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We've designed our 'we see green' blog to help keep our community informed of interesting and important environmental and business topics. It's also a way to help our clients stay better informed of all the interesting and value-added services we offer. To get regular updates, subscribe to this blog via email (yep, that box to the right there), or add our feed to your RSS feed reader. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook Part 5

Since this session relies heavily on customizing appointment forms in Outlook, we figure it's worth while giving a refresher course on forms (just in case some of y'all out there aren't really sure what an appointment form in Outlook really is anyway).

The window shown here is the standard appointment form in Outlook 2007. It's really pretty basic: it shows the Subject, Location, Start time and End Time (the data fields) of the appointment; all of the information you need to define the basics of an appointment. Once you've entered data into some or all of these fields, a simple click of "Save & Close" will save the appointment in your calendar and close the window (duh).

Appointments can be a little more complicated than this if they are recurring (regularly repeating) appointments. Let's say you go to church every Sunday and you want to see that on your Outlook calendar. This is a simple example of a recurring task; but how do you make a task recurring, you might ask?

Simply click on the Recurrence button in the "ribbon" menu on the top of the Appointment window (somewhat near the middle horizontally).

You'll then be shown the Appointment Recurrence window, which allows you to define how frequently and how long the appointment will recur (repeat). In this scenario, you'd be planning to go to church from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM on a Weekly basis every 1 week on Sundays, beginning on July 20th of 2008 and continuing forever.

If you wanted to only go ever other week, you'd simply change the recurrence pattern to "Recur every 2 week(s) on: Sunday." Similarly, if you wanted to only go once a month for ten months in a row, you could add that condition by clicking on Monthly and selecting "End after: 10 occurences."

Once you've selected your recurrence pattern, click "OK" to close the Appointment Recurrence window and return to the Appointment form.

Notice now that the Start time and End time fields are gone and have ben replaced with the Recurrence pattern information. If you want to change the start time or end time, you must again click on the Recurrence button and change the information in the Appointment Recurrence window.

Click "Save & Close" and you'll see your recurring church appointment on your calendar.

But what if you want to go to church Saturday night this week, but you still want to go on Sundays ever other week. To change that, simply drag that appointment from a Sunday to the prior Saturday. Outlook will have a coniption fit and ask you if you only want to change this occurence. Click Yes; you plan to continue going to church on Sundays most weeks.

If however you want to change to Saturdays from here on out, you'll need to double-click on the appointment in your calendar. Outlook will tell you the appointment is recuring and ask you if you want to "Open this occurence." or "Open the series." If you want to change all future appointments, you'll want to "Open the series" and change the recurrence.

So that's about it for the standard Appointment form. Hopefully you can appreciate how even a standard appointment form could be used to track recurring compliance tasks. By customizing the form, we can keep tabs on a lot more compliance information. We'll go over the basics of this next time.

P.S. The standard Task form in Outlook can keep track of recurring tasks too, but we feel that customizing the Appointment task is better. Here's why: with recurring Outlook Tasks, only the next scheduled task appears in the calendar. With recurring Outlook Appointments, all scheduled appointments appear in the calendar. If I have a task that occurs every month, to do a good job of scheduling I want to see it on my calendar every month, not just this month, even if I haven't completed the task yet this month.

Thanks for reading. Join us next time as we discuss setting up new calendars to track compliance tasks and keep them separate from your personal calendar.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook Part 4

Last time we showed you that in order to have a good compliance system in the end, you must make good compliance decisions from the start. We then said that deciding which compliance information to collect and track is one of the first and most important compliance decisions you'll need to make. Lastly we promised that we'd provide an example of the data to collect from an actual industry example. Well, it's time to make good on that promise.
One of the largest industries we serve is the Solid Waste Management industry. This industry spans collections, hauling, transfer stations, recycling facilities and, of course, all types of landfills. As you can imagine, the Solid Waste Management industry has a diverse and complicated mixture of compliance issues to keep tabs on. Not only is every organization regulated by the EPA and other federal agencies, each state and local municipality has a say in what a solid waste facility should and shouldn't do. Solid waste facility managers surely have an intricate web of compliance tasks to manage.
Having successfully implemented our PRECEPT (formerly B2C) compliance solution at several dozen landfills across the nation, and considering the praise we've received from landfill managers who use the system, we're confident that we know what data is necessary to properly track compliance tasks for solid waste facilities. Consequently, the list below is an industry proven list of the data we collect to track compliance tasks, but it is really only suitable to the Solid Waste Management industry. The required data for your industry may well be very similar, or maybe even identical, but that will be up to you to carefully think through and decide.
Information to track for each compliance task
for the Solid Waste Management Industry
  • Unique task identifier
  • Task name
  • Task description
  • Applicable facilities
  • Due date & time
  • Start date
  • Assigned personnel
  • Recurrence frequency
  • Completed? or % Complete
  • Status
  • Reminder date & time
  • Governing regulatory agency or agencies
  • Source document references, with page and section references
  • Document links or embedded pdf pages from actual permits
  • Task ID markers in pdf documents to indicate source text in permits
  • Highlighted text in pdf documents to show task source text in permits
  • Source document revision number and date of issue
  • Source document most current revision?
  • Source document precedence order

As you can see, this list isn't terribly long, but when you need to track each of these datum points for each and every task, your compliance task system database can quickly become quite large. What's worse is trying to ensure that the data for each compoiance task is unique, correct and applicable to that particular task. All too often tasks are duplicated or deleted inadvertantly, which causes compliance tasks to become distorted or lost in the shuffle. This just further proves that a good comliance platform prescribes patience and perseverence to perform properly!

For further 'p' alliteration fun, try: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."

However, under NO circumstances should you try saying: "She slit the sheet, the sheet she slit, upon the slitted sheet she sits" (especially when in mixed company!)

That's it for now. Join us Monday as we start converting the above data list into a Calendar item form in Microsoft Outlook.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook Part 3

After you've decided which version of Outlook to use which internal method you'll use in Outlook to achieve compliance, you'll now need to make some more decisions. Yeah, we know: decisions, decisions, decisions! Well, you could have just slapped something together in Excel, but we all know that taking the time up front to make the right choices and put together a good system is well worth it in the end. Remember GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
From here on out, we're going to assume that you're going to go with our recommendation to use calendar/appointment items in Outlook to track compliance tasks. We could assume that you don't like our recommendation, but that would be silly since you're at least still reading this, which means you put some stock in what we say.
Regardless, here are the next decisions you'll need to make:
  1. Decide which complaince data you want to track
  2. Identify which data Outlook appointment items already track
  3. Decide which data from Outlook task items you'd like the appointment item to track
  4. Decide if you'd like to make some more decisions

Once you've got these down, we can actually start building custom forms to track your customized data. However, selecting the appropriate data fields can be one of the most daunting steps of this process because if you aren't tracking the right data, your compliance system won't be all that it should be.

