Leading Bay Area lighting efficiency company has an opening for an Inside Sales Rep/Sales Assistant to be part of a great team that is having direct, tangible environmental benefits while helping small and medium sized businesses increase their profits and, at the same time, improve their facilities with better lighting.
Are you able to call on customers at any point in a sales cycle? Organized and creative? Have a passion for energy efficiency? Are you experienced in lighting?
New Light Energy Design (www.newlighted.com) is a leading electrical contractor installing energy efficient solutions for commercial facilities and multi-family properties throughout the Bay Area. We are a green industry company providing customers with instant facility improvements and long-term cost savings. As a values-based business, we operate with:
Integrity: we do what we say, and we do the right thing.
Efficiency: we optimize all resources
Balance: we combine hard work and fun to achieve fulfillment
We are a small, fast-paced company where all employees have a variety of duties as well as opportunities for growth. We treat our customers, sales partners, suppliers and employees with respect and gratitude, while doing important work to benefit the economy, community and the environment.
The Role and Duties:
â€¢ Assist Sales Director in various tasks as needed:
o Product research online and through contacting suppliers and manufacturers, etc
o Creating, maintaining, and organizing sales materials
o Update and maintain Google docs and other file storage
o Document the sales process and other protocols as they are developed or changed
o Create proposals (input audit data) and update proposals with edits and change orders
â€¢ Understand and maintain sales CRM to assist in transition to other leading CRM platform: upload new documents and facility notes, comments, contact info, & relevant information. Maintain various 3rd party program and partner docs, online tracking, etc. Assist in marketing projects as needed; to include mail and email campaigns.
â€¢ Engage in the sales process from lead generation, through customer follow-up, to closing sales:
o Contact sales partners to solicit leads and develop relationships with potential new partners
o Research, acquire, and work lead lists to generate customers
o Canvass neighborhoods to generate leads and/or distribute collateral, etc. Take notes on address, contact info, type of biz, size, strategic info, etc.
o Contact new leads, as assigned, to initiate sales process (e.g. prescreen leads and set appoints for auditors)
o Set customer expectations for what occurs at various stages of installation cycle and with completed projects. Explain why certain measures were recommended and what lighting problems will be solved
o Use phone and other means to maintain customer contact and close sales
â€¢ Help manage and support NLED's outside sales team
â€¢ Work closely with PG&E and other third-party program partners throughout sales and rebate process
â€¢ Perform various other tasks and duties as requested by managers including running materials, basic service calls, assist in inventory counts, etc.
â€¢ Min 1 year B2B sales experience, inside or field sales. Knowledge of how various biz organizations operate, able to reach right person
â€¢ Min 6 months experience in energy efficiency for commercial facilities, lighting preferred
â€¢ Knowledge of financials for business: NOI, ROI, IRR, etc. Able to communicate value package
â€¢ Adept at internet research/email, MS Office products, and Google docs and file storage
â€¢ Excellent project management skills:
o Ability to set timelines and goals to deliver project results and provide solutions
o Ability to accomplish assignments effectively and efficiently; able to multi-task and prioritize work
â€¢ Tenacity: proven ability to work independently; generate sales results without much oversight; resourceful worker
â€¢ Well-developed work standards, detail-oriented, responsible to follow through
â€¢ Committed to local, green economy and energy efficiency
â€¢ Good customer service skills, ability to communicate clearly (verbal and written)
Pay scale up to $20++/hr; (base salary + bonus on closed sales), health insurance, sick leave.
Please send cover letter explaining what excites you about working in energy efficiency and why you are the best fit for this job along with your resume to the email above.
I’m strapped into my backward-facing seat on a COD, or “carrier onboard delivery” plane, the U.S. Navy workhorse that ferries people, supplies, and mail to and from its aircraft carriers at sea. I cinch the four-point harness holding me in place. Then I cinch it some more. When it’s as tight as it can go, an aircrewman walks by and yanks it so hard it squeezes the breath out of me. The hatch closes. Steam rises from the floor. Shit. I’ve watched the YouTube videos. I know what’s coming. Takeoff, a 30-minute flight, then landing on the USS Nimitz, decks pitching, plane wings waggling, tailhook dangling from the underside of the aircraft to catch one of four arresting cables stretched across the flight deck. Since it’s not hard to miss them all, the pilot will gun the engines at landing to enable an immediate relaunch. Which means that if he succeeds at trapping a cable we’ll decelerate from 180 nautical miles per hour to zero in about one second.
To get to the Nimitz, 100 miles off Honolulu, our turboprop is flying a 50-50 blend of biofuel and standard JP-5 shipboard aviation fuel. The biofuel is made from algae plus waste cooking oil. This makes us part of history, my aircrewman says, players in what the Navy calls the Great Green Fleet demonstration of July 2012. It’s paired with a three-year, $510 million energy reform effort in conjunction with the departments of Agriculture and Energy as part of a larger push to change the way the U.S. military sails, flies, marches, and thinks. “As a nation and as a Navy and Marine Corps, we simply rely too much on a finite and depleting stock of fossil fuels that will most likely continue to rise in cost over the next decades,” announced Navy Secretary Ray Mabus at the launch of the program back in 2009. “This creates an obvious vulnerability to our energy security and to our national security and to our future on this planet.”
The Navy has set five ambitious goals to reduce energy consumption, decrease reliance on foreign oil, and significantly increase the use of alternative energy. Part of one target is to demonstrate a Great Green Fleet by 2012, and that’s what’s sailing this July day in Hawaii’s cobalt-blue waters: a carrier strike group comprising an aircraft carrier, two guided-missile destroyers, a guided-missile cruiser, and an oiler. All are running at least partially on alternatives to fossil fuels: the Nimitz on nuclear power, the other ships on that biofuel-diesel blend. The 71 aircraft aboard — Super Hornets, Hornets, Prowlers, Growlers, Hawkeyes, Greyhounds, Knighthawks, and Seahawks — are burning the same cocktail as my COD. All of today’s biofuels are drop-in replacements for marine diesel or aviation fuel and are designed to run without any changes to the existing hardware of ships or planes. “No [nation] can afford to re-engineer their navies to accept a different kind of fuel,” Vice Adm. Philip Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, tells me.
The Great Green Fleet is debuting at the 2012 RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercise, the largest ever international maritime war games, engaging 40 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel from 22 nations. For the first time Russian ships are playing alongside U.S. ships, and naval personnel from India are attending. Many fleets here are sharpening their focus on alternative fuels and working to assure the formulations are co-developed with their allies. “ We’ve had dialogue with the Australians, the French, the British, other European nations, and many others in the Pacific,” and they all want to take “the petroleum off-ramp,” Cullom tells me. “We don’t want to run out of fuel.”
You can’t live off the land at sea, which is why the Navy has always looked far into the future to fuel its supply lines; the job description of admirals requires them to assess risk and solve intractable problems that stymie the rest of us. Peak oil, foreign oil, greenhouse emissions, climate change? Just another bunch of enemies. So when the Department of Defense set a goal to meet 25 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2025, the Navy found itself fighting on familiar ground. Four times in history it has overhauled old transportation paradigms — from sail to coal to gasoline to diesel to nuclear — carrying commercial shipping with it in the process. “We are a better Navy and a better Marine Corps for innovation,” Mabus says. “We have led the world in the adoption of new energy strategies in the past. This is our legacy.”
It goes beyond supply lines. Rising sea levels lapping at naval bases? A melting and increasingly militarized Arctic? The Navy is tackling problems that freeze Congress solid. What it learns, what it implements, and how it adapts and innovates will drive market changes that could alter the course of the world.
