Archive | Business & Economics

EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research Funding Greentech Innovation

Not a direct part of the economic stimulus package, and only extended by Congress (as of March 20th) for another 60 days, a significant source of funding for primary research by startup greentech companies has been from the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research which manages the funding of the SBIR – Small Business Innovation Research program, and STTR – Small Business Technology Transfer program. Both SBIR and STTR monies are channeled through as many as 12 other federal agencies. Click here to discover the GreenTech funding opportunities within these agencies and sub-agencies.

Anyone in the GreenTech business universe ought to recognize the following R&D categories being funded by various federal agencies, i.e. the EPA, DOE, DOD and NSF to name a few. Some of these free money R&D categories may be the exact same areas of research you are about to commit to, or have been thinking – or dreaming – about doing.

Clean air – innovations to
ensure healthy air are just beginning.
(Photo: US EPA)

The 2010 EPA-SBIR Broad Area Topics are:

  • Green Building Materials and Systems
  • Innovation in Manufacturing
  • Nanotechnology
  • Greenhouse Gases
  • Drinking Water and Water Monitoring
  • Water Infrastructure
  • Air Pollution
  • Biofuels and Vehicle Emissions Reduction
  • Waste Management and Monitoring
  • Homeland Security

The 2010 NSF Broad Area Topics are:

  • Biotech and Chemical Technologies (BC)
  • Education Applications (EA)
  • Information and Communication Technologies (IC)
  • Nanotechnology
  • Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (NM)

There are specific sub-categories for each of these broad area topics.
To see if your companies R&D interests and that of our governments are aligned click into these links:

  • EPA-SBIR Program Solicitation:
  • More information is available on the EPA-SBIR web site at:
  • NSF/SBIR Program Solicitation:
  • More information is available on the NSF-SBIR web site at: http://

The closing dates for the EPA-SBIR are May 20th. This means for this funding year, applicants only have 45 days left to get that EPA-SBIR proposal in. For NSF-SBIR the close date is June 9th. Companies are eligible to apply to both of these and others, like STTR.

The NSF Phase I limits have gone up to $150,000 because of a surge of “reinvestment” monies from the Obama administration. Also, NSF allows for a maximum of 4 proposals from any one private company. As with most business endeavors, there are many “optimizing strategies” that can be applied and the federal grant money-making environment for small businesses is no exception.

Federal research “grants” are just that, grants. They are not loans, i.e., you don’t have to pay anything back. You will to do some periodic reporting and invoice the government to get your money, but that is well worth the time and effort expended to perform these grant maintenance tasks if you win an award. In many cases, if you win the money then the maintenance efforts which can be an administrative burden for small or even mid-size companies, can be paid for from grant monies you’ve won. For example, the EPA/SBIR allows for up to $4,000 of the Phase I grant winnings (won through a separate but conjoined proposal) for what is referred to as “Technical Assistance.”

Don’t be intimidated by the grant writing task. Most all SBIR type grants are written by the chief scientist or the engineer as CEO/President of small, private companies. You will not be competing with professional grant writers. That said, it is important to know there is a “style” to grant writing, and there is certain marketing or “pitching” in the grant writing space. You have to have a certain marketing sensibility in writing to the agency and program you are writing to. In this sense I suggest you check out last years winners and get a sense of who won and read their abstracts, or better yet, give the “chief investigator” at the company a phone call and ask them if they are willing to share their grant proposal. Having a winning proposal in hand is a beautiful thing. Also the agency itself can assist you in assessing the “alignment” of your research with that agencies specific funding objectives. First, do your homework before you call or write as they will remember your name and the name of your company especially if your waste their time.

These often overlooked grant programs can provide a decisive financial edge to greentech startups and greentech entrepreneurs who are looking for cash and have a “novel” GreenTech (or other) R&D idea.

Brian Hennessy provides proven expert, hands-on assistance to start-up company founders and executive management. He has worked on 12 start-ups and with 9 Founders or CEO’s of start-ups over the last 25 years.

Posted in Air Pollution, Business & Economics, Drinking Water, Education, Infrastructure, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Waste Management1 Comment

The Abundance Choice: A Prevailing Challenge of Scare & Finite Resources Facing Humanity

The prevailing challenge facing humanity when confronted with resource constraints is not that we are running out of resources, but how we will adapt and create new and better solutions to meet the needs that currently are being met by what are arguably scarce or finite resources. If one accepts this premise, that we are not threatened by diminishing resources, but rather by the possibility that we won’t successfully adapt and innovate to create new resources, a completely different perspective on resource scarcity and resource policies may emerge.

Across every fundamental area of human needs, history demonstrates that as technology and freedom is advanced, new solutions evolve to meet them. Despite tragic setbacks of war or famine that provide examples to contradict this optimistic claim, overall the lifestyle of the average human being has inexorably improved across the centuries (ref. Humanity’s Prosperous Destiny). While it is easy to examine specific consumption patterns today and suggest we now face a tipping point wherein shortages of key resources will overwhelm us, if one examines key resources one at a time, there is a strong argument that such a catastrophe, if it does occur, will be the result of war, corruption, or misguided adherance to counterproductive ideologies, and not because there weren’t solutions readily available through human creativity and advancing technology.

Energy, water and land are, broadly speaking, the three resources one certainly might argue are finite and must be scrupulously managed. But in each case, a careful examination provides ample evidence to contradict this claim. As we document in the post Fossil Fuel Reality, known reserves of fossil fuel could provide enough energy to serve 100% of the energy requirements of civilization at a total annual rate of consumption twice what is currently consumed worldwide; there is enough fossil fuel on the planet to provide 1.0 quintillion BTUs of energy per year for the next 300 years. In addition to fossil fuel there are proven sources of energy such as nuclear power, and potential sources of energy such as solar, geothermal, and biomass, that have the potential to scale up to provide comparable levels of power production. With these many energy alternatives, combined with relentless improvements in energy efficiency, it is difficult to imagine human civilization ever running out of energy.

