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U.S. Tech Innovation Competition Announced

WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced a $12 million innovation competition designed to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.

The Commerce Department Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and its Economic Development Administration said the “i6 Challenge” will be held in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Officials said up to $1 million will be awarded to each of six U.S. teams with the most innovative ideas. The NIH and NSF will award up to $6 million in additional funding to Small Business Innovation Research grantees associated with winning teams.

“This initiative promotes the priorities of the Obama administration by driving innovation and entrepreneurship and cultivating strong public-private partnerships,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “The i6 Challenge is an exciting opportunity to highlight some of the nation’s best minds that are helping to move ideas from the lab into the marketplace.”

The deadline for entrepreneurs, investors, universities, foundations and non-profit organizations to submit applications is July 15.

More information is available at

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Other0 Comments

Lowering CO2 Emissions, How Much for a Degree?

Our latest interactive spreadsheet “Cost to Mitigate CO2″ is an attempt to present the financial implications of precipitously moving to a fossil fuel free world. We have provided only three variables – how many parts per million of increased atmospheric CO2 correspond to one degree centigrade higher global average temperature, how many gigatons of CO2 emissions correspond to a one ppm greater concentration of atmospheric CO2, and how much it costs (US$) to avoid emitting one ton of CO2.

Our default assumptions are probably the best case, that is, the least expensive case. We assume that 15 gigatons of CO2 emissions will increase atmospheric CO2 by 1.0 part per million, that for every 50 parts per million of increased atmospheric CO2 there will be a 1.0 degree increase in global average temperature, and that a ton of CO2 emissions can be avoided via an expense of $25 – i.e., for 25 billion dollars, we can avoid emitting one gigaton of CO2. And using these assumptions, it would cost 19 trillion dollars to lower the projected temperature of the planet by 1.0 degree centigrade.

The point of this exercise isn’t to suggest that CO2 is actually the culprit, causing the global climate to teeter on the tipping point of runaway catastrophic warming. Our position has always been the following – if there is climate change, and if the climate change is something to be alarmed about, we would be better off reforesting the tropics, refilling our aquifers, and investing in global prosperity to provide ourselves the wealth to adapt, than try to eliminate fossil fuel use. But let’s return to the numbers.

First of all, the cost of $25 per ton to mitigate CO2 is probably significantly understated. Using our example, 15 gigatons of CO2 emissions represents about 50% of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions, which in-turn represents about 50% of all energy production (some anthropogenic CO2 comes from deforestation). The cost to produce 50% of all energy, 250 quadrillion BTUs of energy, from non-fossil fuel sources, can be roughly estimated as follows:

Assuming fossil fuel use will be offset by electricity use, to replace 250 quadrillion BTUs of heat energy we will need to generate 8,350 gigawatt-years of electricity. Using our cheapest known alternative electricity, we will have to deploy wind generators at a cost of $2.5 million per megawatt at full output. With a yield of 35% (the percentage of time there is viable wind), this equates to a cost for wind generated electricity of $7.1 million per constant megawatt, or 7.1 billion per constant gigawatt. Which is to say that using wind energy, we could eliminate annual CO2 emissions of 15 gigatons for a cost of 8,350 gigawatt-years times $7.1 billion, or about $60 trillion dollars. Using this example, therefore, it will not cost $19 trillion, or $25 per ton, to reduce projected global average temperature by 1.0 degree centigrade, but $60 trillion, or $78 per ton (ref. “Wind Energy Update”).

There’s much more, however. What is the service life of a wind generator? Wouldn’t these CO2 emissions be avoided for that entire period? Can’t this cost be amortized over the service life of the wind generator? If so, how much would the annual expenditure have to be to make this transition? And how much expenditure for conventional energy would this new energy offset?

If you expressed 250 quadrillion BTUs of energy in terms of barrels of oil, you would be looking at roughly 50 billion barrels of oil, which at $50 per barrel represents an annual global expenditure of $2.5 trillion per year. Can this $2.5 trillion per year pay for the amortized installation cost, maintenance, and systematic replacement of a $60 trillion windfarm? The answer is no. Even if these units had service lives of 30 years, just paying back the installation cost, with zero interest, would be $2.0 trillion per year. With interest, on a 30 year term, at 5%, an installation cost of $60 trillion would require payments $3.6 trillion per year.

There’s more. One might correctly argue that 250 quadrillion BTUs of fossil fuel energy would not require a one-to-one substitution of electricity, since much of that fossil fuel is used to create electricity at efficiencies of 60% or less, or burned in vehicles at efficiencies of 30% or less. The electric age will usher in a far more efficient use of energy.

Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta)
(Photo: EcoWorld

This is true, but to consider this also requires us to consider the projected future energy consumption in the world. Energy is essential for economic growth. There are going to eventually be not quite 10.0 billion people living on earth. Currently in the U.S., each person consumes about 350 million BTUs of energy per year. In the European Union each person consumes about 250 million BTUs of energy per year. If there were 10 billion people on earth, each consuming on average only 100 million BTUs of energy per year, we would still have to double energy production on the planet, from 500 quadrillion BTUs per year to 1,000 quadrillion BTUs per year. Sure, population will probably top out at 8.0 billion – run the numbers. The point remains inescapable – energy production worldwide is going to need to increase significantly. And there is plenty of fossil fuel to fill this energy demand until we have perfected truly advanced means of generating energy such as fusion power (read “Fossil Fuel Reality”).

The imperative to dramatically curtail fossil fuel use rests on the precautionary principle. Maybe the earth’s climate isn’t going to catastrophically tip because of CO2 emissions, but we should do it anyway just in case. But there are two sides to this argument. Our position is we should use those trillions to build roads, hospitals, power plants, reforestation, aquifer replenishment, and medical (and other scientific) research. We should nurture free trade, free markets, and entrepreneurship. We should deliver to humanity the universal prosperity that is the destiny of our generation. Then by sometime between 2025 and 2050, we will have created economic abundance, we will have advanced technology, and we will be well positioned to handle whatever the climate may throw at us.

Posted in Consumption, Electricity, Entrepreneurship, Global Warming & Climate Change, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind3 Comments

The XXIX Olympiad

Today the Olympic Games began in burgeoning, triumphant China. And today the Russians rumbled again, questioning the notion that their settlers of 200 years or more, unmoved and in contiguous lands, constitute a diaspora. What significance will this day hold for posterity? China displaying the ascendancy that has been her destiny, or Russia, wounded and dismembered in the wake of their cold war defeat, swollen with carbon revenue and resurgent as well, reminding us of their resiliency and resolve?
post resumes below image

Pelecanus occidentalis

From a strategic standpoint, Russia’s concern with Ossetia is more to do with the plight of ethnic Russians everywhere in the former Soviet Republics, than with Georgia specifically. Millions of ethnic Russians still live in these suddenly sundered lands, and their predicament is analogous to the predicament of suddenly exiled Germans in the Sudetenland and elsewhere prior to WWII. By no means are Russia’s concerns invalid, and how they are dealt with is also of concern – in ways not immediately appreciated. Russia’s abandonment of direct governance of their peripheries of empire, their historical sphere of influence, has lead to destruction of wildlife on a scale orders of magnitude greater than they were under the USSR. From Siberian tigers to Caspian sturgeon, the absence of Russian control has many faces, not all of them illustrious.