En route to the Nimitz I’ve managed to snag a seat next to one of only two windows in the COD’s dark cabin. Through the porthole I watch our transect over Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, and the sunken and rusting remains of much of the 1941 Pacific fleet. Beyond Pearl we climb over the Pacific Ocean, at 60.1 million square miles nearly half of Earth’s total ocean area. That’s a lot of territory over which to maintain maritime supremacy, while guarding the far-flung energy supplies needed to do it. Some 75 percent of the world’s fuel travels by sea, with 20 percent passing through vulnerable choke points like the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden, many guarded by U.S. forces. Partly in defense of those lines, the Department of Defense burns more than 12 million gallons of oil a day. About a third of the DOD’s fix goes to float the Navy, the world’s largest, with a battle fleet tonnage exceeding the next 13 biggest navies combined.
Out over the ocean my turboprop hums merrily along on its biofuel blend, and so do I, until I catch my first glimpse of the Nimitz out the window — a toy miniature in a turbulent bathtub. Suddenly 1,092 feet of flight deck wedged into a ninth the space allotted a commercial landing strip seems insanely small acreage. “Go, go, go!” shout two aircrewmen, their backs to me, waving their hands in the air. This is the signal to prepare for the controlled crash of a carrier landing. We jam our heads into backrests, cross arms over our chests, hook hands into harnesses, and wait. It’s an unnerving interlude, all noise dampened by the cranial I’m wearing, a helmet with built-in headphones clamped so tight my jawbone aches. Goggles down, I await what I can’t see. A minute drags by. Ferociously. Another. Inflatable rafts twitch in overhead cargo nets. Then the sounds of a mass pileup on a steel interstate. Legs whiplash in the air. An unidentified flying object clips my head. It feels exactly like a tragedy at 180 nautical miles an hour — only nothing breaks, burns, or drowns at the end of it. And now here I am, on an aircraft carrier cruising at 30 knots of speed, safe and sound.
It’s the Navy, so there’s history. The Great Green Fleet was named after the Great White Fleet launched by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: four squadrons of 16 battleships painted bright white and manned by 14,000 sailors and Marines on a 43,000-mile cruise around the world. It was the first ever armada of coal-powered steam battleships built entirely of steel — the product of years of government subsidies paying three times the market rate to develop a fledgling American steel industry. When Congress moved to blockade the fleet’s around-the-world funding, Roosevelt snarled at them to “try and get it back.” So the fleet sailed to 20 ports on six continents over 14 months, boldly going where no U.S. military had gone before and announcing the debut of the United States as a player on the World Ocean.
Even then the fight over a newfangled Navy was old. For a time in the 19th century it proved so psychologically difficult to get away from sail that hybrid naval ships sported steam funnels alongside acres of snowy white canvas. Naysayers swore the Navy was giving up reliable propulsion for dangerous and infernal machines. The great 19th-century naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote: “Sails were very expensive articles … but they were less costly than coal. Steam therefore was accepted at the first only as an accessory, for emergencies.” Acting on the principles Mahan laid out in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History — a seminal book in naval strategy — the United States methodically and expensively procured ports and territories around the world specifically for use as Navy coaling stations: Guam, Guantanamo Bay, Hawaii, Puerto Rico. Yet by the time the Great White Fleet sailed home again in 1909, the coal era was over and the Navy was converting yet again, this time to oil-burning steamships. It took a lot of oil to drive a steamship, and the realization that oil wasn’t going to last forever dawned far earlier in the military than among civilians. To keep the Navy afloat as long as possible, Congress passed the Pickett Act of 1910, commandeering lands in California and Wyoming, and later in Alaska, as Naval Petroleum Reserves, some of which ultimately ranked among the highest-producing oil and gas fields in the country.
The same year the Great White Fleet sailed home, 24-year-old Ensign Chester Nimitz, the man destined to be the namesake of the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz, took command of an early submarine, the USS Plunger. It was a crap assignment; young officers wanted battleships, the sexy beasts of the Navy. But Nimitz was in disgrace for having run a ship aground in the Philippines. Derisively, he called his sub “a cross between a Jules Verne fantasy and a humpbacked whale.” Yet he took the job seriously and began to lobby for an undersea fleet that ran more safely and efficiently on upstart diesel engines, in contrast to the gasoline-powered Plunger. By 1911, he had successfully skippered another energy transformation, overseeing the development of the first diesel submarine, the USS Skipjack, followed by the first diesel surface ship, the USS Maumee (an engineering task that cost him a finger). Thirty-five years later, as chief of naval operations, Nimitz changed the fleet’s course once again when he championed Capt. Hyman Rickover’s fiercely contested bid (Rickover’s opponents reportedly exiled him to an office in an abandoned women’s bathroom) to establish a nuclear-powered Navy.
“Every single time there were naysayers,” Secretary Mabus has said. “And every single time those naysayers have been wrong.”
Mabus has touched down aboard the Nimitz for the Great Green Fleet demo in a biofueled Seahawk helicopter. Wearing his flight helmet rakishly askew, looking more the politician than the former sailor, he’s piped aboard with a time-honored bosun’s whistle before passing through a hatch freshly stenciled with the Navy Energy Security logo, a blue and green wave. Maneuvers get under way on the flight deck where F-18s — today called “Green Hornets,” with their nose cones striped green — are taking off at 60-second intervals. The entire ship, all 97,000 tons of it, shudders from the muscle of 67,000-pound warbirds shot into the air from steam catapults. Water for the catapults comes from the Nimitz‘s four distilling units, which make 400,000 gallons of freshwater daily, mostly to cool the twin nuclear power plants that allow the Nimitz to sail the seas for 25 years between uranium fill-ups. In the skies above, in perfect formation flybys, jet fighters buddy-fuel each other through a hose-and-drogue system. Off our bow, while all three ships steam at 13 knots, the oiler USS Henry J. Kaiser refuels the cruiser USS Princeton, off-loading the last of today’s 900,000 gallons of 50-50 biofuel blend — the largest ever purchase of alternative fuel by the U.S. government.
“We’re seeing the Navy once again leading in the type of fuel we use and how we procure it,” Mabus tells an all-hands assembly in the vast interior space of a hangar bay on the Nimitz. “Today shows we can reduce our dependency on foreign oil.” The crew is jammed shoulder to shoulder: sailors in marine camouflage or “blueberries,” Marines in woodland camouflage, aircrew in jumpsuits, deck crew in bold-colored turtlenecks that signal at a glance their jobs on the floating war port. It’s so orderly and polite, what I imagine a small-town political rally of the 1950s to be, complete with stage bunting, an American flag the size of Kansas, and testy microphones. Except there’s a giant ocean heaving by outside the bay door, advanced electronic aircraft parked in the wings, a cluster of admirals wearing Green Fleet caps on the stage (of the hats, McCain griped a week later: “I do not believe this is a prudent use of defense funds”), plus a handful of reporters, a few looking seasick. Today’s demo is a milestone in Mabus’ energy plan. But it’s also a day for the sailors, one pilot tells me, since the media presence here will raise awareness among the rank and file better than anything the Navy itself says about the seriousness of its green purpose.
“You have the senior Navy leadership here today,” crows Mabus, as the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, takes the stage to praise the crew of the cruiser USS Chafee. “What I saw today was theory of practice,” Greenert says. “We didn’t have some scientist come down into the engine room and say, ‘One day you’ll see this.’ You hear it today and see it on gauges.” He’s talking about the technologies developed to further stretch whatever fuel the Navy procures: low-tech add-ons like stern flaps to reduce ships’ drag and increase fuel efficiency; high-tech plug-ins like energy dashboards with Prius-type feedback on fuel consumption; energy savers like LED lighting; plus your basic turn-off-the-lights mindset. “If we deploy these energy efficiencies fleetwide,” Mabus says, “we can save up to a million barrels of oil a year. And with what we’re paying, about $150 a barrel, that’s $150 million the Navy can save a year.”
