Category Archives: Green Businesses

Green businesses

Green Energy In Business Requires Leadership

The end of last week featured a furious rally in the oil markets combined with a furious sell off in the American stock market. Oil ended the week on Friday up more than $10 a barrel from the close of the previous day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped almost 400 points on Friday.

Many people are inclined to ask, “What happened on Friday?” That’s not the right question though. Something has been happening over a much longer period of time. Its only now that anyone is taking notice. The chickens are coming home to roost if you will.

green business

The situation is this. We have fast rising fuel prices, not only for oil but natural gas too. Almost everything we do requires fuel. Fuel allows people to use technology to create energy. Energy powers our homes, businesses our lifestyles. The need for energy is ubiquitous, hence the need for fuel is ubiquitous. The vast majority of the energy in the United States is generated via fossil fuels.

Some businesses are forging ahead and going green regardless of obstacles. One advantage to doing this is that should the owner decide to sell his business, there will no doubt be a greater demand for it. The business, whether it’s a dental practice or a healthcare company, will be set up for any future environmental regulations, and prospective buyers will appreciate this. Firms that are in the business of buying companies, such as New Orchard Capital, look at aspects such as this when determining the purchase price of a company.

The U.S. isn’t the only consumer of fuel in the world. The U.K. and Europe also demand vast quantities of fossil fuels, albeit much less than the U.S. There was a time when the market was driven by demand in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. That time has past. Demand is also driven by India, China and other developing nations as well. The irony of the situation is the fact that prosperity in the U.S. and other places is the direct cause of the demand coming from India and China. Don’t blame India and China though. They’re building their economies just like the U.S. has done for decades. And we in the U.S. are driving that growth.

The situation is simple and complex at the same time. Higher fuel costs increase the cost of energy. Since energy is required to do almost everything this means that every aspect of the economy is affected by rising fuel costs. Of late the market has seen flat supply of the most necessary fuels while demand has increased. So if supply of fuel is increased along with a reduction in demand then we are likely to see lower prices for fuel and energy. Those lower prices will help to stabilize the economy in the U.S. That’s the simple part.

The hard part is figuring out what the most important problem is and how to solve it. There is a supply problem. Not enough oil is being pumped to give the market a good feeling that the value will go down. There is a demand problem. If supply increases but demand does not decrease then there may not be a drop in prices. There is a technology problem.

The technology required to greatly reduce demand for fossil fuels is moving along slowly. There’s no doubt that for all the funding theyve received of late that clean energy technologies still cannot compete with fossil fuels in terms of the ability to meet our energy requirements. These problems and others constitute the complex part of the scenario.

Countries really need strong leaders to assist in solving these sorts of complex problems. The problems related to fossil fuels are no different. The situation is dire. The rapid rise in fuel costs is starting to ripple through the U.S. economy with companies like Ford, General Motors, American Airlines, Continental Airlines (heck all the airlines) crying uncle. As described in National Geographic, gas prices are sharply higher. Food costs are sharply higher of late. This rapid rise in fuel costs is a very real problem that affects everyone. So how do we get costs under control?

Our leaders (and that means Mr. President and elected representatives) need to step up and get cracking on a pragmatic energy policy. The policy should include aggressive measures to diversify the mix of fuels we use. That means more wind, solar and biomass. It also means more nuclear power (thats right nuclear) and electric transmission to go along with it. It also means cars that use much less gasoline than they do today.

A new energy policy should also devote assets to increasing the U.S. supply of fossil fuel. New sources of natural gas and oil are desperately needed. Without these we have no way to counter the reduced output and growing demand around the world. Drilling is unpopular but very necessary if we want to build energy security for the U.S. and the world markets.

Education should be a very key component of a new energy policy as well. All the public sees now is sound byte rhetoric from legislators looking to make headlines. Where are the leaders getting on television, explaining the situation and telling people what they can do to help? They dont exist today. The President of the United States could do this and I have no idea why he hasnt. Are these issues not of utmost national importance?

The situation we are in today has taken decades to create. So theres no reason to believe that it wont take that long to reverse. If we get started today, the United States can continue to reduce our demand for fossil fuels. We can also continue to increase our fossil fuel supplies in order to stabilize the market.

The U.S. Solar Freeze Is A Myth

The New York Times reported yesterday that was putting a freeze on solar energy projects. The story was titled Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects. While the title plays up the very popular theory that the Bush administration is against new clean energy sources, the facts of the story fail to support that theory.

On May 29, 2008 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a temporary moratorium on applications to site solar projects on public lands. According to the statement issued by the BLM, “Preparing a programmatic EIS is a necessary first step in evaluating to what extent public lands with high solar energy potential may be able to help meet the Nations need for renewable energy

This temporary moratorium might be alarming if there was no good reason for it. But there is a good reason. The surge of applications to site solar on public lands has created the need for such evaluation. As it stands there are 125 projects for land covering almost one-million acres in the BLM queue. If those projects were to be completed the resulting energy output would be enough to power 20 million American homes.

