Friday, April 30, 2010

Q&A: Ed Lonergan of Green Planet Group

The dream is clean energy. The reality is dirty fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. So do you sit around and wait for renewable power as you choke on exhaust fumes? Or do you find a way to make an immediate impact on our environment by reducing emissions now?

Green Planet Group Chairman/President/CEO Edmond Lonergan chose to do something today. His Scottsdale, Arizona-based company focuses on technologies that improve the efficiency of petroleum-based fuel products. "Get more done with less fuel being burned therefore reducing emissions," as Lonergan puts it.

The company created and distributes a fuel additive called XenTx which hardens and smooths metal surfaces in diesel or gasoline engines to reduce heat and friction loss so fuel economy and efficiency is improved.

In addition to being in the fuel additive business, Green Planet Group also places workers in green collar jobs through the staffing company Lumea and owns Green Mining Technologies, which promotes environmentally responsible gold mining practices.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Lonergan about being a socially responsible business, stopping dirty gold mining and the new green economy.

Explain what it means to be a socially responsible business and why is this a good approach?

Socially responsible means we have to be looking downstream beyond just the next 90 day financial reporting. It seems in the United States today everyone looks at the performance of a company every 90 days and the result is that you are always trying to make sure that you have the profits and the revenues every 90 days. To be socially responsible we are looking for a much longer term than that. And our goal is to leave the planet better than the way we found it by providing technologies that are not only efficient but make good sense from the financial point of view. Lastly I think that all of us need to be in tune with the idea that our employees have to be treated properly with honor, thanked for what they do, paid a reasonable salary for what they do, and we should be providing them where we can with a series of benefits that help them to live a better life.

Why make fossil fuels more efficient rather than focus on new green technology using renewables?

The transition from fossil fuel to all new green renewable energy won’t be implemented for the next 30, 40, 50 years. So if we can immediately reduce the emissions from fossil fuel than we haven’t changed at all when the timing of the new technologies will take over, all we’ve done is improve emissions and improve the environment between now and then. Secondly, some of the lubrication products we have are applicable to electric vehicles. And our goal there would be to reduce the losses of friction and heat such that the batteries would last longer and you’d be able to drive more miles.

What sort of green collar careers do you place people in?

The green collar careers that we do are particularly well known for providing a little bit of green training to our staffing folks and we do a lot of work with companies like Waste Management sorting and recycling garbage. We try to reduce the amount of plastic and other material in packaging our products so we try to reduce the amount of product that ends up in landfills.

What are you doing to mitigate the negative environmental effects of gold mining?

The reason we got into the gold mining arena was because of the incredible destruction and horrific detrimental activity of mining for gold. And our solution in essence is to mine gold in what I refer to as an environmentally neutral way. At the end of the day after the miner has completely extracted the gold from the ground, the mine should be in such a condition that you couldn’t tell that anyone had mined there in the first place.

The first step is a closed loop mining extraction system whereby we re-use the water and the chemicals over and over again in a closed loop, so there’s no such thing as mercury or cyanide or evaporation pools or hazardous disposal materials left over from the actual mining process.

We extract approximately 94-98% of the gold from the ore and that last part of the process is we end up with crushed rock that has been crushed down to a little finer than sugar. And this ore after the process is completely inert. And what happens in other gold mining activities is called tailings, you see these enormous piles, literally mountains of tailings and this is product that has gone through the mining process and is completely inert. It won’t grow anything or have any vegetation on it for literally hundreds of years. We take these tailings and we’re going to bring the pH level to neutral which is 7, secondly we are going to inject or mix into this tailing organic fertilizer and some humic acid. The result is that tailings will become like topsoil. So when we put the tailings back in the mine,  vegetation will grow and animals will come back and the area will return to its natural, pre-mining state.

Have you heard of the No Dirty Gold campaign and if so are you involved with their activities to end dirty gold mining practices?

We had not heard of the campaign until we got the question from you and I went online and we are in fact now in the process of joining the initiative because we meet and exceed the standard that has been set for responsible gold mining.

What is the federal government doing to help boost green companies such Green Planet Group? Do you have any suggestions for how the government could help more?

The government is trying its best to help create and improve the environment generally. What would help companies like ours the most would be certain kinds of grant programs specifically oriented to the kinds of technologies that we’re trying to create as well as improve. In the case of the gold mining example, our goal at the end of the day is to be the standard for extracting gold in the United States. There are literally tens of thousands of gold mines that have been left vacant or abandoned in whatever destructive way they were left. There weren't people willing to mine a lot of those and the reason is there was not enough ore and a ton of material to make it pay, but when gold is $1100 an ounce as it is today, you can take very low quality ore and still extract the gold and make money with it.