That someone would choose the opening day of the XXIX Olympics to escalate their fight shouldn’t surprise us too much. Somebody was going to try to steal the show as Beijing began their Olympic opening spectacle. With hundreds of thousands of closely monitored street cameras and plainclothes officers patrolling in equal number, challenges to China’s management of the Olympic games will be far away – because just as it was in 1936, the swarms of drones aren’t in the skies just yet, and the greatest global capitals remain tranquil.

Should China be the focal point of this day, as war erupts in the Caucasus, midway between the Balkans, the Middle East, and the tumultuous and seething ferment that is Central Asia? All of this is far, far away from Beijing; only distant murmurs can be heard from Xinjiang and Tibet, or beyond the borders, but Beijing celebrates, as they should. Should China’s human rights record be assailed here today? Why go down that path? Why not simply observe that the admiration many of us rightfully feel for China’s “can-do” attitude, their ability to take decisive collective action as a society, is also reminiscent of the admiration many in the west felt for Germany in the early 1930′s. And as one still might say, am anfang alles gut war. How do we channel all that energy and keep it good – can China process their paroxysms of nationalism better than many of their predecessors on the global stage?

Is it only a gratuitous digression to mention the son of Albert Speer designed the grand boulevard that connects the old city to the Olympic complex in Beijing? Why, when so many of us like wide boulevards? Was Albert Speer Sr. so bad, or just deluded, or trapped in a system that changed into something he’d never imagined? In any case, today’s boulevard emanating from the mind of a Speer is not only realized this time, unlike Hauptstadt Germania, but is green and cutting edge, instead of nostalgic and grandiose. Both are exceedingly evocative of national pride.

As technology enables a plethora of emerging or resurgent nations to aspire to leadership in a multi-polar world, what faces of totalitarianism will the peoples of the world endure? The Soviet example, where the regime saved the Siberian Tiger from extinction, and the sturgeon from genocidal slaughter? Today’s Chinese example, where within months mountains are moved into the sea to create a flat plain big enough for an Airbus A380 to land, and new dams on the Yangtzee contain a flow sufficient to generate nearly 18.0 gigawatts? Or the Western scheme, to regulate and ration production and consumption of carbon as if it were pollution instead of life for flora? Would only the best of all three be too much to hope for?

China, unlike Russia back in 1989, is unlikely to ever bow before the economic might of the west. But the power that fuels China’s prosperity is capitalist entrepreneurship, and there is no greater force for pluralism and democracy and economic growth than capitalist entrepreneurship. Prosperity breeds literacy and individual agency, which in turn fosters self-actualization, which impels individuals to demand more individual freedom along with more economic freedom. In these days of technological productivity putting prosperity within anyone’s grasp, it is only when a society discourages enterprise that prosperity eludes a critical mass of individuals; only when enterprise is overcome by corruption and control does pluralism give way to tyranny.

What road will Russia choose, reasserting themselves, possessing massive reserves of carbon, deep and world-class technology, and millions of sudden exiles who they still care for? Will the Russians join Nato? Will they attempt to reconstruct elements of the bloc they once commanded? Or will they find functional integration, well under way, sufficient imperative to form stronger alliances with Iran and China?

Then again, can the aspirations of China and Russia, and other rising nations, be embraced within a world where the price of war exceeds the price of peace, and therefore some overwhelming combination of forces always agree not to fight, everywhere? Where America’s leadership, combined with European commitment, convinces China and Russia to coexist with the west and the rest? To do this, the aspirations of nationalities must be balanced and policed; Russians in Georgia, Tibetans in China, or gross Deutschland in any 21st century incarnation, however innocent or otherwise, however contiguous or dispersed, in this high-density, pedestrian friendly, teeming and frighteningly finite global village.

Despite today’s mixed messages, it is neither ignoble nor absurd to hope a peaceful scenario is the fate of the world, that conflagrations are contained, that empires benignly collude instead of catastrophically collide. Hopefully the Olympic games, the exaltation they embody, the industry they inspire, the triumph of teams and individuals in peaceful competition, is what defines our future, as we merge fitfully but ineluctably into one global people.

Posted in Consumption, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Other, People, Policy, Law, & Government, Science, Space, & Technology3 Comments

Unlocking California Gridlock

Today California is probably the most hostile state in the U.S. towards private business, and with the global warming act nearing implementation, things are going to get much worse. But big changes could be closer than you think.

It isn’t easy to understand just how bad California’s business climate is until you talk to people from out of state – or if you have always lived here, until you try to start a business that aspires to actually move dirt or build something. But California’s tradition as an international trendsetter does not mean her current climate of hostility towards business, and the resulting gridlock, is destiny. Quite the contrary.

Even the Long-billed Curlew doesn’t discourage prey from
creating shelter and consuming energy and water.

A good example of the current difference between California and the rest of the nation came a few weeks ago when I interviewed a former colleague who recently started working for a construction company doing projects in Texas, among other places.

He recounted his astonishment when he was preparing a budget and operational timeline for a project in the greater Dallas area, and asked the onsite general manager how much to budget for building fees. The reply was “about $5,000,” to which he replied “per house?”

The answer was, “no, that’s how much we’ll pay in fees for the entire development [of several hundred homes].” Equally astonishing was the timeline – this project’s permit cycle was expected to last three months. That’s how they do things in Texas.

In California, if you want to break ground on a planned community of several hundred homes, expect to pay millions in fees. During the real estate bubble that crested in mid 2005, local building fees got as high as $90,000 per home – and the cities and counties spent this money as though collecting such a high volume of these exhorbitant fees would continue year after year. And that’s only half of it – in California, expect to spend additional millions defending lawsuits from environmental groups. As for the permitting cycle, expect to spend several years, if not decades, trying to get your project approved.

Even California’s Governor Schwarzenegger, who might be characterized as a tepid friend of the business community – has expressed frustration with the environmentalist community for blocking construction of solar thermal power stations, even though environmentalists are the ones demanding renewable fuel. But any scratch in the ground, any disruption to any ecosystem, anywhere, is sufficient to cause lawsuits to rain down upon anyone intemperate enough to want to supply power, or shelter, or water, to ordinary consumers. And once housing is unaffordable, thanks to the environmentalists, the environmental justice people come in and demand taxpayer subsidized affordable housing.

California’s business sectors survive either because their operations predate the rise of environmental extremism – agriculture and timber, or because they are far more virtual or intangible and are not as easily assailed – entertainment and information technology. California’s business sectors, to the extent they do thrive, do so in spite of California’s government, not because of it.

Another recent anecdote provides further illustration of the gridlock that defines California in 2008. I recently interviewed a man who intended to build a biodiesel refinery in Fresno County. The plant would have processed agricultural waste; grape seed and cotton seed in particular, and would have initially output 1.2 million gallons per year. Biodiesel from waste, that when blended with petro-diesel results in a cleaner burning fuel. Doesn’t this sound like a good idea?

This project never got off the ground for a variety of reasons, all of them relating to government gridlock if not outright hostility to business, including the following: It took 13 months for the entrepreneur to get a conditional use permit. Without this development agreement, the entrepreneur couldn’t get a permit from the regional Air Quality Management District. When he finally had this agreement, commodities prices had increased and he was required to scale back his plans. This required yet another development agreement, which promised to take several more months. The regional AQMD informed him they, too, would require several months to approve his application, and couldn’t give him any firm estimate as to when they’d be ready. He abandoned the project.

What has happened in California is a combination of two powerful forces – unions and environmentalists – working in tandem to crush entrepreneurship and undermine California’s economy. But these forces are not monolithic, and now that California has neither the internet boom nor the real-estate bubble to create temporary economic well being, this combination may soon be shattered. Here are the schisms that are coming – and when they do, California will again surprise the world.

