It was purely coincidence but the release of a report on how businesses are using technology to reduce their carbon footprint came just as the price of a barrel of crude on the NYMEX topped $129 for the first time.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, flanked by a coterie of CEOs featured in the report, also used the occasion on Tuesday to shine the spotlight on private sector green initiatives. At the same time, he hammered the Bush administration's attentiveness to environmental issues.
"Washington is asleep at the wheel," he said in a brief appearance at the San Francisco offices of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Schwarzenegger, whose position on environmental questions is far to the left of his colleagues in the Republican Party, also blasted the administration for meddling in a long-running dispute over controlling tailpipe emissions in California.
Democrats and environmentalists have claimed that the White House influenced a decision by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson to deny California's waiver request so it could limit tailpipe emissions. At the time, the EPA said it did not have authority to get involved in questions regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the agency did have that power and Schwarzenegger said the state planned to press ahead with its plans.
"We're going to be like a bunch of 'Terminators' and march forward," said Schwarzenegger, who sported a green tie for the occasion. "It's as simple as that."
He also lauded the businesses that have embraced energy-saving policies. A handful of the companies featured in the EDF report turning out for the event included Sun Microsystems' Jonathan Schwartz, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing; Casey Sheahan of Patagonia, SunPower's Richard Swanson; and Charles Kavitsky, chairman of the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company.
They were there to give voice to the findings of a 32-page report, which showcased 31 companies that have implemented so-called green initiatives that also have helped their bottom lines.
Solar-powered Web hosting
An EPA estimate predicts that data center energy consumption will increase by 12 percent per year. Considering how the average data center can be 40 times more energy intensive than your basic office building, there's special urgency to break the cycle. Maybe it's still the exception to the rule, but Affordable Internet Services Online (AISO.net) in Southern California powers its 2,000-square-foot building with power from 120 solar panels. (I spoke with CTO Phil Nail, who says that the company's making up whatever extra start-up costs incurred in the coin of smaller monthly energy bills.)
Advanced teleconferencing to reduce travel
Both Cisco and Hewlett-Packard sell videoconferencing systems with life-size, real-time communications. These so-called telepresence systems are more immersive than previous generations of teleconferencing technologies and being offered as substitutes to travel.
Here's a stat that caught my eye. In the greater San Francisco area, more than 70 percent of commuters drive to work alone. As my old basketball coach was wont to say, "WTF?" The flip side of that equation is that more companies are offering free employee shuttle transportation. About one fourth of Google's local workforce arrives at the corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., by shuttle.
More than 44 million Americans do at least some of their work outside of the office. The biggest adopters of telecommuting in the tech world are IBM and Sun Microsystems, which bought into the idea in the 1990s. Big Blue says that 40 percent of its global workforce work outside of a corporate office. At Sun, 20,000 employees work at home full-time or divide their work week between a company office and home office. Considering how much it costs to fill up on gas these days, Schwartz likened Sun's telecommuting policy to granting "a pay raise."