Water is a resource that appears finite, and indeed in many regions of the world the challenge of meeting projected water needs appears more daunting than the challenge of producing adequate energy. But water is not necessarily finite. There are countless areas throughout the world where desalination technology can provide water in large quantities – already nearly 2% of the world’s fresh water is obtained through desalination, and for the large urban users, desalination is affordable and requires a surprisingly small energy input. Another way to provide abundant water is to redirect large quantities of river water via inter-basin transfers from water rich areas to water poor areas. Finally, water is never truly used up, it is continuously recycled, and by treating and reusing water, particularly in urban areas, there should never be water scarcity. (ref. India’s Water Future, Arctic to Aral, Affordable Desalination, California’s Water System, Sverdrups & Brine, and Decentralized Wastewater Treatment.)

Being an environmentalist should not require rejecting free
market solutions, or accepting global warming alarmism.
(Photo: Ecoworld)

The question of finding adequate land for humans is clearly different from that of finding energy or water, since unlike energy or water, land is truly finite. But even here, key trends indicate land is now becoming more abundant, not less abundant. In 2007 the population of humans became more than 50% concentrated in cities, and within the next 25 years this concentration is expected to grow to 75%. Humans, in general, prefer living in urban environments, and this massive voluntary migration to cities from rural areas is depopulating landscapes faster than what remains of human population growth will fill them. This seismic shift in population patterns, combined with high yield crops, aquaculture, and urban high-rise agriculture, promises a decisive and very positive shift from land scarcity to land abundance in the next 25-50 years. (ref. Sustainable High Density, Skyscraper Farms, India’s Green Future, Biofuel Feedstock, and Green Abundance.)

Human population growth, along with increasing per capita standards of living, taken at face value, obviously could suggest we are racing towards disaster. But as noted, resources to accommodate greater rates of overall human consumption are more resilient than is commonly accepted. And, crucially, most of human population growth has already occurred. The welcome reality of female emancipation, female literacy, and increasing general prosperity is causing human cultures all over the world, one by one, to shift from rapid population growth to negative population growth. The demographic challenge we must prepare for is not too many people, but too many old people. Our long-term challenge is not resource scarcity, but how to create robust economic growth on a planet where humans have an ever-increasing average age, and a population in slow numeric decline.

If one accepts the possibility that humanity is not on a collision course with resource scarcity, entirely new ways of looking at policy options are revealed. Rather than attempting to manage demand, based on the premise that supplies are finite, we might also manage supply by increasing production. While, for example, utility pricing might still be somewhat progressive, if we assume resources will not run out, it doesn’t have to be punitive. If someone wishes to use more energy or water than their neighbor, if their pricing isn’t so punitive as to effectively ration their consumption, but instead is only moderately progressive, then over consumption leads to higher profit margins at the utility, which in-turn finances more investment in supplies.

Another consequence of rejecting the malthusian conventional wisdom is a new understanding of what may truly motivate many powerful backers of the doomsday lobby. By limiting consumption through claiming resources are perilously scarce and by extracting them we may destroy the earth, the vested interests who control the means of production will tighten their grip on those means. Instead of pluralistically investing in this last great leap forward to build mega cities and infrastructure for the future – in the process extracting raw materials that can be either recycled or are renewable – the public entities and powerful corporations who benefit from scarcity will raise prices and defer investment. It is the interests of the emergent classes, whether they are entrepreneurs in prosperous, advanced economies, or the aspiring masses in destitute nations, who are harmed the most by the malthusian notion of inevitable scarcity.

Abundance is a choice, and it is a choice the privileged elite must make – in order for humanity to achieve abundance, the elites must accept the competition of disruptive technologies, the competition of emerging nations, and a vision of environmentalism that embraces resource development and rejects self-serving anti-growth alarmist extremism. The irony of our time is that the policies of socialism and extreme environmentalism do more harm than good to both ordinary people and the environment, while enabling wealthy elites to perpetuate their position of privilege at the same time as they embrace the comforting but false ideology of scarcity.

Posted in Business & Economics, Consumption, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, History, People, Policies & Solutions, Population Growth, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar1 Comment

A California Recession Means Death to America's Epitome of Economic Strength

For decades, California has epitomized America’s economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state.

California has returned from the dead before, most recently in the mid-1990s. But the odds that the Golden State can reinvent itself again seem long. The buffoonish current governor and a legislature divided between hysterical greens, public-employee lackeys and Neanderthal Republicans have turned the state into a fiscal laughingstock. Meanwhile, more of its middle class migrates out while a large and undereducated underclass (much of it Latino) faces dim prospects. It sometimes seems the people running the state have little feel for the very things that constitute its essence — and could allow California to reinvent itself, and the American future, once again.

California’s beautiful Salinas Valley.
Can the dream survive?
(Photo: EcoWorld)

The facts at hand are pretty dreary. California entered the recession early last year, according to the Forecast Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is expected to lag behind the nation well into 2011. Unemployment stands at roughly 10 percent, ahead only of Rust Belt basket cases like Michigan and East Coast calamity Rhode Island. Not surprisingly, people are fleeing this mounting disaster. Net outmigration has been growing every year since about 2003 and should reach well over 200,000 by 2011. This outflow would be far greater, notes demographer Wendell Cox, if not for the fact that many residents can’t sell their homes and are essentially held prisoner by their mortgages.

For Californians, this recession has been driven by different elements than the early-1990s downturn, which was largely caused by external forces. The end of the Cold War stripped away hundreds of thousands of well-paid defense-related jobs. Meanwhile, the Japanese economy went into a tailspin, leading to a massive disinvestment here. In South L.A., the huge employment losses helped create the conditions conducive to social unrest. The 1992 Rodney King verdict may have provided the match, but the kindling was dry and plentiful.

