Thursday, July 29, 2004

Doing Well While Doing Good
A few days ago, I suggested that companies should approach climate change as a business risk, rather than an "issue".  I should have added that it is also a business opportunity, as exemplified by this program announced by the government yesterday.  Transferring technology and investing in projects to capture methane in developing countries is also an idea that makes sense regardless of where you stand on global warming.

Landfills in this country have been capturing methane for years, either to displace purchased natural gas or for onsite power generation.  The other, less publicized benefit is in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; this is the driving force behind the Methane to Markets Partnership.  Methane has 21 times the greenhouse impact of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that gets the most attention.  If instead of allowing methane from landfills and agricultural sources to escape into the atmosphere, you capture it and simply burn it, you will reduce the greenhouse emissions to 5% of what they would have been.  If you take the next step and turn it into electricity, backing out another fuel in the process, you have effectively eliminated the emissions associated with the source you are managing, while producing something that can be sold at a profit.

Perhaps it is just human nature that we are more effective and enthusiastic when doing things for which we are rewarded than things someone requires us to do.  We are not going to make much headway on climate change if the only answer is draconian government mandates.  Harnessing the power of business and markets will go much further, in the long run.

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