Carbon Crusaders


MakeMeSustainable Is Growing! by explodingtrees
August 13, 2008, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m proud to introduce myself as the newest member of MakeMeSustainable.  I joined the team as the Chief Engineer two months ago and it has been truly exciting.  The energy and enthusiasm of the MakeMeSustainable team is contagious!  It’s great to be a part of a company with such a great mission and I look forward to being a part of the success of MakeMeSustainable.

Wyatt Greene



Green Pooch by ddelcourt
July 28, 2008, 11:02 pm
Filed under: pets

Recently walking my dog past the local dog emporium (wittily called Polka Dog Bakery) I saw advertisements in the window for biodegradable dog poop bags. Now, nothing bothers me more then seeing dog crap on the sidewalk, especially when I (together with the vast majority of dog owners) diligently pick up those little warm mounds of joy rain, sun or snow, only to have the few disrespectful owners let their pets drop their land mines in the paths of unsuspecting pedestrians. Naturally I went in to investigate these bags. Earlier in the year I purchased a set of bags claiming to be certified biodegradable everywhere except California…turned out, California is the only state that truly takes these certifications seriously, and therefore they were no better then any other bags.

After a brief conversation with the owner, I discovered that these bags were the real deal (read more here at the company’s home page). They are indeed 100% biodegradable, made primarily from corn amongst other materials, these bags exceed all standards for environmental friendliness, and most importantly, they worked like a charm for grabbing my husky’s messy business.

The Dog's new carbon footprint

The dog, shining with his improved footprint, practically vanished

I began thinking of other ways to help pet owners reduce their animals’ footprint and came up with a list of easy-to-follow guidelines.  Why, because in the end, there are even easier (and cheaper) ways to reduce Fido’s footprint then buying bio poop bags.

  1. Re-use bags for Fido’s poop. Newspaper, shopping and other small bags are great. Ask neighbors or friends to save bags for you. This keeps Fido’s footprint at zero (even if yours isn’t!). When you need to buy the bags, get the biodegradable ones at poopbags.com or preferably at your local pet shop.
  2. Stop buying Spot toys, especially plastic or vinyl. If spot really needs a toy, be sure it’s from a recycled or renewable source and produced locally. Want a chew toy? Go to the closest butcher and get Spot a ham bone…he’ll love you, there won’t be any terrible preservatives, you’ll save money and it will take him ages to go through it.
  3. Buy local and/or organic dog food. This will have the added benefit that Lassy will be much healthier, without the strange mystery meat parts, antibiotics and preservatives found in most pet foods. If you don’t want to spend the extra $$ on food, get local food as it will often be less loaded with dead and diseased animal products and preservatives.
  4. Travel much? Bring a recycled/recyclable container for you pooch’s water and food. Looking ahead, stock up on those plastic bags mentioned above to keep from having to buy new ones for poo to come.
  5. Try and minimize the distance you drive to walk Fluffy. By all means, treat the dog to a walk in the woods but stay close to home for the normal day’s business.
  6. Get a vet within walking distance or as close as possible. Cut down on transportations
  7. Get that puppy spayed or neutered and help control the pet population. You never know what Spot can get up to at the dog park. Too many animals are born world wide without enough resources to care for them.

Have other suggestions? Please let me know. These are just the ramblings of one dog owner and there are many more ways to help your pooch become more environmentally friendly.



Green, Together in NY by ddelcourt
June 18, 2008, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

(I originally posted this entry at http://www.together.com/us/blog).

The threat of rain had been looming in the forecast for the past week leading up to today’s event and the skies were grey upon arrival to Times Square. However, the greenery that colored Military Island remained dry even though the sun didn’t shine.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, Climate Group CEO Dr. Steve Howard, JP Morgan Chase Head of CSR Bill Daley and ICLEI Executive Director Michelle Wyman took the stage, together with host Simran Sethi, to the sounds of cabs, pedestrians and the New York hustle and bustle. It seemed fitting that the event took place in the heart of America’s largest city, making everyone aware of the fact that nothing had stopped around us, as with the global challenges of climate change.