This time around, the recession feels like a self-inflicted wound, the result of “bubble dependency.” First came the dotcom bubble, centered largely in the Bay Area. The fortunes made there created an enormous surge in wealth, but by 2001 that bust had punched a huge hole in the California budget. Voters, disgusted by the legislature’s inability to cope with the crisis, recalled the governor, Gray Davis, and replaced him with a megastar B-grade actor from Austria.

Yet almost as soon as the Internet bubble had evaporated, a new one emerged in housing. As prices soared in coastal enclaves, people fled to the periphery, often buying homes far from traditional suburban job centers. At first, it seemed like a miraculous development: people cheered as their home’s “value” increased 20 percent annually. But even against the backdrop of the national housing bubble, California soon became home to gargantuan imbalances between incomes and property prices. The state was also home to such mortgage hawkers as New Century Financial Corp., Countrywide and IndyMac. For a time the whole California economy seemed to revolve around real-estate speculation, with upwards of 50 percent of all new jobs coming from growth in fields like real estate, construction and mortgage brokering.

As a result, when the housing bubble burst, the state’s huge real-estate economy evaporated almost overnight. Both parties in the legislature and the governor failed miserably to anticipate the impending fiscal deluge they should have known was all but inevitable.

To many longtime California observers, the inability of the political, business and academic elites to adequately anticipate and address the state’s persistent problems has been a source of consternation and wonderment. In my view, the key to understanding California’s precipitous decline transcends terms like liberal or conservative, Democratic and Republican. The real culprit lies in the politics of narcissism.

California, like any gorgeously endowed person, has a natural inclination toward self-absorption. It has always been a place of unsurpassed splendor; it has inspired and attracted writers, artists, dreamers, savants and philosophers. That’s especially true of the Bay Area—ground zero for California narcissism and arguably the most attractive urban expanse on the continent; Neil Morgan in 1960 described San Francisco as “the narcissus of the West,” a place whose fundamental asset was first its own beauty, followed by its own culture of self-regard.

At first this high self-regard inspired some remarkable public achievements. California rebuilt San Francisco from the ashes of the great 1906 fire, and constructed in Los Angeles the world’s most far-reaching transit system. These achievements reached a pinnacle under Gov. Pat Brown, who in the 1960s oversaw the expansion of the freeways, the construction of new university, state- and community-college campuses, and the creation of water projects that allowed farming in dry but fertile landscapes.

Yet success also spoiled the state, incubating an ever more inward-looking form of narcissism. Even as the middle class enjoyed “the good life” — high-paying jobs, single-family homes (often with pools), vacations at the beach — there was a growing, palpable sense of threats from rising taxes, a restless youth population and a growing nonwhite demographic. One early expression of this was the late-1970s antitax movement led by Howard Jarvis. The rising cost of government was placing too much of a burden on middle-class homeowners, and the legislature refused to address the problem with reasonable reforms. The result, however, was unreasonable reform, with new and inflexible limits on property and income taxes that made holding the budget together far more difficult.

Middle-class Californians also began to feel inundated by a racial tide. This was not totally based on prejudice; Californians seemed to accept legal immigration. But millions of undocumented newcomers provoked fear that there were no limits on how many people would move into the state, filling emergency rooms with the uninsured and crowding schools with children whose parents neither spoke English nor had the time to prepare their children for school. By 1994, under Gov. Pete Wilson, the anti-immigrant narcissism fueled Proposition 187. It was now OK to deny school and medical services to people because, at the end, they looked different.

Today the politics of narcissism is most evident among “progressives.” Although the Republicans can still block massive tax increases, the predominant force in California politics lies with two groups — the gentry liberals and the public sector. The public-sector unions, once relatively poorly paid, now enjoy wages and benefits unavailable to most middle-class Californians, and do so with little regard to the fiscal and overall economic impact. Currently barely 3 percent of the state budget goes to building roads or water systems, compared with nearly 20 percent in the Pat Brown era; instead we’re funding gilt-edged pensions and lifetime guaranteed health care. It’s often a case of I’m all right, Jack — and the hell with everyone else.

The most recent ascendant group are the gentry liberals, whose base lies in the priciest precincts of San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and the west side of Los Angeles. Gentry liberalism reflects the narcissistic values of successful boomers and their offspring; their politics are all about them. In the past this was tied as much to cultural issues, like gay rights (itself a noble cause) and public support for the arts. More recently, the dominant issue revolves around environmentalism.

Green politics came early to California and for understandable reasons: protecting the resources and beauty of the nation’s loveliest landscapes. Yet in recent years, the green agenda has expanded well beyond that of the old conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt, who battled to preserve wilderness but also cared deeply about boosting productivity and living standards for the working classes. In contrast, the modern environmental movement often adopts a largely misanthropic view of humans as a “cancer” that needs to be contained. By their very nature, the greens tend to regard growth as an unalloyed evil, gobbling up resources and spewing planet-heating greenhouse gases.

You can see the effects of the gentry’s green politics up close in places like the Salinas Valley, a lovely agricultural region south of San Jose. As community leaders there have tried to construct policies to create new higher-wage jobs in the area (a project on which I’ve worked as a consultant), local progressives — largely wealthy people living on the Monterey coast — have opposed, for example, the expansion of wineries that might bring new jobs to a predominantly Latino area with persistent double-digit unemployment. As one winegrower told me last year: “They don’t want a facility that interferes with their viewshed.” For such people, the crusade against global warming makes a convenient foil in arguing against anything that might bring industrial or any other kind of middle-wage growth to the state. Greens here often speak movingly about the earth — but also about their personal redemption. They have engaged a legal and regulatory process that provides the wealthy and their progeny an opportunity to act out their desire to “make a difference” — often without real concern for the outcome. Environmentalism becomes a theater in which the privileged act out their narcissism.

