HP, Intel, Greenpeace and Saving the Planet

The technology industry and environmentalists don’t always see eye to eye on all issues.


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Posted September 22, 2009

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

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The concept of green flows through much of what we do right now because we can see the ice caps melting, the pollution growing, and our energy prices starting to overtake our incomes.

There are three kinds of green efforts: the first is focused on assuring a clean environment and has recycling at its core; the second is focused on conservation (generally energy related); and the third, and newest, is intelligent management which should help us get the greatest financial and environmental return from our green efforts.

Last week at an Intel Alumni event, Andy Grove and a large number of ex and current Intel executives spoke on the need to respond to a Chinese effort to corner the market on both oil and solar technology by around 2020. This effort, if successful, would turn most of the rest of the world, especially the US, into a dependent of China. Something that, ironically, it doesn’t appear that China really wants.

This week HP was ranked by Newsweek #1 for their green efforts – a few weeks after Greenpeace vandalized their offices. The organization increasingly looks to be more interested in getting publicity than in focusing on actually improving the world. This Greenpeace stuff seems incredibly irresponsible to me because it could have caused HP to reduce the strongest green effort in the US and turned it into a program like Apple’s which is simply designed to keep Greenpeace happy while not truly making the same kind of important difference. (The Apple ranking in Newsweek was 133.)

This week, let’s talk about Green and saving the human race.

Becoming Energy Slaves

Boy if you want to have someone scare the living daylights out of you, listen to Andy Grove’s stump speech on energy.

As you would expect given he is one of the most well known engineers in the world, his talk was full of well researched numbers and the ones that most stuck out was how China is in the process of purchasing most of the world’s oil production output, effectively turning that country not only into a mega-consumer of oil larger than the US, but one that controls vastly more of the world’s oil reserves than the US by the end of next decade.

This becomes a big problem for the US as soon as 2013.

Additional charts by both Grove and other executives pointed to the fact that China is not only starting to outspend us on solar research but, unlike other Chinese investments like this, they aren’t trying to be the low cost low technology provider in this market. They’re moving to be the low cost technology leader in the solar market.

If successful, the result would be that they would not only have the oil we need to operate the country in a few years but they will have replaced our own solar industry with theirs. Meaning, they would be the only real source for a strong alternative for electricity production (they largely use coal for electricity and we use oil). Effectively, if we wanted to drive or turn our lights on, it would be at the discretion of the Chinese political leaders and not our own.

The irony in this is that, after listening to a specialist on Chinese Government, this result is likely as much to do with that Government’s inability to execute as it does the US’s. They don’t appear to want to be in this position. But the reasoning behind their action appears to be their inability to convert their own country to solar power quickly enough – coupled with the need to make sure their population doesn’t become too dissatisfied and revolt – topped with a government structure that allows them to respond to threats more quickly than the US.

You see, unlike the US, if the people in a state like China want to throw the bums out they tend to revolt and those in power often don’t survive the path to retirement. This motivates them much more aggressively to make sure folks aren’t unhappy and being without enough energy is likely a politician hunting season waiting to happen.

In the end, I think the big message is that given Oil is funding the other side of the wars we are involved in, its cost is a major portion of why we both have an economic problem and can’t afford adequate healthcare. Additionally, it is sourced as the major ecological problem to solve, and it will likely eventually either result in a war or the US becoming a Chinese dependent (worse than we now are). Fixing this should have the highest priority.

Either that or learning “yes boss” in Chinese (and I’ll bet you can guess my choice).

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Tags: consumer, management, Intel, HP, recycling

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