Those aren’t the Navy’s only goals. Wide-reaching targets include: awarding Navy and Marine Corps equipment contracts based on better fuel efficiency; deploying (not just demonstrating) a Great Green Fleet carrier strike group by 2016; phasing in hybrid fuel and electric vehicles to halve petroleum use in the Navy’s 50,000 commercial vehicle fleet by 2015; requiring that by 2020 each base — the Navy owns 2.2 million acres of land plus 65,000 buildings — be at least 50 percent self-powered by renewables like solar, wind, and wave energy; and ensuring that at least 50 percent of the Navy’s total energy consumption comes from alternative sources by 2020. These changes will ripple out to the civilian world, too — just as military demand propelled the development that eventually drove down the cost of American steel, radar, GPS, and microchips.
But there are naysayers. In an op-ed in US News, Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research – a nonprofit tied to Koch Industries – calls the Navy’s biofuel goals “ridiculous” and an “inexcusable example of government cronyism.” And Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired‘s influential national-security blog, Danger Room, blasted Mabus for not shoring up political or statistical support before going full steam ahead on his biofuel mission. That said, the $12 million spent so far on biofuels is four one-hundredths of 1 percent of the Navy’s annual fuel consumption, what the department would pay for an increase of less than a cent per gallon of oil, according to Mabus. In fact the entire biofuels budget currently totals less than a 100th of 1 percent of the Pentagon’s nearly $650 billion annual budget.
Remarkably, there’s very little opposition inside the Navy. “Some of the oldest, most experienced officers, if you’d asked them 10 years ago, they’d say we should never change our energy ways,” Capt. James Goudreau, director of the Navy Energy Coordination Office, tells me. “But now they’re in the position that they actually have to run the fleet, have to manage and pay for its operations. They see that we can’t afford to do what we used to do.”
Plus petroleum isn’t the bargain it seems. Factor in the price of guarding and moving it from the Middle East. Factor in the battlefield cost of transporting a gallon of fuel across oceans to a coastal facility in Pakistan, or airlifting it to Kandahar, then loading it onto a truck, guarding that truck, and delivering it to a battlefield. In extreme cases, that single gallon of gasoline can cost the DOD up to $400. “That’s too high a price to pay for fuel,” says Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi who became a renewables convert while serving as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the Clinton administration. “In the drive for energy reform, and this is critical, the goal has got to be increased warfighting capability. Too many of our platforms and too many of our systems are gas hogs.”
The lethal costs of petroleum are even higher. For every 24 fuel convoys the United States transported in Afghanistan in 2007, a soldier or civilian contractor was killed or wounded. And extreme volatility can make it difficult to judge what the worst-case scenario could be. “Every time the cost of a barrel of oil goes up a dollar, it costs the United States Navy $31 million in extra fuel costs,” Mabus says. When oil spiked in 2008, the Navy suddenly had to forecast “our fuel bill rising from roughly $1.2 to $5.1 billion” over a few years, says Vice Adm. Cullom. “When your fuel bill goes up that much, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘What are you not going to do?’ You’re either going to buy fewer ships, fewer planes and tactical vehicles, or you’re going to buy less fuel and not send your ships out.”
“The cheapest barrel of fuel is the one we never burn,” Goudreau tells me. “Eighty-five percent of what we do each year is chasing efficiency.” To foster this kind of thinking, the Navy is grooming a new generation of “energy warriors” at its Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Fuel-saving incentives are factored into promotions servicewide. In 2011, these efforts saved 11 percent of fuel costs, awarding the Navy an additional 56,500 hours of “free” steaming time at sea. The initiative was so successful that a similar program has been launched to optimize fuel consumption aboard the Navy’s 3,700 aircraft. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Marines using solar panels have reduced their need for fuel and battery deliveries at forward operating bases by up to 90 percent.
As for the thorny problem of scaling up to operational biofuel, the Navy is investing $170 million in American biofuel companies, an amount matched by the departments of Agriculture and Energy. And not just any (or only) biofuels. “The Navy is mindful of not trading one fuel problem for another,” Goudreau says. “Our alternative fuels can’t compete with food crops. We don’t want to alter the price of food and then cause regional instability that we have to respond to. That would be shortsighted. We can’t drive up big irrigation requirements. Plus our fuels have to meet congressional language requiring a carbon footprint the same or smaller than petroleum.” This reflects the way the Navy bills itself in an era where “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure” has been superseded by “A global force for good,” a philanthropic-sounding slogan thought to appeal to recruits less excited by pure martialism. Goudreau describes how U.S. ships were forced to turn away from relief work off Japan after the 2011 earthquake. “Because our ships consume energy at the rate they do, we had to steam over the horizon to refuel, and then come back,” he says. “The ability to operate more efficiently means we could stay on station an extra day or three when it absolutely counts the most.”
Goudreau echoes what all the Navy people tell me: Where the Navy leads, others will follow. That’s no small matter when you consider that in 2008 more than 90 percent of global trade traveled by ocean aboard 90,000-plus cargo ships burning the foulest of fuels, making shipping the sixth-biggest CO2 emitter after China, the United States, Russia, India, and Japan. Goudreau is confident that once the Navy tests and finds the best fuels, commercial fleets — both shipping and aviation — will drive the price to competitiveness and, in a virtuous cycle, further relieve the pressure on the Navy to protect oil supplies. “If we do this right,” he says, “we’ll turn vulnerability into capability.”
“We’re definitely motivated,” says Robert Sturtz, formerly of United Airlines, one of several industry executives on the Nimitz today to see firsthand how fighter jets and other naval aircraft fare with the Navy’s biofuel in their tanks. “We’re already facing carbon emissions taxes in European airports,” he says. “We have to find ways to bring those costs down.”
The Navy pilots aboard the Nimitz are cool with biofuels. “I’m happy to be part of history,” says Lt. Adam Niekras, an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter pilot. “And I saw no difference in performance at all.” Lt. Commander Jason Fox, pilot of an E-2C Hawkeye, a radar early warning plane, reflects: “The military has done a lot of things that started a tidal wave in our culture. Plus, I’d really rather not fight to defend fossil fuels if there are alternatives.” Fox flies with the VAW-117 “Wallbangers” squadron. In their ready room, which boasts a banner that reads “Bangers Lead the Way,” they’re peddling squadron T-shirts to press and dignitaries that read: “Keeping the Earth Green, One Bag of Biofuel at a Time.”
Sure, the Great Green Fleet demonstration is a public-relations gesture. But it seems to be spin in defense of a genuine sea change. Last May, the House and Senate armed services committees voted to kill biofuels, but after the RIMPAC demo, Congress reversed that decision. Congress also voted to remove obstacles preventing the Navy’s plan to invest $170 million in companies building advanced biofuels refineries — an amount matched by both the Agriculture and Energy departments. Along with more than $53 billion in future public-private investments, this plan opens the door for at least 13 billion gallons of advanced biorefinery production capacity to come online in the next decade, according to cleantech analysts Pike Research. These will be among America’s first commercial-scale biorefineries, forecast to create up to 17,000 new jobs. Which may well mark the tipping point Capt. Goudreau suggested, the moment when the reassurance from long-term military contracts begins to propel a competitive and self-perpetuating market. Already, since the Navy starting buying biofuels in 2009, the price per gallon has dropped by more than half. “The Navy’s leadership has already sped up the commercialization of advanced biofuels by at least a decade and set this important option on a path to commercial viability at scale,” says Amory Lovins, chair and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, who helped prod the Navy toward clean energy. “It has primed the pump for great flows of scaling and innovation.” Mabus is optimistic: “I believe that if the Navy can fully pursue its initiatives, [biofuels] will reach cost-competitiveness in 2016 — four years ahead of the 2020 target date.”
When recently asked by Esquire about his most important legacy as defense secretary, Leon Panetta cited the energy paradigm, especially in the Navy: “Our ability to develop alternative energy and energy independence not only saves money, but it’s an investment in our national security.”