(1) Private sector unions will split with public sector unions. This is inevitable, since in the private sector unions operate in a competitive global economy and if they aren’t reasonable, they will kill the company and kill the jobs. Unions have learned this, which is why most of the excessive union power today is in the public sector, since it takes longer to destroy an entire economy than it does to destroy one company, or one industrial sector. Private sector unions will be among the first to realize the public sector unions have taken for themselves the tax revenues that should have been used to help all workers, they will realize that environmentalist obstruction is stifling economic growth, and they will abandon the paper thin alliance they have with their brethren in the public sector, and their powerful collaborators, the extreme environmentalists.

(2) Public employee unions will realize their benefits – unreasonably high salaries, excessive vacation, comprehensive insurance, pervasive overtime, early retirements, and generous pensions – have bankrupted virtually every public entity in the state. Suddenly these good people will realize that crippling pension fund liabilities can only be managed if pensions for new and recently arrived public employees are dramatically reduced, if not eliminated altogether. They will realize that with pensions phased out, more money will be available to increase public sector services, helping the economy and the community. Even the notoriously left leaning teacher’s unions will begin to appreciate the value of corporate profits, since that is what pays the taxes that in turn funds their salaries – and summer vacations. The brainwashing will begin to subside. Reason will begin to be restored. The alliance between unions and extreme environmentalists will be over.

(3) Last but certainly not least, the powerful environmentalist movement will fracture – with the extremists who currently wield nearly absolute control over the green agenda suddenly finding themselves competing with a robust alternative vision of environmentalism, one that balances the needs of people and profit with the needs of ecosystems. A vision of environmentalism that emphasizes clean abundance through using liberalized land development policies to produce more water and power, instead of government rationing which does nothing but kill jobs and maintain a venal status quo.

Since the gold rush of 1849, California has been the distant destination of dreamers and individualists from everywhere on earth. This dynamism that defines California provides a seismic momentum far more powerful than any institution. California will be greater than ever, because the day will come when it will again be possible to build homes and create jobs without unreasonable harrassment.

Posted in Energy, Entrepreneurship, Other, Policies & Solutions, Policy, Law, & Government, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Services, Solar2 Comments

Multifaceted Environmentalism & Greentech

Whether you think it will stop climate change, reverse the acidification of the ocean, or help nations achieve energy independence, the political momentum to raise the price of fossil fuel appears unstoppable.

With that as a given, then, the current debate should focus on what mechanism should be used, how much the price should be raised, and how the resulting funds should be allocated—all of which boil down to choices between practical environmentalism and emotional environmentalism, head vs. heart.

If we’re to adhere to Nobel laureate Al Gore’s “pledge,” for example, we must stop burning coal within 20 years — this despite the fact that coal is the cheapest and most abundant fossil fuel on Earth, that nearly 25% of all energy produced on the planet comes from coal, and that the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts coal’s use will increase by 74% between now and 2030 (mostly in countries like China, which will do whatever their economic interests dictate, despite anything the IPCC has to say about the matter). It would take huge price increases to price coal out of existence within 20 years, and it would require the cooperation of every major nation on earth—tough challenges.

That’s why trying to precipitously phase out coal rather than simply clean the emissions from it while making an orderly transition to alternative fuels represents a policy agenda that’s deeply flawed. Accept for a moment that anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of global warming and that global warming is going to become a serious problem for humanity. If these assumptions are true, there’s little we can do at this point. As Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, has said, “The inertia of the system that we have is such that climate change would continue for decades and centuries even if we were to stabilize the concentrations that are causing this problem today, which means that adaptation is inevitable.”

So think about this instead: If the funds collected through taxes and carbon offset payments assessed on CO2 emissions were used to adapt to the effects of global warming rather than to attempt to eliminate global warming altogether, the amount spent would equal a fraction of what it would cost to halt global warming. The Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg in his 2007 book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming calculated the costs of mitigating global warming and came up with a premise that’s hard to challenge: Pouring money collected from a carbon tax into the development of the economies of the equatorial nations would make these nations wealthier—and in turn enable them to afford to mitigate the negative impacts of global warming.

High-tech entrepreneurs who are hoping to fund their companies through carbon taxes now have a vested interest in global warming—and suddenly public policy rather than product superiority has become the key to success. These entrepreneurs, after all, don’t stand to benefit if policymakers determine that a tax of just $2 per ton of carbon will fund economic development throughout the world and enable everyone, everywhere to adapt to global warming. These high-tech entrepreneurs should remember their roots: Silicon Valley did not change the world by fomenting or condoning irrational panic and feeding at the tax trough; it did so by innovating and providing superior products that responded to real customer needs.

Another issue to debate as we contemplate raising the price of energy is whether the source of that increase should take the form of a tax or be based on a “cap and trade” mechanism. With cap and trade, energy producers that emit CO2 are required to spend a designated amount per ton to finance projects that facilitate CO2 absorption. This means that if you were to operate a coal-fired power station, for example, you’d pay to plant hundreds of square miles of forest. But there are huge problems with cap and trade: As it turns out, exactly what constitutes a CO2 “offset” is grossly subjective. European CO2 offset credits, for example, created a market for biofuel imported from the tropics that in turn unleashed a devastating wave of ongoing rainforest destruction to grow oil palms and other fuel crops. Tropical deforestation to grow biofuel is a global catastrophe and has probably contributed as much to climate change as CO2 from fossil fuels ever will.

Environmentalism is multifaceted: There’s what one might call practical environmentalism, which supports policies designed to eliminate pollution and other toxic hazards as well as to preserve and protect reasonable amounts of wilderness and endangered species, and then there’s emotional environmentalism. Occupying the latter category are many of today’s environmentalists. Overly driven by ideology and emotion, they’re well meaning but fanatical, and they engage in an unwittingly cynical and synergistic dance with all kinds of powerful forces with hidden agendas.

To wit: Restricting energy production enriches the cartels that produce and sell most energy (since prices and profits go up). Declaring nearly all land to be protected “open space” makes housing prices skyrocket (thereby raising property taxes and building fees, and enriching public sector entities). And cap-and-trade schemes enrich not only traders on Wall Street but also every private company (or cash-strapped public entity) who can sell (to public sector regulators and environmentalist nonprofits tasked with vetting these plans) a project to produce an “offset” and collect a fee.

Environmental organizations enjoy tax-free status. They also employ litigious attorneys who tie economic development and private entrepreneurship up in knots: For these folks, the growing alarm over global warming represents the best financial windfall they’ve ever witnessed. Environmentalism, as we’ve seen, delivers huge benefits. But when it goes too far—as it often does—the costs are staggering.

Green-tech entrepreneurs need to decide what version of environmentalism they want to believe in—practical or emotional, market driven or government mandated. Hopefully they’ll embrace the same rules that made the Silicon Valley great, winning in the competitive market with solutions people choose to buy, and not through lobbying, litigation, and government subsidies. If rationality and market competition are left intact, the global economy and the global environment will both be better off as we manage the transition to clean and renewable energy.

Posted in Coal, Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Global Warming & Climate Change, Organizations, Other, People, Policies & Solutions5 Comments

India's Solar Power

Industrial Scale Solar Water Heating Array
This industrial-scale solar water heating array
supplies 120,000 litres per day at Godavari
Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. in Andhra Pradesh

Editor’s Note: Using sunlight to create electrical and thermal energy remains the most promising source of clean renewable energy, and projections as to how quickly solar power takes off could be grossly understated. As the author points out, the costs for photovoltaic electricity, for example, have dropped by an order of magnitude in the last 30 years.