It’s even more disturbing that many of the primary apostles of this kind of politics are themselves wealthy high-livers like Hollywood magnates, Silicon Valley billionaires and well-heeled politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown. They might imagine that driving a Prius or blocking a new water system or new suburban housing development serves the planet, but this usually comes at no cost to themselves or their lifestyles.

The best great hope for California’s future does not lie with the narcissists of left or right but with the newcomers, largely from abroad. These groups still appreciate the nation of opportunity and aspire to make the California — and American — Dream their own.

Of course, companies like Google and industries like Hollywood remain critical components, but both Silicon Valley and the entertainment complex are now mature, and increasingly dominated by people with access to money or the most elite educations. Neither is likely to produce large numbers of new jobs, particularly for working- and middle-class Californians.

In contrast, the newcomers, who often lack both money and education, continue in the hierarchy-breaking tradition that made California great in the first place. Many of them live and build their businesses not in places like San Francisco or West L.A., but in the increasingly multicultural suburbs on the periphery, places like the San Gabriel Valley, Riverside and Cupertino. Immigrants played a similar role in the recovery from the early-1990s doldrums. In the ’90s, for example, the number of Latino-owned businesses already was expanding at four times the rate of Anglo ones, growing from 177,000 to 440,000. Today we see signs of much the same thing, though it often involves immigrants from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Mexico or South Korea. One developer, Alethea Hsu, just opened a new shopping center in the San Gabriel Valley this January — and it’s fully leased. “We have a great trust in the future,” says the Cornell-trained physician.

You see some of the same thing among other California immigrants. More than three decades ago the Cardenas family started slaughtering and selling pigs grown on their two-acre farm near Corona. From there, Jesús Sr. and his wife, Luz, expanded. “We would shoot the hogs through the head and sell them off the truck,” says José, their son. “We’d sell the meat to people who liked it fresh: Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans and Hispanics…We would sell to anyone.” Their first store, predominantly a carnicería, or meat shop, took advantage of the soaring Latino population. By 2008, they had 20 stores with more than $400 million in sales. In 2005 they started to produce Mexican food, including some inspired by Luz’s recipes to distribute through such chains as Costco. Mexican food, notes Jesús Jr., is no longer a niche. “It’s a crossover product now.”

Despite the current mess in Sacramento, this suggests some hope for the future. Perhaps the gubernatorial candidacy of Silicon Valley folks like former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (a Republican), or her former eBay employee Steve Wesley (a Democrat), could bring some degree of competence and common sense to the farce now taking place in Sacramento. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who’s said to be considering the race, would also be preferable to a green zealot like Jerry Brown or empty suits like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or San Francisco’s Gavin Newsom.

But if I am looking for hope and inspiration, for California or the country, I would look first and foremost at people like the Cardenas family. They create jobs for people who didn’t go to Stanford or whose parents lack a trust fund. They constitute what any place needs to survive: risk takers who are self-confident but rarely selfish. These are people who look at the future, not in the mirror.

This article originally appeared earlier this month in Newsweek magazine and is republished here with permission from the author. Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and is a presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University. He is author of The City: A Global History and is finishing a book on the American future.

Posted in Business & Economics, Education, Effects Of Air Pollution, Other, People, Policies & Solutions3 Comments

Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing Announces $52 Million Backlog in Solar Module Contracts

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CA and SHANGHAI, CHINA–(MARKET WIRE)–Mar 18, 2009 — Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing USA, Inc. (OTC BB:WEMU.OBNews), a U.S.-based China manufacturing company specializing in products for customers in the industries of solar energy, aerospace, wireless telecommunications, medical equipment and automotive, today announced that its solar division, has a backlog of $52 million in solar module contracts. To date, Worldwide has signed approximately $90 million in new contracts, the majority of which are expected to be recorded during the 2009 calendar year.

Worldwide Energy’s Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Wang stated: “Our solar division continues to obtain new module contracts from new customers as well as existing customers demonstrating our ability to retain customers as well to gain new customers in the renewable energy market despite of the temporary downturn on the worldwide demand for renewable alternative energy consumption. We are very encouraged by the achievement we have made and anticipate another triple digit growth for our solar business this year. We will continue to expand our market share in the solar sector as we have become one of the fastest growing companies in the clean-tech industry.”

About Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing USA, Inc.

Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing USA, Inc. (“Worldwide”), headquartered in South San Francisco, California, is a 15-year-old engineering-oriented firm specializing in PV panel, mechanical, electronics and fiber optic products manufacturing. The company’s worldwide customer base includes the industries of solar energy, wireless telecommunications, aerospace, automobiles and medical equipment. Subsidiaries include: Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing Ningbo (Solar factory) Co., Ltd, Shanghai Intech Electro Mechanical Products Co. Ltd., Shanghai Intech Electronics Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Shanghai Intech Precision Mechanical Products Manufacturing Co. Ltd. And Shanghai Intech Electric and Electronics Co., Ltd., located in Shanghai and Ningbo, China.

For further information please visit the Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing USA, Inc. website. You may register to receive Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing USA, Inc.’s future press releases or request to be added to the Company’s distribution list by contacting John Ballard.

Forward-looking statements:

The above news release contains forward-looking statements. These statements are based on assumptions that management believes are reasonable based on currently available information, and include statements regarding the intent, belief or current expectations of the Company and its management. Prospective investors are cautioned that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performances, and are subject to a wide range of business risks, external factors and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. The Company assumes no obligation to update the information contained in this press release, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

Posted in Business & Economics, Consumption, Electronics, Energy, Engineering, Solar0 Comments

Sustainable Fragrances for Cleaning Products 2009 to Develop Green Fragrances

PORTLAND, Maine, March 16, 2009 —IntertechPira, a leading conference and research organization is pleased to announce the final program for the 1st annual Sustainable Fragrances for Cleaning Products 2009 conference set for June 3 – 5, 2009 at the Marriott Washington Hotel in Washington, DC, US.