Dr. Howard began by introducing Together.com (and the Climate Group) as a global initiative, bringing businesses, individuals, NGO’s and political figures to the table, in order to provide simple, affordable solutions to climate change. Over the past year, Howard explained, through Together’s U.K. program, over 20,000,000 actions responsible for reducing over 500,000 tons of carbon. Even more impressive is the international scope Together is striving to cover, currently including Europe and the Americas, and expanding within the next year to India and China; environmentalists and economists unilaterally agree that as the huge populations of China and India begin to adopt the western, consumer lifestyle, the ecological consequences new goods to meet growing demand will be devastating if we do not accommodate and change our behavior now.

…and Mayor Bloomberg expressed those exact sentiments. New York City is not waiting for federal mandates or promising for change by 2050. Instead, Bloomberg instated PlaNYC, a set of over 125 initiatives in NY designed to green the Big Apple. A few highlights include the planting of one million trees, LEED certified city buildings, efficiency bulb retrofits, hybrid taxi fleets, and more. Bloomberg also acknowledged other cities and states doing their part, acting now, including Miami, Chicago, Seattle and of course California. (Even though he was unable to attend, Governor Schwarzenegger sent a note saying he would work with us all to say “hasta la vista” to climate change).

Later in the event I had the fortune of speaking directly with Mayor Bloomberg, and when I asked if he had a specific thought for today’s blog, he said that it is time to recognize that “damage has been done and we need to act.” We don’t need to “close down economies, but react now, swiftly.” Tomorrow is simply not an option.

Bloomberg’s spirit of “no time for later” continued through the speaking event. I was excited to hear Secretary Ban Ki-Moon’s words regarding the U.N.’s own plans for climate change. As an institution responsible for overseeing such an unprecedented range of international issues, the U.N. is uniquely positioned to understand the potential economic, social and political consequences of failing to act on climate change. As a call to action, Secretary Moon announced a U.N. report designed for low carbon titled “Kick the Habit” and stated that climate change could only be addressed by “concerted, collective action.” Secretary Moon stressed climate change was an issue too large for one person, country or company to address alone…only together can we achieve results.

Rounding out the morning’s event were Mr. Daley and Ms. Wyman, neither of whom I knew very much. But, they represent two extremely important players in the fight against climate change: the corporate voice (JP Morgan Chase as founding corporate partner) and the non-profit partners (ICLEI as founding non-profit partner). Mr. Daley described JPMC’s green programs including 20% energy reductions but 2012 and green branches. However, most significant was Mr. Daley’s recognition that addressing climate change is not just a moral obligation, but an intelligent, profitable business strategy. The sooner businesses follow JP Morgan Chase’s (and other Together partners’) lead in investing in and setting climate goals, the sooner we can reverse the idea that environmentally sound practices are irrecoverable expenses.

In turn, Ms. Wyman echoed Mayor Bloomberg’s words, committing to increase cities’ involvement in the Together project; as a goal she stated 1000 cities would be actively participating within one year. Ms. Wyman’s organization holds the key to large scale involvement from the political level over the next year. Federal measures will need to pass congress, bureaucratic hold ups and cost considerations, where as city level plans can take advantage of simple, immediate solutions for residents and municipality controlled regulation. Good luck!

On the whole the event was a positive intersection of industry, government and activist groups. Effectively, without the participation of one of these groups, climate change solutions will remain limited. The only remaining (perhaps obvious) piece of the pie is you and I…individuals committed to changing our daily habits, purchasing habits and most importantly, to incorporating environmental considerations into all of our decisions. Only together we can change the course.



Live Better? or green washing? by ddelcourt
June 3, 2008, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Recently I ran across a website dedicated to Wal-Mart’s “Live Better Index.” The index, launched in 2007 is comprised of five products the company believes to be indicators of green trends. The five products are:

1. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)
2. Organic milk
3. Concentrated/reduced-packaging liquid laundry detergents
4. Extended-life paper products
5. Organic baby food

(This year they added green cleaning products and sustainable coffee to the list, but sufficient data has not been collected to discuss these with any accuracy).

