Expect to see more of this: How energy production affects water supply

Expect to see more of this trend, especially in arid states: Renewable energy being positioned as a water conservation issue. It’s a pretty important angle:

New report puts a price on water used to generate electricity in Colorado | Colorado Independent.

On a related note, a blog post this month on Harvard Business Review explores: Is Water the Next Carbon?

Definitely one to watch.

Baiing out the US auto industry for good?

As I read the headlines this morning about the proposed US auto industry bailout — the latest version of which is this, according to the Boston Herald:

“Democrats want to use part of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout for emergency loans to help prop up the Big Three carmakers. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC are seeking an infusion of $25 billion, a figure that several Senate Democrats embraced Sunday.

“Senate Democrats plan to introduce legislation Monday attaching an auto bailout to a House-passed bill extending unemployment benefits. A vote was expected as early as Wednesday.

“There’s a high degree of urgency” for federal action if GM is going to stave off a financial crisis, Rick Wagoner, GM chairman and chief executive, said Sunday in a joint appearance with United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger on WDIV-TV in Detroit.

“‘It’s really time to move on this,’ Wagoner said.”

That gets me thinking: The US auto industry is dying. It’s shown it can’t compete effectively with Japan and elsewhere for the manufacture of the kinds of personal cars people will be buying as the economy tightens.

Meanwhile, the lack of strong public transportation options is a growing problem in many parts of the US — particularly, lack of high-speed passenger rail networks, robust bus networks, and innovative flexible alternatives to car ownership (like car sharing programs and Zip Car hourly rentals). Exurban dwellers are notoriously hard hit by the transportation crisis.

So what if we bailed out the auto industry only if they shifted more of their production to vehicles that would suit these uses?

Yes, this would have to go hand-in-hand with a major shift in transportation policy that would support the expansion of public transit, especially outside urban cores and between non-urban-core locations. And so far local and state governments have been responsible for paying for public transit, and they haven’t had the cash.

Those are big, thorny issues — but they could shift. And if we’re even going to consider an auto-industry bailout, why shouldn’t we use it as an opportunity to fund a more sustainable transit system?

I suspect America’s “love affair with the car” might go the way of our love affair with cigarettes. It’s hard to stay in love with something that’s killing you and cutting off your children’s future.

TechStars Investor Day and other good stuff today

This morning I had the privilege of attending some of the morning presentations from this year’s crop of TechStars startup companies in an event called “Investor Day,” held at the Boulder Theater.  TechStars is a Boulder, CO-based program that provides seed capital and mentorship for tech startups. SocialThing (which just got bought by AOL) and Brightkite were both graduates of last summer’s TechStars.

The main reason I went was because my good friends Susan Mernit and Lisa Williams were presenting the flagship product, WhozAround, from their new company, People’s Software Company. I’ve been watching them endure the TechStars maelstrom this summer, and they pulled through great despite lots of pressure and stresses.

WhozAround is currently a Facebook application in alpha. It’s the first step in their plan to bypass the current communication chaos that ensues whenever two or more people try to agree on a place & time to meet. As Susan said in her presentation today, “Do all those e-mails, IMs, texts, Facebook notifications, and other messages really make getting together easier?” I can answer that with a resounding “NOT!!!”

Here’s Susan giving the presentation:

Susan Mernit presenting at TechStars Investory Day, 2008

And Susan and Lisa taking questions from investors:

Susan Mernit & Lisa Williams taking questions from investors

(Apologies for the crappy images, my iPhone camera isn’t great for that sort of lighting and distance. I was sitting in the balcony.)

I’ll be heading back to the Boulder Theater in a couple of hours for the Tech Cocktails event there:

Tech Cocktails

But some more cool stuff happened today…

Continue reading