The challenge however lies in just how much energy solar power would have to displace if it were to become the dominant source of energy in the world. In 2006, according to the International Energy Agency, 80.3% of the world’s energy came from fossil fuel: Oil (34.3%), coal (25.1%) and gas (20.9%). Fully 90.9% of the world’s energy came from combustion, because alongside these fossil fuels in 4th place are “combustible renewables,” mostly wood (10.6%). Include nuclear power (6.5%) and hydro-electric power (2.2%), and you have accounted for 99.5% of the world’s energy!

So where does solar fit into this equation? Most of this last half-percent of one percent of the world’s energy, .41%, is provided from geothermal sources. The energy we love so much, wind and solar, currently only provide .064% and .039% of the world’s power requirements. Put another way, for solar energy achieve its potential and replace all other sources of energy in the world, this .039% would have to increase 2,500 times.

Moreover, since nations such as India and China have only begun to industrialize, and since the industrialized nations only comprise approximately 20% of the world’s population yet consume over 50% of the world’s energy production, it is unlikely that global energy production will not have to increase. It is these sobering realities that should inform any reading of the potential of solar power. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

India’s Solar Power – Greening India’s Future Energy Demand
by Avilash Roul, May 15, 2007
The World's Largest Solar Steam Cooking System
The world’s largest solar steam cooking system
at Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh

Human civilization has been witnessing a gradual shift towards cleaner fuels-from wood to coal, from coal to oil, from oil to natural gas; renewables are the present demand…

With the fluctuating high cost of petroleum, minimizing dependence on importing conventional energy resources, stewardship to protect the Planet and providing affordable energy to all, countries including India have stepped up their energy path for harnessing indigenous renewable resources. To tap the infinite energy and transform as well as transmit it to each household, the Indian government has accelerated promotion of the use of universally available Solar Energy.

India due to its geo-physical location receives solar energy equivalent to nearly 5,000 trillion kWh/year, which is far more than the total energy consumption of the country today. But India produces a very negligible amount of solar energy – a mere 0.2 percent compared to other energy resources. Power generation from solar thermal energy is still in the experimental stages in India. Up till now, India’s energy base has been more on conventional energy like coal and oil. However, India has now attained 7th place worldwide in Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Cell production and 9th place in Solar Thermal Systems. Grid-interactive renewable power installed capacity as on 31.10.2006 aggregated 9,013 MW corresponding to around 7 percent of the total power installed capacity which equates to over 2 percent of total electricity.

Worldwide photovoltaic installations increased by 1,460 MW in 2005, up from 1,086 MW installed during the previous year. That was a 67 percent increase over the 750 MW produced in 2003. In 2002 the world solar market increased 40 percent. Solar Energy demand has grown at about 25 percent per annum over the past 15 years. In 1985, worldwide annual solar installation demand was only 21 MW. According to the IEA’s factsheet, “Renewables in Global Energy Supply,” the solar energy sector has grown by 32 per annum since 1971. Worldwide, grid-connected solar PV continued to be the fastest growing power generation technology, with a 55 percent increase in cumulative installed capacity to 3.1 GW, up from 2.0 GW in 2004, as per “Renewable Global Status Update Report 2006″ ( Similarly, India witnessed an acceleration of solar hot water installations in 2005. Global production of solar PV increased from 1,150 MW in 2004 to over 1,700 MW in 2005. Japan was the leader in cell production (830 MW), followed by Europe (470 MW), China (200 MW), and the US (150 MW).

Photovoltaic Battery Lantern
In the sun during the day, providing lighting at night,
a photovoltaic/battery lantern illuminates the home

India: Status of Solar Energy:

The solar PV program was begun in the mid 70′s in India. While the world has progressed substantially in production of basic silicon mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells, India has fallen short to achieve the worldwide momentum. In early 2000, nine Indian companies were manufacturing solar cells. During 1997-98 it was estimated that about 8.2 MW capacity solar cells were produced in the country. The total installed manufacturing capacity was estimated to be 19 MW per year. The major players in Solar PV are Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) (; Central Electrtonics Ltd., and Rajasthan Electricals & Instruments Ltd., as well as by several companies in the private sector. The latest, 100 million dollars investment from Tata BP Solar in India is the pointer towards the booming solar market in India. Of late, the market is growing for SPV applications based products with the active encouragement of the government.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (, earlier known as the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources – have initiated innovative schemes to accelerate utilisation and exploitation of the solar energy. Number of incentives like subsidy, soft loan, 80 percent accelerated depreciation, confessional duty on import of raw materials and certain products, excise duty exemption on certain devices/systems etc. are being provided for the production and use of solar energy systems. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) – – a Public Limited Company established in 1987- provides revolving fund to financing and leasing companies offering affordable credit for the purchase of PV systems. As a result, the Renewable Energy Sector is increasingly assuming a greater role in providing grid power to the Nation as its total capacities reached about 9,013 MW. This apart, the Electricity Act 2003, National Electricity Policy 2005 and National Tariff Policy 2006 provide a common framework for the regulation of renewable power in all States/UTs through quotas, preferential tariffs, and guidelines for pricing ‘non-firm’ power.

However, in the Draft New and Renewable Energy Policy Statement 2005, which is yet be approved, the federal government is very cautious about the status of renewable energy in the future. It says, “despite the fact that the biomass-solar- hydrogen economy is some decades away, it should not make industry and the scientific & technical community of the country unduly complacent into believing that necessary steps for expected changes can wait.”

Present Scenario of Solar Power:

The MNES has been implementing installation of solar PV water pumping systems for irrigation and drinking water applications through subsidy since 1993-94. Typically, a 1,800 Wp PV array capacity solar PV water pumping system, which cost about Rs. 3.65 lakh, is being used for irrigation purposes. The Ministry is providing a subsidy of Rs.30 per watt of PV array capacity used, subject to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 per system. The majority of the pumps fitted with a 200 watt to 3,000 watt motor are powered with 1,800 Wp PV array which can deliver about 140,000 liters of water/day from a total head of 10 meters. By 30th September, 2006, a total of 7,068 solar PV water pumping systems have been installed.

A total of 32 grid interactive solar PV power plants have been installed in the country with financial assistance from the Federal Government. These plants, with aggregate capacity of 2.1 MW, are estimated to generate about 2.52 million units of electricity in a year. In 1995, an aggregate area of 4 lakh square meters of solar collectors were installed in the country for thermal applications such as water heating, drying cooking etc. The thermal energy generated from these devices was assessed at over 250 million kwh per year. In addition, solar PV systems with an aggregate capacity of 12 MW were installed for applications such as lighting, water pumping, communications, etc. These systems are capable of generating 18 million kwh of electricity per year. In 2003 alone, India added 2.5 MW of solar PVs. For rural electrification as well as employment and income generation, about 16,530 solar photovoltaic lighting systems were installed during 2004-05. Over 150,000 square meters of collector area has been installed in the country for solar water heating in domestic, industrial and commercial sectors making the cumulative installed collector area over one million square meters. State-wise details of cumulative achievements under various non-conventional energy programmes, as on 31.03.2006 are shown in the table below:

Chart of Solar Power Produced by Indian States from 2003 to 2005
Government-funded solar energy in India only accounted for
approximately 6.4 megawatt-years of power as of 2005

Similarly, India’s Integrated Rural Energy Program using renewable energy had served 300 districts and 2,200 villages by early 2006. More than 250 remote villages in seven states were electrified under the program during 2005, with additional projects under implementation in over 800 villages and 700 hamlets in 13 states and federal territories (see table below). Rural applications of solar PV had increased to 340,000 home lighting systems, 540,000 solar lanterns, and 600,000 solar cookers in use.