Because this is such an important step, we're going to come back to this next time. Join us on Thursday for Part 4 of How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook, where we'll provide an example of the data to collect from an actual industry example.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Antonio Clean Technology Nuclear Forum

Yesterday at Pearl Stable The San Antonio Clean Technology Forum (SACTF) hosted a discussion about the future of energy in the city, focusing specifically on the nuclear power investment decision. The event was distinctly non-partisan, which was clearly the aim of the SACTF, a non-profit focused on economic development through efficient and alternative energy. They were able to bring together a variety of speakers with varying opinions to educate the capacity crowd on CPS' potential investment in a new nuclear facility.

The speakers were Dr. Patrick Moore, Craig Severance, Dr. Arjun Makhijani and CPS Interim General Manager Steve Bartley. Bob Rivard, Editor of the San Antonio Express News, moderated the event with a gravitas that kept the proceedings focused. I cannot understate the value of his fantastic work. Mayor Julian Castro was present as well, demonstrating the underlying importance of the issue. While the speakers disagreed on even the most fundamental of issues, namely energy demand, projected cost and method of analysis, the insight they provided was invaluable to inform the opinions from attendees. Unlike a good deal of national political discourse from both sides of the aisle, the Nuclear Forum was deep, substantive and avoided petty squabbling. I imagine that everyone in attendance learned something valuable about both nuclear power and alternative energy, not to mention the circumstances that color CPS' investment decision.

If you'd like to watch the event please head over to NowCastSA, who will be posting their video shortly.

Picture by Nan Palmero via Twitter (@nanpalmero)

Monday, September 14, 2009

How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook Part 2

Now that you have a fully licensed version of Microsoft Outlook running on your computer, it's time to choose which of Outlook's internal methods to use to track your compliance tasks. You essentially have three basic flavors to choose from:
  1. First, you can track compliance tasks using, well, the Tasks feature in Outlook. Duh. This makes a lot of sense because the most of features you'll want for tracking compliance tasks are included in the default Task forms and data in Outlook. However, the Task feature in Outlook falls short on a couple of fronts. Primarily, though tasks may be set to recur in the future, tasks don't show up on your calendar unless you've completed each and every previous instance of that task. For example, if you have a personal task to wash your dogs the first Saturday of every month, and you forgot to wash them last month, Outlook won't tell you to wash them this month. In fact, to get Outlook to tell you to wash the dogs this month you have to mark last month's task as complete (which is a lie) or reset the task entirely (a giant PITA). Both of these workarounds stink for task management.
  2. Another option is to use Appointment or Calendar items to track your tasks. The problem with this option is that you need to do a bit more dinking around to add several custom fields to duplicate those found in Outlook Tasks, but getting recurring tasks to appear in the future is much more intuitive. The biggest downside here is all the extra custom fields you need to add to make Calendar items work to track compliance tasks. However, once you get it all together and up and running, you'll probably appreciate the better functionality that using Calendar items provide.
  3. Your last option is to create custom forms via an add-in using something like Visual Studio. This is the most powerful and flexible way to create task items in Outlook, but it is also the most complicated and time consuming. Just like it's easier to bake a Devi's Food cake from a pre-made cake mix, it's also easier to create a compliance system in Outlook from a pre-made task or appointment form (you were wondering about the cake mix box above, and now you know)!

There's a lot more to talk about from here, like custom fields (whatever those are) and using the forms designer. We're not going to go into all that quite yet, but if you want to get a jump-start on what we'll be talking about soon, check out this tutorial, or this other tutorial. For more about working with forms in Outlook, and to learn about the Forms Administrtor Utility, give this Microsoft KB article a read.

That's it for today. Tune in Thursday for Part 3 of How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How To: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook Part 1

First things first: if you're going to use Microsoft Outlook to achieve compliance, you're going to need to purchase a copy of Microsoft Outlook. Look, we know you don't want to spend anything at all on this compliance system, but you gotta get a legal copy of Outlook. Do you really want to start your compliance efforts by breaking the law?

So which version of Microsoft Outlook do you need? Well, honestly Microsoft Outlook 2007 is far and away the best, but anything beyond Outlook 2000 will do. Really what you need is the ability to create and customize task forms. What's a task form you ask? Doesn't matter right now. Just know that Outlook 2007 is much better than Outlook 2003 is slightly better than Outlook XP is much much better than Outlook 2000. Of course, this had better be the case or why did we give Microsoft so much money over the years ...

So the long and short of this post is that we recommend Outlook 2007. There is so much about 2007 that is better than 2003 that it is easy to recommend it; so much so, in fact, that we won't go into it all here. However, one feature we will note here is that Outlook 2007 works much better with SharePoint. What's SharePoint, you ask? Hey, we'll get to it ... I thought you learned to stop asking those questions! To wrap up, if you can part with a little money and you want the best compliance system platform, go buy Microsoft Outlook 2007. If instead you have an older version of Outlook, you'll be just fine, but it'll be harder for you to follow along since this How To series will use Outlook 2007 methods and screenshots. That's it for today. Tune in next Monday for Part 2 of How To: Achieve Compliance wiht Microsoft Outlook!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Spilling the Beans

Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to spill the beans: we're going to give you an inside look at how to create your own compliance tracking solution based on Microsoft Outlook.

"So what," you say. Well, if you hadn't noticed, our PRECEPT compliance tracking solution is based on Microsoft Outlook. So essentially, we'll be giving our compliance trackign solution away for free! Yikes!

"Well that sounds pretty dumb," you must be thinking. "Why would you give that away for free?"

So if you're wondering that, or even if you weren't, here's why we're spilling the beans:

  1. If you thought long and hard enough, you could probably figure all this out on your own anyway
  2. You'll get an exhaustive and insightful look at our PRECEPT compliance tracking solution and what it can do.
  3. You'll see that our PRECEPT solution is more convenient than other solutions because it uses Microsoft Outlook (something you probably use already anyway).
  4. You'll realize all the work that goes into creating and maintaining a state-of-the-art compliance tracking solution.
  5. You'll figure out that "Holy cow, it would take me months to get a system like this working properly for my facility."
  6. Next, you'll realize that we can do it faster and cheaper than you can, which means that if you ask us to do it, we'll save you a boat-load of time and money.
  7. Someone out there has plenty of time and zero cash, but still needs a compliance system. God bless the interwebs.

So over the next couple weeks, tune in for our new blog series - "How to: Achieve Compliance with Microsoft Outlook!"

