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Posts Tagged ‘green’

SpiroFlo discusses “An Inconvenient Sequel” and how resistance to Al Gore correlates to resistance to environmental efforts.

*I’ll apologize in advance for the agonizing over-use of “inconvenient” in this article (lay-up title included).

When “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006, it had buzz. I heard about it in environmental circles (with the hope that it would get more people involved with green thinking) and it was well received by from critics and moviegoers alike. This time around, however, the overall impact seems, well, less:

  • While “An Inconvenient Truth” received a fresh 93% critics approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” earned 77%. Still positive, but less so.
  • Likewise, “An Inconvenient Truth” received a fresh 78% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “An Inconvenient Sequel” earned a rotten 43%.
  • On Metacritic, the critic spread was 75 (out of 100) to 67, but the audience score spread (which, for some reason, switches to a 1 to 10 score) is 8.1 for the first movie, but a mere 5.8 for the second. More on that later.

Obviously, only being a couple of weeks into its theater-wide release means it’s too early to tell how well “An Inconvenient Sequel” will do long-term, but as of this writing, it’s nearing only $1.1 million at the box office. It is unlikely that it will surpass the $23.8 million the first one earned.

You can blame several factors. Maybe it’s that sequels are usually worse (shhh, “Aliens” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” we’re not talking about you). Maybe it’s that modern Hollywood seems insistent on releasing sequels long after people have lost interest. Or maybe it’s that “An Inconvenient Sequel” is on a limited release, but, given the success of the first, they should have led with more marketing and a wide release, and sequels (while typically being worse) usually make more money.

But more than anything, I blame the backlash on Al Gore.

Frankly, there’s no shortage of clueless celebrities to grill for the hypocrisy of calling for a greener approach to living while lavishly ignoring that advice for themselves:

This isn’t to say all green advocate celebrities are automatically fake. People consider Ed Begley Jr. a nut for all the environmental innovations (and life limitations) he’ll take on himself, but he walks the walk when it comes to green living. But Al Gore? Al Gore’s been easy to criticize for a long time. I believe his interest in environmental issues comes from a genuine place (starting in the mid-1970s) and he had a level of interest in promoting those values throughout his political career. However, many people believe that Gore’s interest in green issues only took off when he lost the 2000 Presidential election. That may be true, but I don’t fault anyone for pursuing a different existing passion once their current career doorway slams shut.

I also don’t think it’s completely fair to criticize Gore for making money off “An Inconvenient Truth.” Few knew that it’d be the popular, financial success it was. The pro-environmental landscape wasn’t nearly as set in 2006, and, if anything, “An Inconvenient Truth” helped cement it. The key thing is that the majority of Al Gore’s wealth came from, A) his membership on the Apple Board; and B) the sale of his Current TV network. While the former may seem like a prized position, it’s the latter move that hollowed out Gore’s environmentalist character.

While I commented on this at the start of 2013, here’s the basics:

(A)s of January 2nd, 2013, Current was sold to Al Jazeera for $500 million.

Yeah, the Al Jazeera that, up until 2011, was owned by the government of Qatar—a large oil player. Al Jazeera has also had its fair share of worldwide criticism and controversies, as well as having to deal with attacks and censorship.

Gore’s take of the Current sale was $100 million (before taxes), bringing his personal fortune up to $300 million.

Criticism of Gore, even from Current TV staff, was extensive, as it was seen as wrong to sell a network with a greener slant to a large oil player. However, others noted that Current TV was always subsidized, now it’d just be subsidized by the government of Qatar while paying off the guy at the top. Gore spent some of his earnings on, you guessed it, Apple stock, and was largely able to escape mainstream scathing in public interviews.

Fast-forward a decade and it seems “An Inconvenient Sequel” will flop at the box office. At least part of the problem is that “An Inconvenient Sequel” doesn’t do a great job of explaining the predictions that “An Inconvenient Truth” got wrong. (Catastrophically rising sea levels, the arctic melting, and polar bears going extinct were the most commonly cited examples.) While the rebuttal should simply be, “That was 2006; we’ve learned a lot since then and we can’t exactly go back and put in updated footnotes on a movie,” climate change proponents put themselves in a corner by asserting that the science is settled on global warming. Thus, any acknowledgement that past assertions were wrong shreds that hardline stance (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog).