Chart of Number of Villages Selected for Solar Electrification by Indian State
By 2006 over 2,400 off-grid villages in India had
received solar thermal and photovoltaic systems

Future Plans:

An Expert Committee constituted by the Planning Commission has prepared an Integrated Energy Policy that aims at achieving integrated development and deployment of different energy supply sources, including new & renewable energy. The grid-interactive renewable power installed capacity is expected to reach 10,000 MW as on corresponding to a share of over 2 per cent in the electricity-mix, by 31.3.2007. Further capacity addition of 14,000 MW is envisaged during the 11th Plan (2007-12) leading to a then share of around 5 per cent in the electricity-mix but mostly through hydro-power. A 10 million square meter solar collector area capable of conserving electricity equivalent to that generated from a 500 MW power plant is expected to be set up by 2022. India has recently proposed to augment cooking, lighting, and motive power with renewable in 600,000 villages by 2032, starting with 10,000 remote off-grid villages by 2012.

External Support:

A four-year $7.6 million effort was launched in April 2003 to help accelerate the market for financing solar home systems in southern India. The project is a partnership between UNEP Energy Branch, UNEP Risoe Centre (URC), ( two of India’s major banking groups – Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank, and their sponsored Grameen Banks. As per the existing policy, Foreign Direct Investment up to 100 percent is permitted in non-conventional energy sector through the automatic route. The FDI received in non-conventional energy sector from January 2003 to September 2006 is estimated at around Rs.35 crore. The Multilateral Development Banks like World Bank and Asian Development Bank are also helping India to achieve its potential on renewable resources. But, the funding from MDBs on solar energy enhancement is negligible compare to other clean energy support in India.

Solar Water Heating System
A 200 litre per day solar water heating system
installed in Karnataka by IREDA

Challenges and Constraints:

Solar energy is facing three fundamental challenges of cost, its manufacturing procedure as well as its waste products that have any impact on the environment and the land acquisition for erecting solar PVs.

The hunt for better, cheaper solar cells is due in India. Solar PV now cost one tenth of what they did in early 1980s. Despite the fact that the price of solar photovoltaic technology has been coming down over the years it still remains economically unviable for power generation purposes. During 1999, the cost of solar cells being manufactured in the country was estimated to be in the range of Rs. 1.35 to 1.50 lakhs per kW. The average cost of solar PV modules was around Rs. 2 lakhs per kW. At present the initial cost of both types of solar energy systems is higher compared to the cost of conventional energy systems and also the other non-conventional energy systems. However, the estimated unit cost of generation of electricity from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal route is in the range of Rs. 12 -20 per kWh and Rs. 10 – 15 per kWh respectively in India. With present level of technology, solar electricity produced through the photovoltaic conversion route is 4-5 times costlier than the electricity obtained from conventional fossil fuels.

There are number of R & D projects are going on solar PV Program in India. The Solar Energy Centre ( has been established by Government of India as a part of MNES to undertake activities related to design, development, testing, standardization, consultancy, training and information dissemination in the field of Solar Energy. Recently, development of polycrystalline silicon thin film solar cells and small area solar cells concluded at the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science at Jadavpur University. The National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi is working on development of materials and process to make dye sensitized nano-crystalline TiO2 thin films. The Centre for Materials for Electronics, Pune has been working on development of phosphorous paste for diffusion of impurities in solar cells. Under a joint R&D project of MNES and Department of Science & Technology (DST), the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science (IACS), Kolkata continued to work on optimization of process for fabrication of large area double junction amorphous silicon modules.

However, considering the fact that solar energy systems do not require any fuel, the running costs are lower. Therefore, the cost of some of the solar energy systems such as solar water heaters, solar cookers and solar lanterns can be lower than that of conventional energy products when calculated over the life of the systems. The other advantages of solar energy systems are modular nature, long-life, reliability, no recurring requirement of fuel, low maintenance and so on.

In the very near future, breakthroughs in nanotechnologies promise significant increase in solar cell efficiencies from current 15% values to over 50% levels. These would in turn reduce the cost of solar energy production. However, capital costs have substantially declined over the past two decades, with solar PV costs declining by a factor of two. PV is projected to continue its current rapid cost reductions for the next decades to compete with fossil fuel. However, the realisation of cost reductions is naturally closely linked to market development, government policies, and support for research and development.

Environmental Costs:

In India, of late there has been a debate regarding whether hydro-power and solar power are green or renewable? Since solar power systems generate no air pollution during operation, the primary environmental, health, and safety issues involve how they are manufactured, installed, and ultimately disposed of. Also, an important question is how much fossil energy input is required for solar systems compared to the fossil energy consumed by comparable conventional energy systems. Another concern area is installing solar cells on the land area. The large amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants – approximately one square kilometer for every 20-60 megawatts (MW) generated – poses an additional problem in India. Instead, solar energy in particular requires unique, massive applications in the agricultural sector, where farmers need electricity exclusively in the daytime. This could be the primary demand driver for solar energy in India.


Even though energy from renewable energy sources is growing rapidly, with markets such as solar cells, wind and biodiesel experiencing annual double digit growth, the overall share is only expected to increase marginally over the coming decades as the demand for energy also grows rapidly, particularly in many developing countries. In India, the scientific focus is deliberately moving towards transforming coal into clean energy as well as harnessing hydropower. The recent surge in nuclear energy is also diverting focus from the solar energy enhancement. In all probability, the Indian government will support off-grid solar energy production through a decentralized manner. In spite of this, India needs to focus research on solar energy and cheaper photovoltaics to provide affordable energy to all.

Additional State Info on Solar Energy:

Andhra Pradesh

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) ( founded the Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) Photovoltaic Electrification Pvt. Ltd. The SELCO was established in 1995 to market, install, and service Solar Home Systems (SHS) in south India. The SELCO has achieved international recognition as the first company to concentrate on marketing and servicing SHS in the rural Indian market. The Company uses TATA-BP solar modules and deep-cycle batteries purchased on the Indian market, while manufacturing its own lights and charge controllers. Currently, its primary products are 22 and 35 watt SHS, and it will be introducing a 50 Wp system to customers shortly.

The Ministry had sanctioned a project to Non-conventional Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh Ltd., Hyderabad for installation of 50 solar dryers to individual users in rural areas with a view to promote the technology and show its potential in income generation and leading to development of entrepreneurship. The dryers were developed by Society for Energy, Environment and Development (SEED), Hyderabad.

West Bengal

Since 1995, with the help of the US Department of Energy ( and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (, the Ramakrishna Mission, a non-governmental organization in West Bengal ( has installed more than 500 PV domestic lighting system and has established ‘Aditya’ – a solar shop in the mission campus in Narendrapur, which sells PV systems up to nearly 10 in each day. The systems are manufactured in India and the US. The technical staff of the Mission has expected to establish six more Aditya solar shops and more than 2000 additional domestic lighting system and seven-community systems in the West Bengal. Through 2005, 73 Aditya Solar Shops were established in India.