Friday, September 4, 2009

SEatWtC Part 25: Conclusion



In the end, it will come down to technology, fairness and diplomacy. If we can develop the technology to harness and store the sun’s energy more efficiently and cheaply, there won’t be any significant strife over buried energy supplies. However, if we cannot develop such technology in a timely manner, the best solution will likely be a fair solution. Is it fair to say that the U.S. has more right to oil than other countries? Is it fair for developing nations to get to use more energy than advanced nations simply because they aren’t advanced yet? Is it fair for advanced nations to produce goods in lesser developed nations and thereby pollute those nations? These are difficult questions that will take years of dialogue and diplomacy to iron out. Regardless, we as a world will somehow need to learn to work together. Businesses can be a key player in all this because energy costs affect them directly and as businesses prosper, so do nations.

The world’s populations aren’t going anywhere, and these problems will only become worse until we unite and develop a vision for the future that is bright for all.

This is the end of this series. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SEatWtC Part 24: Tomorrow’s Global Balance of Power

Countries by CO2 Emissions
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Countries by CO2 Emissions

Tomorrow’s Global Balance of Power

Today, the United States is the world leader in terms of influence in the global economy but that may not always be the case. If carbon dioxide emissions are any indicator of industrial economic activity and the need for energy in the future, the U.S. will be contending with China, Russia, India for the world’s energy resources.

Currently, North America enjoys the largest consumption of crude oil per capita. Russia, India and China do not use nearly the crude oil per capita that we do in the United States, Canada and certain parts of Europe. However, the pure vastness of the populations of China, India and Russia show that compared to the overall carbon dioxide emissions already in these three countries, if the economic growth continues and their oil consumption per capita meets that of North America, China, India and Russia will consume vastly more oil than we currently do. If oil supplies are decreasing and economic activity is only increasing, does this mean there will be strife over who gets the remaining oil? That could be the case, but it doesn’t have to be. Since all energy comes from the sun, we should turn to it for our energy in the long run.

Oil Consumption per Capita
(Darker colors represent more consumption)
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Oil Consumption per Capita

This table orders the amount of petroleum consumed in 2006 in thousand barrels (bbl) per day and in thousand cubic meters (m3) per day:

Consuming Nation 2006 bbl/day x 1,000 m3/day x 1,000 Population x 1,000,000 bbl/year per capita
United States 20,687.42 3,289.0 304 24.8
China 7,201.28 1,144.9 1369 1.9
Japan 5,197.70 826.4 128 14.8
Russia 2,810.76 446.9 142 7.2
Germany 2,691.81 428.0 82 12
India 2,571.90 408.9 1201 0.8
Canada 2,296.66 365.1 32 26.5
Brazil 2,216.84 352.4 187 4.3
South Korea 2,179.90 346.6 49 16.3
Saudi Arabia 2,139.42 340.1 27 28.9
Mexico 2,077.51 330.3 107 7.1
France 1,981.18 315.0 61 11.9
United Kingdom 1,812.01 288.1 61 10.9
Italy 1,742.58 277.0 58 10.9
Iran 1,679.20 267.0 68 8.9

Source: US Energy Information Administration

The other side of the coin is the production of Crude Oil. Those that currently produce a lot of crude will find that they will not enjoy the power and influence they currently have. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Dubai, who currently have power because of their oil reserves, are now building tourist attractions, such as Dubai’s palm tree shaped harbors, that will help supplement their export incomes in the future. As mentioned earlier, countries like the United States who have held back on producing oil will find that they will have more leverage in the future.

Oil Exports by Country
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Oil Exports by Country

Tune in Friday for the Conclusion of SEatWtC!

Monday, August 31, 2009

SEatWtC Part 23: Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

Carbon Footprint
Image courtesy of Nature's Crusaders
Carbon Footprint

Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

According to online sources, “Being carbon neutral, or having a zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset. The carbon neutral concept may be extended to include other greenhouse gases (GHG) measured in terms of their carbon dioxide equivalence -- the impact a GHG has on the atmosphere expressed in the equivalent amount of CO2 . The term climate neutral is used to reflect the fact that it is not just carbon dioxide (CO2), that is driving climate change, even if it is the most abundant, but also encompasses other greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, namely: methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Both terms are used interchangeably throughout this article.

Best practice for organizations and individuals seeking carbon neutral status entails reducing and/or avoiding carbon emissions first so that only unavoidable emissions are offset. The term has two common uses:

It can refer to the practice of balancing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, with renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated, or alternatively using only renewable energies that don't produce any carbon dioxide (this last is called a post-carbon economy).

It is also used to describe the practice, criticized by some, of carbon offsetting, by paying others to remove or sequester 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere– for example by planting trees – or by funding 'carbon projects' that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or 'retire') them through carbon trading. These practices are often used in parallel, together with energy conservation measures to minimize energy use.” [17]


Tune in Wednesday for Part 24 of SEatWtC!

Friday, August 28, 2009

SEatWtC Part 22: Global Warming

The monthly CO2 measurements display small seasonal oscillations in an overall yearly uptrend; each year's maximum is reached during the Northern Hemisphere's late spring, and declines during the Northern Hemisphere growing season as plants remove some CO2 from the atmosphere.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii

Global Warming

According to online resources, “The causes of the recent warming are an active field of research. The scientific consensus is that the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases due to human activity caused most of the warming observed since the start of the industrial era, and the observed warming cannot be satisfactorily explained by natural causes alone. This attribution is clearest for the most recent 50 years, being the period most of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations took place and for which the most complete measurements exist.

The greenhouse effect was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. It is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by atmospheric gases warm a planet's lower atmosphere and surface. Existence of the greenhouse effect as such is not disputed. The question is instead how the strength of the greenhouse effect changes when human activity increases the atmospheric concentrations of particular greenhouse gases.

Recent increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The monthly CO2 measurements display small seasonal oscillations in an overall yearly uptrend; each year's maximum is reached during the Northern Hemisphere's late spring, and declines during the Northern Hemisphere growing season as plants remove some CO2 from the atmosphere.Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F), without which Earth would be uninhabitable. On Earth the major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70 percent of the greenhouse effect (not including clouds); carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone, which causes 3–7 percent.

Human activity since the industrial revolution has increased the atmospheric concentration of various greenhouse gases, leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, methane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide. The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s. These levels are considerably higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores. From less direct geological evidence it is believed that CO2 values this high were last seen approximately 20 million years ago. Fossil fuel burning has produced approximately three-quarters of the increase in CO2 from human activity over the past 20 years. Most of the rest is due to land-use change, in particular deforestation.

CO2 concentrations are expected to continue to rise due to ongoing burning of fossil fuels and land-use change. The rate of rise will depend on uncertain economic, sociological, technological, and natural developments. The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios gives a wide range of future CO2 scenarios, ranging from 541 to 970 ppm by the year 2100. Fossil fuel reserves are sufficient to reach this level and continue emissions past 2100 if coal, tar sands or methane clathrates are extensively exploited.” [16]

Yet no matter what the cause of global warming, the cause is of little importance if we cannot stop the effects. Some purport that reducing our carbon output is the best path forward. Though this is unlikely to actually do anything to reduce global warming, it is still the most popular path forward for now. Since this is the case, we’ve also included some of the recent thoughts on reducing our carbon footprint.