There will be a lot more gold mining and a lot more gold mines. We’d like the federal and state governments to demand before they provide the license that they literally will replace and protect the environment to the level that we do. To leave the land exactly the way it was before they begin the mining operations, reduce emissions to an absolute minimum and pay the local employees a reasonable salary and benefits.

Are you bullish or bearish on the new green economy?

We have believed since the 80s that the green economy is the only way this planet is going to survive.

Here in Arizona, in the Phoenix area, because air quality has gone down over time the direct impact is bad air quality days and people who don’t have health insurance go to the emergency room.  Arizona budgets in excess of $7 million a year to pay for people who don’t have insurance who end up in hospital emergency rooms, most of them due to breathing problems and most of that due to air quality.

If you want to do something today in a business venture and you haven’t considered the impact it has on the environment then it's something that shouldn't be done and hopefully years from now when you go to start up a new business it won’t only be about having the money and the people and  the technology and  facilities, it’ll be about having an environmental program that’s going to literally eliminate any emissions and poison from whatever it is your trying to accomplish. It’ll be mandatory. We believe green is the only way to go.

Can capitalism work for the environment instead of against it?

We have this feeling that we can rape and pillage the earth without any consequences and leave it in a horrific fashion. The true answer is just to include the cost of reclamation and the cost of emission reductions as part of the cost of doing business and it will work very well in the capitalistic society. You just need to think about it in the sense that just as you are concerned about the energy to run your factory, to be concerned with what the emissions are.

How have you been able to grow your revenue in this tough economy?

Through three elements of activity. First, an ongoing acquisition strategy. Second, because the green movement is in early development, the time is rapidly approaching when all of our lubrication products and our fuel additives are not only acceptable but are expected to be used to reduce emissions and improve economy and that will increase our revenues because our sales should go up proportionally. Lastly, in the green mining technology arena because the price of gold is so high there will be so much pressure on gold mining operations to mine in an environmentally responsible fashion. Our goal is to license technology so we become the standard in the United States and around the world.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Linkage: FedEx Goes Electric

FedEx is going green by testing four all-electric, zero emission delivery vans in the Los Angeles area next month. Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President and CEO of FedEx, took the vehicle to Capitol Hill to show Congress the potential for converting corporate fleets to clean energy.

"There is truly only one way to end our nation's dangerous dependence on petroleum, and that is by ending oil's chokehold on our transportation system," Smith testified.

FedEx CEO Smith Testifies on Energy Security, Electrification (PR Newswire)

FedEx all-electric tour website

Video of the FedEx electric delivery truck:

More linkage:

Al Gore: Denialists in Denial (Huffington Post)

Gov't OKs 1st US offshore wind farm, off Mass. (Huffington Post)

L.A. still smoggiest city in America (The Source)

Air pollution: O.C. gets ‘Fs’; L.A. worst (Orange County Register)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Linkage: L.A. Streetcars

Right now the only streetcar in Los Angeles is that annoying tourist trap at The Grove and Farmers Market (pictured above with Portland streetcars). It is a nice reminder of our glorious streetcar past but also makes people believe that streetcars are some sort of relic from another era. Of course in places like Paris and Portland, modern streetcars are very much a reality. 

Well, that will change soon. L.A. is one of twenty-two American cities considering building streetcar lines. And it may be a reality within a couple of years thanks to the Obama Administration making it easier to obtain federal funds. Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc. and its partners in February submitted a $25 million federal grant application for a downtown streetcar line along Broadway. $280 million in grant money was made available this year by the Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

22 US Cities Consider Building Streetcar Lines (Inhabitat)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Green SoCal Soapbox

I'm going to try out this occasional feature where I can deal psychologically with the at times frustrating and other times bizarre "reality" of living in Southern California. Hopefully there will be some humor mixed in to lighten the mood as this dysfunctional region attempts to correct years of bad planning and a car-first mentality in order to transition to the new green, sustainable economy.

The Sorry State of Wilshire Boulevard

So Los Angeles is finally getting serious about a bus lane along Wilshire Boulevard by 2013. Great. But what about repaving this pock-marked piece of pavement NOW? There are roads in Baghdad and Kabul that are smoother than Wilshire Boulevard. It is a disgrace and a shameful display of the years of neglect this city has put towards its roads.

Wilshire Boulevard historically has the been the main boulevard of the City of Angels. It cuts a swath from the Pacific Ocean through the heart of Los Angeles and into downtown, passing Santa Monica, Brentwood, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Miracle Mile and Koreatown along the way.

But if you have ever taken a bus ride on the 20 or 720 on the far right lane of Wilshire get ready for a bumpy ride. You will fly off your seat more times than a Six Flags roller coaster or a rural road in Ecuador.