From 2007 to 2008, green consumer product adoption rose 66% in total, with paper products experiencing the strongest rise of over 68% (see Live Better Index site for updated results.) Further behind, CFL’s saw an increase of nearly 20%, which is promising and expected with WalMart’s aggressive push to sell these sustainable bulbs.

Of course this is a simplified index, but it does serve some purpose. Principally, I would make two observations. First, there is a clear trend between health/wellness and green. Organic milk for instance  is championed for its health benefits, but it serves the dual purpose of more sustainable cattle farming.
Many people praise the LOHAS market, and this is a clear indicator of its strength and growth.

A second observation is that price plays a factor, but not unilaterally across the board, as other factors are obviously involved. Looking at the different products one by one. CFL’s are easy; they save you money and energy over their lifetime. Organic milk, the poster child for organic products, is more expensive (sometimes double the price), but it has been one of the most storied organic product for some time. Paper products are an easy, visible way to become more sustainable…plus, pricing has dropped significantly for sustainable paper products. Baby food was the only product the experienced a slight drop in adoption, but it was very small; I have to research more, but my gut instinct tells me baby food, as a staple for parents, could suffer from the price discrimination. Finally, cleaning products have also become much more affordable and mainstream, which I believe to be the source of their increase.

On the whole, I retain a strong belief that most people would, if given the choice, would maximize their sustainable purchases. However, as the price differential remains significant, consumers continue to minimize their total costs instead of their environmental shopping footprint, while purchasing one or two sustainable products to feel good and make a difference. I remain confident that as supply increases to meet demand we will see adoption rates rise as prices fall with the majority of green vs conventional products.



Fuel for Food and the Irony of American Consumerism by bnbrown11
April 16, 2008, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There has been much discussion about the contribution of increased ethanol and bio-fuel production to the recent rise in global food prices, which have sparked riots abroad and threaten to reverse the progress towards ending world hunger. While there are clearly connections between the developed world’s demand for these fuels and global food prices, there are other significant factors at work including, higher energy costs, increased global demand and water shortages abroad. However, as C. Ford Runge, an economist at the University of Minnesota told the N.Y. Times, “Ethanol is the one thing we [The U.S. Government] can do something about. It’s about the only lever we have to pull, but none of the politicians have the courage to pull the lever.” The inconvenient truth is that when Oil is $116/barrel, it is economics and political lobbies, not the environment, that are driving developed countries, like the U.S., to divert a 1/5th of their corn harvest towards inefficient ethanol production. Ironically, the effects of higher food prices disproportionately felt abroad, have been blunted at home by the nature of American consumerism, which provides a “branded” cushion between the farm and the single-sized products (and prices) that we see at the grocery store.

The Fuel-Food Price Connection

The global prices of corn, soybeans, wheat and rice are all interconnected (see graph below) – they create the base of a dynamic food pyramid upon which prices of all food staples that lie above (meat, poultry, pork, farmed fish, dairy and egg products) are dependent. Trade policies, domestic subsidies & taxes and numerous other factors distort these connections, but basically, when corn prices double in the United States (the largest grain exporter in the world) due in part to increased demand for ethanol, other food prices around the world shudder.

Corn, Soybean and Wheat Prices (last 10 years)

Other Factors Contributing to Food Price Increases

The mandates in Europe and the United States for increased mixes of ethanol and bio-fuels in transportation fuels and a $.51 U.S. subsidy for ethanol production have helped drive up the prices for corn and soy beans, which in turn have helped push other food prices upward. However, there are also other important factors driving up prices that cannot be neglected:

  1. Increased demand for meat in the developing world, most notably China, where a greater substitution of grain for meat has meant 700 grain-based calories are being used to generate 100 beef-based calories.
  2. Water shortages abroad (most notably Australia, historically the second largest exporter of wheat) has meant less grain harvested and traded.
  3. Increased costs of oil and energy which has contributed to increased fertilizer, farming and transportation costs.
  4. The steady depletion of global grain stocks (the carryover stocks from the years before), which usually helps alleviate shortfalls.

