that produces gourmet mushrooms out of coffee grounds.
Some 16 billion pounds of coffee beans are used each year, most of which eventually wind up in landfills. Cal Berkley Haas School of Business grads Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Aorara founded the company to turn one of the largest waste streams in America into sustainable local food. They do this by using coffee grounds as the substrate to grow different varieties mushrooms.
BTTR donates 10 percent of profits back to the community. In addition, the venture is creating new jobs in local urban areas.
Peet’s, based in Emeryville, CA, is the primary source of BTTR’s coffee grounds.
BTTR oyster and shitake mushrooms are available at select Whole Foods Markets in the San Francisco Bay area. Their mushrooms are also available for online ordering.
BusinessWeek recently selected Velez and Aorara for its Top 25 Entrepreneurs in America Under 25, and they were one of the OG25 – the 25 most innovative start-ups – at Opportunity Green.
Guilt-free coffee and gourmet mushrooms – yum!
Not very long ago Chrysler Corp. pocketed more than $12.5 billion in government bailout funds to avoid a bankruptcy filing, promising on its way to the bank to build more fuel efficient cars and produce electric vehicles by 2011.
About three years later the U.S. carmaker has launched no hybrids – although plans for them remain in the works – and its ENVI electric vehicle program is fading fast in the rearview mirror largely because of a strategic decision by Fiat. Fiat received a 20 percent stake from the U.S. in exchange for the Italian carmaker’s more fuel-efficient chassis and engine technology, and is apparently calling the shots now at Chrysler.
Last year Chrysler had three electrics under development and five EV concepts were unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. One EV launch, the Dodge Circuit, was even planned for late 2010.
Chrysler had also promised it would have about 500,000 EVs humming along by 2014. Last week Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne slashed that somewhat grandiose estimate to 60,000 EVs or about 2 percent of Chrysler sales. He also said EVs remain a very tough proposition with current battery technology.
The idea of the Solar power satellite is the yin to the yang of the Ronald Reagan’s expensive 1980s Star Wars fantasy, and almost as old. Scientists for decades have explored the potential of using space-based solar cells to beam power to the Earth.
Now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has gone beyond whimsy by actually signing up several major collaborators to launch a giant one-gigawatt space solar power satellite into space. The players are huge – Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric and Sharp – and the bucks that JAXA has indicated it will invest in the project are also massive, $21 billion worth.
The old warning to be careful about what you ask for was proven again by a recent report from the Australia-based Global CCS Institute.
The 224-page Strategic Analysis of the Global Status of Carbon Capture and Storage, prepared for the CCS Institute by a WorleyParsons-led consortium, is supposed to make the case for the efficacy of accelerating the commercial deployment of CCS projects.
It does sort of, but not very convincingly depending on one’s perspective. After reading the report one could argue the opposite: That putting the brakes on CCS and using the money on renewable energy projects instead is the better option. The report certainly is not the slam-dunk for commercial CCS projects dotting the globe and taking care of nasty coal-plant CO2 emissions by in effect, burying them that clean-coal fans anticipated.
Rather the report makes the case that CCS, or clean-coal technology, is currently moribund and too expensive. It’s technically feasible, but the political and economic challenges are huge: Only seven CCS projects exist and they are all attached to gas plants.
SC Johnson, the maker of a variety of household products including Windex, Glade, Drano and Scrubbing Bubbles, says in its latest sustainability report that it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 27 percent at its worldwide factories over the last eight years.
The GHG reduction in the Racine, WI, company’s U.S. operations since 2005 is 17 percent. Those reductions “have been met three years ahead of the company’s internal 2011 target,” it says in its 2009 Public Report, titled Responsibility=Resilience.
Those reductions are the equivalent of taking about 11,100 U.S. cars off the road for one year, the report says. The 2009 Public Report is SC Johnson’s 18th year of reporting on sustainability objectives.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States is setting up a $250 million credit facility aimed at helping to promote and finance renewable energy exports, including solar, wind and geothermal energy products and projects.
The move this week makes Ex-Im the world’s first Export Credit Agency to fashion this type of credit assistance and also the first to adopt a “carbon policy” to guide financial support for U.S. exports “in light of climate change concerns,” the agency says.
“We want to help American manufacturers produce green technology for the world. This common sense approach is good for the environment. It’s good for business, and it’s good for American workers,” said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of Ex-Im Bank.
In this particular business it’s all about sustainability and energy reserves, more than most others.
A bordello in a Berlin red-light district is going green, largely out of economic necessity, a sign of our flagging economic times.
The country’s flaccid sex-for hire industry could learn a lesson from the Maison d’Envie, or House of Desire, which is offering discounts to customers who bicycle their way to to the brothel’s door.
“It’s very difficult to find parking around here, and this option is better for our environment,” says Regina Goetz in an AFP report, a former prostitute who with husband Thomas owns and operates the brothel.
The global economic crisis has slashed the Goetz’ turnover by about one-half in the last year, but the green discount program is proving successful. Under the eco-discount program, 15 minutes in the brothel costs 25 euros ($37) rather than 30 euros ($45). To get the discount clients who come by bike must show their helmet or their padlock key. Those using the bus can show their ticket or monthly pass. They haven’t come up with a way to extend the discount to walkers, however.
Local residents in Prenzlauer Berg — a part of former East Berlin that is now home to many trendy boutiques, restaurants and clubs — staunchly supported the Green party in recent elections and have welcomed the bordello’s offer to emphasize the environment.
Quoted in an AFP report, Goetz says the brothel is a “business like any other. In these tight times, we are cutting costs. We’ve binned the tax advisor, reduced the hours of the cleaning lady, and I only buy low-cost cleaning products.”
Indeed, prostitution is big, and legal, business in Germany with some 400,000 workers, working like Trojans. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Brothels and prostitutes must be registered like normal businesses or it’s considered tax evasion. In general, police officers are not interested in the clients but if you’re game you must have a photo ID, such as a copy of your passport, with you.
It’s definitely a business with ups and downs, especially in dysfunctioning economic times. The House of Desire’s eco-discount is a win-win incentive all around: biking to a favorite sex spot is great foreplay if done correctly, it helps the environment by reducing certain noxious emissions, and saves gas, meaning more money and energy available for, well, you know.