Tune in Monday for Part 23 of SEatWtC!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SEatWtC Part 21: Nuclear

South Texas Project Nuclear Plant
Image from Getty Images
South Texas Project Nuclear Plant


According to online sources, “Nuclear power is any nuclear technology designed to extract usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions. The most common method today is through nuclear fission, though other methods include nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. All utility-scale reactors heat water to produce steam, which is then converted into mechanical work for the purpose of generating electricity or propulsion. Today, more than 15% of the world's electricity comes from nuclear power.”[15]

The two biggest issues with nuclear energy are safety and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. No one wants a nuclear reactor in their backyard as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have shown what dangers lay there. Nuclear energy has become much safer over the years to the point where portable nuclear reactors the size of shipping containers were featured on CNN as a potential temporary source of energy for developing nations. Nuclear energy is clean, in that there are no emissions into the atmosphere in the generation of nuclear power. However, nuclear plants are not entirely carbon emission free, as significant CO2 is emitted during the construction of the reactors and supporting plant. Also, while nuclear waste cannot really be considered as an 'emission', it is very dangerous stuff and great care must be taken to properly dispose of it. Other options inlcude reprocessing the waste, but no one in the US currently does this.


Tune in Friday for Part 22 of SEatWtC!

Monday, August 24, 2009

SEatWtC Part 20: Biomass

Biomass = Plants
Image courtesy of Independent Green Voice
Biomass = Plants


According to online sources, “Biomass, as a renewable energy source, refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. In this context, biomass refers to plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce biofuel, and it also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.”[14]

Biomass is an attractive source of energy because it renewable and there is only one generation removed between the sun and the use of biomass as energy. The problem with biomass is that it is plants, and plants are what feed humans. Any use of biomass to create electricity or transportation fuels reduces the availability of biomass to feed humans and the animals that humans consume. For example, ethanol from corn is a biomass fuel, but with the mandate that more ethanol from corn should be produced in the U.S., prices for corn have skyrocketed. Therefore biomass may not be the best selection for an economically viable renewable energy source.


Tune in Wednesday for Part 21 of SEatWtC!

Friday, August 21, 2009

SEatWtC Part 19: Geothermal

The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland


According to online sources, “Geothermal power (from the Greek roots geo, meaning earth, and therme, meaning heat) is energy generated by heat stored in the earth, or the collection of absorbed heat derived from underground, in the atmosphere and oceans. Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal generator on 4 July 1904, at the Larderello dry steam field in Italy. The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located in The Geysers, a geothermal field in California. As of 2008, geothermal power supplies less than 1% of the world's energy.”[13]

The difficulty with geothermal energy is two-fold. First, it can only be harnessed at certain locations on Earth. Second, it takes a significant investment to convert thermal energy into electricity, though no more so than hydropower or some of the more complicated contemporary power plants.


Tune in Monday for Part 20 of SEatWtC!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Break is Over

Well, we're finally back at it. We didn't tell y'all, but we took a break from posting to the blog for the summer. As we're sure is true for many of you, consistency in the summer is tough enough, but it's made even more difficult when you're chasing down several large projects. We're a business, after all, and the long and short of it is that generating new work is always more important than posting to blogs, no matter how fun blogging can be. So as school starts for many kids around the country (and world) we'll be continuing on with the series we were working on last May: Sustainable Energy and the World to Come (SEatWtC). We hope you enjoy our take on sustainable energy, and its implications in our world; we think it's an important topic for our world community to take seriously. So sit back, relax, and let us know what you think as we wrap up this series over the next few weeks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

SEatWtC Part 18: Solar, Wind and Hydropower

Solar Land Area
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Solar Land Area

Solar, Wind and Hydropower

According to online sources, “Solar energy is the light and radiant heat from the Sun that influences Earth's climate and weather and sustains life. Solar power is sometimes used as a synonym for solar energy or more specifically to refer to electricity generated from solar radiation. Since ancient times solar energy has been harnessed by humans using a range of technologies. Solar radiation along with secondary solar resources such as wind and wave power, hydroelectricity and biomass account for most of the available renewable energy on Earth.

Solar energy refers primarily to the use of solar radiation for practical ends. All other renewable energies other than geothermal derive their energy from energy received from the sun.

Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive or active depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute sunlight. Active solar techniques use photovoltaic panels, pumps, and fans to convert sunlight into useful outputs. Passive solar techniques include selecting materials with favorable thermal properties, designing spaces that naturally circulate air, and referencing the position of a building to the Sun. Active solar technologies increase the supply of energy and are considered supply side technologies, while passive solar technologies reduce the need for alternate resources and are generally considered demand side technologies.”

Yearly Solar Fluxes & Human Energy Consumption
Solar 3,850,000 EJ
Wind 2,250 EJ
Biomass 3,000 EJ
Electricity (2005) 56.7 EJ
Primary energy use (2005) 487 EJ
(1 Exajoule (EJ) = 1x10^18 joules, a unit of energy)

The difficulty with solar power is that it is an intermittent supply of energy: every night the energy supply goes to bed. That is where wind and hydropower come into play. Also, for now, direct conversion of solar energy to electricity is not terribly efficient. Strides are being made every year to improve the efficiencies, but we’re not there yet. The benefits of solar power, however, are great. The distributive nature of solar power helps reduce the need for extensive and complex electrical distribution networks. It also reduces the demand on power plants during the daytime when power plants experience their peak demands.


Tune in Monday for Part 19 of SEatWtC!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

SEatWtC Part 17: Natural Gas

Natural Gas Production by Country
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Natural Gas Production by Country

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a colorless, odorless, organic fuel that occurs naturally underground (hence the term, ‘natural’ gas). According to online sources, “natural gas is commercially produced from oil fields and natural gas fields. Gas produced from oil wells is called casinghead gas or associated gas. The natural gas industry is producing gas from increasingly more challenging resource types: sour gas, tight gas, shale gas and coalbed methane.

The world's largest gas field by far is Qatar's offshore North Field, estimated to have 25 trillion cubic metres (9.0×1014 cu ft) of gas in place—enough to last more than 200 years at optimum production levels. The second largest natural gas field is the South Pars Gas Field in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Connected to Qatar's North Field, it has estimated reserves of 8 to 14 trillion cubic metres (2.8×1014 to 5.0×1014 cu ft) of gas.” [11]

Natural gas has several immediate benefits. First, the infrastructure for natural gas is already in place. Developed countries could begin using natural gas as a transportation fuel in a matter of a couple years. Secondly, natural gas burns more efficiently and cleaner than petroleum products. Lastly, the ratio combustion byproducts from natural gas are better than for petroleum. For all combustion reactions, the products of combustion are H2O and CO2. For gasoline, the ratio of H2O to CO2 is about 1:1. For Natural gas, the ratio of H2O to CO2 is about 2:1. For every covalent bond broken to produce energy, the amount of CO2 is essentially cut in half.