The conference program is specifically designed to bring delegates on a journey that will take them from learning the basics of sustainable practices to the development of a framework that helps companies create products that meet certain stringent criteria, ultimately allowing them to communicate a message to their customers that is founded upon solid science.

Conference Speakers:

  • Arylessence
  • Bell Flavors & Fragrances
  • CleanGredients
  • Clean Production Action
  • CeeTox, EPA Design for the Environment
  • Firmenich, Givaudan
  • Green Seal
  • Method Inc
  • The New York Times
  • RIFM
  • Scent Marketing Institute
  • Seventh Generation
  • The Roberts Group
  • The Soap and Detergent Association
  • ToxServices, LLC
  • Trilogy Fragrances
  • US EPA

Trilogy Fragrances and the US EPA will address the challenges of creating “green” and/or “sustainable” fragrances for cleaning products.

“This conference is the first of its kind to bring together the cleaning products industry, fragrance manufacturers and suppliers of raw materials for the fragrance industry to learn about changes to existing standards and discuss ways to untangle the intricate fragrance supply chain,” said Senior Conference Producer, Jessica Johnson. “Delegates will hear from the most knowledgeable and comprehensive group of speakers on this topic ever.”

Co-Chaired by Lauren Heine, Senior Science Advisor, Clean Production Action, Marian Marshall, Director of Government Relations, The Roberts Group and Ladd Smith, President, Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM), this compelling and thought-provoking program will be interspersed with ample time to network with speakers and delegates. One pre-conference seminar, A Primer on Green Fragrances led by Steve Herman, President of Diffusion LLC will be held prior to the conference on Wednesday June 3.

For complete program details and registering options, please visit the Sustainable Fragrances for 2009 website.

About IntertechPira

IntertechPira provides events, training, online information and publications across a wide range of contemporary issues and technologies affecting industry. Our 100% independent products are provided globally 24/7 and delivered by teams of independent experts at sites in Portland, ME, US and London, UK through 20 specialized industrial platforms. Our core competencies are information on: research and product development, globalization and new markets; production methods; regulatory and compliance.

Press Contact:
Sheri Bonnell, Press Officer
(207) 781-9637

Posted in Business & Economics0 Comments

Concentrating Solar Thermal Power 2009 to Feature Latest Developments & Challenges in the CSP Market

PORTLAND, Maine, March 16, 2009 —IntertechPira, a leading conference and research organization is pleased to announce the final program for the 1st annual Concentrating Solar Thermal Power conference set for June 4 – 5, 2009 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, CA, US.

The concentrating solar power sector is set for tremendous growth. Primary forces that are establishing concentrating solar thermal power as an attractive renewable energy resource include 70% growth of total energy demand by 2025, high state renewable portfolio standards and goals, which require that a portion of total energy generated be derived from renewable resources such as hydro, solar, and wind, and requirements among states and electric utilities for cost-effective and efficient renewable energy resources. While many concentrating solar thermal technologies have been proven and available for years, escalating prices of oil and gas-derived energy resources are making concentrating solar thermal power cost competitive. Although concentrating solar power is approaching price parity with traditional energy sources, there are many technical, financial, and regulatory challenges that are limiting growth, especially issues pertaining to transmission, site planning and acquisition, funding and investment, energy storage, and other technical challenges.

Following the 4th annual Photovoltaics Summit and Co-Chaired by Rainer Aringhoff, President of Solar Millennium and Fred Morse, Senior Advisor for US Operations of Abengoa Solar, this year’s program will address the current issues in the utility scale solar arena.

Conference Speakers:

  • Abengoa Solar
  • APS
  • Ausra
  • BrightSource Energy
  • California Public Utilities Commission
  • Chadbourne & Parke, LLP
  • Ceert
  • Emerging Energy Research
  • Ernst & Young
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
  • Milbank
  • Tweed
  • Hadley & McCloy, LLP
  • Navigant
  • NV Energy
  • Orrick
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • Skyfuel
  • Solar Millenium
  • SolarReserve
  • Starpoint Solar
  • Stirling Energy Systems
  • Terrafore Inc
  • US Renewables Group

Terrafore Inc and US Renewables Group will present the latest market trends and developments, financing and funding as well as updates and insights on technical and systems developments. Additional topics to be discussed include transmission and onsite planning.

“2009 will certainly be an interesting time for the renewable sector, said Conference Producer Christopher Smith. “This conference, in conjunction with Photovoltaics Summit 2009, is a great opportunity for the entire industry to collaborate, strengthen relationships and meet the substantial renewable energy demands that are expected.”

Various pricing options are available. For complete program details, please visit the CST Power Conference website.

About IntertechPira

IntertechPira provides events, training, online information and publications across a wide range of contemporary issues and technologies affecting industry. Our 100% independent products are provided globally 24/7 and delivered by teams of independent experts at sites in Portland, ME, US and London, UK through 20 specialized industrial platforms. Our core competencies are information on: research and product development, globalization and new markets; production methods; regulatory and compliance.

