Readers Predict Trends for 2012

Highlights

  • “Green” makes philosophical and practical sense only as part of the greater whole. True “green” is driven by the free enterprise system, recognizing that using less pays...
  • There’s going to be tremendous contraction in the venture industry...
  • [C]ompetitiveness will shift in 2012 to include “relevant and local job creation” and this will be a big challenge to American businesses...,
  • [T]he switch to tablet usage [means that] our dependence upon paper will turn instead into honoring a valued resource.
  • There will be the super-big: the dedicated and successful players in the global economy. Then there will be everyone else...
  • Funding for new R&D in green will come from Europe and Asia.

STEVE JONES, President, Urbana University

We must embrace sustainability — we occupy a world of ultimate scarcity for all but renewable, sustainably-managed natural resources. Using less of anything has economic value, now and into the future. Let’s practice the science and art of sustainability because it makes sense; not because fear-mongers have conjured up an atmospheric carbon bogeyman.  

True “green” is driven by the free enterprise system, recognizing that using less pays; that not depending upon unreliable, foreign carbon assets pays (economically, politically, and environmentally); that free-enterprise-based sustainability pays. As a forest and natural resources scientist (Ph.D. with 12 years industrial sector application and now more than 25 years in higher education) and avocational climatologist, I risk alienating some with my response to your query. 

What I hope has happened in 2011 with the reality of Solyndra and other such misguided ventures is that we all begin to realize that “green” and “sustainability” do not stand as something different, set apart as a “green” economy from the holistic, all-encompassing economic world. “Green” makes philosophical and practical sense only as part of the greater whole. True “green” is driven by the free enterprise system, recognizing that using less pays; that not depending upon unreliable, foreign carbon assets pays (economically, politically, and environmentally); that free-enterprise-based sustainability pays. 
I hope also that we not continue the movement toward bowing to the false deity of atmospheric carbon, assigning economic “value” to something that likely is not a significant causal agent of cyclical climate shifts, which are better correlated with solar activity and oceanic perturbations. 

The real danger we face as enthusiasts of sustainability is that once the climate bubble bursts entirely, we will lose the sustainability followers who have based their beliefs solely upon atmospheric carbon worship. When the effects of the atmospheric carbon Kool-Aid wear off, will these people still follow the essential tenets of sustainability? 

GOVI RAO, CEO, Noveda, Inc.

[O]ur paradigms on competitiveness will shift in 2012 to include “relevant and local job creation” and this will be a big challenge to American businesses that have been “free-loading” on local infrastructure and creating jobs elsewhere! 

In 2011 we saw ecosystems squeezing out inefficiencies, across the board, and really pushing expectations and performance to higher standards. Market forces forced business to get tighter in operational costs and smarter in how they do business. This leads to a real need for trained employees who know how to extract savings across the board.  This isn’t something that can be done with existing, in-house expertise.  Companies are already forced to get people pulling 110%, working smarter and staying on the edge. So what is urgently needed is retraining in order to build a new workforce to manage these economies of efficiency.  The two biggest areas where we need most help in the US is: 

  • Energy efficient infrastructure. 
    The United States is universally, abysmally behind in audits from Alaska to Florida, and California to Maine.  This is something that China cannot do, and that we can do for ourselves. What we need is the educational background to ensure that we have the talent available to do building audits. We need to retrain people to save dollars, yet there are not enough people at the moment.  
  • Training the trainers.  
    There is a real role here for companies to group together to do regional training. Our paradigms on competitiveness will shift in 2012 to include ‘relevant and local job creation’ and this will be big challenge to American businesses that have been “free-loading” on local infrastructure and creating jobs elsewhere!  

This is not rocket science and not new: there are already engineering companies with in-house staff that could provide training support for regional initiatives.  In addition, USGBC (United States Green Building Council) holds LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) training. The savings from increased efficiency pays for itself.  The government is already laying out billions of dollars for such programs, and it is paying off.
Look, the toughest and the smartest will survive and survive well ! 2012 will be a watershed year for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) as well as some large corporations! We can only hope to see a revitalization of the workforce to implement the energy, water and gas savings that are needed.

[Govi Rao is President and CEO of Noveda, a company that does real time monitoring and management of water and natural gas to optimize for buildings worldwide. Using GPS, they provide locators for energy, water, and natural gas for a portfolio of buildings world wide.]

GABRIELE CROGNALE PE, MCG Associates

For a corporation, green is both about the bottom-line cost savings, and protecting the environment...

  1. Shareholder resolutions that zero in on key environmental issues — such as the entire sustainability spectrum, social responsibility, etc. — will begin to gain measurable traction, and help bring such issues even more into the mainstream. Prominent groups such as Ceres, regularly track such efforts, and have reported seeing an uptick in such resolutions as of the last proxy voting season (2011).  Such external efforts may surely be added to the responsibilities of the newly-crowned c-suite CSOs. 
  2. Energy efficiency will gain additional attention as an area of huge cost savings and as an opportunity to lessen an organization’s carbon footprint via its energy usage ­— less energy used translates to less fossil-fuel derived energy needing to be generated. While sustainability concerns may have been the initial driver to push energy efficiency into the forefront, the recently issued ISO standard geared toward  energy management systems (EnMS), ISO 50001, will act as a booster rocket to propel ISO-centric management systems into the forefront of sustainability initiatives, especially the somewhat neglected ISO 14001 environmental management system standard.  For a corporation, green is both about the bottom-line cost savings, and protecting the environment, and with the ISO “twins” of 14001 and 50001, corporations can achieve both in a structured, cohesive and easy-to-follow format. Just remember, though, that with any structured system, the devil is in the details.
  3. By default, the role of the newly-minted CSO will evolve from its present across-the-board of previous experience format to one that is more aligned with capturing the most from what sustainability initiatives can provide. 

