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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 01:04 GMT
Companies leap onto green bandwagon
By Brajesh Upadhyay
BBC News, Washington

Robyn Beavers, one of the senior managers at Google
Ms Beavers says Google's solar panels pay for themselves in seven years

For corporate America, the issue no longer seems to be whether climate change is real. The issue now is how to deal with the political and consumer forces that have been unleashed by the climate change debate.

Insiders say there is still a big club that is fighting any change, though there is also a growing number that will look at the climate crisis as an opportunity.

Vinod Khosla, one of the founding chiefs of Sun Microsystems and now a big investor in clean energy, is a firm believer in the theory that the debate offers a real opportunity.

"My hope is it can trigger the next great industrial revolution,'' he tells BBC News.

Mr Khosla says investing in clean technology is a major business opportunity. The challenge facing the world will be to favour cleaner technologies and increase the cost on fossil technology.

Alternative technologies, such as bio-fuels, could thus become the favoured choice based on economic considerations, that is lower costs, rather than on green credentials such as lower carbon emission, he says.

"We are well on our way to developing such technology and I hope in three years we won't be even debating this issue," he says.

Double-sided

The number of corporations who believe in a mantra of "threat and opportunity" seems to be growing rapidly.

Vinod Khosla, one of the founding chiefs of Sun Microsystems
Those who take steps now will shine
Vinod Khosla, one of the founding chiefs of Sun Microsystems

Earlier this year the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change and a few other non-government organisation roped in 27 big companies, including BP, Dupont, Pepsico and others, to enter into a partnership where it was decided to bring down greenhouse emission levels by between 60% and 80% by 2050.

So what is the thought behind this change in approach?

Namrata Patodia, who is with the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, says there is a growing realisation that it is a threat that also presents an opportunity.

"So many of them are taking steps that are good for the climate and also makes money," she says.

Among these are not just the highly polluting oil and coal based industries, but even those who have been dependent on dirty energy for their day to day functions.

Cost savings

Google is among the frontrunners.

Its Mountain View headquarters in Silicon Valley resembles a model green corporate complex.

Google bikes
More bikes than cars can be seen at Google's offices

There are more bicycles than cars, casually dressed executives use bikes to traverse the huge campus, carpet and sofas are made without PVC, paints without volatile organic compounds, and cafeteria food bought from local growers are what you notice during a visit.

The most striking initiative is what is considered the largest commercial solar deployment in the US - a 1.6 megawatts installation that covers eight buildings in the complex .

Robyn Beavers, one of the senior managers at Google, says the solar panels can generate enough power to meet 30% of the energy needs at the campus.

"This saving means we can break even in about seven years from now," she says.

Action creates winners

But can the real issue of carbon emission be addressed at companies like Google?

In fact, says Mr Khosla, it can be addressed by very few industries.

"Oil, coal-based power, cement and steel account for 80% to 90% of worldwide emission. If we control these four we have solved the problem," he says.

"Those who take steps now will shine."

SEE ALSO
Time to stop the climate blame game
03 Dec 07 |  Science/Nature
Carbon capture plan for the Forth
03 Dec 07 |  Scotland

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