Ironically American Consumerism Has Blunted the Domestic Blow

While food prices have doubled in various places throughout the developing world, the average bundle of groceries in the U.S. increased only 5% in 2007 (though milk and eggs have increased 29% and 36% , respectively) – It is important to note that these are record increases, and for many Americans on the margins, backbreaking and bank-breaking. Still, the discrepancy between skyrocketing global commodity prices and the smaller relative increases in U.S. stores is important and deserves explanation.

Only a portion of the prices we see at the grocery store (varying on the type of product) are dictated by cost of a product’s actual raw ingredients. In fact, “farm value” of the commodity raw materials accounts for only 1/5th of total food costs in the U.S. (down from 2/5th’s in the 1970’s), while processing, packaging, marketing/branding, transportation and warehousing account for the rest. Ironically, it is the “soft” value of products and the nature of our advertising-based consumerism that has protected Americans from feeling the full force of these global price increases. It is in part the money spent on marketing those leprechauns and bunnies, which has provided distance from farm to shelf and some cushion to soften the blow. If not for that, Americans would be asking a lot more questions about the connections between ethanol and food prices and wondering about the box of $10 cereal they just pumped into their tank.

Related Stories:

Earth Policy Institute

Recent NY Times Article

The Christian Science Monitor



Thoughts on Green Social Networks by ddelcourt
April 15, 2008, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Reinventing the wheel is a difficult task. Katie F. recently posted an interesting article on Earth2Tech (subsection of uber venture blog GigaOm) titled “10 Green Social Networks You Should Know”. We were definitely honored to be selected as one of the ten, although a little disappointed when Katie said only ZeroFootPrint had a viable business model. We do have a viable business model, and unlike ZeroFootPrint, it does not revolve around selling much-debated carbon offsets. (See my recent post on Carbon Offsets and their validity).

However, most importantly, we do not see ourselves as a social network. If you have had an opportunity to sign up and test the site, you will see MakeMeSustainable’s primary emphasis is on the carbon management system we’ve developed to help people calculate and track their carbon reductions and financial savings based on daily lifestyle actions. We are a social software with some social networking features, but we have not emphasized our networking capabilities over our footprint reducing tools.

At SXSW Interactive last month I saw Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote address. Zukerberg stressed that Facebook wanted to provide a widespread platform for others to use in developing their own applications to access the millions of Facebook users. Later at the Facebook party I had the opportunity to talk with Zuckerberg about Facebook’s environmental standing and whether the site had any plans to develop an environmental plan or strategy. His response was rehearsed and to the point…Facebook wants to give other’s the tools to develop the environmental tools that can change the world. In essence, Facebook is going to socially and ecologically responsible by making it easier for you and I to do so. Of course, Google through OpenSocial (Orkut, LinkedIn, etc), MySpace and others are close on Facebook’s heels in opening their own API’s to achieve global paradigm shifts.

What implications does this little dialog have for MakeMeSustainable, CarbonRally, Care2, Greeniacs, and every other green leaning burgeoning social networks? I think it shows that people will increasingly be loyal to one or two social networks for pure networking and you will have to provide value other then simply being a green network that cares. We will be working within the frameworks of MySpace and Open Social (we’re already on Facebook here) and continuing to increase the carbon and financial specific tools differentiates MakeMeSustainable from other green social networks and carbon calculator websites.

In closing, I support the open API trend. I don’t think there will be another Facebook, MySpace, Friendster,  LinkedIn, etc. However, I don’t support Facebook’s hesitancy to scrutinize what types of applications are allowed on the site. Socially conscious applications and those that provide significant value should be highlighted and supported. Otherwise, they can not claim to be changing the world, but rather, they are lubricating the process by which trivial and preying applications can access huge numbers of people. FacebookGreen? MySpustainability? I’m all for it.