Press Contact:
Sheri Bonnell, Press Officer
(207) 781-9637

Posted in Business & Economics, Energy, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

California's Global Warming Act, Carbon Taxes, & Public Sector Pensions

About a year ago I participated for a few months with an industry group that was attempting to insert some rationality into what is probably the most irrational, extremist, dangerous, job-killing, regressive laws in the modern history of the United States, AB32, California’s Global Warming Act. Unlike renewable portfolio standards, which can at least be justified by virtue of their potential to improve the U.S. balance of trade and promote energy independence, California’s global warming act is based on uncertain science and propelled by political opportunism. It is an utterly futile gesture, and even if it weren’t, most of the regulations being solidified regulate land use and manufacturing – because that’s where the money is from fees – even though the projected potential greenhouse gas reductions in those areas are relatively trivial compared to simply improving vehicle efficiency. If California’s AB32 isn’t repealed, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

While interacting with these lobbyists and public relations professionals, I ventured a theory that was met initially with skepticism, and later with growing acceptance. I suggested that the biggest source of looming government deficits was the underfunded pensions for public employees, and since public employees, through their unions, control our state and local governments, of course they will welcome any law that allows “fees” to be imposed to mitigate global warming, since the scale of these “fees” is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and nothing else can hope to eliminate deficits and make their pension funds solvent.
post resumes below image

Are we ideological vultures, or just good Americans who are tired of
two Americas, unwilling to submit to green shackles on this blue planet?
(Photo: EcoWorld)

This is the reason we discuss the issue of public sector reform in this green publication. Global warming payments that flow from the private sector into the public sector – via taxes, fees, and sale of emissions allowances, are the biggest way public sector entities may avoid bankruptcies and drastic roll-backs of their benefit packages, which now exceed that of average private sector workers by a factor of 2-4x. Could this be why everyone in the public sector, including the teachers who are diligently giving our children diluvian nightmares, have completely embraced the global warming panic? Could it be they’re just trying to protect their retirements?

Today on our favorite Pension Reform website Pension Tsunami, there were links to two articles that bear analysis. One, “Hidden Pension Fiasco May Foment Another $1 Trillion Bailout” by David Evans, published on Bloomberg, accurately summarizes how public employee pension funds, for years, have overestimated the returns they can earn, underestimated the amount that needed to be contributed each year to the funds, and have underestimated the benefits these funds would eventually have to pay. This has gotten worse in recent years, as public sector employee unions have consolidated their power in state and local governments by controlling elections, and using as a pretext the phony prosperity of the internet bubble followed by the housing bubble, demanded unsustainable increases to the benefit packages of their members – often retroactively – from politicians whose survival depended on their obedience.

Here is one of the key points Evans made today on Bloomberg – he was referencing CALPERS, one of the nation’s largest public employee pension funds, but similar figures apply to most all public employee pension funds: “The nation’s largest public pension fund, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, has been reporting an expected rate of return of 7.75 percent for the past eight years, and 8 percent before that… Its annual return during the decade from Dec. 31, 1998, to Dec. 31, 2008, has been 3.32 percent, and last year, when markets tanked, it lost 27 percent.”

In response to this article, a spokesperson for CALPERS emailed a comment to Jon Ortiz’s “State Worker” blog, in a post entitled “CalPERS, other pensions, overstate return estimates and understate costs,” published by the Sacramento Bee:

“Beware of the anti-pension ideologues who come out of the woodwork during market downturns. Like vultures, they prey on the highly charged and negative investment environment, looking for ways to convince you a temporary performance downturn will be typical for all time!

They know — but don’t tell you so — that we set our rates based on a fiscal year investment return. They don’t tell you that our assumed rate of return is made based on advice from a range of experts within CalPERS and within the industry and that it is regularly evaluated every two to three years in public session. They don’t tell you what you would learn from a textbook on pension management: that some years investment returns are as expected; other years, they will be more than expected and yes, some years they will be less than expected.

They don’t tell you that over the last 24 years, we have exceed our assumed rate of return 17 times, and eight of those years were more than double the 7 3/4 percent assumed rate of return.

(And here’s an interesting fact: For five years after the Great Depression, there were multiple double digit return years.)

We will withstand the market swings, with our goal in mind: to achieve our assumed rate of return averaged over many, many decades. That’s what we are designed to do. That’s the math that matters.”

Our position on sustainable investment returns, as we document in “Humanity’s Prosperous Destiny” is that it is impossible for a fund as big as CALPERS to earn a sustainable rate of return beyond the real growth rate of the economy in which they invest – and that is about 3.5% per year. Surprise! That’s what CALPERS has earned over the past ten years.

The “math that matters” is indeed how much a large pension fund can earn over the long term, and it is interesting that nowhere in the CALPERS response is a solid rebuttal offered to Evans’ statement they have only earned 3.32% over the past ten years. How high would the preceding 10-20 years of returns have to be, for CALPERS to actually have earned an average rate of return of 7.34%?

To answer this, assume a 30 year timeline, and a fund earning 7.34% on average over these 30 years. Let’s further assume this fund earned 3.32% over the last 10 of those 30 years. An investment that earns 7.34% interest for 30 years will increase in value by a factor of 837%. That is, $100 invested with a return of 7.34% interest per year at the end of 30 years will be worth $837. If in the final 10 years of this period, the rate of return is only 3.32%, then in the first 20 years of the period, the investment would have to earn 9.41% per year. Did CALPERS earn nearly 10% per year on average between 1978 and 1998? Unlikely. Adjusting for inflation – impossible.

Two key factors have converged to make CALPERS and nearly every other public employee pension fund in the United States grossly underfunded if not insolvent, and the recent financial meltdown has only made us confront this reality sooner:

(1) They overestimated their real rates of return. With cost of living adjustments built into public employee pension plans, these funds have to calculate their funding requirements based on a real rate of return. Maybe CALPERS did average 9.41% on their investments between 1978 and 1998 – I doubt it – but the rate of inflation during many of those years was often in double digits. Was their real rate of return, meaning the percentage amount their investments earned each year, less the annual rate of inflation, sufficient to keep pace with future benefit payments? That is far less likely.