The existing applications will continue to move forward during the programmatic EIS process. According to the BLM statement, During work on the PEIS, the BLM will focus attention on the 125 applications already received for rights-of-way for solar energy development, while deferring new applications until after completion of the PEIS. In short, there are plenty of solar projects to be evaluated and developed. Also consider the fact that the scope of these projects does not include many private solar projects that are taking place all over the country.

Most people don’t understand that there is more to locating a solar plant than just dropping panels onto the ground. Consider the issue of connecting all these solar projects to the grid. According to tandfonline.com, transmission line construction will be required.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that such construction is likely to be opposed by many of the same groups that criticize the programmatic EIS in the first place. The process announced by the BLM can address some of the issues that are likely to be debated before companies invest millions into projects that become hampered by the protests of environmental interest groups.

The U.S. government has the obligation to perform due diligence to ensure that solar energy projects sited on public lands are feasible. This program, if operated consistent with the stated plans, assists the government in meeting that obligation while affording them the ability to focus on the robust queue of current requests.

No Shortage Of Electric Vehicle Contenders

As much as anyone I look forward to the day when Ill be able to drive a car that doesn’t use gasoline as the primary fuel source. And when I use the word car I mean a car like the ones we’ve become accustomed to. In general most people want cars that are stylish, economic, safe, affordable, flexible and have reasonable power.

Each vehicle in the current field of electric vehicle contenders has one or more of those traits but none of them satisfies all the things that people expect out of a car. In fact I’m hard pressed to find vehicles that satisfies more than three of the six criteria mentioned above.

Consider the Aptera electric vehicle which is made in California by Aptera Motors. With three wheels and just enough room for two passengers this vehicle has more in common with a motor cycle than a car. But with an expected price tag between $20,000 and $40,000 the Aptera sure does have a car-like price tag.

electric vehicle

Then there’s the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) which is made by a Chrysler subsidiary called Global Electric Motorcars or GEM. The GEM e4 is touted as, perfect for visiting family and friends or just recreational driving. Unfortunately its only perfect if your family lives on the same block as you do. That’s because the top speed of the vehicle is 25 miles per hour and it has no doors. The vehicle is essentially a golf cart. But at a base price of over $11,000 the GEM e4 will set you back more than most used cars in very good condition.

If you’re part of the champagne and caviar set you have the option of going fully electric in a way that makes few compromises. The Tesla Roadster all electric vehicle made by Tesla Motors looks and performs like a sports car. It also has an impressive range of over 200 miles per charge. But the price tag of the Tesla Roadster is north of $100,000 and the production schedule only allows for about twenty vehicles each month. And with a 1,000 person waiting list you’d probably have to wait four to five years to get one even if you had the money to burn on this hot rod.

There’s no doubt that the idea of a fully electric car is hot right now. The problem is that the economically accessible electric vehicles aren’t really cars. And the electric cars that are real cars are not economically feasible for 99.5% of the population. The future promises many additional entrants into the space like the way over hyped Chevrolet Volt.

The Volt promises a forty mile all electric range with a gasoline engine as a backup. The vehicle is set to roll of the assembly line towards the end of 2010 and have a price tag of about $40,000. There’s no guarantee that General Motors will get all of the current issues with the vehicle (like battery life for instance) resolved so the launched could be further delayed and the price could increase as well.

Chinese automaker BYD is getting into the act too, with a plug-in hybrid that has similar technology to the Chevy Volt. Last month The Wall Street Journal highlighted BYDs efforts to build and market an electric vehicle that will eventually find its way to the United States.

These vehicles are only a few notable examples of the many alternative automobiles that were likely to see introduced in the next few years. Other contenders typically suffer from the same problems as the ones mentioned in this post. Most are not economical due to the prohibitive cost of installing huge battery packs. Those same battery packs also tend to reduce the rear seating and cargo space availability for these vehicles, which assists in cutting back on the practicality as well.

Many feel that mass production of electric cars will lead to lower cost battery packs. Those economies of scale may manifest themselves. But its also possible that mass demand for lithium battery packs could change the economics of lithium. A shortage of lithium could actually cause electric vehicle prices to rise even as demand increases.

Not everyone is betting that the plug is the answer to greatly reducing Americas dependence on gasoline as a transportation fuel. Companies like Honda and General Motors continue to invest money developing hydrogen powered vehicles lick the Chevy Equinox and the Honda FCX Clarity. Unfortunately, Hydrogen vehicles are incredibly expensive to produce and suffer from the lack of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure. The New York Times detailed the story of a New York Legislator who drove a Chevy Equinox to Washington D.C. but needed two additional Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUVs in order to make it there.

Some really big dreamers are looking to solar to power the car of the future. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a solar energy vehicle team. And one man from Canada has engaged in a lifelong quest to evangelized solar powered cars. Since last June Marcelo Da Luz has traveled the U.S. and has set the world record for the traveling distance of a solar vehicle. Unfortunately Mr. Da Luz quest is not a gasoline free one. A gas guzzling support van has followed him every step of the way.