I’ve taken one bite of my lunch in the officer’s wardroom when Capt. Kevin Mannix, commander of the carrier air wing, runs up and tags me on the shoulder. “Wanna see the Australian helicopter land?” I do. But what about lunch? He shrugs and jogs for the door. Everything in the Navy moves fast. Already I’ve hiked miles at a punishing pace up and down countless ladders connecting decks to get from one end of the ship to the other while circumventing the things the Navy doesn’t want me to see. The Nimitz crew is frustrated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), which is running an hour and a half behind schedule for the meeting. Tardiness, I gather, is keelhauled out of sluggish U.S. sailors, and my escorts struggle to hide the WTF looks on their faces. Australians, on the other hand, have pubs on their navy ships. Since I’m half Australian, I find myself enjoying the clash of cultures.
Mannix drives me up 12 levels at breakneck speed, shoves a cranial and two “foamies” (earplugs) at me, and tells me to protect myself. Then he ushers me out to Vultures Row, the viewing deck six levels above the flight deck, to watch a Seahawk helicopter from the Australian frigate HMAS Perth set down: a battleship-gray butterfly alighting on the Nimitz‘s stern. As its passengers unfold from the interior, Nimitz deck crew wearing the purple jerseys of fuelers run out a hose to top it off with biofuel nectar — the first RAN aircraft ever to feed on the stuff.
The Aussie fleet commander, Rear Adm. Tim Barrett, is piped aboard and ushered below to the stage of a hangar bay reconfigured for the day’s historic signing. Behind a small table that looks like it might double for a poker game later that night, he delivers to Secretary Mabus a statement of understanding that the navies will cooperate on stabilizing biofuel prices and supplies toward the common goals of a permanent Green Fleet deployment in 2016 and on helping the U.S. Navy attain its goal of having its nonnuclear fleet powered by a 50-50 biofuel blend by 2020. The Aussies are here because Australian government-funded research has shown that algal biodiesel is cheaper than fossil diesel in terms of both money and carbon, and because government-funded companies are already scaling up toward large algae-growing operations in open saline ponds. “Western Australia has some great places and an ideal climate to grow and develop algae in saltwater,” U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Cullom tells me. Better than anywhere in the United States. Add algae to other advanced biofuels and you might just get enough to meet the Navy’s 2020 goal of 8 million barrels per year. “We are here to learn what we need to do to remain interoperable with the U.S.,” Barrett told the Australian. “We’d be mad not to be involved.”
Practically speaking, the Aussies are also here because of a fundamental geopolitical shift under way in the United States. “After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly in blood and treasure,” President Obama told the Australian Parliament in 2011, “the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region.” That includes deploying 2,500 Marines to Australia’s Northern Territory and sending more warplanes, ships, and submarines through Down Under ports. China is the concern, along with the South China Sea, a body of water that lies closer to Australia than Chicago is to San Francisco and is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas reserves. China calls it the second Persian Gulf and now claims much of its waters as its own – to the alarm of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. The scramble over who can drill a hole where in that seafloor is already escalating into battles between Chinese and Filipino fishing boats while drawing warning shouts from faraway Russia, India, and the United States.
The Navy worries that a growing Asian demand for oil will inevitably drive prices higher. A newly seagoing China — Beijing just landed its first jet on its new aircraft carrier — along with the expected gas rush in the South China Sea, have reportedly focused the roving U.S. military eye on a few unlikely morsels of sand barely rising above the waves off Australia’s northwestern coast: the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This Australian archipelago boasts a total landmass “about 24 times the size of The Mall in Washington, D.C.,” reports the CIA World Factbook. Tiny, but strategically placed to spy on the 1.7-mile-wide choke point of the Strait of Malacca, through which 15.2 million barrels of oil flowed daily in 2011. The United States is reported to be vetting the Cocos as an advanced spy base for Global Hawk drones, and maybe more. The latest Australian defense review suggests upgrading the islands’ single airfield to support aerial refueling tankers and “unrestricted” anti-submarine aircraft and drones.
Clearly the great green war game is still a hybrid: defending fossil fuels — and those who get access to them — while charging full steam toward alternatives.
I’ve never been to the Pentagon before. It reminds me of a Stanley Kubrick set, the surreal love child of Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey: miles of corridors, some with embedded sparkle confetti, miles of closed doors. And then, oddly, a New Balance store, an eyeglasses store, a jewelry store featuring engagement rings, plus Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Roughly 23,000 people work in what is one of the world’s largest office buildings, some on one of the world’s most expensive problems: the effects of global warming on warfighting capability.
“Since we know climate change is not only coming but it’s here,” says Rear Adm. David Titley, a meteorologist and physical oceanographer by training, “the U.S. Navy needs to figure out what we’re going to do about it.” A fit Navy geek who bikes to the Pentagon most mornings, the admiral looks cooped up in the tiny office assigned to him as the oceanographer and navigator of the Navy and director of Task Force Climate Change. (After this interview he moved to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) The task force mission “to address the naval implications of a changing Arctic and global environment” was born from the Navy’s examination of the scientific evidence, from which they concluded: “Climate change is a national security challenge with strategic implications … [affecting] U.S. military installations and access to natural resources worldwide.”
One issue bearing down fast is rising sea levels. Take Naval Station Norfolk, the Atlantic fleet headquarters and the world’s largest naval station, strategically built a century ago on the low-lying Virginia Tidewater. Today it sits in the crosshairs of ocean waters climbing a quarter inch a year. That’s among Earth’s fastest rates of sea-level rise and the fastest in the United States outside of Louisiana. Moreover, the ocean along the entire East Coast north of Cape Hatteras — a 620-mile stretch home to nine other naval bases — is rising at three to four times the global average, probably because warming ocean waters are redrawing the larger circulation of the Atlantic.
Offshore, nobody moves faster than the U.S. Navy. But onshore, political aversion to the C-word has slowed its efforts. “The Australians have already assessed the effects of climate and sea level rise on their defense establishments,” Titley says. “And that’s something we’ve got to do.” In 2008, the National Intelligence Council reported more than 30 U.S. military installations already facing elevated risks from rising seas, though the actual number is believed to be much higher and the list remains classified. Currently the DOD is investigating how a warming and expanding ocean will affect a mere five of hundreds of Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force bases, including Norfolk. One thing’s for sure: There won’t be any universal rescue plan. Each base responds differently to neighborhood conditions: bathymetry, tides, winds, river flows. Each has unique frailties: barrier islands, hurricane paths, El Niño effects, coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion. The costs won’t be limited to military real estate either. “Our bases aren’t islands,” Titley says. “Our sailors and civilians live in nearby communities where services — power, freshwater, electricity, internet, sewage — are also vulnerable to rising sea levels. When we consider mitigation and adaptation, we’ve got to work all that out, too.”
Like sea-level rise, the Navy’s problems are global, since it has bases in 12 nations, including overseas islands. The coral atoll of Diego Garcia, for instance, the core of U.S. spy missions in the Indian Ocean since the 1960s, rises less than 10 feet above sea level in most places, and the Navy may be forced to abandon it to the waves when the lease runs out in 2016. Its potential replacement is Australia’s Cocos Islands, where the highest point rises only 16 feet above the waterline. Decisions on whether to retrofit, adapt, close, or move installations will tax the Navy’s mental and financial bandwidth for the foreseeable future. “I call it the Goldilocks strategy,” Titley says. “We don’t want to get caught behind climate change and sea level rise because then we’ll be forced to spend a lot of money quickly, and we don’t always do that wisely. Conversely, in these fiscal conditions, it’s not wise to spend money too soon either.”