This time around, people aren’t even watching “An Inconvenient Sequel” to criticize it (if the low user ratings to low box office numbers ratio is to be believed—a week ago, the Metacritic user rating was a dire 3.6 out of 10 [up to 5.8 since then]). Instead, it’s Al Gore that’s got the target on his back. The arguments aren’t even new: I’ve seen this story again—Al Gore’s home consumes 34 times more energy than the average American!—but the same story made the rounds in 2007 (it was only 21 times more energy then). While Snopes views the claim as a mixed bag, it notes, “the basic gist of the claim — that the Gores’ Nashville residence consumed a larger proportion of energy than the average American home — was true.” I first heard that story a decade back when “An Inconvenient Truth” was still popular. You know why I didn’t see it often from 2008 to 2016? Because “An Inconvenient Sequel” didn’t release until 2017. Now that Al Gore is back in the spotlight, his criticism is back there, too.

It’s simple: You devalue the spokesman and you devalue the message, and frankly, Al Gore is an easy enough target that he’s doing damage to environmentalism messaging by proxy. While it may be inconvenient to Al Gore, for green messaging to get stronger, the easy criticism targets need to be set aside.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at how environmental issues and personal health issues became linked.

Last week, I met with a company interested in partnering with SpiroFlo as part of their “energy oasis”—essentially redesigning how cities are built to make them more energy efficient. For SpiroFlo, we have two main applications in residential water:

  • Reducing water consumption and improving the quality of what is used (both for drinking water and shower quality); and
  • Reducing pressures required on water pumps, saving energy and reducing wear.

As we connected, the owner of this energy oasis company mentioned that he was midway through dropping 50+ pounds. At least part of the reason for this weight loss is because he works in clean tech and, in his words, “Environmentalists don’t like fat guys.”

Well, then…

fat squirrel

Thank you, “Animal Obesity” section of Wikimedia Commons; I couldn’t have written this article without you.

I wouldn’t say environmentalists specifically dislike overweight people, but I’ve acknowledged this connection before—that environmental and personal health issues are tied. Yet when I think about why this is the case, the logic doesn’t work. You could hypothecate that someone who doesn’t care about their own health won’t care about the health of the planet, but it’s just that—a theory. Besides, if your stance on the health of the earth can be tied to your personal health, why not make meaningful assumptions based off the health of a person’s car (how often they wash it, change their oil, etc.) or the health of their home (how often they clean, etc.). Granted, homes and cars aren’t living, but to connect personal and environmental “health,” you do have to stretch the term.

Yet the perceived connection between environmentalism and personal health is still there, regardless of whether I can logically separate the two. So I set out to see if there was a credible connection between physical health and environmental health.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t.

This then brings us back to one major explanation: Bias.

We all have bias, and the more accepted ones bubble to the surface.

There’s a theory that says fat and/or bald people can’t win the U.S. presidency in this visual era. That makes sense, as we all know a politician like Winston Churchill made great decisions because of his Adonis physique and flowing Fabio hair. But he’s a Brit, so bad example anyway.

Maybe we can turn to art to help point out these foolish fallacies. No wait, that won’t work. Last time we got “Shallow Hal.” If you’re fortunate enough to not remember “Shallow Hal,” well, your luck has run out. It was a 2001 romantic comedy where a fat guy named Hal (played by Jack Black) is only attracted to gorgeous women until real-life, big-toothed, self-help Guru Tony Robbins hypnotizes him into viewing women’s physical appearances based on the goodness of their hearts. (Yup, Tony Robbins hypnotizing people to see inner beauty… this is the actual plot line.) What you got next was Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit, so that she could play both the skinny inner beauty version of her character and the actual version of her character that was overweight, because skinny is automatically beautiful and fat is automatically ugly, see?

Also, according to this movie, everyone who is physically unattractive has a fat heart of gold. No pandering there, and it totally doesn’t sound hollow after making a slew of stereotypical fat jokes. Really, you can find far deeper criticism of “Shallow Hal,” but the biggest offense is that for all the social faux pas it offered, it was still a crap flick. You can get away with a whole lot more if you’re actually funny.

Regardless, the tie between how you take care of your own body and how you take care of the earth is there, even if it shouldn’t be. Thus you’ve got one more reason to make your New Year’s resolution to get to the gym. It’s not like having a sustainable, green technology will get you taken seriously by the clean tech crowd. Mother Nature cares about those abs.

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Have a great New Year. We’ll see you in 2016.