Natural gas will eventually suffer the same peak problem as crude is now. Peak Gas is the analogous problem to Peak Oil, and has the same causes and effects. However, it is estimated that the reserves of Natural Gas in worldwide are much larger than the reserves of crude oil.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 18 of SEatWtC!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SEatWtC Part 16: Peak Oil

Annual U.S. Crude Oil Field Production
Image courtesy of ASPO-USA
Oil Field Production

Peak Oil

According to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO-USA), “Very simply, Peak Oil describes the point in time when oil production in an area—an oil field, a state, a nation, or the world—reaches maximum production. Graphically represented, after reaching the top of a roughly bell-shaped curve, oil production may flatten out for a few years but then it will inevitably decline. Historical proof of Peak Oil is demonstrated by the work of M. King Hubbert, who, in 1956, correctly predicted that US oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970.

A growing number of very credible industry participants and analysts believe that we are now at or near the top of the curve of global oil production.

Peak Oil is not about “running out” of oil, but the curve does illustrate the quantity and pace at which humanity has extracted and used oil. With a rising world population, and large developing countries like China and India experiencing rapid growth, between 2005 and July of 2008 demand was gradually outstripping supply. During the second half of 2008, high oil prices plus financial turmoil and the economic slump actually reduced demand for oil, thus prices crashed. But the reprieve will only be temporary because more oil is being consumed than found; despite the latest technology, few major oil fields have been discovered since the mid-1970s.” [10]

The Peak Oil theory has therefore been around for a long enough time that perhaps we should have been looking for better alternatives to oil sooner. The problem seems to be that oil is such a cheap (relatively) source of energy, and it has made so many people rich, that it is hard to separate ourselves from it. One alternative that we can begin looking at sooner than other sources is natural gas.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 17 of SEatWtC!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SEatWtC Part 15: Crude Oil

Oil Producing Countries
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Oil Producing Countries

Crude Oil

According to online sources, crude oil (petroleum) “is found in porous rock formations in the upper strata of some areas of the Earth's crust. There is also petroleum in oil sands (tar sands). Known reserves of petroleum are typically estimated at around 190 km3 (1.2 trillion (short scale) barrels) without oil sands, or 595 km3 (3.74 trillion barrels) with oil sands. Consumption is currently around 84 million barrels (13.4×106 m3) per day, or 4.9 km3 per year. Because the energy return over energy invested (EROEI) ratio of oil is constantly falling (due to physical phenomena such as residual oil saturation, and the economic factor of rising marginal extraction costs), recoverable oil reserves are significantly less than total oil in place. At current consumption levels, and assuming that oil will be consumed only from reservoirs, known recoverable reserves would be gone around 2039, potentially leading to a global energy crisis. However, there are factors which may extend or reduce this estimate, including the rapidly increasing demand for petroleum in China, India, and other developing nations; new discoveries; energy conservation and use of alternative energy sources; and new economically viable exploitation of non-conventional oil sources.” [9]

So the biggest issue with crude oil is that it seems it will run out. There are some opinions floating around out there that suggest that crude oil may be more renewable than we think, but even if crude oil is renewable, if we’re consuming it faster than it is being renewed then we will still run out. What’s even more concerning is that based on the Peak Oil theory, it looks like we may be running out of oil sooner than later.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 16 of SEatWtC!

Monday, May 11, 2009

SEatWtC Part 14: Energy Types and Sources

Future Energy Sources
Image © 2007 by Aleksandar Rodic
Future Energy Sources

Energy Types and Sources

All global sources of energy except two can be derived from a single energy supply: the sun. The only two energy supplies that don’t receive their energy content from the sun, either directly or indirectly, are geothermal and nuclear energy. Solar power is the only energy supply that receives its energy content directly from the sun, but all others receive their energy from the sun indirectly. Crude oil is simply plant and animal matter that has decayed, compressed and stored for a very long time. Since plants get their energy from the sun, and since animals get their energy from plants and other animals, the initial source of energy in crude oil is the sun. The same argument is made for Natural Gas or any other organic combustion fuel. Even hydrogen, which is not organic, has to be created from either organic fuels or from water. Even wind and hydropower ultimately get their energy from the sun. Wind gets its energy from pressure gradients in the atmosphere caused by heating and cooling cycles that are caused by: the sun. Hydropower produces energy by capturing the potential energy of water at one elevation as it moves to a lower elevation. How does the water get from lower elevations to upper elevations? The sun evaporates it so that it may fall as rain in the water cycle.

Geothermal energy captures heat from the Earth’s core and nuclear energy captures heat from the radioactive decay of certain elements. Even these two energy sources can indirectly attribute their energy to the sun, because millions or billions of years ago the sun provided a gravitational center around which matter collided, producing the Earth itself and the heavier radioactive compounds found therein.

The point of this is that no matter what we do to conserve or use energy wisely, there will come a time when the sun stops shining and our source of energy will cease. Hopefully by that time we’ll be able to pack up and move to another solar system, but it is important to keep this in perspective. Knowing that the sun is the ultimate source of all our energy is also important because it shows us where we should turn for our energy demands in the future. More on that later. First, let’s discuss our current energy sources more and see how they might affect the near future of business and politics.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 15 of SEatWtC!

Friday, May 8, 2009

SEatWtC Part 13: Global Effects of Energy Policies

Our Planet
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Our Planet

Global Effects of Energy Policies

The interplay between the energy policies of these four major states is already a major driver of world politics. The United States, while importing much of its crude oil and other energy sources, is actually sitting on huge energy reserves. It almost seems as if the U.S. is playing the waiting game to let other nations deplete their energy reserves first so that in the long run, the U.S. will be in control of whatever energy is left. That may not actually be the case, but it almost seems that way. China and India, with nearly half the world’s population between them, are growing their middle classes as phenomenal rates, meaning their energy needs are growing at phenomenal rates too. Given that producing more oil than current rates is difficult at best, the growth of China and India will lead to ever increasing fuel prices unless other sources of energy are found or developed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in that the concern over global warming would be more quickly abated with higher fuel costs. However, higher fuel costs will have serious economic impacts on businesses and states around the globe.

Currently, relatively low fuel costs promote shipping of products around the globe. Fruit grown in South America can be shipped to Europe for sale and clothing in China is shipped to the U.S. every day. However, if fuel prices are going to rise, the prospect of shipping internationally will become much more expensive and will seriously change the business models of several firms that have globalized.

Other potential effects have to do with the stability of energy supplies that are exported/imported around the world. Political unrest in parts of the world means that energy prices increase with increased political volatility. Therefore there is a direct economic cost to businesses worldwide when political unrest and terrorism exist. It would seem that there would be a viable business case for businesses to team together and pass legislation in states around the world that promote peace. More on this later when we discuss the future balance of power in the world.