About the Author: Avilash Roul has been writing, advocating, researching, and creating knowledge on Environment and Development in various English Daily media since 2000. He has worked with Down To Earth (fortnightly magazine published in New Delhi, India) for the last three years. He has also contributed a Sunday column in New India Express on the environment and development. Right now Mr. Roul is working as an Assistant Coordinator for the Bank Information Center (, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that advocates for the protection of rights, participation, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of the World Bank, regional development banks, and the International Monetary Fund.

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Posted in Air Pollution, Chemicals, Coal, Consumption, Drinking Water, Electricity, Electronics, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Entrepreneurship, Geothermal, Hydrogen, Natural Gas, Other, Policies & Solutions, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind38 Comments

Sacramento's Green Energy Companies

California, along with a handful of nations (mostly in Europe), has led the way in embracing clean energy and clean technology. This political will has emanated from Sacramento, California’s capitol, beginning nearly forty years ago and continuing to this day.

The progressive environmental legislation set forth in Sacramento has made the city a magnet for representatives of clean energy manufacturers from around the world, but until recently there hasn’t been clean energy entrepreneurship centered in Sacramento to match its pioneering political resolve. This is changing, however.

Our friends at, who are working to accelerate the development of clean energy technology ventures within the Greater Sacramento Region, have provided us a list of clean energy companies headquartered in the Sacramento area, to which we have added companies and deleted others.

The list is not complete, but the length and breadth of what is going on gives credence to Sacramento’s aspirations to become a green technology hub.

Advanced Energy Products (Later Stage)
High Efficiency Cooling and Heating Systems
123 C Street, Davis, CA 95616

Advanced Luminescence, Inc. (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Novel Lighting Technology
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Agripower (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Biomass Combustion Technology
11428 Elks Circle, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

Altergy Systems Sacramento (Early Stage)
Fuel Cell company (PEM) for portable and stationary applications (50W to 50kW)
Gold River, CA 95670

American Power & Light
Advanced ducted wind generators
6085 Old Sacramento Road, Plymouth, CA 95669

Appropriate Energy Inc. (Early Stage)
Wind Turbine technology for low-wind areas
Gardnerville, NV 89410

Atlantis Energy Systems, Inc. (Later Stage)
Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV)
4517 Harlin Drive, Sacramento, CA 95826

Battery MD Inc. (Early Stage)
Mature Battery technology for Electric Vehicles
North Highlands, CA 95660

Bergquam Energy Systems (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Solar Thermal powered Chiller technology
8611 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95826

Blue Point Energy
Micro CHP with Cummins engine-generators
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

Clean Energy Systems, Inc. (Later Stage)
Highly efficient Natural Gas combustion with CO2 sequestration.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

Davis Energy Group (Early Stage)
Efficient cooling systems
123 C Street, Davis, CA 95616

Fuel Cell components
11265-U Sunrise Gold Circle
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

FAFCO Incorporated (Mature)
Residential A/C load management technology & Solarthermal Pool Heating
435 Otterson Drive, Chico, CA 95928-8207

Impulse Devices (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Innovative Fusion Technology
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-6500

Jadoo Power Systems (Later Stage)
Portable Fuel Cell technology
Folsom, CA 95630

Jerico Mechanical
Efficient motors
3726 Marysville Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95838

Efficient motors
North Highlands, CA

Omnifuel Technologies, Inc. (Early Stage)
Biogasification to energy and fuels
Sacramento, CA 95610

Onsite Power Systems (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Anaerobic Digestion technology
Davis, CA 95616

Open Energy Corporation (Early Stage)
Custom BIPV design
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Optimal Technologies (USA) Inc. (Later Stage)
Utility Management Software (Grid Optimization)
Benicia, CA 94510

Pacific Power Management (Later Stage)
Photovoltaic Systems Integrator & Installer
12970 Earhart Ave., Auburn, CA 95602

PLEXOS Solutions, LLC (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Grid Optimization software
Sacramento, CA 95831

Q1 Nanosolar (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Nano conductors for Solar PV applications
Sacramento, CA 95816

ReSo International (Early Stage)
Solar Roofing Technology
Stockton, CA 95202

Ribbon Technology International (Seed/Start-Up Stage)
Solar PV material manufacturing technology
Sacramento, CA 95825
916-923-6275 (Expansion Stage)
Solarthermal Water Heating Technology
Rancho Cordova, CA 95608

SVV Technology Innovations, Inc. (Early Stage)
Solar Concentrators
West Sacramento, CA 95691

Wireless Seismic (Early Stage)
Efficient (wireless) Seismic surveying technology
Grass Valley, CA 95945

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Top 10 Capitalist Myths that You Should Know About

Capitalism makes everything possible.

Capitalism leads to wealth, wealth leads to investment, investment spawns innovation, and through glorious creative destruction, today’s innovations surpass and replace yesterday’s, creating more wealth. Through capitalist initiative, civilization has advanced beyond the wildest imaginings of our forbears. Today we cure diseases that were incurable. We cultivate miracle crops to feed the world. There is no problem in that cannot eventually be solved if we just give capitalist entrepreneurs free rein.

Yet in spite of compelling evidence, the capitalist system remains challenged. Globalization, privatization, the growth of intellectual property law, industrialization, mechanization, and free trade have all spawned resistance. Voices raised include socialists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, humanitarians and even other capitalists.

The following Capitalist Myths, each embraced by far too many capitalists, dangerous when adopted blindly, can be amended or eliminated through more serious debate. Capitalism is a powerful force for positive change, but cannot realize its full potential unless it acknowledges and confronts its myths, and assimilates positive ideas from belief systems besides its own.

Myth #1
Global Free Trade is Always Best

El Salvador Countryside
What is Fair and Free Trade?
Read “Global Exchange”

Not always. While a world of unfettered free trade can create faster overall economic growth, that same growth can cause some societies and countries to become worse off. Suddenly introduced global free trade can turn an entire country’s economy and fledgling local industries upside-down. Foreign investment often focuses on over-development of single commodities that can go bust. Increased foreign investment and global trade usually ride into a country alongside debt. Going into countries using international legal weaponry to enforce free flow of capital and foreign ownership of local assets isn’t always best. Alongside free trade there is fair trade, an equally elusive and worthy goal.

Myth #2
Cheaper is Always Better

Price competition is a pillar of capitalism, but many measures of value do not immediately or easily translate into quantities of money. How can the happiness of a people, or the health of an ecosystem appear on the financial statements of a multinational corporation? Hire lower-paid employees and lay them off and move to another country as soon as it’s cheaper there, then move again. Mechanize the workplace and make workers commodities. Log forests on cheap land, pay massive short-term profits into dividends and close the company. Strip-mine oceans with driftnets 50 miles long and kill off the final scattered fish with high-tech sonar detection systems. Capitalist competition means more, cheaper, faster; cheaper goods, cheaper shelter, and cheaper protein, but it’s not always better.

Myth #3
Capitalism has European Roots

Only some capitalists are European. The functions of capitalism; property ownership, monetary exchange, trade, competition, value creation and entrepreneurship, easily predate Europe and exist and originate from most everywhere. Private individual wealth and multinational corporations come from diverse cultures. That the Europeans have been successful capitalists doesn’t mean they invented capitalism, and it doesn’t automatically consign capitalism to European values and prerogatives. Critics of capitalism point their fingers at the west more than the west deserves. Capitalism is part of human nature.