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo and Vortex Tools comment on changes in Colorado—both in the recession of oil & gas and the rise of the marijuana industry.Marijuana

Despite being the VP Marketing for multiple companies, it’s rare I do a crossover blog where I represent more than one company at a time, as the marketing reality that most people only care about stories that impact their industry or scratch their interest (duh). However, since the business landscape in Colorado has shifted over the last year, we’ve seen changes that affect different industries, so here we go. Firstly:

Oil and Gas Has Scaled Back Out of Colorado

Overall, it’s been a brutal year for oil and gas. The top four global companies scaled back 10% of their work force… and that was just the beginning. The cuts have continued and spread to smaller companies. Companies have scaled back to their core assets, selling off the rest, and for most, those core assets aren’t in Colorado. Blame asset valuations, blame stricter regulations, but week after week, formerly prominent oil and gas companies are leaving Colorado,* or filing for bankruptcy, or, at the very least, not spending money on anything.

*Usually right about here I’d link up a few stories of this happening, but there are so, so many. Right now you can Google “Denver oil and gas company” every week and pop up a negative story, but hey, gasoline prices are low, so many don’t care.

Most analysts now believe oil and gas prices will not recover until 2017. Prices have dipped again in October and November this year due to refinery maintenance season (during times of cheap oil, they’re at high capacity, so any time one goes down for a period of time, it hurts an already stressed market). In addition, many wells are currently shut in, so when prices do inch up a bit, everyone’s going to rush to take advantage of that gain, flood the market with production glut, and, you got it,  tank the price again.

This means it should be a time of improving existing production—lowering operation costs, recovering more production/valuable liquids (condensates and natural gas liquids), and avoiding environmental fines (easiest way: by not polluting)—the kinds of applications Vortex Tools enable, but many of the employees who are left are just keeping their heads down and trying not to get laid off. This should also be a time of asset expansion for smart investors (the adage of “buy low, sell high” still applies), but for many oil and gas companies, they’re not doing much of anything save staving off going out of business.

At the same time:

Marijuana is Booming in Colorado

As one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, a whirlwind of industry has set up around this venture, but it’s still a complicated (and energy intensive) market. Energy companies call pot one of the most energy intensive ventures. In one Colorado service area, retail marijuana makes up for ~1% of retail electricity use. Increased electricity use was one of the ways (illegal) pot growers used to get caught—turns out when your electricity bills spike several times over what they used to be, people take notice, and the assumption is you aren’t just plugging in a slew of outlet air fresheners.

In addition to high electricity use, the marijuana industry uses a lot of water, and currently, what’s going down the drain untreated shouldn’t be (lots of nitrates, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.). Most everyone involved in the industry is surprised that the law hasn’t changed yet and that it’s a matter of time until it does. However, there’s a misconception that the marijuana industry has a lot of money, but most players do not. Once laws change to get more stringent, a lot of smaller operations that hopped into this growing industry will burn out. In addition, the marijuana industry has also been sold a lot of snake oil already, so there’s a lot of skepticism for even valid solutions.

That’s where SpiroFlo comes in. With no moving parts and no additional energy source required, there are two main applications we work in: 1) Reducing the amount of water used and improving the water quality/oxygen content of what’s left: Basically improved hydroponics—growing better plants faster with fewer resources. 2) Removing contaminants from water drainage: Most people expect the laws to change on this within the next 12 months, so spinning out contaminants from water used for marijuana will become important (and will be a determining factor in which companies go out of business). Given that we’ve done similar applications in other markets, we’ve got both credibility and low operating expenses covered.

As a company, SpiroFlo sat down and discussed the moral side of it, as marijuana is in a strange place: It’s legal in certain states, but not nationally, which causes issues with banking and credit. Then investors want to play games, too. They recognize there’s money to be made here, but they don’t want the negative association. Currently the general rule is: If you touch the plant, investors can’t fund you. However, if you help the people who do touch the plant, then they can fund you.

Yeah…

Anyway, we sat down as a company and had the moral conversation on marijuana and the conclusion we came to is this: When it comes to industries you can’t work with for moral reasons, where do you draw the line? What issues are more important than others? Even in Vortex Tools’ work in oil and gas, there are people who don’t like the industry enough to acknowledge the value in our tools reducing pollution, energy, and operational costs while increasing the efficiency and revenue generators from the oil and gas production. Regardless, some issues are gimmes to avoid (hint: you don’t have to discuss them as an organization, or if you do, you’ll be doing so in prison), marijuana isn’t. Not anymore. So we looked at our company goal as SpiroFlo, which is to reduce water use and improve the quality of the water left. Regardless of what different employees thought of the marijuana industry, we agreed that while it’s here, we should do what we can to improve water use.