Tune in Monday for Part 14 of SEatWtC!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

SEatWtC Part 12: Energy Policy of Russia

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons

Energy Policy of Russia

According to online sources, “the Energy policy of Russia is contained in an Energy Strategy document, which sets out policy for the period up to 2020. In 2000, the Russian government approved the main provisions of the Russian energy strategy to 2020, and in 2003 the new Russian energy strategy was confirmed by the government. The Energy Strategy document outlines several main priorities: an increase in energy efficiency, reduced impact on environment, sustainable development, energy development and technological development, as well as an improved effectiveness and competitiveness.

Russia, one of the world's two energy superpowers, is rich in natural energy resources. It has the largest known natural gas reserves of any state on earth, along with the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. Russia is the world fourth largest electricity producer after the USA, China, and Japan. Russia is the world’s leading net energy exporter, and a major supplier to the European Union.

Renewable energy in Russia is largely undeveloped although there is considerable potential for renewable energy use. Geothermal energy, which is used for heating and electricity production in some regions of the Northern Caucasus, and the Far East, is the most developed renewable energy source in Russia.

On July 2008 Russia's president signed a law allowing the government to allocate strategic oil and gas deposits on the continental shelf without auctions.”[8]


Tune in tomorrow for Part 13 of SEatWtC!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SEatWtC Part 11: Energy Policy of the European Union

The European Union
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
The European Union

Energy Policy of the European Union

According to online sources, “the European Union has legislated in the area of energy policy for many years, and evolved out of the European Coal and Steel Community, the concept of introducing a mandatory and comprehensive European energy policy was only approved at the meeting of the European Council on October 27, 2005 in London.

The EU currently imports 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, making it the world's leading importer of these fuels. Only 3% of the uranium used in European nuclear reactors was mined in Europe. Russia, Canada, Australia and Niger were the largest suppliers of nuclear materials to the EU, supplying more than 75% of the total needs in 2007

France has made a common energy and environment policy by the end of the year the top priority of its six-month 2008 presidency of the European Union.”[7]


Tune in tomorrow for Part 12 of SEatWtC!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SEatWtC Part 10: Energy Policy of China

The People's Republic of China
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
The People's Republic of China

Energy Policy of China

According to online sources, “China has been taking action on climate change for some years, [and] with the publication on Monday 4 June 2007 of China's first National Action Plan on Climate Change, China became the first developing country to publish a national strategy addressing global warming. The plan does not include targets for carbon dioxide emission reductions, but it has been estimated that, if fully implemented, China's annual emissions of greenhouse gases would be reduced by 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2010, although other commentators put the figure at 0.950 billion metric tons.

Publication was officially announced during a meeting of the State Council, which called on governments and all sectors of the economy to implement the plan, and for the launch of a public environmental protection awareness campaign.

The National Action Plan includes increasing the proportion of electricity generation from renewable energy sources and from nuclear power, increasing the efficiency of coal-fired power stations the use of cogeneration, and the development of coal-bed and coal-mine methane.

In addition, the one child policy in China has successfully slowed down the population increase, preventing 300 million births, which is equal to 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emission based on average world per capita emissions of 4.2 tons at 2005 level.” [6]


Tune in tomorrow for Part 11 of SEatWtC!

Monday, May 4, 2009

SEatWtC Part 9: Energy Policy of the United States

The United States
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
The United States

Energy Policy of the United States

According to online sources, “The energy policy of the United States is determined by federal, state and local public entities in the United States, which address issues of energy production, distribution, and consumption, such as building codes and gas mileage standards. Energy policy may include legislation, international treaties, subsidies and incentives to investment, guidelines for energy conservation, taxation and other public policy techniques. Several mandates have been proposed over the years, such as gasoline will never exceed $1.00/gallon (Nixon), and the United States will never again import as much oil as it did in 1977 (Carter), but no comprehensive long-term energy policy has been proposed, although there has been concern over this failure. Three Energy Policy Acts have been passed, in 1992, 2005, and 2007, which include many provisions for conservation, such as the Energy Star program, and energy development, with grants and tax incentives for both renewable and non-renewable energy. State-specific energy-efficiency incentive programs also play a significant role in the overall energy policy of the United States.

The United States has resisted endorsing the Kyoto Protocol, preferring to let the market drive CO2 reductions to mitigate global warming, which will require CO2 emission taxation. Multiple 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates have published aggressive energy policy platforms, and some propose carbon emission taxation, which could help encourage more clean, renewable, sustainable energy development.”


Tune in tomorrow for Part 10 of SEatWtC!

Friday, May 1, 2009

SEatWtC Part 8: National Energy Policies

The 'Solar Two' 10MW solar power facility
Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Three energy sources. Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons,

National Energy Policies

As aforementioned, Energy policies around the world vary as much as the world’s cultures. What is important to one country may not be as important to the citizens of another country. The policies below are simply snapshot overviews of the broad initiatives of several of the world’s largest economies and populaces.

Tune in Monday for Part 9 of SEatWtC!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

SEatWtC Part 7: World Energy Council

World Energy Council Logo
Logo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Three energy sources. Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons,

World Energy Council (WEC)

What is the WEC? According to the WEC website, “the World Energy Council (WEC) is the foremost multi-energy organisation in the world today. WEC has Member Committees in nearly 100 countries, including most of the largest energy-producing and energy consuming countries. Established in 1923; the organisation covers all types of energy, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, and renewables. WEC is a UK-registered charity headquartered in London. WEC Services Limited was established in 2001 as the incorporated trading subsidiary of WEC. WEC's Mission is 'To promote the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all people'.”[4]

It would seem that the studies and analyses that the WEC provide would be equally beneficial as the services that the IEA provide. Though the studies conducted by the WEC are more likely to be input to the IEA, WEC studies would also be valuable insights for global companies to investigate too. If WEC reports show how the rest of the world thinks about energy, the reports would help global companies to market themselves around the world.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 8 of SEatWtC!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SEatWtC Part 6: International Energy Agency

International Energy Agency (IEA) Logo
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
International Energy Agency (IEA)

International Energy Agency (IEA)

Who is the IEA? According to the IEA website, “the International Energy Agency (IEA) is an intergovernmental organisation which acts as energy policy advisor to 28 member countries in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens. Founded during the oil crisis of 1973-74, the IEA’s initial role was to co-ordinate measures in times of oil supply emergencies. As energy markets have changed, so has the IEA. Its mandate has broadened to incorporate the “Three E’s” of balanced energy policy making: energy security, economic development and environmental protection. Current work focuses on climate change policies, market reform, energy technology collaboration and outreach to the rest of the world, especially major consumers and producers of energy like China, India, Russia and the OPEC countries.”

