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.

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