Myth #4
Intellectual Property is Sacred

Sunrise in Rishi Valley
Where does public domain begin?
Read “Monocultures of the Mind”

Absolutely not! Patents for inventions that incorporate life forms, mimic natural processes or copy native remedies and recipes are walking on legal thin ice. “Business method” patents are complete baloney and should be repealed. Maybe copyrights last too long, and royalties cost too much. The public domain is under attack and it’s shrinking. Farmers who save and reuse seed from their own crops, inadvertently or effortlessly cross-pollinated with windblown genetic material that somebody patented should not be prosecuted. Open source legal precedents are already set in the software industry. Stakes are high. Intellectual property law run rampant becomes an expensive and devastating tool for oligarchic and other vested interests to outlaw competition. How capitalist is that? It’s time to reverse this trend. There is an intangible commons, too.

Myth #5
Industrialization is the Only Alternative

From a global perspective industrialization is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean developing countries should develop now or else. Countries that would have enjoyed relative stability if they’d never industrialized can be sorely disrupted by sudden financial flight. Single commodity economies with debt service blow in the wind. When a country commits to industrialize they place high bets in limited areas and they run this risk. Moreover, because global productivity constantly improves, especially in the high-tech era we live in, the longer a country waits to develop, the less they will have to pay for their new industries. Countries should not be rushed into industrialization because it’s supposedly in their interests.

Myth #6
Property is Sacred.

Sea Turtle
Who Owns the Oceans?
Read “David Brower’s Legacy”

Never. Too much of the property we might consider sacred is also shared between us. If the air is unhealthy for people to breath, or the water too poisonous for fishermen to fish, some property owner’s prerogative, and resultant pollution, is definitely not sacred. Productive assets necessary to society, especially when controlled by monopolies, cartels, or foreign financial interests, must be regulated to ensure sustainable practices and a safety net for the poor. Property rights defenders are correct to call regulations “takings,” but that per se is not at issue. Governments must regulate trade to enforce “free trade,” they must regulate commerce to encourage and enable competition, and they should help protect the weak; all of which can translate into “takings” in some form. The only question is when, and how much.

Myth #7
Democracy-Capitalism is the End-Point of Civilization

Really now? Then go explain how corporate welfare fits into this rosy picture, for starters. Democracy-Capitalism has today’s media and mainstream academic endorsements, but utopia nonetheless eludes modern civilization. To strive for democracy-capitalism, ideally, is an ongoing fight against tyranny and oligarchy from any group, creed or political ideology. Capitalists can be tyrants. Democracies can be belligerent. The form of capitalism and the ethics of democratic societies are diverse and subtle and need constant reexamination. Congratulating democracy-capitalism as the end-point of civilization shouldn’t discourage or take the place of relentless investigation and reporting, healthy dissent, and meaningful public debate.

Myth #8
Privatize Public Works

Mountain in Distance
Can Everything be Privatized?
Read “The Giants of Water”

It depends. Many if not all public works provide necessities such as water and energy that cannot be found anywhere else. These necessities should be offered free to those who cannot afford to pay. Privately operated public works, owned by foreign interests, could in unregulated free-trade environments be managed as cash-cows, exporting profits into a multi-national conglomerate instead of back into the local economy. There is no monopoly on corruption, which can affect private corporations inside or outside a country just as severely as it might affect public administrations anywhere. Public works can succeed as mostly public or mostly private operations.

Myth #9
Maximize Quarterly Profits

This is a canard disguised as a rationalization turned into an obligation compelling a property owner to cut down all the trees in their forest, or pump out all the water from their aquifer, selling to the highest bidder as quickly as possible. Every industry has its culprits, compulsive competitors who cut every corner, cook the books, betting the farms, heedless of the ultimate payback. In the name of short-term gain people can become puppets and chattel, worthy enterprises ignored and abandoned, and the earth stripped. In the long run human rights always prevail, ecosystems are stewarded, and business is sustainable. It is much easier for a long-term capitalist to profit without creating victims and collateral damage. If all that really mattered were to maximize quarterly profits the world would already be a wasteland.

Myth #10
Greed is Good

Pure crap. Greed is a sin, not a virtue, but it can be confused and conflated with one of capitalism’s moral appeals; that capitalism offers, hopefully, a competitive and pluralistic game where no one sinful, awful faction can ever dominate. In this pragmatic model greed is not good it is contained. But capitalism, ideally, also depends on a totally voluntary moral framework and consensus in societies that greed is not good. Only then does capitalism better avoid caricature and condemnation. Only then do capitalist visions have more universal appeal and overall joy.

Capitalism at its best is the engine that will bring peace and prosperity to humanity, eliminate poverty and disease, and protect the earth. But building enthusiasm for capitalism throughout the world requires patience and compromise, possibly slower but more sustainable economic and corporate growth, and more diverse patterns of ownership.

To proliferate faster, more capitalists might prefer not myths that only emphasize the economic game, but instead visions of a better world. Visions where most everyone, especially the avid capitalists, believe that humanity and ecology weigh in equally alongside winning.

Ed Ring is Editor and CEO of EcoWorld Inc., publisher of

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Environmentalists in Business Suits

Editor’s Note: This article is only one example of how private incentives can lead to an end result that is far more environmentally beneficial than bureaucratically derived solutions. The fate of the African Rhino was all but sealed, at least until the potential of the Rhino as a legitimate game animal was realized. Many may have a problem with the idea of hunting any animal, but the sport killing of individual Rhinos has saved the species. Hunters may be killers, but they are also conservationists, and they have accomplished what was previously thought to be nearly impossible, the rescue of a species on the brink of extinction. Read on…

The zebra cautiously approached the water hole, unaware of the danger perched in the tree above. Though African animals are conditioned by predators to be cautious, in this case the predator was well camouflaged. When the zebra lowered his head to drink, the archer, stiff from hours sitting patiently in the tree stand, drew his bow and launched the razor-sharp arrow. Instantly, the zebra fell to the ground, as the arrow found its mark, severing the zebra’s spinal cord. The meat would become dog food because humans generally find it unpalatable, but the tanned zebra skin would decorate the floor of the hunter’s trophy room.

To the non-hunter this crass “slaughter” of a magnificent African animal for pure human pleasure engenders feelings of disgust and anger. Sport hunting is seen as the epitome of anthropocentric resource use. In this view, the killing of the animal serves no other purpose than to boost the ego of the hunter. Killing for meat might be rationalized, but killing strictly for pleasure cannot. Accordingly, anti-hunting forces believe that laws should stop or at least limit hunting and ban trade in wild animals or their by-products.

Those who hold this position, however, do not appreciate the important role that markets can play in preserving wildlife species and their habitat. The rest of the zebra story reveals the role of the hunter, the entrepreneur, and profits in South African game preservation. Angus Brown, professional hunter and guide, is an enviro-capitalist motivated both by his love of the bush and the living he can make by meeting the demands of hunters. In addition, his entrepreneurship benefits both wildlife and the landowner. Angus contracts with a landowner for exclusive hunting access on approximately 20,000 acres in the Transvaal province of South Africa. According to terms of the agreement, Angus provides meals, living accommodations and guide services for hunters while the landowner provides the habitat. The accommodations include beautiful African huts with walls woven from reeds and roofs thatched from grass. Horns from animals in the area adorn the walls and skins cover the floors. Food in the camp is typical South African fare highlighted with the wild meat killed by the hunters. Natural pans and developed water holes provide water for the animals in this arid land on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. At these water points, archery hunters wait for animals like the zebra to come for their daily drink.