The IEA focus to provide input to legislative bodies regarding the Three E’s is a valuable resource because it would not seem common to have legislative bodies that contain sufficient experts on energy security, economic development and environmental protection. Through this one agency, legislative bodies can be better informed about the impact of potential energy policies on these three areas. If the goal of legislative bodies is to provide sound energy security, strong economic development and clean environmental protection, the advice of such an agency as the IEA would be valuable indeed. Businesses too may benefit from preemptively adhering to the advice of the IEA, as they may then be seen as placing the three E’s first, even before governments. For a world filled with citizens concerned about these three areas, the advice of the IEA may provide tangible competitive advantages to businesses linked to the IEA.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 7 of SEatWtC!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SEatWtC Part 5: Consultative Energy Agencies

Vienna International Center
Photo source: Dean Calma/IAEA
Vienna International Center (VIC)

Consultative Energy Agencies

There are several consultative energy agencies around the globe, but we will only focus on two of them in this paper. The first such agency is the International Energy Agency (IEA). The second agency we’ll look at is the World Energy Council. The benefits of agencies like these are that 1) they provide independent analyses and reports to member nations, 2) member nations are members by choice, not mandate, meaning they don’t have to follow the recommendations of these agencies, and 3) they bring together the thoughts and ideas of broad spectrums of cultures and nationalities, allowing for a more diverse dialogue of the energy issues ahead of us.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 6 of SEatWtC!

Monday, April 27, 2009

University Oaks BBQ Recap

I don't think it would be presumptuous to say that the 1st Annual University Oaks BBQ was a smashing success. I know that as an organizer I have a vested interest, I'm pretty confident the attendees would feel the same way. After all, how can you deny the lure of free brisket on a Thursday afternoon?

Speaking of brisket, major props to my co-worker Nate for his skills on the smoker. You would be hard-pressed to find a better brisket anywhere that's not a BBQ restaurant.

We planned and organized this BBQ as a way to build connections between businesses and professionals in our little enclave of San Antonio. There are so many opportunities for our organizations that are never fully realized because we aren't aware of potential resources and partners that exist right outside our doors. I sincerely hope that you networked with a person or business you weren't familiar with if you attended the BBQ. If you did not, I encourage you to take the opportunity to research some of your neighbors anyway. Who knows what mutually beneficial ventures are out there?

Thanks to our sponsors who helped make the event fantastic: Vamvoras Plumbing, Kegley, and "silent partner" A & A Transportation.

Special thanks to our wonderful hosts and owners of the Smoker, Galaxy Builders.

Please send us the website, blog and social media pages for your business because we love connecting with our peers. You can find out more about us at the following spots:



Facebook (New!)


See the rest of the pictures HERE on our Facebook page.

Please leave your thoughts about the BBQ in the comments. If you have any of your own pictures of the BBQ, please email them to

SEatWtC Part 4: Kyoto Protocol

Adoption of Protocol in 1997
Image source:
Delegates celebrated adoption of the Protocol in 1997

Kyoto Protocol

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website, “The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the [UNFCCC]. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions .These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. The major distinction between the Protocol and the [Kyoto] Convention is that while the Convention encouraged industrialised countries to stabilize GHG emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so.

Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. 183 Parties of the Convention have ratified its Protocol to date. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh in 2001, and are called the ‘Marrakesh Accords’.”[1]

The decision by the United States to deny ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is probably best described as a snub by the U.S. to the rest of the world. Through the Kyoto Protocol, nearly the entire planet has come together to agree on a path forward to reducing GHG emissions. Therefore it may not be surprising if the message the U.S. is sending to the rest of the world is “We don’t agree with you, we’re better than you, we don’t want anyone telling us what to do.” However, the U.S. may have good reason to not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. To date, the U.S. policy to reduce harmful emission is to essentially sell the right to pollute. Each company that wishes to pump pollutants into the air can purchase credits to pollute a certain amount. The beauty of this system is that it allows companies that can reduce emissions for a low cost to do so and then sell their credits to other companies that would incur much, much higher costs to reduce pollutants by the same level. This effectively uses simple economics and the free market to efficiently reduce pollutants.

Participation in the Kyoto Protocol
Green: Signed and ratified, Yellow: Signed, ratification pending, Red: Signed, not ratified Gray: Non-signatory
Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Participation in the Kyoto Protocol

[2] What is unclear, then, is why the U.S. simply doesn’t adapt this approach to meet the Kyoto Protocol mandates. This reasoning goes back to the message the U.S. is likely sending to the rest of the world, which is “We don’t want anyone telling us what to do.” Granted, the U.S. is big and powerful enough for now to snub the rest of the world, but that won’t be the case forever. China, India and Russia are seemingly destined to be much larger and more powerful countries and economies, so it will be interesting to see how the Kyoto Protocol and the U.S. refusal to ratify it will impact future international trade negotiations.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 5 of SEatWtC!

Friday, April 24, 2009

SEatWtC Part 3: World Energy Policies

G20 Industrial Nations
Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
G20 Industrial Nations

World Energy Policies

Energy policies differ around the world as much as cultures differ around the world. In fact, it would seem reasonable that the former is dependent on the latter. Perhaps the most prevalent energy controversy in the world today how the United States has declined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which we will address shortly. There are also consultative agencies that monitor energy policies around the globe and provide input to legislative bodies. Two such agencies are the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Energy Council (WEC) which hosts the World Energy Congress. We will go over a brief description of these agencies and our view of their impact before we discuss the energy policies of the largest countries and global superpowers.

Tune in Monday for Part 4 of SEatWtC!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SEatWtC Part 2: Introduction

Three energy sources
Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
Three energy sources. Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons,


In the world of tomorrow, energy will likely be the most significant driver in global policy and the balance of power. The energy sources of today appear to be of finite supply and to sustain the quality of life we enjoy today we will need to either find new supplies or develop new methods and technology to significantly improve the efficiency by which we utilize our energy sources. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do both. But how will this play out? How will energy sources and availability affect business and politics, both globally and locally? There are many aspects of this to cover, and I’m sure we won’t cover them all here in this paper. Regardless, it’s an important topic to cover and to make sure we’re applying ourselves today so that we’re not caught off-guard tomorrow.

To begin with, we’ll look at current energy policies and how they vary around the globe. From there we’ll move into our energy supplies and sources and where we may need to be harnessing our energy in the future. This topic will transition nicely into the future balance of power and potential strife over who gets to use and sell these energy sources. We’ll also cover the obligatory and current hot topic of global warming and how we as the world will need to address the issue of our warming planet. We’ll then conclude with the issue of sustainability and how this very issue is perhaps the most important of them all. The thread that will tie all these topics together is how this will impact both trade and politics, from neighborhoods markets to the international arena.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 3 of SEatWtC!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sustainable Energy and the World to Come (SEatWtC) Part 1

World energy usage
Image source: Rice University Report
World energy usage

Setting the Stage

This entry is the beginning of a 25-part series that dicusses the current dynamics (well, as of late 2008 at least) of the world's energy policies, energy types ans sources, tomorrow's balance of power and global warming. Put together, this series should read very much like a research paper, because wouldn't you know, that's exactly what this is.