And these aren't even potholes I'm talking about, these are craters bigger than the moon. Ironically the absolute worst stretch of pavement along Wilshire is the ritziest -- all those garish looking condos in Westwood built by Don Sterling's dirty money and inhabited by batty celebrities who drive their luxury cars on the left side of the road (the smoother side).

But for those Angelenos such as myself who actually choose to ride the bus (I have a car but don't use it), we have to suffer on the road from hell in the City of Angels.

So Mayor Villaraigosa, if you are really serious about cleaning up L.A. and changing its image, the most important and immediate thing you can do is to repave Wilshire Boulevard so it can be a grand thoroughfare again instead of a sorry stretch of concrete befitting a third-world country.

UCLA Festival Of Books Brings Out The Crazies

I didn't bring my camera to the UCLA campus for the LA Times Festival of Books this past Saturday so this above picture will have to stand in for the anti-Cap and Trade guy at the event. Now I'm used to the Jews for Jesus people every year at this event pretending they aren't just Christians. But a guy with a sign that says "Stop Cap and Trade Assembly Bill 32. It's a job killer." Well, now that is a whole new level of contradiction.

For those who don't know, AB 32: Global Warming Solutions Act was passed and signed into law in 2006 and mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

These reduction measures are set to start in 2011. The scoping plan measures implementation timeline describes each sector and regulation and can be found by clicking here.

In contrast to the scare tactics organized by the dirty fuel lobby financing these supposedly "grassroots" tea partiers such as the wonderful guy at UCLA, AB 32 and similar measures are not job killers, but job creators. Yes, they will create jobs in the new green economy. From Wikipedia:

"In March 2010, almost four years after its passage, the California Air Resources Board ("CARB") issued a report claiming that the law would create about 10,000 new jobs for California in the next ten years."

Click here for a link to a story on the positive job growth from AB 32 in the Sacramento Business Journal.

Anyway. I told the anti-cap and trade guy I'd include him in my green blog so I hope he likes it.

Monday Linkage

Could Joe Lieberman the divider turn into Joe Lieberman the uniter? While many progressives are still fuming at his stubborn refusal to support a public option during the Health Care Reform debate, the Connecticut senator appears to be trying to bridge the Climate Bill divide created by a public spat between Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham over whether the Senate will take up Immigration Reform before Energy Reform. 

Orange County's top 5 disasters (Orange County Register)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Earth Day and 'Avatar' at L.A. Live

The Staples Center is where the Los Angeles Kings and Lakers are battling in the first round of the playoffs. But across Chick Hearn Court on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day a different battle was taking place.

Inside the Nokia Theatre 4,500 students from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools were treated to a morning screening of "Avatar" followed by a Q&A and contest with director James Cameron and the film's cast.

The students submitted essays about Earth Day and the finalists read their environmental essays on stage with the winner receiving a $5,000 scholarship.

In addition to Cameron, the judges included his wife Suzy and "Avatar" stars Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore and Giovanni Ribisi.

The event was hosted by activists Magda Rod and Richard Greene who organized the public speaking competition called "The Words That Shook The World."

Cameron talked about his rural roots in Canada and growing up by the woods as being a driving force in his love of nature. He said he studied science in school before becoming a filmmaker and that "Avatar" was the realization of his dream to make a film about nature.

"I think the important thing about 'Avatar' is it takes place on another planet, it’s a fantasy. But we’re doing that to our planet for real," said Cameron, who along with his wife and some of the "Avatar" cast visited the Amazon rainforest to protest Brazil's plans to build a dam that would hurt the environment and the indigenous community.

"Be curious, be curious about the world," he pleaded to the students in the audience.

Other speakers at Nokia included Deputy Mayor Miriam Long, Superintendent of Instruction Angela Bass, Marshall Tuck, CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, and former NBA star and vegan activist John Salley.

Salley told the children that their organic, vegetarian lunch that was provided to them saved the life of an animal and made them "prettier."

"You just got prettier. When you eat vegetables you get prettier. Look how pretty I am," said Salley, who gave up meat two years ago and lost 40 pounds.

"The most important thing you can do is nourish your organs and nourish your body," Salley implored the students.

Outside at L.A. Live's Nokia Plaza, there was an Earth Day event sponsored by sports and entertainment company AEG, who through a spokeswoman announced to the crowd they were going to be the first company of their kind to release an environmental sustainability report this summer.

Other speakers included ESPN Radio host Jason Smith, Planet Green's "Wa$ted" host Annabelle Gurwitch, 9th District Councilwoman Jan Perry, Ron Gonen, the Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of RecycleBank and Green Youth Movement founder Allison Maze.

