Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Global Energy Use And Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2005-2035

by July 7th, 2010

On my regular weekly radio segment on KOMO 1000 News Radio in Seattle featuring the work of our Public Data Ferret project, yesterday I spoke with “Nine2Noon” anchor Brian Calvert about a recent report on global energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions over the next several decades. Here’s the original Ferret write-up on the report, and here’s the audio of the on-air segment. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “So are we as a planet learning to conserve more energy? A report by the U.S. Energy Department says, overall, not really. Matt Rosenberg of – where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret – joins us on the line. And Matt, this week the Ferret has taken a closer look at that report on future global energy use. Tell us what you found.”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well you bet Brian. This was a real eye-opener. The 2010 International Energy Outlook should serve as a potent reminder that getting a grip on energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions will require truly global action, especially including the developing nations of Eurasia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Now, one of the base case projections, getting right to the findings here, is that from 2005 to 2035, total global energy use will grow 56 percent, and a rate four times greater in developing nations than in the more mature economies.

“And then coal, Brian. Everyone is keeping an eye on the use of coal because it’s one of the dirtier sources out there. And coal use will level off in the more mature economies but it will more than double by 2035 in the emerging world. And then the real kicker, carbon dioxide emissions. Same story. major growth in the developing nations, leveling off in the more mature economies. China, having a huge impact in the growth of carbon dioxide emissions.”

Brian Calvert: “Matt, I was looking through the report this morning and the thing that caught my eye is it seems like all of the messages of conservation and all the things that we’ve done here in this country, those messages seem to be being heard, but it’s the rest of the world where either the message isn’t getting out or they just have no other choice than keeping creating energy in the way they currently are, and at the rates that they currently are.”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well it’s a real thorny dilemma and a U.S. climate bill isn’t nearly the half of it all. Conservation, efficiency and technology are really important, but, you know, so too is going to be good policy and global political leadership on this, which as we know, is a huge challenge. So, I think nobody really wants to impose a blanket solution. It’s not smart or possible. But I will tell you this, Brian, I think a huge fork in the road for many nations will be the choice between a so-called ‘cap and trade’ strategy versus a carbon tax, which some economists say is a better approach. But, the real kicker is the developing nations want the developed nations to pay for cleaning up their energy supplies. And with the budget and debt issues that Europe and United States are facing, I just don’t see that happening.”

Microsoft Seeks To Unite Top Washington Companies On Public Policy Agenda

by June 11th, 2010

Seattle blogger Nick Eaton has a noteworthy report on Microsoft coming out of the closet, politically. A turning point of sorts was a high-profile campaign by the company earlier this year urging lawmakers to keep moving ahead on the politically thorny planned replacement of the State Route 520 floating bridge. The push included a full-page ad in the Seattle Times.

For the global software giant headquartered in Redmond on Seattle’s booming Eastside, there’s just too much at stake to not try to take the lead in collaborating with other major businesses headquartered in Washington to improve the economy and business climate on the home turf. But they’re not singing the usual song about business regulation. Instead, the priorities are things that affect their bottom line but also matter to us all: transportation, infrastructure, education, and growth and opportunity in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Eaton reports that according to Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs:

To remain a good place for businesses..and to become a more attractive place for corporations, Washington needs to focus and invest in three major areas: innovation, transportation infrastructure and education. Moreover, as Asia becomes the world’s biggest economic power, as Microsoft expects, the Seattle area – with its large Asian community, proximity to Asia and history of trade with Asia – has a golden opportunity to become those Asian companies’ landing point for expansion into the United States.

Microsoft wants to take a leadership role in getting Washington businesses to get the state to where it needs to be. Of course it’s selfish, Smith said, but it should also help the state economy as a whole. “We’re very committed to collaborative efforts,” he said. “We can be counted on to do our share, or even a little more than our share, but we also can be counted on to be collaborative.”

Eaton notes that other corporate heavyweights headquartered in Washington state include Costco, Amazon, Starbucks, Paccar, Weyerhauser and Expeditors International.

The question that remains is exactly what sorts of broader policies would Microsoft and its collaborators advance to improve transportation, for instance, and education? Widespread electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound, keyed to real-time congestion levels? More incentives for telecommuting? Charter schools, which have been shot down time and again in the state? Greater per-pupil funding, enabled by the proposed new state income tax that’s being championed by Bill Gates Sr.? What really works, and what doesn’t?

Moving from the general to the specific is tricky. Not to mention fraught with political peril. The zeitgeist is a piquant stew right now. A few ingredients to keep in mind. Government budget deficits. Tax fatigue. User fees. Public-private partnerships. Empowered consumers.

So Microsoft sharing the weight is good strategy. There are already numerous business advocacy groups in the state and Central Puget Sound. But somehow, none of them have been able to generate enough momentum on the big issues Smith identifies. The success of any business coalition such as that envisioned by Smith will depend in part on its ability to motivate its employees to participate, as well. Microsoft has already shown it can do that. It will be interesting to see how the specifics of the policy agenda develop.

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