Today in Cleantech

Let us mourn the shelving of a national climate change strategy this morning. Word from Washington D.C. is that Carol Browner, President Barack Obama’s handpicked coordinator of energy and climate policy, will be stepping down from her post as soon as an “orderly transition” can be arranged for whoever takes over. As Grist magazine rightly points out, there’s not much Browner’s replacement will be able to do except suffer the slings and arrows of a concerted Republican and conservative attack on the Obama Administration’s entire energy and environmental platform. What share of the blame lies at Browner’s feet is hard to say — as the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reported in November, the administration’s climate change strategy failed to line up the needed support with its Congressional allies. Now, the Republican takeover of the House has doomed carbon or climate legislation for the next two years, and the EPA’s bid to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant is facing opposition from the state of Texas and a host of business and industry groups. Perhaps individual states (like California) will take up the slack on policies to combat climate change? In an interesting side note, Reuters reports another nation where the provinces are pushing the central government to move faster on creating markets to combat climate change — China.

New Poll Shows Most Productive Time of Day

I have encountered executives who were balls of fire mid-morning, but turned into stone by 4 p.m.; I’ve coached creative types who rocked the house in the early a.m. but were slackers at lunchtime; and I’ve seen consultants whose best work got done after dinner.

Smart Grid Stimulus Funding Revealed!

powergridgeneric7UPDATED As we wrote on Monday, Tuesday is the day of reckoning for the smart grid biz. The Department of Energy this morning has announced the recipients of the $3.4 billion in stimulus grants for 100 smart grid projects (25 large and 75 small) that are meant create “tens of thousands of jobs,” and lead to the rollout of 18 million smart meters, 1 million in-home energy management displays, and 170,000 smart thermostats, as well as advanced transformers and load management devices.

Update: The DOE has just released the full list of awards (PDF download), and here’s our take on the Winners and Losers of the smart grid stimulus funds.
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From the Irony Dept: Tom Delay to Thank for EPA Emissions Authority

Take Tom Delay, the former congressional GOP leader with a longstanding hatred for the U.S. EPA and doubt about climate change, and figure out how, by six degrees of separation, he triggered the Supreme Court ruling that’s now giving Congressional Democrats leverage to push climate policy through Congress.
Does not compute, right? This is the guy who once called the EPA the “gestapo of government” and tried to virtually eliminate toxic waste laws during his Washington heyday in the 1990s. Well, the Obama administration energy czar, Carol Browner, drew the connection in six degrees at MIT’s conference on energy policy this week. Here’s how:

  1. Back in the 90s in a “squabble,” Delay asks Browner if she thinks the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Browner doesn’t know, and decides to have the agency’s legal team look into it.
  3. EPA lawyers decide yes, the Clean Air Act probably does give this authority, and write a memo saying as much.
  4. Bush administration comes in and does not act on the memo.
  5. Massachusetts, joined by 11 other states, picks up the memo to strengthen its lawsuit against the EPA for not regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
  6. Supreme Court makes a landmark decision that the EPA has responsibility to determine whether or not emissions are dangerous, and if they are, to regulate them.

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Carol Browner: The Quarterback of U.S. Climate Change Regulation

carolbrownerimageThere’s been a lot of people wondering how much authority Obama’s energy czar Carol Browner would wield. The administration created the new role to coordinate climate change and energy issues across divisions. Well, if comments from Congressman Edward Markey at an MIT conference on energy policy this morning are on the money, Browner will be acting as a sort of quarterback for the U.S. climate change playbook.
Browner, who headed up the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton, said herself in a speech this morning that the administration has been adding an increasing amount of divisions to her climate change policy coordination since her position was created. She said that she and President Obama thought maybe five or six agencies would fall under her coordination when he created the position, but since then they have added what seems like another agency every week.
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Yahoo Mobile Coming, Google Likely Doesn’t Care

yahoo-logo

The search engine that had a strong claim on the web long before upstart Google (s goog) came along may be down, but they aren’t out. They’re planning a massive undertaking, a cross-platform release of a mobile suite of applications that, at least according to them, could revolutionize the way you use the web from your mobile device.

Yahoo Mobile (not Go. Forget Go ever existed.) will drop simultaneously for mobile web browsers, as a dedicated iPhone app, and as a dedicated app for other smartphones as well (which will be far easier now that everyone is launching an App Store clone). They aren’t being too clear about the specifics, but it’s basically shaping up to be a mobile web portal, which sort of is, and sort of isn’t like Google Mobile. Yahoo Mobile will integrate Mail, Messenger, News and Calendar, although it’s not made explicitly clear whether those will just be available as links to web-based content or integrated into an iPhone app. They also talk about Opera mobile being integrated into the package, but whether or not that particular piece of the puzzle makes its way onto the iPhone is another story.