Meanwhile, the Navy has sailed into dire straits in the climate battlefront they deem most critical: the Arctic. Navy submarines crossing the North Pole were first to notice an ominous thinning of sea ice in the 1990s. Yet it took more than a decade for the Naval War College to game Arctic scenarios, with bleak results: “The U.S. Navy is inadequately prepared to conduct sustained maritime operations in the Arctic [due to] an inability to reliably perform and maintain operations in the austere Arctic environment.” The No. 1 problem is that the Navy no longer owns any operational icebreakers, which will be needed even decades into the future, since an “ice-free” Arctic is still susceptible to freezing at any time. The Coast Guard owns one icebreaker, the scientific research cutter Healy (I sailed aboard her last October for an upcoming piece in Mother Jones), which the Navy has been forced to call upon in every Arctic war game scenario to break ice for its warships. The Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Bob Papp, called the U.S. icebreaking fleet “woefully inadequate” but hoped Congress would fund Obama’s $8 million request to develop one new polar-class icebreaker. (It did, but the Russians own six nuclear-powered icebreakers — and are in the process of building the world’s largest — plus at least 29 government and commercial diesel-powered icebreaking vessels.) The No. 2 problem is that the Navy no longer owns any ice-hardened surface ships, and retrofitting would run between a quarter and a half of each vessel’s cost. Which means no Navy ships are currently even capable of following in an icebreaker’s wake. Last but not least, there are no year-round supply lines or naval bases in U.S. territory north of the Aleutian Islands, nearly 1,000 brutal nautical miles from the Arctic Ocean. By any measure the United States is not an Arctic Ocean player.
In the meantime, none of the world’s armed forces are wasting time doubting global warming, and all the Arctic nations, plus others, including China, are ramping up their focus on the far north. “I’ve got to thank the Russians for planting that flag on the seafloor of the North Pole in 2007,” Titley says. “That got Washington’s attention more than any think tank ever could.” It got oilman George W. Bush, in one of his last acts in office in 2009, to sign two presidential directives acknowledging “the effects of climate change and increasing human activity in the Arctic region.”
What’s at stake? The U.S. Geological Survey calculates that the Arctic holds 25 percent of Earth’s undiscovered and recoverable conventional petroleum products: 16 percent of its oil, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 26 percent of its natural gas liquids, with about 84 percent of those resources lying offshore. Those fossil goodies will be claimed by whichever military gets them first. And some have better access than others. “The Russian coastline,” Titley says, “covers half the Arctic coast, with three Russian rivers each the size and scope of the Mississippi flowing into it. It’s like the Gulf of Mexico on steroids.” A fifth of Russia’s GDP and 22 percent of its exports already come from north of the Arctic Circle, most from energy production. Russia’s then-deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov, voiced the fears of many nations, Arctic and non-Arctic, when he said: “If we don’t develop the Arctic, it will be developed without us.”
“If you look at the Arctic nations’ top-level strategy,” adds Titley, “it’s to be safe, stable, and secure. No one sees conflict in anyone’s interest.” That seems an ahistorical, rosy assessment, and indeed territorial disputes among the eight Arctic nations are blooming as fast as plankton in the ice-free waters, including the unresolved boundary between Russia and the United States over the 58-mile-wide Bering Strait. “Whenever the shipping routes across the Arctic open, the Navy will focus on the Bering Strait,” Titley says. “It’s the Arctic version of the Strait of Hormuz, through which the fossil fuels of the north will flow south.”
It’s clear the superpowers of the 21st century will grow from the north down. So picture this not-so-futuristic scenario: a biofueled U.S. Navy defending a critical fossil fuel choke point in melting Arctic waters along disputed shorelines receding under rising sea levels while fossil fuel booty unburied by climate change is burned to make more climate change. War gaming nature. Now that’s going to be a wild ride.
My night aboard the USS Nimitz gets me a bunk in a DV (distinguished visitor) stateroom called the Texas Cabin. I’m given a standard hotel-type key card by sailors working in, no kidding, Hotel Services. My cabin is spacious, the bunk seductively comfortable. At the end of the day I’m handed off from a weary male lieutenant to two female petty officers, MC1 Sarah Murphy and MC2 Nichelle Whitfield, who are clearly amazed at the DV digs. “Wow,” they say, admiring the brushed stainless steel walls and inlaid floor. They live in spartan enlisted berthing areas with triple-tier bunks cloaked in perpetual darkness because of round-the-clock duty watches and daytime sleepers. “You have a curfew,” they warn me, “at 2130 hours.” They look exhausted. RIMPAC and the Great Green Fleet demo have burned all their fuel.
They take me to dinner in the enlisted mess, a crowded, noisy cafeteria, where we hand over our trays for glops of desiccated frozen vegetable medley, naked fusilli noodles, and slabs of corned beef. Since there aren’t any clean knives, we retreat to a table armed only with forks. I try to cut the meat with a fork. I work hard at it and get nowhere. MC1 Murphy is genteelly tearing at it with her hands. OK. But I can’t tear it, not even a little. “I’m gonna use my teeth,” I say. “Go for it,” Murphy says. “Whatever works,” Whitfield says. The slab looks uncannily like the sole of a shoe. I put it between my teeth and yank. I give it everything I’ve got. But it’s so tough that not one bite makes it down my gullet. New respect is born for those who survive eight-month deployments at sea.
Murphy and Whitfield ask me about the story I’m working on. I tell them about the melting Arctic and rising sea levels, fossil fuels, war, climate change, and the positive feedback loops between them all. Their eyes grow wide. The Navy plans for everything, the admirals all tell me, but not apparently for their petty officers to know much of anything about the big problems that may well define their careers and their lives and the lives of their children. Of course, the Navy’s not alone in that strategy. And maybe it’s not the absolute shitshow of a tragedy that it seems. I look around the cafeteria. Sailors large and small are doing battle with their corned beef and pulling off what I couldn’t: slaying it. I laugh. Our nation, our species, is nothing if not boss of the last-minute improvisation of the save-our-ass variety.
The next day I’m strapped in my seat in the same COD by the same window. All the dread I should have felt prior to the outbound flight but didn’t has taken hold of me now. I realize my entire future hinges on getting shot from a catapult at 165 miles an hour. “Wait,” I say, grabbing the same aircrewman who strapped me in back in Honolulu, “what am I supposed to do?” He explains — “lean forward into your harness, tuck your chin to your chest, cross your arms” — then sees the worried look in my eyes and smiles. “Don’t worry. It’s gonna be fun.”
Internship: Ecofashion Book/Green Blog Assistant Job Description
I am a professional environmental advocate, blogger, and former adjunct professor at a local college on Long Island. I am writing a book on ecofashion (organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc.) and maintain a blog (ecobeth.com), and need help with online research, blog and website technical upkeep, video interviews, as well as general assistance with organizing. I also run a small business (GreenInsideandOut.com) through which I do public speaking.
Specific tasks would be:
â€¢ Helping maintain (and improve) a blog on green issues; helping with layout, photos and video editing
â€¢ Updating my green business website with a video and current events
â€¢ I have done two photo shoots of my ecofashion items. I need help naming each photo with the corresponding clothing label so it can be identified in the book.
â€¢ Helping to research companies that sell eco-friendly clothing & designers, identify people to interview and assisting with interviews; editing book chapters
â€¢ Keeping hardcopy information organized; filing articles on the subject in files
â€¢ Entering business cards I collect at conferences into an excel spreadsheet
â€¢ Helping identify venues where I can offer public presentations
Payment would be $10.00 per hour for a limited amount of hours (a 2-4 hours a week ) over the next year. (I’m open to offering bonuses if your work really impresses me.) Schedule is flexible and most work can be done from home, but it does require commitment to the project to help see it through to completion until book is published in about a year. Some work will need to be done at my home on Long Island. My work style is casual and friendly.
Ability to start immediately. Interested and enthusiastic about green/environmental issues, background in fashion a big plus, college educated, familiar with computer programs- basic and web programs and Wordpress, website editing capability, responsible and self-motivated, organized, patient, and detail oriented. College age +, from Long Island or Queens. Must have a car. Please send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to meet for informal interviews in the coming weeks.