Renewable energy credits, offsets? What does it mean? by ddelcourt
April 2, 2008, 2:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Lately I’ve been asked by numerous groups of people, from friends to reporters about whether or not I support carbon offsets. In the process of answering these questions, I’ve found that most of people do not understand the nuances of carbon offsets, the risks and rewards, and/or the difference between a carbon offset and its sub-category the renewable energy credit (REC).

First, a carbon offset defined at the broadest level is: a financial tool designed to help reduce the total amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. When you and I purchase an offset, it goes to funding a project that (in theory) reduces the greenhouse gas we emit today or emitted in the past.

Secondly, offsets originate primarily from three types of projects.

  1. Industrial energy efficiency projects: In this case offsets are direct subsidies to an entity retrofitting, upgrading or installing equipment to reduce their total energy use. In layman’s terms, a large factory wants to install all new lighting and machinery, but fears it will be too expensive without additional capital. They work with a third party (like the EPA) to certify the equipment they install will reduce the plant’s total energy, therefore the total emissions, and allocate the number of offsets that corresponds to the difference in carbon emitted before and after the equipment installation.
  2. Carbon absorption projects: Here an organization plants trees, grows algae or other organic material (could be artificial I suppose?) which absorb greenhouse gases from their surroundings. This of this as the re-forrestration rather then rain forest clearing. The principle issues which arises is whether these projects are accurately measured. Questions regarding the albedo effect (albedo = the level of reflection/absorption of the sun’s rays by an object), or on the subject of additionality (additionality = whether the project would have happened regardless of the subsidy, e.g. trees replanted after hurricane Katrina are not additional).
  3. Renewable energy credits: REC’s are subsidies that go to renewable energy producers (wind, hydro, solar, etc) to cover the gap between the cost of producing the energy and the price at which the electricity grid purchases the energy (this is a flat rate set by the government and power distribution companies). In this case the reasoning is, that every unit of energy produced from a renewable source corresponds to a unit of energy that does not have to be produced from a traditional fossil fuel source. One of the largest issues with REC’s in the U.S. is that there is no single certifying body, and REC’s from power installations can be falsely or poorly measured.

Which of these offset sources is the most reliable? None are perfect, each having its flaws. Furthermore, the entire offset market within the U.S. is traded on a voluntary, unregulated market, which leaves room for error and dishonesty.

However, if we have to choose, I feel the REC’s provide the most advantage for the consumer and the environment. Each REC corresponds to a unit of energy and therefore reduces the energy demanded from traditional fuel sources, while simultaneously increasing the amount of renewable energy supplied.

Finally, do I really support offsets in general? Yes, but only after purchasers have actively reduced their individual energy demand and done everything possible to reduce wasteful energy behavior. Offsets are not indulgences for our eco-sins. They are not a permit to pollute, license to drive a gas guzzling car or permission act carelessly with our earth’s precious resources and environment. Offsets are simply a way of raising awareness, helping develop a consumer mindset of eco-friendly action and a method of funding alternatives to the status-quo dirty energy. Offsets are only a compliment to the larger solution of responsible actions, environmental awareness and significant government intervention.



SXSW Web Nominees: A SXSW Lesson by ddelcourt
March 14, 2008, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This byline was originally featured on FoundRead here.

A mere 3 weeks before SXSW, MakeMeSustainable.com (MMS) was nominated as a web award finalist. Before we could celebrate, we panicked! None of us had been before. So with almost no warning, little preparation, a gigantic stack of business cards and suitcases filled with t-shirts and jeans, we hopped a flight to Austin to see what opportunities SXSW would bring. This is our account of our first pilgrimage to Web2.0’s latest confab-Mecca.