(2) They failed to appreciate the impact of retroactive pension benefit increases and pension “spiking.” When union controlled politicians granted increases to public employee pensions of 50% or more, they didn’t require this new benefit to only apply to the years these employees would work from then on, but applied it backwards, to all the years they’d ever worked. This grossly increased the amounts required to be in these funds. And instead of forthrightly stating such a benefit increase would require dramatically increased annual contributions for the funds to remain solvent, these fund managers pretended the recent debt fueled phony growth in the value of equities and real estate would go on forever.

As we explain in “Calculating Employee Compensation,” it isn’t what an employee takes home in gross salary that accurately measures their compensation. It is their total annual cost to the organization during the years they work, their salary and all their present benefits (including vacation and the many other paid days off enjoyed by public sector workers), plus the annual funding requirements for their retirement benefits – health care and pension. And by this measure, public sector workers make about twice what the rest of us make who pay the taxes to support them.

The solution: Unions in the public sector must be strictly regulated. They must be banned from participating in political activity, for starters. And from now on, public sector employees can get social security and medicare just like the American citizens they supposedly serve. If not completely liquidated, public employee pension funds should be phased out, existing only to fulfill some realistically scaled back obligation to existing public sector retirees or those nearing retirement.

The alternative to public sector reform is phony rationing in the name of saving the earth from climate change. Instead of investing in infrastructure – power plants, freeways, bridges, desalination plants, aquaducts, reservoirs, those things that enable prosperity and abundance, and the wealth to address genuine environmental problems – we will screw in expensive toxic mercury lamps to save a few electrons, live like sardines in overpriced cluster homes behind “urban service boundaries,” and cash our carbon chips to BBQ an occasional steak, while public sector nomenklatura will collect the proceeds of the emission auctions, taxes and fees attendant to this “mitigation,” and retire 10-20 years before the rest of us.

Posted in Business & Economics, Energy, Other7 Comments

Photovoltaics Summit 2009: Director of BP Solar and Former PV Program Manager of NREL to Headline

PORTLAND, Maine, February 11, 2009 —IntertechPira, a leading conference and research organization is pleased to announce Dr Jean Posbic, Director of Projects of BP Solar and Dr Tom Surek, PV Consultant and former PV Program Manager of NREL as Co-Chairs for the two-day conference and exhibition.

Set for June 1 – 3, 2009 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, CA, US, speakers will include:

  • Suniva
  • Solaicx
  • EuPD Research
  • SolFocus
  • Safeway
  • Moser Baer
  • AltaTerra Research
  • Global Market Consultants
  • Tioga Energy
  • Spire Solar
  • Rofin-Sinar
  • KV Architects
  • Recurrent Energy
  • Signet Solar
  • Steve Ransome Consulting
  • Harvard University
  • Unisolar

Harvard University and Unisolar will present the latest market trends and developments, efficiency and lifetime challenges and production technologies and applications to engage in comprehensive discussions with

key innovators and decision makers from the technical and business sides of the PV, OPV and organic and printed electronics industries.“This is an exciting time for alternative energy, and for solar in particular, “said Senior Conference Producer, Jessica Johnson. ” A new administration focused on developing new solar projects could mean new opportunities for novel technologies and innovative companies. I’m optimistic that this year’s Photovoltaics Summit is going to be the best yet, with an expanded program and almost twice the number of speakers from last year!”To expand upon the alternative energy market, the week will continue with Concentrating Solar Thermal Power 2009 set for June 4 – 5, 2009 at the Hotel Kabuki. Co-Chaired by Rainer Aringhoff, Solar Millennium and Fred Morse, Abengoa Solar, this two day conference and exhibition will address the current issues in the utility scale solar arena. Attendees will hear the latest updates and developments from leading power purchasers and project developers and receive insight into the latest public and private funding activities. Additional topics to be discussed include transmission, onsite planning and the latest technology and systems.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • APS
  • PG&E
  • Nevada Power Company
  • Skyfuel
  • SolarReserve
  • Emerging Energy Research
  • Navigant
  • Milbank
  • Chadbourne & Parke
  • Stirling Energy Systems
  • Terrafore

With alternative energy on the rise, these conferences provide exclusive platforms for anyone interested in learning how the US market is ready to move forward with the times.

For program details and registering options, please visit the Photovoltaics Summit website:

About IntertechPira

IntertechPira provides events, training, online information and publications across a wide range of zeitgeist issues and disruptive technologies affecting industry. Our 100% independent products are provided globally 24/7 and delivered by teams of independent experts at sites in Portland, ME, US and London, UK through 20 specialized industrial platforms. Our core competencies are information on: research and product development, globalization and new markets; production methods; regulatory and compliance.

Press Contact:

Sheri Bonnell, Press Officer
(207) 781-9637

Posted in Business & Economics, Electronics, Energy, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar0 Comments

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership: A Catalyst for Change

A few innovative people are motivated by ideas that will improve their communities, but the one thing that usually stands in their way is funding. Everything costs money.

Tomorrow’s sustainable future
is REEEP’s challenge today
(Photo: REEEP)

This is where Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) comes in. This unique organization is backed by governments, banks, NGO’s and businesses that all have an interest in the sustainable energy market.

REEEP has distributed millions of dollars to fund various projects focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency: In 2005, REEEP disbursed a modest 1.1 million euro throughout the world, but with their constant success and the addition of interested parties, available funding has continued to grow and in 2008 they had over 4 million Euro to hand out to worthy projects.

Some examples of recently funded projects include the following:

  • Amazonia Energy Initiative to increase energy access for isolated communities
  • Developing a vehicle for mass Implementation of solar water heating in South Africa
  • Development of a business plan for rural electricity generation (DG) system based on biomass
  • Financing Small Hydro Projects in the Sugar and Tea Industry in East and Southern Africa
  • The Implementation of the Brazil grid-connected solar photovoltaic roofs program
  • Compiling Renewable energy Legislation for Kazakhstan
  • Promoting low energy building programs in China

These and other projects sponsored by REEEP display impressive variety, but a characteristic shared by all these projects is that they can be mirrored by interested countries and replicated on a larger scale.