Pictures from the event:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Linkage

Los Angeles will be getting $30 million for retrofitting.

Obama and Schwarzenegger want more offshore drilling in California. Maybe not such a good idea?
Oil rig explodes off Louisiana coast; 11 missing (Associated Press)

Metro board votes tomorrow on the 30/10 Plan, but regionalism and the highway lobby could get in the way. I hope not. L.A. desperately needs more mass transit, not more highway projects.

Cool interactive animation website from the Department of Energy for Earth Day with tips on how to save money and protect the environment.
Earth Day Animation 2010 (U.S. Department of Energy)

Taxis are one way to get Angelenos out of their cars so it is good news that the Hail-a-Taxi pilot program may become permanent. One more step towards L.A. becoming the NYC of the West.

Motorcycles and electric scooters are one way to get around Southern California with a smaller carbon footprint. But how dangerous is the practice of "splitting lanes" and should it be legal? Infrastructurist takes a look.

On Wednesday, May 12 L.A. Metro will be holding a day-long symposium on pedestrian-related issues called "Walking into the Future City."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

San Diego Gets Serious About Wind Power

Right now wind power in San Diego County is going through growing pains. But that is to be expected when a new technology is introduced to a change-resistant public.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the latest negative publicity involves a wind-farm worker who remains hospitalized after he and a colleague were injured from the heat of a giant spark called an "arc flash" while working in the nacelle, or hub of a turbine on the Campo Indian Reservation in East County.

The Kumeyaay Wind farm is operated by Bluarc Management Group.

This is the latest setback to the project, which started in 2005 and produces 50 megawatts, enough power for 32,500 homes. Last December a winter storm damaged the blades of the turbines with 70-mph winds.

Similar to the early days of oil drilling and coal mining even to this day (the recent tragedy in West Virginia comes to mind), the construction and operation of wind farms will take time to perfect.

But is that a reason to give up on wind? No way. Those who would argue against wind power usually cite the visual blight. This excuse just doesn't hold water. Wind farms are generally located in rural areas off freeways, in places that aren't exactly the most scenic parts of America.

And in my humble opinion, when I see giant wind turbines spinning fast and generating clean, renewable energy as I drive the freeways of California, I see hope for a better future. I actually think wind turbines enhance the scenery.

But sometimes "environmentalists" can be their own worst enemy. It is shortsighted to try to block wind farms or solar farms or geothermal plants and pipelines because of the environmental impact. What about the bigger environmental impact of our continued over-reliance on dirty oil and coal?

The latest battleground between preservationists and renewable energy advocates is federal land near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where a 100-tower farm is being planned by Spanish conglomerate Iberdrola.

The project is called Tule Wind and would produce about 200 megawatts on a windy day.

So instead of creating jobs here in the USA and creating revenue and dignity for Indian Reservations other than attracting visitors to Casino Resorts, some of these companies are looking to place their wind farms across the border in Mexico. That would be a real shame.

It will be a great day when there are more wind turbines than billboards along our nation's freeways.

Tuesday Linkage

NBA Playoffs 2010 (Of Transit) (MetroRiderLA)

Creative financing fuels California solar boom (Grist)

Edison blankets warehouse roofs with solar panels (USA Today)

Penn Jillette pay homage to the Hummer (Wall Street Journal)

Big Blue Bus fare hike coming (Curbed LA)

Who wants a football stadium near LA Live? (Curbed LA)

Metro's marketing: Making buses brighter, drawing more riders (Curbed LA)

LA Metro: Promoting Mass Transit from EMBARQ Network on Vimeo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Obama Gets Smog Tour of L.A.

I work on the 30th floor of a high-rise office building in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles and this early evening had the chance to see President Obama's helicopter procession fly from LAX to the University of Southern California area where he will be speaking tonight as part of a fundraiser for Barbara Boxer and the Democratic National Committee at the California Science Center and later at a dinner event at the Natural History Museum.

But what struck me was that Marine One didn't land right away but circled around downtown and then headed toward Hollywood and circled around the Variety Building (where I work) and back to USC.

What Obama would have seen and what I can see from my office window is the "smog belt" that often tightens its pollution grip around the L.A. Basin. My hope is that the president noticed the very smoggy day here in The City of Angels and that it will make an imprint on the desperate need for cleaner air in Southern California.

With robust federal funding to help speed up Measure R transit projects in ten years instead of thirty, it will go a long way to giving Angelenos better air to breathe and a healthier, better quality of life for all the residents of this great city.

Update: Variety's Wilshire & Washington blogger Ted Johnson, who was unable to attend the closed-to-the-press event, reports that according to Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, "Obama cited Boxer's support for hybrids and electric cars and called her a 'subcompact model, with an inexhuastible source of energy.'"

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