Please also indicate what you are able or not able/willing to do (I may hire more than one person whose abilities compliment each other):
1. Wordpress blog technical upkeep Y N
2. Updating website with video and new info Y N
3. Ecofashion research Y N
4. Organization/filing/tagging photos Y N
5. Entering contacts into excel spreadsheet Y N
6. Book editing Y N
The iPhone has become one of the developed world’s most ubiquitous consumer products; the new iPhone 5 sold more than 5 million units in its first week. But the vast majority of iPhone users have no clue what goes into the guts of their coveted toy. That’s no accident, since the phone’s internal design and chemical content are closely guarded trade secrets and Apple deliberately makes it difficult for consumers to open up the device.
Enter Kyle Wiens, whose company, iFixit, aims to help users penetrate their gadgets’ dark secrets, from how much toxic mercury they contain to how to change the damn battery. Last week, Climate Desk found shelter from a torrential rainstorm near one of New York City’s Apple stores and watched Wiens go to work (see video above). Today, iFixit released the results of its chemical analysis of the iPhone 5 and a suite of other popular cellphones, conducted by the environmental nonprofit Ecology Center.
First the good news: The iPhone 5 is leagues ahead of its more toxic predecessors — especially the 2G. (The worst overall performers — most toxic first — were the iPhone 2G, Palm m125, Motorola MOTO W233 Renew, Nokia M95, BlackBerry Storm 9530, and Palm Treo 750.) The latest iPhone performed better on the toxins front than most rival models, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III, and was only narrowly beaten out by the least-toxic phone examined, the Motorola Citrus.
Now the bad news: The iPhone 5 still tests high for mercury and chlorine, both of which can present serious healthhazards if they leach into local water supplies from a dump somewhere — typically in a poor area of China, Ghana, or India. It also contained trace amounts of bromine, which has been linked to thyroid cancer and lung disease. “There’s no such thing as a ‘green’ phone,” Wiens points out. “There’s no such thing as a phone that has no toxic chemicals.”
Still, the new iPhone looks great compared with its original progenitor, which contained an astonishing 1,020 times more bromine and 97 times more mercury than the current model, according to iFixit. But the point of all of this is less about any one phone’s chemical components, and more about the need to curb our addiction to throwing away phones that could be fixed rather than dumped. “It’s critically important to consume as few phones as possible, to conserve the resources we have,” Wiens says.
Don’t go see Detropia hoping for ruin porn. The new film by acclaimed documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Boys of Baraka, Jesus Camp) gives you more than pretty pictures of abandoned buildings: It gives you the story of the people who live among them.
In one of the first scenes of the film, we meet Crystal Starr, a Detroit videoblogger who trolls these buildings for fun. “What was there? Who was there?” she asks while exploring an old apartment building. “I’m picturing this place clean, and people walking around, and shit happening.” She stops in front of an open window in an apartment kitchen. “Can you imagine having breakfast right here? You know what I mean, like, look at your view.” The Detroit skyline looms in the distance, over a swath of overgrown greenery. “Like ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go out and conquer the world, ’cause I can damn near see it right here.’”
“Our aesthetic approach was definitely Detroit as dreamscape,” Ewing says. “You can drive for several miles and really not see anyone — and it’s not because there’s no one there, it’s because you have 139 square miles with only 700,000 people living there.”
What makes the dreamscape of Detropia so powerful is the fact that it’s rooted in reality. Throughout the film (whose name is a mashup of “Detroit” and “dystopia”), the directors drop a succession of shocking facts: Every 20 minutes, another family moves out of Detroit. In 1930, Detroit was the fastest growing city in America; it is now the fastest shrinking. In the last 10 years, Michigan has lost 50 percent of all its manufacturing jobs. The geographic areas of Boston, San Francisco, and Manhattan can fit within the city limits of Detroit, yet the city itself has fewer people than Fort Worth, Texas.
Ewing and Grady don’t generalize in this film, and, refreshingly, they don’t offer any silver-bullet solutions or tidy endings. Rather, they manage to tell the story of a city through three artfully chosen main characters: Starr, the videoblogger; George MacGregor, a veteran union organizer; and Tommy Stevens, a retired schoolteacher who owns and operates a bar, the Raven Lounge.
With boisterous crowds and sweaty live music, the Raven Lounge acts as the setting for many of the film’s happier scenes, and yet it, too, hints at tragedy. Located across the street from the old Chevrolet plant, much of its success hinged on that of the car companies, and Stevens still holds out hope that energy-efficient cars like the Chevy Volt will bring in enough customers for him to hire more staff (in the film, he cooks all the food himself).
One of the most provocative and heartbreaking moments in Detropia is when Stevens, visiting the North American International Auto Show at Detroit’s convention center with his wife, realizes that China’s electric car, manufactured by BYD, gets more mileage per charge and costs thousands of dollars less than the Volt. “This is still a town where we all think that we’re one excellent car away from a comeback,” Ewing says. “And the numbers just don’t add up.”
The filmmakers avoided the “low-hanging fruit,” Ewing says — the ubiquitous shots of urban chaos that would have eliminated the thin, yet ever-present, line of hope that threads through the film. “There are no homeless people in the film. There are no drug addicts in the film, there are no tent cities in the film; there are no people shooting up or sleeping under trees and trash, which you see all the time in Detroit.”
But nor do they hang their hope on the influx of young (predominantly white, predominantly privileged) artists who have occasionally been unjustly credited as saviors of the city. All three of Detropia’s characters are middle-class, employed African Americans. The artists who get the most screen time are the film’s poster couple: Steve and Dorota Coy, whose noble performance art critiques capitalism and corporate America.
And while Ewing and Grady hint at the possibility of a revival driven by new arrivals (young, white artist buys a loft, comments on how affordable everything in Detroit is as his chrome kitchen appliances gleam in the background), they don’t make any promises, and Ewing recognizes the problems with this narrative. “It’s too early to tell if they’re going to stay,” she says. “The film is so much more about the consequences of short-term thinking on behalf of our industries, our leaders. To throw it all in the hands of these newcomers and hint that that’s absolutely going to be the comeback — that felt too simplistic.”
So who will save the city, then? Ewing points to small businesses. “Dependence on a major corporation, the belief that the corporation is going to take care of a city or a huge amount of people — we have to let go of that idea,” Ewing says. “I think entrepreneurship, small businesses, are the only way.”
Detropia’s message echoes beyond the Motor City, and Ewing hopes Americans across the country can learn from it. “A DIY attitude is crucial. A sense of getting involved in one’s community and not standing on the sidelines is essential,” she says. “Pay attention to our trade policies. Vote with knowledge.”
Detropia premiered at Sundance in January, where it earned the festival’s award for best editing. The film, which Ewing and Grady chose to self-distribute in order to guarantee pre-election screen time, is currently playing in Detroit, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Providence, and San Francisco, and will open in other cities this month. To find a screening near you, visit detropiathefilm.com.
About Us: Solar energy will inevitably play a huge role in the future of the global economy. At iSolar our goal is to help bring that future to the Bay Area and bring the enormous potential of solar energy directly to the consumer. With decades of experience in the industry, we believe that the purchase of residential PV solar systems is by far the best way for consumers to capture the economic benefits of solar energy. We are excited about the future of solar energy, and we are looking for candidates who share that excitement. We are committed to finding and developing top talent to grow our company, so we offer extremely competitive compensation to all members of our team in order to reward hard work and build up a team of industry leaders. If you are looking for an opportunity to gain professional experience in the solar industry and think you can contribute to our team, we want to hear from you.
Position: Inside Sales Representative
-The Inside Sales Representative will connect potential customers with the Outside Sales Team and will be responsible for maintaining and managing their own sales pipeline. All contact information is well qualified and provided by iSolar.
-Sales and industry specific training will be provided on an ongoing basis, but we expect our Inside Sales Representatives to learn quickly and be able to take charge of their own professional development.
-Inside Sales Representative is a performance driven position. Compensation is productivity dependent and begins at a baseline of 50k annually, with substantial room for growth. Our sales team members are given the full support of management and set up for success.