I. Observations:

1. It almost hurt to see the sheer amount of waste in the SXSW schwag bag. schwag.jpegBesides most of it being junk, it represents an environmental disaster for every conference of this type (Here’s our full post on all the SXSW junk).
2. SXSW is not a place to find funding. It is the perfect place to encounter your next evangelist. You’ll see innovative web ideas, get press coverage, find new collaborators and partners. Still, as far as we could tell, not many companies launched or re-launched at SXSW. The established come to SXSW to mingle.
3. Excellent place to find contrarian advice for your startup. In fact, the established come to SXSW to give advice as much as to help themselves, and it’s good much of the time. 37 Signals’ Jason Fried and Bill McKibben gave great presentations.
4. Geeks are not dorks. We know how to party. More importantly, we know how to party, and then go home and write a blog post for an hour.

II. Opportunities:

1. Startups need to answer an essential question: “what does a geek want?
2. VC’s and Angels should come to SXSW to begin to understand the power of tech-evangelism.
3. Traditional marketing materials were unnecessary. We expected more interactive, online marketing and you cannot imagine a greater accumulation of PDA’s and laptops and an audience more plugged-in. We hope that next year conference materials will be made available exclusively online with a brief 3 second ad in order to view…after all, that’s greater than the amount of time most conference attendees spent looking at fliers.
4. Be a sponsor! The food inside the convention center was awful. If your startup needs to advertise, do it by sponsoring a caterer, or have a display with free food available.

MMS’s Score Card

We had no plans to attend the conference. We weren’t featured on any panels. We are a small, angel-funded start-up, whose web product is still in its early public Beta stage. It was an honor and surprise to be nominated for the web awards, but any young web company can benefit from the SXSW adventure.



SXSW Sustainability?? by makemesustainable
March 8, 2008, 9:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When we learned three weeks ago that we’d had been selected as finalists for a web award, we were ecstatic. Here was not only the excuse we’d been looking for to come down to SXSW, but also a great opportunity to push sustainability at one of the country’s most respected interactive, film and music festivals. We sped up our preparations for an interactive display that we are launching with bands and events this summer. The SXSW “Interactive Carbon Tree” would act as a powerful tool for SXSW conference attendees to participate in grass roots green initiative.

sxsw-image-v1.jpghsxsw-group-page.jpg

What is alarming is that SXSW is attempting to address sustainability issues, but just not doing a very good job of it. They are purchasing renewable energy credits to offset the conference’s emissions – now standard for any conference wanting to brand itself as “sustainable”. They are also however, consuming the equivalent of acres and acres of trees in useless promotional materials – the life blood of sponsorship commerce that drives these events. We needed only to peek behind the curtain of the gift bag desks to see an entire warehouse filled with thousands more – so big that SXSW volunteers drove around on pitchfork cars to grab bags and bring them to the desks well out of view (not to worry, the electric vehicles’ emissions were probably offset). More troubling, was that these bags were filled with 12 pounds of absolute crap – Isn’t this an INTERACTIVE conference (ok for music and film), you’d be hard press to find a group of people less inclined to look through pounds of paper flyers, handouts and stickers:


The truth is, this is standard for events and making events emerald “green” isn’t going to change the world – the people who attend them and the companies they run will. That is exactly why we wanted to get people engaged in an initiative we designed to reduce our collective environmental impact here and beyond these two weeks in Austin (read more…).

Unfortunately due to the sponsorship issues we were unable to work with SXSW on the initiative because we didn’t have the kind of cash lying around necessary to do anything official…oh, and when we tried to promote the Green Initiative guerrilla style at the event, a SXSW employee was kind enough to tell us security would be called if we didn’t cease doing so, because “people pay a lot of money to promote at SXSW.”

As a result of getting shut down by “the man”, we are looking to promote the event virtually. We have developed html widgets for the SXSW group that track all the users and their respective carbon reductions in real time. If you are interested in mobilizing greening of SXSW from the grassroots, you can help the initiative by embedding the following widget in your blog or site and spread the word:

 

Code: <script type=”text/javascript”

src=”http://makemesustainable.com/badge/group/105.sxsw></script&gt;

 



Shades of Green: Obama vs Hillary on the Environment by ddelcourt
February 20, 2008, 5:57 pm
Filed under: Politics

Originally Posted on Huffington Post.