Today all you get is the Table of Contents. Though it's entirely boring and mostly uninformative, I am including it so that at the end, y'all can see how this can all be put together to resemble a research paper. (For all you college kids out there who will blatently rip off this work, eat your heart out!) The point of this paper was to be a useful synopsis, not a rigorous study, of energy policies and our path forward. To give you an idea of exactly how high-level this stuff really is, when you see my references thoughout the series, you'll notice almost all of my references are from Wikipedia! Wikipedia is by no means the be-all-and-end-all of information, so blame the anonymous masses who contribute to Wikipedia for any inaccuracies you will invariably find.

Oh, and for convenience sake, just be smart and realize that I abbreviate Sustainable Energy and the World to Come as SEatWtC. Blog titles are very expensive real estate!

Ok, on to the Table of Contents (TOC):

Table of Contents

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of SEatWtC!

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Susan Boyle Can Teach Professionals

(Photo from ITV via

By now, if you use the internet regularly, you've probably seen Susan Boyle's unlikely performance on "Britain's Got Talent". The manipulation of "reality" television has become predictable at best, if not completely boring. Most people observe the cliched foreshadowing almost immediately. However, the folks at "Britian's Got Talent" took advantage of our preconceived notions and delivered a rare, legitmiate and authentic moment on television. Undoubtedly we will all get to know her better in the coming weeks since she's become an internet phenomenon with nearly 50 million views.

So what can we learn from Susan Boyle? She serves as a reminder of many different things, but the most prominent is simple: Be Yourself.

I know it's a message you've heard dozens of times from parents, counselors and afterschool specials, but their unconvincing presentation does not make the lesson any less true. Boyle has none on the ancillary qualities you'd expect from a pop singer, but has actual talent in spades. If she were discouraged because of how she stood out or tried to conform and fit in, she never would have become a star. In fact her appearance, the very thing that caused countless people to dismiss her, has now become a benefit instead of a liability. While her staying power is uncertain, she has made her distinct and lasting impression on the pop culture landscape.

Professionals, do not allow Susan Boyle to become the new Peanut Butter Jelly Time, just one of the countless viral videos you've watched on your computer. Use her perfectly illustrated experience as a motivator to further your career. What opportunities have you passed on because you don't fit the traditional mold? Are you limiting yourself even though you have the necessary talent and skills? Still afraid of pursuing your dream? No matter what anyone else has said, you are completely unique and there is at least one position out there perfectly suited to your skills and abilities. Many people never muster enough drive to pursue their goals. Will you?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Value Proposition

The Proposition by Judith Lester.  Photo of artwork courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons,

I want to proposition you. Now hold on there, let’s not get off on the wrong foot. I’m not soliciting you to perform some lewd act. Sheesh, what kind of guy do you think I am? Wow, all I really wanted to do here was to put forth an idea that is the starting point for a case I want to make, but now that’s been ruined. Okay, let’s start again. I have a business proposition for you. Well, I guess that really isn’t any better after how we started the first time, especially considering what the world’s first profession was. So, how about this: I have something I would like you to think about in relation to how modern business is conducted. Is that bland enough for you? Swell. Here it is:

Why is it that we call a company’s product and service offerings a “value proposition”? Couldn’t that potentially be reinforcing the negative view in America that corporations will prostitute themselves for the almighty dollar? What is value, anyway? Why are we talking about prostitution again? C’est la vie.

All too often, I think, businesses define value solely as the amount of money for which something will find a buyer. I can’t really blame companies, though, since this is precisely how Webster defines value. It’s also what Wall Street and investors want businesses to be focused on. To Wall Street, the primary responsibility of any company’s leadership is to create and sustain this kind of value. Why else would quarterly earnings reports carry such weight? If earnings and revenues aren’t going up, investors quickly demand that the leadership be ousted because they aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities to the shareholders. It’s either that or share prices fall and the future of the entire company comes into question. No wonder managers will put jobs on the chopping block and lay people off to improve the earnings numbers. Still, just because I might understand why it happens, that doesn’t mean I think that it should happen to begin with. How could we really call that creating value? Isn’t there more to life than having more money? How did we as a society get to this point? Why do I sound like a socialist nut-job?

Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m all for free enterprise, and I believe the market is the best mechanism for allocating resources in an economy. Where I differ from conventional Wall Street thinking, however, is that I believe that there is more than one measure of value. It is still the primary responsibility of a company’s leadership to create and sustain value, except value is measured in much more than just dollars. Value is people. A company is nothing without the people who make a company’s products and services a reality. Consequently, value starts with hiring the right people in the first place, then rewarding them, protecting them, investing in them and empowering them. In a nutshell, a company should exist such that its employees pursue their own wellbeing and goals by working hard to advance the interests of the company.

Wall Street’s view might say that this approach might increase costs and reduce profits. But what if the opposite is true? What if instead of increasing costs, this approach increased revenues and profits? Imagine a company where everyone, from the CEO to the housekeeping staff, works tirelessly toward company goals because in so doing, they are simultaneously drawing closer to their own personal dreams and aspirations. Sounds like a pretty awesome company to work for. Sounds also like a very productive and profitable company to work for.

We as Americans like to rate things, which is partly why our market economy works so well. Why don’t we add a measure of a company’s people value to the market indices? It would certainly help us start placing more value on people, and perhaps less value on money. The market then would still be responsible for allocating resources in our economy, except sometimes the market would briefly take its eyes off the dollar signs to look at the real measure of a company.

I realize that to do all this it will require a huge cultural and sociological movement throughout the world. Maybe that’s too much to ask for. Or maybe I simply haven’t propositioned enough people yet …

Nate Barber is a student in the EMBA program at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is Vice-President of Barber and Barber Associates, Inc.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Always Under Promise, Over Deliver

What happens when your sales are better than your product or service? Your client gets monorailed:

Lionel Lanley had a persuasive presentation that any salesperson would envy (WARNING: include songs in your sales pitch at your own risk). But he left the town with his life in jeopardy because he sold the town a shoddy product. Nothing will ruin a business faster than poor service to clients, no matter how spectacular the pitch is on the front end. In fact, many businesses claim to have a sales problem when they really have a service problem or a fundamental flaw in their product. From a revenue perspective, it's simple: if you maintain long-term and repeat customers, you won't be required to exert as much sales effort to meet the bottom line. And the best way to keep your customers happy is always exceeding their expectations.

Good salespeople set expectations for the client, but the fundamental question for every business is can you deliver on those expectations time and time again? Take a lesson from the folly of Lionel Lanley and always under promise and over deliver.