-Inside Sales Representatives are required to support the Outside Sales Team and take on new tasks as they arise.
-Established Inside Sales Representatives are encouraged to take ownership of approved marketing campaigns and community outreach events and receive compensation on all subsequent sales.
-Outside Sales Opportunities are available to the most qualified Inside Sales Representatives after a period of 1 year.
-Excellent customer service and communication skills
-A professional work ethic
-An Ability to prioritize tasks and meet goals
-Adaptability to changing circumstances and the ability to overcome problems
-A strong desire to learn about solar energy and become an expert in the industry
-One of those personality things
That talk by ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson at the Council on Foreign Relations that Gristmill linked to earlier today is a stunning demonstration of how to sow confusion and delay. It’s worth deeper analysis. So let’s dig in!
It’s very long, so we’ll summarize some sections and zero in on a couple of key passages. You can read the whole thing here.
Paragraphs 1-6, in short: Energy prices sure go up and down a lot! But we keep finding more fossil fuels when we need to.
Next 3 paragraphs: Boy, there was a lot more natural gas in the shale here in North America than we expected.
Next 6 paragraphs: Let’s all say “energy security” rather than “energy independence,” OK? Exxon is a multinational, and I want everyone to be friends and not worry about where their oil comes from as long as it keeps coming.
Here’s where Tillerson starts to gets interesting. Let’s quote his original and then translate:
Ours is an industry that is built on technology, it’s built on science, it’s built on engineering, and because we have a society that by and large is illiterate in these areas, science, math and engineering, what we do is a mystery to them and they find it scary. And because of that, it creates easy opportunities for opponents of development, activist organizations, to manufacture fear.
Translation: You thought those people out there sounding an alarm about climate change were scientists? Forget it. We here at Exxon, we’re the scientists. And all those people with fancy degrees and titles who have been desperately trying to teach the U.S. public about global warming? They’re illiterates! We’re the clean guys in white coats; they’re the dirty “manufacturers” of fear.
And so as these technologies emerge, we know the immediate response from certain parts of interested parties out there is going to be to manufacture fear because that’s how you slow this down. And nowhere is it more effective than in the United States. And so that’s — the pace at which these things occur oftentimes is our ability to deal with the manufactured fear, our ability as an industry, working with well-intended regulators and policymakers to address the fears.
Translation: I am a dispassionate man of reason. Forget that I run one of the richest corporations in the world. I am not an “interested party.” The interested parties are all those illiterate, fear-mongering activists who are getting filthy rich off their fabulously wealthy nonprofit activities.
It requires a lot of education, requires taking an illiterate public — illiterate in the sciences, engineering and mathematics — and trying to help them understand why we can manage these risks. And that’s a very intensive, almost one-on-one process — town by town, city council by city council, state by state. So it takes a while. And we’re not particularly aided in our efforts by the broad-based media, because it’s a lot sexier to write the fear stories than it is to write the here’s-how-you-manage-it story.
Translation: Do not think that we buy advertisements and pay lobbyists in order to influence public policy in our favor. At Exxon, we re having one-on-one conversations with our community. Sadly, journalists sometimes help out those fearmongering ignoramuses by repeating their lies. So we have to spend lots of money setting the record straight.
Now, that’s just a fact, it’s not a complaint. But it’s part of why do things take so long. Well, that’s one of the reasons it takes us a long time to get the policy solutions, because it all becomes then a political process instead of a scientific process.
Translation: If only we could leave energy policy safely in the hands of scientists. Wait, maybe that’s not the best idea.
There are important questions about the things that people worry about, and we have an obligation to address them, and we devote a tremendous amount of effort in addressing those. But I think if you look at the technologies that are front and center today around the shale resources — hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, the integration of those technologies, how we drill these wells, how we protect fresh water zone, how we protect emissions — we have all of that engineered. And as long as we as an industry follow good engineering practices and standards, these risks are entirely manageable. And the consequences of a misstep by any member of our industry — and I’m speaking again about the shale revolution — the consequences of a misstep in a well, while large to the immediate people that live around that well, in the great scheme of things are pretty small, and even to the immediate people around the well, they could be mitigated.
Translation: Accidents don’t happen if you do things right, and at Exxon, we always do things right. And even if there is an accident with fracking, which sometimes is done by people who don’t work for Exxon who might not do everything right, it will only wreck the lives of a limited number of people in a small number of communities. So who cares?
These are not life-threatening, they’re not long-lasting, and they’re not new. They are the same risks that our industry has been managing for more than 100 years in the conventional development of oil and natural gas. There’s nothing new in what we’re doing, and we’ve been hydraulically refracturing (sic) wells in large numbers since the 1960s; first developed in 1940. So this is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies. So the risks are very manageable.
Translation: If you look at the history of our industry, why would anyone worry? It’s not as if there have ever been any accidents, right?
The fears are real. We don’t discount that people’s fears are their fears. We have to address that. We want to address it with sound science, we want to address it with real data, and somehow we have to overcome the manufactured fear which gets most of the headlines.
Translation: The fears aren’t real! But unfortunately the U.S. still has elections, and the government can still make trouble for us. So we have to pretend to take public fears seriously. After all, if we lose a few towns here and there, you and I here at this elite conference understand that that’s an acceptable risk — but the illiterate masses out there might get really upset.
There is much, much more in this speech, but that’s enough for now. OK, almost enough. Here’s one last bit from the Q&A at the end.
QUESTIONER: Hi, I’m David Fenton. Mr. Tillerson, I want to talk about science and risk, and I agree with you that’s the way we must proceed. So, as you know, it’s a basic fact of physics that CO2 traps heat, and too much CO2 will mean it will get too hot, and we will face enormous risks as a result of this not only to our way of life, but to the world economy. It will be devastating: The seas will rise, the coastlines will be unstable for generations, the price of food will go crazy. This is what we face, and we all know it.
Now — so my question for you is since we all know this knowledge, we’re a little in denial of it. You know, if we burn all these reserves you’ve talked about, you can kiss future generations good-bye. And maybe we’ll find a solution to take it out of the air. But, as you know, we don’t have one. So what are you going to do about this? We need your help to do something about this.
TILLERSON: Well, let me — let me say that we have studied that issue and continue to study it as well. We are and have been long-time participants in the IPCC panels. We author many of the IPCC subcommittee papers, and we peer-review most of them. So we are very current on the science, our understanding of the science, and importantly — and this is where I’m going to take exception to something you said — the competency of the models to predict the future. We’ve been working with a very good team at MIT now for more than 20 years on this area of modeling the climate, which, since obviously it’s an area of great interest to you, you know and have to know the competencies of the models are not particularly good.
Now you can plug in assumptions on many elements of the climate system that we cannot model — and you know what they all are. We cannot model aerosols; we cannot model clouds, which are big, big factors in how the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere affect temperatures at surface level. The models we need — and we are putting a lot of money supporting people and continuing to work on these models, try and become more competent with the models. But our ability to predict, with any accuracy, what the future’s going to be is really pretty limited.
So our approach is we do look at the range of the outcomes and try and understand the consequences of that, and clearly there’s going to be an impact. So I’m not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It’ll have a warming impact. The — how large it is is what is very hard for anyone to predict. And depending on how large it is, then projects how dire the consequences are.
As we have looked at the most recent studies coming — and the IPCC reports, which we — I’ve seen the drafts; I can’t say too much because they’re not out yet. But when you predict things like sea level rise, you get numbers all over the map. If you take a — what I would call a reasonable scientific approach to that, we believe those consequences are manageable. They do require us to begin to exert — or spend more policy effort on adaptation. What do you want to do if we think the future has sea level rising four inches, six inches? Where are the impacted areas, and what do you want to do to adapt to that?
And as human beings as a — as a — as a species, that’s why we’re all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don’t — the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept.