All of these investments are possible only because hunters are willing to pay fees that make the venture profitable to the guide and the landowner. Perhaps more important is the strong link between hunting revenues and resource stewardship. The landowner gets a share of the daily guide fees paid by the customers and nearly two-thirds of the trophy fees paid for each animal.

The price list for the various animals available to hunters reads like a menu at a restaurant: Tsebe–$1500, Waterbuck–$1200, Zebra–$650, Kudu–$600, Warthog–$100, Impala–$80, etc. Angus and the landowner mutually agree on these prices which reflect the scarcity of the species. With warthogs and impala abundant, their prices are low; with tsebe and waterbuck scarce in the region, their prices are high. Such prices condition the demands of the hunter, who must carefully weigh his preferences against the prices. Indeed, Angus can also arrange hunting (elsewhere) for elephant or rhino, the two most scarce of the hunted species, at a price of $12,000 and $28,000, respectively.

The supply-side impacts of these incentives have been dramatic. In recent years the ranch was mainly a cattle operation, but the potential for hunting profits has changed this. Instead of carrying several hundred Brahma cattle, the land now supports approximately 500 impala, 200 kudu, 100 wildebeest, 50 tsebe, 25 waterbuck and numerous other species. Interior fences necessary for cattle management have been removed to give wildlife a freer range, and water trough are being converted to more natural water holes. Angus and the landowner consider ways to improve the habitat and increase the number of species.

Without the profits from hunting, less habitat would be available for the indigenous species of the Kalahari and fewer animals would survive. It is precisely this form of enviro-capitalism that has been successfully implemented in Africa to encourage elephant and rhino preservation.

Closer to home, Tom Bourland also knows that the market can be wildlife’s best friend. He should know. As head biologist on International Paper’s commercial forests in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, he turned wildlife into an asset for the company. As an environmental entrepreneur, Tom Bourland changed the perspective of the company regarding wildlife by implementing a fee recreation program. His program charged sportsmen for hunting access and leased small tracts of land to individuals on which they can park their motor homes and enjoy the woods. After three years the company’s revenues from this program tripled to $2 million and profits were an impressive 25% of total profits. In Bourland’s words, “Because the status of wildlife affected the bottom line, the landowner bent over backwards to provide habitat for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, fox, squirrel, and bobwhite quail, as well as endangered bald eagles and red-cockaded woodpeckers.” This commercialization of wildlife has meant that more habitat is being preserved and wildlife are thriving where once they were considered a nuisance.

Enviro-capitalism is not a late twentieth-century phenomenon; even in the late nineteenth century, enviro-capitalists were at work. The not-well-known story of efforts to preserve Yellowstone reveals that it was the Northern Pacific Railroad that funded early expeditions to the region and lobbied Congress for legislation establishing Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. As one railroad official put it in the 1870s, “We do not want to see the Falls of the Yellowstone driving the looms of a cotton factory, or the great geysers boiling pork for some gigantic packing-house . . . .” Because it provided the main form of transportation to the region, the railroad could profit from preservation of this scenic wonder and therefore had an incentive to preserve the region. A similar story lies behind Glacier National Park with the Great Northern Railway, Grand Canyon National Park with the Santa Fe, and most other early western parks.

On a smaller, more private scale is the hundred-year history of the Huron Mountain Club on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The club was established on November 29, 1889 with 7,000 acres and $5,000 capital generated from the sale of member shares and annual dues initially set at $100 and $25, respectively. John Longyear, the club’s first president and a prosperous land dealer, steered the club through its first three years. He was a practical man who recognized that the “serenity of woods and lakes and fish-filled streams” were growing scarce. Therefore, they offered a profit opportunity. It was no coincidence that he owned the only means of transportation to the Huron area, a steamship, and several parcels of land near the Club’s boundaries.

Over the last seventy years, the Huron Mountain Club evolved from a hunting and fishing club to a secluded forest retreat complete with member-owned cabins. In the process, it has also become an important natural preserve for old-growth forests and rare fauna, containing one of a few large tracts (over 5,000 acres) of undisturbed maple-hemlock forests. The club has become an important natural area study for the University of Michigan and other scientific researchers.

Similar stories of enviro-capitalists abound. In 1927 R. E. Clanton purchased the Sea Lion Caves off the Oregon coast, opening it as a tourist attraction and providing a private sanctuary for Stellar sea lions. In 1935, Rosalie Edge raised $3,500 and purchased Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania to prevent hunters from using the mountain top to shoot birds of prey. Recently, housing developer Peter O’Neill has created trout habitat within his River Run Housing Project in the middle of Boise, Idaho.

Frank Crisafulli mobilized the town of Glendive, Montana to collect paddlefish eggs from fishermen who harvest the fish from the Yellowstone River. Their effort to produce “caviar in cattle country” has raised thousands of dollars for community projects and generated much needed revenue to improve spawning habitat for this rare prehistoric fish. Commercial elk hunting on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona and elephant hunting on native communal lands in Zimbabwe are allowing indigenous populations to profit from wildlife, thus giving them the incentive to save habitat and species. And the list goes on.

In his book The Vital Few, Jonathan Hughes describes the entrepreneurs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who unleashed America’s industrial power. Names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Ford lead the list. In some cases these “vital few” invented new products or production techniques, but mostly they amassed capital, contracted with others, and developed marketing strategies that lowered the cost of products, making them more available to the masses and in the process increasing profits. In the 19th century and early twentieth centuries, these entrepreneurs were in the railroad, auto, and steel industries. Today they are more likely to be in building the information highway.

Having amassed their fortunes, today’s entrepreneurs, like those of the past, can provide philanthropic support for a variety of causes. In the case of the environment, they have a choice of funding enviro-capitalism, as described above, or the political environmentalism that dominates today’s agenda. Here, names like Jay D. Hair, who heads the National Wildlife Federation, and political figures such as George Frampton and Bruce Babbitt are held up as environmental entrepreneurs. Instead of business acumen, however, these people understand how to use political maneuvering and lobbying to accomplish their goals. All too often, their game is winner-takes-all, where environmental special interests gain at the expense of others. The tearing of the social fabric inherent in this political game is visible in the bitter debates over endangered species, clean water and air, and public land use.

The enviro-capitalism alternative, on the other hand, offers a win-win alternative. For example, a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation to the Oregon Water Trust allowed these enviro-capitalists to lease water from farmers in an effort to save critical salmon spawning habitat in Oregon. Hank Fischer of the Defenders of Wildlife has raised funds for his organization to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves and to pay them for allowing wolves to raise litters on private property. Groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation purchase lands and easements to save habitat.

The world of enviro-capitalism is growing at the grassroots level where environmentalists are frustrated with bureaucratic actions that take a long time to implement and often generate mediocre results. Well-funded enviro-capitalists can effectively put their money where the species are and get the job done. Like traditional business entrepreneurs, they also must invent new products, attract venture capital, contract with resource owners, and market their products. The philanthropic sector can help by providing funds and by encouraging a legal and political setting where this entrepreneurial spirit can thrive. In this way the market system that has been so successful for industrialization can be unleashed to help solve environment problems.

About the Authors: Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal are Senior Associates of PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center), 2048 Analysis Drive, Suite A, Bozeman, Montana 59718 (406-587-9591; fax: 406-586-7555). E-mail:

This article was originally published in the Fall 1994 issue of Philanthropy, a publication of The Philanthropy Roundtable (Indianapolis, Indiana).

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