This will be Yahoo!’s (s yhoo) first major foray into the arena of the iPhone (if you don’t count the curious oneConnect social network application), and it will pit them head-to-head against their dominant rival Google. If I’m at all an accurate judge, I’d say Google is reserving fear for when something actually materializes, and even then, I don’t think Yahoo! can offer up anything to seriously challenge their dominance of the iPhone platform. Somehow getting Opera onto Apple devices would be a coup, but if it happened, it would just pave the way for Chrome Mobile, which would probably end up as another “W” in the Google column. Is it just me, or does anyone else sort of feel like Yahoo! should just throw in the towel at this point?

Obama Names Green Team, Calls for New Energy Economy

Calling a new energy frontier a “leading priority of my presidency,” President-elect Barack Obama, as expected, on Monday afternoon in Chicago named the four key members of his cabinet that will make up America’s next green team: Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, Carol Browner as Climate Czar, Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and Nancy Sutley as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Many will be unfamiliar with the new team members, but rest assured that together they bring a considerable amount of experience from various levels of government and represent a major change from the efforts of the current administration when it comes to climate change and the environment. Chu, a physicist who has headed up Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the past four years, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for creating technology to cool and trap atoms with lasers; Browner was the former administrator of the EPA under President Clinton; Jackson is the former head of New Jersey’s environmental agency, and Sutley is the Los Angeles deputy mayor for energy and the environment.

As Obama announced the team, he also reiterated his belief that environmentally sound policies and solid economic ones do not contradict one another, and that a new energy economy is going to help stimulate the economy and create jobs (green stimulus?). He was specifically asked if he would allow California to regulate greenhouse gases, and if he would allow the offshore drilling moratorium to lapse. He said that California has consistently hit the bar on energy issues, while the rest of the nation has followed; he also said he didn’t want to let the offshore drilling ban slide, unless it’s part of a larger energy strategy.

Obama to Name Energy Team, Cleantech Cheers

The news wires are reporting that president-elect Barack Obama has made some key staffing choices when it comes to fighting climate change, energy policy and creating green jobs. Obama is reported to have chosen Steven Chu, a physicist who heads up Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as the nation’s Energy Secretary. Chu has been leading the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs for the past four years and received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for creating technology to cool and trap atoms with lasers.

Obama is also reported to soon name Carol Browner, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1993 to 2001 under President Clinton, as the nation’s “climate czar.” Nancy Sutley, currently energy official for the city of Los Angeles, is also expected to be named head of Obama’s White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Some media reports stress that the appointments could make it difficult for the administration to effectively fight with the status quo oil and car industry, given appointees like Chu come from academia and have less political experience. We actually find it refreshing that Chu has a strong science background and is well-versed in the causes and solutions to global warming.

The cleantech community also seems to be supportive. Jonathan Gay, founder of energy management software startup Greenbox Technology sent out an email saying Obama’s energy appointments are:

. . . a fantastic opportunity to develop programs to create a new ecosystem of workers and products to help us all make our homes more efficient and comfortable.

Update:Applied Materials President and CEO Mike Splinter and former Assistant Secretary of Energy Andy Karsner have publicly supported Obama’s choices of Chu and Browner. Karsner called Chu “the right person to bring together America’s industry, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and innovators around national and global goals with the sense of urgency they merit,” said Browner has a “broad understanding of the nexus and inseparability between energy and environment.”

If the anyone in the cleantech community has any thoughts on Obama’s reported energy appointments, let us know.

For NBC, Others an Olympian Online Bonanza

[qi:004] Liz Miller says that these days all people are talking about is Michael Phelps, the winningest Olympian, and a former presidential candidate’s lover. Eric Schmidt, director of media and advertising evangelism at Microsoft, tells Beet.tv that nearly 2 million people tuned in to watch the Beijing Olympic Games on NBC’s web site, making it one of the much-watched online events. The interest is peaking elsewhere as special Olympics-oriented sites created by Yahoo, AOL and others are experiencing a big bump. I am not one of those 2 million, and probably won’t be. I am giving the Olympics the pass (not that anyone cares or should care), as a silent personal protest against China and its policies against Tibet.

My silent protest is also against the impotency of the global corporations that kowtow to China in the hope of someday making money off the booming Chinese market, or the world media that seems to be playing along with whatever limitations China seems to have imposed. I am glad to find that there is at least one other person who shares my feelings.

Today, for instance, YouTube took off a video of a protest held outside the Chinese consulate in New York City at the request of International Olympics Committee, because the video shows the five interlocking rings. Is beaming five interlocked rings on the screen a copyright infringement? Is the IOC looking for royalty payments or did the Chinese make them put some pressure on YouTube? Has the IOC become a collection of shylocks, looking for their next pound of flesh and having sold their Olympian ideals in the process? In comparison, somehow the dalliances of former presidential candidates seem less dirty.