Colorado Business is Going to Look Different

So overall, what this means is that oil and gas in Colorado will be replaced by the marijuana industry. However, that’s not the only business sector being replaced; it’s happening all over. There is little warehouse/retail space left to lease and what is left over is high above market value. Due to the population influx, residential rents are above what they should be, too. Yet all of this could bend as laws become more stringent or more states legalize marijuana. For now, this is a common sentiment from many Coloradoans:

stop-moving-to-colorado-bumper-sticker-car-1024x768

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo discusses reusing food for animals, creating compost, and the joy of exploding watermelons.  

Why did nobody ever tell me that you can be sustainable by launching rotten watermelons from the back of a pickup truck?

I recently visited my in-laws close to Durango, Colorado (near the New Mexico border). As they have a small farm out back of their house, all those animals need feeding. This includes the dogs, goats, pigs, peacocks, chickens, horses, and the cats with extra toes, missing eyes, and country music star names. One of the ways to feed all these mouths is with the help of the local food bank.

If you didn’t know, the U.S. throws a lot of food away. Some of it has nothing wrong with it (more on that food waste another time), but as the donations the food bank receives are already a little past their “best” date, inevitably, some of it is too far gone for human consumption. But you know who doesn’t care? Pigs and chickens.

So this happens:

farmfood1

Basically, the food bank now leaves all this expired grub out for pick up. The in-laws grab all this food, load it in their back of their truck, then drive it home. After reversing the truck into the yard, you get to launch this food all over. We’re talking fruit, veggies, bread, etc. Lobbing watermelons across the yard is, of course, the best part. Even almost accidentally splooshed a peacock with one (I did pelt a pig while wildly machinegunning rolls—didn’t seem phased). Finally, you get the tractor and push all this food into a giant dirt mountain.

By doing so:

  • Food doesn’t go to waste
  • The chickens have something to do the next few days (wandering around the dirt mound, pecking for food), so they don’t peck each other; and
  • Any food left in the dirt mound becomes compost

Oh, and that giant food mess in the yard? It’s eaten up in less than 24 hours (save the mountain of relish I dumped out from a giant jar—apparently even chickens have standards about that).

Thus it’s official: Using expired food for farm animals is my recycling happy place.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Came across the following image on the Weather Channel’s Twitter today.

As of the start of the year, the exceptional drought rate of California made up a third of the state (32%). Now five months on, that exceptional drought rate is up to 47% (pretty much the middle of the state). Maybe it’s time to revisit some of those warnings from earlier on in the year again:

CA drought WC

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

 

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I count on Emilio Estevez to appropriately deliver the weight of all bad news:

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo covers the recent controversy over single-serving coffee cups waste, the inventor’s regret in even making the cups, and the landfill problems that still remain.

Maybe you’ve seen this video going around (NSFW: language). It’s got a bit of a “Cloverfield” vibe, but, you know, with a giant monster made of plastic single-serving coffee cups (or K-Cups):

It’s decently done, but like many marketing efforts, it’s too hip for its own good. Remember those Burger King ads where their mascot, the King, became weird and creepy? Sure, some were fun, but you know what it didn’t do? Make people want to buy more burgers. McDonald’s’ ads are boring—look: food + happy people—but showing your food for 30 seconds along with a jingle gets the job done.

What this video has done is increased my desire to pelt people in the face with K-Cups and/or create an army of giant evil monsters. Probably not what they were going for.

Interestingly enough, over the last month:

  1. The creator of K-Cups has stated he regrets making them (but already sold off the company in 1997); and
  2. Keurig has pledged to make their K-Cups 100% recyclable by 2020.

As for point A, I’ve already discussed thinking through the total environmental impact of your technology, but in 1997, that understanding wasn’t there in the same way it is today. As for B, there are recyclable K-Cups available now, but it essentially requires modifying your current Keurig machine and buying knockoff cups so, surprise, Keurig isn’t too into that.

Despite the buzz this generated, some of the biggest “convenience drink” perpetrators are still going on as is. Starbucks pledged to make their cups 100% recyclable by, well, now (they said 2015), but instead opted to sell reusable cups when it wasn’t cheap enough to remove the plastic coating from their disposable ones. Meanwhile, plastic water bottles also contend for which unrecyclable waste can load up landfills faster.

But hey, nobody’s made a video of monsters made from those yet.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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