I do believe we have to — we have to be efficient and we have to manage it, but we also need to look at the other side of the engineering solution, which is how are we going to adapt to it. And there are solutions. It’s not a problem that we can’t solve.
Translation: Yes, global warming is real. Carbon emissions really do boost temperatures. But nobody knows by how much — that’s impossible to predict. So what the hell? Let’s just take that risk of apocalypse. The consequences will be manageable — for us here at ExxonMobil. As for the human race? It will just have to adapt! And you can count on us engineers to help you out with that. After all, by that time we’re going to need a new line of business.
There are two kinds of people: Those who look at abandoned big box stores littering the American landscape and see senseless blight — and those who see an opportunity to create something new. Here are some examples of the latter, many of them from Julia Christensen’s book, Big Box Reuse.
Michael Mann speaking at Penn State. (Photo by Penn State.)
This article was written by Suzanne Goldenberg forThe Guardian.
It is almost possible to dismiss Michael Mann’s account of a vast conspiracy by the fossil fuel industry to harass scientists and befuddle the public. His story of that campaign, and his own journey from naive computer geek to battle-hardened climate ninja, seems overwrought, maybe even paranoid.
But now comes the unauthorized release of documents showing how a libertarian think tank, the Heartland Institute, which has in the past been supported by Exxon, spent millions on lavish conferences attacking scientists and concocting projects to counter science teaching for kindergarteners.
“They see scientists like me, who are trying to communicate the potential dangers of continued fossil fuel burning to the public, as a threat. That means we are subject to attacks, some of them quite personal, some of them dishonest,” Mann said in an interview conducted in and around State College, Penn., home of Pennsylvania State University, where he is a professor.
It’s a brilliantly sunny day, and the light snowfall of the evening before is rapidly melting.
Mann, who seems fairly relaxed, has just spoken to a full-capacity, and uniformly respectful and supportive, crowd at the university.
It’s hard to square the surroundings with the description in the book of how an entire academic discipline has been made to feel under siege, but Mann insists that it is a given.
“It is now part of the job description if you are going to be a scientist working in a socially relevant area like human-caused climate change,” he said.
He should know. For most of his professional life he has been at the center of those wars, thanks to a paper he published with colleagues in the late 1990s showing a sharp upward movement in global temperatures in the last half of the 20th century. The graph became known as the “hockey stick” [PDF].
If the graph was the stick, then its publication made Mann the puck. Though other prominent scientists, such as NASA’s James Hansen, and, more recently, Texas Tech University’s Katharine Hayhoe, have also been targeted by contrarian bloggers and think tanks demanding their institutions turn over their email record, it’s Mann who’s been the favorite target.
He has been regularly vilified on Fox News and contrarian blogs, and by Republican members of Congress. The attorney general of Virginia has been fighting in the courts to get access to Mann’s email from his earlier work at the University of Virginia. And then there is the high volume of hate mail, the threats to him and his family.
“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t have to fend off some attack, some specious criticism or personal attack,” he said. “Literally a day doesn’t go by where I don’t have to deal with some of the nastiness that comes out of a campaign that tries to discredit me, and thereby, in the view of our detractors, to discredit the entire science of climate change.”
By now he and other climate scientists have been in the trenches longer than the U.S. army has been in Afghanistan.
And Mann has proved a willing combatant. He has not gone so far as Hansen, who has been arrested at the White House protesting against tar-sands oil and in West Virginia protesting against coal mining. But he spends a significant part of his working life now blogging and tweeting in his efforts to engage with the public — and fending off attacks.
On the eve of his talk at Penn State, a coal industry lobby group calling itself the Common Sense Movement/Secure Energy for America put up a Facebook page demanding the university disinvite their own professor from speaking, and denouncing Mann as a “disgraced academic” pursuing a radical environmental agenda. The university refused. Common Sense appeared to have dismantled the Facebook page.
But Mann’s attackers were merely regrouping. A hostile blogger published a link to Mann’s Amazon page, and his opponents swung into action, denouncing the book as a “fairy tale” and climate change as “the greatest scam in human history.”
It was not the life Mann envisaged when he began work on his post-graduate degree at Yale. All Mann knew then was that he wanted to work on big problems, that resonated outside academia. At heart, he said, he was like one of the amiable nerds on the television show Big Bang Theory.
“At that time I wanted nothing more just to bury my head in my computer and study data and write papers and write programs,” he said. “That is the way I was raised. That is the culture I came from.”
What happened instead was that the “hockey stick” graph, because it so clearly represented what had happened to the climate over the course of hundreds of years, itself became a proxy in the climate wars. (Mann’s reconstruction of temperatures over the last millennium itself used proxy records from tree rings and coral.)
“I think because the hockey stick became an icon, it’s been subject to the fiercest of attacks, really in the whole science of climate change,” he said.
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced a poster-sized graph for the launch of its climate change report in 2001.
Those opposed to climate change began accusing Mann of overlooking important data or even manipulating the records. None of the allegations were ever found to have substance. The hockey stick would eventually be confirmed by more than 10 other studies.
Mann, like other scientists, was just not equipped to deal with the media barrage. “It took the scientific community some time, I think, to realize that the scientific community is in a street fight with climate change deniers and they are not playing by the rules of engagement of science. The scientific community needed some time to wake up to that.”
By 2005, when Hurricane Katrina drew Americans’ attention to the connection between climate change and coastal flooding, scientists were getting better at making their case to the public. George W. Bush, whose administration in 2003 deleted Mann’s hockey stick graph from an environmental report, began talking about the need for biofuels. Then Barack Obama was elected on a promise to save a planet in peril.
But as Mann lays out in the book, the campaign to discredit climate change continued to operate, largely below the radar until November 2009, when a huge cache of email from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit was released online without authorization.
Mann now admits the climate community took far too long to realize the extent of the public relations debacle. Aside from the glacier error, the science remained sound. But Mann said now: “There may have been an overdue amount of complacency among many in the scientific community.”
Mann, who had been at the center of so many debates in America, was at the heart of the East Anglia emails battle, too.
Though he has been cleared of any wrongdoing, Mann does not always come off well in those highly selective exchanges of email released by the hackers. In some of the correspondence with fellow scientists, he is abrupt, dismissive of some critics. In our time in State College, he mentions more than once how climate scientists are a “cantankerous” bunch. He has zero patience, for example, for the polite label “climate skeptic” for the network of bloggers and talking heads who try to discredit climate change.
“When it comes to climate change, true skepticism is two-sided. One-sided skepticism is no skepticism at all,” he said. “I will call people who deny the science deniers … I guess I won’t be deterred by the fact that they don’t like the use of that term and no doubt that just endears me to them further.”
“It’s frustrating, of course, because a lot of us would like to get past this nonsensical debate and on to the real debate to be had about what to do,” he said.
But he said there are compensations in the support he gets from the public. He moves over to his computer to show off a web page: I ❤ climate scientists. He’s one of three featured scientists. “It only takes one thoughtful email of support to offset a thousand thoughtless attacks,” Mann said.
And although there are bad days, he still seems to believe he is on the winning side.
Across America, this is the third successive year of weird weather. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just revised its plant hardiness map, reflecting warming trends. That is going to reinforce scientists’ efforts to cut through the disinformation campaign, Mann said.
“I think increasingly the campaign to deny the reality of climate change is going to come up against that brick wall of the evidence being so plain to people, whether they are hunters, fishermen, gardeners,” he said.
And if that doesn’t work then Mann is going to fight to convince them.
“Whether I like it or not I am out there on the battlefield,” he said. But he believes the experiences of the last decade have made him, and other scientists, far better fighters.
“Those of us who have had to go through this are battle-hardened, and hopefully the better for it,” he said. “I think you are now going to see the scientific community almost uniformly fighting back against this assault on science. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I do know that my fellow scientists and I are very ready to engage in this battle.”
Watch the Climate Desk interview with Mann about his experience:
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