Gabriele Crognale, P.E., is an ISO 14001 columnist at Business and the Environment (Aspen Publishing); an ISO 14001 consultant at LRWWU, and a book author/editor at Prentice-Hall,

CHARLES R PARMELE IV, CLU, Parmele, McDermott & Thomas

There’s going to be tremendous contraction in the venture industry, as illustrated by the decline in the number of follow-on-funds over the past 5 years.​

Several things happened in 2011.  The first part of the year was very active in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and early stage investing by the venture community.  Things seemed to hum along until late June / early July when the Stock Market tanked.  That seemed to slow down investing activity by VC’s and deal activity.  Throughout the year raising money by venture funds themselves has been quite difficult and will probably continue into 2012. 
Quite frankly, it’s been tough for venture funds to raise their own money going back to 2008.  The top tier funds will never have problems raising new money, but the rest find it to be a struggle.  There’s going to be tremendous contraction in the venture industry, as illustrated by the decline in the number of follow-on-funds over the past 5 years.

Charles R. Parmele IV, CLU, is a business consultant at Parmele, McDermott & Thomas in the Princeton, NJ area. 
There’s going to be tremendous contraction in the venture industry, as illustrated by the decline in the number of follow-on-funds over the past 5 years.

JOHN NISLER, Psida GR LLC

[E]lectric regeneration, using closed loop hydrogen based fuel cells with hydrogen chemical carriers, are now providing 24 hour x 365 day Solar PV ... 

I believe that work done in 2011 addresses many of the issues in regard to the use of solar and wind. Reliability – in terms of on-demand power – has always been a long term issue with renewables. Work on electric regeneration, using closed loop hydrogen based fuel cells with hydrogen chemical carriers, are now providing 24 hour x 365 day Solar PV UPS (uninterruptable power supply).  Our present system for energy, especially transport energy, is unsustainable: a fact amply  demonstrated by continued high fuel prices, issues with fracking, the ongoing effects of the BP Gulf oil spill, Fukushima nuclear failure, mercury poisoning in the great lakes, a China sea oil spill and the continued damage in the Nigerian delta. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on how to truly impact our security by becoming energy independent. Foreign oil and involvement in foreign wars to protect oil interests should not be part of US policy.  

CINDY MARKS, Owner, CatStone Digital Publishing

One of the biggest changes ...is the switch to tablet usage by magazine and book readers. ... [M]y hope is that ...our dependence upon paper will turn instead into honoring a valued resource. 

One of the biggest changes that began in 2011 is the switch to tablet usage by magazine and book readers. I think multi-purpose tablets are going to create a sea change in reading behavior and I think that overall, that will be positive. I know many avid readers are sad to even consider fewer printed books, but my hope is that our unnecessary paper and waste paper streams will start to dramatically dwindle and our dependence upon paper will turn instead into honoring a valued resource. I think that printed items will always be valued and have a place as physical and artistic manifestations. But I’d love to see all the useless paper become obsolete as we find more reusable ways to communicate our more mundane messages. 

I think 2012 will continue to see massive experimentation in how to deliver content on tablets and mobile devices. I hope that some of the dust might start to settle so smaller publishers can relax back into creating beautiful content instead of worrying over how they will be able to present it. I think it’s an exciting and creative time for publishing and being able to enmesh text with both static and moving images and content is a boon for everyone.  
One of the biggest changes ...is the switch to tablet usage by magazine and book readers. ... 

STEVE REICHENSTEIN, CEO, BioMART

​There will be the super-big... Then there will be everyone else, which will force people and businesses to discover and re-focus their strategies on a local economy. 

There will continue to be two-Americas and two-worlds, but they will be divided differently. There will be the super-big: the dedicated and successful players in the global economy. Then there will be everyone else, which will force people and businesses to discover and re-focus their strategies on a local economy. Although it is unclear how local will be local, the trend will affect where products are made and the sources of making them. (Services too.) For example, a national US green energy grid is unlikely in near future, but many county and municipal scale grids are likely. The same is true of water supplies. Cost, security, and product safety concerns will further spur locally grown foods (as well as hydroponic and aquaculture). Locally manufactured is also gaining ground.

VICTOR CRAIN, Sr. Partner, Crain Associates Research

It could be exciting for AARP to develop a cost effective green energy conversion program for older home owners. Those living on fixed incomes would see a definite benefit and it would be an effective way to switch over a large amount of housing stock.  Funding for new R&D in green will come from Europe and Asia.    ​​

in Europe will push the Continent into recession in 2012. The continued focus on deficits will curtail government spending in all countries. 
The lack of advocacy, at the Federal level, coupled with the ideological impasse over the budget, means that government spending on green energy and the environment will be curtailed. The effects of spending cuts are showing in other areas as well. The “hourglass” society, that has developed in the US, effectively places green energy solutions out of reach financially for over 80% of households. The continued declining rate of home ownership and real estate values is a further disincentive for investment, even among those who can afford it.* China has experienced an economic bounce-back and a desire to improve its environment image globally. The government is the global leader in spending on green energy and this is likely to continue well into the future. Chinese government paranoia regarding security of oil supplies is another major incentive for investment in green sources. Brazil has the resources to invest in green, but is also an emerging, major oil exporter. Given past battles over the rain forest, it is to be seen whether the country is ready for a meaningful investment in green energy. Funding for new R&D in green will come from Europe and Asia. The three key organizations to watch are GE, MIT and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.