Senators Clinton and Obama are battling state-by-state with platforms so strikingly similar that news anchors often resort to broad generalizations and horse-race style talking points. Both candidates stress the centrality of environmental and energy issues in guiding the nation’s future, yet it remains difficult to discern concrete distinctions between the candidates’ positions.

In short, let us abstract away for a moment from Hillary’s vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq; forget about Obama’s relative inexperience on the international scene and both candidates’ aggressive programs for economic and health care stimuli. We are going to concentrate on the candidates environmental and energy platforms to examine the various shades of green.

The Similarities: Both candidates are full supporters of: a cap-and-trade permitting system to cut U.S. emissions 80% below their 1990 levels by 2050, with proceeds from the sale of permits going towards renewable energy projects, R&D and energy efficiency measures; increased CAFE and EPA fuel efficiency standards; zero-emissions government building requirements; 25% renewable energy portfolio standards by 2025; 60 billion gallons of biofuel available for cars and trucks by 2030; a federal sponsored venture capital fund towards clean technologies; investment in a green collar workforce; and both support coal-to-liquid, provided it is proven 20% more efficient then conventional fuels (still on the fence about this one myself, even if 20% efficiency is achieved). In essence, Obama and Hillary share many of the same views on this crucial issue of climate change.

The Differences: Obama walks two slippery slopes in his campaign. First, he is a Senator from coal-rich Illinois, the state in which the government’s first coal-to-liquid FutureGen plant is slated to be built. Secondly, he is a proponent of increased use of nuclear energy, which Hillary opposes until more research is done regarding associated hazardous waste stream. (Even though in 2005, Bill Clinton helped a large energy financier gain the exclusive rights to mine Uranium in Kazakhstan). However, Obama does stress investment in local ownership of biofuel refineries and remains stringently in favor of 50% industry energy use through efficiency measures by 2030. Hillary on the other hand, has been less vocal then Obama as a proponent of America as the global climate leader. Her strong differentiators are a proposed a plan with Connie Mae in order to make green homes easier for families to purchase, her support for the complete phase out of incandescent light bulbs and a proposed series of Smart Grid city partnerships to increase the use of on-demand energy efficiency measures. While there are other nuanced differences, these are a few of my highlights.

The Shortfalls: This is a tricky category, but I think there are two large issues neither Obama nor Clinton have addressed. The first is the moratorium on the erection of new coal power plants. Many continue to view coal-to-liquid technologies as a “silver bullet” scheme that is years away from being economically and ecologically sensible – one without the other doesn’t help anyone. Secondly, neither candidate has effectively outlined an actual plan to put the U.S. in a role as the global leader in combating climate change, parallel to our economic success. We need to see a portion of revenue from carbon permitting and other activity being diverted towards countries with highest global warming associated risks. This is an international problem, from which we can not hide, and to which we have contributed the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gases over the past century. It’s time we take accountability and share some of the wealth we have accumulated over the past one hundred years thanks to the burning of fossil fuels.

In short, both candidates support very healthy environmental and energy policy measures even though neither platform is revolutionary. Meanwhile, the past 7 years have yielded nothing more then a free-for-all on the environment for corporate interests, so beware of any candidates claiming success compared with the Bush administration’s track record.

To end, here are two indicative quotes from the candidates regarding climate change. As I mentioned previously in a December Huffington Post piece and as Adam Brown alluded to in his de-politicization of the environment post, the time for action is now, the environment has suffered from corporate interests and political divides too long.

“Washington hasn’t acted; and that is the real reason why America hasn’t led.” — Senator Obama

“We can empower individuals with new tools and technology to lead the green revolution one home, one car and one business at a time. These choices determine the energy we use, the carbon we emit, and the world we leave for our children. I believe, when called upon, Americans will choose a clean energy future. This generation can become the Greenest Generation. We only need to light a spark – and that’s what I’ll do as president.” — Senator Clinton