Besides funding hundreds of unique projects, REEEP is proud to have initiated other activities as well: One of their major claims to fame is Reegle – “the information gateway for renewable energy and energy efficiency.” Launched in 2006, Reegle is a unique search engine that shows only the highest quality websites dedicated to green technology and energy efficiency. Reegle is definitely a better option than sifting through the thousands of sites that come up when using more general search engines.

Another core activity is the “Twinning Cities” idea. REEEP explains that “City Mayors have an important role to play in becoming leaders of sustainable energy systems at the local level. REEEP, in listening to its local partners, determined that cities in the Southern Hemisphere were requesting assistance and models for replication from OECD countries. For this reason, REEEP has established the City Twinning program as a mechanism to exchange experiences between cities.”

REEEP calls itself a catalyst for change. The organization has definitely proven its point by improving the global market for alternative energies while helping dozens of communities in the process.

Posted in Business & Economics, Electricity, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Global Warming & Climate Change, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar0 Comments

Humanity's Prosperous Destiny

Something we don’t hear often enough amidst this era’s turbulent convergence of cultures and challenging disruptions of technology is this: Humanity is destined within a tantalizingly few decades to achieve a level of prosperity that can scarcely be imagined today. The ongoing conflicts of nations, continued destruction of the environment, heartbreaking poverty, ruthless injustice – these all constitute a dark fog of tribulations that can appear inpenetrable. But this fog that can seem so thick and toxic is actually disappearing with breathtaking speed.

It is often easy to overlook the many positive forces of history, forces that can be identified with Euclidean precision, immutable forces that will deliver to humanity abundance in all forms, wealth to conquer poverty, cleanse the planet, and satiate the longings of peoples and nations. As the world urbanizes, voluntarily and en-masse, rural lands and wildernesses are relieved, and open space becomes abundant. As technological innovation advances at exponential rates, energy and water will also become abundant. The most important natural resource in the world is human creativity, and it is inexhaustible and will find a way to alleviate any scarcity.

The data to back up these audaciously optimistic claims is not terribly complex. It is based on two trends which taken together pretty much prove the point. The first is that the human population on Earth has nearly reached its maximum. Projections from the U.N. Office of Economic & Social Affairs indicate it is unlikely that the total human population will ever exceed 10.0 billion, and since there are already nearly 7.0 billion people in the world, most of the growth in human population has already occurred.

The second trend is the total economic output of the planet, measured in constant dollars, continues to increase. There is a fascinating 1998 study by J. Bradford DeLong, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, entitled “Estimating World GDP, One Million B.C. – Present.” that uses constant 1990 international dollars to estimate the per capita income of humans beginning over a thousand years ago and projecting through the year 2000. With this data, updated with more recent data through 2005 from the World Bank, and converting everything into 2005 international dollars, the table below provides estimates of per capita income as well as global GDP in fifty year increments from 1750 through the year 2000 and beyond. Assuming a modest annual rate of 3.0% for future global economic growth, on this table one can examine what happens when GDP continues to grow, but human population stablizes. The results are striking.
post resumes below image

When increasing global productivity no longer competes with
population growth, per capita income improves dramatically.

As the table indicates, global GDP grew at an annual rate of 1.0% or less until the industrial revolution, then picked up to around 2.0% per year until about 1950. During the period from 1950 to 2000, however, the rate of growth increased dramatically, to an annual rate of over 4.0%, as the momentum of the industrial revolution was catalysed by the information technology revolution, and rolled out from the Western Nations to begin to embrace all the world’s peoples.

Examining global population indicates similar trends, increasing growth rates as global wealth increases, with the the last half of the 20th century showing an unprecedented annual rate of population growth of 1.7% (ref. U.S. Census Bureau’s “Historical Estimates of World Population,” and Wikipedia’s “World Population.” Looking ahead, however, for the first time in history, the impact of wealth is so great that it is empowering individuals to shrink the size of their families instead of expanding them. The next fifty years through 2050 will see the average annual rate of global population growth reduced to 0.8%, less than half the rate of the preceding years, and after that, to virtually zero. The factors that cause humans to opt for smaller families – female literacy, access to contraception, and reduced infant mortality – are all the result of wealth, and as per capita wealth increases, everyone in the world becomes their beneficiary.

What is most encouraging is just how dramatic the increases to per capita income are going to be in the decades preceding 2050, and even more so in the 2nd half of the 21st century. As the table indicates, and these are constant units of currency, even at a realistic 3.0% rate of real annual growth in global economic output, which now easily and dramatically exceeds rates of population growth, by 2050 per capita income will be over $25K, which equates to an average household income of over $100K. By 2100 per capita income will be over $100K; an average household income of over $400K using 2005 dollars.

In many respects, just how so much wealth will benefit humanity is impossible to visualize. Just as cave dwellers couldn’t possibly imagine spending whatever might have passed for currency back then on a television, it is quite likely there are things we will do with our wealth in 100 years that we can’t imagine today. Things we can imagine are many, however, and fascinating: personal androids that will care for us when we’re old, life extension therapies that will delay getting old to begin with, treatment and prevention of currently incurable diseases, remediation programs to restore ecosystems, and exploration programs to colonize the solar system. With the kind of innovation and wealth creation that defines being human, ten billion people will not nearly exceed the carrying capacity of planet earth, and 100 years is not a very long time. It is helpful to remember this inspiring path we are on, and the bright destiny that awaits humanity, as we strive to make our way today through the fog.

Posted in Business & Economics, Energy, Population Growth, Remediation, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Television11 Comments

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